behavior

The DiVot Code

      While conducting some ‘field research’ for my latest article, I was fortunate to stumble upon a secret society that knows the answer to one of the world’s most perplexing mysteries.  For years, The Knights Fescue have closely guarded the truth, but they let me into the inner circle and now I can finally explain “Why do dogs eat grass?”

     Insisting that we meet on his turf, the Chief of The Knights Fescue gave me directions to his hidden fortress—the Temple of Sod.  It was located in the old, seedy side of town.  The Chief Knight was dressed in green and wore a ceremonial blade around his waist.

            When I asked why dogs eat grass?, the Knight answered, “Because they don’t have thumbs.”  He went on to explain that dogs understand their world based on how it feels in their mouth. Dogs test everything for pressure, taste, and texture. Since they can’t pick things up with their paws, everything ends up in the mouth!

            “But some dogs will chew on grass to make themselves sick.  Why is that?”

            The Knight leaned forward and spoke in hushed tones.  “That’s not exactly true,” he said.  “Dogs can actually throw up any time they want.  It’s as easy as wagging their tail.”  I couldn’t believe it!

            “Really,” he continued, “they can control the muscle up and down their esophagus—so when they want to throw up—they just do it.”

            “Yet, all dog owners have seen their pet eat some grass and then become sick.”

            The Knight germinated on this for a moment.  “Yes, we have to weed out the fact from the fiction. Some dogs will eat grass to try and settle their stomach.  This is a lot like a person who will eat a few crackers to curb nausea.”

            “Why do so many dogs have upset stomachs?”

            “Usually, it’s because they ate too quickly or too much. Sometimes, it’s because they ate some people food or cat food!”  I liked this Knight . . . he was down-to-earth.

            “Is there a special nutrient in grass that helps settle the stomach?”

            “No, grass is about 80 percent water and about 20 percent fiber. It doesn’t have much nutritional value—particularly when you only have one stomach!  Dogs and people digest their food the same way—when is the last time you saw a person eating hay?”

            “Are dogs eating grass out of some instinctive need for more fiber or vitamins in their diet?”

            “Ha ha,” he laughed, “you do have a fertile imagination.  No, dogs can’t sense the nutrients in grass any more than you crave bran muffins when you’re constipated. Or do you?”  Though his piercing look could have mowed me over, the cutting edge answers were beginning to grow on me.

            The Knight continued, “Let me plant this idea--- when it comes to eating grass, dogs are pretty simple. If the grass smells good, has a nice texture, or tastes good, then they are going to eat it.  Dogs eat grass for the same reasons that people chew gum—it gives them something to do. ”

            A bell chimed in the Temple of Sod and I knew that our interview was at an end.  Without another word, the Knight Fescue jumped on his riding lawn mower and puttered away.

           

           

            

Getting Dogs Over "The Hump"

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          Since this blog is rated PG-13, we must approach the current canine problem in a delicate fashion. However, leg humping in dogs is a serious problem that is serious-- seriously embarrassing, that is. . . 

         After watching commercials during sporting events, I’ve noticed that embarrassing problems are given initials, so from here on out, I am going to refer leg humping as Canine Mounting Behavior-- and we're going to call it  'CMB.'

CMB is usually seen in young puppies.  Male or female, this problem behavior is not gender specific. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that CMB isn’t even a sexual behavior in most cases, because these puppies haven’t gone through puberty.

     Instead, CMB is a sign of dominance, or ‘ownership,’ as I like to think of it.  When a puppy displays CMB on a pillow or toy or another dog or a person’s leg, that puppy is actually saying “I own you.”  Left untreated, CMB is not only embarrassing for the owner, but it also creates a bratty dog that thinks that he owns everything and will refuse to respect everyone.

It’s not “puppy love” that is making your dog mount toys, blankets, or your leg.

It’s not “puppy love” that is making your dog mount toys, blankets, or your leg.

     If your puppy is less than 6 months of age and is displaying CMB, then this most assuredly is a behavior problem and not a sign that she or he is “in love.”  Remember, most puppies go through puberty between 8-9 months of age (though it can be as early as 6 months of age in some cases.)

     Adult dogs tend to be very forgiving with puppies, and they will tolerate CMB because they realize that young dogs have no manners. However, if you allow the puppy to repeatedly display CMB on the adult dog, then you are actually sending a message that the puppy may be in charge.

     It is important to correct CMB as soon as it begins, and it starts with a clear, loud, firm “No!”  Clapping the hands or providing some other sort of distracting noise can send a message that this behavior is unacceptable.  For goodness sake, don’t laugh at the dog, because this just encourages more bad behavior.

     Some puppies are so stubborn that we need to place a long leash on them and give a firm tug on the leash whenever he’s being naughty (and say “no.”) Of course, if a puppy continues to “own” a particular pillow or toy, then take it away.

     A repeat offender doesn’t deserve to play with the rest of the pack (human or canine), and isolation can be an effective punishment for some dogs, but the puppy must be immediately isolated as soon as the behavior begins.

The alpha rollover-- used appropriately-- can send a message to a bad dog that he needs to behave!

The alpha rollover-- used appropriately-- can send a message to a bad dog that he needs to behave!

     It is important for your dog to respect you and the normal pack order within your household. If a dog keeps displaying CMB with people or dogs, then he doesn’t respect those individuals.  In extreme cases, I have had to roll a dominant, misbehaving puppy on his back (just like a top dog would do) in order to teach him that I am the boss and he isn’t.

     Don’t expect a dominant puppy to like getting that message—many will try to bite their owner and have a tantrum when being held on his back.   You must hold the puppy until he has submitted by no longer struggling or having a tantrum.

     When adult dogs engage in CMB with people, it is a very worrisome sign that they don’t respect those people at all. An owner who tolerates CMB in their adult dog actually reinforces the message that the dog is in charge—and that dog will assert his dominance in other ways—often by soiling in the house, refusing to eat dog food, or running away whenever he is called.  I don’t recommend rolling adult dogs on their back—unless you have been advised to do so by a dog training professional who knows you and your dog.

     Having a pet spayed or neutered (at about 6 months of age) will eliminate a lot of the dominance (ownership) behaviors that we see in intact pets.  Even ‘fixed’ dogs have a certain pack order, but they don’t usually need to assert it as much as intact canines.  Certainly, if your adult dog is exhibiting CMB, he or she should be fixed (immediately!) and enrolled in obedience classes—both activities will improve your dog’s overall personality, as well as his respect for you and the rules of the household.

 

Please feel free to distribute this article via all media— all I ask is that you give the author and Valley Animal Hospital credit.  You will find Dr. Jon Klingborg at the best veterinary hospital in Merced, California– Valley Animal Hospital.  www.vahmerced.com  You may reach him at docjon@furrbits.com.  Copyright 2012 by Jon Klingborg.