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My Pet World: Woman is concerned for her beloved dog's future

Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Cathy,

During a recent visit to my son's home, my five-year-old Yorkie mix, Mortie, behaved unusually. My son's large mixed-breed rescue, Shep, seemed to resent Mortie, growling and attacking from the start. Mortie became frightened and submissive. Mortie left food behind, which Shep would then eat. Was this a peace offering? Additionally, Mortie ate Shep's poop and had a vomiting episode. They seemed to reach a detente by the end of our 10-day visit.

As I'm 86, I worry about Mortie's future. My son and his wife have offered to take him in, but I'm concerned about the dogs' relationship. Can you advise where Mortie should live after I'm gone? Also, have you addressed poop-eating in a previous column?

— Mary, Laramie, Wyoming

Dear Mary,

I have addressed poop-eating, or coprophagia, in the past, but I'm happy to revisit it here. There are commercial stool deterrent products on the market specifically designed for this purpose that you could give to Mortie during your visits. Probiotics can also help improve his gut health, addressing any digestive issues or nutrient absorption problems that might be causing the behavior.

During your visits, your son can help by picking up Shep's feces more frequently to reduce temptation. He can also add certain human foods to Shep’s dog food, prior to and during your visit, to make his feces less appealing to Mortie.

Common options include meat tenderizer, pineapple, and pumpkin, which alters the taste of the feces. However, before your son adds any new foods to Shep’s diet, it's important that he consult with his veterinarian to ensure they are safe and appropriate for Shep’s specific health needs.

Regarding the relationship between Mortie and Shep, they had a rough start. To ensure Mortie feels more comfortable and secure in his potential new home, try bringing familiar items like his bed, toys, and blankets on your next visit.

Additionally, consider having shorter, more frequent visits to acclimate Mortie to his potential new environment. And I recommend canine pheromone collars for each of them on the next visit and spray pheromones to spray on the humans in the house and furniture. It’s not a cure, but it can help reduce tensions.

I was initially concerned about the "attacking" you mention, but since you said they reached a detente by the end of your visit, I think there is hope for these future brothers. They don't have to be best friends, but they do need to coexist peacefully, which sounds like there is potential for that to happen. More frequent visits will help them learn to get along, and make you worry less about Mortie’s future.

Ensuring a compatible and loving home for Mortie after you're gone is commendable, and with a bit of patience and preparation, I believe the two dogs can learn to co-exist peacefully, someday.

Dear Cathy,

I never miss your column, and knew you would address the Kristi Noem story, so thank you. But you should have mentioned the goat. In that column, you wrote: "When animals on a farm are euthanized, it is because they are severely injured or are dying." She killed the family goat for no reason; she said it smelled bad and scared her children. Please mention the goat. I feel like no one cares about the goat.

— Jeff, Huntington Station, New York


Dear Jeff,

I appreciate you bringing up the situation with the goat. You're right; he deserved to be considered and mentioned. As I mentioned previously, no one should euthanize their pets or farm animals because they aren't living up to certain expectations, smell bad, or frighten children.

Responsible pet ownership means seeking professional guidance when faced with behavioral challenges with our pets – and farm animals. Thank you for highlighting this important issue. Like all animals, the goat deserved compassion, consideration, and proper care; not the tragic ending he got.

Dear Cathy,

Your column about using positive reinforcement was of great interest because that method is exactly the current accepted method recommended for children as well. As Dr. Phil likes to say, "Don't reward bad behavior," and "Catch them doing something right and reinforce with praise." It works best for animals and kids, apparently.

— Sherry, Henderson, Nevada

Dear Sherry,

I am delighted that you found the column on positive reinforcement relevant. Your insight about how this method applies to various relationships is spot on. Everyone, including pets, children, and even adults, regardless of age or role, thrives on positive feedback.

It's a simple yet effective strategy that helps create a supportive and motivating environment. It's wonderful to know that this approach resonates with 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.)

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