By Dr Sophia Yin, DVM
I’ve been a fan of the TV show Monk for many years. In fact, I identify with the main character in an odd sort of way. No I don’t have a compulsive disorder. But I do find that solving animal behavior issues often requires some serious Monk-like detective work. For instance a number of years back, a reader sent me a question that went like so:
I have a 7-year old Cocker Spaniel mix who has this annoying habit. I’m wondering if there’s really a way of training her out of it. As if on command to perform, in her excitement around people, she starts to scoot. Really embarrassing. Got any ideas?
While this situation might be puzzling to many pet owners, after analyzing the subtle clues written in front of me, the answer popped out like a bagel from a toaster. Here’s what happened.
Call her a class clown or theatrical thespian but, either way, Fifi had her human’s number. For years she’d been looking for ways to get his attention and then one day she struck gold. Her little bum had an itch—from anal glands, worms, or maybe allergies— and right in front of everyone, she gave it a go. She plopped her hiney down, stuck her hind feet straight out in front of her, and dragged that delicate derriere across the floor.
That made the tingling feel better and as an added bonus she gained a captive audience. All of a sudden, the whole room stopped to adore her (her interpretation) with oohs, aws, and even some gaffaws.
Being smarter than some, she figured it out right away. When guests come over, fake the itch and get a standing ovation. Just to be sure, she tried it the next time your friends came to dine and that sealed it. She had an act that always got rave reviews.
There’s really nothing wrong with your little dog’s ruse. It makes her happy and it gives your guests a good laugh. But if you really can’t stand it, here’s what to do. The next time she executes her command performance, the humans should be absolutely quiet and leave her alone in the room for a couple of minutes. Unlike most comics a dead room won’t stop her resolve. She’ll try the game over and over because it was so good in the past. But after a bunch of failures the little performer will finally understand. The gigs up. Find something else for laughs.
What embarrassing behaviors does your dog perform in front of guests?