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My Pet World: Pheromones help dogs and cats relax, learn, and adjust to new homes

Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Cathy,

We have a four-year-old male Havanese who is very loving and intelligent. His only problem is that he is extremely attached to me and my husband. When I am home, he follows me from room to room. If someone is home with him, he is fine. But if we go out together, leaving him alone, he becomes very anxious and barks continuously – so our neighbors tell us.

I hired a home trainer when he was a puppy and that helped with all the basic commands. Then I went to classes with him, which also helped. But I couldn’t get him to stop barking when we went out. Finally, on a friend’s recommendation, we sent him away for training for two weeks. He came home and was still barking. I sent him back for another two weeks, and he was better for a short time. Then he started all over again. Our vet recommended a citronella collar, which I bought, but the collar only works manually, so that’s not much help when we go out. Any suggestions?

– Suzanne, Woodbury, New York

Dear Suzanne,

Yes, I have a few more suggestions for you.

My regular readers already know what I will recommend first – a canine pheromone collar. These collars don’t stop barking, but they can reduce anxiety and make it easier for a dog to relax (see next letter). You might also try canine pheromone plug-ins for certain rooms of your house.

When you’re at home and your dog barks, call him to you, ask him to sit, then give him something to chew or a puzzle toy to keep his mind busy. Start with a simple puzzle toy, like a Kong Wobbler that dispenses treats when he pushes it around. If he starts to wander back to a window to bark, call him back to you before he does and give him another activity.

Next, train him to be quiet. This means saying the word “quiet” when he is actually quiet, using his marker word, like Bingo, to mark the correct behavior, and rewarding him with a treat. Carry treats in your pocket and reward him all day long for being quiet.

Next, play with him or walk him before you go out. If he is tired, he will be less likely to bark. When you leave, turn on the television to give him some voices to listen to and blunt outside noises. Also, close the blinds or drapes so he is not barking at your neighbors as they walk by.

If you do all these things, he should show improvement in a few weeks.

Dear Cathy,

I recently took in a four-year-old cat that belonged to a woman in an assisted living facility. The woman had died, and her family didn’t want the cat, so I took him in. Unfortunately, he was terrified of being in a new place. He didn’t want to be petted or held and scooted under the bed whenever I walked by. He was also scared of my dachshund.

 

It took a couple of months for him to feel safe enough to come out from under the bed and at least be in the same room with me. If I had waited long enough, he might have acclimated to me and my house, but I couldn’t wait any longer because I knew I had to get a collar and tag on him and somehow get him into a carrier to go to the vet to keep his vaccinations up to date.

So, I followed the advice you regularly give in your column, which is to use pheromones. I bought two feline pheromone diffusers to be plugged in and put in rooms on the opposite side of the house to maximize coverage. I bought him a pheromone collar and had no issues getting it on him.

The results have been amazing. Pumpkin is now more relaxed around me. He often comes to me to be petted, doesn’t run if I walk by him, and will even let me pick him up, briefly. I know you always say pheromones aren't a miracle solution. Still, I could certainly see their impact on facilitating a closer and more relaxed relationship between me and my kitty and between my kitty and dog. We have reached harmony. Thanks for all the great pet advice.

– Carol, Asheville, North Carolina

Dear Carol,

It’s not often someone writes to me with a problem who then solves it in the same letter with information from previous advice columns. But I am glad it all worked out. Thanks for giving Pumpkin a new home.

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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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