Common Dog Problems
Walking Calmly on a Leash
Q: How do I train my two small hyper dogs to walk calmly on the leash?
A: The quickest method is to use 'Gentle Leaders', which are very effective in calming dogs and preventing them from pulling on lead. If you prefer not to use a head collar, then it is back to basics as there is no quick fix! The dogs need to learn to focus on you and understand what’s expected. Enrolling in a local dog training school/program would be most beneficial. I start my dogs off lead in the house. Before I feed them, I have them follow me while I am holding the food bowl, one dog at a time. Walk holding the food bowl and ensure they know that there are some yummy additions in it! Reward the dog for the right position. As you make progress, try stopping, turning etc. but go SLOWLY. Take your time and let them think about what to do. As long as your pet is CLOSE to being in the right position and paying attention, reward them. Don't distract them by waving your hands around or talking –remain calm and quiet. As you progress, raise your expectations about their position. Keep rewarding and make it fun! Limit these sessions to two to three minutes at a time, and eventually you will have a dog that walks great on AND off lead!
Ellie Ross, owner of Wag and Train Inc., Kitchener, Ont., and CTV’s “PUP Talk” host
Q: Our 13-year-old dog constantly chews the bottom of her paw or sucks on blankets and articles of clothing. How can we stop this behaviour? Is it dangerous to her health?
A: If this behaviour is new, then I would strongly recommend a thorough examination by your veterinarian. A sudden appearance of sucking and chewing could be indicative of dental problems, intestinal problems, pain from arthritis or other musculo-skeletal problems and even neurological issues. Never dismiss new behaviours, especially in elderly animals; they might be early warning symptoms of something medically serious. However, if she has been doing this all of her life, it’s likely to relieve boredom or stress. How aggressively you approach stopping this behaviour depends on if she has actually damaged her paw. Punishing behaviours that relieve stress only escalate the stress. Distract and stimulate her with treats or toys that engage dogs in problem-solving to get the treat. To relieve stress, a product called a DAP (Dog Appeasement Pheromone) might be in order. You can disperse the calming pheromone from a device that plugs into the wall socket, from a specially designed dog collar or from a spray bottle. Most veterinarians stock these. If she is actually damaging her paw, then she may need a stronger anti-anxiety medication, so have her examined by a vet before taking any action.
Jennifer L. Scott, D.V.M., practices at Sundance Animal Hospital in Calgary, Alberta.