The importance of dealing with behaviour problems

The ‘put to sleep’ statistics for pets with behaviour problems are truly shocking. In the modern world, behaviour problems in pets cause more deaths than cardiac disease, infectious disease and cancer put together (Overall 2010).

A study of 2493 dogs in Denmark showed 23.6 % were put to sleep in response to behavioural problems (Mikkelsen & Lund 1999).

An Amercian study found of 615 dogs relinquished to a rescue centre for euthanasia, 16% were to be put to sleep for behaviour problems (Wells 1996).

British researchers found 35% of dogs in rescue centres were given up because of behaviour problems (Corridan, Mills & Pffefer 2009). Even if not the initial reason for being in rescue, 80% of all rescue dogs studied developed one or more behaviour problems (Corridan 2010).

Salman (2010) found likewise in cats with behaviour problems  the second most frequently given reason for feline relinquishment.

Behaviour problems are also one of the major reasons for rehoming  failure: 1/3 of recently rehomed dogs and cats were returned to a USA shelter because of behaviour problems (Shore 2005); and behaviour problems were cited in 22% of dog adoption failures in three Australian shelters (Marston et al. 2004).

A postal survey of rescued dogs from a shelter in Northern Ireland revealed that 68% had behaviour problems and 89.7% of those that returned dogs did so because of behaviour problems (Wells & Hepper 2000).

Some of the behaviour problems cited in the put to sleep and relinquishment figures is aggression, between 2007 and 2013 hospital admissions for dog bites increased by 1691. Although dog bites are not adequately recorded amking the true cost unknown, the costof dog bites to the NHS is minimum of £3 million/year.

We need an across the board response to these shocking statistics, and I’m sure the most effective change would be in how we breed dogs and I have been heartened by Marc Abraham’s success in raising a commons debate about puppy farming.

Whilst referral to a qualified behaviourist will not prevent all these relinquishments, ‘put to sleeps’, bites and fatalities, if your dog has a behaviour problem it is a very good place to start.