Our 14-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel has been a wonderful pet her whole life. She exhibited alpha dog behavior early on, not wanting to come to us. In the last few years, though, she has become even more so and refused to come when called. She retreats into her crate if I even motion for her to come to me. She also will not tolerate being picked up and held and will not sit on our laps.
I don't expect her behavior to change, but why would she act like this? She's treated with love and respect. Of course, if we're holding food, that's a different story!
— Lee, East Patchogue, New York
A visit to your vet is your first chore. When dogs don't feel well or experience pain, they can become less engaged with their owners. For example, if your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel has arthritis, she may need glucosamine. She also may have cognitive issues that impact how she processes things. There are medications for that as well.
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If the vet doesn’t find any medical issues, the next step would be to re-train her. Your dog is 14 years old and re-training her may seem pointless, but she can still learn.
When it comes to coming when called, half the battle is getting her attention. Introduce her to a clicker, as it will make training go quicker. They cost only a few dollars. Start by saying her name and wait for her to make eye contact. When she makes eye contact, click the clicker, which marks the desired behavior, and give her a treat. Repeat this about 20 times each session, three times a day.
When she knows to look at you every time you say her name, re-introduce the recall command. Wait until she is across the room, and say her name. When she looks at you, click the clicker.
Now, she has to come to you for the treat. Eventually, use her name and the word "come" together. In this instance, click the click when she begins walking toward you, so she makes the connection between coming to you and getting a treat.
Even if you find she has a health problem that is impacting her focus, re-training her can help restore the habit of coming when called.
I adopted three cats that were supposedly siblings. I discovered they were using my spare bedroom for a bathroom. I have shampooed the carpet three times. I even used Urine Begone®. I still cannot get that smell out of my carpet. What else can I do?
— William, Hampton, Virginia
Urine Begone is a good product. It's an enzymatic cleaner that eats up biologicals left in the carpet. However, it's sometimes not just the carpet that needs to get cleaned, but the padding underneath it. Pull up the carpet, if possible, and clean the underside and padding as well.
Try a different enzymatic cleaner, like Simple Solution® or Nature's Miracle®, to see if that works better. Nature's Miracle also makes a deep-cleaning carpet shampoo that you can use in any carpet cleaning machine. After using an enzymatic cleaner or deep-cleaning shampoo, let the area dry. Then, sprinkle baking soda on the carpet and leave it on for several hours before vacuuming it.
Let me know if this resolves your issue.
I have a two-year-old Pomsky. He is the most lovable puppy. The only problem is, he marks inside the house. It's not a huge amount (of urine) each time, but it's enough for me to get upset about it. We have a doggie door, so he is in and out all day. Any suggestions?
— Lori, Suffolk, New York
If your Pomeranian/Siberian Husky mix is intact, it can be almost impossible to break this instinctive behavior to attract female dogs. Neutering him can reduce his need to mark within weeks or months of the procedure.
Aside from that, it’s all about interrupting the unwanted behavior. Use an enzymatic cleaner where he marks and use plug-in canine pheromones in those rooms. Limit his access to the entire house, so you can catch him when he tries to mark. Shake a can of coins, use a Pet Corrector®, or make a loud slap to startle and interrupt the unwanted behavior. Then, redirect him with a puzzle toy to keep his mind busy.
Discourage him from marking during a walk as well. Let him pee in your yard before and after, but not during the walk. If he tries to mark, interrupt him by walking in the opposite direction.
(Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.)