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Pet World: Barking and growling dog makes owner hesitant to have friends over

Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Cathy,

We have an eight-month old adorable little Chihuahua-Dachshund mix that we rescued in June. He is full of energy all day long, bouncing from sofa to chair to sofa. My problem is his constant barking and growling when I walk into the living room. I understand that barking is good to ward of strangers but I'm hesitant to invite friends over due to this situation.

-Joe, Lynbrook, New York

Dear Joe,

The quickest way to build rapport with your dog is to train him. Start with “sit.” Use a clicker or reward word like “bingo” to mark when he sits. Then give him a treat. Once he understands that the clicker or reward word marks the desired behavior, you can train for behavior. If you walk into a room and he doesn’t bark or growl, click or say the reward word and give him a treat. If he is sitting near you and appears very relaxed, click or say the reward word and give him a treat. He will begin to understand what you want and that he should look to you for guidance on how to react to things.

As for visitors, keep him on a short leash so he is under your control. If he barks or growls, verbally correct him with a short “Shh!” sound or use a Pet Corrector, which produces a similar sound with compressed air. The idea is to get his attention so he will stop the behavior. Do not reward him for this. Instead, ask him to do something else, like sit. When he sits, use your reward/treat technique. It will take time and consistency, but eventually he should understand what is expected of him and comply with your wishes.

Dear Cathy,

I have a two-year-old cat that I rescued from a shopping center when he was about six-weeks-old. In the last six months or so, he has begun eating fabric. He has eaten the hems off my pants, the sleeve of my pajamas and chewed the entire edge of my bed quilt so that it now has a “scalloped” edge. I can’t tell if it is coming out the other end, as I have five cats and automatic litter boxes. I have found small remnants in vomit at times. Other than this, and him being quite rambunctious, he is a great loving cat. Any suggestions?

-Holly, Coconut Creek, Florida

Dear Holly,

Both dogs and cats can have something called “pica,” where they eat non-food objects, like sucking on plastic bags or nursing wool. Pica can be caused by a range of things, like dietary deficiencies, health problems, genetic disposition, compulsion disorders and boredom. It also can be because the cat was weaned too young, which may be the case here because you found him when he was just six-weeks-old.


If you have ruled out health problems, then remove objects you think your cat might chew. Or spray the items with Bitter Apple to discourage him from chewing on them. Keep him mentally stimulated by playing with him for at least 10 minutes twice daily. Make sure he has lots of cat-friendly toys to pounce on and chew.

You also can put a feline pheromone collar on him and/or add feline pheromone plug-ins around the home. Pheromones reproduce the scent of a nursing mother cat, which calms most cats. I think your cat would greatly benefit from the use of pheromones in the home.

Dear Cathy,

I want to make an addition to your advice about using a ramp for a large dog. I take my senior Irish Setter to a canine rehab place and have seen several of those ramps being used. While some dogs use them successfully, others balk because the ramps are flimsy and scary. I have tried the doggy steps, but they are too small for a large dog. I did extensive research and found a mini ramp/step called Pet Gear Easy Pet Step that works well for my girl and requires no training. It's very secure, wide, and basically just one step with a slant about 24" long. It has saved my back and hers.

-Pat, Glastonbury, Connecticut

Dear Pat,

I checked out the ramp, and it looks quite sturdy and easy for a dog or cat to use. It’s not tall enough for a dog to climb into the back of an SUV, but you can use it to allow your dog to step into the car via the back seat or onto the couch. Thanks for sharing what works for you.


(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.)

©2020 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.




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