Q: My 3-year-old Schnoodle will not go down our tile stairs. We’ve tried to coax her with treats, or carrying her down a few steps, but she freezes every time. It’s not that she won’t go down any stairs, as she goes down our cement stairs. Any advice? – N.B., Cyberspace
A: “A veterinary evaluation is necessary, although your dog can apparently navigate other stairs, which are easier,” says Dr. John Ciribassi, a Chicago veterinary behaviorist and co-editor (with Dr. Debra Horwitz and myself) of “Decoding Your Dog: The Ultimate Experts Explain Common Dog Behaviors and Reveal How to Prevent or Change Unwanted Ones” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).”Still, a medical explanation such as a luxating patella (knee problem), needs to be ruled out.”
Assuming your dog checks out medically, Ciribassi suggests that she apparently doesn’t feel sure of her footing on tile stairs. Increase the traction by adding a carpet runner. Many stores sell carpet remnants that would fit the bill. Also, try coaxing your dog to use the stairs by rewarding her with bits and pieces of turkey or low salt cold cuts. Since she’s already associated the top of the stairs with a scary event, try coaxing her starting at the bottom.
Q: I adopted my 3-year-old Pug/Shih Tzu mix two months ago from a rescue group. He’s urinated in the house three times. Each time, I haven’t been home. I assume he’s marking his territory. He has a doggy door and could go out to the enclosed patio, which I know he usually does. I don’t want to give him up. What should I do? – J.F., Las Vegas
A: Assuming the dog is neutered, Ciribassi says to see your veterinarian to rule out a medical explanation. Next, if you can, videotape your dog shortly after you leave the house. The tape will be helpful in determining if he has separation anxiety. Dogs with separation anxiety demonstrate one or more of the following behaviors: pacing, drooling excessively, barking, yowling, whining, chewing on things they shouldn’t, and having accidents shortly after their people leave the house.
It’s also possible your dog was never reliably house trained. Also, dogs can be house trained to one place (their own home, for example), but if they’re relocated may not be so dependable. Some low level anxiety (associated with relocation) might be contributing to the problem.
If your dog has separation issues, there’s an entire chapter on this problem in “Decoding Your Dog.” You could also enlist help from your veterinarian, a veterinary behaviorist (www.dacvb.org), a veterinarian with a special interest in behavior (www.avsabonline.org), or a certified dog behavior consultant (www.iaabc.org).
If your dog has house-training issues, training him to a crate might be helpful. There’s information on this topic in “Decoding Your Dog.”
Q: My 6-month-old kitten will chew on just about anything. I’m careful to make sure she doesn’t harm herself. Is there something cats can chew that’s safe, similar to rawhide for dogs? Any other suggestions? – H.H., Seminole, Fla.
A: First, make your home as kitten-safe as possible. If your kitty began nibbling through a live wire, the consequences could be deadly. Consider buying electrical cord protectors (plastic coverings that can be slipped over cords), available online and at home improvement and many “big box” stores. Also, remove as many plants as you can, since chewing foliage may cause an upset tummy or worse.
Next, offer your kitten choices appropriate for chewing. C.E.T. chews, available through veterinary clinics, are specifically made for cats and offer dental benefits. Or ask your vet about Hill’s or Royal Canin’s therapeutic dental diet for dogs (which some cats like). Both brands come in large kibble chunks, chomped on by dogs in seconds; cats take quite a bit longer.
You might go as far as stuffing the chews into a small Kong toy made for dogs or into a sterilized dog bone for your kitty to spend time and effort to remove.
A small percentage of cats will chew on rawhide. Moisten the hide just a bit, then warm it slightly in a microwave.