Ask Amy

True Tails is written by Amy Robinson for Vero Beach’s dog lovers. Ask Amy about your dog’s behavior and your question, along with her reply, may appear in a future issue of Vero Beach magazine. Below are questions to Amy that have been featured in Vero Beach Magazine. Fill out this form to submit your question.

My pug, Harley, does the oddest thing. He stares at me, sometimes for 30 minutes or more. When I’m reading, on the computer or watching TV, it’s non-stop staring. I tell him to go lie down, which occasionally works. Is he just spoiled or is he trying to tell me something?? – Kaitlin, Sebastian

Dogs depend on us for everything they need, so any way they can motivate us to do their bidding is fair game. From your question, it seems he engages in the behavior only when you are otherwise occupied. Harley may be asking to eat dinner, go outside, or to play – all things that are fun for him and require you to get up and pay attention to him. Take a close look at his body language. Is he stamping his feet or shifting his weight? This is akin to pacing and shows a little agitation. Consider how much exercise the dog gets. Two quality walks a day of at least 20 minutes could help settle him down. When returning from the walk, offer water and then say, “Go lie down.” To break the staring cycle between walks, try initiating play on your terms at a time when he is not staring at you. Ask him a question like “Do you want to play ball?” and then start a retrieving game. Make the first move and you won’t accidentally reward his hypnotic staring. You are getting sleepy …

My dog Rocco will find a lone shoe, take it to his favorite spot and lick the inside of it. He does not chew it, but his attentions make for a very soggy situation. Yuck! We don’t always notice this behavior until it is too late. Why does he do this? Any help you can provide is appreciated. – Irene, Vero Beach

My dog Rocco will find a lone shoe, take it to his favorite spot and lick the inside of it. He does not chew it, but his attentions make for a very soggy situation. Yuck! We don’t always notice this behavior until it is too late. Why does he do this? Any help you can provide is appreciated. – Irene, Vero BeachYou can try several approaches to cure his shoe fetish, prevention being the most obvious. If shoes are in closets, he can’t access them. Or set a trap for him. Wear a loafer while gardening, shopping, the works. When you arrive home, take it off in the garage when the dog is not looking, and spray the inside liberally with a bad-tasting pet-repellent spray. Toss it casually on the floor in your bedroom and wait for him to make the icky discovery.

When is a puppy mature enough to master the down-stay command? With the increasingly dog-friendly environment in Vero Beach, it would be a useful command for dining al fresco, going to art shows and other public events. Our golden retriever puppy is only 6-months-old but is learning quickly. Any tips to teach him to lie down and stay are appreciated. – Rebecca, Vero Beach

Your puppy is primed for this command already, but choose your moment to attempt it when you can both be successful. After the pup has been exercised and is feeling mellow, just ask him to “Sit” and then direct his eye downward using a treat or toy to lure him. He should follow it down to the ground. Withhold the prize until both of his elbows touch. Do it again and once he is down, say “Stay” and pull your hand straight out along the floor, away from his nose. Hold that a moment and then bring the toy or treat to him. If you can get him to lie at your feet and lightly pet him while he stays, he will enjoy the work and stay longer. Go ahead and try it “out on the town,” but bring treats and a positive attitude. The newly renovated Village Shops are ideal for an outing, with lots of shade and benches to receive compliments on your puppy’s good manners.

My Jack Russell terrier is obsessed with circles of light that come through my window blinds and shine on the floor. If the sun comes in and out of the clouds, it gets worse because the light comes and goes and he gets frantic when it leaves. This may have started when my boyfriend brought over a pen light and played chase games with Bo around the house. Even though Bo only played that way once, now that is all he wants to do. Bo has even gotten my older dog Tilly interested. How do I get Bo back to normal? – Sandy, via Facebook

Jack Russell terriers are nothing if not focused, intense individuals. You are right to be concerned since this behavior is very much obsessive/compulsive and will not get better unless you can redirect his focus to another, more satisfying activity. A chew toy won’t cut it for this guy, because he finds the stalking and pouncing very fulfilling. I would take him outside on a long leash and do some homemade lure coursing. Put a brand new, small toy inside the toe of a sock. Allow Bo to see you do this. Then tie a long string or rope to the sock and tell Bo to “Take it!” Drag the sock through the grass in a big circle, or run with it so he has to work to catch up. You are using his tendency to stare and stalk for a good purpose: exercise and fun. Once he is nice and tired, bring him inside and keep him on a shorter leash. When he notices the light, bring out your sock-toy and drag it around for a minute. Allow him to catch it, then gate him into another room or keep him on a leash next to you so he can rest. You will need to completely prevent the light chasing for at least a week so he gets out of the habit. Change out the toy in the sock each time you use the lure coursing outside to keep him engaged.

My grown kids got me a small, male, mix-breed puppy for Christmas. I am still having trouble housetraining him. I use papers inside but still want him to go outside when we walk on a leash. He is not lifting his leg yet but seems to prefer certain spots when we walk. Am I confusing him by still using papers inside? – Jake, Sebastian.

