Managing Extreme Behaviors in the Boarding Setting
By Professional Pet Boarding Certification Council
If you’ve been working in the pet care industry for any amount of time, you know not all pets that come through your doors will exhibit perfect behavior. In fact, the majority will likely pose as a challenge in one extreme or the other in terms of behavior that is displayed. This article outlines a few behavior types you may encounter as well as how to handle them.
These pets will demand your time in many ways. It may be a young, untrained pet that enjoys personal contact and protests when they don’t get it. Or, an adult dog or cat that has had little stimulation in their home environment and becomes overexcited when exposed to other pets. Either way, hyperactive pets can make your work more difficult, and training that much more valuable.
This pet is the one that bounces up and down, running back and forth, knocking over food and water bowls, and will not settle down. This pet is often very vocal, and efforts should be made to quiet them by rewarding them for being calm and quiet. Excessive vocalizing not only upsets other pet care guests, but also adds a physical stress of over-activity and can cause the pet to be more susceptible to airborne viruses.
Feline hyperactivity is more apt to occur at night and can result in a very messy enclosure the next morning if the hyper cat has spilled its food, water or litter box. It may be necessary to follow different procedures while cleaning and feeding these pets to prevent them from continuously soiling their enclosures and themselves. They may need to be relocated to a low-traffic or quiet area within the facility to avoid overstimulation. These pets must be given additional exercise and attention, and their food rations may need to be adjusted to compensate for the high activity level.
A happy, well-adjusted dog or cat will normally get up and greet you when approached. The dog may wag his tail, and the cat may pace back and forth in anticipation of food or attention. Quiet, shy pets do not seek attention. They are just the opposite of the hyperactive pet. They can be of any age, breed or sex. Outwardly, this pet rarely exhibits signs of distress or excitability. They may be ignored because they are thought to be “doing fine.” This is not the case. The overly-quiet pet may be stressing internally.
Depending on the length of stay for your wallflower, their health and weight can be affected. It is necessary to interact with this pet several times during the course of your daily routine. Moving this pet to a different location within the facility where he/she can be easily and frequently interacted with often helps.
Within families of pets, we often see an attention-getter. During feeding they are the “food hog,” and often the “class clown” during playtime. Overall, this one gets more than their fair share of food and attention.
It may be necessary to separate this pet from their family during feeding times so each of the pets can eat in peace and so you can measure each pet’s food intake. This type of behavior can also intimidate the other family members and discourage them from making a happy adjustment to the pet care facility environment. Keep in mind that they may not make a good “roommate” and may need to be cared for separately.
Separation Anxiety in Dogs
Pets with separation anxiety are reacting to being separated from their owner. Typical problems are inappropriate urination and defecation, whining, barking and howling. They may also exhibit destructive behavior, such as chewing on the enclosure or digging under the fence, in an attempt to escape to find their owner.
Pets with separation anxiety are not being destructive or soiling their enclosure “out of spite.” Instead, they are having a panic attack because they are so strongly bonded to their person. Separation anxiety may be more common in dogs who have been through multiple homes or shelters before finding a permanent family.
Dogs with separation anxiety also tend to not drink or eat when separated from their people. Severe weight loss and dehydration can result if the absence is prolonged and measures are not taken.
Treatment of separation anxiety is complex, and may include desensitization (the pet is left alone for gradually longer periods of time) and anti-anxiety medications. However, this is something that the pet parent should speak to their veterinarian about and not something that the pet care facility would initiate without the owner’s direction.
In the lodging environment, every effort must be made to ensure the pet’s experiences are positive during such stays and that any techniques the owner is using at home remain consistent.
In all cases of excessive behavior, it is important to inform your supervisor or manager so that the correct adjustments can be made for the care and wellbeing of the pet. It is also important that the pet owner be made aware of any extreme behaviors their pet may be exhibiting, especially if it something that was not disclosed by the pet parent in advance.
Typically a pet record will contain specific information about the pets in each play group or lodging enclosure. This information is critical to the care of the pet. You should take the time to familiarize yourself with the information system and with the pets. As new pets come in, take a moment to read their chart and greet them. Not only will this aid you in becoming more familiar with the needs of the pet, but it will also aid in establishing a bond you can both enjoy.