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Owning a pet is not always the fun and rewarding experience is should be as the behaviour of companion animals often creates a myriad of problems for owners. Animals behaving ‘badly’ often end up at shelters or the SPCA, or even taken to the vet for euthanasia. In many cases problems can be avoided by making the right choices regarding species and breed before acquiring a pet, taking time to establish routines and spending time on socialisation and basic training.  Fortunately some times bad behaviour can be cured, altered or even managed to make living together more harmoniously.

‘Bad’ or problem behaviour is often normal behaviour for the animal but unacceptable for the owner. Normal behaviour can be described as instinctive behaviour or expected behaviour for the species, breed and gender.  Problem behaviour is often the result of a ‘wrong choice’ - a mismatch between the needs of the animal, the environment where the animal is being kept, and/or the expectations of the owner.  For instance: The different Terriers breeds are currently very popular and they make   wonderful pets as they are alert, playful and affectionate - but: Terriers were bred to be ratters – so they are genetically predisposed to dig holes. In a normal domestic environment it can result in huge conflict between an owner who wants a immaculate garden and the dog that ‘needs’ to dig because he/she is genetically engineered to do it!    Changing behaviour that an animal is genetically predisposed to is not an easy task!

Abnormal behaviour is more difficult to define: Ab-normal means deviating from the norm - it is always behaviour that occurs among a minority of the animals of that species, breed and gender,  is unprovoked and is usually harmful to the animal, other animals and/or humans. Deviation from the norm for the species, breed or gender could either be with regard to the intensity of the behaviour or the frequency – or even the lack of a specific behaviour and should always be evaluated in the context of the situation.

Animal Behaviourists can assist owners to understand their pets’ behaviour, help to manage the behaviour or provide resolutions for both unacceptable behaviour and abnormal behaviour. To find a behaviourist in you area please visit

Ethology Academy would also like to assist owners who are not in the position to acquire the services of a behaviourist. Owners are welcome to contact Frederique who will direct your letters to an appropriate person. This service is free of charge. Keep in mind that it is very often not possible to solve behaviour problems just by giving advice.  Ethology Academy will also not enter into discussion with the owner about the advice given.

 Some of the problems and resolutions will be used on this webpage in the future, but names will be changed to protect privacy.

When sending in your problem the following information is essential:

  • Details regarding the animal: The name, species, breed, age and gender of the animal
  • Other animals in the household – their names, species, breeds, age and gender
  • Humans in the household
  • Background of the animal, when and where it was acquired.
  • Description of the environment where it is being kept
  • Routines – when, how and what it is being fed, exercise,
  • Description of the behaviour that is causing concern/problems; when it started, the most recent, the most serious.
  • Any other aspect that could have an influence on the behaviour – like animals/children next door, recent relocation etc, chronic illness, injuries occurred.

Here are a few examples of behaviour problems sent in by web-visitors and the responses from our experts:

“Help - my lawn is a mess!”

    Dear Ethology Academy,

    My local vet told me to contact this website for a problem I have with my son’s dog, he is a Jack Russell, about 10 years old.  We have a big property so he has ample room to run around, there are another dog and a cat who we have also had for a number of years so he is not alone.  About two months ago the Jack Russell started digging holes all over the lawn or just digging up patches of grass.  I had pest controllers in to check if there was something he was digging for but they found nothing.  He is really digging up my lawn in patches everywhere, to save my sanity, I either have to have this sorted out or get rid of the dog.

    Could you please offer some advice as how to handle this, I have put his nose in the hole and smacked him with a paper a few times already but this also does not seem to work.

    Thank you,
    ‘Enough is enough’

Dear “Enough-is-Enough”,

I agree – a dog can do a lot of damage to a garden.

First I would like to put the problem in the right perspective:

Digging is part of normal behaviour for a dog to:

  • Mark a scrape or elimination area
  • Bury a bone, food, toy (Because he is getting old, he may fear that the other animals will take his bone/food, so he buries it)
  • Uncover something they perceive to be buried
  • Cool down, by lying in freshly dug holes

Dogs, especially Jack Russells, like very much to dig (they were actually bred to be ‘ratters’ and to drive foxes out of their dens) and the longer they get away with it, the worse it becomes.

It does not help punishing the dog, if he is not caught in the act of digging.

Some pointers:

  • Put some of his own faeces in the holes and cover it with 2cm of soil. Dogs will not dig where they have defecated. This, however, does not prevent him from digging elsewhere.
  • Check if he is not digging where the cat is eliminating.
  • Place tin foil in the holes.
  • Spray citronella oil in freshly dug holes.
  • Keep him busy with toys end exercise (this may be difficult, due to old age).
  • As a JR is genetically programmed to dig, try to find a patch in your garden where he can dig to his heart’s content. Direct him to that area by burying some ‘bait’ there like a bone. Praise him when you find him digging in the designated area.

Hope this info helps.
Ethology Academy


“Swem Jack, Swem!”

    Hi Daar,

    Ons het 8 weke oue Jack Russells. Ons swembad is nie toe nie maar die erf is ook nie geskik om 'n gedeelte toe te maak vir die kleintjies nie. Kan mens hulle in die swembad gooi onder ons toesig om te kyk of hulle kan uitkom? Honde kan mos swem? Ek wil nie eintlik he hulle moet saam met ons swem eendag nie so dit sal nie saak maak as hulle watervrees ontwilkkel vir  swembad nie. Of sal dit maakdat hulle ook nie wil bad nie? Is daar 'n ander manier om te maak dat hulle nie gaan verdrink nie?


