Leigh Siegfried answers your pressing pet questions

Certified Pet Dog Trainer and Training Director of Opportunity Barks Leigh Siegfried.

Leigh Siegfried is an Associate member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants and is a Member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers. She conducts private behavior counseling sessions, group training classes in basic and advanced manners and agility, and a variety of workshops. Opportunity Barks classes are held in Philadelphia and Quakertown, PA. Visit www.opbarks.com for more info.




1:30 [Denise]

My dog is very possessive of me, his space, food etc... he barks at my husband cause he comes home. He has even bitten my husband when he comes over to us. We have a 6yr old and want to have another child but I need to get him to end this behavior first.



I'd highly recommend a behavior consultation or to work with a behaviorist. In reality you have a dog that sounds protective and defensive, that also has a history of biting. Welcoming another child to your home will change the dynamic and could make it more difficult to manage his behavior at a minimum, and modification in combination with measures to prevent future bites is a big priority. Seek the help of a pro and be in touch if we can be of help.



1:30 [Meredith]

Our 5 month old Wheaten Terrier is tough to walk outside in the city - he seems to be on a mission to play with every dog & person outside (which is a lot!). He will heel no problem inside ... but the second we go outside, the training goes out the window! any tips on how to manage this overly social wheaten? :)



Yes, this sounds like a lot of pups that we see. Though having a friendly, social dog is a good thing, teaching our dogs to ignore other dogs and people around them or to wait for permission from you to be invited to to greet others (the two footers or four footers) can be a great lesson for them to learn. In the meantime, I'd recommend taking some treats on a walk and I'd also have you use management when possible to begin to interrupt business as usual (lunging to greet strangers). You can step on leashes to prevent jumping up while alternatively rewarding your pup or standing or sitting vs. jumping. This helps strengthen other, more desirable behaviors. Also if you have your dog play off leash with other dogs- remember- that freedom to go romp is a HUGE reward. Make sure you have your little guy be calm before being invited off leash and frequently interrupt play to have him check in with you, after being off leash. I'd also recommend the OpBarks Focus & Control class too- this would be right up your pup's alley.



1:30 [Vicki]

We have a new lab puppy who is almost 4 months old and she is into biting everything and everyone, we give her chew toys but is there a gentle way to keep her from biting us? We try to distract her, but don't know what is the best way to handle the biting



You are right, it's quite normal for a 4 mo. old young pup to be biting everything as they exercise those jaws. I'd recommend a LOT of food dispensing, interactive toys and long lasting chewies, like stuffed Kong toys, etc. And I'd also recommend games of tug where you frequently take breaks. Tugging and interactive toys give your pup a good alternative to human skin or clothing while still meeting that all important need to chew. In some cases a sharp but neutral "OW!!" can have a pup quickly learn to not put their teeth on open skin. However, for many pups this can just turn humans into a squeakie toy- so it may not work with all dogs. Also you can have a consequence for being nipped- a short time out on a leash may be meaningful. Honestly in most cases a heavy dose of ignoring a nipping pup, carefully managing the environment (using leashes and tethers) and giving your pup plenty of things to be munching on will go a long way.



1:34 [Tom]

My 4 year old pit loving, friendly and affectionate. Great with adults and children; she’s never bit anyone however when she first meets someone at home or outside and they first are inclined to put their hands down to pet her, she growls and snaps at them. I tell people at first introduction to just ignore her and after 30 seconds she’s their best friend which happens every time. Is there anything else I can do to stop her from her initial snap when someone reaches down to pet her for first time? People are so quick to pet that I am concerned I don’t catch them before they do.



I hear ya, yes this can be a concern as we can't always control other people's behavior towards our dogs, but I would recommend a behavior consultation to get some professional guidance regarding your pup's behavior. The good news? Thus far no bites. But, with her behavior being a pretty predictable thing- you have some leverage. You *can* try to prevent her behavior (and help her feel at ease) as much as possible, but agreed, real life happens and in those moments where she (and you) are caught off guard- any modification work that you may do, may help big time. So, there are no guarantees, but with some work, you may be able to increase her coping skills big time.

Be in touch if we can be of help!



1:35 [Jason]

Hey, We adopted a 1 year old terrier/cattle dog/?? mix about 4 months ago. In the last two months his aggression/fear of strangers coming into the house has been escalating. Barking more aggressively at people and has even nipped two house guests (not breaking the skin but still). I have two small children and a lot of people in and out all the time. Are there some simple rules I can follow about how to deal with the dog when people come over that can get us on the right track. Right now we are putting him outside or upstairs when people come over. In all other aspects he is really sweet with our kids. A bit too much of a lap dog, sometimes climbing all over us and in our laps and such. And probably a little too submissive. We did a dog training class already and he did great learning to come, sit, stay, etc. But none of that translates to listening when people come over.



