Category: Behavior

“My dog isn’t getting along with other dogs. What can I do?”

 By: Sara Hogle, DVM use sh

           Inter-dog aggression occurs when a dog is overly aggressive toward dogs in the same household and/or unfamiliar dogs. Inter-dog aggression occurs much more frequently between intact (not spayed or neutered) dogs and is generally more of a problem between dogs of the same gender. There are a number of reasons for aggression to occur between dogs including lack of or Boxing frenchielimited socialization especially when the dog was a puppy, a previous traumatic encounter with another dog, inappropriate training/interactions with the owner, wanting to protect territory/resources (food guarding) or social status (dominance), a painful condition (leading to guarding behavior), and very commonly, fear or lack of confidence. 
          Initially, inter-dog aggression may be addressed by avoiding situations that encourage aggressive behavior to occur. Behavior modification also plays a very important role in resolving inter-dog aggressive tendencies. For example, a dog may be trained to sit and relax during exposure to other unknown dogs or situations that historically elicited aggressive behavior and treats provided as a fearaggressionreward. It will also be beneficial to slowly condition the dog to not fear other unknown dogs, by gradually exposing the dog to other dogs in public and always keeping the safety of all dogs as a top priority. There are no medications that specifically address inter-dog aggression but given that fear and anxiety can play a major role in this behavioral problem, sometimes medications that help to address fear and anxiety can be helpful in managing the problem. 
            Finally, it is important to understand that behavioral modification techniques, limiting of risky behaviors and interactions, and medications if found helpful, need to be implemented for the life of the dog. Even if there is a prolonged period of time without an aggressive incident, the potential risk still remains.
        Check out our website for more information on trainers in our area that we recommend. 

My Dog Eats Grass, Does That Mean He’s Sick?

By: Dr. John Crumley DSC_0303-001

The short answer is no; eating grass does not mean your dog is sick. Eating grass is a normal behavior in dogs. A study revealed that the majority of dogs eat grass routinely (79% of the dogs studied ate grass daily). The same study revealed less than 20% of dogs that ate grass vomited after eating the grass. This means that grass is a poor inducer of nausea and/or vomiting. So dogs eat grass normally and it doesn’t make them vomit enough to give support to the claim that dogs eat grass to make themselves vomit.

I’ve always heard dogs ate grass when they feel sick to intentionally cause themselves to vomit and I never questioned it until

images (1)veterinary school. Why is this “wives tale” so pervasive that most of us have accepted it as truth if it has been proven to be false? Nobody really knows, but consider this explanation. Grass if indigestible by dogs, so if grass is ingested it will remain in the stomach longer than digestible items. If the majority of dogs eat grass daily, when they vomit for any reason there is a strong possibility there will be grass in the vomitus. We see grass in the vomit and jump to a simple, but wrong conclusion that the grass caused the vomiting. I think over the years we have come to the erroneous conclusion that the grass causes vomiting just because it is present in the vomitus so often.

So if your dog eats grass, don’t worry so much. However, if you dog is vomiting please have him seen by one of our veterinarians to try and determine the real cause of the vomiting.

Puppy Play


By:  John Crumley, DVMDr. Crumley

I want to socialize my puppy, but I was told not to take him around any other dogs what can I do?

Early socialization is a very important step in the early behavioral development of puppies. Current recommendations are to get puppies into a structured puppy class before 16 weeks of age, but the vaccine and deworming series is not completed until after 16 weeks of age. Since the vaccine series is paramount to prevent terrible diseases, such as parvovirus, this can seem like a “Catch 22” scenario. We want our puppy exposed to the proper social environment, but we don’t want them exposed to disease, right? Well, it can be done and safely.

In the past, veterinarians would always recommend keeping a puppy inside the home and away from other dogs or places dogs have been until the vaccine series was completed, but recent evidence does not support this recommendation. In fact, veterinary behaviorists believe we may be harming a puppy’s early social development by keeping them isolated from other dogs and new people. The current recommendations from veterinary behaviorists is to get puppies into socialization classes before 12 weeks of age.


Our biggest infectious disease concern in Reno is parvoviorus. The vaccines are very effective in preventing the disease, but they must be given in sequence starting around 7 weeks of age until a final puppy vaccine after 16 weeks of age. During the vaccine sequence the immunity builds with each successive vaccination so the risk of infection reduces, but it is complete until after the final puppy vaccine is given after 16 weeks of age.

So, is my puppy going to get parvovirus if I go to puppy classes before 16 weeks of age?

Very unlikely. In the spring of 2013, researchers looked into puppies that were enrolled in puppy classes before 16 weeks of age after receiving at least one vaccination for parvovirus from a veterinarian. More than 200 puppies in four cities were studied and not a single puppy developed parvovirus. So, it appears that puppy classes are safe if your puppy has received at least one vaccine by a veterinarian. We recommend enrolling in puppy classes around 12 weeks of age (after we have given at least one vaccine). We have never documented a puppy getting Puppies playing sick from parvovirus that could be traced to a puppy class here in Reno.

So I can take my puppy anywhere after you give a parvovirus vaccine?

No! There is still parvovirus in our town, so going to places where many dogs have been is a big risk for parvovirus until the vaccine series is complete. Your home, your yard, and puppy classes are safe, but avoid anywhere else many dogs have been to reduce your puppy’s risk.

But I should enrol my puppy in puppy classes?

Yes! At your first puppy vaccine visit, ask your veterinarian about when to get your little one started in classes. In the meantime, get your puppy used to a collar, leash, and harness. Also pug pack start teaching them to sit and stay and work on crate training. All these things will give your little puppy a “leg up” on the future classes!

Is Your Cat Missing the Box?