Beste Buks,

Ek sal nie aanraai om sulke klein hondjies in die swembad te “gooi” om te kyk of hulle kan uitklim of om hulle ‘n vrees vir water te laat ontwikkel nie. Enige traumatiese ondervinding vir so ‘n jong hond, is blywend, en hulle mag dalk permanente senuagtigheid ontwikkel.

Min honderasse is lief vir water en hulle sal nie sommer uit hulle eie, in die swembad spring nie. Jack Russells is nie bekend dat hulle lief is vir water nie - maar onthou daar is altyd uitsonderings!

Op 8 weke ouderdom sal die hondjies dus nie maklik vanself in die swembad spring nie. Hulle kan wel, per ongeluk, in die swembad val. Indien so iets gebeur en daar is nie gou uitkoms nie, sal hulle verdrink weens die koue en uitputting.

As dit ‘n groot swembad is, en die trappe ver van die diepkant is, sal ‘n jong hondjie dit nie sommer na die trappe maak nie. Hondjies is gewoonlik ook eers op 12 weke sterk genoeg  om uit te swem. Mits die trappe nie te diep onder die water is nie (die hondjie moet op die trappe kan staan, met sy kop bo die water) sal hulle dan waarskynlik self kan uitkom. as hulle ouer is.

Maak alles watt julle die honde leer, ‘n positiewe ervaring. Terwyl dit nog warm genoeg is, klim eerste in die swembad en tel die hondjies liggies in die water in, naby die trappe, en laat hulle uitswem.

Die beste is steeds om te verhoed dat hulle inval, totdat hulle sterk genoeg is om dit te oorleef (12 weke +). Omdat Jack Russells soms baie kort op hul beentjies isen die trappe hoog kan julle dit ook oorweeg dit ook om ‘n tipe ‘ramp’ in die swembad te installeer wat uitkom op hulle eie sal vergemaklik.

Hoop die inligting help.

Ethology Academy


Jack Russel Terrier

The Jack Russell is a wonderful dog and currently a favourite with many pet lovers. It is also a kind of ‘designer’s dog!”  Jack Russell, a English aspirant Theologian, obtained a Fox Terrier cross and decided that this type of dog suited his own energetic, extroverted personality and love for the outdoors. Having completed his studies, the Rev Russell must have thought that the angels were giving him the go ahead when he received a calling to a rural community where he could continue enjoying all his favourite activities including hunting, hiking and fishing. It also allowed him to breed with his favourite Fox Terrier cross dogs whose offspring soon became known as the Jack Russell Terriers.

The looks of the new breed was of less importance to Jack whose focus was on the ability of the dogs to bolt foxes.  The variation in appearance remains a problem and locally people began to refer to so-called short legged and long legged types to cater for some of these variations.  The fact is that the dog is a crossbreed, which easily explains the many anatomical variations.  Despite Reverend Russell’s involvement with the British Kennel Club, ‘his breed’ was never recognised in the register because it was seen as a mongrel. However, purists attempted to save the honour of this very popular breed in the United Kingdom, by describing and selecting for a more consistent appearance.  This approach eventually qualified the breed for registration at the Kennel Club and to avoid confusion with the Jack Russell, the ‘new’ breed was registered as the Parson Jack Russell Terrier.
Breed check: The Jack Russell has special energy-spending needs and is perhaps not a good choice for city dwellers who live on small premises and have hectic life-styles. The dogs are, however, alert and make good watch dogs.  As most Fox Terrier types, they are prone to skin allergies and like many other small breeds, prone to hereditary hip and knee cap problems.  Deafness (often seen as stubbornness) occurs in the white variety of the breed.  Dogs with a pinkish skin (lack of pigmentation) tend to develop skin cancer as the dog becomes older.
Prof J.S.J. Odendaal


“This must stop!”

    Good morning.

    We got two miniature Doberman pincher female dogs when they were 5 weeks old (They were born on 15 November 2008).

    They stay outside during daytime (when we are at work), as well as sleep outside (in a waterproof kennel) at night.

    From the start, we would very often take them outside on the lawn to teach them to do their business outside (we were on leave for 3 weeks after we got the dogs)

    We allow them in the house when we wake up in the mornings and when we get back from work, but we have to keep a constant eye on them, as they still pee and pooh in the house.

    When it does happen, we would scold them in a loud tone of voice and take them outside immediately. We have never hit the dogs, nor rubbed their noses in it.

    We live in the Highveld and with winter approaching, we are anxious for the dogs to start going out by themselves and not do their business in the house, as we want them to sleep in the house during winter.

    Please can you advise what/how we should teach the dogs to go outside?

    Kind regards

Hi Hilda,

Both your dogs are displaying signs of “Incomplete Housebreaking”: They will eliminate (mess) in the house, regardless of whether you are present and even when they have been outside the house for a while. So you’ll have to start the process of housebreaking from the start. A few pointers are:

  • Never feed the dogs inside the area where they tend to defecate and urinate (e.g. kitchen).
  • Clean the area where they have eliminated thoroughly, using a cleaning substance not containing any ammonia.
  • Take the dogs out frequently when they are inside the house, especially when they wake up after a sleep.
  • Choose a few restricted areas in the house at first and return there often.
  • Do not permit too much sniffing in the house areas where they mess.
  • Keep them under constant surveillance when they are inside the house and raise your voice with a “NO” as soon as you see signs of them starting to eliminate.
  • Do not physically punish the dogs when caught in the act, it could induce fear. Rather startle the dog by clapping your hands, raising your voice and then taking them outside. Wait for them to do their business outside and then praise them.
  • Make sure that they have easy access to get outside to grass, when they are inside the house.
  • The best way, at this stage, would be to completely deny them access to the house, for two weeks and then try again.

