Who Is The Pack Leader At Your House?

FOCUS ON PETS

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A question from a dog owner brought to mind a situation that pertains to a lot of people, particularly retirees whose children are grown, who keep their dog with them most of the time and just possibly spoil him a little.

This couple have a small-breed dog who they admit is very spoiled and, I would assume, runs the household. As a puppy, he loved people, including children, and was very social. Now, the dog does not interact with others very often and has taken to snapping at strangers. They are going to visit their 2-year-old grandchild in a household where there is also a cat and a large dog. They are worried about how the dog will react.

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Some dogs naturally love children and some must be taught to be gentle, but there should always be an adult close at hand. Araya Thompson has no fear and loves the attention from Megan.

Indeed, there is much to worry about. This dog seems to have claimed this couple as his pack and does not want any intruders. All dogs need to have their place in the family pack, and it should not be as the leader. To achieve this, make rules and follow them.

If the dog is not neutered, neuter him. Crate train him. The crate will provide security for this dog during the trip and provide peace of mind for all. Dogs learn to love having their own space that is comfortable and safe.

Just as in a wolf pack, food is a primary need of dogs and is provided by the leader. Feed the dog twice a day as you are preparing your meals. Make the dog sit, place his food down and tell him when it is OK to eat. If he does not eat the food in 15 minutes, pick up the dish until the next meal. Every treat must be earned -- with a trick or good behavior. Never feed the dog from the table. Have him on his cushion or in his crate during your meal. Provide him with a toy or chewy. Do not talk to him or make eye contact while you are eating. This will begin to establish you as the pack leader.

Wolf pack leaders control who visits the pack. Intruders are chased away.

As you are reclaiming the role of pack leader, get the dog out with people at every opportunity. Wander around shopping centers, parks and schools, keeping the dog on a 4- to 6-foot leash. If the dog gets anxious or begins to bark or growl, immediately ask him to sit and stay. Do not let him move until you say it is OK. Praise good behavior.

Dogs need to get accustomed to being around children early in life and should be continually exposed to them. An older dog needs to learn how to act around children and must be supervised. Children move quickly, make noise, pull, hit and throw things.
When a dog is comfortable with his place in the pack, he will not constantly need to be fighting to be the leader and chasing away intruders. He can relax and learn to enjoy other people, including children. It may take a while before he is safe with children. In the meantime, keep him in the crate or on your lap closely supervised. You would never forgive yourself if this precious pet bit your precious grandchild.

While visiting, get the dog out for plenty of exercise. Take walks with the grandchild. Let him learn that good things come from being friendly and sweet. Have others give him treats, even the child if it seems safe.

A happy dog is a disciplined dog who is comfortable with his place in the pack.

A rabies update: a Hoary Bat was discovered in Payson flying low and then falling to the ground. The woman put a container over it and called Don Tanner, Payson rabies control officer. The bat was shipped to the lab and found to be rabid. No person or animal was bitten. Mike Spaulding of Gila County rabies control picked up a skunk in Pine that was having an encounter with a dog. The dog does not have a current rabies vaccination and therefore, if the skunk tests positive, the dog must go into quarantine for six months.

Be sure your pets are current on rabies and other necessary vaccinations. Vaccinations are very inexpensive when compared to the cost of treatment or, in the case of rabies, long confinement. Check those health records today.

Christy Powers is a columnist for the Payson Roundup. She can be reached by e-mail at cpwrather@earthlink.net or by snail mail at HC1 Box 210, Strawberry, AZ 85544.

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