By Cathy M. Rosenthal
Tribune Content Agency
My daughter and I both have rescue Shih Tzu mixed breeds dogs who have played together for the past four years.
Recently, my dog, who is three years younger than my daughter's dog, has started attacking him. There is no provocation at all. Her dog will be just lying on the floor and all of a sudden, my dog will start attacking him. I had a trainer here and she thought it was territorial issues, but I am sure that is not the case.
We are beside ourselves and do not know what to do and why this is happening. I cannot keep spending money on trainers so I thought maybe you might have some insight to our problem.
Both these dogs are calm and loving in their own environment. When you walk them outside, they are fine. They love people and dogs alike. I hope you can help me. - Gloria, Coconut Creek, Florida
Because this is a new behavior, take your dog to the vet to rule out any medical problems that may impact how a dog behaves. Next, introduce some plug-in canine pheromones around the house and get pheromone collars for both dogs to ease tensions.
If your dog is healthy and pheromones are in place, then it's time to teach both dogs to "leave it" and "come" on command, so they learn to disengage and listen. Begin by putting a treat on the floor. (Always separate dogs during training.) Put your dog on a leash and walk him by the treat. When he looks at it, say "leave it." When he looks at you, use a reward word, like "bingo," and give him some treats. Over time, you can increase the value of what he needs to ignore, including walking him on a leash by your daughter's dog. Always reward him for doing as you asked.
I also recommend you and your daughter both walk these dogs at the same time, several times a week. The walks provide the dogs positive time together, and exercise, which can reduce negative behaviors overall. A tired dog is generally a better-behaved dog. Let me know how it works.
With summer here, we are very excited to be swimming, and we just moved into a new house with a pool. Our 8-year-old chocolate Lab, however, runs around the pool barking constantly while we are in it. I think he is worried we are drowning. He also shows no interest in swimming himself. Any advice for how to calm him down and let him know we are OK? - Matt, Las Vegas, Nevada
If he won't get in the water himself, there is little you can do to convince your Lab you're OK. You can, however, distract him by giving him something to do while you're in the pool. For example, freeze peanut butter in a Kong toy and give him the frozen treat only when you're in the pool. That should be all that's needed to settle him down for a bit.
If that doesn't work, your only other option would be to leave him in the house while you're swimming. Give him the special treat in the house as well so he is content while you are outside.
In your column about cats licking bags, I think you may have missed an obvious reason why some cats lick bags. If they lived outside for any time, they likely relied on rainwater collected in bags on the ground as a water source. My eldest kitty was rescued as a tiny kitten from a parking lot. He loves licking bags. Every now and then I lay one over a bowl and add water. Happy cat! - Sharyn, Selden, New York
If a stray cat is thirsty and finds a little collected water on a bag, it makes senses he would drink from it, and then maybe develop a habit of licking bags. Cats may be drawn to these plastic bags for many reasons though, like the crinkly sound the bag makes when licked, the lingering smell of foods if the bag transported groceries, or even the bag's overall scent, because some bags are made with biodegradable ingredients like corn starch, which cats like. Some vets say the behavior also may be a mild compulsive disorder or linked to pica, which is the eating of indiscriminate objects.
Regardless of the reasons, the good news is, mild licking of bags is not harmful to cats.
Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.
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