Dear Dog Lady,

Walking my dog one day, I ran into a woman with some sort of adorable spaniel. Baxter was off the leash (we were in a safe area away from a road), and he started to approach the spaniel when its owner called out: “I’d put your dog on a leash because my dog is passive-aggressive.”

I couldn’t get to Baxter in time, and he was closing in on the spaniel, whose tail wagged exuberantly when he saw my dog. The two dogs started sniffing each other with no incident as tails wagged madly. I asked the spaniel’s owner, “What does ‘passive-aggressive’ mean in a dog?”

She told me she didn’t know, but a dog trainer had used the term. She said she had been taking her dog to the trainer for a few months. I knew I was being rude, but I couldn’t help commenting: “I think that dog trainer is stealing your money because this dog seems nice and friendly.” Actually, the woman agreed with me: “Yeah, I wondered what passive-aggressive meant, but the trainer seemed to think it was a serious problem in dogs.”

As we walked away, I heard the woman command the spaniel to go potty by using a word supposed to trigger the poop. The word was “bicycle.” I have no idea if it worked or not, but I wondered if the dog trainer planted that one, too.

Can dogs be passive-aggressive? And can dogs go on demand?


A: No and maybe. The lesson here: Thoroughly vet a hired dog trainer before you sign up for a pack of lessons. Really, the trainer can throw around any psychobabble that he or she wants to describe your dog.

What you have to learn is how best to bond with your pet so you can be the dog trainer. A teaching professional trains you, not the dog. He or she can share general lessons but doesn’t live with your dog every day and know its warp and woof.

As for the buzzwords to trigger a poop or pee, Dog Lady has heard that this is possible but has never seen such magic in action.


Dear Dog Lady,

I love your column, but you should advise the woman who wants to give holistic flea and tick prevention to her dachshunds not to give them garlic. In large doses, garlic is toxic to cats and dogs.

Also, please let your readers know that homoeopathic remedies have not shown any effect in preventing mosquito-borne heartworms. I have the same concerns as you about giving my dog a monthly dose of poison to prevent worms of many sorts and fleas, but the threat of heartworm keeps me doing it.


A: Yes, when it comes to preventing fleas and ticks, the devil of toxic medications can kill nasty bugs better than the deep blue sea of holistic remedies. Dog Lady loathes applying Frontline with its skull-and-crossbones warnings, but the alternative is a dog infected with heartworms or Lyme disease-causing ticks.

Do what’s best for your dog in consultation with your veterinarian. According to the Pet Poison Helpline (, do not feed your dog garlic, onions, or any vegetal in the Allium species such as chives and leeks. If ingested in large quantities, these plants can destroy red blood cells in canines.

Monica Collins offers advice on pets, life and love. Ask a question or make a comment at


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