My dog is an anomaly. We adopted her from a shelter, and she is the perfect Cocker Spaniel. I heard her bark last July when we got her (she surprised me with a huge bark while playing ball), and she barked the other day when a neighbor’s dog on a leash came up on our property. The other dog approached my mother and me sitting with our dog on the front step, and our dog let out a huge bark again. Why does our dog bark so seldom? She has barked only two times in almost a year. It seems weird. We don’t know her history. Could she have been abused into not barking or worn a shock collar? Are there signs? I get nervous thinking about it, but I know she’s happy and loved. Someone told me barking is a learned behavior and not to get too upset while other people are trying to figure out ways to have their dogs not bark. Still, it seems unnatural.
—Sue and Matt Dunn
I’d expect the harsh treatment you’re worried about to have some fallout—fear and/or aggression, especially. If your dog is generally relaxed, playful, and friendly, you can be confident that she’s happy now, whatever happened in the past. I notice both barks were at dogs. If she then exchanged greetings and ignored the dogs or made friends with them, that’s fine. But if dogs in general make her tense, you could look into a special class for “reactive” dogs.
My 4-year-old Cavalier King Charles has recently become obsessed with eating cigarette butts he finds on the street. Of course, we watch him like a hawk and are trying to break him of this horrible habit, but sometimes we miss a butt and he eats it. Is there a way to end this habit for good?
—Susan C. Finelli
Pica—eating nonfoods—is sometimes caused by a medical condition, so your Cavalier should get a vet check right away. Additionally, if you get upset when your dog picks up a cigarette butt, he may think it’s valuable even if it doesn’t appeal for its own sake. Carry delicious food such as chicken on walks and calmly offer to trade. You can also teach him a “leave it” cue, practicing on boring objects first and working up to “hotter” items. A good reward-based trainer can help.
Jolanta Benal is a certified pet dog trainer working with private clients in Brooklyn and Manhattan. She also answers readers’ questions at DoggedHealth.com and podcasts as the dog trainer for Quick and Dirty Tips (Dogtrainer.QuickAndDirtyTips.com, also available on iTunes).
* The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Tails Pet Media Group, Inc. Please consult your veterinarian before making any major decisions for your pet.