Your puppy is a bit young to lift his leg yet, but males are definitely more prone to leaving messages in favorite spots on walks. As you approach one of these spots, practice cueing him with a phrase like “Go potty” or “Go mark.” Don’t rush him. Sniffing is part of the agenda and triggers elimination. Praise him if it works. Indoors, I would take the papers up unless you are going to be out of the house for several hours. Then leave him gated in the kitchen or a bathroom with papers down. If you return to find he has used the papers, then he probably still needs them. Once he leaves the papers alone for a week, it is probably time for him to go outdoors only, like a big boy.

My son recently came home for a month-long visit with his large American Bulldog, Jake. As bad luck would have it, a representative from my homeowner’s insurance company came out to take photos of my house when the policy came up for renewal, and Jake was barking from his favorite spot on the back porch. I told the rep that Jake was not our dog, but he took photos of Jake and now my homeowner’s insurance has been cancelled. Can I get it back, or should I shop elsewhere for insurance? – Brad, Winter Beach

It sounds like your insurance company saw the photo and assumed the dog was owned by you. I researched your problem and found some answers at They advise purchasing a personal umbrella liability policy. This policy provides coverage for excess liability and can cover canine liability, but be sure to check. If you cannot get an umbrella policy, the Altamonte Springs-based Federation of Insured Dog Owners (F.I.D.O.) was launched to offer Covered Canine Liability Insurance policies for any breed of dog. These policies are underwritten by the Great American Insurance Company. You will need to become a F.I.D.O. member for $50 annually. Find F.I.D.O. at Purchasing a canine-specific policy may sway your insurer to reinstate your homeowner’s insurance with an exclusion for dogs living under your roof.

Rascal is our 14-year-old, mixed-breed dog. He has always been obedient, especially when he is tempted with a treat or a Greenie. Lately when I give him a Greenie, he wants to devour it on our best Oriental rug instead of his rug that I place down for him. I have tried offering a different rug for him and even making him stay on his rug, but then he just holds the treat, drooling, and won’t eat it. Help! – Marie, Vero Beach

Your dog has excellent taste in floor coverings. Rascal may be reacting to a very subtle change in his environment where his rug is currently placed. Is there a funny reflection coming off of a mirror or glass door? A change in air flow from a vent? Have you washed his rug in a different type of detergent? Older dogs are sensitive to environmental changes. If your best investigative efforts fail to discover the cause behind his new preference, you may wind up allowing him to win this one. You can protect your Oriental rug by placing a new, very thin bathmat over his favorite spot on the Oriental. This bathmat should be large enough to absorb some Greenie fallout and should have a no-slip backing. You may need to sit in a chair close by to ensure he doesn’t move off of the bathmat, but try not to hover. With luck, he will embrace this middle ground.

My wife Mary Lee and I have a terrific schnauzer-Coton de Tulear mix named Pickles. Mary Lee trains her with verbal commands and hand signals and the dog is very responsive, but when I work with Pickles, my hand signals and timing are not exactly the same. I feel like I am confusing the dog, though both of us would like to elicit good behavior from her. Any guidelines for this situation? – John, Chicago

Dogs are surprisingly adaptive to their owners’ individual styles. Pickles likely knows what you want, but may defer to Mary Lee, especially if she is the primary caregiver. To make your wishes clear, grab a few treats and instigate a fun training session when Mary Lee is absent. Start by using the hand signal combined with the verbal command, and reward for compliance. Once you have good responses, start to fade your hand signals, so the verbal commands take precedence. Body language is just as important as hand signals, so when you want her to come close to you, extend an outstretched hand and draw it toward your knee when you give the command. Use lavish praise and celebrate when she does well. Pickles will love the mental gymnastics and learn to respond to your prompts.

I have two very active dogs, male and female Australian shepherds, and they both need lots of exercise. On busy days when I can‘t take them for long walks, I’d like them to swim in my pool to expend some energy. The female swims like a demon, but the male, Zack, won’t go near the edge. I put his life vest on and took him in with me one day, but he thrashed his way to the side right away. Did I mess with his mind, and will he trust me again around the pool? – Lynn, Vero Beach

With time and lots of patience, Zack may learn to enjoy the pool. Put his life vest on and take him out to the pool area just before his dinnertime, and bring some high- value treats with you, like bits of cooked chicken. Sit on the edge with him and drop a few treats close to the edge. Wait for him to eat the treats, but don’t push him. Then put some treats on a kickboard float and put that in the pool toward the edge, so he has to put his two front feet on the first step in order to get the prize. Give him lots of praise for his bravery. You should plan to do this each day for at least one week, until he plops onto the first step without coaxing. Gradually pull the kickboard bearing the treats backward, so he has to get onto the second step to access the prize. Take your time and let Zack do the same. This learning experience will make him just as tired as physical exercise, and gives you both a goal to seek together.