You need not worry too much that the dogs will have to stay outside the house during the winter. As long as they have sufficient shelter (place their kennel on a patio, that has a roof) and see to it that they have blankets to lie on – and dress them up in woolies!

Hope this information helps.

Ethology Academy


“No love lost”

    Dear Ethology Academy,

    I’m desperate for help and am hoping you can either help me or guide me in the right direction.

    A brief history:

      2 females - litter mates - 1 year
      1 male - 7 months
      1 poodle - 6 / 8 years
      Echo - top dog
      The two girls came after the poodle and the male came much later.

    Monday night there was a fight between one of the dogs and the poodle, the poodle was hurt but not too badly. Wednesday night, despite my efforts and keeping them apart (the poodle was in a Wendy house behind a gate in the back yard) the non alpha dog attacked the poodle again – now the poodle is really hurt. She got through the gate and into the Wendy house and attacked for absolutely no reason. This makes absolutely no sense at all. I would never have expected this from her, maybe from Echo who is the alpha, but not from her.

    I have spoken to a training school, but their advice was awful. They told me that spaying them now will not help (my fiancé and I are at log heads about this as he wants to hear nothing). They told me that the only solution would be to rehome one. The thought alone is terrifying. They proceeded to warn me that as a pack, they have picked off the weakest link and soon enough they will view my four year old son as the weakest link and he will be next.

    I really need an expert opinion about this and im so torn, my heart is broken for the poodle who is alive but still in hospital. I’m totally shocked at her behaviour as I would have NEVER expected it from her; she is (apart from this incident) a gentle giant.

    Is rehoming the only real option...

    P.s we reside in Milnerton, Cape Town

Hi Roxanne

Frederique sent your mail on to me, perhaps because I live in the Cape. I think you have a serious problem and that an answer by email or phone is not going to be good enough, so I attach a list of behaviourists who you can contact for a comprehensive home consultation.

When you have a “pack” of dogs things are always complicated and one little incident can spark a whole series of behaviour changes, so you really need someone who is experienced and can spend a few hours with you sorting out what happened and what is now happening. You will never be able to go back to the situation you had before the fight, not completely. Sometimes the only solution is re-homing one dog, but sometimes there are some modifications of your own behaviour and practical solutions that may help re-settle the situation. In the case of re-homing the rule of thumb is “last in, first out”. Neutering is not usually a solution on its own, but can help, especially if the dog is a young male.

I hope that helps

Karen Gray-Kilfoil
Animal Behaviourist and Humane Educator, Cape Town


“It’s mine and I am going to catch it- come what may!”

    Good Morning Ethology Academy,

    First an introduction, my name is Peter and my wife is Dina and we are currently residing in Secunda where we are working as engineers.

    The reason were contacting you today is (under advisement from our own vet) with regards to my Bullterrier Poppy’s tail (female). She decided to chew off the tip.

    Ok, a little background. She weighs about 26kg, hair color is white; skin is pink with black spots. She is of pedigree. She has a beautiful temperament and personality; she's very playful and full of life. If she was human, I think we would call her an extrovert. She shares our home with another bullterrier, Boytjie who is a dark chocolate brown (obviously giving away that he is not pedigree) and is slightly smaller than poppy weighing in at about 22kg and about a year older. We love them both to bits in there own special ways. We try and maintain a Hierarchy when it comes to there feeding habits, namely first Boytjie and then Poppy. They live a beautifully harmonious life together, basically not fighting at all. They also sleep inside the house on there own pillows next to our bed and run around the yard through the day (about 360 m2). For the outside, when we are away, they have two large dog houses, but they only use the one. In that one I have installed an infrared light for heat.

    For all her life (2 years and 5 months) Poppy has chased her own tail, we would regularly reprimand her verbally on it, but to no avail. About two weeks back she successfully caught her tail and drew blood. Now this prompted a stronger response namely; actually spanking her with a hand on the buttocks every time she started to chase her tail. Unfortunately this had no affect and because were both working and we were unable to monitor her through the day.

    About a week ago (the weekend of the 25/26 of July) we had to go visit Dina’s parents in Johannesburg (it was her mothers birthday) and we asked my parents (who reside in Secunda as well) to just check in on them and make sure that the food and water level were replenished on the Saturday. When we returned on the Sunday we found that she had chewed of the point of her tail and a little bit of the bone was protruding from the open wound. I then went and applied some bactroban to the wound and closed it with gauze and a bandage. This held for the night but was promptly removed by Poppy through the next day. That evening we took her to our Vet. He gave her two injections (which I don't recall at the moment), then prescribed Trimethox and asked me to contact you if she persists.

    Well she persisted. Everything was going fine until today when she decided to open the wound fully again, exposing even more of the tail bone. It would be much appreciated if you could give your knowledgeable assistance in the form of advice.

    With much appreciation and heaps of gratitude,

    Peter and Dina

Good morning Peter and Dina

Poppy is displaying a “compulsive disorder”. She has two disorders, Tail chasing and self mutilation.  Bull Terriers as a breed or unfortunately very prone to developing compulsive disorders – tail chasing being very high on the list of such behaviours.

There can be many causes for this behaviour, such as stressors in the environment, wrong diet; observational learning (she may have seen this behaviour being performed by her mother, other dog/s or her siblings, when she was still very young) or it could be genetic.

According to British and Canadian studies, this type of behaviour accounts for 5% of all dog problem behaviour cases.

