Ask Ashley – January 2023

Ask Ashley

Animal expert, Ashley Flores, CPDT-KA, is the Senior Director of Animal Behavior and Training at Great Plains SPCA. Ashley has more than 16 years of experience in animal training and behavior. Email for a chance to have your pet question answered in KC Parent magazine.

Lady M, my four-year-old cat who was adopted from Pet Project, frequently forgets to use the litter box for both potty and urine.When anyone comes to my house, she runs and hides, she only likes me. She will be ten years’ old in March. Do you have any suggestions? I keep the litter box very clean. – Penelope

It sounds like Lady M might be struggling with anxiety, and environmental changes are quite scary for her. I would recommend having a smaller box on every floor in your home, keeping them clean, and trying different types of litter. If you don’t think it’s about the litterbox and that it’s anxiety-related, then I would consult your veterinarian to rule out any health problems and possibly discuss behavioral medications. There are some pheromone sprays you can use in your home to help with anxiety in the home as well. – Ashley Flores, CPDT-KA

My dog is absolutely terrified in the car when we travel. We had to cancel our Thanksgiving plans due to our dog being so scared in the car. He cries a lot and wants to get out. Please help! – Rosie Miller

There are several things you can do for your dog to associate the car as a good place. I recommend exercising him for 20 to 30 minutes before a trip, keeping the car cool, and using toys and treats to create a positive experience. Try going on a bunch of small trips to fun places like the park or drive-thrus. There are pheromone sprays to calm him, and in the worst-case scenario, you can consult your veterinarian to get anti-anxiety medication. – Ashley Flores, CPDT-KA

We adopted our dog a year-and-a-half ago from Great Plains SPCA. She paws at us when she hears noises that upset her. Thunderstorms, people talking on radio, buzzers/ bells on game shows, etcetera. Currently I use a water bottle to stop her, it helps occasionally. I usually try to find source and mute it. Hard to mute thunderstorms. She is on Prozac from the vet and exercised as much as possible. Behavior still occurs. Any ideas? – Mary

All year, I would recommend rewarding calm behaviors. Dogs are associative learners, which means they learn in patterns. If you routinely reward during calmness, she is more likely to repeat those behaviors when she is nervous. You can also talk to your veterinarian about medication for thunderstorms if she is displaying high anxiety. Prozac is a good anti-anxiety medication for dogs, so it sounds like you’ve got a good start. You could also try a snug fitting shirt or wrap that helps calm anxious animals. You can also work on desensitizing her to the noises by playing them softly on TV or a phone, rewarding her for being calm, then making the noises louder until they stop bothering her. – Ashley Flores, CPDT-KA

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