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Stuffed animals a pet’s stand-in for packmates and prey

Updated: March 23, 2012 8:02AM

Q. I have a 1-year-old Sealyham terrier. He loves to put his mouth around one of his stuffed toys and just pulse gently up and down. He can do this for 20 to 30 minutes. What do you think this means?

A. He’s a youngster and still teething. Mouthing gives him gummy comfort as his choppers emerge. Also, this behavior is very puppy-ish. If he was surrounded by a bunch of siblings in the den, he would probably gum them, too.

To our dogs, stuffed animals fulfill a variety of roles — prey, sibling, plaything, squirrel-substitute. An inanimate animal with a squishy belly allows your Sealyham to imagine he’s back in the old country tussling with or choking a rodent softly.

Q. I have had a 2-year-old German shepherd since he was 11 weeks. He is scared out of his mind of cars, bikes, people, balloons, boxes and all objects in motion. He is especially afraid of people. He was a normal puppy when I got him from the breeder.

He is also a severe chewer. I hated to do it, but I finally got him a crate. He gets plenty of attention throughout the day even when I’m at class or work because my roommates care for him in my absence. When I exercised him even more, he became worse in his chewing and hyper-active behavior.

A. Your German shepherd is still an adolescent and needs care and attention and socializing. Walk him frequently so he becomes accustomed to the noises and surprises in the world. When he is calm, reward him with high-value treats (freeze-dried liver or chicken). Don’t expect your roommates to provide your dog the same quality of consideration. In all her years, Dog Lady has never heard of a well-exercised dog chewing more and becoming hyperactive. A crate will help if the crate is used well. You have a big dog requiring a big part of your life. Make room for the responsibility.

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