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My Pet World: How does my dog know my son was coming home?

Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Cathy,

When our son was in his carousing years, and we had our border collie, she would sleep in his room until he got home in the wee hours. She would get up and go to the front door when she heard his 1982 Datsun turn onto our block from 10 houses away. How could she hear any car that far away, and how would she know it was his car? That was 40 years ago, but it still amazes me.

— Richard, Westbury, New York

Dear Richard,

Dogs have a much keener sense of hearing than we do. In fact, in most instances, dogs can hear 100 times better than humans, depending on the frequency of the sound. Human adults cannot hear sounds above 20,000 Hertz (Hz). On the other hand, dogs can hear sounds as high as 47,000 to 65,000 Hz.

So, your dog can not only hear the car as it turns onto the street but recognizes some higher frequency engine sounds that you and I can't hear. That incredible sense of hearing, combined with your son perhaps arriving around the same time during those wee hours, is how your dog knew your son would be pulling into the driveway at any moment.

Dear Cathy,

I had the opposite advice from my local animal control about a neighbor's barking dog. They told me to speak with my neighbor before making an official complaint. I did so, but it didn't make a difference, so I went back to animal control, and they said I could take them to court. I didn't do that because I didn't know what kind of people I was dealing with and feared possible retaliation. We have been putting up with the barking.

— Carol, Newington, Connecticut

Note: Carol is referring to a letter in which I had suggested the reader call animal control to report a barking/noise complaint and let them handle it rather than confront a neighbor they don't know well. Sometimes, approaching neighbors can be difficult since most people get defensive in these circumstances and become adversarial. Letting the experts at animal control handle something like this is always better because they can educate the pet owner about local pet ordinances.

Dear Carol,

I contacted the Connecticut Humane Society to see what their suggestions would be in your state. I have since learned that Connecticut's local government handles things a little differently than local governments in other states. Barking is generally a complaint handled by animal control, but in your area, it could be handled under a noise ordinance and by code compliance, depending on the town you live in.

So, CT Humane suggested contacting your local mayor or selectman (the executive and administrative branch of your town government) to see if they can guide you. You can find their contact information by visiting https://www.newingtonct.gov and opening the town council page. Let me know what you find out.

 

Dear Cathy,

In response to the letter from Susan, of East Northport, New York, who had a neighbor's dog peeing in the same place in front of her house. Many years ago, I had a similar problem. I resolved it by sprinkling black pepper on the area (where the dog was peeing). It covered the odor from previous visits. In my instance, I saw the dog sniff the area and pass it by. His owner was puzzled that the dog didn't relieve himself (on that same spot).

I did not have to speak to the dog owner. My solution did not require adding any elements to our environment. I did not have to go shopping for the solution. It only cost pennies. And, best of all, the dog owner saw no evidence that I had taken any action at all. Over time, I had to repeat the application, but for me, it was an easy, cost-effective solution to an annoying problem. I hope this can be a solution for readers of your column.

— Diane, Glen Burnie, Maryland

Dear Diane,

Thanks for sharing your tip. Susan's issue was that a neighbor’s dog was peeing on the street in front of her house, and she could smell it. I am not sure how this would work on a street where cars will dissipate the cover up quickly, but black pepper and vinegar are two products that, when applied to certain areas, may discourage a dog from peeing in the same spot.

The reason that I recommend products over home solutions is that I know they are humanely developed for this purpose and give application instructions on usage that I know will be safe for animals.

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

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