Dr Gary Landsberg
Session Details
Behaviour Myths – Separating Fact from Fiction
Kitten behaviour - preventive counseling from birth to adulthood
Psychotropic drugs for canine and feline aggression
Natural products for prevention, stress management and behaviour therapy
Brain aging in pets – Pathogenesis and Management Strategies
Behaviour update: What's new and cutting edge?
Canine aggression - risk assessment, safety and management strategies
Canine aggression to unfamiliar dogs and people – Treatment strategies
That's mine - food aggression in dogs
Urine, urine everywhere
Cat fights - can't we all just get along
How stress affects health and behaviour
Veterinary visits: Prevention and management of fear and aggression
Dr Gary Landsberg is a veterinary behaviourist at North Toronto Veterinary BehaviourSpecialty Clinic in Thornhill, Ontario.
He is board certified by the ACVB and ECAWBM (behaviour) and presently sits on theirexecutive board. He is a behaviour consultant for the Veterinary Information Network andDirector of Veterinary Affairs for CanCog Technologies.
Dr. Landsberg is a frequent speaker at veterinary conferences at home and abroad and hasauthored and edited numerous research and review papers and book chapters. He is co-author of the 3rd edition of “Behavior Problems of the Dog and Cat” from Elsevier, a bookand CD of client behaviour handouts from Lifelearn and a series of client handouts from theAmerican Animal Hospital Association (AAHA).
He has received a number of awards for his work in the field including from AAHA and theWestern Veterinary Conference.
Streams: Small animal and behaviour
Behaviour Myths – Separating Fact from Fiction
Kitten behaviour - preventive counseling from birth to adulthood
Psychotropic drugs for canine and feline aggression
Natural products for prevention, stress management and behaviour therapy
Brain aging in pets – Pathogenesis and Management Strategies
Behaviour update: What's new and cutting edge?
Canine aggression - risk assessment, safety and management strategies
Views presented at AVA conferences are the views of the individuals and not necessarily the view of the Australian  Canine aggression to unfamiliar dogs and people – Treatment strategies
That's mine - food aggression in dogs
Urine, urine everywhere
Cat fights - can't we all just get along
How stress affects health and behaviour
Veterinary visits: Prevention and management of fear and aggression
Behaviour Myths – Separating Fact from Fiction
Behavioural myths abound. Which are no longer scientifically sound? Which are fact and
which are fiction?
Over the years a wide range of behaviour myths have emerged many of which have little orno basis in science or fact. While some are true, many are observations or theories that arenot supported by the evidence or are scientifically unsound. Of greatest concern are theones that are potentially harmful to the pet or the pet-owner relationship. One of the oldestbut perhaps most accurate is the myth to “let sleeping dogs lie”, which dates back to Dickens(David Copperfield, 1850) actually goes back to the days of Chaucer (1374) 'It is noughtgood a slepyng hound to wake.' Dogs that are sleeping or resting, much like humans may be irritable and aggressive ifdisturbed when sleeping or resting. On the other hand, attributing aggression to dominance,waiting until all vaccinations are complete at 16 weeks to begin socialization classes,avoiding food in training because it is merely a bribe, that behaviour problems are entirelythe owner’s fault or due to previous abuse, or that pets know when they have done wrong orengage in behaviours out of spite are myths that need to be debunked.
Kitten behaviour - preventive counseling from birth to adulthood
From maternal care through socialization and through adolescence, how we manage
behaviour shapes behavioural success or behavioural problems.
Providing timely behaviour advice to new kitten owners can help to prevent undesirablebehaviour, establish and maintain a healthy pet owner bond, and deal with emergingproblems before they become further entrenched. Veterinarians and staff should work as ateam to introduce cat owners to the concepts of normal feline behaviour, reward training andestablishing healthy social relationships.
This can be accomplished by giving advice at each kitten visit, by offering kitten kindergartencourses in the clinic, and by providing a resource / reading list. Prospective pet owners canbe provided with pre-adoption advice in kitten selection and preparing the home for the newpet. Kitten owners should be counselled on normal feline behaviour, communication andbody language, socialization, reward based training and enrichment including both socialand object play.
In addition guidance should be offered on litter box training, neutering, scratching, climbingand perching, bedding and security and how to safely and effectively manage undesirablebehaviour.
Psychotropic drugs for canine and feline aggression
Selection and use of drugs for cases of canine and feline aggression – an evidence based
Psychotropic drugs can be useful for reducing signs associated with phobias, panic oranxiety, and improving trainability. Drugs should also be considered when the behaviour isabnormal, pathological or lacks impulse control. However, drugs do not change the Views presented at AVA conferences are the views of the individuals and not necessarily the view of the Australian relationship with the stimulus; therefore, concurrent behaviour modification is needed todesensitise, countercondition and train desirable.
