Pooch FAQs With Shirin

Renowned Canine Behaviourist and PT Columnist, Shirin Merchant, answers relevant reader queries on various aspects including canine behaviour and training.

Q) I will be shifting to Mumbai from Pune in another couple of months. I am worried how my six year old Beagle will take to the new place. She has lived in a large house with a compound all her life. In Mumbai I will be staying in an apartment. What can I do to make the move less traumatic for her and help her adjust in the new home?

Yazad P.

A) Before you move, if possible, take your dog for a weekend trip to Mumbai to check out the new house. Let her sniff around the place and get a feel of it. Do take along her food and water bowls and bedding so that she can start adjusting to the place. It would also be a good idea to take her on a leashed walk around the new neighbourhood so she can sniff the local dogs’ marking spots and leave a few of her own. It is often upsetting to dogs to watch familiar things being packed into boxes and being removed from the home. When the time comes to shift, pack your dog’s belongings last – so that she has her belongings with her till the last minute and unpack her box first when you get to the new place. It would also help to stick to her usual routine when you shift. Make sure she is fed, walked and played with regularly and on time – it will help her settle down quickly. Ensure you find a vet in your new area before you shift in, in case of an emergency and update your dog’s ID tag with your new address and telephone number.

Q) I have a Doberman who barks crazily whenever the doorbell rings. She is extremely friendly and happy to welcome people in, but won’t stop barking till the person walks in. She has a very loud bark and it is irritating. We have tried shouting at her but to no avail. Why is this happening and how can we get her to stop?

Arnavaz. T

A) It is perfectly normal for a dog to bark when someone is at the door. It is the dog’s way of warning the intruder that he has been noticed and at the same time alerting the rest of the family that a stranger is approaching. Guarding breeds, like the Doberman, tend to be more vociferous than others. Persistent barking can be trying. In your case, your dog has learnt that if she rushes to the door and barks, it will open and the guest will walk in and play with her.  Her excitement has built up over time, leading to the frenzied barking. To get her to change her behaviour, she must understand that as long as she barks, the door will not open. The next time the doorbell rings, ignore the barking behaviour and ask her to carry out an alternate behaviour, like a sit or a down. Wait until she stops barking and performs the alternate command before opening the door. You may need to put her on a leash so that you have better control and she cannot jump about. It will take her awhile to realise that barking no longer lets guests in, but sitting quietly does. Be patient and consistent and you will see a change very soon.

Q) I’m planning to acquire a Labrador puppy. I’ve been told that yellow Labs are cleverer than the black or brown ones. What is your opinion on this?

Dr. Mehta

A) Experts opine that the intelligence of a dog depends on its breeding, not its colour. To play it safe, when choosing a pup, check the intelligence and temperament of the parents rather than the colour. You may also want to opt for a litter born out of ‘working dog’ parents, rather than a ‘show dog’ litter – they tend to be smarter and more enthusiastic workers.

Q) Why does my dog cock his leg up on every tree and lamp post when I take him for a walk?

N. Poonawalla

A) For a male dog a walk is not a walk unless he has anointed every possible tree, hedge, lamp post and letter box in his path. Urination for male dogs is more than the mere elimination of waste products from the body. The drops of urine they leave behind are not without reason– it establishes their scent on a territory and leaves behind vital personal information (it’s the doggie equivalent of a visiting card). It’s his way of informing other dogs about himself and sniffing up on them simultaneously. If it’s a headache, you may want to consider neutering him as research shows castrated dogs are less likely to mark.

Shirin Merchant
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About Shirin Merchant

Shirin Merchant looks forward to answering all relevant queries from our readers. Please write in to: k9cancare@hotmail.com or mailparsitimes@gmail.com

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