Pet Connection by Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker

FOR ULTIMATE PET LOVERS ONLY

Universal Press Syndicate

This week and next, we're pulling out some of the best "must know" information from our just-released books, "The Ultimate Dog Lover" and "The Ultimate Cat Lover."

Each "must know" piece in the book has been developed with the help of one of the top experts in each area of expertise, and these experts are noted at the end of each tip.

(This week, dogs. Next week, cats will get their due.)

-- Socializing: Once you have picked up your puppy at 8 weeks, you still have five weeks left of the critical socialization period. Your puppy needs to meet another 100 people in this period. If the puppy sees only family for the first months of life, he or she often will develop a fear of strangers. -- Dr. Ian Dunbar, veterinarian and behaviorist, founder of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (www.apdt.com)

-- Dog parks: Not all dogs learn to play nice, and some perfectly good dogs just aren't well-suited for the communal experience. Some will unintentionally provoke fights or fearfulness from other dogs with overly aggressive or unrelenting play. These are likely dogs who never learned to read the language of another dog's "leave me alone" cues and will keep pushing until there's a fight. Hormones can also play a role, and that's why it's usually best for dog-park play to be among spayed and neutered animals. -- Dr. Melissa Bain, veterinarian and behaviorist, head of Clinical Animal Behavior Service at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine

-- Low-shed pets: If you're looking specifically for a dog who won't shed much, get a small, longhaired dog and keep the coat trimmed short. Why? Because the hair of longhaired dogs falls out less frequently, and a smaller dog has less hair to shed than a larger one. If you keep the hair clipped short, the hair that does fall out will result in less volume to deal with. -- Dr. Craig Griffin, veterinary dermatologist, lecturer and instructor on skin problems in animals, and founder and co-owner of the Animal Dermatology Clinic

-- Canine cancer: The best treatment for cancer is prevention. Restrict your dog's daily intake of food to maintain a fit body weight, and feed him a balanced, delicious high-quality diet with limited amounts of carbohydrates (sugars), moderate amounts of good-quality proteins and higher levels of n-3 fatty acids such as DHA. Consider supplementing omega-3 fatty acids to potentially reduce the risk of developing cancer. Add regular exercise. -- Dr. Gregory Ogilvie, veterinarian and oncologist, former head of research at the Animal Cancer Center at Colorado State University, and director of the Angel Care Cancer Center

-- Trick training: All dogs can learn tricks. Which kind of trick depends on the dog -- his physical abilities and how quickly he thinks. Some breeds have a physical advantage: Basset hounds will never be as quick as border collies, for example. Even old dogs can learn new tricks, despite the saying to the contrary. In fact, old dogs love new tricks, because they enjoy the attention and fun of trick training. -- Liz Palika, certified dog-trainer for more than 25 years, award-winning author of more than 50 books, including "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Dog Tricks" (Alpha, $15)

That's just the tiniest of tastes of all the information that we've put into these new "Ultimate" pet books. Enjoy, and we'll be back with cat tips next week!

SIDEBAR

Pet Connection's Dr. Becker on 'Good Morning America'

The Pet Connection's Dr. Marty Becker is starting his 11th year as the veterinary correspondent on "Good Morning America" with an appearance Oct. 8 to debut the latest books he and Gina Spadafori have co-authored.

"The Ultimate Cat Lover" and "The Ultimate Dog Lover ($15 each from HCI) are the sixth and seventh books the two have written together. Their eighth, "The Ultimate Horse Lover," will be out next month.

The "Ultimate" books are the first in a new series from HCI, publisher of the best-selling "Chicken Soup" series. The "Ultimate" pet books combine original stories from top writers, must-know information from experts in every specialty and lush, full-color photography.

Q&A

Front-clip harness makes walks easy

Q: Our 2-year-old golden pulls on the leash. There's no way the kids can walk her, and she's supposed to be their dog. My husband is the only member of our family strong enough to control her, and she's a trial for him, too.

Our veterinarian recommended we try a head halter. I've seen them a couple of times, but I thought they were muzzles. Do you second the endorsement? -- I.C., via e-mail

A: A lot of dogs pitch a fit when they're learning to accept a head halter, and these tools do seem a tad complicated for many people to put on correctly. That's why I prefer to recommend a front-clip harness, such as the Easy Walk from Premier. Here's the rundown on both pull-stoppers:

-- Head halter: These work on the idea that where the head goes, the body will follow -- a premise that has helped control horses for centuries. As noted, there can be a steep learning curve and lots of frustration on both sides of the leash. Plus, let's be honest: Head halters are ugly, and they do look like muzzles.

