by Sam Mazzotta
DEAR PAW’S 4 PETS: My 4-year-old Dachshund, “Miss Itzy,” is very aggressive with all of my neighbors, friends and some of my family. However, she’s a sweetheart around my granddaughter and great-grandchildren. She has to wear a muzzle when she gets her nails trimmed or goes to the vet. I’m so afraid she will bite someone. I love her to death and don’t want to get rid of her. Can you help? – Maria, Marion, IN.
DEAR MARIA: You should find out what your granddaughter and great-grandchildren are doing that makes Miss Itzy so calm around them. (Do they have dogs of their own? How do they train their dogs?) There’s something about the way they interact with your dog that really calms her down. Miss Itzy is likely aggressive due to anxiety. The clues in your letter — aggression toward strangers, the groomer, the vet — show that she’s got a lot of worries about these strange people. The groomer and vet are easy to spot — most dogs do not like nail trimming or getting exams and shots. Another question is, how do you act around neighbors, the vet or groomer? Do you get anxious (maybe because you’re worried that Miss Itzy will get anxious)? Dogs are really good at reading owners’ emotions, and Miss Itzy, devoted to you as she is, will get more anxious, and even take a protective posture, if she thinks you’re afraid or in danger. Talk to the veterinarian about prescribing anti-anxiety medication for Miss Itzy, and talk with a professional trainer, if possible, about ways to train your dog to settle down in unfamiliar situations. Also, observe your own behavior in different situations and try to keep a calm and level voice, even when your dog is barking her head off.