Dear Dog Lady,
Dickens, our 4-year-old bichon frise/shih tzu, runs with me three days a week, 4 to 5 miles per run, plus he gets a 10- to 20-minute walk three times every day. He sees a veterinarian regularly, weighs an appropriate 15 pounds, eats well, has good digestion and is a perpetual delight. But, sometimes, he just plops down at home as if he’s exhausted. Is it possible to exhaust a 4-year-old dog? Is too much exercise making him old early? We’re counting on Dickens being around for a decade or more.
A: Phew, you exhaust (and delight) Dog Lady by describing Dickens’ aerobics routine. For a 15-pound dog, he’s going for the burn and running with the hounds. Vigorous exercise is good exercise for any dog. Still, you must cut your small dog some slack.
A friend once used a charming way to describe his own compact dog’s need for snoozing: “Oscar is nothing without his 22 hours of beauty sleep.” Dogs sack out. This is what they do. They need their shuteye, especially younger dogs. Is it any wonder the dog-bed industry is booming?
Do not worry that Dickens wears out early. Check with your veterinarian, of course. Yet, Dog Lady believes all the exercise you provide primes your dog to endure for a good long time. The workouts give strength to his muscles and sanity to his behavior. Sleep is also a necessity because slumber restores and nurtures him. Leave Dickens alone when he plops down. He’s just doing what comes naturally.
Dear Dog Lady,
I recently acquired a 5-year-old collie-mix. She is a very loving and good-natured dog except when someone opens the door to our house. She barks incessantly and is hard to calm down. I don’t know what to do to stop this behavior. I don’t know if she is being protective or if she is scared. I would appreciate any advice you can give me.
A: Your collie acts out of instinct — either protection or fear or both — when visitors are afoot. Yours is a new home for the dog, and she is learning the ways of the world from you. So are your guests.
Start a campaign of silence with visitors. Warn them beforehand not to ring the doorbell, not to knock, and to enter your house quietly with no fuss, muss and fanfare. Their quietude will transfer to your dog’s frame of mind. If nobody becomes all excited with her, your dog will inevitably calm down. This means, of course, that you know who’s arriving in your home to warn beforehand and who’s coming to dinner — as well you should in this day and age.
As for your collie, teach her to sit and stay — for treats — so you divert her. If you keep her distracted, she won’t go ballistic. When company is expected, put her in another room if you don’t want to take the time to train her to sit and be silent. Handle all of this in as quiet a manner as you can possibly muster. Yelling on top of barking never solves anything.
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