Q Every two or three weeks, Anubis goes outside, walks around the yard very selectively eating grass, throws up a mixture of grass and yellow slimy liquid, and happily comes back in. My vet is at a loss, and there is nothing I can relate the vomiting to. Anubis is a northern spitz type, about 60 pounds and 10 years old, with no health issues except for a sebaceous adenoma on the back of his neck. Any ideas will be appreciated.
— Keri, Catasauqua, Pennsylvania
A No one knows for sure why dogs eat grass and then throw up the slimy liquid you describe. Even though it's a fairly common behavior that most dogs do at one time or another, it naturally stresses most pet owners who worry their dog is ill.
While your dog could be ill, if Anubis has been to the vet and has a clean bill of health, then chances are the behavior is being triggered by something else. Some people think a dog that does this might have a nutritional deficiency. If your dog's food meets all nutritional requirements, this would not be the case. (Look for the AAFCO — Association of American Feed Control Officials — label on your pet food.)
Some say dogs eat grass because they are bored. Dogs, like people, can't do two things at once, so if you play with or otherwise distract your dog from eating grass while outside, then eventually the behavior may stop.
Some think dogs may have tummy troubles and are trying to self-soothe. It's not been proved, but is certainly possible. Others say dogs may need additional fiber in their diet. There was a published study in which a miniature poodle who ate grass and vomited every day for several years, stopped the behavior entirely after his owner introduced fiber into his diet. So maybe add a teaspoon or two of pumpkin (not pumpkin filling, which has added sugar) to his food to see if that helps.
If nothing helps, rest assured Anubis' behavior is fairly normal among dogs and not one to be overly concerned about if your vet is not worried and it happens infrequently. The only danger to your dog would be if the grass had been recently treated with a pesticide.
Q I have three dogs; one is a mastiff-bulldog mix. She is a big goofball and is sweet as can be but whenever someone comes over, she jumps on them, sometimes for as long as five minutes. It is so embarrassing. If I try to put her on a leash and hold her back, she just tries harder. I know there are techniques to stop this behavior so if you can just let me know what they are I would really appreciate it.
— Sharon, Islip Terrace
A When a dog jumps, most people push the dog away, which only engages them and makes them want to jump more. Put your dog on a leash when company arrives and ask your guests to turn their backs on your dog if she jumps on them. You will have the leash and can assist by gently pulling her back on all four paws as well. Then ask her to sit. If she doesn't comply, walk her away from your guests until she settles down.
Next, start "clicker training" her. The sound of the clicker is loud and immediate, and dogs learn quickly what it means. Teach her to learn her name first. Say her name and every time she looks at you, "click" and give her a treat. The "click" signifies she did what you asked, and she will receive a treat as a result. Repeat this name training at least 25 times in a five-minute session, twice a day.
Next train her to "sit" on command and then "stay" on command using the same techniques: Say the command and when she obeys, click and give her a treat. At this point, we're building a foundation so she understands what the clicker means, which will make her easier to train with the slightly more difficult "off" command.
Teach her to not jump by saying "off" when she jumps and turning your back on her if she jumps on you. As soon as her paws hit the floor, click and give her a treat. She will eventually learn that the "click" and "treat" occurs only when all four paws are on the floor. With consistent training, she will eventually learn not to jump on visitors to your home.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.