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SOCIALIZATION: Socializing your puppy or dog


Question:  Is there anything I need to do with my new puppy to assure that he will be manageable in my household?



Yes.  If you have a new puppy in your family, it behooves you to invest some time into shaping  the psychological makeup of your dog.  Few people realize that the period of time between six and sixteen weeks of age is extremely important in forming a pet’s personality.  Anything that happens to a puppy during that time may affect him for his lifetime.  A puppy that has no human contact during that time will likely always be fearful of humans.  A puppy that has no contact with other dogs during that time may become asocial around other dogs.


One of the best ways to invest in owning a well-behaved dog is to take it to  an obedience class while it is young.  There are many dog trainers who now  recognize the value of “puppy kindergarten” or “beginning obedience” during the first few months of life.  During that time, most contemporary dog trainers use  positive motivation to teach puppies the skills needed for them to become a part of the family.  


In the five years that I personally have taught “puppy kindergarten,” I have come to realize that a stronger bond often develops between an owner and a puppy when they work together in training.  The training involving “Sit,” “Stay,” “Down,” and “Come,” are important not only in developing useful skills and appropriate behavior, but also in developing the human-animal bond that comes only with training time, allowing a pet and a person to understand each other’s needs.  And positive training is fun for both the owner and the pet.


The first few months of your puppy’s life, when directed by an experienced dog trainer who practices positive motivational training,  will help ensure that your pet will be one that you and your family may enjoy for years to come.

Strange Behaviors in Animals


            After working with animals all of my life, first from growing up on a farm, and later from my veterinary career, I still find animals quite amusing.  Xena brought it all back to my attention when she came into my clinic for an office visit this week.  Xena, a real sweetheart,  is the same Doberman that inadvertently attempted suicide a year ago by swallowing a teddy bear.  She survived the surgery.  Ms. Zellars, her owner, told me  yesterday that Xena also has Dancing Doberman Disease.  I believe she is correct.  While this disease can be quite noticeable and progress to more serious signs, it seems to be just a funny little addition to Xena’s behavior.  She cannot stand still very long without lifting one of her hind limbs an inch or two,  then the other. (For those of you with imaginations—no, not at the same time).  When she puts one rear limb down, she lifts the other.  It appears that she is attempting to ride a bicycle.  This peculiarity has only been seen in Dobermans.  It reminds me of a runner warming up at the start of a race while standing in place. 

            Another strange case I recall involved a hunting dog that could breathe through his ear.    When I held his mouth and nostrils closed, I could hear air rushing in and out of his ear. I am not making this up. There is a medical explanation!  His ear drums were ruptured and the eustachian tube, a tiny tube which connects the back of the mouth with the ear, apparently was large enough for air to pass.

            Then there was the architect’s Schnauzer who snapped at the air repeatedly, as if he were attempting to catch a fly.  The name of this syndrome is “fly-snapping,” and the cause is unknown.  Other clinicians have called it “fly-catching,” but maybe that means they are just better at it!   I always  suspected it might have something to do with itchy ears, but some cases have indicated that it may be some sort of a neurologic disorder that can be treated with anti-epileptic drugs.  Some veterinarians have found “floaters” in fly-snappers’ eyes, which probably make the affected dogs think they see something that appears to be a fly.

            Yet another strange case involved a Yorkshire Terrier that began spending a lot of time staring up at the sky or ceiling.  Nothing else had changed—just this strange behavior.  I would think it could be categorized as obsessive-compulsive behavior.  Other obsessive-compulsive behaviors in dogs include  apparent prey searching and pouncing, barking at food, and snarling at their own body parts.

            And then you may have heard about fainting goats.  When the least excited, they faint. Don’t believe it?  Check out  Many people breed them just so they can watch them faint when they are suddenly startled.  Even feeding them can cause fainting.  Medically, it’s caused by a gene problem.  Practically, it’s the reason that many people have these creatures.

            So, Xena, the dancing Doberman, is just one of many animals exhibiting strange behavior patterns.  And if we really want to discuss strange behavior, I guess we could ask a physician.  I suspect many of their patients’ behaviors are even stranger.


Larry Baker, for Ask Alex

Acquiring a Second Dog


Dear Alex, 

I am interested in purchasing a new puppy.  The pet we have now is a male Akita and I’m afraid that he and the new puppy may not get along.  Do you have any suggestions? 

John –

Dear John,

I have several suggestions for you.  First,  some dogs remain unaccepting of a new dog in the household.  So, if you are going to attempt to introduce a new pet, puppy or adult, you should also consider an alternate game plan in case it just won’t work out.

Secondly, some behaviorists think that introducing a dog of the opposite sex can be helpful; others think it really doesn’t make a difference.  I would think that two non-neutered males might make the worst match, however, so neutering is certainly advisable if your new puppy will be a male as well. 

