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Name: Cynthia L.
Status: Other
Age: 50s
Location: N/A
Country: USA
Date: 2000-2001


Question:
Our mixed-breed, probably part English Setter dog has a terrible habit which I am afraid will cause him great harm eventually. He was dumped along with his mother & siblings in a river. Most had died & due to current habits we are assuming he had been eating dirt, sticks & anything else to fill his stomach. Now about 2 yrs. old, he will chew up aluminum cans, plastic bags, glass jars, firewood and even swallows all of the above. He is an outdoor dog & has the run of our 3/4 acre yard. Naturally we keep all of the above items out of his reach, but he chews up trees, eats 20 yr.old lilac bushes to the ground, eats clumps of dirt. No need to remove the suckers from the maple trees, he devours them before I can get to them. Once last summer he was in feared a bowel obstruction. He got over it before I could get him to vet. We purchased a nasty tasting spray from a garden center to spray on our ornamentals. It works, but is a short-lived solution & quite expensive considering the size of our yard. I can't imagine that he is bored as he has a constant companion, our 8-yr. old black lab & they are good playmates. Any ideas? Could he be lacking some- thing in his diet? Any solutions, other than psychiatric care??!! ?



Replies:
Rebecca,

I only have limited experience in this, but in that limited experience, when a pet is acting 'badly' it is usually a sign that enough time is not being spent with the pet. My own Jack Russell terrior becomes a jack Russell Terror if left alone or if I have a lot of housework to do and he is 'neglected'. It is common for Jack Russells to dig and bark....but I have seen this behavior only during the times when I don't spend 'enough' time with the dog.

Though it tends to be breed-specific, you might try spending at the least one hour with the pet each day. This could be in the form of watching tv with the pet near you as you hold or pet it. Taking the pet for a walk (on a leash) also can be a component of the time spent with it. (Your own pet/breed might require more attention than one hour per day! ) Finally, I have never seen a situation when a pet is praised too much for doing even the most minor of things. It connects the pet to its owner and encourages good behavior and is much more effective in promoting good behavior (some folks only punish for bad behavior, which then only makes the pet know the owner as a sometimes-unpleasant person---they usually don't connect their behavior to the actual punishment).

Spend a week determining how much time is needed to spend with the pet to encourage his/her good behavior, and then try to maintain that level.

One last thing that works for me...always have treats handy to give to the pet when you catch it doing something good.

Thanks for using NEWTON!

Ric Rupnik



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