|For Living Comfortably with Pets in Collective Housing
With society paying greater attention to "the
relationship between humans and animals and the role that pets play
with regard to people," the way that people and companion animals
should live together in cities is undergoing reevaluation. Thus, in
Tokyo and elsewhere, keeping pets in collective housing is coming
to be widely accepted, as indicated by, among other things, the Bureau
of Public Health of Tokyo's drawing up, in 1994, "Model Regulations
for Keeping Animals in Collective Housing."
Now, how is "keeping pets in collective housing" understood from the standpoint
of ethology? Last month, the Tokyo Chapter, Japanese Society of Human Care of
Animals, with the support of the Companion Animal Information and Research Center,
the Council on Animal Rearing in Collective Housing, and the Itabashi District
Veterinary Association, held a seminar, in Kumin [District Residents] Hall at
the Takashimadaira housing complex, on the theme of "How to Live with Pets in
Collective Housing." Following a lecture by Dr. Aki Takumi, who conducts research
in ethology at the University of Tokyo, a "Dog Training Class," in which dogs
were actually used, was conducted by Mr. Satoshi Fujii, the main teacher of the
Japan Dog Trainers School.
About 150 people (most of them live in
collective housing with companion animals such as dogs and cats) participated
this seminar and a questionnaire survey was conducted on them.
In this and the following issue of this newsletter, we plan to present
the main points of the speech by Dr. Takumi and consider, from the
standpoint of ethology, methods for living comfortably with pets in
collective housing. In this, the first issue, we would like to focus
on the behavior problems in dogs and how to prevent it.
Behaviour Problems in Dogs ; Their Development and Prevention
by Aki Takumi, DVM, MSc., PhD, Department of Veterinary Surgery,
Faculty of Agriculture, University of Tokyo
In order for people to live comfortably
and harmoniously with companion animals in society, it is essential
to know about animal behaviour problems that can hinder attaining
the goal as well as how to prevent them.
Animal behaviour problems are behaviours of animals that are unacceptable to the
owner. Examples of most common behaviour problems are aggression to the owner
and noisy barking which are also disturbing to the neighbours, and there are also
various other kinds of behaviour problems. In the Western world, the number of
dogs and cats that are euthanized because of behaviour problems is great. I foresee
that incidence of animal behaviour problems will increase in Japan as well in
the near future. People in this country now keep more and more dogs of western
breeds, and also have a more westernized lifestyle than before. This would mean
that , with companion animals in Japan, both the genetic and the environmental
factors, that play a role in the development of animal behaviour, are becoming
similar to those with companion animals in the western world, and our situations
with animal behaviour problems will therefore inevitably resemble to those currently
found in western countries.
Behaviour problems can be divided into
two types. One is behaviours that poses problems to the owner and
other people, while the other is behaviours that are injurious to
the animal itself. Canine teeth can serve powerful weapons, and the
danger of canine aggression, the most common animal behaviour problem,
is no comparison to feline aggression. Today I would like to talk
with an emphasis on behaviour problems in dogs.
In understanding dog behaviour, the most
important point is that dogs are pack animals as well as their wild
ancestors wolves. Among individuals in a pack of wolves or dogs, there
are dominance-subordination relationships which is thought to function
to reduce conflicts in the pack. However, dominance in companion dogs
may pose a problem to humans. When a dog is kept by humans, the dog
regards the owner and family as its pack. Normally, the dog takes
up the most subordinate position in the family, but sometimes it so
happens that the dog perceives itself as being in a social position
dominant over the owner or other family members. In such a case, the
dog shows aggression in response to the behaviour of the person which
is perceived by the dog as a challenge to its dominant status. Example
of such behaviour include approaching the dog while eating, attempting
to remove from the dog objects in possession, disturbing the dog while
resting, handling the dog, and so on. The dog may growl, bare teeth,
or even bite. Aggression occurring in such contexts is called dominance-type
Canine aggression towards the owner and
family is a problem for people to live with the dog, and should be
corrected. I think training a dog for obedience, that is, teaching
the dog to sit or wait on command, is very important especially as
a preventive measure of many canine behaviour problems. However, I
would also like to emphasize that obedience training alone would not
eliminate behaviour problems in dogs. Behaviour problems are developed
through a complicated process under influences of many different factors,
such as, genetic predisposition, hormonal states, socialization, and
learning. Of these factors, socialization and learning are those the
owners can exert some effects on by controlling the environment they
offer or the way they interact with the dog in everyday life.
Socialization is a process whereby an individual
animal learns to recognize others as a social being and to behave
appropriately towards them. In dogs, the critical period of socialization
is from three to twelve months after birth. A puppy's experience during
that period may have a deterministic effect on its later behaviour
for the rest of its life. If a puppy is separated from its mother
and littermates early during that period, or if kept in a box in total
isolation with little stimulation, socialization will not occur. Such
an animal is unlikely to develop appropriate social behaviour, and
may grow extremely timid or to attack unfamiliar people because of
fear as an adult. During the socialization period, it is extremely
important to expose a puppy to as many different kinds of stimuli
as possible, not only people, but also to inanimate objects, sound,
and so on.
Learning is a process whereby an animal
comes to perform a new behaviour under the presence of specific stimuli.
this is what so-called dog training or obedience training makes use
of. In teaching a dog to follow a command, people attempt to establish
leaning in the dog. On the other hand, incidental learning that occurs
when the owner is not aware of it may lead to behaviour problems.
For example giving food to a dog after it has been barking may teach
the dog to bark to beg for food.
I hope now you understand that the behaviour of an animal is influenced
by multiple factors. What is important to note is that the owner's
daily interactions with his or her dog or cat may have an enormous
effect on the behaviour of the animal. Dogs are highly social animals
and thus have a strong need for attention from the owner. In order
to control a dog's behaviour, it is indispensable for the owner to
put the dog through the kind of training given in obedience classes
and get the dog to obey. This will help the owners to establish dominance
over the dog. I know some people who feel that placing a dog in a
subordinate position is cruel. However, I would like to emphasize
that dogs are animals for which subordination is a part of their natural
makeup, and they will never suffer from being in a subordinate position.
In fact, if a dog is not taught being subordinate to the owner, its
position in the pack (family) will remain undetermined, which is far
more stressful to the dog.
On the Responsibility of Owners
the Tokyo Chapter, Japanese society of Humane Care of Animals
So that owners can live comfortably with
their companion animals (dogs and cats) in collective housing, it
is desired that they increase their knowledge, and behave in a responsible
manner, as regards their companion animals. In this connection, it
is important that they see their dogs and cats as a member of the
family, and that they care for their pets properly so as not to cause
other people any bother.
* "Model Regulations for Keeping Animals in Collective Housing"
These are model rules which, in 1994, in response to the growing popularity
of keeping pets in collective housing, were drawn up, by the Bureau
of Public Health of Tokyo, for the purpose of helping pet owners avoid
trouble with their neighbors caused by the improper keeping of pets.
In the next issue we will consider ways of preventing stress to companion
animals that live in collective housing, as well as the results of
a questionnaire survey that was conducted at the seminar.