DEAR JOAN — Etta is my 3-year-old purebred rat terrier. We have a great yard that is her sanctuary.
We used to take walks at different locations. She has always had a narrow comfort zone, but usually would go along for a walk. Lately, she gets excited to go and within minutes, she stops, sits down, starts to shake, looks all around and wants to go back to the car, which is also a sanctuary.
I would appreciate advice. Some say make her go, but I don't see myself dragging her along.
Jill, Soquel, California
DEAR JILL: There are always some people who recommend forcing a dog to do something obviously stressful, but I come down on the side of experts who say that's not a good idea.
The theory is that once the dog realizes there is nothing to fear, she won't be afraid. But if you ask anyone with a fear of heights whether driving on mountainous roads or looking down from a high-rise building has cured their acrophobia, you'll be very unlikely to get a yes.
It would be helpful to know what is causing Etta's anxiety, but just like fears and phobias in humans, it's probably not something that seems rational. It could be a side effect of the pandemic lockdown. She has always been a bit skittish, so having you at home more than usual and with limited excursions could have made her more keen on sticking close to her comfort zone.
You might want to consult an animal behaviorist, but in the meantime, you can try taking short walks in your immediate neighborhood. When she starts to get anxious, go home. During the walks, you can offer her special treats every few steps so she starts to associate the walks with something pleasant.
In time, you should be able to extend the length of the walks, but you'll want to stick to the same route.
For walks in other locations, ask your friends who have dogs to join you. Fearful dogs often feel more at ease when part of an adorable pack.
DEAR JOAN: I just planted a rather nice flower garden in the ground and in pots. While I was away on a trip, my security camera caught a rabbit sitting in one of my large pots happily chewing on the leaves of a dianthus.
When I had green grass in the yard, the rabbit would happily munch the grass, but now my sad brown lawn no longer appeals, and the rabbits have taken to my plants.
I have put up wire fencing where I can, but how do I humanely get rid of my two pesky rabbits who live under the deck in my backyard?
John M. Bonds, Cupertino, California
DEAR JOHN: Ah those rascally rabbits. Fencing off areas of your garden is probably the best solution for now. The next step is evicting them.
You can buy or borrow humane traps to nab the bunnies. Make sure there aren't any babies or lollygaggers remaining, then close off the entrances beneath your deck.
Next, look for places where they might find new accommodations in your yard and remove or modify those, too. Lastly, open the trap and set them free, not down the street or in a park, but right there in your yard. It's illegal to relocate wildlife, and your only other option would be to humanely kill them, and I don't think you want to do that.