IAABC Consultants Answer Reader Questions


            Cleveland, OH These reader questions were answered by attendees at the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants 2007 Conference. The keynote speaker was veterinary behaviorist, Dr. Karen Overall. Learn more, and/or search for animal behavior consultants for parrots, horses, cats and dogs at www.iaabc.org.

            Q: I have three dogs, all are around 100lbs. And they sleep with me. They put a paw on me (in my bed), as if they’re telling me “stay.” What does that mean? Also, one of the dogs blows in my ear. What does that mean? I was play boxing with my 8 year old granddaughter, and then one of the dogs put her mouth over my granddaughter’s wrist. Is this jealousy? I will be very pleased for your answers. P. L., Las Vegas, NV

            A: Behavior consultant and veterinary behaviorist Dr. Lore Haug of Texas A & M University College of Veterinary Medicine is alarmed about the mouthing of your 8-year old. “I sure wouldn’t want to allow the dog to practice that behavior,” she says. “Please don’t play any boxing games with your granddaughter or if you must play aggressive games, put the dog in another part of the house until you receive an assessment from a professional. “

            As for all three dogs holding you in place, Haug, who was honored with the prestigious Animal of Other Nations Award at the IAABC conference, says it may be that your dogs want to be as close to you as possible, they’re merely snuggling, but it may also be a pushy and rude behavior. Still another reason to call in a professional who understands dog behavior.

            About the blowing in your ear, “It could be like a sigh – like ‘whew, another tough day; I need my rest,” says Haug. “Or perhaps, you laugh sometimes, or rub her tummy after the ear blowing, and therefore unknowingly reinforce the behavior.”

            Q: We have an adorable yellow cat which we rescued in the Windy City in mid-November 11 years ago. At that time he had two other cats to play with. We’ve since moved. The one cat he played with overnight we adopted out. The remaining cat sleeps all night, but not our yellow cat. He wakes us up, and only calms down if I turn on the TV in the bedroom. It looks like he’s bored and is searching for something. He’s otherwise gentle and well behaved. What do we do? S. L., Belleau Bluffs, FL

            A:  It could be your yellow cat is still sort of searching for his playmate. So, it’s your job to offer play. “Engage the cat with an interactive cat toy,” says behavior consultant Marilyn Krieger of  Redwood City, CA. Also initiate what behavior consultant and IAABC vice president Pam Johnson Bennett calls the Cycle of Four: Hunt, Feast, Groom and Sleep – it’s what cats do. So hide treats for your cat to hunt for (before bedtime).

            “Also, it’s important to totally and completely ignore the 3 a.m. yowling,” says Johnson-Bennett, who is in Nashville, and is the author of ““Think Like a Cat (Penguin Books, New York, NY, 2000; $16.95). However, as a sort of compromise, do consider leaving TV on in another part of the house, and scattering a few toys away from the bedroom before you turn in for the night.

            Q: Josephine, my basset hound is 1 ½-years old, but the problem is that despite her endearing moments she is the most destructive and stubborn dog I have owned. I provide her with rawhide every day, but she still chews on things she shouldn’t, including shoes, books and silverware. The list is a long one, costing me a lot of money. I find her afterwards, scold her and put her in the crate. But that doesn’t help. She is also a counter surfer. I live in a small town, so there is no doggy day care – and I do work two jobs. I do have a student who spends an hour with her and takes her for a walk daily. I try to walk her as much as I can. Also, whenever we have guests, they get jumped on.  What am I doing wrong? L. L., Bradford, IL.

            A: Catching her after the act, and reprimanding her after she’s gnawed on household items makes no sense to your dog. She has no means to possibly comprehend what you’re scolding her for unless you do catch her while she’s in the process of destroying a household heirloom. Imagine returning home and your dog hears you in a loud angry voice, “Blah! Blah! Blah!” That’s essentially what Josephine is hearing. She senses you’re unhappy, but has no clue why. Dogs don’t have the capability to understand when we speak in past tense.

            IAABC behavior consultant Brenda Aloff, author of “Canine Body Language: A Photographic Guide (Dogwise Publishing, Wenatchee, WA, 2007; $39.95),” suggests crate training. That’ll be tough since unfortunately the crate is where you put the dog when you’re angry, and when you come home – the time your dog most wants to be with you.  Still, with patience you can crate train. Or at least, use a baby gate to quarantine her in the kitchen, basement or a room where she can’t wreak havoc when you’re not home.

            Josephine certainly does sound like a sprightly basset hound. And hiring a dog walker is super. If at all possible, also walk your hound before you leave the house. Be sure to leave heavy duty toys you can stuff treats in – so there’s something constructive for her to do when you’re away.  The fact is that Josephine simply has not earned the freedom to be home alone unless she’s inside a restricted space.

             As for the jumping on your guests, Aloff, who is in Midland, MI says the best way to deal with this problem is to put a leash on her, and ask your guests to actually walk into your dog’s physical space and to continue walking, so your jumping dog’s balance will waver.  About the counter surfing, this answer is simple – clear off the counters. If there’s nothing up there, Josephine, your jumping bean basset hound, will eventually lose interest.