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Ask Pilar: Biting Tail, Licking Feet And Feeding Chicken Bones

Welcome to our “Ask Pilar” series! Professional dog trainer and groomer Pilar Garrido will answer questions you have about your pup. She is only providing a basic overview. For more information, please consult a trainer, behaviorist or groomer in your area, who can directly work with your dogs.

For this round of questions, our readers asked:

1. My dog recently acquired a new habit. He is constantly chasing and biting his tail. We are worried and would like to know if this is normal. If not, how do we stop it?

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This new habit usually suggests that your dog is experiencing boredom or stress, and is attempting to draw your attention to him. In some cases, he may be experiencing pain. If that’s the case, your dog must see a veterinarian to rule out any pain issues. If he has pain, he will need care, medication and treatment.

Once the pain has been ruled out (or treated), here is what we can do to help your dog if this continues. First of all, make sure that he walks at least one hour a day. It is beneficial if he can go out on the street three times a day and vary places to experience different smells and stimuli. If he tries chasing his tail again, snap him out of it by directing his behavior to his favorite toy.

Dedicating enriching time with your dog is essential, such as teaching him stimulating games. An excellent example of a simple games could be “hide and seek.” The game teaches him to search for his favorite person (you!). You can do other fun activities like dance together or play fetch, as it can help strengthen the bond between the two of you.

Never scold the dog if you see him biting or chasing his tail — it could aggravate the problem. Just say “no” with a firm voice and do something to distract him from the habit. 

Please note that his problem can get serious if not addressed correctly. We don’t want it to become a permanent situation. If he continues biting his tail, it can turn into a self-mutilating injury. By addressing this problem early on, we can avoid it from becoming severe down the road.

2. We consider our dog very friendly, and do not have any problem having guests over at our house. What concerns us is when we have visitors, our dog likes licking their feet. Can you help?

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Dogs love to lick because it is a sign of friendliness. It conveys “I like you,” and It’s a behavior they cannot avoid. If your visitors feel uncomfortable about your dog licking their feet, you will need to monitor the situation. Whenever you have visitors in your house, try not to lose track of what your dog is doing.  When you see your dog licking your visitors’ feet, and they feel uncomfortable, say “no” in a firm voice, and your dog should stop the action.

The dog finds this behavior normal because when he is alone with you, you may allow him to lick your feet without complaint, and so he sees no reason why he should not do it to other people. It is nice to have a dog that’s so friendly to visitors and we don’t want to stop the playfulness. So here’s the plan. When visitors arrive and the dog comes closer to them, they can pet the dog if they want, but the moment the dog starts licking them, tell them to say “no” and “sit.” When the dog follows, ask them to give the dog a treat as a reward. This should be a group effort.

By introducing this habit of sitting and receiving treats whenever they come closer to the visitors, you teach the dog a new behavior (stop and sit) and eliminate the old ones (lick). When the dog finally greets all the guests, the dog can either stay beside you so that you can monitor them or you can send them to their room. This way, you can avoid any additional unwanted behaviors that may bother your visitors.

3. My husband always loves giving our dogs chicken bones after we finished eating chicken for meals. Our dogs love it. I know dogs enjoy bones; however, I am a bit concern. Is this safe?

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Sometimes we hear from our friends or family members that giving leftover chicken bones is okay for the dog. In fact, they don’t see any reason why dogs should not enjoy eating bones since we are taught (through the media and pop culture) that they love bones as treats. Certain bones meant to be given as treats are fine. However, veterinarians say that we should never give our dog chicken bones. When chewed, bones can break into different sharp edges that can get stuck in the pharynx and the stomach of our pups, and can cause severe injuries or even death in some cases.

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However, veterinarians say that we should never give our dog chicken bones. When chewed, bones can break into different sharp edges that can get stuck in the pharynx and the stomach of our pups, and can cause severe injuries or even death in some cases.

Please tell your husband to stop giving your dog leftover bones. He can still dish out leftovers if he wants and just take the bones out of it. If he does not take the time to do it, you will have to do it yourself. By removing any bones in the dog’s diet, we also prevent accidents from happening. If your husband says, I love giving chicken bones to our dog because they love the taste, why not find food with chicken flavor that is meant for a balanced and healthy dog diet? I am sure your vet can recommend something for the dog’s diet. Since my dog always loves chicken flavor, I order food that contains boiled chicken with skin, cartilage and liver without salt, spices or oils. It is highly recommended by many veterinarians and part of a healthy diet for many dogs.

Have questions? Follow us and ask on our IG @dogwhispererhq or through our website here.

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