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How to put your foot down when the dog attacks it

You can train your pup not to bite

You can train your pup not to bite feet.  Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto/Hannah Wade

Q I have a 10-year-old Yorkshire terrier mix named Max. He weighs 15 pounds and was found (years ago) wandering with no collar or microchip. This is the first time I have had a small dog. Anyway, Max likes to attack feet. If he is laying on the floor and you get up from the couch or chair, he will attack your feet. If you are sitting at the table and he is laying underneath, he growls and tries to bite your feet. He also attacks anyone who tries to get him out from under the bed or behind the couch. We never had a problem until lately. He is fine otherwise. Any advice?

— Antonia, East Meadow

A Let's address the "biting feet" thing first. It sounds like you have lived with it for years, but we can still change a behavior at any point in a dog's life. While this is a fairly easy behavior to thwart each time, it does require a lot of patience over time to change for good.

You need to use an "interrupter," which is a sound you make to interrupt and distract Max from the behavior. Clapping hands or a loud "hey" may work initially, but most likely you will need something louder to get his attention. When Max goes after feet, shake a can of coins or spray a product called Pet Corrector, which issues a loud "Shh" sound, to surprise and interrupt Max's behavior.

The moment Max stops to see where the sound came from, call him to you, ask him to sit and give him a treat. While you should be able to halt the behavior each time, it could take weeks or months before he understands he needs to stop entirely.

As for getting him out from under the bed or from behind the couch, lure him out with a high-value treat — like a tiny piece of hot dog, chicken or cheese. Then, put storage containers or boxes under the bed and maybe blankets behind the couch, so he can't get stuck in those places anymore.

Q I adopted my cat, Luna, five years ago. She has been a very sweet and affectionate cat. We lost her best friend, our golden retriever, last summer, and Luna was alone. Recently, I adopted another cat (6 months old), in hopes he would be a companion for Luna. I was concerned Luna's wonderful temperament would change with the new addition, but after two weeks, both cats were getting along beautifully. They played and slept together. Luna is leash-trained, and we go out for daily walks. Last week, the new kitty, Mocha, showed an interest in going outside. I put his leash on and brought him outside. Luna, who was sitting in the yard, immediately ran onto the deck and attacked Mocha. I separated the two and got Mocha into the house. It took almost a half-hour to get Luna to calm down enough where I could approach her. Since then Luna has been hostile to Mocha and wants nothing to do with him. If Mocha is in the room, I have to be careful around Luna since she will growl and attack me if I move too suddenly or too close to her. I am at a loss as to why her behavior changed due to the outdoor encounter. I try to keep the two separated when possible and I make sure Luna gets her walks every day. How do I get Luna comfortable with Mocha again?

— Gail, Glastonbury, Connecticut

A Cats are very territorial. Luna must have thought it was a strange cat, not Mocha, entering her outside space. They will need to be reintroduced slowly, as if they are new cats in the home.

Put feline pheromone collars on them both and plug-in feline pheromones around the house to reduce their anxiety. Spray feline pheromones on your clothes, so they are calmer around you, too. It could take a few weeks or a few months before they adjust to each other again, so be patient. Until they do, take Luna and Mocha outside separately so Luna has a chance to get used to Mocha's scent outdoors. If you eventually take them out together, start by putting Mocha in a pop-up tent to ensure no fight ensues. Watch Luna's body language and don't let Mocha out if she appears agitated. Given enough time, Luna should adjust to Mocha again.

Finally, make sure they are both fixed.

Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to cathy@petpundit.com. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.

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