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Dog Behaviour Problems: People & other animals

Introducing to other dogs, cats, rabbits, babies/children:

Introducing to other dogs

Question: I am getting a Labrador puppy in two weeks and, because I'm moving house, he'll be spending the first four weeks with my mother. She has a 5-year old cocker spaniel - what is the best way to introduce them? Should the puppy sleep in a separate room?

Answer: The best place to introduce them is the garden. If it looks like the cocker or the puppy is feeling overwhelmed, quickly hold on to the other so that one feeling besieged does not learn to snap or become aggressive to protect themselves.

Let them get used to each other to the point where they seem bored with each other before letting them into the house. Pick up all possessions, beds, toys and chews beforehand.

The puppy should sleep in a separate room unless the cocker is used to puppies and they are getting on very well. Since the first 4 weeks in a new home are critical for socialisation, ensure that your mother or someone will take your puppy out and about to meet the world and everything that exists in it while you are not there.

Make sure the puppy plays for at least 3 times as long with humans as he plays with the cocker so that he grows up humanized and so that he prefers to be with people rather than other dogs.

You may like to read The Perfect Puppy which has more information on understanding your puppy's needs.

Also see Gwen Bailey's article on Ingredients for the Perfect Puppy


Introducing to rabbits

Question: We have just got a new Labrador puppy who is 10 weeks old. We already have two rabbits who live in the enclosed garden and can go into their hutch as and when they please. So far, the puppy doesn't seem that interested in them unless they start to run, in which case he will try to play as well.

Obviously, I haven't let him into the garden on his own and he is supervised at all times. Do you have any advice on how I could socialise them or would it be better to keep them separate?

Answer: It is better to socialise him with the rabbits and teach him how to behave well while he is still young than keep him separate from them.

Continue to supervise him in the garden (you will need to do this anyway until he is housetrained) and don’t let him do anything you would not want him to do to the rabbits when he is older and full grown. This includes chasing them, frightening them, taking them in his mouth, and jumping on them.

Prevent him doing this by keeping him on a lead and controlling his movements, especially when you get the rabbits out of their hutch.

Praise him gently for good, calm behaviour and reward him with titbits and, later, with a game with a toy. Tak

e the rabbits out occasionally and hold them in your arms, or bring them indoors. Let him sniff them and get used to them. In this way, he will quickly learn that they are members of his pack, and will be less likely to treat them as play things when he is older.


Introducing to cats

Question: My Jack Russell terrier, Milo is extremely friendly. However, I have recently been told that they become aggressive and snappy with age, kill cats (we have a cat), bark a lot (he hardly ever barks) and are terrible to housetrain (he was trained by 13 weeks). Could you put the record straight for me? I'm dreading him growing up if this is what I have to look forward to.

Answer: Some Jack Russell terriers are aggressive and snappy and in one study of hospital admissions, more children were bitten by them than any other breed.

That said, a dog’s temperament, and Jack Russells are no exception, will depend on how they are raised as puppies. A well socialised, well handled puppy that is taught good manners and respect for people should grow in a nice dog, especially if it came from parents that had nice temperments.

If they are raised with a cat and taught not to chase it or treat it as a toy, they should grow up to see it as part of their pack and been friends with it. Jack Russells, as you probably know, were bred to catch and kill small animals, so they do have a tendency to be predatory.

How much they have this trait depends on how close to working stock they are. This means that you may have to be careful with yours when with other small animals such as rabbits, hamsters and other people’s cats. Getting your puppy used to animals like these while he is still young can help him to learn to respect them and not be aggressive to them.

If he is already housetrained and doesn’t bark a lot, then there is no reason why he should change later. Try not to worry too much. JRT’s do sometimes have a bad reputation thanks to some difficult individuals, but there are angelic ones too! If you would like further information on how to raise your puppy, my book The Perfect Puppy, should give you some good ideas.

Question: We are having a very peculiar problem with a 2yr old female border collie called Meg. We have had her 8mths, and agreed to take her on after my uncle died on the understanding that if she didn’t get on with my 6yr old male cat, that other family relatives would consider taking her. The problem is that I cant decide as to whether they are getting on with one another, or whether the attention Meg is paying to our cat is entirely trustworthy!

Our cat is called Marmaduke he is eight years old and he has always ruled the roost. He is well used to being around other dogs, as he has outlived two of my own previous dogs. Ever since Meg has arrived in our home, her expression can only be described as mesmerised whenever Marmaduke walks into the room. Her eyes are always fixed on him wherever he goes, her tail wags and she rushes around excitedly as if trying to guess where he is going. Usually Marmaduke does not bat an eyelid when this is happening, and almost acts as if Meg is not worthy of his attention.

Sometimes he will hiss at Meg if they find themselves face to face in the hallway or on the stairs, to which Meg will back away considerably. Marmaduke has also slept in her bed a few times and Meg although whilst not amused by this, seems happy enough to watch him sleep with great interest.

I thought that the initial excitement that Meg shows whenever Marmaduke is about would where off in time, but it has not been the case. Is it natural for dogs to become obsessed with cats in this way? I’m starting to believe she may think she is a cat trapped in a dog’s body! Can you help?

Answer: I think that Meg’s relationship with Marmaduke is quite normal considering the individual characteristics of both animals and the environment that they now share, and there is no need to be concerned if they have lived together without incident for 8 months already.

From your description of Marmaduke it would appear that he is relaxed in the company of Meg most of the time and does not perceive her as a threat. He is taking some precautions just in case, as evidenced by his hissing if he comes face to face with her on occasion.

However, most of the time, he takes her behaviour in his stride and does not seem unsettled by her. Similarly, Meg’s behaviour is within acceptable bounds. Although she is fascinated by him, she respects his space and leaves him alone. No doubt she would like to chase him, but she has enough respect for him and self-control not to harass him.

Border Collies, as you probably know, are bred to herd livestock from one area to another by anticipating the movement of the flock by watching them with great concentration, and then circling them to keep the flock together. This attribute is a quality that domestic Border Collies exhibit more commonly in game play or toward other objects that may move quickly, such as cyclist or joggers. In your home, Marmaduke makes a good alternative, and it sounds as if Meg cannot resist the temptation to watch Marmaduke intently and herd him respectfully from a distance. This behaviour may look obsessive, but it is part of the herding instinct is to watch, regardless of how boring or uneventful the situation maybe, just in case. This explains Meg’s seemingly endless fascination with Marmaduke regardless of whether he is awake or asleep.