From my own experience I would venture to mention the following causes:

  • Being a white Bullterrier, Poppy is probably prone to skin disease and allergies (aggravated by food and environmental factors). Her skin, including the tail and area around the anus, is itchy and she needs to scratch. She can’t scratch her tail or anus, so she tries to bite it.
  • She may be experiencing pain in the tail (due to injury) and is trying to “get rid” of the pain by chewing it.
  • Her anus may be itching (due to worms, fleas, diet, and inherited skin disorders) she associates it with the tail and tries to get to it, by biting.
  • She could be frustrated and redirect this frustration to her tail.

Possible Resolutions:

  • Have your vet check the tail for injury. I have found cases where the tail was broken and dogs have no feeling in the tail, which causes discomfort.
  • Check for skin allergies that may be caused by the diet. (Have you changed her diet recently? Is she getting a balanced dog food diet?)
  • If all of the above mentioned turns out to be negative and she continues chasing and chewing her tail, the vet will have no other option but to amputate the tail. This may sound extreme, but if you have followed all the logical approaches and the behaviour continues, without a clear cause, there are no other options. I know this will disqualify her for taking part in breed shows.

I sincerely hope that this information will help you to solve the problem.

Best wishes
Ethology Academy


“’n Nare Ervaring”

    Beste Ethology Academy,

    Ek het 'n nare ervaring gehad op 3-Jun-2009 met my 3 jarige dogtertjie hond Santie. Santie is 'n Staffie. Santie het kleintjies gekry maar wat 'n fiasko.

    Met die geboorte van die 1ste ling was ek nie teenwoordig nie. Sy het die baba op gevreet want ek het die bloed en vrugwater gesien. Met die 2de,3de en 4de Was ek teenwoordig en gehelp met die bevalling.

    No 3 is later dood a.g.v. die longetjies wat nie reg gefunksioneer het nie. Dit het ek agter gekom met geboorte.
    No 4 moes ek laat uitsit die volgende dag deur dat hy 'n Haaslippie gehad het.
    No 2 het 5 dae geleef maar is ook deur Santie op gevreet.
    Santiekom uit bekende Staffie stambome.
    Dit was Santie se 2de werpsel en Bonzer (die reun) se 1ste probeer slag.
    Santie se vorige werpsel was Bonzer se pa, Akulis die pa.
    Met Santie se 1ste werpel was sy die wonderlikste ma gewees. Haar gedrag was vir my baie vreemde gewees met die werppsel. Na die uitsit van die haaslippie het sy baie vreemd op getree deur die No 2 baba aan die koppie rond te dra.Ook was sy baie huilerig gewees en erg getraumatiseer. Die baba se ou koppie was geswel gewees en het ook baie gehuil. Ek weet nie of die koppie geswel was van die rond dra nie en of dit miskien so was van geboorte nie.  Sy het ook haar kind van die vorige werpsel ook 'dogtertjie Riki by haar in die kraamkas toe gelaat en selfs lepel gelê:
    Gedurende swangerskap het Santie vreeslik gehoes soveel so dat ek haar veearts toe gevat het. Die het vir haar 'n inspuiting gegee as ook antibiotika (Trimethox) en hoes stroop (Solphyllex)
    Nou die vrae:

    • Wat het Santie se gedrag so laat verander?
    • Kon die medikasie die oorsaak  van die fiasko wees?
    • Kon dit wees a.g.v moontlike koors.
    • Kan dit die Pa wees?
    • Indien dit die pa kan wees sal hy dit oordra na 'n volgende dogtertjie?

    Ek sal dit baie waardeer sou u my kan help op my vrae

Beste Verward.

Ek is Jammer om van jou nare ondervinding, tydens Santie se welping, te hoor.

Sommige tewe byt hulle kleintjies dood en vreet hulle op, wanneer sy angstig is en bekommerd is oor hulle veiligheid.

Ongelukkig kom hierdie gedrag baie voor onder sekere rasse soos Bull Terriers. Dus is die gedrag oorerflik (geneties) van aard.

Santie se geval:

Dieselfde twee moontlikhede speel hier ‘n rol:

  • Daar was dalk te veel inmenging tydens die welpproses. Haar tefie, uit ‘n vorige werpsel, was naby en selfs binne haar welparea. Jy noem dat jy gehelp het met die geboorte van drie van die kleintjies. ‘n Teef moet in ‘n stil, afgesonderde plek welp, met geen inmenging van ander honde of mense nie. Sy moet self instaat wees om die kleintjies se naelstringetjies af te byt en hulle skoon te maak. Wanneer ‘n teef met swak moedereienskappe gehelp word, word hierdie gedrag na die volgende generasie oorgedra.
  • Die tweede rede is geneties. Sy en/of die reun kon die swak moedereienskappe en liggaamsdefekte, soos gesplete verhemelte, aan die kleintjies oorgedra het.

Tewe weet wanneer daar liggaamsgebreke by die kleinjies voorkom en sal sulkes verwerp en in uiterste gevalle, selfs opvreet.

Antibiotikum op die verkeerde tyd, tydens dragtigheid, kan ‘n nadelige effek op kleinjies he. Ek is egter ‘n gedragkundige en wil my nie uitlaat op veterinere aspekte nie. 

Hoop die inligting is van waarde.
Ethology Academy.


Bull Terrier

This breed kicked off with the very ‘original’ name of “Bull-and-Terrier. As the name indicated, the breed was created from the Bulldog and some terrier breeds.  About one-and-half century ago when fights between dogs and bulls were still popular, it was decided to improve the Bulldog’s ability to move in the ring (pit) as well as its tenacity and endurance.  Thus, some terrier blood was ‘added’ to achieve these aims.  The result was a dog “with heart”, one that could carry on till death, but also, a dog loyal to its owner.  Later, the White Terrier and a bit of Dalmatian were also thrown in for luck and appearances.

