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My Pet World: Socialize your dog before visiting the dog park

By Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Cathy,

I'm having a problem with my rescue dog, Bella, who is a 3-1/2-year-old pitbull and shar-pei mix. When I take Bella and her two other furry friends to the dog park, she gets very aggressive with other dogs. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Bella will pounce, growl and snap at another dog who is not even paying attention to her. I can always yell and get her off the other dog, but a few minutes later the same thing will happen with another dog.

She has always had this issue, but it's more frequent now. She does not fight with the other two dogs at home. Can you give me any insights as to why she's doing this? -- Freddi, Huntington Station, NY

Dear Freddi,

While dog parks might look like great places to socialize dogs, they are actually places where already well-socialized dogs go to play and hang out with other dogs. Dog parks can be much too stimulation for some dogs. Bella might even feel overly protective of the other two dogs in your pack.

Even though the behavior seems to appear out of nowhere, there is likely some subtle communication going on between Bella and the other dogs that you're not picking up on. It's a good sign that you can call Bella off another dog with your voice. That shows she listens and can learn.

Skip the dog park for now and provide Bella with a more relaxed environment where she can learn how to meet dogs, one-on-one. Once she masters that skill, you can try the dog park again -- maybe without the entire pack at first.

Keep in mind, dog parks aren't for every dog. Don't get bummed if it's just not her thing. She may prefer long walks with her pack than socializing with other dogs.

Dear Cathy,

I have two Himalayan cats, Tango and Cash. These 3-year-old brothers are very healthy indoor cats. However, at 9 p.m. every night, Cash starts screaming bloody murder for about two minutes. I can't figure out what is wrong with him. Any ideas? Tango just looks at him in awe. -- Carol, Aventura, FL

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