Evidence based decision making allows treatment options to be selected using the availableevidence together with the needs of the patient, client and problem. Drugs that might be aconsideration for fearful and aggressive pets on an ongoing basis include selective serotoninreuptake inhibitors, tricyclic antidepressants, or buspirone.
In both dogs and cats benzodiazepines might be useful as an anxiolytic either alone or asadjunctive therapy, while trazodone, clonidine, and propranolol might be useful adjunctiveagents together with selective reuptake inhibitors on an as needed basis in dogs.
Other drugs that might have applications for some forms of aggression includeanticonvulsants such as phenobarbital or gabapentin which may also be useful as adjunctivetherapy for neuropathic pain or anxiety.
Natural products for prevention, stress management and behaviour therapy
Selection and use of natural products for stress management and behaviour therapy – an
evidence based approach
Complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) are a group of diverse medical and healthcare systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered part of conventionalmedicine. CAM includes natural products such as herbal medicines, animal products,vitamins, and minerals; mind and body medicine including relaxation exercises andacupuncture; manipulation therapy including spinal manipulation and massage andvibrational medicine or energy healing including homeopathy and energy healing includingmagnets, light, Reiki, and healing touch.
As with drugs, veterinarians might consider the potential value of a natural product to apatient if it has a scientifically plausible mode of action, and data to establish efficacy, dose,safety, side effects, and contraindications. Natural products that meet these criteria might besuitable for both the therapeutic management of behavioural problems as well as preventivestrategies at times of stress.
These might include the pheromones Feliway and Adaptil, l-theanine, alpha-casozepinealone or combined with l-tryptophan in the diet (Royal Canin Calm), aromatherapy, DHA ormelatonin.
Brain aging in pets – Pathogenesis and Management Strategies
Clinical signs, diagnosis, management and treatment of cognitive decline and cognitive
Cognitive dysfunction syndrome is a neurodegenerative disorder of senior dogs and catsthat is characterised by gradual cognitive decline and increasing brain pathology includingneuronal loss and beta-amyloid deposition.
The diagnosis is based on identifying one or more of the clinical signs: Disorientation;alterations in social Interactions and Sleep-wake cycles; Housesoiling; altered Activity levels;a decrease in awareness or response to stimuli, as well as agitation or anxiety. In humans adecline in learning and memory is a key indicator of Alzheimers disease.
While this is also a documented finding in pets in the laboratory environment, it is difficult toclinically identify in pets until fairly late in the disease. While early detection and early Views presented at AVA conferences are the views of the individuals and not necessarily the view of the Australian intervention provide the best opportunity to slow decline and improve clinical signs, manycases go undiagnosed.
Therefore veterinarians must be proactive in educating and asking clients about emergingsigns. A number of therapeutic options have demonstrated potential for efficacy includingdrugs, diet and cognitive supplements.
Behaviour update: What's new and cutting edge?
The latest behaviour research from the 2013 ACVB scientific session in Chicago and
International Veterinary Behaviour Meeting in Lisbon.
The annual specialty meetings of behaviourists in the North America ( and Europe(, provides an annual research rostrum for veterinary behaviourists, residents,and other behaviour scientists to present their latest findings in the field.
In addition, in 2013, the 9th international veterinary behaviour meeting was held in Lisbon.
This lecture will provide an update on some of the clinically applicable research from thesemeetings including Post-traumatic stress disorder in military working dogs; the use of a newpheromone for on reducing fear in cats in the veterinary clinic; whether cats prefer coveredor uncovered litter boxes; a new model for assessing fear and anxiety in cats; the prevalenceof fear and anxiety in dogs in the United States; the effect of a DAP collar on sound inducedanxiety; the effect of homing age on behaviour; a new pheromone developed to encourageuse of a scratching post; comparing differences in gluococorticoid results in spraying catscompared to toileting cats; as well as studies on the efficacy of DAP on raising guide dogpuppies and on anxiety in dogs in Australia (and more).
Canine aggression - risk assessment, safety and management strategies
Assessing risk, determining prognosis and implementation of management strategies for
cases of canine aggression.
Before aggression can begin to be treated, a behaviour consultation is required to determinethe diagnosis, prognosis, and what must be implemented to safely manage the problem.