Thanks for your question and it's a good one. Yep, it sounds like you have one capable pup that is being protective of the home and perhaps the people that live in it as well. Though obedience and skills may come into play at some point, addressing your dog's emotional response would be the priority when people are in your home. In essence, when a dog is pretty amp'd, they may not be physiologically able to sit, stay or obey in a traditional sense, however, doing some behavior modification may help significantly water things down or give you a different perspective to addressing your dog's arousal when people come to the home. I'd recommend a behavior consultation as a starting point and would recommend continued management and removal when people come to the home.



1:36 [Ryanne]

We have a 3 year old beagle that we've had since she was 8 weeks old. She has terrible separation anxiety and absolutely hates going in her crate, but if we try to leave her out while we are gone she destroys our door molding, door mat and/or mini blinds.



Hey, I'm sorry to hear that, sounds like your beaglet is pretty stressed. I'd recommend working with a Vet Behaviorist to help implement a behavior modification protocol to help work through the separation anxiety. Best!



1:36 [Freddy Shoop]

My wife and I have a 5 year old Cockapoo named Rosalita. We're originally from North Jersey. We had to move because of Super Storm Sandy. My hometown became my city of ruins. Anyway, since we've moved into our new place, Rosalita has been urinating in the house all the time. I consider myself a Jack of all trades, but I don't know what to do here. I'm guessing her behavior has something to do with the traumatic events of the storm and the move. I don't have any ideas as to how to get her to stop now. Any help would be greatly appreciated. You'd be our local hero!



It sounds like Rosalita is stressed in the new environment. I'd throw a few things at her to see if thees help in any way: Try a Thundershirt (Thundershirt.com <http://Thundershirt.com> ), get a Pheromone collar called a DAP collar or Adaptil (this can stay on for 1 month), and I'd give this gal plenty of potty breaks outside and then once back inside the home, keep her on a leash close and within view, to help prevent accidents. All the best!



1:39 [Zoey]

Leigh, i am loking for a good place to board my 9 year old boxer. We have tried a few different places but she doesn't get along with other dogs (she's a rescue) and I hate the thought of her being in a crate most of the day since she has free reign at our house. Any suggestions? Thank you!


She may do well remaining in her home and being cared for by a professional pet sitter. Also you may want to check out Philly Pet Hotel, they have suites where dogs can be out on their own, but they don't necessarily have to interact with other dogs off leash (a better bet for your dog).



1:40 [Steve]

Have a sweet rescuse Lab who was overbread and abused... she has is going to bathroom in the house...ANY suggestions?


It's hard to say without knowing more about your pup, but if you are not managing her when she is in the house (e.g. she is free roaming), the first thing I would start with is committing to 100% supervision and to keep her close, and get her out frequently. There can be many, many variables that contribute to the dog having accidents in the house, but to start, try to prevent accidents indoors and get your pup out as frequently as possible (and reward when your lab does potty outdoors). Management is key to helping a dog get better at having accidents and to also work towards understanding where we'd prefer them to go. Be in touch if we can be of help.




1:40 [Guest]

whats the best way to stop your dog from jumping on people? im worried my english bulldog may knock down some children since he tends to jump on people when excited. thanks


Great question. The fist thing that must happen (ideally) is committing to a prevention, which means leashing up your pup when possible to prevent your dog from jumping up and greeting people. Once you can disrupt "business as usual" with jumping up, start by rewarding alternative behaviors- and a quick easy one to start with is "four feet on the floor" or sitting. If your dog suffers from extreme- wigglebutt-itis, then give your pup a bit more distance when you start training your pup to not jump up. Good luck!




1:40 [Jess W]

My 6 year old vizslas eats books. It started about 3 years ago. He only does it when we are not home. But he doesn't do it everytime. We have not been able to identify "why" he does it. But we'd like a way to make it stop. as a result we have moved anything that smells like a book or looks like a book or photo album or paper into our office and we keep the door shut. We also have a 7 year old Vizsla - he has never chewed any books. He only eats his bed once in a while. How can we stop our 6 year old male vizsla from eating books?


Hey Jess,

It sounds like your pup may have a thing for paper? That is interesting. It may be one of those things, when he gets a little stressed that he may go looking for a book to shred or re-arrange as a way to off set his stress. My thought would be to make sure that you continue to manage/lift the books, and leave these pups with pretty high value interactive chewies to keep them busy and noshing when you are away from home. Try frozen stuffed Kongs, pizzles or bully sticks and see if this keeps the paper munching at bay. I may also recommend DAP collars to help alleviate stress if this is stress related.




1:42 [Sean]

My four year old mix-breed dog, Barley, has been allowed to be with me on the couch and bed at times. I'm single and it's never bothered me. Now, though, when people visit, getting her to stay off the couch and the bed has become more difficult. How do I get her to be okay not on the coach or in bed with me?



Good question and not an uncommon issue or many folks. What you can do is start to spend some time instead teaching your dog to go to a comfey bed (near the couch), so that your dog can hang near you all, but also have a nice, reliable spot to chill out that doesn't take up couch space from visiting guests. You can put this on the fast track by practicing downs on that spot and hand feeding your dog's meals (as long as your dog is happy to much on their food). The game? To have your dog learn to hunker and lay down and naturally choose this spot to relax.

