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Question
Posted by: Stephani | 2004/03/04

Maltese behaviour

I have two Maltese. The one, the girl, is at least 16 years old - I got her in 1993 and she once had babies during that year for the last time. At that stage the vet estimated her age as 5 yrs or older. What are their life expectance? She is still going strong, only sometimes her bladder seems a little weak and her eyes have a milky colour. I'm afraid she might be turning blind and has a little sore on her lower lip. I admit I'm too scared to take her to a vet - don't want to hear the verdict. The other one, a boy, turns 4 on Saturday and believe me helooks like the Dulux dog - he's big but sooo loving and a pedigree Maltese. The only problem is he's scared of thunder and goes balistic. I gave him sedatives which I got from the vet, but don't think it can be good. Homeopathic drops do not work very good.Are there permanent solutions, some therapy I could do. I once hear about a tape that conditions dogs to get used to thunder. He also hates any strangers and will bite anyone he does not know and do not allow anyone near me - I have to lock him in a room when we get visitors, which can't be nice for him.

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberVet

Hi Stephanie
Your old maltese bitch is really doing well for her age. You have obviously looked after her well! Little dogs often live to a good age, although she has really already exceeded her life-expectancy. I suggest you take her for a vet checkup as she may just have a bladder infection that can easily be remedied. You could tell the vet that you are aware she is old and you just want to make her last years/months as comfortable as possible, so you would prefer him not to do any major things to her, which would be unpleasant for her, expensive for you and uneccessary at her age. Most vets will be happy to go along with this sensible request. If not, change vets. When the time comes for her to go, you must be ready to let her go with dignity and love. It is a great privilege to be able to let our pets go without pain and in a loving embrace.
Your male sounds like a problem.... You can try using a recording of thunder to desensitize him to it. You need to play it very softly while he is eating or playing at first and then gradually, over a few weeks or months, increasing the volume. If he associates the sound with pleasant experiences he will get to like it. However this method doesn't always work with thunder. There is a new device which is available overseas called a DAP. I'm not sure how it works, but it is supposed to work very well on brontophobia and separation anxiety. You may find some information on the net. Your behaviour is important when there's thunder. You must make sure you are calm, but don't comfort him or try to drag him out of hiding places. Ignore him or try to play fun games or massage or brush him firmly. Use calming signals like yawning, avoiding eye contact, stretching, sitting down etc.
If he bites visitors it seems he is quite an insecure dog and probably wasn't very well socialised as a young dog and puppy. You can improve things by taking him for daily walks on a lead where he can see strangers, but not approach them, at first. When he sees a person you immediately reward him with a treat and praise. Once he associates strangers with this pleasant experience then try it at home (on a lead, at first, if you are concerned). The visitor should ignore him completely for a few minutes, allowing him to sniff. If the visitor is willing he could offer him a treat or throw it to him. Then call him to his room and give him a special bone or toy for the rest of the visit. Eventually you should feel confident to allow him to be around longer and longer, but he must only get positive experiences from this and no reprimanding or punishing, even if he bites! This takes lots of patience and, again, you need to be calm and confident or he will try to protect you from the visitor.
Karen Gray-Kilfoil
ANIMAL BEHAVIOURIST

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