My dog Stella wants to chase passing cars, bikes or skateboards. She gets excited as they approach and lunges as they go by, and once I tripped and fell trying to hold her back. Make her stop! – Linda, Aiken, S.C.

Rotating wheels are right at your dog’s eye level and seem to beckon her to follow, so give her an alternative activity. Try saying “This way!” and make a smooth u-turn. Lure her with a meaty treat or favorite toy at her eye level as you turn. I hope your knees are in good shape because Stella’s eye level is just inches off the ground. Practice first when no cars are passing until she responds happily to the verbal cue and turns with you. Try to find a neighbor or friend with a bike to act as your helper, and have them go by several times while you put the new skill into practice. Your timing has to be good: give your cue and lead her at nose level with the treat before the bike goes by, not as it passes. You are counter-conditioning, which means you are changing her old learned behavior – that of being stimulated by turning wheels – and giving her a new learned behavior. Now when a bike or car goes by, consistently give your verbal cue, use your treat, and praise her for leaving that bad habit in the dust.

I recently adopted a hound mix from a shelter in North Carolina where my wife and I spend our summers. The staff there suggested that I continue the enrichment program they had started with all their dogs. I didn’t think much about it until I noticed Ella getting bored during the day and looking at me with big eyes when I just wanted to read the newspaper. What does enrichment really mean for a dog, and what should I do to provide it? – Bill, Vero Beach

This practice is on the rise in shelters, wildlife sanctuaries and zoos. Simply put, enrichment means providing something to do for the animals that adds interest to their day. This can be a treat puzzle, something to search for and find in their enclosure, or just a cardboard box to rip up. Because you are living with a domesticated pet and not a lion, you can make these activities interactive. Start with a simple cardboard box. Bring out a new toy or a high-value treat and allow Ella to watch you place it inside the box on the floor in front of her. Close the lid only part way and then tell her “Find it!” She will love the interaction with you and feel a real sense of accomplishment when she solves the problem and retrieves the prize. Get creative with hidden toys and treats for your dog to find and you will stimulate her brain and body at the same time.

My husky mix, Jake, does most commands well on a leash, but I’d like him to respond off-leash too, and that has been really hard. As soon as I take the leash off, he knows I can’t catch him and he’ll pretend he doesn’t hear me. At the dog park, I have to casually move close enough to grab him so we can finally go home after half an hour. This would be funny if it wasn’t so frustrating. How can I make training work off-leash? – Lee, Chicago

Congratulations, you have a “leash-smart” dog! This means he is paying attention, even though it may not seem like it when you have to block and tackle him at the dog park. You have chosen a tough location to try off-leash commands since the dog park symbolizes the freedom to just be a dog. Jake associates the absence of a leash with connecting with other dogs and that means he is less connected with you. Try polishing off-leash skills at a people park that allows leashed dogs. Bring a 15- to 20-foot-long training leash and work your commands from a distance, using lots of body language to engage him. Then drop the leash and let him trail it around as he investigates new smells and sights. Stay within 20 feet and call him when he is mildly distracted. If he turns to look at you, clap your hands and run away from him. This makes you interesting, fun and unpredictable. Jake should romp after you with glee, which is a nice change from you having to run him down.

My boxer puppy is super playful even after a long walk. I just want to relax and watch the news but my Tiga is a nut! She has a basket full of great toys and I pull them out for her, but she is right back at my ankles in a minute, biting my shoelaces and jumping up on me. Are there specific toys for this, or am I doing something wrong? – Marylou, Vero Beach

Your puppy wants to play interactively. I call this play-training, and if your dog initiates it, that is a compliment to you. Even a mountain of toys on the floor won’t satisfy Tiga because she craves your direct involvement. Stash two or three favorite toys away from her basket so she only plays with those toys with you. Grab one and hold it at waist level. Ask Tiga to “Come!” as you backpedal a few steps; she will be right at your feet. Toss the toy and praise her for picking it up. Don’t chase her, just wait for her to bring it near you. Pull a tasty treat from your pocket and tell her to “Drop it!” She will gladly do so and gobble the treat while you pick up the toy. Now ask her to “Watch!” (hold the toy up near your face). Then toss the toy again. Your puppy will be looking to you for entertainment instead of getting into mischief.

