Dear Miss Behavior:
My dog is scared to death of coughing. Every time my wife or I cough, he runs to another room. Sometimes he will jump at us as if to knock the cough out of us. What can we do to assure him we are okay?
If you’ve never dreamed of a stage career, now is the time to learn to act. Start training him when you aren’t choking to death on a chicken bone. Get a handful of really great treats, not the old dog kibble, but something fantastic like chicken meat without the bone.
Put your boy on leash and give him a treat. Then cough, just a small one, like clearing your throat. Give him another treat. Increase the volume of your ‘cough’. Keep going until your throat is sore or the treats are all gone.
After a day or two, start giving the treats for every other cough, etc. Soon you’ll be able to skip the treats, but keep practicing the coughing for a while longer.
Keep the sessions short or just a couple of minutes. Since both of you need to work with him, that gives him two training sessions a day. After a couple of weeks, coughing will be less scary for him.
If you end up with a cold or really choking and scaring him, go back to giving him treats for a day or two.
Thanks to this feature goes to Greater Lincoln Obedience Club, who ran the Miss Behavior Dog Advice Column in their newsletter. Appreciation also is extended to Marcy Graybill, a trainer at GLOC and the expert behind this column. She also hosts her own blog, Dog Log, where she talks about training adventures with her dogs.
If you have a question for Miss Behavior, please post in the comments below and we’ll feature it in a future column.