"Devil dog" may simply be fearful

Q: I adopted a Shar-Pei/Australian Cattle Dog cross from a shelter. She had been a stray. She's lovable toward us, and very smart, but when we walk her on a leash, she becomes a devil dog, going after other dogs, barking and spinning. It's very hard for me to settle her down. I want this adoption to work out. Any advice? -- S.B., Harland, WI

A: Don't give up, get help. First, know that aggression is most often due to fear.

"Understanding that your dog is likely afraid, or previously had no experience of meeting other dogs on leash, and also having patience can help you to at least take a breath and understand," says Chicago-based dog trainer Laura Monaco Torelli.

Consider your equipment. If you use a so-called choke (or chain link) collar and/or a retractable leash, toss them. Instead, Monaco Torelli suggests a body harness, such as the Freedom Harness (available at some boutique pet stores and http://wiggleswagswhiskers.com/). Attach a standard 6-foot leather leash to the harness.

Monaco Torelli, a faculty trainer for the prestigious Karen Pryor Academy, suggests you visit an REI store or Whole Foods to buy a GoToob. Inside this small tube, place a special treat your dog will only receive on walks, such as Cheez Whiz, liverwurst, or low-fat, low-salt peanut butter.

When you do go for walks, go somewhere where you know there will be other dogs, says Monaco Torelli -- a parking lot at a pet store, for example. But stay far enough away that your dog isn't bothered. Each time your pet even catches a glimpse of another dog, offer her a treat. If she reacts in a hostile manner, or expresses concern, you're simply too close to the other dog, so back up.

"Distract (your pet) by having fun, playing training games, and offering treats all the way," says Monaco Torelli. "Gradually, bring your dog closer to those other dogs."

Meanwhile, when taking your pup for an ordinary walk on the street, stay away from other dogs as best you can until she's made significant progress in training under controlled circumstances.

Since following Monaco Torelli's advice is easier said than done, she strongly suggests enlisting help from a trainer who uses positive reinforcement, a veterinary behaviorist, or certified dog behavior consultant.

Q: Wanda Jean, our 4-year-old cat, has always thrown up. At first, the vet said the cat ate too fast and probably had hairballs, since Wanda Jean has long hair. A few weeks ago, the cat began throwing up every day, and just didn't look good. An x-ray showed her colon was filled with feces, and the bladder was enlarged. The vet kept her two nights and cleaned her out.

The cat's diet was changed to Hills W/D (a prescription diet), and she took to it well. The vet said, "If we can't control the problem with diet, we're looking at surgery." I wonder about the affects of major surgery like this. Although Wanda Jean is doing better than before, she's started vomiting again. Is surgery the only answer? -- T.N., Cyberspace

A: Feline veterinarian Dr. Vicki Thayer, of Lebanon, OR, says, "I wouldn't jump into this surgery, either." Here are some of Thayer's suggestions:

First, increase your cat's water intake. Some cats are intrigued by drinking fountains made for cats. Also, add some water or even chicken bouillon to the cat's dry food, and feed her at least some moist food, too. Thayer notes, "I've enjoyed more success with (prescription diets) Hill's ID or Intestinal HE from Royal Canin."

Thayer, president of the Winn Feline Foundation, a non-profit funder of cat health studies, adds, "Be sure you're brushing (the cat's coat) daily. And ask your veterinarian about a stool softener."

If these changes don't help, consider asking your veterinarian for a referral to a feline veterinarian (or you can find one at http://www.catvets.com) or internal medicine specialist.

Q: Max, our 5-year-old mixed-breed dog, wakes us up in the middle of the night with his howling. He sounds like a wolf. The howling started about a month ago, eventually building up to once a week, or even more often. He howls, then goes back to sleep. We're not sound sleepers, so we can't easily fall back asleep. What's going on? -- B.G., West Bloomfield, MI

A: It could be Max experiences pain -- such as back pain or abdominal pain -- when he moves a certain way while sleeping. See your veterinarian to rule out this possibility.

Most likely, Max is light sleeper, too, and something could be waking him up, triggering the howling. My bet is on fire or police sirens, particularly if Max tends to howl at these during the day. By the time you wake up at night, the sirens have passed. The howling could also be a response to anything from a yowling cat to another dog barking down the block to wildlife outside the window.

If my guess is correct, one solution might be to prevent whatever is prompting Max's response -- although it's hard to change the route of police cars or convince dogs several houses away not to bark. Another idea is to attempt to drown out such sounds with a noise machine, so Max won't wake up. Yet another possibility is that Max is vocalizing in his dreams.

Ultimately, the only solution may be to have Max sleep in another part of the house. Or you could try wearing earplugs.

Q: My dog has left stool stains on a light-colored carpet at my son's house. How can we remove the stains? -- D.C., Montreal, Quebec, Canada

A: So much depends on the type and quality of carpet involved. In general, however, I find that Carpetbaggers Professional Stain Remover and Deodorant does the best job of removing stains compared with other over-the-counter products. This is a pet-safe product. For further information, http://www.carpetbaggers.com, or call (847) 885-0120. No matter what product you use, the secret is to blot rather than rub.

(Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't answer all of them individually, he'll answer those of general interest in his column Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is http://www.stevedalepetworld.com; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.)

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