Q: We have two dogs – Buddy, a Husky, and Buster, a Catahoula. Buddy is free to roam and Buster is in a crate. When we get home, Buddy will run outside to do his business.  Buster runs out of his crate and up to our room, and he won’t come downstairs! We have to put his collar and leash on him and walk him downstairs. Once he is outside, he is fine and playful. Do you have any advice on how to stop this behavior? –Laura Wolf, Baltimore

Catahoulas tend to by shy and timid around what is “new” – – people, situations, sounds, etc. They are very in tune with their environment, and the slightest change can put them over the edge. Something probably startled him a month or so ago to start his darting behavior.

Try keeping Buddy in the room and leashing both of them to go outside. Creating pack-type behavior will allow Buster to feel more secure. Having a treat ready for both of them may help to alter focus to you, the routine and Buddy, and not the upstairs. You may try moving the location of the crate as well. Catahoulas tend to associate things in spatial context, so perhaps a new, more open space for the crate would help.

Q: Our German Shepherd is now 3½. When Lady was a puppy, she had a blanket she would nibble on (her wubbie). The family thought it was so cute. After the first one was demolished, Lady was presented with a new one. Big mistake! Now, she nibbles at every blanket that resembles her wubbie. We know this is somewhat our fault, but it is out of control and we need to stop it. Help!! –Heidi Miller, Phoenix, Md.

The nibbling, or mouthing, is an outlay of puppy behavior.  Puppies will suckle on their litter mates’ ears to feel secure and safe. Now it’s become a difficult habit to break. This can be a tough one, as removing all the blankets could just lead to potentially destructive behavior.

Retraining Lady to be secure on her own is the key here. Limit her access to where the blankets are. When she gets close to a blanket or if you catch her in the act of nibbling, speak to her in a low voice as if you are very disappointed. Then, replace it with something of higher value, a toy or bone she really likes. Give her lots of praise and affection when she is doing the right thing.

Another exercise to try is avoidance of the blanket. Work with Lady on commands she knows, sit, down, stay, etc., give her treats and praise when she does them. Keep a blanket she likes next to her during this.  This will teach her that listening to you and being rewarded is more important than the wubbie.

Q: We are at our wits end! Our Mastiff loves the cat litter!! We have three cats and it is nearly impossible to keep him away from the boxes all the time.  He gets the litter all over his muzzle, and it is disgusting! –Brook and Jaime Chasen, Reisterstown

Cat litter can be quite a disgusting delicacy for dogs. Since limiting him from the cat boxes is not possible, there are few things to try. A product called Forbid (which you can purchase from the vet) is added to the cat’s food (the cats won’t taste it) and produces a smell in the waste dogs do not like. Also, we can allow him to think the litter box has more “power” than he does. Mastiffs are particularly good at this as they are such gentle giants and scared of their own shadow! Purchase a small horn, like the kind at sporting events, let him near the litter, when he gets close, and honk the horn. If you do this a few times over a few days, chances are he will not go near the litter box again!

Joy Freedman is a dog behaviorist and obedience instructor. She can be reached at joy@4pawspetservices.com or www.joyfreedman.com.

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