Is This Normal? Pet Edition
When three viewers are troubled by their pets' odd behavior, veterinarian Dr. Ernie Ward has the answers to their burning question, "Is that normal?"
"Xena the Talking Dog"
Erin says that her 10-year-old Siberian Husky is a non-stop chatterbox. "Whenever I get a phone call, the dog wants to immediately talk," she explains. "It's like she wants to know who's on the phone with me and what's going on. And people will say, 'What's that whining in the background?'" Whether she's in the car or at home when the doorbell rings, Xena is constantly vocal. "It just wears on you," Erin laments.
"The first thing when I see patients like this," Dr. Ernie tells Erin, "I want them to check with their veterinarian to make sure they're not having any hearing or visual problems. Because we see a lot of cases in our clinic where they start to bark and vocalize excessively, sort of inexplicably to the owner and it turns out that they've actually lost vision or hearing. I know this may not be the case with Xena, but always in general check with your veterinarian first."
Dr. Ernie points out that barking is normal behavior. "Dogs are social creatures just like us," he says, "and some are more social than others." If the barking is something that you're looking to discourage, Dr. Ernie suggests teaching your dog the "quiet." Click here for Dr. Ernie's instructions on how to hush your puppy!
"The Sacred Pee Issue"
Lisa says that her and her husband Ed's pug named Guillotine is usually sweet and non-aggressive, but there's one problem. After the dog does her business on the newspaper or wee wee pad and Lisa attempts to clean it up, that's when Guillotine launches an attack. "She literally does three crazy little spins and attaches herself to my leg and bites me," Lisa explains. "She's drawn blood, she's bruised me. Ed and I are at a loss why she has these sacred pee issues!"
"This is NOT normal behavior in any way, shape or form," Dr. Ernie tells her. "Any time there's aggression, this is when to get involved with your veterinarian. This can escalate and you can get seriously injured."
"What I'm also concerned about and what I've seen in other cases, is sometimes there's a component of fear aggression. It's redirected aggression, so maybe during the house training issue they became frightened and so they associate the pitter patter of the paper with that." Dr. Ernie encourages Lisa to revisit house training with the crate. "They're never too old to learn how to do this, and this would eliminate this behavior first and foremost."
Dr. Ernie continues, "When it comes to possessive behavior, guarding, things like that, we teach 'drop' or 'relinquishment' commands. One of the techniques that I would probably recommended in a case like yours is to start off with one of their toys, new or old. You teach them to bring it to you and drop it. What you're trying to do now is work your way up toward something like a piece of paper -- not her soiled paper, but a different type of paper."
Dr. Ernie also suggests more interactive stimulation for Guillotine. "If she is indoors a lot," he says, "you should be working with her indoors. If you can't get outdoors because you live in a high rise, do 'sit, stay, play' ... 'hide and seek' is a great game too where you take a treat or toy and hide it underneath a cushion or something and make her go find it -- things to keep her active."
"Woman Bites Dog"
Kathy admits that ever since her cocker spaniel Riley was a puppy, she's been biting the scruff of his neck. "Just to tell him I love him and that I'm his mama," she explains. "He loves it, I love it ... is this normal?"
"This is normal dog-to-dog behavior," Dr. Ernie tells Kathy. "The problem is, you're not a dog. When we try to imitate animals too closely, it can escalate. Not that it probably would in this case, but I want you to be careful. We are people and they are pets, so while I think this is innocent in your case, but I certainly wouldn't advocate that people across America start biting their pets every morning!"
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