Punishment After Misbehavior Ineffective, Instills Fear in Dog

By Lee Pickett

June 4, 2020 4 min read

Q: When Dobby, my roommate's family dog, visits us, he sometimes gets into the trash. My roommate says scolding him after I find trash on the floor is not effective. Is this true?

Yesterday, I found Dobby knee-deep in trash on the kitchen floor. Even though I didn't yell, Dobby rolled over and showed his belly, so I'm sure he knew what he'd done was wrong. How do we deal with this problem?

A: Your roommate is correct. Scolding Dobby after he's raided the trash only confuses him — he has no idea why this crazy human is yelling at him — and that makes him fear you.

I suspect Dobby rolled over in submission not because he knew what he'd done was wrong but because your eyes widened and your body stiffened, and he's learned that such behavior is followed by punishment.

To stop Dobby's unwanted behavior, catch him as he's starting to investigate or dig into the trash. Immediately distract him by tossing a toy across the room or taking him outdoors.

Better yet, prevent Dobby from getting into the trash by blocking his access to it. Store your trash can in a cabinet, and, if you have to, add a childproof closure to the cabinet door. Or place the trash in the pantry and keep the door shut. Or, if the trash bin must be in the room, choose a design with a dog-proof lid, perhaps one with a latch.

That way, Dobby can resume being a good little house elf — er, dog — who is praised for his good manners.

Q: My elderly cat took many medications for several diseases. He died a year ago, and I am finally getting around to throwing out his drugs. What's the safest way to do that?

A: Thank you for thinking about safety — human, animal and environmental. The best way to dispose of unwanted or expired drugs is to deliver them to an organization that will see that they are safely incinerated.

Many organizations provide this "take-back" service, so choose the one most convenient for you.

— Most police stations, sheriff's offices and fire stations have drug disposal boxes that resemble large post office collection boxes near the entrance, where you can deposit discarded medications.

— Many pharmacies and hospitals also have drug disposal boxes. Some pharmacies offer a free powder that, when mixed with warm water and pills, becomes a solid that can be thrown into the trash. Other pharmacies provide shipping containers so you can send drugs to a company that incinerates them.

— Most communities sponsor drug take-back days two or three times a year to collect unused medications for disposal.

If you can't find a take-back service or obtain the powder I mentioned, you'll have to disguise your cat's drugs and throw them out with your trash. Your goal is to prevent a person, pet or wild animal from ingesting the potentially dangerous drugs.

The best way to do this is to dissolve the drugs in liquid and mix the liquid with cat litter, coffee grounds or some other unpalatable material. Then seal the mess in a secure container, and throw it in your trash can.

Please don't flush drugs down the toilet, as they will eventually contaminate the water we drink and the fish we eat. Although water treatment plants kill bacteria in the water, they don't remove medications and other chemicals.

Lee Pickett, VMD, practices companion animal medicine in North Carolina. Contact her at https://askthevet.pet.

Photo credit: Free-Photos at Pixabay

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