Each week on "It’s A Dog’s Life," we address a topic that’s relevant in the world of dogs. More often than not however, the best shows are those where listeners participate and call in for help with their specific doggie dilemmas.
Here are a few from last week:
Mariann from Brooklyn: My Maltese Max seems to be suffering from 'seasonal depression' due to the all of the grey weather and snow-- should I take him to the vet?
I agree that whenever your dog is not acting ‘normal,’ you should consider a trip to the vet to rule out medical or health issues. However, since Max is eating and toileting regularly, I’m sure his doldrums are merely a case of boredom and a little ‘cabin fever.’ Mariann can help Max out of his shell with simple, fun indoor games that will give him exercise and mental stimulation. If your dog is like Max, play follow the leader through the house or hide-and-seek, spend time doing basic obedience training, and consider teaching your dog some new tricks, or to fetch his toys by name.
Sharon from California: Can you offer some tips for how I can get my lab to stay on a paddle board? He has a tendency to want to jump off in the middle of the ride.
Water and dogs can be a fun mix, but always practice safety first. Even good swimmers should wear a floatation device. Most of these come with a top handle, which I suggested might help Sharon keep hold of her lab and steady him on the paddle board. If you want your dog to participate in activities with you, always create no-pressure, positive associations. Rewarding your dog with his favorite treats while you patiently desensitize your dog to new situations works great to do just that!
To keep her dog on the paddle board, I also suggested that Sharon smear peanut butter, cream cheese, or something equally pasty (and tasty!) on the board to keep her dog interested, busy and focused on staying on top, rather than diving in for a swim!
Chris from Syracuse: My pug jumps up on the couch and barks through the window at anyone walking past the property-- how do I make her stop?
I asked Chris to look at that scenario from the dog’s perspective. The dog sees someone walking by, the dog creates a huge commotion, and the passerby walks away from the property. In the dog’s mind, he says “that worked – I’m good at this – I’ll do it again tomorrow!” The dog’s behavior is inadvertently reinforced day after day. If your dog is a nuisance barker, you must break that cycle of reinforced behavior. Management is key-- if you can’t be present to re-direct your dog when he reacts to someone passing by the property, take away his opportunity to exhibit the behavior. In Chris’ case, I suggested she take away her Pug’s opportunity to look out the window. In other words, move furniture away from the window or close the curtains so the Pug can’t jump up to see out the window. You can also use baby gates to cut off the dog’s access to the rooms where the problem occurs.