My dog is normally quite social when he is off the leash at the dog park or while he is being boarded when I’m away, but when I walk him on a leash along the sidewalk on A1A, he alerts to a dog approaching and stares as the dog gets closer. Should I assume he’ll be fine with the other dog, or just move him to the side and let the other dog pass by? – Randall, Wabasso

It is always a good idea to keep an eye on your dog’s body language, especially if you have perceived some tension in this scenario. Dogs have a threshold of tolerance, and another dog walking towards him increases his alert state. The dogs are closing the distance but have lots of time to send signals to each other before they meet. This is normal, but unless you regularly greet dogs while yours is on the leash, I would assume he needs a bit of work before allowing him to pull you in that direction. Enlist the help of a neighbor or friend who likes walking their own dog, and make it a tandem affair. This will help your dog associate being on a leash around other canines with something he really likes: walking with you. Another good way to work on this is to follow another dog-and-owner team about 50 feet behind. Take treats with you and occasionally ask your dog to sit so you can reward him. Slowly get closer until you are walking just 20 feet behind. If your dog’s body language relaxes a bit and the other dog seems easygoing, ask the other owner if you can walk side by side.

We currently have a 3-year-old Wheaten Terrier named Winnie, and have offered to help my mother potty-train a 10-week-old puppy (Moxie) for six weeks at our house. We have three young children who understand that this tiny puppy will eventually move in with their grandmother, who is in Vero Beach seasonally. I just want to make sure we don’t confuse the puppy and our dog with this arrangement. Is it possible to make it work so that it’s a positive experience for all involved? – Holly, Vero Beach

Your mother is a lucky lady! Explain to your children that they are caretakers and have a big responsibility: to help shape good puppy behavior before their grandmother arrives. Work on light training commands like “Come” and “Stay” and video the kids working with you, then watch the videos together and ask them to suggest ways to improve their communication with the puppy. Have the kids make a chart of her progress to offer as a kind of “baby book” for your mother. Also, make sure they understand the jealousy that Winnie, the established dog, is feeling. Take evening walks with Winnie and the kids and leave the youngster at home. When your mother arrives in Vero Beach, ask her to take the puppy just for the afternoon for the first two days. This lets the puppy get used to being in a brand-new place and begin bonding with your mother, but still come back to you and your children in the evening. By the third day, the puppy should be ready to go to her new home. By the way, tell your children not to be sad because my guess is you’ll be seeing lots of her when your mother is busy or traveling.

I recently acquired a mixed-breed dog (Rex) from a shelter in Ft. Pierce. My grown children think I am crazy to take this leap of faith when I don’t know anything about the dog or where it came from. They want to know the breed and suggested I get a DNA test done. Is it worth it, and does it matter? So far the dog has been just perfect.sible home. How do I start this process and find a caring new owner? – Ron, Vero Beach

Many people assume that shelter dogs are there due to behavioral problems, when, in fact, the No. 1 reason people turn in a dog to a shelter is due to a move to a smaller place or one that will not allow dogs. The dog’s breed is a curiosity, but not much more. Unless he is just one breed, he will have traits that cover all the breeds that make him unique. The DNA test might be fun to do and it is not very expensive, but don’t look for a road map to his personality there. A more enlightening bit of information would be found in a meeting with the dog’s mother and father, but that rarely happens, even when people acquire from established breeders. Your dog is looking for guidance from you and wants to fit in with your lifestyle. Establish some ground rules and give him attention and affection, and you should have a long and close-knit bond with him.

My mother is relocating from her home in Sebastian to an assisted living facility near us in New Jersey that does not allow residents to have pets. We cannot take her 3-year-old Sheltie, named Shep, due to an allergic child, but I have offered to help her find a responsible home. How do I start this process and find a caring new owner? – Peter, Colt’s Neck, N.J.

Your mother will appreciate a thorough effort to find the best possible match for her dog. First, see if you can appoint a local friend or neighbor of your mother’s to help interview potential adopters. Then, obtain a very good photo of the dog and make a full color flyer. Note the dog’s good points: friendly with other dogs, updated on vaccinations, etc. Be honest about any peccadilloes, such as an aversion to cats or young children. Mail it to veterinarians, groomers and boarding kennels in Sebastian, Vero Beach and Melbourne and follow up with a phone call explaining why the dog must be re-homed; consider an ad in the local paper too. Most adopters either already have a dog or had one in the recent past, so ask for a current veterinarian and groomer referral (this dog will need professional grooming). Download and customize a sample adoption form from and have the adopter sign it. Collect a small adoption fee and start with a trial period. Follow up for the first six months and then trust Shep to adapt and thrive in his new home.

We have a 7-year-old Yorkiepoo (Yorkshire terrier and poodle) named Marty. He is a sweet, trained dog who is very alert and never misses a thing. He heels, waits, and sits fairly well. He will “come” but it’s not really one of his strong points. Our problem is that he loves squirrels and birds and will sometimes bolt while on his leash to get them. If he sees another dog he knows or someone he knows, he also tugs. What can we do to help control these outbursts? – Phyllis, Vero Beach

Marty’s outbursts are a result of his zest for life! He seizes the opportunity to meet and greet, even if your neighborhood fauna would prefer he remain a stranger. If he pulls and you extend your arm and step forward, he gets a little closer to the source of his fascination, which only drives him to pull harder. You can try a new approach, using a phrase like ‘This way!’ and changing direction abruptly. Be cheerful but insistent. Follow this up with lots of praise as he turns with you. You will want to practice this change of direction during your everyday walks when the street is fairly quiet. His breeding tells me he is short in stature, so your signaling hand needs to be down at his eye level. Eye contact should be rewarded with a tasty treat – and consider the collar too. You might have more success with a martingale-style or even a front-clasp harness. A traditional harness or flat collar will not deter pulling and may even encourage this annoying practice.

