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My Pet World: Dogs sometimes bark to communicate with their owners

Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Cathy,

Our seven-year-old Yorkie, Missy (Mistletoe), has always been good with using the wee-wee pad since she was a pup. We take her out for a walk twice a day, but the wee-wee pad is for her use at other times. She always gets a treat when she uses it. Recently, she will sometimes stay about 10 feet away from the pad and bark at us. She will wait for us to go toward the pad, almost like giving her permission, and then she will go ahead and do her business. Is this normal or typical? – Tom, Westbury, New York

Dear Tom,

While that’s not necessarily normal, it’s not a cause for concern either. It’s hard to know what our pets are sometimes trying to tell us, but she is definitely trying to tell you something. Somewhere along the way, she may have gotten it into her head that she needed to ask permission before using the pad. She also may have seen something near the pad that scared her or is afraid of the pad itself for whatever reason.

It’s great you give her a treat for using the wee-wee pad. I would train her with a command to use the wee-wee pad, by saying “go to the wee-wee pad,” every time you see her approaching or using it. If you do that, you can eventually say the phrase every time she starts barking, and she will know what you want her to do.

In the meantime, watch her habits closely to see if anything else has changed. Often, when animals change their normal routine, there can be a health problem connected to it. Get her checked by a vet to make sure she doesn’t have a urinary infection because that can cause some animals to develop strange habits around their bathroom routines.


Dear Cathy,

Kenya is a two-year-old Cavalier King Charles spaniel that we have had since she was a puppy. This is our third Cavalier. She is much more vocal than the other two dogs. She barks at us and demands we let her in our backyard. She doesn’t listen when we tell her to come in sometimes. What can we do to get her to quit barking all the time? – Jimmy, Tucson, Arizona

Dear Jimmy,

I don’t think she is trying to be demanding. I think she is letting you know what she wants and the only way she has learned to communicate with you is through barking.


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