Q: My cat seems happy, but sometimes it’s like she wants to commit suicide. Whenever I take a bath, she jumps into the tub. Then she screams as if she can’t get out. We’ve tried to keep her out of the bathroom, but she’s determined. Does she have a psychological problem? – N.P., Niagara Falls
A: Your cat is apparently smitten with running water. New York City-based certified cat behavior consultant Beth Adelman suggests, “The running water stimulates the cat to jump, then she immediately realizes she’s made a terrible mistake. Unfortunately, your cat isn’t learning from previous experience, but her intent isn’t to kill herself, I’m certain.”
Perhaps, you can keep her out of the bathroom by having someone distract her with toys. Or, Adelman suggests, if you keep her out of the bathroom when the water is running, odds are when you do let her in she won’t be as interested in taking a bathtub dive.
By the way, it’s important to know how your cat feels about water and the tub. Never leave her in the bathroom without supervision when water is running in the tub. Indeed, once in the water, she may not be able to get out.
Q: I just adopted a rescued Labrador retriever mix. The shelter said the dog would be a good fit for me, but she’s crazy. I love that fact that she likes to play, but she never quits! Is there an off switch for this dog? – B.H., Hartford, Conn.
A: “Lots of things can contribute to a dog’s level of energy,” says Fairplay, Md.-based dog trainer Pat Miller. “Much depends on the breed itself, as well as the individual dog.” And Labradors bred from field Labs (which are still working, hunting dogs) are surprisingly high-energy dogs.
Miller, author of “How to Foster Dogs: From Homeless to Homeward Bound” (Dogwise Publishing, Wenatchee, Wash., 2013; $14.95), says off-leash hikes and an opportunity to swim and fetch toys or balls can work wonders.
Organized events (offered by local dog trainers), called “nose work” or “nose games,” can teach your dog how to sniff out specific objects or items. Aside from being fun for you and your dog, the mental and physical exercise is tiring.
Ask your veterinarian about an appropriate diet for this energetic pup. One possibility is the Royal Canin Labrador diet, specifically designed for the breed’s high energy needs, and kibble-shaped to slow down inhaling food (a common trait among Labs).
Also, instead of feeding your dog from a dish, buy two or three food puzzles, which deliver kibble when the dog maneuvers the toy by rolling it or moving around puzzle pieces (which food is found under) Various Nina Ottosson toys are available at many online sites and http://www.nina-ottosson.com/.
Part of the problem may be that your dog has trouble calming down.
“You can teach your dog to settle,” says Miller. “When your dog is excited, just wait it out. When your pup finally calms, say ‘freeze.’ You can also use treats to help lure the dog into a ‘sit,’ and then say, ‘freeze.’ ”
For some dogs, when they do calm down, another reward might be a light massage. Knowing that attention is coming, some dogs will learn to calm faster.
Q: Could our dog truly be afraid of his own shadow? – F.J., Hartford, Conn.
A: Sure. This behavior may not be rooted in fear, however. There might be an ophthalmological issue involved. Dogs can’t tell us when they’re seeing double, experiencing floaters in the eye, or seeing shadows. Also, the fear may (or may not) be solely the result of compromised vision.
If your dog seems especially nervous or fearful, you may want to seek professional help. Consider contacting a veterinary behaviorist (www.dacvb.org) or a veterinarian with a special interest in behavior (www.avsabonline.org).
Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your name, city and state.