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Should Westie’s headbanging worry owners?

Updated: February 26, 2013 2:09PM

Q. Lately, our 13-year-old Westie (West Highland white terrier) Desmond exhibits a strange behavior when his stomach is acting up. He eats from a compartmentalized food and water bowl set into a wrought-iron frame close to the floor. When his stomach is off, he walks over to his bowls with the food and water and refuses to eat anything. But he makes a sweeping motion with his head by moving his head and hitting the outside of the bowl so hard that he spills the water in the adjacent bowl. Have you seen this performance before or can you suggest a reason for it?

A. Senior citizen Westies tend to inhabit worlds of their own design. The ritual you describe obviously has its roots in some primitive healing ritual — for example, moving heads back and forth in a sweeping motion is what dogs do to bury stuff. Desmond could be trying to wipe out the root cause for his sour stomach.

As long as Desmond is not wrecking anything or biting anyone, his behavior is benign. Be happy you have this comic character in your midst.

Q. My friend has hired many dog walkers; none seem to last. His last dog walker claimed to be walking the dog, but he wasn’t. Is there an Angie’s List for dog walkers?

A. Because dog walkers’ canine clients can’t talk, it’s very easy for unscrupulous people to take advantage of the situation, as you sadly discovered. Angie’s List (, the online recommender, does include dog walkers so you can indeed look there for references. Also, check your veterinarian’s office and local pet store for referrals of dog sitters.

Spread the word through your neighborhood’s dog pack; they’re always swapping information about the care and feeding of their animals. They also know pooch politics. If a shyster dog walker is working the neighborhood, the network will mete out its own brand of Dogpatch justice and isolate the walker.

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