Another suggestion I have is to introduce  your Akita and the new puppy with caution.   Use two people who are confident about handling dogs.  You need to put each dog on a short leash, with each person controlling one of them.  Use a cloth muzzle or a type of leash-and-muzzle combination that encircles the muzzle for good control.  Take them to an area where neither dog has the “upper paw”because he is already familiar with the terrain–perhaps a uncrowded park or open field where neither feels any “ownership” of the area.  Your home or back yard is not the best place.  Also, visual or auditory distractions in the unfamiliar area  may work to your advantage.  A client of mine also suggests that you allow both dogs to take a walk together first, not letting them get face to face  but allowing them to interact only after they are calmed down.  If they want to play together and adopt “play postures,” like crouching down on their forequarters, then you are off to a great start.  If either growls, you may be off to a rough start.  And if you do get off to a rough start, simply try again under similar conditions later.

The final point to remember is most dogs do work out their differences 
all right, if given the right conditions and an adequate amount of time.  Be patient.

Larry Baker,  for Ask Alex

Barking, Barking, and MORE BARKING-Behavior Problems in Dogs


Dear Alex:
My husband has wanted a bull terrier ever since I can remember.  I really would like for him to have one, so I’ve been researching this breed.  I can’t seem to find out if this breed is a barker.  I don’t want a dog that is going to bark at every little thing.  If you could answer this for me, I would greatly appreciate it!

Gina R


Dear Gina:

You are wise to do some research before acquiring a bull terrier—or any other breed for that matter.  You would be making a purchase of a pet that would be with you every day for a decade or more.  According to the  Bull Terrier Club of America, bull terriers are active, interesting, playful, and clownish.  Barking a lot is not listed as a typical characteristic, so when it comes to auditioning for a place in your home, that breed should work for you. The club secretary, Marilyn Sibley, tells me that if a bull terrier barks, something is amiss! She claims they are not “yappy” dogs, and although their appearance might be off-putting, they are usually very friendly and will show intruders all through the house, stopping at all the toys and treats along the way.

If you have had a pet before  that barked excessively, you should be aware that your actions and reactions to barking are probably much more important than the breed you select.  There are many reasons that dogs bark, but only a few that seem to cause incessant, troublesome barking. It is thought that there are about 39 different  meanings that dogs can convey by barking, whimpering or growling.  You, as an owner, need to be aware of the things you do that might encourage barking, so you can eliminate that from your own behavior.  A good example is the owner who tells his dog to “Shut up!” when he barks.  To a dog, that shouting sounds like a human barking also.  So the dog thinks, “Oh goody goody.  They are joining in the fun.”  And then they bark even more.  Another frequent example is a person walking by your home.  When your dog barks as the person continues his journey down the street until he gets out of sight, your dog may think he has chased the person off.   A dog’s natural tendency is to chase other animals or people as they are going away, and if they can’t do that, at least they can chase them off by barking.  At least that’s what probably is going through a barking dog’s mind.  Even another example is the dog that barks when the owner leaves.  Such a pet may think he is calling his owner back, because as a puppy, when he barked or howled or cried, the owner paid attention to him.  As a result, he may once again be wanting attention because he knows that barking is one way to get it.

So, it all starts with proper socialization.  When you get your puppy, he will quickly learn not to bark for attention if you simply get up and leave the room or turn your back when he barks.  Most people do the opposite and thereby promote barking behavior.  Positive reinforcement works also.  Reward and praise your dog when he is quiet in a situation that normally might provoke a barking response.  Such positive reinforcement will encourage quiet behavior.

Lastly, there is no such thing as the perfect dog. Be sure you check out other bull terrier characteristics also. The Bull Terrier Club of America’s website, is a good source. Often, certain breeds have characteristics that can be absolutely charming to one family and absolutely annoying to another.  Bull terriers are no exception to that rule.

Larry Baker, for Ask Alex

Separation Anxiety in Dogs


Dear Alex,

  We adopted a dog last week. He is about a year and half old. He has severe separation anxiety. When we are gone he has a tendency to move his 4 x 6 kennel in our basement around. We have a tarp tied down on top of his kennel. He chews the fence and tears up almost anything that is in the kennel with him. When we got home the other day, he had slobbered or drooled so much his entire head was soaked. Do you have any ideas on how to help with this?



Dear Lisa,

It sounds like you are seeing signs of separation anxiety, which can sometimes be confused with simple play.  However dogs who simply want to play generally don’t drool.  They are just avoiding boredom.  And, separation anxiety is more common in dogs who have been abandoned in animal shelters.

There are several ways to overcome his anxiety.   Conditioning a dog to remain calm for periods of time is a real kindness that you can offer to your new pet.  It does require some work, but chances are you can be successful by your making some behavior changes yourself.

First of all, punishment does not work.   Make sure you are not angry with him.  He will not understand—even if he exhibits a submissive posture, looking as if he “knows what he did wrong.”  He simply will know you are angry. He will not know why.

