Special Issues » Puppy Love

Inexperienced dog owners troubleshoot their weirdest pet issues online

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I'm not a dog trainer. I did not take my dog to obedience school. I barely touched even the lightest reading among the dog-training books friends strongly recommended, and even gifted to me, when I got my then eight-week-old mixed breed about 10 years ago. I, like most simple folks, just winged it.

That dog, still alive and well and energetic as hell, obeys the awkward commands I invented for her – I played a lot of Def Jam's Fight for New York at the time, and so the game's repeated line from rapper WC, "Come, come now," is still the only way to get her to "do her business" – and suffers from the weird behavioral tics this informal training embedded in her – she freaks out when people knock because I thought this reaction was hilarious when she was a small pup. (Not laughing anymore. Sigh.) Through this extended learning experience, I've unwittingly discovered the obvious: Ignorance is not bliss when dealing with a dog.

Common dog problems like fleas, dietary issues and potty training are challenges easily met with tried-and-true solutions you can quickly call up with a Google search. But anyone who's ever adopted a dog and independently dealt with the process of training and caring for that dog (with only a hint of basic canine understanding) eventually goes through the hair-raising motions of pooch troubleshooting when bizarre issues arise, either physically or behaviorally. The common advice for people is: "Don't consult Dr. Google." Try telling that to a crazed pet owner whose qualified vet can't diagnose her dog's health concern.

ROB BARTLETT
  • Rob Bartlett

From the serious to the are you serious? questions, Yahoo! Answers is riddled with the kind of dog problems only a panicked amateur (or drooling troll) dares to ask. Some questions come from irresponsibility – one frantic poster's dog got into his meth supply, another considers breeding her wiener dog with a golden retriever and earnestly asks if her dog might explode. Other issues have more to do with human social behavior than your pet's: What should I do if my girlfriend's dog doesn't like me? I hate my boyfriend's Chihuahua, what do I do? Some problems universally evoke eye rolls and jaded retorts (like: Is my dog gay? How can I stop my dog from masturbating?), but others are so clueless, they cause the volunteer compendium of dog owners who have all the Answers to leap to the dogs' defenses (Can a pug sleep outside in Alaska? Can I remove my beagle's voice box?). Keep in mind, these earnest fellow dog owners aren't necessarily the experts, so take the advice with a grain of salt (yes, even if your dog is grain-free).

Luckily for unqualified dog owners, a pup's love is frequently unconditional, so as long as you aren't disturbed (creepiest question: My dog died; can I eat him?), even the dimmest pet owner (many of whom can barely figure out what to name their new pets) can get by with a little intuition and a little help from your furry friend, who usually knows what he or she needs, even though you're the one commanding all the attention.

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