with Lisa Peterson
Dear Lisa: I have an 18-month-old West Highland White Terrier who lives mostly indoors. Our problem is we have sliding glass doors in three rooms overlooking a patio. She is constantly looking out the doors and racing back and forth between as if there was something out there. We do have a squirrel and a black cat that come around maybe once a day. We do not trust leaving her alone without being in her pen. She sleeps there at night. I know she needs obedience training. Any advice would be helpful. – Westie Woes
Dear Woes: Westies are true terriers always on the lookout for vermin or small game, in fact, according to the parent club they, “will run after anything that moves.” That is what they were originally bred for. So it makes perfect sense that she is trying to engage her instincts by alerting you to the squirrels and cat. Obviously if you know when the cat comes around you can always close the curtains or move Grace to another room. But a more practical and decorative idea might be to cover the lower third of the glass doors with an opaque design or light-colored contact paper that obstructs her view out the back. If she’s only running when she sees something by taking away that ability the behavior should stop. This behavior is not a problem solved with obedience training, since she’s just exhibiting her natural instincts. But training is always a good idea. Dogs that are engaged in mental and physical activity tend to be better socialized, more relaxed, and less prone to anxious behavior.
Natural Instincts Outlet
Dear Lisa: My mother has always dreamed of owning a West Highland White Terrier, but my father was allergic, and they could not have a dog. He has passed on, and my mother is now living in a retirement village. Her building is dog friendly, but I do not know if a lively Westie is the right breed for her. She is slowing down, and still takes walks, but not long ones. She needs a dog that can sit for a while and not demand constant attention, as well as be small enough to go on errands with her. My sister and brother both own large retrievers, so we are not familiar with small breeds. Can you help us decide if a Westie is the right breed? Can you recommend other breeds? – Westie Dreams
Dear Dreams: There are a few questions you and your siblings should ask yourself before finding the right dog for your mom. First, consider the age of your mother and her health. Is she a young vibrant 70-year-old or a frail 90-year-old? The reason I ask will determine two things, what energy level of dog will be suitable and second, if your mother is getting on in age you’ll need an immediate caretaker in place for the dog, should the pet outlive your mother.
BARK BACK ~
Lisa Peterson, a long-time owner/breeder/handler of Norwegian Elkhounds, is the AKC Director of Club Communications. If you have a question, send it to Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org and she may select it for a future column. Due to the high volume of questions we cannot offer individual responses. Read previous columns here.