Home & Leisure

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

Dear Carol,

Sponsored Video Stories from LifeZette

It's not uncommon for cats who have a health issue to meow intensely. Take Cash to your vet for a health exam to rule out health problems, like epilepsy or other neurological issues. Cats who have seizures may vocalize loudly.

If Cash gets a clean bill of health from your vet, then his screaming could be related to diet or anxiety. If you are feeding him a few hours before this happens and around the same time every night, Cash could have some digestive issues. If you see a correlation between feeding and his screaming, visit your vet again to discuss his diet.

If it's not a health issue or diet-related, the behavior could stem from anxiety and have formed into a nightly, attention-seeking habit. Because Cash is punctual with this behavior, you can get in front of it before it begins each evening, and work to change it. Start a play time routine a few minutes before the behavior usually begins and continue playing until 10 minutes past the time to see if that stops the screaming. If it's behavioral, the new activity each night should stop the habit. If it's a seizure or other health problem, he will likely stop during the play to meow intensely -- a clear sign something is wrong health-wise.

Keep me posted on what you discover about Cash's strange behavior.

Dear Cathy,

A mockingbird moved into the tree outside my bedroom window. He or she starts singing around 3 a.m. During the day, he or she sings on top of the light pole in the yard, and every so often he or she jumps straight up in the air, lands on the pole and continues singing. Is this going to continue throughout the summer? It doesn't bother us, but we have never heard a mockingbird sing throughout the day and night. -- J., Seaford, NY

Dear J,

I am not an expert on wild bird behavior, but I am willing to go out on a limb here and say the mockingbird's continuous song and occasional antics indicates the bird is a "he" trying to attract a mate. I am glad you don't mind the singing since male mockingbirds sing during the day and part of the night for most of the spring and summer. You might even miss this bird's serenade when summer comes to an end.


(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 Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.)



blog comments powered by Disqus

Social Connections


Diamond Lil Bizarro Marshall Ramsey Pearls Before Swine Strange Brew Working it Out