Q. I have a one-year-old female bulldog, who has recently taken to biting my shoes when we are in the park and I'm on the mobile. She can be slightly aggressive and I'm starting to get worried and a bit annoyed. How do I stop her? Susan, London
A. You need to get this problem under control as it could escalate. I always advise owners not to talk on the mobile phone when they go for a walk with their dog, because they should be focusing on this time with their pet, but I know people have busy lives and need to make phone calls.
The behaviour she is showing is either controlling or playfulness, but they both stem from the same issue – you are not paying attention to her. If you must make phone calls while on a walk, try to still engage with your dog by speaking towards her, playing some sort of game and so on. If that doesn't work, you'll have to try more of a training approach.
You will need a training line and some treats. Start your walk in the usual way, make a phone call, and when your dog starts displaying the undesired behaviour, simply stop walking – otherwise she will see it as a game. When she is calm and looking at you, or if she sits, give her a treat; then continue walking. If she starts up again, pick up the lead, gently pull it, and tell her "no". Then ask her to sit and give her a treat if she does.
The aim of this is to try to get her to forget how much fun it is biting your shoes. Do little sessions every day – and try not to answer the phone if you know it's going to be a long conversation. Be patient and good luck!
Remember that if an animal shows signs of distress or discomfort, an early visit to the vet is always recommended