Inappropriate Urination, The Feline Patient

                                            By: John Crumley DVM

I love my cat like a son, but when he started urinating in my shower I’d be lying if I said I never questioned my affection for him. Many an early morning I have stepping into a dark, wet shower and cursed his name, Steven Bartholomew Crumley!

Unfortunately, feline urination problems are the number one behavioral reason cats are turned outside, relinquished to the pound, or put to sleep. It is a complex disorder that can be understood by dividing it into 3 categories: 1) physical problem, 2) substrate preference, or 3) territorial marking.

A Physical Problem: Many times our cat will urinate outside the litter box when they have a pain in their bladder, have too much urine to hold in, or have an orthopedic condition that prevents them from climbing into the box. The most common physical conditions we see are diabetes, urinary tract infections, spasmodic bladder, kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, bladder stones, and even bladder tumors. A physical exam is imperative at the first signs of a litter problem to identify these physical causes. Sometimes diagnostic tests, such as ultrasound, urinalysis, and/or bloodwork are indicated.

Substrate Preference: If your cat prefers table tops, the floor, or the bed to their usual litter box, this is a sign they don’t like their litter box anymore. Why they would change their minds, only they know, but they can change their mind anytime they want (their cats right?) The “key” to figuring this out is that the preferred sites of urination are on horizontal surfaces, not the walls or sides but the top of the table, chair, or bed. Treatment is changing the litter box situation. We need to figure out what litter situation the cat prefers, so we need to do some detective work. I add litter boxes (my formula is # of litter boxes = # of cats + 1) and begin to clean daily. I add different types of litter (clumping, not clumping, colors, not colored, scented, or not scented), different boxes (covered, not covered, tall sides, vs low sides), and place them in different locations in the house. Once we figure out which box they prefer, then we can slowly move it to the location or style we prefer (we have to outsmart our pet!)

Territorial Marking: This situation is easier to identify and manage than the two listed above. Most commonly the urine is found on vertical surfaces, such as the baseboards, the wall, on a chair leg. Often a change in the cat’s environment will set off this behavior, such as new pet, new furniture, or a new person in the house. Intact male cats are most often the culprit and they should be neutered. However, females can and do respond to stress and mark their territory as well. Reducing stress by adding hiding places, “cat condos”, products like Feliway, and even anxiety medication can and do help the situation.

The Indoor Cat Initiative Website ( is an excellent resource for ideas on enriching the indoor environment for your cat. I know it has helped me and my kid, Steven.

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is a challenging disorder that can cause stress for pets and their loved one’s alike. While the treatment is complex  and impossible to completely list here, I have provided some guidelines below to help if you feel your pet is suffering from separation anxiety.  

  Separation Anxiety
John Crumley, DVM

Reward Calm and Ignore Anxiety
This should be your training credo. Anxious behavior can be pacing, barking, urinating jumping up, and destroying your favorite rug (all those things you want him not to do). It is important to remember these behaviors are not spiteful or a sign of anger, they are signs of anxiety related to feelings of abandonment. Punishing anxious behavior incites more anxiety (and more problems). It will be hard, but ignore your pet when he cries for attention, jumps up on you when you get home, or looks “sad” when you are leaving. Reward you dog when he is sitting quietly with treats or attention. The most important thing is that you are in control of the reward, not your dog. In other words, he gets rewards when he is behaving the way you want and not when he is demanding it.

Plan Your Exit
When it is time to leave, just leave. Do not say “Good bye” to your dog with hugs and kisses. In fact, ignore your dog for 10-30 minutes before you go. Paying too much attention will make your dog feel more anxious when the attention is abruptly with- drawn.

Leave a Distraction
We are attempting to distract your dog with something that he will find interesting enough to concentrate on your leaving. Purchase a plastic/rubber, hollow bone from the pet store. Fill it with goodies such as dried liver pet treats, beef jerky, peanut butter, or other things your dog really likes. Keep it hidden and take it out when you leave each day. Place it near your dog just before you close the door. The bone only comes out when you leave. Hopefully, he will appreciate the bone so much that he will look forward to it coming out in place of getting upset with your leaving. You can also try to leave the radio on. Tune a radio to a talk station; put it on in a room you are often in, the bedroom is usually a good choice, and close the door. Your dog will hear the human voices from your room and may not feel so alone.

Desensitization Training
With most dogs, the hardest time for them is immediately before and after you leaving. Our goal is to decrease anxiety during these times. Your dog “picks up” on cues that you are leaving from your routine, such as picking up your keys, putting on your coat, etc. Choose one part of your routine to work on at a time. For example, pick up your keys without leaving, if your dog displays anxious behavior, ignore him, and then put the key down. Repeat this until your dog remains calm while you have your keys, then reward with a food treat. Once your dog does not respond to this cue (may take several weeks), start on another one until you and your dog “graduate” to the entire routine, including leaving. Start with short trips and then increase times. Remember to always reinforce calm behavior. Remember to ignore anxious behavior, especially when returning home.

Establish Your Leadership
In the absence of a strong leader, your dog attempts to assume that position of leader of the pack. Since a leader must control all that goes on, his inability to control your leaving causes him stress and anxiety. Obedience training is the best-organized method of establishing yourself as a strong leader.

Exercise Your Dog
A dog that is lacking exercise is more likely to have stress and tension. Treating your dog with a long walk, run or with play goes a long way in reducing stress.

Confine Your Dog when You Are Away?
Confining your dog during your times of absence can have positive effects. First, a dog that is confined to a carrier or crate cannot do damage to your home. Secondly, a crate, when properly introduced, can act as a safe, comfortable den where the dog can relax. However, some dogs with separation anxiety will experience an increased level of frustration and anxiety when confined. Therefore, I do not recommend crate confinement unless the other methods have failed.