Q: Two years ago, we put our beautiful Shelties to sleep. I thought we couldn’t go through that again with another dog, but then realized that we couldn’t live without a dog. We purchased another Sheltie. She barks and pulls on the leash, then jumps to meet other dogs on the street. Once they’re together, she’s very happy. We tried the spray collar (which sprays citronella), and shock (collar) but they didn’t work. Nothing seems to calm her. She wouldn’t bite another dog; she just wants to play, but other owners and their dogs don’t know that. What can you suggest? – B.E., Seminole, Fla.
A: Our dogs are constantly communicating with us. Consider that your dog is “saying” she’d really enjoy the company of a canine companion.
Of course, if you have difficulty controlling one dog, how will you handle two? Veterinary behaviorist Dr. Nicholas Dodman, director of the behavior clinic at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, North Grafton, Mass., says you are approaching all this as most dog owners tend to, and that is using punishment.
“It’s much more effective and humane to use positive reinforcement,” he says. “Besides, by shocking a dog you’re really not offering information for how you do want the dog to act.”
Reward your dog for not pulling on the leash and for silence. Set her up for success by, at first, keeping away from those other dogs. Stay far enough away that she won’t be pulling and barking; then offer lots of praise and treats. Gradually get closer to other dogs, over a course of weeks. You may require a dog trainer to assist you.
Dodman says to consider fitting your dog with a head halter (such as a Gentle Leader) or a body harness to provide better control.
Meanwhile, if you’re unable to bring another dog into her life, be sure to allow her to socialize at dog parks. The lunging on the leash can’t be an issue if she’s off leash (at the park).
Q: We love your column, and now need your help. We’ve had miniature Dachshunds for more than 30 years. In October 2009, we bought littermates. From the very start, they began to pull grass from the yard, and our flowers, too. Of course, this made us sick. They still have the same habit. We’ve tried everything. Any advice? – D.E., Glen Allen, Va.
A: “The short answer is one word: supervision,” says Chicago-based veterinary behaviorist Dr. John Ciribassi. Either keep the dogs on a leash or otherwise occupied with a game when they’re in the yard.
Dachshunds are born to dig, and they’ve been entrenched in this behavior since they’ve been on the planet, so in all honesty this behavior isn’t changing tomorrow. Perhaps, you can go with the flow. Consider creating their own place in the yard to dig. By hiding toys filled with treats in a sand pit, you’d no doubt effectively create a Dachshund digging den. Otherwise, it’s back to that magic word: supervision.
Q: My 9-year-old cat was just diagnosed with diabetes. Can this disease be regulated only with diet? – C.V.C, Cyberspace
A: “It depends,” says Dr. Vicki Thayer, president of the Winn Feline Foundation and a cat veterinarian based in Lebanon, Wash. “Some cats can manage without the insulin, and with a high-protein and low-carb diet, combined with weight loss, the diabetes goes into remission. Other cats absolutely do require insulin. Still, though with management of diet and weight, those cats (on insulin) may sometimes go into remission as well and no longer require insulin.”
Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can’t answer all of them individually, he’ll answer those of general interest in his column. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your name, city and state.