It is possible to reduce Meg’s need to follow Marmaduke, by providing another outlet for this behaviour through playing appropriate chase games with toys. If your timing is good, Meg should learn that more interesting things happen when Marmaduke is about, and that being with a human at this time is far more rewarding.

Meg may also be slightly frightened of Marmaduke if she has not met many cats in the past, and this will make her want to keep an eye on him. Keeping him in view can prevent him from surprising her, in a similar way that we may keep an eye on the whereabouts of a large spider or snake if we are frightened of them. This should fade in time as she becomes more familiar with him and he becomes part of her pack.

Cats love to make use of high up places, and as dogs cannot easily follow, it may be a good idea to encourage Marmaduke enjoy feeding and resting up high and out of reach. Placing familiar smelling blankets up high on top of bookshelves and sideboards, together with some tasty prawns will help attract his attention to these areas. Marmaduke will then have the option of keeping out of Meg’s way if her attentions become a little too much for him to cope with.

Question: How can I stop my 8 month old Jack Russell from being aggressive towards my two cats?

Answer: It depends why he is being aggressive. If he has been raised with them, the most likely cause is that he enjoys the thrill of the chase and sees no reason why he shouldn’t ‘play’ in this way.

If you have only just got him, however, it could be that he is afraid of them and is trying to get rid of them. Either way, it is important that you stop him now before he injures the cats or the cats leave home. If he is just enjoying the thrill of the chase and likes to ambush them and tries to catch them, you need to prevent him from doing this and tell him off when he does so.

Stop him by leaving a long line attached to his collar and keeping an eye on him whenever the cats are around. Stand on the line to stop him if he looks like he is paying attention to the cats, and tell him off. Make sure he is getting enough play with you instead.

Teach him to play with toys and make time at regular intervals throughout the day to play a game with him. In this way he should learn to focus his play energy onto you rather than the cats.

If you need help to do this or there is a different reason for his aggression, or his aggression is severe, please get further help from a pet behaviourist from The Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors.


Introducing to babies & children

Question: Sally has always been such a good dog. The type to look at an open gate and ignore it. But recently she keeps running away. We have a small baby and I was just wondering if it was because she felt left out now she is no longer the centre of attention. If so, how can I stop this? I worry she will one day not come back.

Answer: Small babies take up lots of time and mental energy as you will know only too well. It is likely, therefore, that you will have far less time than you used to have to devote to Sally. Consequently, if Sally is not having all her needs met when she is with you, she will try to go elsewhere to find fulfilment. Where she goes to when she leaves you will give you a clue as to what you need to give her to make her feel more like staying at home.

If she is energetic and goes off to find someone or something to play with, give her short frantic games in the garden with a toy whenever you have a minute to spare. Play every now and again throughout the day and she will want to stay around because she never knows when the next session is coming. If she goes off just to find someone to be with, she may not be receiving enough love at home anymore.

Dogs need to be part of a social group and it is natural for you to give your undivided attention to the baby. Try giving her short planned sessions of attention, including the baby in these if possible so she learns to be happy to have the baby around as well. Try to get others in your family to help give her all she used to have, such as regular energetic walks. Reinforce all the fences so that she can’t get out and take extra care when opening the front door.

Make sure she wears a collar and tag and is microchipped just in case. Remember that this is a stage that will pass as the baby grows and try not to get too cross with her when she gets away from you.

Question: I have an eight week old jack russell pup, and when my three year old son played with him, the pup growled & went to go for his face, and while playing with a toy, if yu take it away he growls. What can I do to nip this problem in the bud?

Answer: You will need professional help from a Pet Behaviour Counsellor to prevent it developing further (contact The Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors). Your puppy may just be playing, or he may be a bit frightened of your son. Teaching him to play properly with toys is a first step.

Growling over toys is part of playing, so don’t be too worried by this.

Make sure, however, that you are in control of the games and can remove a toy from your puppy when you want to (ask the Pet Behaviour Counsellor to show you how).

Play regularly and often so that you can teach him the rules. You will need to make sure, also, that your son does not pick him up or hurt him in any way. Constant supervision will be necessary to ensure good behaviour on both sides.

You may like to read The Perfect Puppy which has more information on understanding your puppy's behaviour.

Question: We have a 16 month-old border collie bitch who is very friendly, but can be nervous, especially around children. She likes to chase and can be a bit nippy so has to be carefully supervised. I am five months pregnant and am concerned about how she will react when the baby arrives.

Obviously, I would never leave a baby unsupervised with any dog, but I am concerned that the dog may become jealous as, up until now, she has had my undivided attention.

Also, how would I go about introducing them and are there any particular precautions I should take with regard to the border collie's propensity for herding and nipping? I would welcome any advice you can offer as I am worried that I may have to get rid of the dog once the baby arrives. Is there anything I can do now that might ease the way?

Answer: Dogs usually take to babies surprisingly well, with problems usually developing only once the baby grows up and being to toddle about. You have 4 months to change your routines and attitude to match the lifestyle she will have to cope with when the baby arrives.

If you have a very strong bond, begin to cool it down a little and give ‘dollops’ of affection rather than a continuous supply. This doesn’t mean she gets any less affection but just that it comes to her on your terms, when you decide, rather than on hers.

Teach her to lay on her bed so that she is used to being sent there out of the way before the baby arrives, and go there often to praise and reward her.

When the baby comes, don’t forget her, and try to give her as much attention as she was getting before you left for hospital. If she is nervous with strangers, take special care around the time of the birth as the disruption to routine and extra visitors could cause her to become worse. Shut her in another room if there is too much noise and commotion and don’t let her out until things are calmer.

You will also need help with the nipping/herding problem before your baby becomes a little running child that has friends over to play. Get advice now from a member of the The Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors and they will teach you have to introduce dog and baby to each other successfully as well.

Question: I adopted my mongrel bitch, Barney, from the RSPCA just three weeks ago. She is approximately 8 years old, biddable and delightful. However, due to unforeseen circumstances, I am to look after my neighbour's dog for three months. This will be in one month's time. Barney has already snapped at him when he has come into the house ñ I realise that she must be insecure but, on the other hand, had hoped that she would not yet feel too territorial.

