Handling a car-crazy dog and a roaming cat

NewsdayJuly 7, 2014 

Question: Our 6-year-old shih tzu/Maltese loves to go for her daily walks. However, as soon as she hears a car approaching, she stops walking and waits for the car, then chases after it while barking her head off and pulling me along. How can I stop this behavior?

Answer: The problem with this behavior is that it is self-rewarding. The dog learned that when she barks at cars, they go away — so every time she does it, she gets rewarded. Plus, she is getting cues from you. You dread her behavior and know that it is coming every time a car goes past, so as soon as you see a car, you tense up and your feelings travel right down the leash to her collar or harness. So you need to calm down when you see a car coming. Keep the leash loose and calmly keep walking. Do not look at or talk to her.

I also have found that tossing a few treats with no fanfare on the ground ahead of the dog when you see the car coming helps to distract the animal — but this only works with a dog that has a very high food drive.

Q: We have two indoor cats — a neutered male and spayed female — a sibling pair that is now 5 years old. The problem is that our neighbor has a male cat that she allows to roam through the neighborhood. Every night, the cat comes up to our back door and urinates on the porch. This we can handle, as the porch is cement and we just hose it off when we water the flowers. However, our male cat has taken an issue with this situation and now every morning we wake up to cat urine all over the inside of the door from our cat.

This is now a regular thing, and we do not know what to do. Negotiating with our neighbor is unproductive, so I wonder what we can do to keep our cat from doing this at night. The front door is approached by a hallway, so we tried putting a tall baby gate across the hallway. That worked for a couple of nights, but now it seems he jumps over the gate to get to the door to spray it.

A: I would advise you to buy a Scat Mat and place it on the floor of the hallway as far from the door as you can every night. A Scat Mat is a plastic mat that has a 9-volt battery attached. When a cat or dog steps on the mat, it gets a mild shock and steps right off. In all the cases I have seen, the animal will stay clear of the mat after its first shock. Since it is only a 9-volt battery, smoke does not come out of the cat's ears. The Scat Mat could keep your cat away from the door and all the issues that the confrontations with your neighbor's cat cause.

Marc Morrone: Petxperts2@aol.com

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