There are several behavior changes you can make.  I would suggest taking away cues that you are leaving him alone.   It would be a good idea to put him in his crate sometimes when you are home and in another room.  Probably now you are putting him in the crate just before you are leaving, which allows him to know he will soon be alone.   Also, attempt  to remove any suggestions to him that you are leaving soon, such as picking up your car keys or putting on a jacket just before you leave.  It would be a good idea to put on a jacket or pick up your car keys, and then sit down and watch television, rather than always leaving. You can also put on your work clothes, go outside, lock the door, and then come in again, leaving him alone for short periods of time, and repeating those cues so many times that they become meaningless to him.  If you normally have the television or radio on only when you are home, then try leaving them on when you leave to create a sense of relaxation.  It will not fool him into thinking you are home, however.

You can also purchase a Kong toy, pour some tasty liquid, such as chicken broth, into it, freeze it overnight, and then give him the toy during the day so he can lick it as it melts.  I would suggest you do this first on days when you are home with him.  Again, you don’t want the toy to indicate to him that you are leaving.

Diazapam, more commonly known as Valium, or Alprazolam, a similar drug that has a longer effect, can be prescribed by your veterinarian as you are modifying his behavior.  It should not be used as a substitute for behavior modification, but rather in conjunction with it.

I would predict that, given a few weeks, you will be able to modify his behavior adequately so he will not feel abandoned when you are leaving, and that he will become comfortable enough in your absence to control his anxiety.  It will take a little time and a little effort, but your chances of overcoming this obstacle in adopting a new pet are good.

Larry Baker, for Ask Alex


  1. Schedule annual or biannual veterinary visits for your pets, which should include fecal examinations.
  2. Keep your pet on year-round monthly parasite prevention, as recommended by your veterinarian.
  3. Keep pets indoors or supervised to discourage hunting, and do not feed pets raw or undercooked meats.
  4. Wash hands frequently, especially after handling animals and working outdoors. Be sure your children wash their hands after playing outside.
  5. Wash any wounds, even small nicks and cuts, promptly and thoroughly.
  6. Clean cats’ litter boxes daily, wearing gloves, and always wash hands immediately afterwards.(Though if you’re pregnant, you should avoid cleaning litter boxes altogether. Have someone else do it for you.)
  7. Avoid approaching, touching, or handling stray animals.
  8. Cover children’s sandboxes when they’re not in use.
  9. Always wear gloves while gardening.and we can give you one more freebie :)
  10. Protect yourself from ticks by covering your body with long-sleeved shirt, long pants, and a hat. Check for ticks after hiking, playing, or working, in tick-infested environments. Also consider using repellants.

    Check this video about Zoonotic diseases for more info! 

Back to the Basics


When I was a kid, back on the farm near Macon, Illinois, we always took our dog in to the local firehouse on Rabies Clinic Day to make sure he was immunized against Rabies. Most of the cats were feral and showed up at milking time for their daily bowl of milk. Veterinarians were busy taking care of farmers’ livestock.

For the most part, pets were not a real part of regular family life. Family life has changed, since pets are now an important part of the family. There are many more veterinarians treating our pet population than treating livestock. We have found answers to the problems that plague pets. We have heartworm prevention for both dogs and cats. The first practice, in which I worked, in Little Rock, Arkansas, saw dogs with heartworms on a daily basis. The only preventative medication available had to be given every 24 hours, and any dog not receiving his daily dose was certain to become infected with heartworms. The majority of dogs and cats with distemper did not survive. Those that did survive were weakened by the virus, and frequently lived miserable lives with frequent seizures and a weak immune system. Fleas made pets miserable most of the summer and fall, and it was almost impossible to control an infestation, even by fumigating homes and spraying lawns and treating pets with sprays. Common intestinal worms, like roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms were prevalent. It was not unusual to see a puppy so weak from anemia that it would eventually die before appropriate treatment could be instituted. Many of the deworming medications were quite toxic. Tapeworm medications almost always caused cats to develop diarrhea.

Fortunately, times have changed, and safe havens from these medical conditions can be found in new medical developments, primarily during the last decade or two. New developments now allow us to provide parasite protection by giving your pet a pill, or placing a tiny amount of liquid, on his back, just once a month. Combination vaccines are available that provide up to three years of immunity. Dental care, including root canal therapy, is available to keep your pets’ teeth healthy. Nutritional studies have been performed to provide all a pet’s nutritional needs in one package.

Finally, thanks to the work of animal behaviorists, books such as Don’t Shoot the Dog, and The Culture Clash, have given us a better understanding of pet s’ emotional needs. We know that an early morning jog with your pet reinforces the human-animal bond , giving both us and our pets more satisfactory lives. So , when it comes to dogs and cats, our most common pets, exercise, proper nutrition, companionship, once-a-month parasite prevention medication, and immunizations, some of which may be administered just once every three years, is all that is needed to keep your companion happy and healthy. Those are the basics.

Larry Baker, for Ask Alex

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