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with Lisa Peterson
Lisa Peterson
Lisa Peterson with her Norwegian Elkhound Jinx.

Dear Lisa: My year old English Springer Spaniel will shred any tissue and paper that he can find. Since he only does it when I am not around, I find it hard to correct this behavior. Do you have any suggestions? – Paper Shredding Puppy

Dear Paper: You are right that trying to correct behavior when you are not around is impossible. Besides the fact that the breed is a soft-mouthed bird hunting dog and loves to keep things in it’ mouth, he might be chewing to relieve stress. Chewing is typically a canine stress reliever and perhaps your dog is exhibiting some separation anxiety when your gone. Another hint is that dogs who are lonely tend to seek out articles belonging to and smelling like their owners (think shoes). In fact, one thing we breeders do to help a new puppy not feel lonely in its new home is to send a cotton rag or rope toy with the scent of littermates and its mother home with the new owner and have the puppy sleep with it. So perhaps the used tissues and paper is used for chewing and also because is has enough of your scent on them for comfort.

The only thing you can do to prevent this behavior, since you are not around to supervise, is to remove the object of his desire. Keep him in an enclosed area without access to paper and tissue. I know it sounds simple but it will stop the behavior because he can’t get to any paper. However, you should replace the missing paper with an approved and indestructible toy made for chewing. A rubber Kong filled with frozen vegetables or peanut butter. And if you are gone for long periods of time because you may be at work, try hiring a pet sitter for midday walks and enroll your dog in a training class or start an activity like agility to give him things to do and look forward to. Keeping him exercised and in an active training program will help reduce his stress and potential boredom and anxiety.

Dear Lisa: I own a 4-month- old Dogue de Bordeaux and am interested in showing him. Where do I start? Can anyone show dogs? I am brand new to this...please help! – Beginning Bordeaux

Dear Beginning: Your puppy is the perfect age to start training and socializing for a dog show. AKC has a variety of programs and resources to help you get started, for example this brochure on dog shows. You can ask your breeder for help getting started. You can also find a club in your area that offers “conformation handling” classes here. Another option is to join the AKC’s New Exhibitor Mentoring Program at and we will send you a list of approved mentors in your area to help you get into the ring in no time. Anyone can show dogs, unless you want to compete in Junior Showmanship and then you have to be at least 9 years old and under 18 years.

Dear Lisa: I have a 3-year-old English Mastiff that weighs about 215 lbs. He has always gone upstairs with us when we go to bed and sleeps in our room, sometimes in our bed. For some strange reason we were going to bed the other night and he would not go up the stairs. We tried everything to try to get him to come upstairs and he just would not, you can't even budge him. So now if we go up to bed he sits at the bottom of the stairs and barks and barks and gets himself all worked up and drools but he will not come up. He will not stop barking until one of us comes downstairs and sleeps on the couch and he will then go to sleep. Well we can't keep doing that so can you please give us some suggestions. Usually he will do anything for food and I tried to have him come up and get treats on the steps and he will not. – Heavy Duty Dog

Dear Heavy Duty: In my experience when a dog stops some activity suddenly like that, the first thing I suspect is some physical condition that is causing him pain. When in pain he won’t move. Perhaps the reason may be he was outside running around and hit a rock on his paw, or pulled a muscle and it gets aggravated when he walks upstairs. I agree you need to stop him having you “trained” to come down stairs and sleep with him! My advice is to take him to the vet to rule out any injury that might have caused this sudden onset of refusing to walk up the stairs. Once you have ruled out any medical conditions, then we can start to talk about a behavioral reason for his refusal to walk upstairs.

Dear Lisa: Both of my dogs (female Lab and male Katrina survivor Catahoula and Shepherd mix; both 6 years old) are heavier than I like. In fact the girl has put on about 8 pounds in the last 6 months. Vet tested her for thyroid and something else and both are normal. Both dogs get a cup of diet dog food for breakfast and supper, supplemented with 1.5 cup of cooked carrots for breakfast and the same amount of green beans for supper. Could the sugar in the carrots be contributing to the weight gain? Thanks

Dear Sugar: While I’m a proponent of the “green bean” diet to lose weight in dogs, you may want to skip the carrots and green beans for a while and also cut back on their regular rations by ¼ to 1/3 of a cup to start. Also, do they get any treats? Many times these are loaded with calories, so cut those out and just use their kibble if you need training treats in the meantime. Don’t forget to use the kibble out of their normal dinner ration so they don’t get additional calories. Do you walk them? Getting a little more exercise might help them burn more calories too.

isa Peterson, a long-time owner/breeder/handler of Norwegian Elkhounds, is the AKC Director of Communications. If you have a question, send it to Lisa at 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.