COLUMBUS, Ohio -- About one-third (30 percent) of dog owners who give up their pets to an animal shelter do so because of the dogs' perceived behavior problems, new research suggests.

The study, which included a survey of 56 dog owners who surrendered their pets to the Capital Area Humane Society in

Columbus, found that bad behavior was the top reason for relinquishing a dog.

But many of the reported problems are normal behaviors for dogs, particularly young ones, said Sara Staats, co-author of the study and professor of psychology at Ohio State University's Newark campus.

"Many new dog owners either don't know or don't remember what is normal behavior for young puppies," Staats said. "The problem often isn't with the dogs, it's with the owners' expectations."

The most commonly reported behavior problem was hyperactivity, followed by housebreaking problems, biting,

destructive chewing when the owner was away, fearfulness and barking.

"With the exception of biting, these behaviors should be expected from dogs," she said. "And even with biting, many inexperienced owners confuse play biting in puppies with aggression."

Staats noted that more than half of the dogs (53 percent) were surrendered when they were less than a year old. Puppies this young can't be expected to be perfectly well-behaved without training from the owners, she said.

The study was published in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medicine Association. Staats conducted the study with Deborah Miller of the Capital Area Humane Society; Christie Partlo, a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley; and Kelly Rada, a graduate student at Georgia Southern University.

The study involved a survey of 130 pet owners -- 56 dog owners and 73 cat owners -- who were releasing their pets to the Capital Area Humane Society.

In addition to behavior problems, the other major reasons that dog owners gave up their pets:

The researchers found that cat owners had slightly different reasons for surrendering their pets. The top reason for surrendering cats (29 percent) involved moving to a new home or apartment. Often the owners were moving to a place that didn't allow cats, Staats said.

Other reasons that cat owners gave up their pets:

Data for the study was collected in the fall and winter, Staats said. If data was collected during spring or summer -- the major reproductive season for cats and dogs -- unwanted litters would have been a larger factor in owners giving up pets.

The study also found that married people were more likely than single people to give up their pets. That may be because many married people may have children or other responsibilities that make it more difficult for them to own a pet, according to Staats.

Staats said that many people let their emotions take over when they choose a young kitten or puppy as a pet.

"People are attracted to young pets because they're so cute," she said. "But young animals have a lot of energy and are rambunctious. Many people either don't have the skills or aren't willing to acquire the knowledge to give them proper training."

The best pet owners are those that not only feel affection for their pets, but also feel a sense of commitment to taking care of them.

"Too many pet owners like their pets, but aren't willing to alter their lifestyle or spend the time and money necessary to properly take care of the animal," she said.

"If you were a pet you would hope for an owner that is not only attached to you, but also committed to you."

Contact: Sara Staats, (614) 366-3321;

Written by Jeff Grabmeier, (614) 292-8457;


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