DEAR JOAN: I am the grandmother to three of the most loving rescue dogs. Only one -- Prudence -- lives with us. She is beagle-ish, about 7 years old and has been potty trained since she was a puppy.
In the past year, Pru has started going potty in the house. We let her out to do her business when we wake up, several times throughout the day and when we go to bed. Mostly she will just stand at the door sniffing the air for a few minutes, then walk away.
We have even gone outside in an attempt to get her to come out with us, but she just walks away.
We've had a doggy door installed since she was young, so she can go out whenever she wants.
One night about two years ago, a possum or raccoon came through our doggy door, scavenging for food, and opened up a Pupperoni bag before Pru alerted us. By the time we went to investigate, the animal was gone.
My family would say I spoil my granddoggies, but I can't see how that would change Pru's potty habits.
Any thoughts on this, and how we can retrain her to go potty outside again?
DEAR AMIE: If you haven't already, take Pru to the vet for an exam, and talk to the doctor about what Pru has been up to. Changes such as these can be medically related.
If Pru gets a clean bill of health, then there are a few reasons a dog might stop doing her business outside. A change in diet may be giving her an upset tummy or creating problems in elimination. She may suffer from separation anxiety or if there's some stress in the household, she may be picking up on that.
I don't think an animal in the house or your spoiling her are to blame. It doesn't sound as if she's fearful of the outdoors. She sounds rather bored by it.
Start retraining her by taking her outdoors several times a day. If she shows no interest in going to the bathroom, let her back in and take her out again in 20 minutes. Repeat this until she finally does do her business, then praise her.
During the day keep an eye on her, watching for signs that she is about to go potty in the house, and take her outside.
You may also want to make the backyard more interesting to her. Perhaps you can put out some favorite toys and play with her.
Of course, with the weather, it may be difficult to convince her to take a trip outside, so the real training may need to wait until late spring.
DEAR JOAN: We have several olive trees -- Maurino variety -- in our front yard, which have now very ripe olives on the branches. My wife and I recently noticed various birds, such as oak titmice and northern mockingbirds, eating the olives.
Are ripe olives part of the birds' usual diet? I nibbled one and was surprised it wasn't very bitter.
DEAR MARK: Yes, olives are in the diets of many birds. They usually start pecking away as the olives begin to ripen.
With few exceptions, birds don't have a great sense of smell or taste. Humans, depending on age, have around 10,000 taste buds while birds have 50 to 500, so they wouldn't care about any bitterness in the olives.
That's also why hot pepper sauce on bird seed discourages squirrels but doesn't bother the birds.