I've started taking them for a walk together each day (no problems) and taking them into my house together for a few minutes, with a tidbit if she behaves. Is this the right sort of thing to do? My neighbour's dog is a neutered male of about the same age; a little boisterous but very soft-natured. I do not want him to be frightened or hurt by her. I would be very grateful for any advice while there is still time to work on things.

Answer: It sounds as though you are very careful and thoughtful and this is just the sort of attitude you need to introduce two dogs successfully. Not only that, but the dogs seem to have very good temperaments too and they are of similar ages, and male and female, so things look promising. I would advise you to continue doing what you are doing.

Take them on walks together as often as possible so that the distractions of the walk take away the difficulties of a head-to-head meeting (rather like getting to know someone by working on a shared activity rather than meeting them for dinner for the first time).

Pick up all toys, chews, bones and anything else they are likely to fight over and, after the walk, let them into the garden. After a while, walk inside and leave the door open, allowing them to come in when they are ready.

Give them plenty of space and try not to intervene unless really necessary. Keep titbits out of the way too for a while so there is nothing to fight over.

Any snaps or growls at this stage will be defensive rather than territorial, so don’t tell them off, but distract them and move them into another room instead.

Keep them together in the house for about an hour each time to let them get used to each other. If you repeat this a few times, you will find that they soon settle down with each other, and I think they will be fine together when the time comes for the other dog to move in.

You may like to read The Rescue Dog which has more information on understanding your dog.

Question: I have a male rottweiler puppy that is 3 months old, and I have him now for 6 weeks, I have recently acquired another puppy, a female rottweiler that is 7 weeks old. I have her now for a week. Socially, the get along very well, but my male puppy has stoped eating his food for 2 days now. He eats his treats, and any other food, but not his dog food, he also insist on eating her food, or eating out of her bowl. What do I have to do with him, is he jealous or could something be wrong with him?

Answer: It’s difficult to tell from your question how much food he is consuming each day. If he is eating substantially less than he used to, get him checked over by your veterariny surgeon in case something is wrong. If he is not eating his dinner because he is eating too much of hers, it is important to take more control of the situation at feeding times so that you give them the right amount of appropriate food.

Either feed them in separate rooms, not letting either out until both have finished, or tie them so they cannot get to each other until all the food has been eaten. If you are feeding them different foods, it may be that he prefers hers to his, or he may just be more interested in her bowl because she shows an interest that attracts him over.

It is also possible that he was used to eating from one bowl with his littermates and so is trying to return to what he is familiar with. At his age, it is unlikely that it is jealousy or a dominance problem.

You may like to read The Perfect Puppy which has more information on understanding your puppy's behaviour.

Question: We have just got a 3-year-old Bedlington terrier as a friend for our 15-month-old ridgeback. However, after two weeks of introducing them gradually they are still not getting on very well. We take them into the garden together each night so that they have space and separate them for the rest of the day. Rocky is very playful and goes to lick or sniff Blue and tries to make him chase him. However Blue doesn't like this ñ he doesn't actually bite Rocky but is it likely to turn into more aggressive behaviour? We have tried throwing toys but they are more interested in each other.

Answer: These head-to-head meetings can be very intense and are not really a good way to introduce two dogs. Instead of taking them into the garden, take them on a long walk instead. The interest of the walk usually takes the pressure off the introduction and allows them to get used to each other gradually.

Keep Rocky on a lead so that he cannot give chase and let Blue come and go as he likes. He will probably keep away from Rocky, but they are still getting used to each other and Rocky is learning not to be so excited when Blue is around. Find a place where Blue can be protected and let Rocky off to have a good run round.

Take toys or find other dogs he can play with so that he uses up all his chase energy. Then, after a long walk when both are tired, take them into the house and let them settle down together. Separate them when Rocky has recovered his energy if you need to, and repeat over several days until they begin to take no notice of each other.

Eventually, the novelty of having Blue in the house will wear off and they should settle down. If you continue to have difficulty, please contact the The Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors

Question: I already have a 3 month old Doberman, and am about to get a 2 month old bulldog. Will they be aggressive towards each other? Any advice you could give me regarding introducing them would be really helpful as I would like them to become friends.

Answer: It is unlikely they will be aggressive to each other as puppies usually adapt easily to new animals and accept them readily as part of their pack. If your Dobermann has had only limited contact with other puppies, it could be a little worried about the bulldog at first, especially as their little screwed-up faces can make them appear as if they are snarling.

Choose a big space, perhaps the garden, where there is plenty of other things to take their minds off the introduction. Hold both of them at first, and let them sniff each other and let the initial excitement subside.

Then let them get together and supervise to ensure that one isn’t causing the other distress. If so, hold the more inquisitive one and let the other approach in its own time.

Play with them and walk around with them so they are less focussed on each other and more interested in other things that are going on. Introductions are usually surprisingly easy.

More important is to ensure that you bring them up to be independent of each other so that each is used to being without the other.

Ensure that you play with them individually at least three times as much as they play with each other. If you do this, they will grow up to be more focussed on people rather than on each other and hence likely to be more obedient, better behaved and better adjusted.

You may like to read The Perfect Puppy which has more information on understanding your puppies' behaviour.

Question: I have had my rescue dog, Bob, for three weeks and am having trouble introducing him to my two established cats. They are currently eating together with Bob on a lead. I'm frightened to let him off because he keeps chasing the cats - what should I do?

Answer: You need to wait until Bob takes no further notice of them and accepts them completely before letting him off the lead. Even then, it is a good idea to let him drag a line around so that you can stand on it quickly if he should decide to run after them.

It can sometimes take months before a new dog settles into a household with other cats so be patient.

Arrange for a many controlled encounters between them as possible. Ask your dog to lay down or tie him so that he cannot move around much. Encourage the cats into the room, perhaps with food, and allow them to settle and get up high if they want to.

Talk to them and make a fuss of them to let Bob know that they are part of his pack, and make a fuss of him too when he behaves well.

After many sessions, Bob should begin to relax more quickly and no longer watch them so intently. Gradually you can allow him more freedom.

If you are in any doubt, muzzle Bob, but get him used to wearing the muzzle beforehand so that he doesn’t associate it with the cats. Swap scents between dog and cats by stroking both without washing your hands in between and swapping cloths placed in their beds. Be patient – it may take a long time, but if you do it slowly, you will build a trust between them and, gradually, they will begin to accept each other.

