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Embrace your dog’s quirky way of celebrating life

Dear Dog Lady,

My little Gizmo was an abandoned terrier mix. She came into the shelter with ticks, tapeworm, whipworm and a burn. She also had a sore on her leg and was underweight.

As I looked around the shelter and saw the little shaky dog, I fell in love with her. She is the joy in my life and is the best little dog in the world. She never did any messes in the house nor tore up anything.

She does enjoy carrying one or two or even three socks or slippers in her mouth and whimpers as she tries to “bury” them in her bed or the couch. She even pushes imaginary dirt over them. She is 5 years old. Do you know why she does this?



​A: Over years writing this column and delving into the magical thinking of dogs, Dog Lady has concluded that when they do quirky things such as carrying nightgowns, dancing around food or letting out a happy yowl when you enter the room, they celebrate life.

They’re not worrying about predators, sickness, ill health, hunger or any of the immediate fears inherent in their species; they are merely going to their happy place. In dogs, this comes out as primitive behavior that brings them joy — such as pushing imaginary dirt over a couple of socks buried in the couch.

Gizmo acts out the rituals of his ancestors because he’s completely comfortable to be a dog. You have made him secure. He does not feel abandoned, unloved or unwanted.

Comfort of the crate

Dear Dog Lady,


Q: I have an eight-month-old boxer who is at home for about eight hours every day while I'm at work, although I come home for an hour on my lunch break and take her out. She also goes to daycare twice a week.


She seems very comfortable in her cage, and often goes in there just to sleep. She has also been house trained for about six weeks. I leave her alone outside the crate for up to an hour occasionally and she always seems to handle it fine, but I haven't done this when I'm at work. When do you think a good age is to start phasing out the crate?



A: For reasons she could never adequately explain, Dog Lady was very touched by your letter. You’re obviously raising a good dog and asking all the right questions.


People think cages are cruel. Yet, a “cage” – the impolite word for “crate” – is an ideal hangout when the dog is young. In truth, this is the kindest way to nurture a young pup. Crates provide dogs with their own turf. The containment also trains them to keep their hangout clean because they do not want to spoil their living quarters. They learn to hold their excretions until they are released from the crate and taken outside.


Even when dogs have full freedom, many return to their crates for comfort and security. You could start by leaving the door to the crate open when you leave for work and see how she handled freedom when you come home on your lunch break. Make this open-door policy without fanfare. If your boxer behaves – and Dog Lady believes she will because she’s obviously a good dog and thoughtfully trained by you – leave the cage open in the afternoon. Also, when you’re home on weekends, begin to let her out of her crate all the time.


However, for the next year or so – and maybe for the rest of her life -- do not pack up the crate and take it away. Leave the container out with an open door for your dog to use as a retreat if she wants

Let them eat cake

When Dog Lady got married recently, the cake was inspired by the sweet spirit of Shorty in his various poses. The confectionery creation really was most adorable wedding cake ever.

Weston Pooch Parade

Happy to speak today at Weston Pooch Parade. Lots of dogs and their people.


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