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Helping your dog with behavior problems

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Q: We have a beautiful 5-year-old rescued German shepherd, abandoned by her previous owners. She's a very good dog and couldn't be loved more. When we leave the house, she has the run of the basement. We put up a baby gate at the top of the stairs. We put newspapers down in an area in case she can't hold it for eight hours. In the past couple of months, she's begun to crumple up the papers and tear them up. And she does sometimes wet them. I tell her "No.'' I also leave the light on and the radio playing. Are we not leaving her enough toys? Is this (behavior) entertainment or a bad habit?

C. J., Cyberspace

A: Veterinary behaviorist Dr. Lore Haug of Sugar Land, Texas, says while this behavior may solely be boredom, it's likely the indoor piddling combined with the tearing up of papers is an indication that your dog is distressed. However, it's also conceivable that either she's not totally housetrained, or you're leaving her alone more hours than she's capable of "holding it.''

Of course, it can't hurt to provide toys that you can stuff treats inside, such as Busy Buddy, Kong or Dogzilla toys. Also, increase your dog's exercise overall, particularly before you leave the house.

"If that works, great,'' Haug said. "If not, the sooner you intervene with a professional assessment, the better. Separation distress that isn't treated usually doesn't go away, and often worsens. "Saying 'no' when you return home is useless. You may teach your dog to be fearful of you,'' Haug said.

Should offering more toys and increased exercise not help, consider finding a veterinary behaviorist or a certified behavior consultant.

Credit: Reviewed by Amy I. Attas, V.M.D.
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