Question: Ever since my mum moved into my house with her golden retriever, my weimaraner bites any visitor that comes to the house. Why is this and how can I stop it? As you can imagine, Blaze is a big dog and I don't want it to get out of hand.

Answer: The presence of another person and another dog in your household could have raised the emotional temperature and have been the trigger that caused a fear-based problem to escalate to the point of biting.

It could also be that Blaze now feels he has two more creatures to protect and feels it is more important than before to keep people away. It is important that you stop it now, before you get taken to court and an order made for Blaze to be euthanased.

The help you need is outside the scope of this email, but please get in touch with The Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors to find out your nearest behaviourist. They will give you advice on how to manage the problem so that no further bites occur. They will also find out the reason behind the biting and give you a structured programme to put the problem right.

Question: My 12-week-old German shepherd is fine with my husband and I, but can sometimes be aggressive towards our children and over chew bones. I have heard that male dogs can be more aggressive than females, is this the case? Can you suggest how I can stop this aggression, would neutering help?

Answer: Males are generally more boisterous and competitive than females, but every dog is different and your puppy is not aggressive just because he is a male.

He is, however, very young to be showing aggression. I would suggest that either he has been bred from reactive parents and this has made him prone to using his teeth, or your children are behaving in a way that is provoking this response.

To stop this before it goes any further, make sure that you supervise all future encounters between your dog and your children. Keep them separate if you have to, but pay attention when dog and children are together. If you do this, you will be there to stop any inappropriate behaviour from either side, and teach both how to play and interact properly. Stop any biting by calling the puppy away from the situation before it gets that far, or, if the children are teasing, stop that too.

Make sure that the puppy is getting enough rest and sleep, and that he is getting enough play with toys (supervised so that you can stop it before it gets too rough).

Teach him that when he has chews, hands come to give titbits, rather than take his chews (please see The Perfect Puppy).

If the problem does not go away within a week, get expert help soon from a member of The Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors before he gets any older and the problem becomes too ingrained.

Question: My Lurcher Barney is 2 years old and has a lovely temperament. He is great with other dogs, adults and children. However, his previous owner used to take him coursing and as result he will kill any small animals such as rats and mice. He even goes after cats. Is there any way of stopping him? I try to be vigilant when I let him off the lead, but I don't always spot small animals before it is too late.

Answer: Lurchers have been specially bred for hunting and so it is natural, instinctive behaviour for them to try to catch and kill small animals.

As well as a genetic makeup that makes him likely to want to do this, his early life was spent developing and accentuating this trait.

Sadly, once the inherited desire is reinforced in this way, it becomes too ingrained for it to be eradicated, no matter how much training you try to do. For him there is no difference between your neighbours’cats and the rabbits he used to chase.

The best solution is to keep him on a lead whenever you are likely to encounter small animals and to keep him well away from other people’s pets. When you do let him off, make sure he wears a muzzle so he cannot bite.

Even with a muzzle on, impact with another animal can cause serious injuries, so only let him off when you are sure there are none around.

If he has a big head, a lightweight greyhound muzzle would be a good idea. If not, the smaller Baskerville muzzle which looks like a plastic basket, allows, a good circulation of air for hot days.

Question: Our Doberman/collie cross is 4 years-old, and was attacked when he was two. Up to that point he was friendly with all dogs. Now, he is very aggressive towards any new dogs he meets, but is fine with dogs he knew prior to the attack. What can I do to try and turn this anti-social attitude around?

Answer: He needs to build his confidence with other dogs again, but because of his aggression and because this has been going on for two years, you will need skilled assistance to help you do this safely.

Please contact your veterinary surgeon and ask for a referral to a behaviourist, or visit The Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors for a list of clinics in your area.

A good behaviourist will come up with a detailed programme of treatment to follow which will help him to realise that unfamiliar dogs are safe and will not attack him. Meanwhile, keep him well away from other dogs as aggressive encounters will compound his view that they are all dangerous and can be ‘seen off’ if he behaves aggressively himself.

In addition, he will be making himself very unpopular with other dogs in the neighbourhood and this will make it more difficult to treat the problem once you have learned how to do so. The treatment will involve gentle methods of teaching him an alternative behaviour to the aggressiveness he is currently showing and, later, if possible, gradually resocialising him with other dogs.

Question: Could you please give me some advice on how to introduce my 9-week-old kitten to my 18-month-old collie cross so that they get along with each other?

Answer: Nice and slowly is the answer, keeping control of both at first to ensure success. Keep them separate when you can’t supervise them so that they cannot cause each other concern or frighten each other.

Hold your collie on a lead so that it can’t chase or jump at the kitten. Let your kitten walk into the room in its own time rather than carrying it. Let it jump up onto sofa’s or high surfaces if it wants to and praise your dog for staying quiet and calm.

Make a fuss of the kitten too to show your dog that it is to be part of the pack and is not an intruder.

Repeat these introductions many times until both animals begin to take no notice of each other. Then gradually let your collie have more freedom, keep it on a lead for some time until you are sure they will get on and later keeping it on a longer line so that you can stop any chases quickly.

If you have any concerns about closer introductions, a muzzle may be needed for safety, but they are not usually necessary.

If you take it slowly and steadily so that neither your dog or your kitten gets worried by the other, you should find they will be friends in no time.

Question: When I take my Westie Cross dog Meg for a walk and there is another dog, bigger or smaller than her, she always lies down and she won't move until the dog comes up to her, then she plays with the dog. Why does she lie down and act as though she is shy?

Answer: This type of behaviour is common in dogs with a gentle nature that don’t want any trouble.

By laying down and keeping still, Meg can assess the intentions of the dog approaching and weigh up whether they may be safe to play with or not.

It also allows the other dog time to decide if they want to approach or not, and signals to them that she is not a threat and is safe to play with.

For dogs that are not confident about their ability to use aggression to see off another dog if it turns nasty, this is are very effective way of ensuring that they stay safe when encountering other dogs.

Question: Why does Billie jump at the hedge and run round demented when one of my neighbours dogs barks and jumps at her fence? She doesnt do it when the other neighbours dogs bark. She's going to hurt herself if she doesnt stop it, but if I go out she runs around more. If I try reverse psychology and ignore her she eventually will calm down and come in, but im worried she's going to get hurt in the meantime, she has had scratches on her tummy.

