By Robert Cabral, dog trainer and member of the Wag! Advisory Board
I’ve shared in the past that as a dog behaviorist, I answer hundreds of questions from dog parents. Often, the questions are common ones you'd expect to hear, but every so often I get questions so over-the-top, they’re worthy of their own blog post.
Here are the five strangest things I’ve been asked, along with my responses, for all of those dog parents who may be too afraid to ask them out loud.
Q: How can I help my dog get over his phobia of wet grass?
A: I find it fairly common that people project their issues onto their dogs and in this case that’s most likely what’s happening. I’ve never seen a dog that has an actual phobia of wet grass, so there is a straightforward solution to the problem: Get them on the grass and make it a fun experience. Throw a ball, play tug, and get wet! Doing an activity they love on wet grass will help you both overcome any “fear.”
Q: Can my dog get over his fear of strangers?
A: Most people tend to think that every dog with this issue has been abused. But sometimes it’s just the opposite, and these dogs have had an abundance of love. What’s at the root of the problem then? These dogs were never socialized.
If you have a dog that is shy around people, help them to get comfortable with people in a fun way. I use food or a treat and start at a distance from another person. As the dog becomes more comfortable, I bring the dog closer and closer, rewarding the behavior and ensuring the dog experiences only positivity around new people. Food is a fantastic motivator. With the right treat, most dogs will eventually warm up to humans!
Q: I have a rabbit. Can I adopt a bull terrier and expect them to get along?
A: While I thought this was a joke at first because terriers were bred to hunt small animals, I think the larger question here is how to introduce new pets into the home in general. While there are plenty of videos on social media of dogs getting along with all types of unlikely animals, there are precautions we must take when introducing a new pet into a home with a dog.
Making sure pets get along with any new animal introduced into the home is a serious matter. Introduce new pets to your dog cautiously and ensure the dog never feels threatened or territorial. Remember that adding pets is a process, not a one-time thing. First impressions do matter, and be sure to read both animals’ behavior for any red flags that mean you may need to separate the two animals.
Personally, my two dogs get along with my parrot, but typically I don’t recommend small animals and dogs interacting as this can be risky to both pets.
Q: What do I do about my dog that loves other people and dogs too much?
A: When I heard this question, I got the sense that I had a jealous pet parent who has a very social dog. When dogs seek out excessive attention from other dogs and people, it’s usually because they find these people interesting and fun, and they aren’t getting that type of interaction from their parent.
The best advice, in this case, is to go out of your way to interact with and have more fun with your dog. You should always be your dog’s number one playmate!
Q: My dog always behaved normally, but after a friend visited our home, he started growling at me. What’s up?
A: I can honestly say, this one stumped me. Not knowing what, if anything, the friend did to the dog, there's no way of knowing why the dog's behavior toward the pet parent changed.
When you have a guest, it’s always important to keep an eye on your dog to ensure there isn’t an action — by either dog or guest — that might trigger a negative response from your dog.