Hope for Animals with an attitude
March 26, 2006
CARSON CITY – When the vet tells you he’d rather face a mountain lion than your cat, it’s time to take action.
Julie, a 4-year-old spayed female calico cat has developed an issue with her veterinarian. After two visits to Dr. Gregg Meyer for mild traumas, Julie will no longer let Meyer touch her. When he approaches, she crouches, hisses and swipes at him.
Calicos have an “attitude” anyway. But what do you do in case of emergency?
Meyer recommended a call to Adrienne Navarro, an animal behaviorist in Carson City. But he also said, as Navarro would, it’s up to a dedicated pet owner to follow through with the suggested treatment plan for there to be any hope of resolution.
Julie, an otherwise healthy cat, suffers from fear/aggression. When she behaves like this in the vet’s office, calmly saying, “It’s OK, Julie,” only reassures her it’s OK to be fearful and aggressive. No, it’s not.
The plan is to take Julie for visits to the vet’s office. First just drive to the office – fortunately she enjoys rides. Keep an eye on her and when she becomes fearful, it is time to leave. Repeat this until she will go inside and not freak out.
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When she is relaxed and being good, a clicker is used and a treat is offered. This “training” is repeated until she understands the connection – good behavior equals click, click equals treat.
Eventually Julie will learn it’s OK to be in the vet’s office.
If this fails, the worst-case scenario, she could be medicated prior to leaving the house.
Calico cats are not the only ones of the four-legged-friend variety who sometimes need help.
For the Sorensen family, having pets in the home is a way of life. Cliff, Suzie and Amy Sorensen have two Australian shepherds and five cats.
But when one of the dogs suddenly became aggressive toward other dogs, Suzie Sorensen sought a solution.
“Giving up on an animal and destroying it is not an option with me,” Suzie said. “Having an animal is a commitment. You wouldn’t just give up on a child if it had problems.”
The Sorensens have had the dogs, Shanna and Bear, sister and brother, since they were 5 weeks old. They are now 16 months old. Suzie believes the problem began when Bear was attacked by a German shepherd at 7 months.
“Shanna immediately came to his defense,” Suzie said. “And she’s pretty much been aggressive, only with other dogs, since.”
While attending dog obedience classes at PetSmart, Suzie heard about Navarro.
“It was something I worried about, but didn’t know what to do,” Suzie said. “Adrienne came to our home and she’s developed a plan for us to work on with Shanna.
“We’re working to get her to relax by sitting, waiting and relaxing, and extend the relax time a little bit each time. Hopefully Shanna will get better about being around other dogs. But she may not. I plan on using every resource I can to change her behavior.”
As part of the training, Shanna is not to be around other dogs, except Bear.
“When we train, we always leave them on a positive note,” Suzie said.
Carson City Animal Control Supervisor Pat Wiggins said sometimes aggressive dogs and cats are left at the city-run shelter when their owners have reached the ends of their ropes.
Animal control recommends obedience training to new owners when dogs are adopted out to help keep this from happening.
“It’s the best thing you can do with your pet,” Wiggins said. “Then the pet knows what you want from him.
“We have multiple (obedience training) business cards in the office. They’re a business, but also helpful to the pet and owner.”
Training helps keep down the number of pets animal control must euthanize.
In 2005, animal services euthanized only one adoptable dog, and no adoptable cats.
However, 47 feral/aggressive dogs were euthanized as well as 196 feral/aggressive cats.
“There are lots of reasons owners bring an animal to us,” Wiggins said. “Sometimes I feel it is because they won’t take the time to work with the animal.”
Success with training is dependent on the commitment of the pet owners. Navarro goes to the client’s home to talk with the pet owner and meets the animal. She gets a history of the animal and assesses the situation. She then develops a treatment plan to help fix the problem. Taking the time to follow the plan is the key.
“I always hope the problem can be resolved,” Navarro said. “But sometimes it cannot.”