Dear Matthew: I'm a super-duper, really smart, 2-year-old male golden retriever who absolutely loves to be right in the middle of whatever people are doing.
Mom and Dad have spoiled me rotten and treat me like I'm their favorite baby . . . and I love that! I've been to dog obedience classes twice, and I do really great, but a lot of the time, I'd rather go sniff and play with the other dogs, and Mom will jerk the chain collar on my neck and try to regain my attention. "Ouch!" . . . that hurts, and it even took a lot of my long fluffy hair off my neck.I get kind of "rowdy" around some other dogs (barking, charging, being territorial), and the hair on my back fluffs way out. I often feel aggressive around male dogs these days. My dad gets angry and says, "Jake, NO!" and Mom says my Alpha Male hormones are raging, but I'm really nice around girl dogs. I can't help it!!
Mom and Dad are frustrated at those times. The rest of the time, I'm the perfect, most well behaved, smart, beautiful, "happy in your face" kind of pooch. I'm the hit of the party and everyone's best friend!
Gotta go now . . . time for my daily brushing. After that, I get to have my walk at the park. Woof-woof!
- Jake in Orange County, Calif.
Dear Jake: Sounds like you're a good dog at heart; you just need your parents to try a few different techniques to get you pointed in the right direction.
First of all, ask your mom to buy you a new training collar. If the chain one is pulling out the hair around your neck, they should try a nylon one - it'll be less likely to snag on your long coat.
Also, tell your dad that he shouldn't use your name and the word "no" in the same breath. If all you hear is "Jake, No!" chances are you're going to start associating your name with punishment, making you much less likely to come when you're called. (After all, why would you want to walk into trouble, right?)
Next, ask your parents to put you into controlled situations, where you're on your leash with the training collar on and around new people or dogs. If you start to misbehave, they should give you a firm tug on the collar and say, "No!" And if you know the command for "sit," they should give you this command, too.
Finally, and I'm sure you're not going to like this very much, but if you haven't been neutered, you should have that done right away. It might be a cause of some of your aggressive, territorial behavior around other male dogs.
Good luck - and behave yourself!
Dear Matthew: We have a problem that is receiving little or no attention from the media and is so horrendous that I thought you might be able to help. I'm talking about animal abuse.
I have been a volunteer in a shelter for five years, and what I have seen (and I'm sure it is only a tiny part of it) is sickening beyond anyone's imagination. All of it literally goes unpunished. The general public will never know until it sees this stuff in all its blood and gore. There must be some way to do this. Can you help?
- Lois in New York City
Dear Lois: I'll let your words speak for themselves and add a few of my own. Animal cruelty is indeed a serious problem in this country - one need only go to an animal shelter and speak with the staff there to find out just how bad it can be.
And animals aren't the only ones hurt, as there is significant statistical proof that people who are cruel to animals have a greater tendency of going on to harm humans.
So, we all should take the time to educate ourselves about this problem and push for tougher animal-cruelty laws. It's for everyone's benefit.
Dear Matthew: First, let me say that I am astounded by your uncanny ability to communicate with animals. It is truly a gift. I would give anything to know how you would calm my new 3-year- old female English Bulldog, who is absolutely terrified of men, especially ones wearing baseball caps.
She came to our home only today and was in sheer terror when she saw my husband. She has accepted me unconditionally and loves me already.
She did learn to love and trust her previous owner's husband with time. We have high hopes that she will adjust and come to trust my husband, also. Any advice or recommendations you may have to help this girl have the life of happiness she so deserves would be greatly appreciated.
- Mary in Gilmer, Texas
Dear Mary: The way to your dog's heart is through her stomach. Have your husband be the one to serve your bulldog dinner every night, and it'll go a long way toward helping her trust and love him.
Also, he can give her treats whenever he sees her and lavish affection on her whenever possible. And encourage him to get on his knees when he's interacting with the dog, as a towering man seems much more imposing. Good luck!