Dog Problem Behaviors
The most common problem behaviors in puppies are house training, jumping up and play biting. Problems with adolescent and adult dogs are digging, barking, running away, and pulling on lead. More serious conditions include separation anxiety, compulsive disorders and aggression.

Cat Problem Behaviors
Cat misbehaviors most noted are inside elimination (litter box problems), bolting through open doors, climbing on furniture and feline aggression.

Regardless of the breed or species of your pet, How’s Bentley is ready to help!

For more information about treating aggressive animals, including success rates and limitations, please visit How’s Bentley Aggressive Animals page.

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  1. Realistic Expectations
Due to the complexities of animal and human behaviors, offering a guarantee that your animal’s problem behavior(s) will be cured after one or many consultations or sessions is not realistic or ethical. About half the people report progress after the first Full Session.

If the problem behavior is related to fear, anxiety or aggression, very few people can learn all they need to succeed during one session. Most clients can learn skills to help their animals after a few sessions with our professionals.

The level of improvement depends on many variables. Some of the variables are fixed, such as genetics and the length of time the behavior has been practiced. Other factors such as the animal’s environment and the amount of time and effort the family can allocate to treatment are variable.
  2. Training or Behavioral Solutions?
There are two broad categories for problem behaviors. Behaviors that can be resolved through training are in one category and behaviors that require experience and knowledge outside the field of training fall into another category.

A. Here’s a list of common problems (and solutions) that can usually be resolved through training.

  1. House training (house train the dog)
  2. Jumping-up (teach sit)
  3. Play-biting (change the way you interact with your pup)
  4. Pulling on the lead (teach loose lead walking)
  5. Rushing through doors / gates (teach the dog to wait)
  6. Barking (teach quiet – increase exercise – no attention for barking)
  7. Digging (provide more exercise and stimulation)
  8. Jumping on furniture (teach go-to-place)
  9. Running away (teach come)
  10. Begging (stop feeding from table)
  11. Counter surfing (teach leave-it)
  12. Object stealing (increase exercise – puppy proof)
  13. Won’t listen when guests arrive (practice sit – down –go-to-place with distractions)


B. This list of behaviors requires a more thoughtful approach by someone familiar with animal behavior modification.

  1. Aggression
  2. Fear
  3. Anxiety
  4. Destructiveness
  5. Phobias
  6. Self Mutilation
  7. Separation Distress
  8. Compulsive Behavior Disorders
  9. Inappropriate Inside Elimination
  10. Excessive Barking
  11. Attention Seeking Behaviors
  3. Medical Health
Health affects behavior. It would be foolish to pursue behavioral treatment if medical considerations are overlooked. After reviewing your case, our counselor may suggest that a veterinarian medical exam (including thyroid panel and complete blood testing) be conducted before treatment. If the problem behavior represents a substantial change in behavior that cannot be attributed to environmental changes (i.e. animal added, change in schedule, new home, new partner, attack by another dog, et cetera), a medical exam would be prudent. The exam will identify and/or rule out potential medical causes for the inappropriate behavior(s). If a veterinary examination is suggested, our counselor prefer to discuss the tests with your veterinarian prior to your appointment.
  4. Veterinarians and Behavior
Veterinarians study extensive amounts of information pertaining to the medical health for many species. Few study abnormal animal behavior as part of their curriculum. Our counselors work closely with the veterinary community to rule out possible medical causes for behavior changes. We will consult with the family's veterinary professionals about all medical issues.
  5. Medications for Behavior
Only veterinarians can prescribe drugs. Pharmaceuticals can sometimes be a helpful addition to a behavior modification plan. If our counselor feels that medications might be helpful, he or she will discuss the situation with you and your veterinarian.

Relying on drugs without following a multi-point behavior modification plan is a recipe for failure. Drug intervention is almost always temporary. If the medications are helpful, the behavior will decrease and drug use is discontinued. If medications are not helpful, drug use is discontinued.

If your dog or cat is currently taking drugs prescribed for behavior problems we will consult with you and your veterinarian about the necessity and effectiveness of the drugs. If you are considering medications for behavioral problems, we prefer to assess the situation before the medications are introduced into a plan.
  6. First Things First - Manage the Environment
It is very important to note that all animals practice and refine all behaviors. If your animal is exhibiting unwanted behaviors, please take steps to manage the environment to prevent him or her from practicing.

Some common examples of management techniques include: attaching a leash to your dog before guests come into your home to manage jumping up; crating your pup to manage house training; removing rawhides to manage food aggression and placing your dog in a comfortable back room before guests arrive to manage fearful behaviors.

If people fail to teach their animals basic skills, long-term management is a very tiresome solution! Learning how to effectively manage the environment is one of the first steps for solving problem behaviors and should be only a short-term solution!
  7. How's Bentley Behavior Modification Programs
Our programs are based on more than 100 years of scientific studies by animal behavior scientists and do not make use of harsh methods. The more information you can provide before our first visit, the better prepared we are to help.

Prior to and during our services, we will collect and review data about the following.

