Q&A with dog trainer Terry Meeks

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Do you have a question for Terry? If you do, then chances are other owners are wondering the same thing. Submit your question by using the contact page. We look forward to hearing from you!

Question #1, submitted by Donna J.
How do you stop an older dog from hiking his leg inside? When he does this, my other two younger males do it too.
You don’t say how long you’ve had your older dog or if he is neutered, but the best thing you can do is to attach his leash to his collar and tie the end to your belt loop and that way he cannot get far from you and is not unsupervised.  When you catch him starting to mark, make a high-pitched noise (hey!) to both startle and get his attention onto you.  Then take him outside for a pee break or give him something to distract him from the area (bone or toy)- what you are really doing is interrupting his habit.  You will need to wash the areas he has already marked with an enzyme-based cleaner to help keep him from going back to the same area/smell.  After a while of interrupting this marking behavior, you should be able to just interrupt and distract and not have to keep him tethered to you. Before long – his habit should be broken. Hope this helps.
Question #2, submitted by Pat L.
I have had my Shih-Tzu for a year now, and cannot teach her not to eat so fast. She literally gulps her food down most of the time without chewing it. I bought her a special dog food dish especially made for this problem, but she still does it. Any suggestions?
I do have a few suggestions that should help quickly.  Feed her in a muffin tin – some food in each section should slow her down.  You can also feed her on a cookie sheet – the flat surface spreads the food out and she’ll get less each gulp.  The best thing you can do is get an interactive food dispenser – there are several on the market – basically a cube that you put her food (dry kibble) in.  The cube has a hole on one side and she will have to turn the cube over to allow the food to spill out a few kibbles at a time, then move it again to get more.  This way you can get rid of the bowl altogether – and an added bonus is that it’s great mental stimulation for her – a tired dog is a good dog after all.
Question #3, submitted by Elouise W.
My Shepherd will try and grab a person’s hand after they stopped petting him. It’s not out of anger and I believe that it’s his way of telling that person not to stop petting him. I feel terrible that I can’t trust him, but I need to get him to stop this before he does actually bite someone, plus it scares people. What should I do to prevent this?
I’m sure it does scare people!  You have a pushy dog on your hands.  A couple of things you can do that should bring good results.  The first thing is to implement “nothing in life is free”.  The premise is that your dog should understand that all good things come from you and he needs to earn them.  If he knows how to sit on command, that’s good enough to start.  He needs to sit on command for you for each good thing he gets – food, treats, going out the door, coming back in the door, playtime with a toy, attention from you – everything.  I would ask him to sit at random times and places at least 30 times a day – just while he follows you around.  Once you have established that he gets nothing unless you give it (for good behavior), he will be more willing to sit for your guests.  Then you can start upping the ante – ask for downs, etc.  This gets you a twofold benefit – his attention is on the command and not on the fact that the petting has stopped – and he is comfortable with not being in charge of when and for how long he gets attention.  Make sure to tell your guests that he gets no attention until he is sitting and calm.  The key to this is consistency – everyone in the household must do the same thing so he understands that he must have good behavior for everyone.  Try this and I think it will help.  I would also suggest that you enroll in a good basic obedience class, or schedule some private lessons with a trainer.  I happen to own a pushy dog, and just like pushy people, if you don’t give boundaries and rules – they will run the home.  My favorite saying about this is:  Give them an inch and they think they’re a ruler”.  Good luck.
Terry Meeks is a dog trainer, APDT Member an CGC Evaluator in Pinellas County, Florida.  Find Four on the Floor Dog Training at FourontheFloor-Dogtraining.com and on Facebook.
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