My little Bichon Frise, Maxie, is obsessed with chasing toys. I exercise her in this manner in my Manhattan apartment, but I’m worried that I have created a monster. She brings the toy to me, growling and shaking it fiercely, drops it at my feet, and barks like mad until I toss it again. Is this behavior something I need to discourage? – Pamela, New York

She may be having a ball, but I would advise adding a few moves of your own to make this dance slightly less dysfunctional. Barking at you to toss the toy is downright demanding, and when you comply, she only gets more revved up. Try giving her a few command cues before you toss the toy. Start with “Back up!” Hold the toy out away from your body and walk toward her. Once she steps back even a few inches, hold the toy up to your face and say “Watch!” If she plays along without barking, toss the toy, but if she barks over your cues, walk away from her and place the toy on top of the refrigerator. Then leave the room entirely. She will undoubtedly follow you, perplexed as to why you aren’t cooperating, but stay strong. If she is quiet for two or three minutes, go back to the toy and start over. Maxie will soon learn that interactive play is more fun than no play at all.

Our eight-pound rescue dog, Hector, is a good boy, but his world is about to change. Our daughter is moving in with us while her house is renovated. She brings with her a large Rottweiler named Striker who is friendly and has met Hector before. Currently I walk the little guy each morning and I know the Rottie will want to come along. Any advice for getting this done at the same time would be appreciated so I don’t have to make two trips – Bill, Vero Beach

Few sights are more engaging than two dogs walking politely at your side, and with a little practice and skill, you should be able to swing it. Start by walking the Rottweiler by himself on your left side. Make frequent changes of direction to encourage him to follow you instead of blazing his own trail. Bring treats with you to coax him and forge a nice bond. Keep him on your left side and vary your pace to keep it interesting. As soon as he forges ahead of you, make a right-handed U-turn. If Striker is a lively dog, you may not make it off your driveway in the first session but take heart. This is a working-breed dog and he will enjoy doing a job for you. As for his pint-sized pal Hector, walk him alone a few times in the same manner. Once you put them together, position them both on your left side and set off. Hold both leashes in your right hand going across your body. Your left hand can make individual adjustments to each leash. Be aware their exercise needs will vary. Striker may need a longer walk, but on hot, humid days, he won’t want to go far. Think quality, not quantity here.

My fiancé has two small children from a previous marriage. We are getting hitched in a month and they will be moving in with me and my older Cairn Terrier, Butch. The 4-year-old boy and his older sister are terrified of the dog and I’m afraid I’ll be under pressure to re-home my buddy, which I really would like to avoid. How can I encourage family harmony? – David, Hutchison Island

Keep your dog on a leash in the house during visits and after they move in. This ensures that the children aren’t running away from Butch when he wants to follow them. Just having them coexist without lots of forced interaction will help both the canine and the kids acclimate. Field trips to farmer’s markets or art fairs are good ways to bond as a family, dog included. You can also teach Butch a cute trick the kids may eventually want to try for themselves. I would start with Shake, and move right to Wave. Hold a treat in one hand in front of Butch, and move it over one shoulder. The dog’s weight will shift off of the far leg, and at that moment, tickle the back of that leg to encourage him to lift it. Gently grasp that foot and reward him. Practice until he is good at it, and then transition to Wave by withdrawing your hand so he reaches out with his foot. He paws the air, and the Wave is born! If the kids show interest, have them offer the Wave cue while you hold the leash. The kids don’t have to touch Butch to ace this trick, and they will feel a sense of accomplishment tied directly to the dog.

I have a 2-year-old Bichon Frise mix named Mitzie who is petrified to fly. We have even taken to private charter flying, and it is no better. We’ve tried keeping her in a traveling bag inside a small crate, and finally had her sit on our laps, but she is still frightened. Any suggestions? – Jan, Columbia, Md.

I feel for you, since you want the dog to be with you but the trip is a nightmare for her, and for you. One thing we must be aware of when interacting with our dogs is their uncanny ability to “read” us like a large-print book. So your reaction to her fear must remain minimal if not downright non-existent. Much like fear of thunderstorms or fireworks, if the humans cringe, the dog’s fear seems justified. Help your dog associate flying with the good things in life with a few trial runs. Take her to a local airport in her carrier. Park the car, take her inside, and find a seat. Pull out the cooked chicken bits or mild cheese bits that you have packed (not dog treats, the real deal), and toss a couple into the crate. Relax and read a magazine or just people watch, but ignore the dog completely. If she eats the chicken bits, she is not as stressed as you thought. Pop in a few more and then take her directly to a nearby park for a leash walk before going home. By adding the walk in the park, she will have something other than the airport trip to remember. These steps should be repeated a few times a month until you see less stress from the dog at the airport. Since the most stressful parts of flying are not happening, including the take-off, she should soon start to relax.