  • Family Complaints
  • Family Expectations
  • Veterinary Health Status
  • Social Environment
  • Physical Environment
  • Diet and Elimination
  • People & Other Pets
  • Aggression History & Screen
  • Training History
  • Behavioral History
  • Treatment History


During your sessions, we will discuss several topics that include some or all of the following.

  • Social Needs of the Animal
  • Physical Needs of the Animal
  • Emotional Needs of the Animal
  • Daily Management
  • Environmental Enrichment
  • Training Methods
  • Basics of Animal Behavior and Learning
  • Obedience Training
  • Nutritional Considerations
  • Medical or Surgical Considerations
  • Pharmacological Considerations (vets must prescribe all medications)
  • Treatment Exercises
  • Family Counseling
  8. Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety is one of the most misdiagnosed behavioral conditions. The hallmarks of separation anxiety are:

  • Excessive vocalization
  • Salivation
  • Inside Elimination (for a house trained dog)
  • Destructive behaviors directed at entry and exit points


For separation anxiety to be considered, some or a combination of these symptoms must occur ONLY in the absence of people. The behaviors most commonly occur within 45 minutes of departure.

If your dog destroys your furniture when you leave, it is less likely due to separation anxiety and more likely due to too much freedom and not enough exercise. Dogs with separation anxiety destroy items that are in the path of their escape, not couch cushions in the middle of the room!

If your dog barks and whines in the crate this may or may not be separation anxiety. Does your dog bark and whine in the crate if crated at the same times of day when you are home?

Elimination in the crate or in the house is not necessarily a sign of separation anxiety. Is the dog house trained? Will the dog eliminate in his or her crate when you are home?

Treating dogs with true separation anxiety is challenging. It will take several days or even weeks. It depends on how much time you have to dedicate to the treatment. The main obstacle is that every instance of separation perpetuates the condition and offsets progress. For example, suppose you make great progress over the weekend, but you go back to work on Monday and leave your dog alone. Your progress will be lost.

Treating separation anxiety is a process not an event. First you’ll teach the dog to relax before you leave the house. Then you’ll leave for very short increments while your dog relaxes. As the exercises progress, you’ll leave for longer and longer periods.

If you decide to treat your dog for separation anxiety, you’ll need to make arrangement to never leave the dog alone during the treatment period. Day care, friends’ homes and other babysitters can be helpful during this period.
  9. Compulsive Behavior Disorder Cases
Compulsive Behavior Disorders such as whirling, tail chasing, self-mutilation, licking, sucking, kneading, barking, repetitive pacing, fence running, tracking, shadow chasing, pica (eating non-food items), polydipsia (excessive drinking), and others require an extensive questionnaire to obtain relevant information. Please contact How's Bentley if your dog exhibits compulsive behaviors. Our counselor will deliver a questionnaire appropriate for your situation.
  10. Multi-Dog / Multi-Cat Households
Multi animal households provide an additional challenge, because each animal influences the behaviors of the others. If all the animals are untrained, solutions often require that you teach each animal individually. Having several untrained animals is a bit more of an issue than one might first imagine. Many pets are not accustomed to being isolated from each other and become anxious when they are away from their housemates. Anxious animals are difficult to teach.

The points to remember are:

  • each animal will act differently when in the presence of the other(s);
  • teach one animal at a time, without the distractions of your other animal(s);
  • hold practice sessions with every combination of animals.


Suppose you have 2 dogs and you want to teach them to sit when they are alone, and to sit when they are together. You will:

1. Train Dog A to sit
2. Practice with Dog A
3. Train Dog B to sit
4. Practice with Dog B
5. Practice with Dog A and Dog B together

Even if you’re not good at math, you’ll quickly see how adding 1 more animal increases your training workload.
  11. Dog Aggression and Quick Cures
Quick-cure methods for canine aggression involve extinguishing or controlling a dog’s behaviors with equipment, fear and intimidation. This is the usual “first choice” for non professionals. These methods can be successful for some people with some dogs in some situations. The success of this strategy is based on many assumptions. The initial assumption is that your dog will stop the behavior forever after 2 or 3 instances of punishment. Next you assume that you know how to use punishers effectively, and you have the motor skills and physical strength to deliver the punisher. You assume your dog will always be wearing special equipment, assume the equipment is operating correctly; assume you will always be nearby; assume you recognize the subtle signals that he or she might become aggressive; assume you are constantly on-alert for these subtle signals; and assume you are willing to accept the possible side-effects of training or controlling behavior via force and threats.

In addition, extinguishing behaviors via intimidation is successful only if the dog is, without question, convinced you are a superior warrior. For if he or she isn’t convinced, you may be unexpectedly challenged into battle, to prove or defend your superiority.

This path of assumptions is littered with flaws and promotes failures. If you’ve tried using punishment and your animal’s behavior has not decreased or become extinct, it’s not working. Rather than constantly battle your pet, or forever monitor your dog’s behaviors, it’s better to change your dog’s perceptions of the events or triggers for aggression.

For more information about treating aggressive animals, including success rates and limitations, please visit How’s Bentley Aggressive Animals page.


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