Dear Cathy: How can I stop my dog from barking at the TV?
And more answers on living with and loving our pets
Animal expert Cathy M. Rosenthal fields questions on stopping a dog from barking at the TV, plus two queries on prescription cat food for cats without medical issues.
Dear Cathy: Every time there’s a commercial on television with dogs or animals in it, my Westie barks at it. I have tried using the leash when she barks and sitting her next to me. While she is on the leash, she behaves. But the minute I release her and there’s a commercial with animals in it, she is barking again. I have given her treats when she’s on the leash and there’s a commercial with animals in it and she doesn’t bark. But the day after, she is barking again. How do I stop her from barking at dogs on TV?
– Mirna, Eatonton, Georgia
Dear Mirna: Commercials and TV shows with barking dogs and doorbells tend to set off our canine friends. It’s not always easy to train a dog to never bark. After all, dogs have been bred to alert us for centuries. However, there are a few ways you can train your dog to stop barking once they start.
Start with your dog on the leash since that has already yielded some success for you. When your dog barks, say “ssshh” – a short, staccato sound. Most dogs react to this immediately and stop barking, at least for a moment. At that moment, use a clicker or a reward word like “bingo” to let them know they did something right, and then give them a treat. If your dog doesn’t react to this sound, then buy a Pet Corrector, which you can find online. It makes the same sort of sound but at a different velocity and pitch, which might work better for your dog. Be very consistent with the training and she should begin to understand your request over time.
Another option is to thank her for alerting you. This doesn’t work with all dogs, but when my dog barks to alert me to the doorbell, I sometimes say, “Thank you Buster.” He usually stops barking because I have acknowledged his alert. It sounds strange, but I have seen it work for some dogs.
Also look for ways to keep your dog busy while you are watching television. Introduce some puzzle toys or chew toys to keep her preoccupied and less likely to engage with the dogs on television.
Dear Cathy: Would feeding my cat a kidney diet cat food every day from early in its life prevent my cat from developing kidney disease?
– Karen, Appleton, Wisconsin
Dear Karen: No, it won’t prevent kidney disease and is actually a poor diet for healthy cats, according to Deb Zoran, DVM, Professor, CVMBS Small Animal Clinical Sciences Department at Texas A&M. Zoran says, “A healthy cat needs a diet that is much higher in protein (greater than 40% protein if it is dry food or greater than 10% protein on the label of canned food). Because kidney diets are so low in protein (less than 26-28% protein), cats will start to lose their muscle mass because their body uses their own body muscle to replace what they need and which is not present in their diets.”
So please feed your cat a normal diet and wait to treat your cat for kidney failure should the time ever come.
Dear Cathy: I don’t understand what the story is with prescription cat food. We have two cats. Fiona has had no health problems whatsoever. Our other cat, Sally, had bladder stones, which we had surgically removed. Now our vet wants to prescribe this prescription cat food for Sally. Because we can’t control which one eats what, he says it’s OK for Fiona to eat the prescription cat food as well. If it’s OK for our healthy Fiona to eat it, what is the need for prescription cat food?
– Stephen, Long Beach, New York
Dear Stephen: While it won’t hurt a cat to eat prescription food occasionally, it is not sufficient to maintain a healthy cat’s ongoing dietary needs. Prescription diets are meant to meet the medical needs of a sick animal and are not intended for healthy animals to eat. Prescription diets are expensive, too, and it would get costly feeding two cats this diet when one cat doesn’t need it.
You can easily feed your cats different diets by halting free-feeding and feeding them in separate rooms twice a day. Another option is to purchase a microchip or collar-activated feeding dish that only opens for the cat with the corresponding microchip or collar. They can be worth the investment in a multi-cat home.
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.
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