Neutering and careful training will curb pup's mounting behavior
This week, Landsberg, a veterinary behaviorist in Thornhill, Ontario, Canada, answers your questions.
A: "Of course, this could be the start of sexual behavior if the puppy is not neutered," says Landsberg. "If the dog is neutered, it is still what normal dogs sometimes do, and young dogs particularly because it feels good, and they haven't perhaps yet learned appropriate play protocol. Try allowing your dog to play, but with a leash on. When your puppy seems to be having 'too much fun' (with other dogs), if you get my drift, calmly walk away with him. Over time, the dog will learn that mounting means play must stop."
Of course, if the behavior really gets obnoxious, an adult dog may put your pup in his place -- and that will be that.
Q: Does the Thundershirt help to calm cats as well as dogs? -- T.G., Tampa, FL
A: A Thundershirt is a vest which fits snuggly around a pet. For many pets, it helps decrease anxiety, and for several years now has been used as a tool for dogs fearful of thunderstorms, fireworks, car travel and for other problems such as separation anxiety. Now, there is a Thundershirt for cats.
"Some cats feel frozen when wearing it," however, Landsberg warns. "They may be motionless, but I'm not sure they're any less anxious. Anecdotally, we hear Thundershirts might help (some cats), particularly to calm more active cats rather than cats who tend to hide."
Landsberg notes that you didn't mention why you're thinking about a Thundershirt for your cat. Typically, the Thundershirt isn't the sole tool available to calm anxiety; other products and behavior modification may also be attempted, depending on a pet's problem. He adds if you do try it a Thundershirt for your cat, let us know what happens.
Q: I adopted a pitbull-mix. She's been great, and gets along with every person and dog she meets. The only exception is, she gets aggressive when there's a dog on a person's lap. For example, when my mom's miniature schnauzer is on her lap, my dog becomes aggressive, but when the schnauzer is on the floor, they happily play together. What can we do? -- J.B., Cyberspace
A: Landsberg suggests, "Set your dog up to succeed. Let the two dogs play. Then take your pit-mix to the other side of the room, with a Gentle Leader or another head halter, luring him with a really good treat. Simultaneously, let the schnauzer jump on someone's lap. Do this over and over, and gradually (over weeks) move the pit-mix close to the dog on a lap, while giving your dog treats and distracting her with play." You may also have to "bribe" the schnauzer with treats so he stays on the lap.
The scenario you describe isn't particularly uncommon. Also, it's difficult to discern from your question if the pit-mix is merely excited about the dog being on someone's lap or is truly aggressive. If you believe the latter, enlisting a certified dog behavior consultant or dog trainer might be best.
Another idea: No more dogs on laps when your pit-mix is nearby.
Q: My typically mellow 15-pound, 13-year-old cat has started batting me in the face when he's upset about something. For example, last night, as I snuggled with my husband, the cat lunged and bit me in the face. What can I do to stop this aggression? -- J.G., Cyberspace.
A: Landsberg says to make an appointment with your veterinarian immediately, and describe exactly what's happening. Since this is a new behavior, the question is "why now?"
"It sounds like there may likely be a medical explanation," adds Landsberg. "This is an older cat, and I wonder if being touched a certain way is painful. Arthritis is common in older cats, particularly in larger cats." Other possibilities include gastrointestinal pain, feline cognitive dysfunction syndrome (like Alzheimer's in cats) and kidney disease, even diabetes.
Landsberg adds that if your cat passes the physical, or even if it turns out he has a medical problem, it's a good idea to give the cat an appropriate outlet with an interactive toy to chase. Also, keep notes on what cues your cat responds aggressively, and simply attempt not to put yourself in that position. For example, if the cat doesn't like to be petted while sitting on your lap, perhaps sitting next to you would be a compromise acceptable to everyone.
There may be an anxiety component to your cat's aggression. Adding a Feliway diffuser (which diffuses a copy of a calming pheromone) or two in the home might help.
(Steve Dale's EBOOKS, "Good Dog!" and "Good Cat!", are available on all major eReader devices and platforms. The basic version of each book is $2.99. An enhanced version of "Good Dog!" with embedded videos is available at iTunes for $4.99. Write to Steve at Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY 14207. Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is http://www.stevedalepetworld.com)