Q: I’m about to retire and live alone in a condo. I recently adopted a 2-year-old female miniature pinscher, Mitzi, from a humane society. I was told Mitzi had some “issues,” because she was abused. She is slowly acclimating to her new life but is scared of loud noises and quick movements. Most of all, she is very aggressive on the leash when we meet other walkers with their dogs. I had her in several obedience classes, and all she did was shake from fear of the bigger dogs and the chaotic barking. She wanted to attack the smaller dogs. The trainer suggested spraying her with water when she acts up, which I’ve done, but it hasn’t solved the problem entirely. I’m looking forward to spending many stress free years with my little girl.
A: First, put away the spray bottle. In the short term, the surprise spritz in your dog’s face stops barking intermittently. However, as a long-term solution on the path to “many stress-free years with my little girl,” it is not recommended by Dog Lady. You don’t want your dog to fear you ever. Your Mitzi should look up to you — figuratively. You want her to feel calm enough to obey you and not worry about the other dogs. Teach your dog “sit and stay” with a yummy treat dangling. This is an exercise in which you command your dog to focus on you while telling her to sit and be quiet. When she does what she’s told, you praise her effusively and give her the treat.
Your immediate need to take her to training is admirable, but the high-strung Mitzi doesn’t need any more chaotic barking and noses in her face. Walk her for bonding and socialization. She needs to get used to other dogs, loud noises, big trucks, whatever. And walk her for the exercise. Get to know Mitzi by training her. Buy her a bed so she has her cozy, safe place. Be serene around her — or try to be. The last thing any dog — or person — needs is a screamer with a spray bottle.
Q: My husband and I have two female Italian greyhounds, Sophia and Gina. Sophia is 81/2. Gina is 9. Sophia is timid when people and things are too noisy inside the house for her. The main problem is that they no longer want to use their litter box. That’s what they were used to when we first got them. We keep it clean, but still they choose to go on the big rug or the little rugs in the hallway.
A: Bring them out of the house to do their business. These dogs may have been trained to use a litter box, but, basically, they were given permission to go inside the house. Don’t expect them to know the difference between litter boxes and rugs. If you want to wean them from their nasty habits, you have to walk them and house-train them by praising them and giving them treats when they go outside so they learn the better option. It’s easy to indulge Italian greyhounds because they are small and feline-nimble in their movements. These are dogs and require the same training and discipline as a Great Dane.
Monica Collins offers advice on dogs, life and love. Her website is askdoglady.com or facebook.com/askdoglady. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.