The initial focus must be on management both for safety and to prevent further repetitionand learning. In addition it is essential to insure that the owners have realistic goals as towhat might be achieved and how this might be accomplished. For risk management, theESVCE position statement describes 5 steps; identifying risk factors, determining who mightbe harmed and how, discussing precautions for each risk, recording and implementing, andupdate and review. Strategies for effective and safe management should include preventingaccess to the stimulus or the stimulus to the pet, avoiding interactions that triggeraggression, understanding canine communication, and physical management devices suchharnesses, head halters and muzzles.
Drugs and natural supplements may also be an important component of the program forfear, anxiety, impulsivity and some forms of behavioural pathology.
Canine aggression to unfamiliar dogs and people – Treatment strategies
Treatment of canine aggression to unfamiliar people and dogs when on walks and visiting
the home
Aggression toward unfamiliar dogs and people is generally due to fear and anxiety. Whenthe aggression is limited to, or more intense on the home territory there may be a territorial(guarding) component.
Views presented at AVA conferences are the views of the individuals and not necessarily the view of the Australian The problem is further aggravated by each exposure since unpleasant associations add tothe pet’s anxiety and each successful threat that results in stimulus retreat reinforces thebehaviour.
Dogs on leash are reported to be twice as likely to threaten and bite. This may be due to aninability to escape or control access to stimuli, restricted opportunity for normalcommunication, owner influence, and previous experience.
Treatment requires safe and effective management of the problem with preventivemeasures; training to achieve focused and calm behaviours in the absence of any stimuli;teaching cues that communicate to the pet to focus and relax; management products; anddrugs or natural products where indicated followed by implementation of graduated exposuretraining with desensitization and counterconditioning to achieve positive associations andresponse substitution to achieve desirable behaviours.
That's mine - food aggression in dogs
Food related aggression in dogs – management and treatment strategies
While food guarding might be normal and acceptable for survival, when directed at people orother dogs in the home, strategies for safe management are required. Owners that deal withpossessive behaviour with threats or confrontation may further increase the dog’s anxietyand intensity of aggression.
Therefore the initial focus should be on preventive measures to insure safety and preventfurther learning. Access to any items (food, chews) that the dog might guard should belimited only to times and places where the dog can be safely separated from people or otherdogs. Should any family member find the dog in possession of an item it might guard, theyshould either walk away or lure the dog away with an item of higher value (trading).
Behaviour modification to improve the problem would include a) avoiding furtherconfrontation b) communicating with consistency and structure for the dog to sit calmly foranything of value c) teaching leave it and give (drop) and d) setting up positive approacheswith each approach (counterconditoning).
Urine, urine everywhere
Bedrooms, halls, flooring, walls. Why is my cat soiling and what can be done about it?
Amongst cat owners, house soiling is the most common behavioural complaint. In general,there are three types of feline house soiling - stress, medical, or as an elimination behaviour.
Each of these categories of house soiling are treated completely differently; therefore, anaccurate diagnosis is essential.
Soiling cats may have signs associated with one, two or three of these categories. Adiagnosis requires comprehensive history taking and the appropriate medical diagnostics.
Once a diagnosis has been made, treatments can be tailored to the individual situation. Forcats with elimination house soiling, the focus is litter tray management. This includesmaximising access to the tray and increasing the attractiveness of the tray.
For stress house soiling or urine marking, the focus of treatment is on identifying andmanaging stressors, often in combination with drugs or natural therapeutics. Medicalconditions that might cause or contribute to soiling include lower urinary tract disease,diabetes or feline cognitive dysfunction.
While treatment of underlying medical conditions may resolve the soiling, when problemspersist, concurrent behaviour management will also be required.
Views presented at AVA conferences are the views of the individuals and not necessarily the view of the Australian Cat fights - can't we all just get along
Introducing new cats into the home and strategies for re-establishing harmony when conflicts
Aggression is typically exhibited by colony members to non-colony members (i.e. newintroductions). Aggression may also develop as a result of redirected aggression, when acat is removed from the home and returned such as after a veterinary visit or grooming, orwith increasing age or health issues.
Once aroused, cats can take from several hours to days to return to normal. In some cases,aggression may persist due to ongoing fear of the victim, aggressor or both. Introduction ofa new cat to a household with existing cats can most practically be accomplished by housingthe new cat in a separate room and planning each step in the introduction.
Familiarity should be gradually established by counterconditioning to scent, sound and sightstimuli before direct interactions. Similarly when problems arise between existing cats in thehome, cats should be separated at any time aggression might arise, sources of conflictshould be identified and prevented, and a desensitization and counterconditioning programimplemented for reintroduction, together with natural or pharmacological therapy if indicated.
