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Published October 15, 2010, 12:00 AM

Pet Care: Puppy screams nonstop

Dear Dr. Fox: I have two male Yorkshire terriers (uncle and nephew) that interact beautifully. My dilemma is that the younger one barks, squeals, screams and shrieks relentlessly.

By: Dr. Michael Fox, INFORUM

Dear Dr. Fox: I have two male Yorkshire terriers (uncle and nephew) that interact beautifully.

My dilemma is that the younger one barks, squeals, screams and shrieks relentlessly. He is not in pain, but he screams when I put his leash on for a walk and when he sees me preparing his food. When we walk around the apartment, he will scream unexpectedly, which scares the heck out of me. Sometimes I confine him to one of our bedrooms, and he doesn’t make a sound – I actually think he enjoys it.

I know about pet products such as battery-operated dog collars, whistles, etc., that inhibit barking. In my opinion, these are cruel and inhumane. My breeder has recommended that I spray water at him or shake a coffee can filled with loose change, which hasn’t worked.

My wife instructs me to ignore this behavior, saying it’s his way of communicating with the family, but there must be a better way. – L.B., Silver Spring, Md.

Dear L.B.: Your screaming Yorkie has established a conditioned alarm response in you. That’s why he frazzles your nerves. His scream is a biological alarm trigger, which in the wild would alert pack mates to his fear or acute pain, warning others of potential danger.

But he is neither afraid nor in pain, his vocalizations being a biological aberration, in part attributable to him being a “perpetual puppy,” who gives puppy distress calls to get mother’s attention. As an adult animal in the wild, he would not survive long with this trait.

Other than having the vocal cords snipped (an ethically questionable, if not abhorrent, procedure but preferable to getting rid of the dog or divorcing your wife), you should try to understand that this is part of the nature of this little canine critter. He’s an attention-seeker and no doubt loves life. Try to transmute his screams in your own mind to the sounds of a perpetual puppy, whose entire essence is to get your attention and win your affection.

Dear Dr. Fox: Recently, I began to cough during a nap. My dog Honey, a red heeler, was reclining at the foot of my bed, as always. She heard me coughing and got up close to the middle of my back (though she never usually goes that high) and she began to push against my back.

I have asthma, and this is a touchpoint for me when I cannot breathe. I spoke to her and said, “Honey, move.” But she just kept pushing and pushing against me. She was warm, and I finally realized what she was doing. She was helping me breathe. At that point, I just relaxed and let her stay there. I finally began to breathe better, and she moved down to the foot of the bed.

I get chills just thinking about this. I know she knew what she was doing. – L.G., Arlington, Texas

Dear L.G.: Perhaps your dog Honey should set up a canine healing center and help train other dogs to keep their human companions safe and well. It’s possible such sensitive dogs (and cats) can sense body auras or energy fields and know where physical problems lie. But how? And how do they know what to do?

I have many letters from readers detailing how their animals respond to them when they are ill and have various injuries, and it is a fact that animals do possess a basic, possibly empathy-based, ability to recognize when and where a loved one is suffering, and in many instances provide healing relief.

Additional letters from readers about this topic are always welcome!

Send your questions to Dr. Fox in care of The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns. Visit Dr. Fox’s website at www.twobitdog.com/DrFox.