Dogs - all you need to know!

DOGS - some questions and answers submitted to this website - you may find this info useful! 

Q.  My female dog is displaying male sexual behaviour?:  We have a 7-month Otterhound and she is mounting various bits of furniture, e.g. the sofa, or its loose cushions. She is displaying what looks like thrusting backwards and forwards movements, I would have associated with male dogs only. Do you know if this is common and why she might do it? Also, what can we do to stop it?

Reply from PetsDirect.com : Don't worry - it's all perfectly normal for puppies of either sex to show this type of movement when they get excited or confused. It's simply one of a range of 'inbuilt motor patterns' that can pop up 'out of context' in a young dog faced with the need to say or do something without the experience to know exactly how to react in certain circumstances. 

Ignore it and it should simply disappear as she learns more how to react to exciting situations as she grows up, or if you have to intervene to save blushes, simply distract her attention by opening the back door to let her out or by fetching a toy for her to play with. The frequency of this behaviour may increase as she approaches her season because of the sometimes tumultuous effects that hormonal changes can have on mood and excitability. Again, things will calm down after her season, so there's no need to be worried.

Inappropriate sexual behaviour (example: mounting) is often seen in female dogs, and is almost always a purely behavioural problem, but a veterinary examination to check up on hormone & reproductive health status is advisable.

It can be a manifestation of simple dominance behaviour, but the management of that is probably more than can be dealt with in a few lines here.

General advice would be to:   Interrupt the behaviour by startling her with a loud noise;  Walk or turn away;  Ignore the dog rather than telling her off or making a big fuss, which can inadvertently encourage her, as most dogs crave your attention, even if it's to tell them off - Distract and reward the alternative behaviour.

Q.  My spayed bitch cowers away when dogs approach her, and she rolls in foxes stools!:    My dog is a medium sized 3-year-old mongrel bitch. I have 2 problems, the first being that when I take her for a walk and she meets a dog that wants to sniff her behind she instantly cowers away as though she is scared, but if they want to play she will play with them.

She hasn't had any nasty experiences in that area, but she has been spayed, so I don't know if that has got anything to do with it. The second of my problems is that every now and again she will roll in foxes stools or urine on the grass. Is this a territorial thing? As you can imagine when she does this I have to wash the stench out!

Reply from PetsDirect.com : Don't worry about the cowering away, this is quite common and anormal defence reaction from many bitches who don't want to be so forcibly investigated by other dogs, especially by some of the more amorous males.

She may do better if she can avoid such intrusions, so where it is safe to do so, you might experiment by letting her off lead so that she can run away a short distance if she needs to. The other dog will probably give up after a short period if he has to really chase her! 

Rolling in faeces is thought to have three functions: one, a) is an ancestral covering tactic designed to make the predator dog smell like its prey so that it can approach upwind or get closer with less risk of detection when hunting, or b) to announce to other members of its group that it has been successful at locating quarry, or c) to mask its own scent and try to raise its status in the group while its true meeker status in concealed. Alas, this is a tough behaviour to crack and keeping her on a long or extendable lead in areas where she may go a-rolling may be the only sure-fire way of keeping her clean. But, as some dogs can roll very quickly on a lead even, you may like to invest in a secure lightweight coat for her and chuck that in the washing machine after she has rolled, rather than washing her every time!

Q.  My little Pom was attacked by another dog for no reason whilst on his lead:  Last weekend, my Pomeranian was walking on his lead and was attacked by a dog that wasn't on a lead. When the other dog saw mine, he lay down flat with his ears back, and I thought he was trying to hide, but then he attacked for no reason. I obviously misread his body language and would like to know how I should have interpreted his behaviour. I have been a dog owner for many years and have never encountered this type of dog behaviour before. 

Reply from PetsDirect.com : This may be a learned strategy whereby the aggressive dog lulls his potential victim into a false sense of security by lying down in a friendly and inviting position to encourage them to move closer. This brings them in range and off guard so that an attack may be launched and is more likely to be successful because of the surprise element. Alternatively, this particular dog may have viewed your toy breed more as potential prey than a social opportunity. The dog may have adopted the initial crouch that precedes a hunting attack and launched into 'chase/bite' behaviour as your dog continued to move in range. Your poor Pom must have received quite a shock, but it is unlikely that he would be the only victim of this particular dog.

Unfortunately, smaller breeds and types can be victims of other dogs in this way more so than larger breeds. Perhaps you could advise the owner of the attacker dog to seek a little help from a good dog trainer or behaviourist so that his/her dog is less of a liability to other dogs. Hopefully your Pom is back to his normal perky self after his shock!

Q.  How can I stop my dog’s feet from cracking?:  How can I stop my German Shepherd's feet from cracking and splitting when he goes hiking? I have been putting hand cream on them as advised by the vet, but it doesn't seem to help.