Her and Pippa dont get on if they meet when we are out, Pippa really goes for Billie, this is probably the reason, but how do I stop Billie reacting like she does? I'm getting desperate now.

Although its not important, but she is also making a mess of the lawn. She is the important one and I dont like to see her so agitated all the time, and in the occasional hot days we've been having! shes panting like mad by the time she calms down. I would really appreciate your advice on this matter.Thanks in anticipation.

Answer: If your neighbour is willing to co-operate, a time-share plan would be a good idea where only one dog is let out into its garden at a time while the other is kept indoors. At set times of the day, this situation is reversed.

Persevere with planned meetings with both dogs off territory for up to one month until they have got to know each other and have made friends. Once they are fully accepting of each other, planned meetings through the fence should take place with both dogs on leads so that owners can ensure good behaviour.

If your neighbour is not interested in co-operating, you may have to resort to going out with your dog each time so that you can supervise. Alternatively, you could put up a running line to attach your dog to on the opposite fence to keep her away from the problem area.

Question: We have just rescued a collie cross and our dog Sassie has started barking at it if he moves around and if he comes to you. What can I do for Sassie to accept him?

Answer: Give them time and space and, eventually, things should sort themselves out.

It sounds as though Sassie is slightly worried about the new collie and can just about cope with his presence providing he doesn’t move! When he begins to get active, he becomes more of a concern, the excitement level increases and Sassie just has to bark to reassure herself.

Try to keep everything as calm as possible at first to give both dogs a chance to accept each other and don’t let them get crowded into the same small space. Give plenty of exercise off territory so they can find out about each other on neutral ground.

And don’t worry – usually dogs accept each other quite readily and overcome their initial worries enough to become good friends.

You may like to read The Rescue Dog which has more information on understanding rescue dog behaviour.

Question: My Dalmatian, April, is 7 months old and I have had her for four weeks now. She is doing well with basic training but will not let my three cats into our house. They will only come into the house if I block her off and all she does is chase them away if they are out in the garden.

I have tried to rub their scent on her and vice versa, I have tried to hold the cats so she can sniff/lick them and I have put them in a room together for a long time hoping she will get used to them. None of this has worked.

You are my last hope! Have you got any ideas as I love her dearly but feel that the only other option is to find her a different home.

Answer: This is difficult to solve via email and you may need practical help. Being young and lively, she will seem quite terrifying to the cats and it is not surprising that they keep out of her way.

The situation is not hopeless, but you will need to teach her how to behave when the cats are present. This involves restraining her, not the cats.

Bring the cats in a meal times and make sure she is shut in another room for a while until they gain confidence about coming back in. Bring her into the room on a lead and insist that she lays down quietly. It will help to exercise her well before hand so that she is tired any ready to lay down.

Make her be still and quiet, tethering her so that she cannot get out of the ‘down’ position (make sure you teach her this slowly and gentle beforehand so that she doesn’t panic), or keeping her confined to a travel cage if you have one. Praise her if she is calm and ignore her when she isn’t.

Let her see you making a fuss of the cats and let them have the freedom of the house for while. Once she has learned to lay down and be calm in their presence, allow her a bit more freedom but keep her under strict control and put her into the ‘down’ again if she gets excited.

Progress in this way, bot inside and outside the house, until she has learned that she cannot chase the cats and has learned to behave well when they are around. If you need further help, please contact The Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors

Also see Gwen Bailey's article on Indoor Kennels (Wire Cages & Crates)

Question: I will be collecting my puppy, Solo, in two weeks time, when she will be eight weeks old.I have four cats, one of whom has a tendency to be dominant/aggressive towards the other cats. How should I go about introducing them, so that both puppy and cats are happy?

Answer: Cat’s primary sense is that of scent, and if you can introduce some cloths with the scent of your new puppy before he gets there, they will already be familiar with his smell. This will give the process a headstart.

The most important thing is that your new puppy should not be allowed to frighten or harass the cats at any time. Cats are usually quite sensible and keep out of the way at first, unless they have enough confidence to make the puppy back off.

Make sure the cats have shelves and high surfaces to jump on to or hiding places to get into where the puppy cannot go. Keep a close eye on all meetings and restrain your puppy if he tries to approach the cats too fast or too closely.

The use of a puppy playpen when you are not there to supervise can prevent unwanted encounters and the use of babygates around the house will allow your cats an escape route while preventing your puppy from giving chase.

Make sure he has many games with toys and put a little line on his collar when he is in the same room as the cats so that you can prevent him giving chase and learning that cats are play things.

You may like to read The Perfect Puppy which has more information on understanding puppy behaviour.

Question: I have had my rescue border collie bitch, Fin, for three years and she is very happy around people, especially those she knows well. However, she is nervous with other dogs, aggressive towards unknown dogs and can try to herd dogs she knows well.

Next week, I am taking on another 1-year-old rescue rough collie who is ultra-friendly with dogs and will look at Fin as her playmate. How can I introduce the two of them so that they play well and are not fearful of each other?

Answer: If Fin is afraid of other dogs, introducing her to your new dog may be difficult. Introduce them away from home on a walk. Have another person help you and walk them in parallel with each other so that there is no head-to-head meeting, letting them get to know each other slowly.

Before they get home, remove anything they are likely to argue over and introduce them in the garden so there is plenty of space for them to move around.

Muzzle Fin if you think she may bite the new dog. If the new dog is quite lively, keep her on a lead until she has settled down to prevent her approaching Fin and scaring her. Give them time to get to know each other and try not to interfere too much unless the situation looks serious.

If either is looking unhappy, distract them and encourage them to concentrate on something else (don’t introduce toys and food until much later). If the introductions go smoothly, it shouldn’t be too long before they form a pack.

It is importantly, that once they do, Fin does not teach your new dog to show aggression to other dogs. To prevent this, it may be a good idea to try to solve Fin’s problem with the help of a pet behaviour counsellor (try The Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors

Question: How can I stop my 8 month old Jack Russell from being aggressive towards my two cats?

Answer: It depends why he is being aggressive. If he has been raised with them, the most likely cause is that he enjoys the thrill of the chase and sees no reason why he shouldn’t ‘play’ in this way.

If you have only just got him, however, it could be that he is afraid of them and is trying to get rid of them. Either way, it is important that you stop him now before he injures the cats or the cats leave home.