The Bull terrier as it is known today, has come a long way and, but some of the original characteristics are still with us.  Many Bull terriers continue to be very persistent in some of their activities, and they do not like strange animals in their vicinity.  When they attack, they are usually very focused, and it is difficult to distract them if they have decided ‘to go for it’.  This makes the breed a very good deterrent for unwanted people on your premises.  If one associates the belief that the breed can ‘lock his jaws’ once he has bitten with fearless types of attacks, it is easy to realise why this breed is one of South Africa’s most popular guard dogs. However, Bull terriers are usually not aggressive towards people in the same way as they are towards other animals.  The loyalty factor towards its owner, however, could also create a problem as they can become very attached to their owners real ‘attention addicts’.

Breed check: Due to the genetic influence of the White terrier, the dominant coat colour of many Bull Terriers is white.   This coat colour is probably quite acceptable for conditions in England, but the white coat unfortunately frequently goes along with lack of pigmentation in the skin – that is a pinkish skin.  In sunny South Africa, a pinkish skin often predicts a variety of skin disorders and even skin cancer.  The lack of pigmentation is also associated with deafness. So, if you select a new dog, make sure that the skin’s pigmentation covers every square centimetre of the surface.

 Another common problem is the breed’s tendency to engage in compulsive behavioural patterns.  A well-known example of such behaviour is circling or tail chasing.  This is so common that many studies on compulsive behaviour in dogs and humans are done by using the Bull terrier as a model.  Unfortunately, destructive behaviour, especially chewing, could be part of the breed’s compulsive repertoire.

They also seem to be very prone to fear of loud noises, thunder storms and fire works.

 Bull terriers need ways to channel their high energy drive. Training from a young age could help to use some of the energy in a positive way.  However, critics of the breed would argue that they rarely come first in any obedience class. 

If you want a Bull terrier, you should be mentally and physically strong enough to handle them, make the effort to socialize them with other animals, take time  to train them properly and keep them occupied in constructive ways.

J.S.J. Odendaal


“Kan hulle nie, wil hulle nie, of dalk moet hulle nie!”

    Beste Ethology Academy.

    Ons het twee herders honde wat tussen 4 en 5 jaar oud is. Ons het hulle saam gekry (uit dieselfde werpsel) maar hulle het nog nooit self ‘n werpsel  kleintjies gehad nie, dit blyk hulle sukkel om te paar en hulle groot sterte is skynbaar  ook ‘n hindernis. My verloofde het die saak voorheen met ‘n veaarts bespreek en die veaarts was van mening dat ons die honde moet los want dit is natuurlik en hulle sal self regkom.

    As die wyfie op hitte is dan grou sy groot gate soos wat haar liggaam seker vir haar se sy gaan kleintjies kry en sy loop en “huil” dan die heel tyd. Die mannetjie probeer alles in sy vermoe maar dit laat hom baie gefrustreerd elke keer as die wyfie op hitte gaan en dan baklei die honde met mekaar. Die wyfie is ook geneig om mense te byt (nie ons familie of kinders nie) maar dit het gister gebeur dat sy sonder enige rede uit die hek hardloop toe ons met die kar probeer inry en direk na die beure se huis toe hardloop en ons buurman se seun van 18 jaar oud gebyt. Die wyfie is geniepsig en wil ook die bure se bediende byt. Ons het nou probleme as gevolg daarvan met die bure en ons weet nie verder hoe om te maak nie. Die mannetjie het nie dieselfde problem nie. Dit het ook al gebeur dat ons bure hulle klein hondjie uit gelaat het en ons honde het toe die klein hondjie gebyt. Daar is baie honde in ons buurt en almal is meer waghonde en hulle blaf baie vir mekaar en raak kwaad as van die eienaars met hulle honde gaan stap. Ons is baie lief vir ons die honde, hulle het ‘n baie mooi geaardheid en beskerm ons goed en ons kyk mooi na hulle, maar die situasie skep nou rerig probleme vir ons en ons sal u raad graag wil he in die saak.

    Ons het ‘n groot erf en die honde is veilig toegemaak in die erf, hulle het toegang tot die hele erf en ons het hoe mure en ‘n groot elektriese motor hek voor wat so 3 meter hoog is.

    Ons sal u raad baie hoog op prys stel.

    Baie dankie en groete
    Beste Moedeloos,

Eerstens moet ek net meld dat dit glad nie raadsaam is om broer en suster te laat teel nie. Dit word inteling genoem en die kleinjies het gewoonlik erge defekte soos heupdisplasie, velprobleme, tande en kake defekte, om maar ‘n paar te noem.

Dit is waar dat teling ‘n natuurlike proses is en reuns en tewe sal paar, wanneer die teef gereed is om gedek te word. Omdat die honde so sukkel om te paar, is dalk juis die natuur se manier om te wys dat dit nie moet gebeur nie.

Wanneer daar met honde geteel word, moet dit wees om die ras te verbeter en om gesonde nageslag daar te stel, wat plesier sal verskaf aan mense wat die hondjies koop. Mense wat intelings koop, gaan baie geld aan medies moet bestee en die honed gaan, heelwaarskynlik baie ly.

Vir albei honde se beswil en aggressiewe gedrag van die teef, sal dit beter wees om haar te laat steriliseer. Albei honde moet ook gehoorsaamheidsopleiding ontvang.

