"HELP MY PET!" with Sandy Wittliff
Do you have a pet behavior problem that is driving you crazy?
The purpose of this new "no-cost" community service is reduce the number of surrendered pets due to behavioral issues.
Sandy Wittliff is the Humane Society of Central Texas' Operations Manager and Pet Behaviorist/Dog Trainer.
An animal-lover to the core, Sandy teaches animal assisted therapy, is a member of "Angel Paws", and is a registered "pet partner" with the Delta Society, a non-profit group that helps bridge human/animal relationships.
Send your pet behavior question to: HelpMyPet@Grandecom.net
We appreciate your donations to continue this no-cost community service!
The Humane Society of Central Texas is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
Here are some past Q&A from Sandy and local pet owners:
LUCY, THE JUMPING BOXER
Dear Sandy, I really want to say that I think it is awesome that the shelter has set up this new program. "Lucy" is a Boxer, almost 1 year old, and a very good jumper. She can jump the fence on 2 sides of the yard. We have gotten her microchipped, but that is really only good if someone turns her in. Right now I am keeping her in the house as much as I can, but she wants to be outside with the other dogs. When I am not home I have to tie her up, which I hate doing! How do I teach her that jumping the fence is wrong?
Please help us, M.
Let's see what we can do to help Lucy. I am so glad you have Lucy microchipped. Have you gotten her spayed yet? The reason I ask is this will help her on wanting to roam. Does Lucy give you any warning on the jumping? How much excersize does Lucy get? What kind of toys does Lucy have to play with? Have you done any obedience training with her? Let me know the answered and we will go forward on a plan for Lucy.
BUDDY ATTACKING OLDER DOG
We have three dogs in our home. "Buddy" is a 2-year-old male yellow lab mix who showed up in our backyard as a 3-month-old puppy. Our other two dogs are "Midnight", a 7-year-old female black lab, and "Jellybean", a 17-year-old male poodle mix who we adopted at the age of 2. All are spayed or neutered. As a growing pup, Buddy showed some aggressive tendencies but we have eliminated most of them through consistent discipline. Unfortunately, he has targeted Jellybean. We typically send him to his crate whenever he growls or acts ugly toward Jellybean; however, several times in the last few months he has drawn blood. The last attack was the most severe. As Jellybean is deaf, I had reached down to touch his back to get his attention. Buddy came from behind me and viciously attacked Jellybean, who ended up with a series of staples and a two-week course of antibiotics from the vet. My concern is twofold: one to protect Jellybean, and two: as I have an 11-year-old son at home, I'm concerned that Buddy would turn on a person in our home. Most of the time Buddy is a very sweet, eager to please dog but the aggression scares me. We currently do not allow Jellybean and Buddy to be loose in the same room with each other. We go to great lengths to keep them separated. I appreciate any advice you can offer.
Thanks so much for writing. I can well understand your concern. First, let discuss the fear you have with your son. As long as your son does not reach down into a fight he is OK. It is VERY RARE that a dog will turn and go after humans unless there is something physically wrong. They may growl or snarl, but to attack without warning -- very rare. The reason Bud is going after Jellybean is strictly he sees Jellybean as the weak link and he wants to move his way up the ladder, so to speak. I am not saying it is right-- just that this is what is going on. The two best ways to deal with the aggression issue is to watch and see what is the signal early on way before he makes the move. It might be the twitching of an ear. If you an get it when the signals start and you break the concentration - thus can stop the activity way before a fight breaks out. Make sure the poodle is not doing and thing that is sort of like wavy a red cloth in front of a bull. Some of the body language that might be an indication is the tail straight up (even wagging is a dominant gesture), starring, lip licking, tense body. Also, look at the hair on the back of either dog. Across the shoulders is DOMINANCE, Hair across the shoulders and rump with a thin line down the back- INSECURITY, Hair across the shoulders and rump with a wide line of hair connecting the 2 is FEAR. Additionally I cannot stress enough you need to become more of a presence. What I mean by that is to no give anything to anyone unless they work for it. They want a biscuit-- they need to sit. etc. By doing that you will become more of a leader than one of the gang. Keep me posted.
DOG SCARED OF MEN + JUMPING ISSUES
We adopted "Sabrina" into our home about three months ago. She is a German Shepherd mix and fit in nicely with our other two dogs. Sabrina had obviously been abused in her very earliest months. She is amazing around our grandchildren and elderly folks, but when my 20-something sons, or any male between 20 - 40 years old come around, she is virtually stunned. She pees on the floor and runs outside. She will not come back inside for 2-3 hours after they leave. We have had each of my sons gently sit with her, while we have her on the dog leash. This is a very slow process and we do see a little progress. With one son, her ears finally "unpinned" and she relaxed after about 30 minutes. Another son came by last night however, and she disappeared until we went outside to bring her back in to settle on the couch with us. Additionally, Sabrina is overly-enthused when we arrive home at the end of the day. We need to curb her jumping up and barking at us. She also loves to jump in bed with us when she deems we should be getting up. That is unacceptable. Sophie is 1-1/2 years old and is very intelligent. I was able to train her immediately to retreat to her pillow-bed when she receives a treat, and since we have a doggy door, she has, from day one, never had an accident in the house (except her trauma induced accidents). Knowing how quickly she adapted to these rules, I feel she will catch on quickly with whatever advice you may have to offer us. Thank you for any advice and bless you for offering this service.