If he is just enjoying the thrill of the chase and likes to ambush them and tries to catch them, you need to prevent him from doing this and tell him off when he does so.

Stop him by leaving a long line attached to his collar and keeping an eye on him whenever the cats are around. Stand on the line to stop him if he looks like he is paying attention to the cats, and tell him off.

Make sure he is getting enough play with you instead. Teach him to play with toys and make time at regular intervals throughout the day to play a game with him. In this way he should learn to focus his play energy onto you rather than the cats.

If you need help to do this or there is a different reason for his aggression, or this aggression is severe, please get further help from a pet behaviourist from The Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors

Question: We have recently discovered that I am expecting a baby and have since noticed a difference in our basset hound's behaviour. George now chews everything in sight and has started getting boisterous towards me. Is there anything I can do to stop this behaviour?

Answer: This could be due to a change in the way you smell (pregnant mothers produce different hormones which alter their scent) or could be due to changes in the way you have been acting towards him since you heard the news. Has he come from a family that gave him up when they had a baby?If so, he could be anticipating a repeat performance and be becoming very insecure as a result.

It is more likely, however, that your attitude towards him has changed slightly and your focus has moved away from him towards your forthcoming event. Dogs are very sensitive to changes in their owner’s attitude and perhaps he is picking this up and becoming insecure because of it.

Either way, he needs lots of reassurance that he is still part of the family. Don’t do this when he is demanding attention, but wait until he is being good. Then give him at least 10 minutes of undivided love, attention and play.

If you do this often throughout the day, you should see results quite quickly. (If you cannot do this, it is important that you decide now whether or not you want to keep him so that you can find a good home for him while you still have lots of time.)

Try to get him into routines that you will find easy to cope when the baby comes, reducing the amount of attention you give him gradually until it matches that which you will be able to give him when the baby arrives. When that time comes, remember to try to find enough time and attention for him despite all the exhaustion and activity that will be normal to that time.

Question: Have Taz a 4 yr old neutered bitch Westie and have just had Rosie another Westie who is now 13 weeks old. On 3 occasions Taz had "turned" on the pup quite nastily only when we have had visitors, and when Taz has been receiving attention and the pup has wandered near. Should we interfere or not? We have up to no separated them. In-between time they play and romp, share toys, and sleep together

Answer: Taz needs to maintain a higher status than Rosie as she grows up if they are to have a stable relationship. This means she will, from time to time, need to ‘discipline’ Rosie if she misbehaves.

Usually this involves lots of noise and intimidation, but no injury. It is also perfectly natural that the ‘pack leader’ should have first call on privileges such as petting from visitors.

Usually, it is best not to interfere with the leader’s behaviour towards the subordinate, but some pack leaders are not very experienced and can over-react.

If you feel Rosie is being bullied or Taz’s behaviour is particularly unpleasant when visitors come, continue to separate them, allowing both to meet the visitors individually. Otherwise, leave well alone and Rosie will learn how to behave in a way that keeps her out of trouble.

Question: I have brother and sister cats who are just under one-year-old. We recently brought a stafford pup and heard that through gentle introduction they can become good friends. Wilma, the female, is fine with him, however Fred, the male, has not really come downstairs in the two weeks that we have had Dino (the pup). He occasionally ventures down but will not go anywhere near the kitchen where Dino sleeps. I don't want to force Fred down as I don't want to scare him anymore than he already is. I've kept the cats in as I'm afraid if I let them out I may never see them again. Is this normal behaviour or is there anything I can do to get Fred back to normal?

Answer: Two weeks is not very long when trying to get cats and dogs used to each other. Unfortunately, puppies, especially staffie puppies, are quite wriggly and boisterous, and timid cats find them difficult to cope with.

Cats usually take sole responsibility for their own safety, particularly when it comes to dogs, and as far as your cat is concerned, he probably thinks his survival depends on staying away from the puppy. He may eventually come down of his own accord, although if he is very timid, he may not. You can speed things up by arranging for him to observe the pup from a distance so he can decide that he may not be so dangerous after all.

How you do this will depend upon the layout of your house. Cats like to get up high to keep safe, especially to get away from little pups that can’t climb. I would recommend arranging a system of branches or shelving that would enable your cat to easily get up out of the way, either around the rooms downstairs or just in the living room. Put beds and food dishes up high too so that everything the cats needs is up high. Shut the puppy in the kitchen and tempt your cat down with food (this may take a few days).

Let the cat explore the house again, especially that new network of escape routes for several days at certain times of the day when the pup is shut away. Then, once he is relaxed in the living room again, bring the puppy in on a lead and make him stay still (it’s a good idea to have exercised him very well in the garden first).

Once the cat finds it can get to safety, he will be much more willing to begin the process of getting used to the newcomer. You will need to teach your puppy that he must not chase or bark at the cats and, gradually, they should get to know each other.

Question: We recently inherited two cats from some friends who have emigrated. Pepsi, who is two, and Errol, who is four. We also have a very lively seven month old border collie puppy. We are currently having problems getting Pepsi to go to the toilet outside. She seemed okay for a few weeks after we first let her out of the house, but since then we have had problems with her urinating on our bed. This stopped when we put the cat litter out again, but we would prefer her to go outside. We cannot put the cat litter anywhere accessible to the puppy, as he eats everything, (cat litter included). Pepsi had never been outside before she came to us (she was an indoor cat) and we have an open plan living and kitchen area with a dog flap to the rear garden.

Answer: The problem is not so much that Pepsi needs to have a litter tray inside, but that she doesn’t want to go outside. The question is why? Since she is new to the outside world, she is not going to be as confident out there as a cat that has always been able to get out. Any small disturbance that causes her to be insecure outside will inhibit her from going to the toilet there and cause her to need to go inside.

Cats like to be secretive about going to the toilet and so prefer dry, soft earth under bushes. Do you have somewhere suitable for her to go in your garden without her having to travel too far from the safety of your home? Is this kept freshly dug and clean? Does your puppy disturb her when she tries to go to the toilet, or try to chase her when she goes outside (if you have a dog flap, he will be able to go outside whenever she does) (also, if your puppy likes to eat everything, he may be following her, waiting for her to go so he can eat it! Naturally enough, this may be very intimidating for Pepsi.).

