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My Pet World: Redirect dog who is obsessively attached to a toy

Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Cathy,

About six months ago, we adopted a purebred, four-year-old red, floppy-eared male Doberman pinscher. He normally is a big goofball, but we bought him some stuffed dog toys to play with and it somehow totally changed his behavior. He always keeps the toy with him, carrying it wherever he goes. He won't eat, drink, or go outside without it, and is totally distant to us. He will not come to us for a pat on the head or let us get near the toy. He actually growls and sometimes snaps if he perceives we are trying to get it from him. On the few occasions where we have tricked him and gotten it back, he immediately reverts to his old, affectionate and goofy self. Is there a reason for this behavior?

Also, we adopted him for companionship and protection for my wife, but he has become a “daddy's boy” and does not show her the level of affection we had hoped for. She is the one who feeds him and gives him treats in an effort to increase his attention to her, but he still focuses most of his loyalty to me. Any way to redirect his attention to her? – Gary, Las Vegas, Nevada

Dear Gary,

It’s not uncommon for a dog to get attached to a toy. Sometimes, it’s because they have a lot of pent up energy; sometimes, they are possessive and obsessive of their things, and sometimes, we just don’t know. Since he is getting aggressive about it, it needs to be addressed.

Give him a toy for a limited time only, and then get the toy back and put it away where he can’t see it. To get the toy back, ask him to “drop it” while offering a high value treat, like a piece of hot dog. He should drop the toy in order to take the “better” option. Be sure to toss the hot dog away from the toy so he has to go after it and doesn’t see you taking the toy. Then redirect him by having your wife play a game with him, walk him or train him. The increased mental and physical activity can help rework his brain as well as improve their relationship.

 

If there’s no improvement with the toy problem after a few weeks, consult a behaviorist who can observe and make further recommendations.

Dear Cathy,

We adopted a one-year-old old male neutered rescue cat. He is active, friendly, and a fun cat to have in our house. He will often roll onto his back exposing his belly when he wants to be petted. However, he will nip at our fingers. We know this is a part of how kittens play, but what else can we do to stop this biting behavior. Currently, we disengage as soon as he starts that. – Gary, Plainview, New York

Dear Gary,

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