Ethology Academy


German Shepherd Dog

Have you ever seen the movie Multiplicity? If one has to describe the German shepherd as a breed in short, I think that is the word that would explain it best.  In the movie the guy takes on different characters and I would like to discuss some aspects to indicate why I describe the breed from a ‘multiple’ point of view.

The first aspect is its name – or rather its many names.  Although in its country of origin it is called the Deutche Shäferhund, the Britons, not being so impressed with Germans after the big war, called it Alsation, because it came from Alsace.  (Alsace is now part of France, but it was previously German territory and after the war given back to France.)  Other names were Alsation Hound, Alsation Shepherd and Alsation Wolfdog - as long as nothing German was attached to the name.  In South Africa we took off where the English have left, and called it a “Wolfhond”.  However, as our previous dispensation reached its height, the dog became known as a Police Dog.  So, in our country it is not unusual that the same dog is named - by a purist:  German shepherd; by somebody who still longs for Home: Alsation; by a local Afrikaner: Wolfhond; and by a sufferer of the previous regime: Police Dog.

The second aspect is the breed’s appearance. Many of the heated debates on appearance were associated with the different names, just to indicate that ‘my type of dog’ – with its name - really exists.  There are: the smaller and bigger types; the shorter and longer coat types; the sloping and straight-backed types; and the different colour types.  Originally, the breed was kept to protect sheep and then the white or beige colours were preferred to melt in with the sheep or should we say - a wolf-dog in sheep clothes!  However, white fell out of fashion and only a few people still breed white German shepherds as an exotic variation of the breed.  There is also now a ‘reconstructed’ version of the early types, known as the Shiloh Shepherd.

Another aspect of the breed is its versatility.  Apart from being a protector it is also a sheep herder.  The breed is highly trainable and is used for about any task that one could think of for a dog to execute.  It is a top guard, patrol, tracking and substance dog, agility competitor, companion, guide dog, rescue dog and an impressive show dog. However, the breed is only a century old and it is no closer to wolves than any other breed – despite its ‘wolf’ looks.

Breed check: The breed’s popularity and participation in shows, where human selection influenced the breed profoundly, resulted in many disease conditions that the breed is prone to.  One could thus say there is a fourth aspect of multiplicity and that is the long list of genetically-based health problems.  These include skeleton, eye, skin, digestive system, heart and blood, teeth and jaw problems. Unfortunately, some problems are also related to behavioural deviations such as fear-biting, tail chasing, eating of faeces, destructive behaviour, howling and excessive aggression.  The bottom line is that one cannot buy this breed on its good name or good looks only.  Every new dog should be evaluated with a genetic health check that includes behavioural tendencies.  Because genetic analysis is rarely done, we should at least know as much as possible of the new dog’s family history, before the final deal is clinched.

Prof J.S.J. Odendaal


“They fight like cats!”

    Good morning

    I have a problem with my cats and hope you can help:

      Names are Roxy (female ± 6 yrs), Brucie (male ± 4 yrs) and Litchi (male ± 4 yrs). The two males are brothers.
      They have all been neutered and spayed.
      I had the female for about 2 years before the two boys arrived.

    As soon as I see the smaller one attacking Roxy I give him a smack and chase him out of the house. He sometimes attacks his brother as well and I do the same.

    I moved house about 1.5 yrs ago. My son is now 14 months old and walking all over. When he sees the cats he tries to pull hair. I am trying my best to teach him handle them with care. Brucie does not seem to mind the attention but the other two run away.

    Recently there has been a stray coming into the house and screaming outside. I chase it away.

    Litchi marks around the food bowls and only small amounts. I have only seen him doing this once. I gave him a smack when he did it and cleaned it immediately. He has also marked elsewhere. I think near the staircase but to my utter frustration I can’t find the spot.

    My cats do not use litter trays. They use the garden.

    I feed the cats near the kitchen. The three bowls are next to each other with a water bowl. I have a water bowl upstairs as well.

    She tries her best to fight back but last night it was a really bad fight. She peed all over herself and her neck was wet. I think he was trying to bite her neck. This was outside on the patio. When I tried to open the blinds and the sliding door it was too late and she was already inside. Broke the blinds in my haste. I tried to comfort her and I gave Litchi the evil eye all night. Needless to say he slept in my cupboard all night. As soon as he tried to get close to the bed she growled. Brucie later tried to attack her as well so I put her between pillows so they could not get to her.

    I get home at about 17h45 and feed them immediately. I try to keep my son away from them until they have finished. I bath my son at around 7 and after I have put him to bed I feed them again. I usually go upstairs around 8 when Roxy is already waiting for me on my bed. While getting ready for bed I give her a lot of attention. Litchi will then lie on one of the continental pillows (his name then changes to Prince Habibi hehe). Anyway once I climb into bed Roxy will lie on the side of the bed next to my back. Brucie and Litchi will lie under the covers next to each other right next to me until they get too hot. They will then settle next to my legs for the night. In the mornings I get dressed and dress my son and then feed them so that they can eat peacefully when we have left the house.

    Not many people see the cats beside the maid. She is also new but seems fine with them. I suspected the old one might have been a bit harsh on them as they ran when they saw her.

    Litchi started attacking his brother about 2 years ago. About a year ago he started attacking Roxy as well and only about 2 months ago both the boys started attacking Roxy.

    I love my three cats with all my heart but it’s starting to upset my son terribly when they fight like that. I am so fed up with the smell in my house and the constant fighting that I wanted to put them all down the other day but don’t have the heart to do so. They mean so much to me and were my only companions when I was pregnant all alone.


