Pet Columnist

How to cure an old dog of his tics

Dear Fisher:

I am a 13-year-old male. When I was a puppy I had a barking problem. Now that I am in my golden years, I have reverted back to the problem. I bark as if to get approval to go ahead and eat, and I bark when my human is gone. The neighbors say I am becoming senile. Is that true?

Toby Seas Stars

I can sympathize with your worries. As we get older, anxiety builds and we worry more about our imperfections. Add to that the worries of our humans who love us so dearly.

While most barking is normal for dogs, anxious barking is usually higher-pitched and tends to annoy the neighbors more than usual. Take a look at your possible motives. You might be lonely or bored. It will serve you well to look into a new hobby — a quiet and calm one.

One product that might help is an electric shocking collar, which is self-explanatory. Another option is surgery to remove your barking mechanism. That just renders me speechless!

Age does make a difference. Doggie Alzheimer's disease, formally known as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, is a condition that causes problems similar to those that affect aging humans. Memory loss, confusion, and disorientation can lead to agitation and barking. You were easily trained as a pup, but now that you are older, the same techniques are inappropriate and could lead you to react defensively.

Some of the things your human can try to help you include:

• For boredom, try new toys and more exercise. Tired dogs bark less.

• Use a new command such as "enough" rather than "no."

• For separation anxiety, do short practice sessions of pretending to leave the house. When you're calm and silent, your humans should change their daily routine by getting completely ready to leave and then staying and relaxing awhile. Next, leave for short periods, building on that as each segment is effective.

• "The Neighbor" might be able to stop in to give you a break. Or consider a pet sitter or doggie day care to help you through the day.

How to cure an old dog of his tics 09/25/08 [Last modified: Friday, October 28, 2011 1:23pm]

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