Little dogs chase after cars, too

Q: Our 6-year-old shih tzu/Maltese loves to go for her daily walks. However, as soon as she hears a car approaching, she stops walking and waits for the car, then chases after it while barking her head off and pulling me along. At the end of the walk, as we get close to home, she stops walking and wants to wait for a car to chase. I either have to pull her or pick her up to get her inside. How can I stop this behavior?

A: The only good thing about this situation is that you have a little dog. When little dogs act goofy, it is a lot less intense than when big dogs do — but this situation is annoying, just the same.

The problem with this behavior is that it is self-rewarding. The dog learned that when she barks at cars, they go away — so every time she does it, she gets rewarded. Plus, she is also getting cues from you about this situation. You dread her behavior and know that it is coming every time a car goes past, so as soon as you see a car in the distance, you tense up and your feelings travel right down the leash to her collar or harness. She picks up on your tension about the approaching car and now feels that it is indeed a foe to both her and you and needs to be chased away. So you need to calm down and chill when you see a car coming. Keep the leash loose and just calmly keep walking. Do not look at her or talk to her, just keep walking calmly and in a direct manner.

I also have found that tossing a few treats with no fanfare on the ground ahead of the dog when you see the car coming helps to distract the animal. She will be so eager to snuff the treats out of the grass that she may forget about the car — but this only works with a dog that has a very high food drive. Some dogs are so committed to protecting their keepers from the car that they cannot be distracted by anything.

It’s these dogs that need more than anything to follow your example that an approaching car is nothing to worry about.

Q: We have a horrible problem that we do not know what to do about. We have two indoor cats — a neutered male and spayed female — a sibling pair that is now 5 years old. The problem is that our neighbor has a male cat that she allows to roam through the neighborhood. Every night, the cat comes up to our back door and urinates on the porch. This we can handle, as the porch is cement and we just hose it off when we water the flowers. However, our male cat has taken an issue with this situation and now every morning we wake up to cat urine all over the inside of the door from our cat.

This is now a regular thing, and we do not know what to do. Negotiating with our neighbor is unproductive, so I wonder what we can do to keep our cat from doing this at night. The front door is approached by a hallway, so we tried putting a tall baby gate across the hallway to prevent our cat from getting to the front door. That worked for a couple of nights, but now it seems he jumps over the gate to get to the door to spray it.

A: The gate was actually a very good idea, but there is no commercially available baby gate on Earth that a cat cannot jump over. I would advise you to buy a Scat Mat and place that on the floor of the hallway as far from the door as you can every night. A Scat Mat is made by Contech Electronics and it is a plastic mat that is about 4 feet long by 2 feet wide and has a 9-volt battery attached to it. When a cat or dog steps on the mat, it gets a mild shock and steps right off again. In all the cases I have seen, the animal will stay totally clear of the mat after its first shock.

Since it is only a 9-volt battery, smoke does not come out of the cat’s ears or anything like that. It is just a shock sort of like when you rub your feet on a carpet and then touch a metal object. I have touched Scat Mats many times and can speak from experience. It’s possible for cats to jump over the Scat Mat, but it is so mysterious to them that they usually just err on the side of caution and stay away from it.

The Scat Mat could keep your cat away from the door and all the issues that the confrontations with your neighbor’s cat cause.