My dog, Milo, is so hyperactive, it is hard to exercise him enough to calm him down. I do have a fenced yard and throw the ball for him repeatedly after work, which he loves. He does have access to the yard while I’m at work through his doggie door, so he isn’t cooped up all day. He is a long-legged breed, a Dalmatian, so he can run long distances but my knees just won’t tolerate that. Any help would be appreciated. – John, Sebastian

Jogging with your dog is a good way to burn his energy, and this breed is made for that. They were used extensively as coach dogs, trotting alongside carriages of the well-to-do before automobiles became the preferred mode of transport. If your knees object to the impact of jogging, a brisk, 30-minute walk will get Milo into a slow trot and help him relax once he is home. Exercising his gray matter will help tire him out as well. To play one of my all-time favorite brain-busters, grab three large plastic cups and one meaty treat. Place the treat under one of the cups and then slide them around each other to mix up the order. Now stand back and watch your dog solve the problem. If your dog aces this test, add more cups. A nice chew can help take a charge out of an electric dog as well – chewing works important muscles in the jaw and relieves stress at the same time. I offer stuffed bones or long-lasting chews that hold up to active teeth. Rotate the types of chews to keep Milo guessing, and don’t leave him alone in the house with any type of chew that can splinter or be swallowed in pieces.

Molly, my 4-year-old Yorkie, has lived with our family since puppyhood. My daughter adores her and is now on her own in a new house with a huge, fenced yard. She wants the dog to live with her, but I’m worried about how Molly will adjust. The dog follows me around, even when my daughter is over to visit. How can we make the transition to her new home easier on the dog, and help the two of them bond? – Mariela, Vero Beach

Since Molly grew up with your daughter in the house, this shouldn’t be a stumbling block. I would start by having your daughter take the dog to her house for a couple of short visits just for the day. A Saturday or Sunday is best, since she will be home to walk and interact with the dog. Have your daughter pick the dog up at your place, so there is no drama associated with you dropping the dog off and then leaving her whining as she watches you drive away. One way to help forge a nice bond between them is for your daughter to work on a few training commands using treats and praise. The “Come!” command is a natural choice in a big yard. She should call Molly to her, and then run away, clapping her hands. This is an almost irresistible invitation to the dog, and she should really enjoy bounding across the grass to chase her. Once the dog moves in permanently, your daughter should avoid over-indulging Molly with limitless treats or table food to win her love.

My 1-year-old Portuguese water dog is having a problem with being too much of a mommy’s girl. It seems like separation anxiety, but only for me. Every time I leave she whines and ignores my husband completely. How do we break her of needing me so much? – Pat, Vero Beach

It’s nice to be needed, but your dog’s dependency impedes your relationship with her. To modify this behavior, whether it has to do with separation anxiety or just attention-demanding behavior, you’ll want to change the way you interact with her. For example, upon arriving home, greet her pleasantly but very casually, and refrain from petting her. She will likely try to get your attention through whining or pawing, but ignore this and just go about your business. No big greetings or goodbyes. Dust off your training commands from her puppyhood and start working with her every day. It never hurts to foster respect and sprinkle commands into your everyday life with her. It gives her something to do for you that can earn her praise and attention, which is just what she craves. Your husband can have a better relationship with her by being the conduit to what she needs, like meals and leash walks. Encourage them to have “special time” together without you. If you allow her on furniture, let her sit next to your hubby to help increase their bond. Change your behavior, and she should follow your lead and change hers.

I have a 7-year-old yellow lab, Jack, and I want to know how to stop him from barking insanely when someone is at the door? – Jessica, Vero Beach

Jack may be a bit over-zealous and probably thinks he is doing the right thing defending home and hearth. If he is friendly inside your home and doesn’t lunge or bark at strangers when he’s out and about, you can work on bringing his canine alarm system down to a manageable Defcon 3 with these steps: To practice a more appropriate reaction when no one is at the door, grab some yummy treats and walk to the door with him. Lightly knock on the door from the inside. Let him erupt as usual and then say “Come!” in a lively voice. Now bend your knees, extend your hand toward him and back up a few feet. This body language is an invitation he will find hard to resist. When he turns and follows you, give him the treat right away. Repeat this several times daily for a week. Now enlist the help of an understanding neighbor or friend. Have them knock from the outside and repeat the above. Jack will bark several times, even lunging at the door once or twice. At that moment, use the “Come!” command and your treats. Do this at least three times before opening the door.

