DEAR DR. FOX: I have a 3-year-old neutered male schnauzer mix who I adopted through a rescue a year and a half ago.
While he is very loving most of the time, he sometimes will lunge and snap at my husband when he nears the dog -- for no apparent reason. I must add that he is totally my dog and very possessive of me. I am the main caregiver, taking him for walks, etc.
He also gets upset when other people are around me, or even when my husband shows me affection. It is also sometimes difficult when we have guests as it takes some time for him to calm down. My husband and I are both retired and are home a good deal of the time. Our dog goes to doggie day care once a week, just so he can be with other dogs, and he seems to enjoy it.
I took him through obedience school and he did quite well. He is a very smart dog. I am just not sure how to correct him of this aggressive behavior. -- C.B., Arnold, Missouri
DEAR C.B.: You must consistently play the role of "alpha " with this dog, who thinks you are his mate and is clearly jealous of and threatened by your husband and others. I have had instances like yours where one spouse is actually jealous of the other's close bond with the dog, or else enjoys seeing the dog threaten and even bite the partner!
Certainly prior trauma (especially from a male human) may underlie this behavior, but in many instances the socialization process becomes narrowed to a single person; often, single-sex attachment with humans occurs, rather than blossoming into accepting all friendly people.
So you should have your husband be the one to walk the dog and give him food and treats for "sit" and "stay" obedience; he should also groom the dog. Any growling and threats toward your husband should be disciplined with a loud "no" and a time out.
Most dogs are bright enough to learn quickly that such unacceptable behavior leads to the worst punishment for a dog -- being shut out and all alone.
DEAR DR. FOX: You recently had a column that really spoke to me, about seniors wanting a pet but not being able to afford them. My husband and I can afford them, but we don't want the emotional heartache after our two dachshunds are gone. Both are 11 years old.
Wolfie has a large tumor in his jaw, and we don't want to risk having surgery, and Otto is doing reasonable well. As long as we smash Wolfie's food, everything is OK, but for how long?
You also wrote about Cecil the lion. I so agree with what you said about human activities and reproductive restraint. I have never heard or read anyone say this out loud. We continue to see commercials for starving children covered with flies and requests for money but never does anyone suggest they not have children if conditions are so poor. Why is this?
Also, I will never understand why anyone would want to hunt for sport. It's just barbaric to me and sickening. -- D.D., Arnold, Missouri
DEAR D.D.: Your dog with cancer of the jaw may benefit from a high-quality, high-protein diet with added super antioxidant fruits and vegetables and supplements. It can be difficult to assess animals' pain, but your veterinarian may want to prescribe a long-acting analgesic to help make your dear dog more comfortable.
I appreciate your response to my voicing concern about the lack of focus on human population control by so many philanthropic or conservation organizations. The right to breed is not some God-given right but an enormous responsibility, and as I stress in my book "Animals & Nature First," it is enlightened self-interest to embrace reproductive control by all good means. Otherwise wars, plagues and famine will continue and intensify -- nature's ways of regulating our numbers -- and the plight of animals wild and domesticated will be ever more desperate as we continue to put short-term human interests first.
Killing animals for sport is a perversion that is abhorrent to any humane sensibilities that we may have left as a "civilization."
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox's website at DrFoxVet.net.)