Good morning Nelinda
I am going to try and give you some solutions to your problem and I would like to ask you to keep in touch with me via email so that I can get feedback from you (weekly would be great or more often if you feel that the problem is getting worse). 
I am in Port Elizabeth so its not possible for me to do a house call (formal consultation), but if with my advice your problems does not decrease, I would most certainly suggest that Frederiqueanna provide you with the name of a behaviourist close to you that can come to your house and observe your cats with you and then help you on a more personal basis. 
I am not sure how much you have read or experienced about cat behaviour, so I would like to just give you a little background:

    Cats are normally lonely savanna dwellers - they do not normally live in groups, they only come together during the breeding season; otherwise the only established "groups" you find nowadays are mothers and siblings that loosely group together (seen in feral colonies). You can thus understand that a multi-cat household is an unnatural state for cats to be in - however I am the last one to talk as I have 9 cats myself - fortunately without problems, but a situation can arise at any time and any owner of a multi-cat household must be aware of that.  In times of food shortage hunting areas will overlap.  During breeding season, males with also venture into each other's territory. 
    As you have experienced with your cats, territories are marked by spraying (depositing of urine on areas, not covered) or middening (deposit of faeces on high areas, not covered).  Cats would rather avoid getting injured, as an injured cat can’t hunt.  That will lead to starvation.

    Cats have certain things that they see as very valuable resources - food, water, litter trays, the owner and sleeping areas and depending on the cats, they can consider fighting for one or all of these resources.  They may also never fight, but rather do the staring game - one cat will position itself in a doorway in front of the valuable resource and prevent the other cats from passing.
    In town areas it often happens that territories of different cats will overlap - and that is where the problems start.

To get back to your problems - I am of the opinion that you have two problems:

  1. aggression and
  2. inappropriate elimination - spraying.

I feel however that these are both symptoms of the same underlying causes. 
I have a feeling that there has been a build up over a fairly long period and what you are seeing now if the result of various issues.

The first stressful event was moving house (18 months ago), then the birth of your little boy (14 months ago), the interaction with the previous maid (disliked her - ran away) and now the new maid.  Interesting enough, most cats adapt really badly to new domestic workers in the house, especially if they have had a bad time with the previous one.  What I think pushed your cats over the edge was the stray coming into the house and screaming outside.    This will most certainly lead to displaced aggression (they attack each other if they see him outside and can’t get to him), and marking/spraying - as you have experienced on the staircase and food bowls.   With the stray being outside, your cats would also not want to use your garden to eliminate.
As a solution to your problems, I am going to suggest a few things that you can try and introduce:

  1. Install at least 3 litter trays inside (in quiet, non-traffic areas - upstairs and down stairs).
  2. At least 4 food stations in 4 different areas.
  3. At least 4 water stations in 4 different areas.
  4. To prevent the stray from getting inside, a magnetic cat flap can help - only your cats will wear the collars and have the ability to access the house.
  5. Provide the cats with various bolt holes (igloos or even just cardboard boxes with holes) that can give them privacy and hiding areas.
  6. If at all possible between giving your little boy attention and coping with work, etc.  try and have a quick play session (like with a tickler)  with each cat separately every night - during the play session you can try and feed them little tasty treats.
  7. If you need to use punishment, rather try distant punishment if they fight - any punishment that involves you will only create a fearful cat and they will then make sure that inappropriate actions will only take place in your absence.  With distant punishment I mean something like a spray bottle with water or a kiddies water pistol.  This way punishment takes place without connecting you to it.  PLEASE REMEMBER THAT TIMING IF OF THE UTMOST IMPORTANCE HERE.  Any type of punishment must take place less than 3 seconds after the incident.

I have now said a lot - please read through this and ask questions if there is stuff that does not make sense.  I will try and explain.  If you feel that any of the suggestions are not practical to implement, also please tell me that I can work around it and try to provide you with another option.

Liz Hayward
(Animal Behaviourist, 9th Ave Veterinary Hospital, PE)


“Knoffel of Knoffelina?”

    Hi Julle daar by Ethology Academy!

    Ek hoop ek is op die regte spoor!!!
    Ek gaan kortliks vertel waaroor daar 'n groot vraagteken bokant my kop draai - ek hoop iemand aan daardie kant kan my raad gee?!?!?
    Ek het 'n African Grey (9 jaar oud - met die naam Knoffel) en sy "Ma" se oogappel!!!  Alhoewel "Pa" hom elke dag kos gee, is dit elke dag 'n groot bakleiery, maar "Ma" kan in sy oë NIKS verkeerds doen nie.  Hy praat baie goed - is selfs tweetalig.
    "Pa" het toe afgeskeep gevoel, en toe ons vir Knoffel 'n nuwe hok koop, koop "Pa" toe vir hom 'n wit budgie.  Ons wou eers die budgie buite op die stoep sit, maar siende dat ons in Bethlehem bly en die winter ons skielik oorval het, vind die budgie toe haar staanplek langs Knoffel.
    Moenie vra hoekom nie, maar ons was heeltyd onder die indruk dat Knoffel 'n mannetjie is, maar sedert die budgie se koms, wil hy (sy?) net broei.  Knoffel het altyd met ALLES denkbaar, 'n telefoon nagemaak.  Eers binne in die doppie, leë toiletrolletjie, ... ge"praat" en dan die artikel so skuins agter sy kop gehou en dan eers 'n lekker kuier losgepraat.  Alles denkbaar in sy water gedruk en dan eers lekker daarmee gespeel.
    Ek dog toe ek bederf hom (einlik om te kyk of ek nie sy aandag kan aflei nie) en sit vir hom 2 leë spuitkannetjiedoppies in sy hok.  WAS DIT DALK 'n FOUT???  Hy het 'n voorliefde vir die groter pienk doppie ('n Mr Min doppie) ontwikkel en al wat hy(???) nou doen, is "Broei" onder op die vloer van die hok op die dop.
    HELP ASB!!!  Moet ek die dop uithaal? is Knoffel dalk 'n SY en nie 'n HY soos wat ons vir 9 jaar gedink het nie??  Moet ek hom/haar by 'n mannetjie/vroutjie probeer uitbring om wel te broei???
    Ek sien uit om van julle te hoor!!!
    Lekker koue Bethlehemgroete

