Dear Cathy: Why are dog owners leaving poop bags on lawns?
And more answers on living with and loving our pets
In this edition of ‘My Pet World,’ animal expert Cathy M. Rosenthal examines dog owners who mysteriously drop bags of poop, a dog’s issue with anxiety licking, where to leave a cat during the owner’s vacation, and more.
Dear Cathy: I am looking for your thoughts on what I find to be an increasingly unpleasant occurrence in my neighborhood. I am out walking with my 8-year-old Australian shepherd at least three times a day, varying the route so we canvass a large area of town. More and more, I am seeing dog owners picking up their pet’s waste in brightly colored poop bags and then just leaving them on the edge of the sidewalk – or worse, someone’s lawn. It seems like they are missing the point of being responsible owners when they neglect to “carry out” the poop bag.
– Elise, West Hartford, Connecticut
Dear Elise: That is bizarre. I have seen a poop bag on the sidewalk before and figured someone just accidentally dropped the bag. But if you’re witnessing people bagging the poop and then leaving the bag on the ground, that’s a different story. The only explanations I can come up with are: A) these people are using colorful bags to lay out a landing strip for extraterrestrials, or B) they don’t want to carry their dog’s poop bag around with them during their walks and plan to come back for it. I am hoping it’s the former because the latter is lazy and irresponsible, especially if they don’t retrieve it.
Dear Cathy: Our lab-retriever, Addie, will often lick only one of her front legs until it’s raw. She’ll scratch herself occasionally, but it’s nowhere near as often as the licking. Our vet said that this is often a sign of anxiety and that there really isn’t a fool-proof cure for it, although one daily 10 mg prednisone for a hundred days helped very much. What is your opinion about this canine habit and what would you do for your pet family member?
– Leslie, Oklahoma
Dear Leslie: If your veterinarian ruled out medical problems, then Addie’s licking is likely from stress, anxiety, or boredom. Licking releases endorphins, which makes dogs feel better, which is why it soon becomes an obsessive behavior. There are products on the market that treat hot spots and also contain products that deter licking, which I recommend using in tandem with the following suggestions.
Provide Addie with a pheromone collar to reduce some of her anxiety or put a pheromone plug-in in the room where she mostly hangs out. Then, combine some training with mental stimulation to keep her focused on other things.
When Addie begins to lick her paws, say “Addie, no lick.” When she looks at you, say her reward word, such as “bingo,” which tells her she did something right, followed by a treat. If she doesn’t stop to look at you, snap your fingers or clap your hands to get her attention.
Next, give her a puzzle toy. Puzzle toys hold treats, which keeps your dog busy as she figures out how to get them out. The more active she is, the less she will obsessively lick. Try these things and let me know how she does.
Dear Cathy: What is best when you have to leave your cat for an extended period when going on vacation? Would they be happier staying in their own home with someone coming daily to feed and provide water for them? Or would they prefer being in someone’s home being cared for?
– Janine, Bethpage, Bew York
Dear Janine: Most cats, especially if they’re in a multi-cat household, would prefer to stay in their own home with someone coming by daily or staying overnight to entertain and feed them. But if it’s just one cat and you will be gone longer than a week, then it might be better for your cat to stay with someone until you return.
Dear Cathy: Many years ago, I made arrangements in my will for my dog and cat. I have a friend who will take care of my pets until each pet can go to their new homes, and I have provided financial assistance for each pet. If Louisa (the woman who was denied an adoption because of her age) assures the rescue group that she has made future arrangements for the dog she wants to adopt, they may reconsider her adoption.
– Marcee, Las Vegas, Nevada
Dear Marcee: It’s not wrong to ask an adopter what arrangements might be made for a pet should they not be able to care for that pet anymore. But the rescue group would have to implement that policy for all adopters in order to not discriminate against her again. Kudos to you for planning in advance for your pets.