You ask – we answer:
Q: Can my dog be trained to NOT chase after the cats? I got my dog when she was a 3-month-old rescue. Having grown up with dogs and cats co-existing peacefully or ignoring each other, I didn’t think gradually introducing the puppy would result in anything other than household harmony. This wasn’t the case then or now. The dog is now 4-years-old and is great with people. But when it comes to birds, squirrels, other dogs, and our cats it’s an entirely different matter. She will chase anything and I am worried about what she will do if she catches one of our cats. In the house, we’ve managed to separate the cats from the dog. I would consider training, but it can be expensive and I am not sure it would do any good at least as far as the cats are concerned. I’ve heard that certain breeds just instinctively go after what they identify as vermin. Any advice would be appreciated
A: This is a really difficult one, as prey drive is very hard to control. You are right, it is an instinctive drive in many breeds of dogs, just like fetching a ball is an instinctive drive for a retriever. As a rule, never leave your dog with your cats unattended, even if training is going very well! You need to be present to correct any inappropriate behavior and reinforce the correct behavior. More importantly, accidents can happen very quickly, and you don’t want to undo any training you have done. You need to work on desensitizing your dog to the presence of your cats. Teach your dog a “place” command where she goes to her bed and stays there. Your dog should be able to master a 30–45-minute “place” with moderate distractions before you introduce your cats. Moderate distractions would be remaining in “place” while the doorbell rings and you let a visitor into the house.
Once she understands the command, use a leash to tether her onto something that will not be pulled over. Bring her into the room and send her to her place and attach the leash to something sturdy. Bring the cats into the room and use lots of treats and praise when she stays in her place. If she jumps off, calmly lead her back with her leash telling her to “place”. When she is following her command, use plenty of praise and treats. Use high quality treats so she starts to associate staying calm around the cats gets her very high-value rewards. Over time, she will associate the presence of the cats with high-value treats, and hopefully, get used to their presence enough to ignore them.
Q: I adopted a 2-year-old terrier mix a few weeks ago from the local humane society. Things have been going well for the most part but it is apparent that she has major separation anxiety. I have worked on crate training and she appeared to be doing fine. My basic routine is to leave her in her crate when I go to work and then my neighbor comes to get her after lunch and she plays with her dog until I get home. She is never left alone for large amounts of time. However, another neighbor (I own a townhouse) offered to buy her a bark collar. She acts fine when I am home…will get treats out of her crate, go in and out, won’t sit in it by choice but will sleep through the night inside it without a peep. However, it looks like when I am gone she barks and yelps for HOURS!! Please help! I am beginning to feel that I should stay home with her when I am not at work so that she doesn’t disturb the neighbors. Last night I went out for a few hours, when I got home she started throwing up! I spent half the night tracking down an emergency vet. The conclusion was that she had become so upset when I was gone that she started vomiting. Please help!
A: I am so sorry to hear your little dog gets so upset when left alone. Separation anxiety can be very difficult to deal with, particularly with neighbors so close by. Terriers are working dogs, bred with specific jobs in mind. At two years old, your little dog is in the prime of her working life. Anxiety based behaviors usually develop when intelligent, high drive working dogs lack mental stimulation. Mental stimulation coupled together with exercise is going to be the key to getting her through the anxiety. Dogs are pack animals, so when left alone, they will often develop separation anxiety or destructive behaviors as a result. Studies have shown that in most circumstances when left alone, dogs will sleep for approximately 90 percent of the time. For the remaining 10 percent of the time, dogs will occupy themselves. In the case of separation anxiety, the behavior is most often destructive. For this reason, dogs need to be occupied for approximately 10 percent of the time they will be left alone. In conjunction with this, dogs have an instinctive “Hunt, Eat, Sleep” routine that should be used to alleviate anxiety when left alone. In the domestic environment, the “hunt” should be replaced by a walk. Walks should be at a brisk pace, requiring dogs to remain in a heel position for added mental exertion. Once home and cooled down, dogs should be fed and then left with approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour’s worth of toys/chew bones to occupy them. I find leaving 2 to 3 different edible chews or toy dispensers is best. Keep Kongs filled with plain yogurt in the freezer as a daily treat. Raw, frozen marrow bones are also an excellent chew treat — they provide raw meat enzymes and satisfy a dog’s quota to chew. Mind bender treat toys, such as buster cubes, dispense treats one at a time, requiring the dog to think. Once your dog has completed the “Hunt and Eat” part of the instinctive routine fulfilled by the walk, food, and chews, their internal instinct will help them relax and sleep the rest of the time they are left alone. In your little dog’s case, additional training may be necessary to challenge her mentally on a higher level. Look for group training classes in your area to take her to. Being a terrier; she would probably thrive at agility, too. Good luck!
Q: We have a 7-year-old Cairn terrier. He is afraid of his food and water bowls. Any suggestion?
A: There are a few things you can try. You might need to give him different bowls. If you have been feeding him from metal bowls, sometimes the dog’s tags brush the bowl and the noise scares them. Cover the tags with a tag silencer to help dull the noise. As much as you are tempted to, do not hand feed him. Dogs will eat when they are hungry.