Hallo julle,

Julle Knoffel is beslis broeis. `n Mannetjie sal gewoonlik koppulasie bewegings uitvoer op sy stok of teen enige iets ( insluitend jou arm) en `n wyfie sal geil eiers lê of op iets broei. Klink my Knoffel is dalk knoffelina!  Mevrou as sy jou aanvaar en jou man wil byt, aanvaar sy jou as haar maat ( soos in `n “kys” ) en jou man is `n indringer. Jou man moet maar probeer witvoetjie soek deur goed te doen wat haar plesier. Sy  sal niks oorkom as sy op die proppie broei nie maar julle kan dit ook maar uithaal. `n Mak African Grey kan `n maat kry maar julle sal `n volwasse mak dier moet kry as julle kan. Hulle kan in `n kou broei as mens die nes buite aan die kou vasmaak met die ingang in die hok. African Grey`s kan deur die jaar broei en dit is ook nie te snaaks dat sy hier voor die winter broeis raak nie.

Hoop die raad het gehelp. Julle kan haar aandag aftrek deur haar `n verskeidenheid speelgoed te gee, vars takke kan ook dalk help.

Ben Minnaar


My Dog and the weather

    Hello there
    I have a xrottweiler male

    he is 6 years old and is totally freaked out when the weather turns he knows even before I hear the thunder or see the clouds that it's going to rain
    he crawls around inside the house and even gets stuck behind the fridge
    he will even try and run off of the plot into the road
    this only started about a year ago but his behaviour has brushed off onto my other dogs it seems
    kind regards

Dear Sally,

Unfortunately the fear of thunder and other loud noises is a huge problem amongst pet dogs. Certain breeds seem to suffer more.   The problem seems to get worse with age and could even start affecting an older dog that never had this problem as a young dog. The other negative aspect of the problem behaviour is that it does “rub off” on other animals due to observational learning and/or mimic behaviour. The animals do know that a thunder storm is on its way long before we do, due to their superior sense of smell and hearing. Dogs that suffer from extreme fear may injure themselves.

The bad thing about this behaviour is that it can rarely be cured when it is as severe as in your dog’s case and will need a holistic approach (various forms of behaviour modification in combination with the uses of medication and management) and the hands on attention of an experienced behaviourist.  On the short term the problem can be managed to a certain degree by asking a Vet to prescribe medication, in the form of tranquilizers or by using “alternative” medication. Another way would be to isolate the dog in a room where it could feel comfortable and to play loud, soothing music when a storm is approaching.

For further assistance please consult for contact details of a dog behaviour consultant in your area.

Ethology Academy


‘Ouch! It is my finger!’

    Good Day

    I just had an ordeal losing my 5 year old Miniature Female (we left her in my mom-in-laws care) and she lost her…now 25 days…...I have lost 5kg’s since then after looking for her and scams from Internet people etc…… My son surprised me with a Miniature Doberman Pinscher Puppy over the weekend – she is apparently 8 weeks old…and she helped me get through the weekend…… She is adorable BUT seems aggressive – if I point my finger and say NO….when she bites too hard she is not scared she actually gets more aggressive (I cannot get hold of the breeder or papers)….

    Is it normal for them to snap at such and early age…I am sure she is teething but I don’t recall my other one being quite so cheeky – only when playing with her toys…I also think she might be younger than 8 weeks ? And will take her to the vet on the weekend for injections as I am not sure if they did really give her injections….yet.

    How can I calm her down when she goes for my clothes and gets cheeky and bites too hard – last night her tooth got me on the wrist and actually drew blood…..apart from that she is playful and lovable but now and then gets aggressive and I don’t know whether to treat this as normal puppy aggression and the way I try calm her is to give her a toy and she takes it out on the toy…. Please can you help and let me know if this is normal…..Your advice would be greatly appreciated…..


Hello Daphne,
Frederique asked me to answer you as I am an agent for Ethology Academy and a behaviourist.

While this behaviour is relatively normal for many puppies, I would treat it with caution so as not to increase the aggression. It may be that your puppy had little contact with other puppies (no or few littermates) or that the experiences with other puppies or people were not adequate or was inappropriate. Ideally you should get a behaviourist in to do a consultation or at least go to puppy classes with your puppy (from 9 weeks old) so that these problems can be dealt with properly.

One suggestion: Don’t point your finger, stare at her and say NO! This puppy obviously sees this as a challenge or is frightened by your reaction. Whenever she does something wrong I would suggest you play the strong silent leader and either ignore or distract. In any case being ignored is the worst punishment you can give any dog, but only do this for a few seconds at a time, looking away, walking away and keeping quiet. Only play with her using her chewy toys and not your hands and when things get a bit rough or she bites you, then stop playing. She’ll soon learn how to play nicely. Playing with other puppies will help this as well, as long as they are of similar size and age.

I hope this helps in the meantime

Karen Gray-Kilfoil
Animal Behaviourist and Humane Educator, Cape Town


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