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49° Good Afternoon

Aggression in typically loyal dog a cause for concern

Marc Morrone and his Ragdoll cats, Bubbles and

Marc Morrone and his Ragdoll cats, Bubbles and Squeak. Credit: Bruce Gilbert

Q. We have a 2-year-old collie shepherd mix who loves us, offers hugs and kisses and is loyal. But, when the dog and I are on the bed and my 20-year-old son enters the bedroom, the dog growls. Sometimes it’s a bit scary. Last week he went too far. My wife and I were lying on the bed watching TV. The dog joined us with his head on her belly. When I got up to go to work, he growled his usual low growl. When I went to kiss my wife goodbye, he growled so close to her face that she thought he would have bitten her. The dog attended training successfully when he was 6 months old, never had a problem with company, and gets along well with the cat. Neighbors love to see us walk down the block while he holds his leash in his mouth. Do you think he just hates to see me leave or see my son enter the bedroom when it is our time?

Charles Nash, Franklin Square

A. Have a dog behaviorist who uses positive reinforcement methods work closely with this dog. He is just too big to take any chances with. He obviously has some issues with boundaries.

If you no longer allow him on your bed, that issue would be gone. However, the main problem is in the way he is thinking. By using positive reinforcement, the behaviorist is teaching the dog that if he obeys, something better will happen, such as a food reward.

It is important not to use a trainer who uses dominance or force in such a situation. (Just because the dog listens to a such a person through fear does not mean that the feelings will be transferred to you when the trainer leaves.) Plus, it is never a good idea to use force or dominance on an animal that is stronger than you. When used correctly, the proper behaviorist — not a trainer — will be able to tighten up whatever screws are loose in his head.

Q. When we moved into our home it had a 4-foot-high chain link fence around the backyard. After we moved in, we got a golden retriever puppy and thought we could allow her to run around free in the yard. However, as soon as she got big enough to get her front paws on top of the fence she realized that she could climb over it — and away she went. So we replaced the 4-foot fence with a 6-foot fence. She climbs up it like a squirrel and is over it in a flash. We cannot put up a higher fence due to zoning and we do not want to put up a smooth white plastic fence as out property borders the Oceanside nature preserve and we like the view. Apart from building a separate enclosure for her, is there anything we can do?

Thomas Graham, Oceanside

A. You can try putting a baffle of wire mesh on the top of the fence leaning inward into your yard to prevent her from going over it, but such a thing always looks messy. A better option is one of those radio fences. This is a wire that goes along the ground near the base of the fence that corresponds to a radio-controlled collar that your dog wears. The collar emits a mild corrective shock when she goes near the fence line. After a few months of wearing this, she most likely will get the idea that going near the fence is no longer an option and she will stop trying even when she is not wearing the collar. The problem will be solved.

Q. You advised a reader with an overweight dog to mix canned pumpkin in the dog food for weight loss. My cat eats canned food twice a day and we leave dry food down for her during the day. She is very fat. Can I mix the pumpkin in her food as you described for the dog?

Wendy Smith, Uniondale

A. As many cats enjoy canned pumpkin as dogs, but there is no need to do this. Just take up the dry food and give her as much canned food as she wants twice a day and she will lose weight easily. It is the texture of the dry food that cats like so much and they tend to eat more of it than what they need. When you first take the dry food away she will actually go through withdrawal and cry all the time, but in a few days she will get over it.

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