You ask – we answer:
Q: I have a yellow lab that just freaks when fireworks go off. I have been to the vet and they prescribed “doggie Xanax” but they don’t calm her down. She runs, and runs, and runs, and barks, and barks and barks.
I have to let her out into the back yard because she destroys the house. The 4th of July and New Year’s Eve are the worst. She runs back and forth in the yard for hours and comes in sweating, and pants for at least an hour. She is 9 years old and I’m afraid she is going to have a heart attack. Why does she freak out like this?
A: If you know there are going to be fireworks, plan ahead. Start by taking her for a long walk about 1 to 2 hours before the fireworks start to tire her out. To make your walk more effective, make sure you have her walk-in the heel position the entire walk. By doing this you will engage her brain better.
Neurotic behaviors such as this often develop due to inadequate mental exertion. I would also give the medications before you set out for your walk. This will give the medication plenty of time to work into her system. Also, consider signing up for a training class of some kind. A dog is never too old to learn new tricks — contrary to the popular saying.
Make sure your dog knows a set of commands immaculately that she will be able to perform with a host of distractions and loud noises. In doing this, you will be able to ask your dog to perform these exercises during the fireworks to redirect her attention from the loud noises and onto her “job” of training. When she completes a task successfully use lots of praise and treats. By training in environments with lots of distractions and noise, prior to the fireworks, you will work on desensitizing your lab to noises.
Desensitizing is a process a trainer also will be able to help you with. Good luck!
Q: Our 2-year-old mutt is scared of kids. We adopted her at about 10 months and she has not been around children much since then. When she is around kids, the hair stands up on her back and she tenses up. She actually snapped at a child once. Is there anything we can do to stop our dog from being aggressive around kids?
A: I would suggest you seek professional help as soon as possible. You want to create a positive association with children. A professional could help you learn to redirect the dog’s attention to a more appropriate learned behavior without applying any corrections. Applying corrections in this type of situation will only create more of a negative association with children making the situation worse in the long run.
Q: My dog constantly licks his front paw around “the first joint” — if he were to turn down his paw. If he’s not licking one paw or the other, it’s the carpet or the furniture. What gives?
A: You would want to consult your veterinarian to rule out any medical issues first. Your dog may have skin allergies, and you would need to rule it out with your vet before you pursued behavior modification.
Excessive licking or chewing could be a sign of stress or boredom. First, make sure you are not adding to the issue by yelling at him for licking or constantly drawing attention to the fact that he is licking. You want to create some distractions for your dog such as a Kong toy filled with peanut butter or frozen plain yogurt.
Give your dog other things to do that are more appealing than licking his paw. Most importantly, make sure your dog is getting sufficient exercise and training. Nervous behaviors like this are often related to lack of exercise and lack of mental stimulation. By tiring him out physically and mentally, you will ensure that he has less energy to chew on himself.