Q: I have the happiest and most pleasant dog on the planet -- except when the mail carrier drops mail into our slot. Sadie growls and attacks the mail, then barks and growls until the carrier walks away. If I'm not home, mail is sometimes ripped apart. Try explaining to the gas company, "my dog ate the bill." It doesn't work. Any advice? -- B.D., Bangor, ME
A: From Sadie's perspective, she's trained the mailman; a few barks and growls and the person who drops all those papers through the door goes away. Voila!
Another idea is leave some sterilized bones or small Kong toys stuffed with treats for the mail carrier to drop through the mail slot. Soon, Sadie will begin to welcome the mail carrier, and any barks will be ones of excitement. The hope is she'll be so busy chewing at the Kong or bone (to get the treats out) that she won't bother with your mail. If this doesn't work, consider keeping Sadie in another part of the house or providing a mailbox so the carrier doesn't have to use the slot in the door.
Q: My two Shih Tzu's eat each other's poop. It's disgusting. Our veterinarian has no answer, nor do pet store employees. I'm 82. Other than pulling out all my gray hair, what can I do? -- B.B., Rochester, MN
A: "I agree this is disgusting to people, but apparently not to dogs, who also eat cat, horse and sheep poo, and they like it!" says trainer Teoti Anderson, of West Columbia, S.C.
Anderson, a former president of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, says that in her experience, products you add to pet foods (available at retail stores) formulated to make pet droppings distasteful, mostly doesn't work.
"People tend to not like my answer, but picking up after your dogs right after they go is the best idea," Anderson adds.
"Another thought is to teach your dog a reliable 'Leave it,"' cue," she says. Have your dog sniff some kibble in one of your hands (fist closed). When the puppy even glances the other way or up at you, drop some tasty liver snacks or other yummy treats from your other hand. As you offer the higher-value items, say, "Leave it." The idea is to get the dog to pay attention to you on cue -- whatever he's doing. The challenge, in your case, is that you have two dogs.
Anderson, author of "Puppy Care and Training" (with Dr. Wayne Hunthausen, TFH Publishing, Neptune City, NJ, 2007; $19.95), has a Labrador retriever with the same habit as your little dogs. She tries to pick up promptly, but if she's not fast enough, Anderson can now tell her dog to "leave it."
©Steve Dale, Tribune Media Services