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Ask Dog Lady

Answers to your doggy dilemmas

By: Monica Collins

Last Updated:


Dear Dog Lady,

Oscar, my Bearded Collie has very, very long fur. Every two weeks he is groomed professionally to keep him looking smart but in between sessions he looks very unkempt as he loves to play in the mud with his doggie friend Tess. The other day the groomer found a dead frog hidden in his coat! She has also found burrs and bits of bushes and trees. My question: Should I restrict his exercise so he gets less filthy? He seems happy enough, although I have to say my husband isn't terribly pleased about the amount of foliage our dog regularly imports into the house.

Free and filthy? Or confined and pristine? Is there a happy medium?—Beverley, Portland, OR

A: In the “Ask Dog Lady” playbook, filth and frogs are fantastic. Dogs should be allowed to get down and dirty and revel in the muck they love so dearly. They are not porcelain figurines and they must be allowed to wallow with the best of them—in this case, doggie friend Tess.

However, it might create more harmony in your home if you occasionally monitor his play dates with Tess. Oscar doesn't have to roll in the mud every day. You can control his access to muck by choosing a less dirty play locale or, barring that, by keeping him on a leash and hence away from the mud pit. After he's been a pristine little angel for a day or two, allow your dog his mud flings with Tess in the shrubbery. You might keep some doggie wet wipes—available at larger pet supply stores—to wipe him down outside or in the foyer (or in the mud room if you're lucky enough to have one) before he shakes off the frogs and foliage.


Dear Dog Lady,

Blue, my Australian Shepherd puppy, really has been incredible. Yesterday was an almost perfect day with her. We had a great walk in the morning. Later, we went to the vet and she was really good. Afterward, we stopped off at a field where people bring their dogs to play off-leash. I figured all the dogs would freak her out but she loved it and after a few minutes I let her off-leash and she never wandered off. She was so good.

Yet, in some ways, I wish we'd never gotten her. I'm not a big fan of keeping a dog crated so I give her free rein when I work at home, although this means I have to keep constant tabs on her. I know it's just a matter of time before she chews something she's not supposed to, so I have to be vigilant. And I know the cold weather is coming and I dread taking her for walks in that. At night, I don’t sleep well because she can't always make it through the night without a trip outside so I'm constantly listening.

I think overall I'm feeling is a sense of loss and isolation. I loved the care-free life my partner Brian and I had before we got the dog. Now everything has to revolve around Blue. Is this a normal reaction/period of adjustment? I absolutely adore her, but I wish she were already two-years-old and all the routines were established.—David, Cleveland, OH

A: Dog Lady calls it “post-poochum depression”—the helpless feeling after you’ve committed yourself to a creature totally dependent on you for survival and there’s no escape from the relationship. When you are a new dog owner and you reckon with how your pet might restrict your life, you can feel that sense of panic.

Here’s the good news: the feelings are totally normal. All of us—yes, including Dog Lady, have felt them. These bad vibes will eventually go away. Once you bond with Blue, you will feel a connection that only deepens over time. Promise. 


Dear Dog Lady,

My Shih Tzus, sisters, are two years old. I don't think they will ever tell me when they have to go out. I take them out on a regular schedule and that works most of the time. But they don't seem to tell me when they have to go out. I have them in large wire crate at night or when I am gone.

When I am not looking, if they have to go pee, they just go. I only found this out when I cleaned my carpet. I even have Poochie Bells [bells designed for dogs to ring when they need to go out—Ed.].)  I do watch for signs so I can catch them but they are sneaky. 

I have a large, unfenced yard so have to keep these two dogs on a leash. (Occasionally when I am out with them I let them run which they love to do.) I have wondered if it is the leash thing. Maybe if I just opened the door and let them go out, they would get the hang of it then. I am wondering if it is in the breeding somehow. I am about to give up. And getting the pee smell out of the carpets is impossible.
—HollyBelle, South Salem, NY

A: One of the most important lessons you can learn from a dog is patience. Study the entire letter above as it zigs and zags about potty-training two dogs. If you make it through the whole question, you will have a sense of how not to potty-train dogs in general. The questioner has tried a little this, a little that, thrown in some bells and leashes. No wonder these adorable dogs continue to go on the carpet. You would go on the carpet too if you were confused about the location of the toilet. These Shih Tzus have not been properly trained. 

Sorry to use your letter as an example of bad training but many frustrated readers can learn from your example. You must go back to Page One in the manual. Keep the dogs in their crate (or tether them to you so you can watch them at all times) and let them out only to do their business. When they pee or poop outdoors, reward them liberally and praise them to the heavens. Make sure they have completed these basic steps and are dependable about going outside before you give them the run of the house or even their large wire enclosure. And, by the way, learning to ring bells to go outside is very advanced graduate study for very well-trained dogs. You and your dogs have to keep working at it. And, remember, patience. 


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Last Updated:

By: Monica Collins
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