Today, dog trainer and author Tamar Geller will take a stab at some of your questions. Geller has appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and "Today." Her latest book is "30 Days to a Well-Mannered Dog: The Loved Dog Method" (Simon and Schuster/Gallery Books, New York, NY, 2010; $25.99). Geller also founded Operation Heroes and Hounds, a nonprofit that provides injured members of the U.S. military with the opportunity to coach and live with shelter dogs, many of which would otherwise have been euthanized. The program saves dogs' lives and enriches the spirits of our returning soldiers with a canine mascot at their side. Learn more at http://www.tamargeller.com.
Q: My Labrador retriever loves people but it seems like he always tries to dominate them. He jumps on people when they enter the house. Is this because he feels it's "his" house? What should I do? — L.K., Los Angeles
A: "Your dog is not trying to be dominant," says Geller. "What's love and joy have to do with dominance? Your dog is happy to greet people face to face, and jumping up is the best way to do it. Your dog is not attempting to dominate anyone."
Training your dog not to jump on people is remarkably simple, Geller notes. Begin by getting his attention with a treat or favorite toy. Before you offer the gift, ask your dog to sit.
Geller says your pooch will soon think, "I've trained my people to give me something really good when I sit after the doorbell rings."
In no time, every time the doorbell rings, your dog's automatic response will be to sit.
Meanwhile, ask guests to turn in the opposite direction of your dog when he starts to jump, and he'll stop. He only wants to greet them, which is fine, except you need to teach him good manners.
Q: My 8-year-old dog has a habit of looking behind her when we're out for a walk. She didn't do this when she was young. Why? — O.M., Prescott, Ariz.
A: Your dog wants to know where she's been? Well, probably not.
"Something may have happened, and it may have been pleasurable or could have been fearful, and she's still expecting whatever happened to recur," says Geller. "If you want to change the behavior, one of the three most important commands for any dog to learn is, 'Leave it.' ('Come' and 'Sit' are the others)."
"To teach the 'leave it' command, begin by placing kibble or a dog treat on the floor. Begin teaching this command indoors, when there are no distractions. Cover the food with your hand or an object so the dog can't get to it. Eventually, the dog will look at you, and the second she does, say, 'Leave it' and offer an even better treat."
Geller adds: "'Leave it' really means 'look at me.'" Using 'leave it,' your dog will pay attention to you rather than worry about whomever may or may not be following her.
Q: My Tibetan Spaniel is a great little dog except for his barking at nothing in the yard. Sometimes he barks when a neighbor's mastiff begins to bark. How can I deal with this barking issue? — S.H., Las Vegas
A: "Dogs in backyards get bored," says Geller. "Barking releases endorphins, so it feels good, and dogs continue to do it. Your dog may be seeking attention, so if you're spraying or scolding (him), you might even be encouraging the behavior without meaning to."
Besides, you can spray all you want, but if you're not there to oversee your dog he'll simply bark when you're not around. Clearly, never leaving your dog outside unsupervised is the best solution. However, it's also important and only fair that your dog receives what he needs, including plenty of physical exercise and mental stimulation. If you must leave him in the yard, stuff some treats inside sterilized bones or other toys. As for barking when the neighbor's dog barks, your dog wouldn't be much of a dog if he didn't chime in!
Q: My girlfriend's 7-year-old pug constantly licks fabric, couches, and especially metal chairs on the patio. The vet has no answers about this. Do you? — K.S., Tarpon Springs, Fla.
A: If the Pug can't be distracted — or distracted for more than a minute — she may have developed an obsessive behavior. Don't immediately jump to that conclusion without consulting another vet, however, says Geller.
"There's nothing wrong with getting another opinion," she says. "(The problem) may be as simple as something missing from your dog's diet."
Your best bet might be to consult a veterinary behaviorist; check http://www.dacvb.org.
STEVE DALE welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't answer all of them individually, he'll answer those of general interest in his column. Write to Steve at Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY 14207. Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is http://www.stevedalepetworld.com; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.