Happy training!



1:44 [Guest]

Other than the Cone of Shame, can you recommend a way to keep a dog from licking a hot spot?


There are inflatable cones that are less shameful and may also help work well for your pup. Check it out:





1:49 [Sarah]

My seven-year old welsh corgi has become aggressive towards other dogs after about 20 minutes of playing at the dog park. I can't even have him in the same house as other dogs either. Any tips?



I'd eliminate off leash play with strange dogs and opt for well matched playgroups with dogs that your dog knows and is friendly with. I'd also interrupt play frequently and take breaks so that you can help your pup keep things in check and to take breathers. You may benefit from some private training so that a pro can help you learn what is and isn't playful, as well as alternative ways to keep your Corgi enriched and mentally stimulated without going over the top or rehearsing aggression. Be in touch if we can be of help! info@opbarks.com




2:02 [Alina]

Any suggested ways to deal with separation anxiety? We've tried sprays, collars, medications and other behaviors (such as leaving for short amounts of time and returning, etc.). Would a class or other training be helpful?


Your dog may be best in the hands of a Vet Behaviorist that can walk you through protocols to help modify behavior as well as medication, if that is warranted or recommended for your pup. If you need referrals, be in touch. Classes are great for training skills but will not teach an anxious dog to be less anxious. A behavior consultation and follow up in home training may help you understand how to work through protocols to greatly reduce your dog's anxiety. Be in touch if we can be of help. Here's a link to a free webinar on the topic also: www.trainyourdogmonth.com/events/webinars/09/ <http://www.trainyourdogmonth.com/events/webinars/09/>




2:07 [Carrie]

Ok - another one. Our dog is also REALLY food crazy. When we adopted him he was about 15 lbs underweight so I think food was scarce until we came into his life. It's been great for training since he's always so excited for a food reward, but we haven't yet been able to calm the "frantic" pace at which he eats. We're always very careful around his food bowls. He hasn't guarded them with us, but I'm not 100% comfortable going near them while he's eating because he turns into a food-crazed-monster. Do you think feeding him more meals a day (we do two currently) would make food seem less scarce and calm his nerves? I just worry that it could become an issue one day. He's so hyper-focused when food is around that his entire personality changes.... He hasn't gotten aggressive, but I'm not convinced he wouldn't get aggressive if a stranger messed with his food.



Agreed, what you are describing is a dog that gets aroused and amp'd when food is around. I'd recommend hand feeding him for basic skills- sitting, waiting, eye contact, etc. You could also consider feeing from interactive toys so that he's foraging for food vs. inhaling food from a bowl. Check out Buster Cubes, Tricky Treat Balls, Treat Stiks and more.




2:09 [Michael]

I am interested in starting a career in dog training. Do you have any suggestions on where to start. Classes, volunteer work, etc.



I'd highly recommend joining and checking out the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (www.apdt.com <http://www.apdt.com> ) as a good starting point! Also volunteering at your local shelter is a great way

to get to work with many dogs and hopefully improve their quality of life via enrichment, training as much as possible. Best!



2:12 [MWG]

I recently took in a rescue pup named Boomie. I have noticed however that he seems to have a strange reaction to white people, angrily growling, barking, etc.. I myself am African American and am fairly disturbed by this behavior. Is it possible the former owner taught him this behavior somehow and cna it be changed?




It's likely that your dog has a fear based response, perhaps from "lack" of experience/exposure or from a bad experience, though it's hard to say. At any rate, your best bet is to help this little guy negotiate his stress to help reduce his reactions, so that you can hope to see long term improvement. How? Associating treats at a distance from the things or people that trigger them, but before he is triggered can be very helpful in helping him developing a coping response. I'd recommend private training to help and be in touch if we can be of help.





2:18 [Guest]

I have a two year old pit/boxer mix who just cannot stop herself from jumping on everyone she sees. She wants to say hi to everyone and is super friendly. How can I get her to understand that by sitting nicely she will get attention?

Yep, being social and friendly is a good thing, however the "friendly mauling" is not quite so fun. I'd recommend in the short term to step on your leash to prevent her from making contact with people, and also rewarding her for standing or sitting (basically reward her for four feet on the floor and not jumping up on folks). Also on a daily basis, if you can work to have her learn to say "please" by sitting to get access to all things that you want on a daily basis- this will help do some 'heavy lifting' to have sitting become second nature. This may not totally work when your dog is excited, but it will be a longer term strategy. Use management (leashing up) and alternatively reward the dog for walking by folks or at least keeping "four on the floor" as a starting point.

Also consider our Focus & Control class too!

Happy training!




2:19 [Guest]

I have a 5 year old english springer spaniel and when we leave her she cries. we always tell her we will be back. is there anything else we can do to reassure her we will be back?

Yes, it sounds like your springer is a bit stressed when you leave. You can try leaving your dog with a long lasting chewie or frozen stuffed Kong. I'd try giving her more enrichment or "brain games" as a starting point to see if this will help her relax and settle in.