SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

March 8, 2013

Why do people talk about their dogs like people?

Ask Dog Lady
Monica Collins

---- — Q: I have an acquaintance I see from time to time. Whenever we bump into one another, she launches right into the latest medical trials of Louie. For the longest time, I had no clue as to Louie’s identity. I thought he was her husband because she kept talking of “elderly Louie’s liver problems.” Finally, when I ran into her a few weeks ago, she told me about Louie’s doctor finding a nasal passage tumor and an age-related heart murmur. She finally referred to Louie’s doctor as a “vet,” so I figured out Louie is her dog. Why must people talk about their dogs like people?

A: Even if Louie were her husband and not her dog, she would not make any distinction. There are unfiltered people who launch into personal conversation as if the listener knows all the players intimately. Your acquaintance is guilty of this.

To her and many others, dogs are people. And she obviously treats Louie with all the care and concern of a human relation. Nothing wrong with it except if she treats Louie’s medical problems and ignores a human family member’s health concerns. Then, it’s nutty.

By the way, her scrupulous veterinarian is pretty amazing to conduct checkups that can reveal nasal passage tumors and age-related heart murmurs in an elderly dog. Dog Lady adores her darling senior terrier, but she’s not sure darling (or Dog Lady) could endure this kind of rigorous medical detection.

Q: My partner recently moved in with me. My Shih Tzu, Chloe, who has been with me for about two years, loves him. We recently added a Rottweiler, Boscoe, to our home. The dogs get along well, especially Boscoe who is quiet, patient and tolerant. Chloe goes her way, and he goes his.

But when Boscoe plays with his toys, runs outside or gets excited, especially when my partner comes home, Chloe goes crazy barking — very loud, shrieking (while her tail is wagging) and continuous. Until Boscoe came along, no one knew I even had a dog. This barking behavior is unsettling and upsetting. Why is this happening? What can we do to get her to stop this irritating behavior?

A: Why does your dog bark like crazy when excited by your partner and the Rottweiler Boscoe? Umm, maybe because she’s a dog.

Shih Tzus resemble adorable stuffed animals, but they are real dogs — full-fledged barkers with all the instincts of a used-to-be-wolf. When your dog lived alone with you, she probably had no cause to get all roiled up. Now she’s part of a pack and reacts to the stimuli very appropriately. You know her barks are excited and happy because her tail wags. If her eruptions annoy you, cordon her off from the crowd. Or distract her and train her to hold her tongue by rewarding for silence.

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Monica Collins offers advice on dogs, life and love. Follow the “Ask Dog Lady” fan page on Facebook; Twitter at @askdoglady. Email questions to askdoglady@gmail.com.