I have a 3-year-old, 15-pound Pomeranian named GeGe that barks at everything at our house. Is this typical of his breed, and how can I make him stop? – Joann, Vero Beach

A look into the origin of the storied Pomeranian breed helps us understand their motives. Originally, they were much larger and served guard duty. They were gradually bred smaller and Queen Victoria became a fan, once owning more than 35 in the royal kennels. Their guard dog history explains why they bark now. Try tempering the outbursts with an alternative command. First, practice when he is not barking. Grab a tasty treat and bring it up to your face, pointing to your nose. Say “Watch!” and then praise him and offer the treat as soon as he makes eye contact. Once GeGe is reliable at this, use the “Watch!” command when he is barking, and he should pause long enough to look up at you. If you are consistent (and the treat is good enough), your dog will soon cut out his barking so he can claim his reward.

We have two mini dachshunds. Ginger earned the nickname “Hoover” because she eats anything, but our other dog, Nikki, approaches her food bowl like there is a rattlesnake in it. She circles it, crouches down and backs away, even if she is hungry. Eventually she will take a tentative bite. We then have to separate the dogs because Ginger has already cleaned her bowl and is looking for more. Any thoughts? – Cynthia, Vero Beach

Several factors may contribute to Nikki’s food bowl phobia. She may be anticipating her sister’s interest in the food and is conflicted about eating in front of her. Separate the two dogs before dinner and keep them out of each other’s line of sight as they eat. Remain near Nikki but ignore her when she displays the behavior. The second factor may be the bowl itself. If Nikki is wearing a collar with tags, she may be repelled by the clinking against the bowl, so take the collar off before feeding. Some dogs dislike the reflection in a stainless steel or ceramic bowl, so try swapping it for a paper plate. The last idea may be the most obvious. Perhaps she doesn’t care much for the food itself. Try adding a touch of chicken broth or switching the brand.

My senior Yorkie, named Roxy, sometimes leaks urine in her sleep. I have been told this is a symptom of her old age and probably the onset of kidney disease. Are there any natural remedies you can suggest? I am reluctant to give her more medicine – Kathleen, Vero Beach

Your vet can offer some help on this subject. If Roxy hasn’t had a blood sample taken recently, it is worth a visit to do so and receive a complete blood count and analysis. This will give you a window into her kidney health without an invasive procedure, and you can look at treatment options to help her. Leaking is fairly common in older, spayed female dogs. Rest assured this is not a behavioral problem.

I am interested in visiting nursing home residents with my sweet lab, Maggie. How do I go about this in Vero Beach? – Tauna, Vero Beach

Therapy Dogs International was founded in 1976 and has more than 24,000 dog/handler teams worldwide that offer comfort to nursing home and hospital patients, disaster victims, at-risk kids and more. I have enjoyed volunteering with this group with my former dog Bella, and now with Mac. I am a certified evaluator for this respected organization and have begun testing potential teams. The test involves obedience commands, temperament tests, demonstration of control, tolerance of medical equipment and acceptance of children. Overall, your dog should be calm and kind, and love attention! My next test will be scheduled for later this summer. Feel free to contact me through my True Tails link at

I have visited a couple of these home-breeder websites looking for a puppy. Can you tell me a little bit about them and if it is OK to purchase from them? – Judith, Vero Beach

A little research can help us avoid the dreaded puppy mills, those large-volume breeders who often keep many hundreds of dogs in deplorable conditions, with no vet care or access to exercise. A recent bust discovered almost 1,000 dogs and puppies that had never left their wire crates and were power-hosed each day in any weather. Another case found puppies crammed in a U-Haul in Tennessee with no water, food or ventilation. These industrial breeders will pay local people to temporarily house a few puppies in their homes, and advertise them online as “home-raised.” To weed out the bad breeders, insist on only AKC registration applications, with the breeder’s name included, before sending any money. Ideally, you should pay half up front and half after receipt of the dog and a check by your veterinarian. To further investigate, ask for and contact their local vet reference. Obtain the puppy within driving distance, and ask to meet either the puppy’s sire or dam.A safer and more satisfying option may be found in breed-rescue organizations on the AKC website, at this link: Take your time and do your research; you’ll be happy you did.

Your articles in Vero Beach Magazine have been most informative and enjoyable. Perhaps you could help me with my current challenge in truly housetraining my dog, Zoe, a 7-month old Shih Tzu. She has been in my home three months and now uses pee-pads in her 6’ by 4’ pen in my bedroom where she sleeps at night (a major victory won). My ultimate objective is for her only to go to the bathroom outside. Can you recommend a course of action? – Judith, Vero Beach

Your pen in the bedroom might be a little too roomy. Generally, dogs don’t like to eliminate very close to their food bowls or their bed, but since the pee-pad is placed in the pen, she is encouraged to use it. If Zoe isn’t using the pad every night, she is probably ready for you to remove the pee-pad entirely and reduce the size of the pen. At the same time, limit her water intake after 7 p.m. and plan to take her out twice between dinnertime and bedtime to help her succeed.