Or it could be that other cats in the neighbourhood have been intimidating her (this may not have happened during the first two weeks of her freedom). Finding the answer to the question ‘why’ and doing something about it from Pepsi’s point of view is essential if you want her to start going outside again. Otherwise, I’m afraid you may have to accept that Pepsi will always need a litter tray indoor and it is easier to provide her with one than risk her finding her own unacceptable substitute.

You may like to read What is my Cat Thinking? for more information on understanding your cat's behaviour

Question: We have recently moved into a house with our two dogs, a 12-month-old terrier cross and a two-year-old boxer bitch. In the garden lives a cockerel. The boxer is fascinated by the bird and walks after it, then gives chase. There is much clucking and squawking until the poor cockerel seeks refuge off the ground. To my knowledge, she's never actually got hold of the bird. We've had a week of this, it happens eight or a dozen times a day. Much stern talking to, and 'Leave!' and 'In your bed!' and 'Stay!' does not seem to sink in. The terrier is OK - and leaves the bird alone. The boxer, when it can see the bird, is absolutely focused on it, and she quivers and trembles in anticipation of chasing it. It's my contention that there is nothing we can do to train the dog to stop chasing the chicken, and my wife disagrees. My wife now wants to get the cock some wives. I'm hoarse with shouting at the dog already; goodness knows what it will be like with more birds...

Answer: To your boxer it is, at the moment, just a game for fun. To the cockerel, it is a game of life or death. Although your dog may not mean to hurt it, the inequality of size means that injuries for the bird are extremely likely. If it does not stop soon, your dog will get more skilled at the game or faster at giving chase, and, eventually, the cockerel will be no more. If your wife acquires some chickens, there will be more chances for this to happen and there will be more excitement making disaster more likely.

Your dog needs to be taught how to behave with the cockerel. This is possible if your dog does not have a highly developed predatory instinct. It is unlikely that she does or, after a whole week of practising, she would probably have found a way to kill the cockerel by now. It is more likely that, instead, she just enjoys the sport of trying to catch it. Or, alternatively, that she sees it as an unwelcome intruder that needs to be seen off. Either way, teaching him how to behave in the presence of the cockerel is necessary and will need to be practised until she gives up and stops trying to chase it.

At the moment, you are taking action once the behaviour has started or after it has finished. This is not effective because animals find it hard to learn from this. Instead, you need to do something before the behaviour begins.

This means that, for a period of time, ALL visits to the garden will need to be supervised (unless you can erect some sort of barrier to protect the bird and stop him chasing).

At first, keep your dog on a lead. Keep her calm and do not let her walk fast in the direction of the cockerel.

Go to within a few metres of the cockerel, ask her to lay down, hold her by the collar firmly to ensure she does so. Praise her when she relaxes, which may take some time, then take her away and repeat.

It will take many approaches like this to teach her how to behave, but she will, eventually learn. To speed up the process, you could tether her in a position where she cannot harm the bird but can see it and not give chase (ensure that the cockerel cannot get to her either!).

Make sure she has plenty of activity and chase games with toys away from the bird to use up her excess energy before you being. It will take time but, gradually, she will become bored with the cockerel’s presence – and then it may be time to get him some wives.

Question: I got my German Shepherd pup shortly after a miscarriage and he really helped me get over my depression. He ended up my constant companion and he became very protective of me. I was delighted to find I was pregnant again but was horrified at my dog's reaction to the baby. Whenever she cries he get very worried and runs around the house at speed whining. If anyone goes near her, he bares his teeth. I just don't feel confident that he's entirely safe around my baby.

When she starts to crawl I fear things might get more dangerous. I feel it would probably be best if I tried to rehome him ­ but I can't bare the thought of letting him down. I feel I've caused his problems and no one else would be likely to put up with him ­ what should I do?

Answer: It’s natural and correct to be worried about having a large animal around your baby, especially since changes in you since the birth have made you particularly protect of your new offspring. However, there is no need to panicked into thinking about giving up your dog until you have found out whether or not it is really necessary since it often isn’t if you have had no major behaviour problems with your dog before the birth.

This sort of problem cannot be sorted out safely via a letter and it is important to get professional help as soon as possible with a pet behaviour counsellor who can take a look at your dog’s behaviour, help you to decide the best course of action, and give you good advice to allow you to keep your family together safely. Write to The Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors

To reassure you a little, the behaviour you describe is more likely to be due to your dog being protective of the baby than other reasons. Dogs that have had a very close relationship with their owner, particularly German Shepherds that are prone to forming these strong one-to-one relationships, usually accept new babies into the family readily and start helping to take responsibility for them early on. Baring his teeth when anyone goes near is his way of trying to warn them to stay away from the precious new member of the family.

Forming close bonds with one person usually happens at the expense of forming friendships with other people and so your dog may view people outside the immediate family with distrust, particularly if they are men.

For this reason, it is sensible to keep him out of the way when visitors are likely to get near the baby. Don’t isolate him completely, but use a baby gate to keep him in another room. Be extra careful with him when you take the baby and dog out for a walk if anyone stops to take a look in the pram.

Amazingly, most dogs accept babies into families quite readily considering how much disruption it causes to their lives. You may be unlucky enough to own one of the few that is very jealous or is sees them as threat but the pet behaviour counsellor will help you to determine this. It is more likely, however, that your dog will be fine with the baby and take it, and any others that come along, in his stride.

Question: Advice please on whether the problems we are experiencing are the normal behaviour problems when introducing new puppy to older dog or do we have the makings of a serious problem to come with two bitches and need to get professional help now.

We have Chloe, 4 year old Labrador Retriever, spayed, very friendly nature, submissive to other dogs, and now Lucy 10 1/2 week old Golden Retriever, who we have had since 7 weeks. The breeder chose her as being higher ranking dog, and assured us this was the correct match for us. (A well respected breeder from your magazine!) The main areas of confrontation are Chloe's bed and possession of toys. Lucy is always getting in to Chloe's bed, and will not get out when Chloe barks at her, sometimes paws her and puts her mouth near her. Lucy just sits there barking back. The noise level is quite intolerable. If I get Lucy out and put her in her cage with the door shut, Lucy continues to bark. Chloe is not consistent in her approach, sometimes she will not attempt to get her out, and will either go in Lucy's cage or lie elsewhere. The same happens over the possession of toys, Chloe will not bother sometimes or just let Lucy take them from her.