Reply from PetsDirect.com : This may a very simple problem that will respond to softening creams such as Vaseline or E45. Try applying these at least twice daily, but distract your dog for 10-15 minutes afterwards to avoid them being licked straight off. 

The skin of the pads is in fact dead keratin so only heals as the pad tissue beneath grows through,which takes time. You'll need to be careful - not too much exercise or wet/dry/wet conditions for a few weeks whilst this takes place. Adding extra vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids to the diet may help.

You should also be aware that this may reflect an underlying disease or nutritional problem, but we would need a bit more information on age, diet and other symptoms to help with that. 

Q.  Removing ticks from pets:  I have just taken my dog to the vet to have a tick removed. I wondered if you could supply some information about ticks, how long they live on pets, and how to get rid of them.

Reply from PetsDirect.com :  The ticks affecting dogs and cats in the UK are the Ixodes species. The natural hosts for the adult ticks are sheep and hedgehogs. The adult ticks lay eggs, which hatch into larvae, which then climb up onto vegetation and attach themselves to passing cats and dogs. They bite, inserting their mouth parts into the skin and feeding on the blood. This may cause some local irritation. Ticks grow rapidly from tiny brown/grey insects, rapidly becoming bloated (pea/bean size) and ready to reproduce. Ticks can carry diseases which they transmit because they feed on the blood. 

To minimise exposure to ticks, avoid exercising your dog near sheep pasture or in longer grass, and check the coat regularly for newly attached ticks.

If you find a tick, you can try removing it by soaking the tick in surgical spirit to release its grip and gently ease the mouth parts free. There are various tick removing devices available. If the mouth parts break off and are left in the skin, they may provoke a minor local infection. 

A prescription drug licensed for tick treatment in the UK is available. There are a variety of tick repellents on the market - that may be helpful if you live in a tick-infested area.

Q.  My Springer Spaniel runs off on walks: Please can you help with a recall problem? My dog is probably a Welsh Springer who is around five years of age (he is a rescue dog, so we can't be sure). 

He is capable of doing a beautiful recall in a training class, at home, or in the park on the extending lead. However, once off the lead, he is hopeless once he is on a scent. Recently, he strayed from what I thought was a safe area and ended up on the road.

I have tried: training classes; taking something really tasty with me on walks (I ended up covered in Labradors and my dog was nowhere to be seen); getting him to retrieve food (not as interesting as going down a badger set); a rabbit skin (not interested when he realised I wasn't going to give it to him) - eventually I threw it into a bush in disgust, at which point he pounced on it, ran away and ate it.

His hunting/scavenging instinct is incredibly strong. Once he has picked something up I can't get him to let it go. My all-time greatest embarrassing experience was when I was walking by the canal. I thought my dog was just sniffing at the long grass till there was a terrible scream and he had killed a moorhen; we then had to walk around till he found somewhere to bury it. I have worked hard on 'Give' and 'leave', and he will perform these well in a controlled environment, but does not generalise his learning.

I think he has some sort of learning disability! Attempts at clicker training are slow and laborious - he associates the clicker with a treat, but keeps nuzzling at the clicker apparently thinking he can get the food direct from it without going through all the tedious business of performing a task.

He is a lovely dog in many ways, but we are both suffering because I can't give him the quality time off-lead that he needs, and I can't enjoy walks as much as I would like.

Reply from PetsDirect.com :  You are having trouble finding something more rewarding than chasing scent trails of prey in a type of dog that was specifically developed to be responsive to exactly that type of signal. There is simply nothing more rewarding than chasing scent trails for this type of dog, hence it is so difficult to try to distract or shape his behaviour when he is doing it. 

A lot of hard work lies ahead and I would suggest that you seek the help of a professional trainer who is used to working with gun- dogs and who is also an expert with the clicker. It will be essential with this dog to deny him all opportunity to chase/hunt game until he is trained to do something else when he finds a scent - ideally look to you for the controlled opportunity to follow the trail. You will probably need to reintroduce the clicker to be associated with the opportunity to follow a trail. 

You will need lots of facilities and artificial trails, Helen, but in the end he should learn that scent following is a co-operative event that he can only pursue in small stages controlled by you - so it's worth looking to you whenever he finds one. He can also learn by reintroduced clicker training not to chase off on his own, but only if he never gets the chance to do so during training. Every time he succeeds, it reinforces the old runaway behaviour, even if he can only do this one time in ten - the schedule of occasional reinforcement will keep him chasing. So, while he is being trained, it's long lines and off-lead walking only in secure places where the scent of quarry is absent while he is retrained... lots of work, so do get some professional help.

Note:  It will be worth contacting the Association of Pet Dog Trainers for your nearest trainer experienced in clicker training. Their website is at www.apdtuk.f9.co.uk

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