My dog jumps up to the kitchen counter to see if there is food and grabs it if she can reach it. How can I stop this? – Judith, Vero Beach

If this is a long-term habit, you’ll need more than one approach to foil her counter-surfing. Buy some tack cloth from the hardware store. This is sticky stuff used to remove excess dust from sanding. Tape several adjacent pieces down on the counter, and place some food just behind it and leave it there. She’ll need to put her paws up on the cloth to investigate, and the sticky substance should make her retreat. You may also try fitting her with a “no jump” harness that impedes her when her front feet come up above her chest. Then there’s the “here’s your new job” approach, where you ask her to come into the family room for a tempting treat every time she wanders into the kitchen. You will soon convince her to abandon her counter quest and go elsewhere for her reward.

During a recent visit with friends at my home, my dog Itsy was the center of attention. She normally isn’t allowed on the living-room sofa, but our visitors adored her and encouraged couch cuddling. I allowed it that evening, but now she shuns her bed and begs for sofa time every night. How do I go back to all paws on the floor? – Patricia, Vero Beach

Dogs are opportunists, and yours is using her substantial cuteness to manipulate her way up to the sofa. Teach her to “Go to your place” by dropping a special treat on her bed. She’ll likely gobble it and then move off the bed again. Repeat the phrase and guide Itsy to her bed with the treat, then drop it in the middle of her bed again. Practice this each evening, and she will begin to see the benefit of staying close to her bed and leaving the couch to the humans.

I need to confine my Corgi, Lucy, to a crate when I leave the house, or she will leave “presents” for me on the rug! She hates the crate and barks loudly when I leave. How can I stop this barking? – James, Chicago

First, try convincing your dog that the crate is a nice place where wonderful treasures are found. During the day when you are home, toss in treats and a chew toy and let Lucy discover the goodies. Start feeding meals in the crate and remain nearby so your dog knows you haven’t left. After a nice leash walk, place your dog in the crate for a nap, along with a chew or filled bone she can work on until she falls asleep. When you leave the house, place her in the crate at least 20 minutes before you go, so it isn’t so sudden.

Sometimes when we are playing around with our 6-month-old puppy, Rango, he begins to snap at our hands or legs. What is the best way to keep him from doing this or to divert his attention to something else? – Margaret, Vero Beach

You are completely correct with your description: Rango is snapping, but it is not vicious. His behavior is a result of being over-stimulated and playing with humans as he would play with another puppy: by using his teeth. Try introducing a large toy just that he sees only when you are interacting with him, so he can focus his play-bites there. A long, plush toy is great or a rope with squeaky toys at each end works, too. Incorporate a few easy commands with your play, so he “earns” tug time with the toy. If he detaches from the toy to taste an ankle, grab a couple of treats and redirect his attention to the “Watch” command. Just show him the treat, bring it up to your face and say, “Watch!” Praise him when he complies and offer the treat. You are effectively turning naughty behavior into nice in just a few seconds.

My dog keeps pulling away because she wants to chase passing cars, bikes and skateboards. She gets excited as they approach and lunges as they go by. How can I stop this? – Linda, Vero Beach

Rotating wheels are right at your dog’s eye level and seem to beckon her to follow. Give your girl an alternative activity. Try saying “This way!” and make a smooth u-turn. Lure her with a meaty treat or favorite toy at her eye level as you turn. Practice first when no cars are passing until she responds happily to the verbal cue and turns with you. Now when a bike or car goes by, give your verbal cue, use your treat, and praise her for leaving that bad habit behind.

I put my wonderful dog, Bosco, down over a year ago and have quite a void in my life. How do I go about finding another perfect dog?

Keep your mind and heart open to possibilities. The three dogs I have been blessed to own are, and were, all quite different. Their unique quirks make for great memories. While I recommend adoption, sometimes people find it hard to walk through a shelter. Try going to satellite adoption events where dogs are brought to pet superstores, parks and other public places on special days. Sign up for e-mail lists at the Humane Society, HALO Rescue, and Dogs and Cats Forever, and they’ll notify you of their adoption events.

This is my mother’s first Christmas alone now that my dad has passed away, and I’ve been thinking of giving her a puppy to keep her company. What is the best way to proceed?

A puppy or dog can be a welcome addition for those well prepared for the new arrival, but your four-legged gift may be seen as just another burden or chore, especially when the puppy chews the fringe on the Oriental rug. You can surprise your mother while giving her some control over the process. Buy an upscale crate made from bamboo or wicker (a great look) and fill it with toys, chew bones and a food and water bowl. Include a brochure from local shelters or download photos and breed info from AKC-linked breed rescue websites. If she seems to be wavering, a foster-care situation might be ideal. She can help out a shelter pet temporarily, and enjoy the companionship without the permanent commitment.




Ask Amy True Tails is a series written by Amy Robinson for Vero Beach’s dog lovers. Ask Amy about your dog’s behavior by clicking below.

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