Lucy's barks an awful lot, which is a worry for us, we wonder how long our neighbours will tolerate this, not to mention our nerves, and is not a bit frightened of Chloe, will Chloe eventually give up and let Lucy take over...... or will things get even worse? How can we tell by their behaviour which way things will progress and is there anything we can do to bring peace to the household.

Answer: I think the solution lies in taking a bit more control of Lucy yourselves. Usually the advice is not to interfere too much as dogs tend to sort themselves out, but, in your case I think Chloe needs a bit of help!

Puppies assess the other animals they live with while they are growing up to see where they fit into the pack. At 10.5 weeks, Lucy is still in this stage and not necessarily trying to take over yet. However, it sounds as though it is time that she learnt some boundaries. If the breeder chose her as a ‘high-ranking dog’, I suspect it was because she was quite confident in the litter and often won encounters with her littermates. I wonder if the breeder was as good at judging you and whether or not a ‘high-ranking’ dog was suitable for you? If you need help controlling her at this stage, perhaps you would have been better off with a dog with a more gentle nature – I’m sure Chloe would agree!

However, all is not lost as Lucy is still very young. If you let her know now who is in charge, there should be fewer problems later. Firstly, look at your own relationship with Lucy. How often do you let her get her own way when you interact? Think of all the things you do with her during the day. Do you let her do things her way most of the time or do you insist she follows your lead? If she is winning more encounters than she loses with you, it is time to change things around. Insist, for example, that she gives toys up at the end of the play session, plays nicely and doesn’t bite your fingers (or the toy is taken away and the game stops), and loses most of the tug games. Insist, also, that she moves out of the way as you approach, that she goes through doorways after you, that she doesn’t get titbits or food or any privileges until she has ‘earned’ them by doing something for you. Make sure she stands still when you brush her or try to dry her feet. Discuss between yourselves where her boundaries should be and then don’t allow her to overstep them. If you insist on good manners from now on in all areas of her life, I suspect you will see a change in her attitude towards you which, in turn, will help you to have more control over how she behaves.

It is important, at the moment at least, that you assist Chloe in being pack leader. The encounter over the bed shows that Chloe is trying to assert herself, but is so gentle about it that she isn’t getting her message across very well. It would benefit Lucy if she learned at this young age that she was bottom of the heap and had to move out of the way when requested or give up toys that she wanted. (If she is already having to do these things with you, this will help.) Lucy also need to learn to deal with the frustration of not getting her own way. I suspect this is why she barks if you put her in her cage at these times. When she does this, make sure she is ignored completely so that you do not reinforce the barking by paying attention. Cover the front of her cage with a thick blanket to help deaden the sound and only let her out when she has been quiet and settled for a while. Help Chloe out whenever she is having difficulty with Lucy so that Lucy learns she cannot get her own way. When you leave them alone, separate them with a stair gate so that all is peaceful until you return.

It is important to get Lucy to be quiet now so that her barking does not become a habit. If she looks at you and barks, this should be studiously ignored. Eventually she will realise that attention-seeking barking gets just the opposite of what she hoped and will cease to do it. If she barks at Chloe, ask her to stop. If she persists, go over and get her attention and ask her to stop again. If she continues, put her outside the room and leave her there until she is quiet. Eventually, she will realise that all barking is counterproductive.

It is not possible to say at this stage whether or not Lucy will eventually take over as pack leader, although she is already showing the right signs. Real challenges to Chloe’s leadership are likely as Lucy reaches puberty at 6 months and comes into season for the first time. Once you have established your own authority with Lucy and have helped Chloe through the first few months, it is best to back off a bit and leave the two dogs to settle into a natural order. Otherwise you may find that you are interfering too much and this may aggravate the situation. Once you get over Lucy’s first season, you will have a clearer picture of who is going to be in charge. Given Chloe’s gentle nature, I think it is unlikely that there will be a problem, but if, at this stage, there is serious tension between them, it may be wise to contact a pet behaviour counsellor for advice so that it does not escalate into real aggression.

Also see Gwen Bailey's article on Indoor Kennels (Wire Cages & Crates)

Question: I have a 4-year old staffordshire bull terrier who has not had much contact with babies or young children in the past. I am now four months pregnant and am extremely worried about how Jay (the dog) is going to react to a baby in the house. Are there any steps I can take before my baby comes along in order to prepare him for the arrival?

Answer: Usually, normal, well-adjusted dogs take very well to babies and generally seem to regard them as small members of the pack to be tolerated and protected.Staffies, particularly are usually very good with children. Having said that, you need to be careful, introduce the baby carefully and be with them to supervise whenever they are together.

If your dog has a difficult temperament or existing behaviour problems, it essential to seek the opinion of a professional who will be able to assess whether or not the dog presents a danger to the infant (contact The Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors).

Otherwise, try not to worry too much. It is helpful to get your dog used to as many things as possible before the baby arrives, i.e. changes in routine, less affection, baby smells, baby noises – particularly crying which can be reproduced on a tape or cd. Introduce your dog to the new baby when you bring it home and make sure you give him plenty of affection when the baby is present so he doesn’t feel left out.

Question: My 2-year old beagle bitch recently bit my 15-month-old son. Until this happened, she has been really good with him and they have played together continually - it is completely out of character. Now I don't know what to do - is it likely to happen again and should I consider getting rid of her?

Answer: If it has happened once, it is likely to happen again given the same circumstances. However, without knowing all the details, it is not possible to say why she did it. Since it hasn’t happened before and they have been playing well together, it is probably not necessary to get rid of her, but you will need to think carefully about preventing it from happening again. You didn’t say whether she actually bit him or whether she snapped at him and caught him by accident. If she bit him and left a deep wound with bruising, I would be very careful with her in future. If, however, she snapped at him and caught him with a tooth, she may have been taking it upon herself to ‘discipline’ him when he got too rough, as she would have done with a wayward puppy. This brings me to the question ‘how much attention were you paying at the time? If you were there watching, you will know exactly why she did it and can make a good decision about how safe she is to have around. If not, I would recommend not leaving them alone together in future and paying attention when they are playing together. It should be you that stops any unwanted behaviour towards her by your boy (and vice versa) rather than leaving it to her to make him stop. If you cannot control your son (difficult, I know, at his age), consider the use of a baby gate so that she can be safe from him but not shut away from company. To be on the safe side, I would recommend you get professional help (contact The Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors).



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