One of the most experienced veterinary specialists in India, Dr SB Mathur is running a successful practice in Lucknow
Q: My 11-month Indie dog is afraid of almost everything. I do not know how to normalise her, please help. Ankita Saxena
There are many reasons why dogs become fearful. It could be neglect, abuse, lack of proper socialisation with humans and other animals, being pushed too much at an early age, physical trauma, pain, emotional trauma, any trauma at a critical period of puppyhood, etc. Learn what the fearful dog’s triggers are and give her the skills to feel safe in those trigger situations. Learn how to read dog body language so that you can understand the emotions underneath the ways dogs express fear. Observation is key to understanding dogs. Learn how your own behaviour, body language, and responses either quell or exacerbate your dog’s behaviours. If you are not aware of how you are acting, you stand little chance of helping a fearful dog. Do you react by yelling or chasing your dog if he’s playfully biting your pants or behaving in any manner you think is bad? These aren’t bad behaviours, they are ways that dogs tell us that they are fearful or angry, so how you respond, not react, will help your dog become less fearful. Punishment most often makes dogs more afraid, backfiring on the goal you are trying to. Some dogs benefit from medications, but if you choose to look into this, please only take the advice from a veterinary behaviourist, not just a general practice veterinarian. You will need to work with a positive reward trainer at the same time, too. Doing one without the other will not be sufficient or as effective.
Q: My 4-year-old male Labrador is suddenly being aggressive, what should I do? Hasan Qureshi
Some medical conditions can cause dogs to become aggressive. If a dog that has never shown any sign of aggression suddenly begins growling, snapping, or biting, it may be caused by a disease or illness. Pain is an especially common cause of aggression in dogs. Your suddenly aggressive dog may have an injury or an illness that is causing major discomfort and stress. If your dog is exhibiting sudden, unexplained aggression, talk to your veterinarian before attempting to address it as a behaviour problem.
Q: Whenever we go out even for a couple of hours, leaving our beagle home alone, he destroys things and damages furniture by chewing and tearing. What should we do? Mehar Bhasin
Dogs who get very distressed when their owner leaves them may be lonely. This can present as vocalising, toileting in the house or destructive behaviour. The best antidote to loneliness is obviously companionship. Now, getting another dog is certainly not the right step for every household. If getting another dog is not a good decision for your household, there are other ways to reduce loneliness. Leave a blanket or article of clothing that smells like you and invest in some puzzle toys or robust feeder chews that might keep it occupied and busy for a while. You could also try leaving a radio on for some comforting human sounds. Have someone come in and see your dog while you are out- neighbour, dog-walker, or a pet-sitter.