DEAR JOAN: My dog definitely has separation anxiety. The poor baby howls whenever I leave, and he gets excited and upset, and is whining when I come home. How can I help him with this? He is a miniature poodle.
ââ Paula Rich, Bay Area
DEAR PAULA: There are ways to beat separation anxiety, but they require work and a lot depends on how serious the anxiety is.
For mild anxiety, which sounds like what your dog has, you can try counter-conditioning. When you get ready to leave, give your dog a toy stuffed with food or treats. You can buy these toys at most pet supply stores. You want something that is very tasty to your dog, and perhaps not something he usually gets, like low-fat cream cheese, spray cheese, low-fat peanut butter, frozen banana or cottage cheese. You also can put his regular food in the toy and feed him his morning meal.
The idea is to give the dog something worthwhile to do while youâre gone. They also will associate being alone with getting yummy food so theyâll actually look forward to you leaving, or at least not mind it so much.
This wonât work if your dog has medium to high anxiety as dogs usually wonât eat when they are that upset. There are ways of treating that, but the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recommends that you hire a certified animal behaviorist to guide you because if you make a mistake doing it on your own, you could cause bigger issues.
I canât recommend a behaviorist, but you should be able to find one with little trouble. Just make sure they are credentialed and get some references.
DEAR JOAN: Can you die from a black widow bite? We have a lot around the house and they frighten me.
ââ Angela B., Oakland, Calif.
DEAR ANGELA: Despite the legend surrounding black widows, they are not that deadly. Very young children, elderly people, those very ill and small pets are at the greatest risk, but black widows seldom bite and they tend to live in places we donât go.
They will bite if physically threatened, and their venom packs a punch, although they are slow to act and the amount of venom injected is rarely enough to kill a human.
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