DEAR DR. FOX: My mother's farm dog, a 7-year-old mostly black Lab, is a very friendly, gentle animal -- except when a strange car, pickup, SUV, etc. shows up at the house, when he tries to bite the moving tires.
It is next to impossible to get him to stop. He runs in circles around the vehicle, barking and attacking. I think he believes we are joining in the chase when we scold him and try to get him to stop. Any suggestions? -- D.J., Maryland Heights, Missouri
DEAR D.J.: At least the dog does not run out into the road and chase unfamiliar vehicles, which was common in the farm country when I lived in rural Illinois. Your mother's farm dog has his own ritual, which I interpret as capture-kill behavior when he bites at the rubber tires as vehicles are pulling in. He has no need to chase, like most other farm dogs I knew -- he waits for his prey to come right to him!
Since he is part retriever, I would try redirecting his attacks to a few cut strips of old tire that you keep close in a secure container. Throw them away from the approaching vehicle in the driveway so he will go after them rather than the car. But first, he must be motivated to retrieve, so some playful and instructive activity to get him to eagerly retrieve would be wise.
DEAR DR. FOX: Can you give me any advice on how to install trust and calm in a 1-year-old female cat, who, according to adoption paperwork, appears to have been caged in one shelter or foster facility after another?
They told me she was "very shy" and took time to warm up to people. But the fact is, when I got her home, I realized she's not shy, she's terrified. I'm a woman; the paperwork mentions that she prefers men. I can't imagine what must have happened to create this psychological damage.
The first couple of days I had her, I managed to get her to sleep in a large bed on my bed, then with her bed on a chair pulled up to my bed. She let me pet her, stayed curled up the first couple of days and by the third day, she was stretching her long legs, letting me lean over and pet and stroke her -- and even rub her belly!
Then, four days after bringing her home, I had the mobile vet come to examine her. She freaked out, and since then will not come near me; she looks at me terrified and runs, spending the day and most of the night under the bed. Only recently has she started wandering the rest of the house, finding soft cat toys I purposely put out for her, playing with them during the night and napping in little cozy areas I set up for her.
I'm heartbroken that she no longer trusts me; she was doing so well until the vet visit. I'm giving her free access to all but one room in the house. I am being patient, not trying to pick her up, talking to her gently and hoping soon she'll trust me.
Do you have any tips on animals who have been caged so long? She could not have ever been in a home or apartment -- she stares at the walls, lamps, the TV as if she's never seen such things before, including windows. -- M.M., Naples, Florida
DEAR M.M.: Your shy cat was beginning to bond well with you, but her flight response and terror were triggered by the "invasion" into her new territory by the veterinarian.
It will take time for her to recover, and she may always be shy of visitors. One of our ex-feral cats still runs and hides when we have visitors, but soon comes out of hiding once they are gone.
You may accelerate your cat's recovery with a plug-in dispenser of the calming feline pheromone product Feliway in your bedroom and any room she frequents. A few drops of essential oil of lavender on a blanket or pillow where she naps may have some calming effect, as can soft classical music, which can serve as a sound barrier as well as a calming auditory stimulus.
Early evening is when cats are most active, so try to engage her in interactive play with a laser spotlight to chase. Also, try to brush or pet her with a soft brush or a big feather tied to a cane so you can reach her easily.
RAWHIDE RECALL OVER CHEMICAL CONTAMINATION EXPANDED
The recall of rawhide chew products by United Pet Group has been expanded to include private-label brands such as Dentley's, Essential Everyday, Good Lovin' or Petco and Priority Pet. Some foreign manufacturers of the products used quaternary ammonium compound mixture, which is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration and can cause gastric irritation in dogs, in the production of the rawhide chews.
(Send all mail to email@example.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 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.
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