Sabrina is a lucky girl to have you as her mom -- German Shepherds are my favorite breed of dog. From this point of you will not feel sorry for Sophie. Many of us that adopt want to make up for what was done in the past - that just makes us enable the dog. That does not mean we do not try and correct the problems but we do not want to feel sorry for her either. It also does not mean that we do not love them-- but we must become that rock they can fell they can rely on. My first suggestion is to the men -- ignore Sabrina when they come in. Do not say hi, or anything. Let Sabrina build up the confidence to include the men in her life. Do not let the men even LOOK at her. Looking at her causes her to feel challenged and she does not know how to handle it. When I am working with a very scared pup I will look away, and just BE there. You have to be patient, but it helps to create a bond with them. Next, once the men are in the house give them a treat that they will be able to just "drop" by her at times. What that does is make the "men" become treat dispensers. She will eventually want to be friends. Remember- any attention you give her during her fearful stages intensifies her fearfulness. Only give her attention when she feels confident and good. Now, as for the "greeting": When you come home -- ignore her when she is overly excited. This goes for the other dogs, too. The minute they are calm they get attention. Now when they jump up-- turn your back and pull your arms in. DO NOT TALK TO HER-- Give it several seconds and turn back around. IF she jumps again -- turn again. IT usually takes THREE tries before they start to figure it out. If the other dogs are being calm -- they get petted -- not Sabrina -- she will catch on. Try the above stuff before you tackle the bed jumping. I think though once you get these corrected correcting the jumping in bed will lessen a lot. If you have any further questions, do not hesitate to contact me again.
CONSTANT BARKING A BIG PROBLEM
I hope you can help me. I have a Westie named "Katie" who barks at anything: squirrels, doorbell on the TV, real doorbell, people, perceived sounds outside, etc. I also have a Bischon-Poo who has picked up the behavior from Katie. I have not been feeling well lately and their barking is really getting on my nerves. How can I control their barking? Don't get me wrong, I'm not about to get rid of the dear ones, but I just have to have this barking controlled. Can you please help me?
Before I give you some ideas -- I have a couple of questions:
What do you do now when they begin barking?
What kind of excersize do they get?
What kind of toys do they have?
Let me know the answers to the questions and maybe we can formulate something that will help you out.
When they start barking, my husband usually yells at them to be quit (I know, a no no) If I tell them to be quiet I try to do it calmly, but that usually doesn't work either. They have a doggy door so they get some good exercise running in and out chasing the squirrels and on days when the weather is not extreme, my husband likes to take them on walks. We live in Cameron Park, sort of, and they like to go there and sniff and smell all the new stuff. They like their walks. Finally, the toys. They have a lot but they destroy them. They won't stop until they've gotten the squeeker out and then comes the stuffing. They continue to play with the "shell" after they've gotten everything out. haha. They also go wild when someone comes into the house. They bark and jump. I try to position myself between them and the guest, but it's kind of difficult with two of them. They don't want to hurt, they just get excited and want attention from them. They are good dogs and we love them, we just want to correct their unacceptable behavior so it's not so stressful on us and them.
As for toys-- I have attached a paper I wrote on toys. (Anyone can email me for a free copy of this paper at HelpMyPet@Grandecom.net.) Basically the fact the dogs have nothing to make them use their minds is like you only being allowed to read and first grade book over and over-- it would get boring and you would look for stimulus. Your pups will not like everything but there will be some things that will interest them. When your friends visit tell them to ignore the dogs. No talking, especially a high pitched sounding voice, no touch - nothing! They are to turn their backs on the dogs pull their arms up and in. Once the dogs calm down you will tell them good dogs --calmly-- if they start again then turn your back again. The important part is to not talk till they calm down and then talk to them when they are doing what is required. Humans are very bad saying when something right has gone on. I hope these help. If you need further let help let me know.
LITTLE DOG, BIG BITER
We adopted Rocky, a 2-year old Chihuahua/mix, from another animal shelter. Rocky was a "special needs" dog. He's smart, but has an aggressive streak towards people and dogs outside our home. My husband and I are in our 70's. We have two other dogs, and they all get along except for the occasional dog treat spats. It took Rocky a while to warm up to my husband, but now Rocky sits in the chair with him and eats snacks from him. But when my husband leaves the room, then returns, Rocky is aggressive and barks at him and will nip at his pants like he never saw him before. My husband does not hit him or yell, but Rocky has also bitten him. I've tried to muzzle Rocky but he pulls it off. We have a large fenced yard. I take the dogs walking on a leash even though we live in the country. Naturally we encounter stray dogs, and Rocky is very aggressive and wants to fight them. He is aggressive towards walkers and bikers too. I keep the firm and friendly approach to no avail. People don't like Rocky. I praise Rocky when he potties out doors and he comes to me for petting and I tell him how good he is in a happy voice. Can we meet or talk about how to help Cain? I'm sure Cain is as unhappy about his behavior as we are.
Hi J, Boy, do you have a handful!! For sure you have handed too much power over to Rocky. For right now, Rocky is to not be given any attention other than food , potty, etc. You need to look at when you are giving him attention. Many times with the little guys, folks will say be petting them when they are growling or doing bad behavior. Remember-- any attention tells the dog what they are doing is OK. My first suggestion would be to have your husband get a tennis racket-- When he does back to sit down use the tennis racket as a shield. If Rocky wants to bite, at least it will be the racket and your husband's arm. Now when you are walking him are you using a retractable leash? If so, please get a regular leash. Also, when you walk him YOU decide when he is to sniff etc.-- not him. When he decided he gets more power. Start with these suggestions, but we are not done! Do not get disheartened. Please give me a call at the shelter after you have read this and we will formulate more a more customized plan.