DEAR OLD TRAINER: My Bichon, Mamie, is now 2 and has become a problem barker. She watches out the window and when anyone walks by on the street she barks until they are out of sight. If anyone knocks on the door she lets out deafening barks. What is going on and what do I do?
Lindsey, San Francisco, Calif.
A: Mamie has taken on the role of protecting the pack. Little dogs are just as serious about pack security as big ones. Mamie is telling strangers to beware and warning you they are near.
Working as a team to ensure pack security is a genetic gift that allows canines to dominate the predator food chain. The instant one dog senses any threat—an intruder, an unknown sound, a strange smell—she alerts the rest of the pack by barking.
Mamie is protecting you, she just has to learn to do it the right way. The goal is not a dog that never barks, it’s a dog that barks when giving a warning or expressing happiness, then stops on your command.
Each time she barks, look her in the eye, grasp her muzzle softly in your hand, and tell her “that’s enough.” Don’t yell, just say it in a normal voice. If she stops for even a few seconds, pet her and praise her. Repeat the lesson each time she barks and pet her each time she stops on command.
If she does not respond after a few sessions, add a rolled-up newspaper to the exercise and whack it against your thigh as you give the command. If she still persists, touch her on the neck with the paper after you whack your leg. Be strict with stopping her after one bark and she will soon learn one bark is enough.
The important part is loving on her if she stops after one bark.
DEAR OLD TRAINER: Stak, my 5-year old Doberman/Bouvier mix, is starting to get tartar on his teeth. I see treats at the store that claim to remove tartar. Have you tried them, and do they work?
Miles, Manhattan, Kan.
A: I tried those treats with my pack. It took about two seconds for them to crunch one and swallow it. They like the taste, but if a product can remove tartar that fast I should be chewing them myself.
Beef bones do a better job. Have your butcher cut the thickest part of the leg bone into 4-inch segments. They cost less than fancy dog treats, and my pack chews on them for weeks. When one dog loses interest in a bone, another dog takes over.
Beef bones are so hard few dogs can break them down, but if Stak starts breaking off pieces of a bone, pick it up and give him a new one.
PET OWNERS ALERT
The FDA issued a warning this week that several brands of dog food have been contaminated with pentobarbital, a drug used for euthanasia of pets.
The brands affected are Gravy Train, Kibbles ‘N Bits, and Skippy. If you use one of those brands quit using it immediately. Either dispose of it or contact parent company J M Smucker about refunds.
I don’t have room here to list details, but you will find them in other parts of the paper and on the Internet.
A trainer for more than 30 years, Jack Haskins has rescued, trained and placed more than 2,500 dogs. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.