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Dog's strange behavior could be linked to PTSD

Dr. Michael Fox

Dear Dr. Fox: Six months ago, my family got an 18-month-old Husky rescue. We all think he's the world's best dog: friendly and happy, with a great temperament. He wags his tail, greets and licks everyone (strangers included) that come near him. I'm the grandpa and have my own apartment in the house. Three months ago, he started loudly barking at only me and running away as if I were coming after him with an ax whenever I came near him. I call him and walk after him with a treat, and after five minutes of barking and running away, he'll lie down, wag his tail, lick my hand and face, and let me rub his belly for as long as I want to. Then, when I get up and walk away, the whole scenario starts again from the beginning. This happens all day, every day, and is especially bad when I come home late at night and he wakes everyone up with his barking. I never have, never would and never will do anything to hurt him, yell at him or scare him. What can I do to fix this?—B.K., Manalapan, New Jersey

Dear B.K.: My educated guess is that this dog is conflicted by post-traumatic stress disorder, most probably involving abuse from a person who resembles you. The memory flares up for no apparent reason except for your presence, and possibly your body language and scent.

Try changing your scent by having all family members share the same perfume for a week to 10 days. Essential oil of lavender is a good one, with calming effects on dogs. Also put a drop or two on a bandanna around the dog's neck. There is also a commercially available dog-appeasement pheromone, which may also help if you put some on your wrists ( Then pet, groom or massage the dog, as per my book "The Healing Touch for Dogs." Many dogs become addicted to a good massage! Good luck, and keep me posted.

Dear Dr. Fox: Our 3-year-old cat has a cute habit that I have never seen before in other cats who have "owned" us. Poky will put his soft rubber ball and/or little soft "mousies" into his food or water bowl overnight. When I give him fresh water and food in the morning, I can almost always be certain of little treats from him to me. My vet thought he was marking his territory because we have an older female cat, but I like to think it is a love offering. We have two water bowls, two food bowls and two litter boxes, which I think they use randomly. What is your take on this behavior?—R.W.R., Jupiter, Florida

Dear R.W.R.: Some cats are very creative in the games they engage in. A friend of mine who's involved with cat rescue and rehabilitation has one permanent resident feline, who will take her various toys and set one at a time on the stairs—one step for each toy. Other cats will dunk some toys in the water or food bowl, like yours does.

My interpretation of these behaviors, sometimes confirmed by the cats' yowling and parading around first with a selected toy in their mouths, is that they are carrying a "kitten" and then they put it in or beside the food or water bowl to get sustenance.

Other cats use the toy as prey, in their feline imaginations, and make a game of catching it and batting it around in the water—or, with my cat, under a towel or throw rug on the floor. I would like to hear from other readers about their cats' creativity in this regard. Siamese, in particular, like to chase thrown toys and actually retrieve them. And many cats are hoarders, keeping their toys in one place as though they have a litter of kittens or stash of food to be brought out on occasion, and then to be carefully put back.

Send all mail to or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. 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