Make Car Travel Easy for Your Dog

Some dogs love to go for car rides, looking out windows and sniffing new smells. And then there are other types of dogs that need to be coaxed, whining and pulling back, into the vehicle. Some experience a tummy upset when they look outside the window. Others are just the opposite. As Jack and Wendy Volhard -- authors of Dog Training for Dummies -- point out, there is a catch-22 in place. The dog forever upchucks on rides. It therefore only gets into the vehicle when it has to, and that’s usually for a vet visit. Now the pattern reinforces in your dog’s mind that cars are bad news, leading to an even worse destination.

The Volhards believe that a negative association with the car can lead to a dog’s stomach upset, so it’s not necessarily just the motion triggering the misery. They suggest that you make every effort to turn the car into something positive for your dog. Open the door with the engine turned off and ease your dog inside. Provide happy verbal reinforcement and bring along a food treat or two. Spend some time with your dog in the vehicle, showering it with positive attention and letting it know that it’s being good. Repeat this over a series of days until your dog goes into the car willingly and without fear.

The next suggestion is an easy one. Be sure to take your dog to some fun places in the car, in addition to the vet’s office. Before long, it will learn that car rides aren’t always a bad thing. If true motion sickness is the culprit, that is a time to discuss the matter with your dog’s veterinarian for possible remedies.

Photo: @iStockphoto.com/AnetaPics

Do Dogs Get Revenge on Their Owners?

If your dog has gone to the bathroom on the floor while you were away from home, you’re probably wondering if it did this deliberately.

Humans are not the only animals who plot conscious revenge on others. As Stephen Beckerman, a Penn State anthropologist, points out: “Widespread in the animal kingdom is the behavior of returning injury for injury. Animals as varied and as far from us as blue-footed boobies, elephant seals, side-striped jackals and European moorhens are called punishers. They regularly respond to injuries by attacking the culprit who has injured them.”

You might think that mental injuries could be included. Your dog gets depressed because it is lonely and restless. It therefore acts out by doing something you hate.

However, this is not the case.

Although dogs have good memories, they live more in the moment. When you come home and find the mess, your body language before you even say something to your dog may reveal your anger and cause your dog to react. Your dog, however, is not necessarily waiting for some sort of mental satisfaction that it got a reaction out of you. That behavior is tied to a phenomenon known as “theory of mind,” which requires a complex ability to understand and possibly even to predict the thoughts of others.

Revenge is also more complicated than you might think. “Revenge is a desire to not just punish the culprit, but to change his mind, to make him see -- if only in his death throws -- that he was wrong,” says Beckerman. Do you think your dog is plotting and planning all of this in regard to its bowel movements? I strongly doubt it.

The more simple answer is that your dog is either stressed out or has no appropriate place to go to the bathroom without your guidance. Some owners crate their dogs during the day, but I view that as more of a last-resort solution. Try to reinforce bathroom training. If your dog is not very big, you might install some baby gates to prevent access to certain areas of your home. Dog bathroom mats can also help. They often have the look and feel of grass, but keep the waste contained for easy disposal.

If possible, you should also consider getting a dog walker, pet sitter or someone else to look in on your pet during the day. Boredom can lead to anxiety and then to bathroom issues in dogs. If your dog stays active and social, those problems are less likely to surface. Health issues could also be at work, so you might additionally schedule a veterinary visit to rule those out.

The Harmful Effects Sugar Has on Dogs

As mammals, dogs process foods in a way that is somewhat similar to the way we do. Sugar, in the form of glucose, is carried to all of the body’s cells via blood. Your dog may not directly be ingesting sweets, but glucose can come from carbohydrates since carbs consist of long chains of glucose, which breaks down quickly in the body and can raise blood sugar levels.

Colleen Paige -- author of The Good Behavior Book for Dogs: The Most Annoying Dog Behaviors ... Solved! -- believes that dogs may get a sugar high that “can cause a dog to be hyper and unfocused.” She thinks that, in many cases in which dogs appear to be ill-mannered and uncooperative, the dog’s behavior could actually have been influenced by diet.

Similar to what we experience, dogs can suffer a sugar low after the high, causing dogs to become “sleepy, lethargic, moody and irritable,” says Paige. If your dog is not eating a high-quality food with good ingredients, your pet could experience a regular daily cycle of extreme highs and lows. Over time, problems like diabetes could result, given that the body has to work harder to process excess glucose.

Paige urges owners to steer clear of dog foods with excess sugar and carbs, not to mention preservatives, artificial coloring, artificial flavorings and other “no-no” ingredients, as she calls them.

What Your Dog’s Biting Means

“Bite inhibition” is somewhat of a misleading phrase. The word “inhibition” normally means something that restrains, blocks or suppresses. That is only partially true for a dog engaging in bite inhibition.

Dogs and cats have much more control over biting than you probably realize. They don’t just bite down on something with the same force each time. That is expected as the dog eats, needing to crunch down with force on a hard biscuit, for example, but with less energy for a tender morsel of dog chow. But dogs use this same adjustment when biting others -- including humans and different dogs.

Evelyn Pang and Hilary Louie, authors of the book Good Dog!: Kids Teach Kids About Dog Behavior and Training, explain that bite inhibition is when your dog bites down on you, without pushing in with its teeth. Essentially, it is mouthing or nipping you. Puppies do this a lot, nipping at your heels and other places. In the case of puppies, the young dogs are often just exploring their environment in a playful way. Nipping is one way to test the waters in terms of using their teeth and mouth and seeing how others will react.

For older dogs that bite in this seemingly harmless way, the dog is giving you a warning. You might be brushing the dog in an uncomfortable way or doing something else that is painful or stressful. If you do not heed the bite inhibition warning, the next bite will not be so gentle. If your dog nips for seemingly no reason, however, you might schedule a veterinary visit, as cranky dogs may have an underlying health issue. Your dog could also need a training refresher course to prevent the painless bites from turning into something more serious.

Photo: @iStockphoto.com/Tom-N

Small Dog Syndrome

“Small dog syndrome” refers to tiny dogs with a big attitude. In humans, a comparable phenomenon is called the “Napoleon complex.” That’s a phrase used to describe an inferiority complex held by people who are short in stature. Napoleon stood about 5 feet 6 inches, but what would today be considered a short stature obviously did not stand in the way of his military and political achievements. People with this complex are said to be driven by a perceived handicap to overcompensate in other aspects of their lives.

Small dogs, in turn, “get a bad rap for being yippy, yappy, snappy and high-strung,” say Wendy Nan Rees and Kristen Hampshire, authors of the Dog Lover’s Daily Companion. Rees and Hampshire, however, add that these little dogs don’t seem to care much about size. They think they’re big, so they act like it. The writers astutely ask: Have you ever seen a Bernese mountain dog back off from a feisty Chihuahua? The Chihuahua will probably be the one that doesn’t back down. (Owners, however, should be present to take control of such situations and prevent them in the first place.)

Rees and Hampshire propose a very interesting theory about small dog syndrome. They believe it is rooted in people’s willingness to overlook bad behavior. They explain that because small dogs can usually just be scooped up in our arms, we tend to slack on obedience training. With larger dogs, such training is often not ignorable.

The solution to curing a small dog of this syndrome is to just stick to a training plan. Be sure to teach your little dog foundation commands. That way, the next time your dog goes into a yapping fit or decides to dig on your furniture, you can rein in the behavior before it becomes habitual.