How stress affects health and behaviour
Medical and behaviour conditions caused by stress and how stress can be prevented or
Stress is an altered state of homeostasis caused by physical or emotional factors that triggerbehavioural, psychological, endocrine and immune effects designed to handle stress.
The initial response is the stimulation of both the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and thesympathetic-adrenal-medullary system which may return to baseline if stressors are acuteand intermittent but have more chronic effects if the stressors are recurrent or persistent.
Stress may alter immune function, and has been shown to contribute to gastrointestinaldiseases, dermatologic, urogenital, respiratory, reproductive, and cardiac conditions, ashortened lifespan and behavioural disorders.
Chronic stress may lead to panic disorders, separation anxiety, social, and other phobias,abnormal repetitive behaviours (stereotypies, compulsive disorders), generalised anxietydisorders, post-traumatic stress disorders, impulse control disorders, and sleep disordersespecially in pets that are genetically predisposed.
Problems can best be prevented with a program of predictability and consistency,environmental control (choice) reward based training, and enrichment that meets the pet’sbehavioural needs, and a calm environment where fear evoking situations and punishmentare minimised or avoided. Natural therapeutics and drugs may also be useful for reducingfear, anxiety and stress.
Veterinary visits: Prevention and management of fear and aggression
How to make the veterinary experience positive, minimise stress, and manage pets that are
fearful and aggressive
The main reason that dogs and cats display aggression in the veterinary clinic is fear. Howthe pet is managed at the veterinary visit determines whether future visits are likely to bepositive or negative.
Confrontation, unpleasant experiences and fearful responses on the part of the owner,veterinarians or staff, contribute to a fearful experience. Clinicians should endeavor toViews presented at AVA conferences are the views of the individuals and not necessarily the view of the Australian minimise fear at each step in the veterinary visit from crating through car travel, to the clinicenvironment and the manner in which the pet is handled during examination andprocedures.
For some pets and some procedures the use of management products such as towels, headcovers, head halters or muzzles might help to insure safety and successfully complete theprocedure with a minimum of stress. Should the pet become fearful or aggressive, bothsafety and the welfare of the pet must be considered.
While a desensitization and counterconditioning program can be implemented to resolve thefear over time, the most practical option may be to administer intramuscular sedation tosafely and humanely complete the necessary procedure.
Snap at the air and pets with no hair
Abnormal repetitive behaviours and self-trauma in pets – differentiating medical from
behavioural and treatment strategies for compulsive disorders
When a pet is presented with an abnormal repetitive or self-traumatic behaviour, the firststep is a veterinary assessment to rule out all possible medical causes. Pets that snap atthe air, lick, gulp, pounce, spin and pace might be due to an underlying neurologic disease(e.g. focal seizures) or gastrointestinal disorder.
Similarly nail biting, tail mutilation, psychogenic alopecia in cats, or acral lick dermatitis indogs might have a dermatologic cause. Displacement behaviours such as licking, circling,or self-trauma, that arise from situations of conflict (competing motivations) or goalfrustration may become compulsive when they appear outside of the original context, have alevel of dyscontrol, or interfere with normal daily function.
There is likely a genetic component to the development of compulsive behaviours such astail chasing in German Shepherds, spinning in Bull Terriers, wool sucking in Siamese andBurmese cats and flank sucking in Dobermans. Although most cases respond to drugs thatselectively inhibit serotonin reuptake, pathophysiology may vary with dopaminergic, opioidand glutametergic pathways all possibly implicated.
Therapy generally requires a combination of stress management, enhanced enrichment,response substitution and drug therapy.
The big bang theory - noise sensitivity in dog
Noise aversion in dogs - management and treatment
Sensitivity to noise is one of the most common concerns of dog owners with as many as 40to 50% of dogs reported to be affected. When presented with a case of noise aversion, themost immediate form of management would be to prevent or reduce exposure to the stimuliby altering housing or using products that mute exposure such as eye covers, ear covers,sound proofing or white noise, perhaps in conjuction with anxiolytic drugs given prior toexposure. However to modify the dog’s response to the stimulus a desensitization andcounterconditioning program should be implemented using an audio or video of the fearevoking stimulus at sufficiently low intensity to achieve a positive outcome and graduallyincreasing intensity over further exposure sessions.
In conjunction with behaviour modification and environmental management, fluoxetine orclomipramine are generally used on an ongoing basis, while drugs such as abenzodiazepine, trazodone, clonidine or propranolol might be given on an as needed basisin advance of the noise exposure. Adjunctive natural products such as pheromones, alpha-casozepine or pheromones might also be considered.
Views presented at AVA conferences are the views of the individuals and not necessarily the view of the Australian


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