Q We have a year-old male Schnoodle (schnauzer poodle) that bites. We do not hit him. We got him at age 8 weeks from a family breeder upstate. We can’t remove anything from his mouth or groom him without concern. If we pet him he can snap. He growls and attacks at times. He also barks in an attack stance at any dogs and people walking by. I think it is the breed mixture of the dog and my husband thinks he was traumatized. What’s your thought? -- Susan Glodstein, Jericho
A You had him since he was 8 weeks old so he was obviously not traumatized. He is just not quite right in the head. I never can understand how one individual dog will never, ever bite no matter what the circumstances and yet another will bite without any hesitation and then expect you to forget all about it. I have had both kinds of dogs. The problem here is that you can change the way the dog acts but you cannot change the way it thinks. If you want to teach a dog like yours not to be possessive about things in his mouth then you have to show him that when you ask him to drop an object it will be replaced with something better.
Go to the fridge and take out a piece of deli chicken or cheese and offer it to the dog while giving it some kind of command such as “trade.” In most cases the dog will drop whatever it is carrying and run to you for the treat. You then tell the dog to sit and give it the treat from your hand. Pick up the object in question and in no time he will be bringing you all sorts of items to trade with you willingly.
However, even though you may have changed the dog’s behavior you have not changed the way he thinks. He would still bite you if he thought it was justified or to his advantage. However, if you work on using positive reinforcement/reward training with him as I described briefly here then things will be a lot better.
Q We have just gotten a corn snake as a pet. The pet store that sold him to us told us to feed him a mouse once a week except when he is going to shed his skin as he will not eat while he is shedding. So a week ago his eyes turned white and we knew that meant that he was going to shed so we did not offer him anything. Today we saw that his eyes were clear again but he did not eat when we offered him a mouse and we also see that there is no shed skin in his vivarium. Can you tell us what is going on? -- Thomas Franco, Medford
A Snakes do have to shed their skins to allow their bodies to grow, and when the process starts their eyes do become a milky white color. This is because snakes do not have eyelids and their eyes are protected by a clear scale that covers them like a contact lens. When the shedding process starts the eyes become cloudy and the snake’s whole color goes off as the outer skin is starting to separate from the new skin forming underneath. This normally takes a few days and the snake will just curl up in a corner or sometimes just soak in its water dish and patiently wait for the process to finish. They will never eat while this is going on. Sounds like your snake is in the between stage.