Behavioral challenges dealing with dogs

Contributed photoRestrepo is a 10-year-old domestic short-haired cat, pictured with CGHS/SPCA Animal Care Technician Olivia Elliott. He is neutered and up to date on his vaccines. Restrepo was surrendered to the shelter initially due to his previous owner’s health. He was adopted and returned to us through no fault of his own. He’s a very sweet, very mellow boy. Restrepo would thrive best in a quiet and loving home, as too much commotion might overwhelm him.

Last column, we discussed some behavioral challenges dealing with cats, and some great home remedies to help with those issues. This week goes to the dogs! Therein amongst all that bountiful advice, I said it and I’ll say it again this week: “Bad” is not a word in either cat or dog language. As with cats, undesirable behaviors in dogs are frequently cries for help. Instead of getting frustrated, prepare to help your pooch navigate their troubles! You should NEVER “punish” your pet for behaviors they may not be able to help. They need your love and commitment to successfully break the chain! Learn how your pet thinks, and you could find you’re enjoying your furry company more than ever!

Without further ado…

n Growling over the supper dish: You must, must, MUST realize that this brutal noise does not necessarily mark your pet as “mean” or “aggressive.” Your dog could, in fact, be insecure that someone may take her food from her. She may be worried that she may go hungry — especially if feeding wasn’t carefully handled when growing up — and she’s letting you know that she would really like to keep eating. Leave her dish down until she’s finished, and work on hand-feeding her with treats in between mealtimes to get her to trust you and the rest of the family as the pack-leader providers. If her energy is usually directed at another dog in your house, make sure that you are feeding at the same time in separate locations. Never provoke a growling dog…a safer bet is to contact a professional and reputable canine behavioral specialist/trainer (man, do I know a good one!) and have a proper assessment done for this guarding behavior.

n Pulling too hard on walks: This issue takes patience and consistency to overcome. Many types of harnesses (Sporn) and collars are available to counteract pulling. Some of these may be martingales, slip collars, easy-to-hold leashes, prong collars (which are NOT inhumane, provided that handlers are properly trained in their correct use). Extendable and elastic leashes can give a false sense of control and wind up giving you a sudden jerk and a sore shoulder when your pet decides to bolt and finds the dead end.

n Table begging: Don’t ever, ever give in. Once you give in, your pup will spend as much time as it takes to get his that little morsel of table scrap — a huge paycheck that you’re giving away for free. Save it ‘til later, and make him earn it with a little trick training session. For those relentless Rovers…a squirt bottle (like described in last week’s cat behavior column) can work here, too — same principle.

n Defecating/Urinating in neighbor’s yards: For Buckshot’s sake — use a LEASH! That’s what walking is about! There are no excuses here. If your pet relieves himself on another person’s yard while you are walking him on the leash, make sure you have your little baggie ready to clean up. Your pet is your companion, and not your neighbor’s responsibility! Alternatives include fencing, either visible or invisible. Own this one!

n Carpet Scooting: Yes, the dreadful one — seeing your pup planting her pucker on your favorite rug, carpet, sofa, or bed and smearing that rear most innocently across. This is, again, NOT a natural behavior, and it’s honestly not an attempt to either punish you or make your best friends laugh (even if it DOES look kinda silly!). No, carpet scooting can speak of a tapeworm infestation (itchy itchy, itchy!), but which can be easily treated by your veterinarian. The source of the itching can also be an impacted anal gland, which is equally (if not more) yucky and can need a little more attention than worms. The principle from your pooch’s perspective here is simple — if it itches, scratch it. So do yourself and your pet a favor, help her out by getting her the veterinary attention she’s asking you for, and kiss those skidmarks goodbye!

Aaron Clause is an Administrative Assistant at the Columbia-Greene Humane Society/SPCA Board of Directors. He may be contacted at

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