Each month I get many questions that have been previously answered in past columns. That’s why I’m happy to report Ask AKC columns are now handily listed by topic in Martha Stewart’s new online pet section.
For example, this recent question (I have an 11-month-old German Wiredhaired Pointer who is digging in my flowerbeds. What can be done?) has its answer in the behavior section of Martha’s new “Petkeeping” pages. Check them out!Dear Lisa: I am having a problem with my dog that I know (from conversations at the dog park) many others have to deal with. When my dog is let off her leash she bolts! She is an Australian Shepherd so it is quite difficult to get her back. I have been given advice like don’t chase her, let her come back to me but this is not always possible i.e. if there is a road near by that she keeps running in and out of. Is there a training technique to help me rid my dog of the urge to bolt once her leash is removed? Please help! I love to take my dog everywhere and wish I could do so without always having to leash her. – Bolting for Joy
Dear Bolting: I can just envision this bolting behavior. You go to grab the clip on the leash and your dog get all excited, leaning against his collar, knowing exactly what comes next - running, jumping, romping and playing. This is great fun for your dog but you may have inadvertently trained your dog to bolt every time you unleash her. I’m suspecting that she learned this behavior while in the confines of the dog park where once you unleash her she is free to run around. She doesn’t know the difference between being let off leash inside the park fence, where she is free to bolt or when you do it in an open area or near a road, where it scares you that she might run into the road and get hurt.
A little behavior modification through a surprise result is what I suggest. First, stuff your pocket with yummy treats. Get yourself a very thin, long lead or strong string or twine and attached it to your dog’s collar and the other end to your belt. Then attach the regular leash to the collar. Ask her to sit and then unclip the regular leash and see what happens. She will most likely bolt, but then will be surprised when all of sudden she is stopped by that “invisible leash” that somehow appeared. When she is surprised by the other leash and stopped mid-bolt, immediately call her name and give the “come” command and then give her a yummy treat. Make a big deal out of the fact that she came back. Don’t be afraid to use that invisible leash to pull her back to you if she’s not 100% on the come command. After several of these “bolting-interrupting” episodes she’ll begin to see that bolting doesn’t work anymore and that she gets praise and yummy treats from coming back rather than taking off. A word of advice, unless you are in a fenced-in area or enclosed park I wouldn’t recommend that you take her off leash for safety and legal reasons. Many places have leash laws to protect the public and if you take her off-leash near roads and other hazards you are running the risk of her getting injured or worse.
Dear Lisa: Our ten month old Lab has gotten foxtails up her nose twice in less than two weeks. The first time our family vet couldn’t reach it and she had to go to a specialist with a large vet bill. The second time our vet was able to remove three, inch-long foxtails but yet another vet bill. I’ve had dogs suffer from this before but we live in the country and although we keep our weeds trimmed, it is impossible to eliminate all of the foxtails. Any helpful hints for either preventing or treating this would be great. The season in California is just getting going. Thank you very much. – Snout Sneezing Seedlings
Dear Snout: Foxtails can be very painful to dogs as these dried grass seedlings with little barbs on them can get in an animal’s nose, mouth, ears or even under the skin and cause real problems. Like you said, trimming weeds and keeping the dog away from them are the common sense approaches however you can’t always be right there. As far as prevention, I did see a patent-pending inhalation net for dogs which sounded intriguing but is not yet a product. Others recommend dripping olive oil or mineral oil up the nose to soften them hoping the foxtails will pass through to the dog’s mouth. Going to the vet for removal is still the safest option.
Use Horse Sense
Your best bet would be prevention. As a long-time horse person I have used fly masks on my horses for decades to keep bugs out of their face. They are a fine nylon mesh, cover the ears and head with a large opening for the muzzle and are easily secured with a Velcro closure under the cheeks. You might try to find a smaller size to fit your dog and then sew the muzzle opening shut. This alteration would fit around the dog’s whole head, but would allow him to see and be protected from any foxtails getting in the ears, nose or mouth. It might look weird and it may take your dog some getting used to, but would also save him from great discomfort and you from expensive vet bills should his snout find a flurry of foxtails. Worth a try! Let me know if it works out.
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 email@example.com 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.
© 2008 The American Kennel Club, Inc.