Your Pet Question:
When I take my Chihuahua for a walk and it meets another dog it always goes crazy, barking frantically and the hair on its back stands up straight! How can I get my Chihuahua to be friendly around other dogs?
Jocelyne Bizier, Ontario
The Expert Says:
Your dog sounds fearful and anxious around other dogs, and in order to train it to relax and obey, you should follow a two-step process. The first step might require limiting its exposure to other dogs until you have good control with the leash. You might want to work with a reward-based trainer to teach your dog to walk on loose leash, sit, and focus and turn around and walk in the other direction when needed. A leash with a head-halter or a leash and front-control body harness will give you more immediate control. To improve the situation further, the second step would require exposure exercises where high value rewards are associated with VERY controlled exposure to other dogs (desensitization and counter-conditioning). In addition, medications and natural aids such as pheromones might help reduce general anxiety, but you should consult your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviourist before giving it anything medicinal in nature.
Gary Landsberg, BSc, DVM, DACVB, dipECVBM-CA, is a Veterinary Behaviourist at North Toronto Animal Clinic.