Q: My daughter adopted a young puppy. He’s a great little dog except that he mounts every animal he gets near. This isn’t a constant thing, but it happens often enough. Is there something we can do to curtail this behavior? – J.T., Cyberspace
A: “Of course, this could be the start of sexual behavior if the puppy is not neutered,” says Dr. Gary Landsberg, a veterinary behaviorist in Thornhill, Ont. “If the dog is neutered, it is still what normal dogs sometimes do, and young dogs particularly because it feels good, and they haven’t perhaps yet learned appropriate play protocol. Try allowing your dog to play, but with a leash on. When your puppy seems to be having ‘too much fun’ with other dogs, if you get my drift, calmly walk away with him. Over time, the dog will learn that mounting means play must stop.”
Of course, if the behavior really gets obnoxious, an adult dog may put your pup in his place – and that will be that.
Q: Does the Thundershirt help to calm cats as well as dogs? – T.G., Tampa, Fla.
A: A Thundershirt is a vest that fits snuggly around a pet. For many pets, it helps decrease anxiety, and for several years now has been used as a tool for dogs fearful of thunderstorms, fireworks, car travel and for other problems such as separation anxiety. Now, there is a Thundershirt for cats.
“Some cats feel frozen when wearing it,” however, Landsberg warns. “They may be motionless, but I’m not sure they’re any less anxious. Anecdotally, we hear Thundershirts might help, particularly to calm more active cats rather than cats who tend to hide.”
Landsberg notes that you didn’t mention why you’re thinking about a Thundershirt for your cat. Typically, the Thundershirt isn’t the sole tool available to calm anxiety; other products and behavior modification may also be attempted, depending on a pet’s problem.
Q: I adopted a pit bull mix. She’s been great, and gets along with every person and dog she meets. The only exception is, she gets aggressive when there’s a dog on a person’s lap. For example, when my mom’s miniature schnauzer is on her lap, my dog becomes aggressive, but when the schnauzer is on the floor, they happily play together. What can we do? – J.B., Cyberspace
A: Landsberg suggests, “Set your dog up to succeed. Let the two dogs play. Then take your dog to the other side of the room, with a Gentle Leader or another head halter, luring him with a really good treat. Simultaneously, let the schnauzer jump on someone’s lap. Do this over and over, and gradually, over weeks, move the pit bull close to the dog on a lap, while giving your dog treats and distracting her with play.” You may also have to “bribe” the schnauzer with treats so he stays on the lap.
The scenario you describe isn’t particularly uncommon. Also, it’s difficult to discern from your question if the pit bull is merely excited about the dog being on someone’s lap or is truly aggressive. If you believe the latter, enlisting a certified dog behavior consultant or dog trainer might be best.
Q: Toby, our newly adopted 2-year-old beagle is stealing my daughters’ underwear and chewing on it. I’ve bought more underwear for my daughters in the past few months than I have for their entire lives. I’m finding more underwear in the backyard than I am in their dresser drawers. This dog has a million toys, plus rawhide to chew on. What should I do? – C.B., Chicago
A: The problem you describe isn’t as uncommon as you might think. If Toby is simply chomping on the unmentionables, then moving them to the lawn, it’s like burying bones in the yard; this is what dogs do with their favorite things.
Dogs live by their noses, and your pup is smitten with the smell. You can’t turn off a dog’s nose, but perhaps you can substitute something more suitable for the underwear. Urge your daughters to religiously pick up their underwear daily, and toss all dirty laundry into a dog-proof bin. Also encourage your daughters to play with Toby. Hopefully, when they put their scent on his toys, perhaps Toby will search for these toys rather than underwear.