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Published September 02, 2011, 12:00 AM

Pet Care: Sleep training needed

Dear Dr. Fox: My wife and I adopted Lucky, a neutered male Boston terrier, five years ago. At that time, the educated guess of his age was 8, making him about 13 now.

By: By Dr. Michael Fox, INFORUM

Dear Dr. Fox: My wife and I adopted Lucky, a neutered male Boston terrier, five years ago. At that time, the educated guess of his age was 8, making him about 13 now.

We couldn’t have gotten a more lovable or sweeter dog than him. He loves people but is not fond of other animals.

He always has slept between my wife and me with his head on a pillow. I have only one problem with this – Lucky suffers from “restless paw syndrome.” Consequently, we suffer right along with him. Because of this, we cannot get a full night’s sleep. He is constantly moving around and jabbing us with his paws.

Do you have any possible suggestion, aside from getting rid of him (something we won’t do – Lucky is here to stay)?

– N. & M.S., Boca Raton, Fla.

Dear N. & M.S.: Sleeping with a restless dog is the price you pay for not training him to sleep at the end of the bed or in his own bed beside yours. Boston terriers are also known to snore, so I can’t imagine sleeping with his head on a pillow next to mine.

Some tough love is called for. Be prepared for a few sleepless nights while you train him, with praise and treats, to stay on his own pillow at the far end of the bed or in a soft dog bed beside you.

Ingrained comfort-seeking habits are hard to break in man and beast alike. Good luck with Lucky and with changing his creature comforts.


Dear Dr. Fox: We have a miniature poodle who will be 3 years old soon. When she sees her reflection in the mirror, she gets all excited and barks at her reflection and runs around.

We have new sliding mirror doors in our basement, and every time she goes down there she does this activity. We also have a standup mirror in our bedroom that we often have to tilt or cover with clothing so she does not see her reflection from the bed. One would think that after multiple times she would figure out there is no other dog.

We have had two dogs in the past: a border collie and a corgi mix. Neither one seemed aware of, or at least did not care about, their reflection. Does this poodle’s behavior necessarily mean our dog is either smart or stupid? Is it characteristic of particular breeds? – C.B., Beltsville, Md.

Dear C.B.: Mirror tests have been done with various animal species. Some, such as elephants and chimpanzees, show reactions when they see that a mark has been put on their foreheads. This may reflect a higher degree of self- awareness, if not narcissism, compared with other species that do not react to a change in their familiar mirror image. Parakeets will bill, coo and court their mirror image, while Siamese fighting fish will go into attack mode.

Most dogs and cats quickly habituate to seeing themselves reflected in a mirror, but some, like your dog, will make a game out of it. One simple test of awareness is to stand behind the animal while looking into a mirror. The animal will often turn around, knowing that you are standing behind him/her, and look at you. A common reaction among cats and dogs is to go behind the mirror to see if there actually is another animal there. I wonder how often your dog sees other dogs and has the opportunity to interact with his own kind. He may benefit from a doggy play group.

Readers may wish to experiment with their animals and share their observations with me. Get your animal used to seeing his mirror image, then stick a half-inch square of red or blue masking tape on his forehead. Get him used to wearing the tape for a few days, then put him in front of the mirror and see if he notices the tape and tries to remove it.


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 Web site at www.twobitdog.com/DrFox.

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