Tune is a street smart Rottweiler who enjoys helping other doggies become good citizens. Tune invites you and your dog to send in questions regarding proper doggie and person behavior. He consults with his person, Barbara DeGroodt, when writing his column. Because Tune does not have thumbs, he finds answering all letters too difficult. He can only answer a few that he receives and those will be printed each issue and on our website. Please address your letters to: Tune@coastalcaninemag.com.
Barbara De Groodt is the owner of From the Heart Animal Behavior Counseling and Dog Training in Salinas, CA and has been an animal behavior counselor for over 30 years. From the Heart is located in Salinas, CA and can be contacted at (831) 783-0818. www.fromtheheart.info.
- Winter 2010
Dear Tune, I have 3 small dogs...when it's time for a treat, they all sit beautifully and take their treat from my fingers sweetly and gently except for one of them who snaps (seriously!) at the treat and a few times has mistaken my finger for part of the offering! Ouch! I am afraid that pulling back and asking him to "take it nice" will just reinforce his "I've got to get it quick" snapping. How do I train him to be more gentle? Does his having an underbite create this situation? Thanks for your tips,
~Pulling back a nub, Pacific Grove
Sometimes an over/under bite can cause a bit of misjudgment but that's probably not the real problem. I've overheard my Mum use this example in class and she's right, it's how we dogs think. If you were offered a $100.00 bill and just as you reached for it, it was snatched away, you'd probably think the next time it's offered I'll be faster. That's what happens when you pull away with your dog, he thinks he needs to be faster the next time! You actually want to push into him, and not away. The other thing that may help you is feeding all meals from your hand. When you tell a dog "gentle" or "easy" you actually tell him/her unless I say this you can land shark me. Remember behavior that is rewarded will repeat. So if he learns you won't let go of the treat unless he takes it nicely, he will learn to do so. Good luck and maybe invest in some chain butcher gloves.
- Fall 2009
Dear Tune, When I walk my two large dogs, they growl and bark and carry on at other dogs we see on the walk. When my husband walks them, they ignore dogs. Why is this? Are they protecting me?
This is a very complex behavior that needs to be discussed at length with a behavior-based trainer, but you should understand that we dogs have different relationships with each member of our “pack”. It’s just like children who ask Mom for one thing and Dad for another, because they know they will get the results for which they are looking. Your dogs are probably looking at you as a lower member of the pack’s hierarchy and, depending upon your responses to their behavior, you may inadvertently be reinforcing this. Please consult a professional before you or your dogs become injured. Walking us dogs should be a pleasure, not a chore. Good luck.
I am a 6-year-old shepherd and I have this overwhelming desire to bite other dogs in the butt to herd them. Everything was fine until a year ago when we went lure coursing. The site of that little piece of fluff moving so fast got me all excited and now I just want to chase anything moving and bite its butt to herd it where I want it.
My mom talked to a trainer about this and was told it is my "prey drive.” The trainer suggested LOTS of interaction with other dogs until I was bored with them. My mom wants to know if allowing herding dogs to lure course is a bad idea? Do they have a 12-step program for butt biting? ~Sherman the Shepherd in Santa Cruz
OMG, a butt biter! Do I think it’s your fault? Well, there are a lot of factors that can influence this behavior: breeding, improper or lack of socialization as a pup, not enough guidance now, just to name a few. Do I think the lure coursing did it--- simple answer “no.” Us dogs have a variety of play mannerisms, some acceptable, some not so much. My mom agrees that the trainer that said it was “prey drive” was correct. Exposure to other dogs is good with guidance from your mom on correct play behavior. Your mom might need more guidance from a trainer to know how to guide you more effectively. P.S. For now, stay at least 10’ behind my behind!
- July 1, 2009
This is the time of year when all my neighbors as well as the towns do fireworks. My 12 yr old great dane -black lab mix, 115 lbs., shakes and gets so upset with the noise. Even when the fireworks are far away but when it hits home it gets worse. I feel so bad for his fear. I give him one benadryl every so often and it seems to help a bit. He has now generalized his fear to nighttime and is afraid to go out to the back for "package time". Any suggestions?
~Shaking in our Paws and Need Help
This is a tough one since I'm not a year old yet and haven't experienced the 4th of July, but I checked with my older brother, Cane and he said he's heard our "mom" tell people to keep the dogs in the inner part of the house, so the noise is a bit more muffled. Turning the radio or TV on and giving a stuffed Kong sometimes helps. When your dog begins to lick a Kong they set up a rhythm that can release endorphins, which can aid in calming us. Before you give the Kong, take you dog for a long walk or run and tire him out. Remember it’s a good idea before you give any medication you should check with your veterinarian for advice and dosage. Also, he may be able to prescribe something a bit more effective. Your Great Dane is very old by Dane standards so why not help him along for a while and go outside with him until his fears lessen.
Good luck and happy 4th (whatever that is)
- Spring 2009
My wife and I adopted an 8-week-old puppy. We’ve never had a dog before and don’t even know where to start. What is the most important thing for us to know?
~New Parents, Salinas
Dear New Parents,
First, congratulations on your newest family member. Any dog will tell you that eight weeks is the optimum age to get a puppy. They’ve had enough time with littermates to begin to learn about bite inhibition (that is very important for us dogs to know), but not so long as to overly bond with only dogs. The most important thing to remember is that what you teach your puppy today will produce the dog he becomes tomorrow. Decide today if he can get on furniture, beg for food, run roughshod with no rules, because that is how he will think things are done in his new home. At 10 pounds all that might be cute, but once he’s full-grown do you want an 80-pound goofball with no rules? You don’t need to be mean; just set limits and make sure everyone understands them and abides by them. We dogs actually like to know our limits. It’s much less stressful than trying to figure you humans out. You will end up with the best dog if you spend the time in the beginning. Have fun!
- Spring 2009
My very friendly Golden Retriever loves to run on the beach, but if he gets a whiff of someone’s picnic, he makes a beeline for it and will scarf down everything in sight. It’s getting to the point that I can’t let him off leash at the beach. He even started sucking down jellyfish (jellies)! Any ideas on how we can break him of “food surfing” at the beach?
~Help My Hoover, Monterey
Dear Hoover Parent,
My first comment was WOW! How lucky your dog gets to be off leash with no rules. My pack leader doesn’t let any of us off leash unless we prove we earn it. But then your dog eats jellies, ugh! We dogs are pretty simple really. Any behavior that is rewarded will be repeated, so the key is don’t let this behavior be rewarded. This may mean for a while, until you get a great recall or “off” command, this dog can not be allowed off leash. Teaching a reliable “off” or “leave it” command can/will save your dog’s life. A good leader protects his/her pack and allowing this behavior to continue isn’t in your dog’s best interest.