-- Front-clip harness: The front-clip harness uses a dog's own momentum to stop the pulling. When the dog pulls, pressure on the front of the harness impedes her forward motion. The dog quickly learns to stop pulling while the harness is on.

It's important to remember, however, that a front-clip harness prevents pulling behavior, but it doesn't change it. Put the leash on your dog's collar, and you have a puller again.

Because I'm guessing your exuberant young dog has other behavioral issues in addition to poor leash manners, I'd recommend finding a good trainer.

A couple of private sessions will help you get both the right equipment on your dog and a plan for turning her into a well-behaved member of the family. -- Gina Spadafori

Q: My brother almost never cleans his dog's dish. He says the dog eats every crumb of kibble and so cleans the bowl himself. This seems gross to me. Is it dangerous? -- E.U., via e-mail

A: Well, it's not good, that's for sure. Ask your brother if he would put dishes back in the cupboard after licking them clean. (And if he says "yes," make a note to meet him in restaurants from now on.)

Food dishes should be washed in hot water and soap after every meal, and water dishes should get the same treatment daily. They can also be run through the dishwasher, which has always been my preference since my model has a sanitizing cycle. -- Gina Spadafori

ABOUT PET CONNECTION

Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "Good Morning America" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are also the authors of several best-selling pet-care books.

On PetConnection.com there's more information on pets and their care, reviews of products, books and "dog cars," and a monthly drawing for more than $1,000 in pet-care prizes. Contact Pet Connection in care of this newspaper by sending e-mail to petconnection@gmail.com or by visiting PetConnection.com.

PET BUZZ

Spay-neuter: not all good

-- Increased pet lameness may be the result of spaying and neutering. Pet sterilization is rightfully heralded for its effectiveness in decreasing the number of potentially homeless pets and for some health benefits to altered animals. However, a large retrospective study in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association makes the case that the picture isn't all positive, with an increased incidence of knee and hip disorders in altered animals.

-- Trail food is now available for dogs. The company Peakwaggers offers food said to be perfect for hiking at $6 to $10 retail per package, and with flavors such as Wild Alaskan Salmon Jerky.

-- Elephants' legendary memories may aid survival by helping them beat droughts, according to USA Today. A herd's older females can remember from previous water shortages where to find distant resources. As many older elephants were poached in the 1980s, scientists say protecting experienced herd leaders could be key in helping elephants adapt to a warming climate.

-- Where does the drinking expression "hair of the dog" come from? The saying originated from an even longer saying, "the hair of the dog that bit me," referring to an old idea that a few hairs taken from the same dog who had bitten you could be used to prevent rabies. Nowadays the expression is generally used in reference to drinking too much alcohol, suggesting that a hangover can be cured by drinking more alcohol. (Not true, by the way.) -- Dr. Marty Becker and Mikkel Becker Shannon

PET BOOK

Lizards, snakes and frogs: best pet picks

Are you -- or your child -- wishing for a pet that's a little different from a dog or a cat? A reptile might be the answer. Consider these top pet picks:

-- Bearded dragon: They look tough, but they're really calm and gentle as adults, if handled with respect and care during their flighty young stages. And they never get too big to handle (18 to 20 inches, tops), unlike the green iguana, which can be measured in feet as an adult.

-- Leopard gecko: A popular ad campaign for an insurance company has drawn attention to these lizards. Fortunately, they're good pets, and tolerate gentle handling well. Their big-eyed faces are pretty cute, and they remain small in size, about 6 inches long.

-- Corn snake: Captive breeding has produced wonderful color variations in the corn snake. These calm snakes rarely ever try to bite, and if they do, the bites are a warning that you have done something wrong. These are good pets for busy people, as they require minimal care.

-- Ball python: These pythons mature at about 4 feet in length. They are constrictors, though, and they love going up around your neck. You'll need to know the way to unwind a snake: Start at the tail and gently unwind.

-- Pac-Man frogs and White's tree frogs: Two of the larger species of frogs available in the pet trade, both the Pac-Man and White's tree frogs have plenty of fans. They're attractive, easy keepers that never get too big -- 6 or 7 inches is about the max.

Deal with a reputable source for reptiles, and buy a captive-bred pet only. And be sure you've done your research into housing, care and feeding before you buy, to make sure you're prepared and willing to provide what your pet needs to thrive. -- Gina Spadafori

BY THE NUMBERS

Helping the wild ones

When the weather gets colder, wild birds can use a little help, and many people are happy to oblige. (Interesting note: Households with pet birds are more likely to feed wild birds than those without pet birds.) According to a 2006 survey (multiple responses allowed):

-- 52 percent of all households feed wild birds

-- 44 percent provide wild birdseed

-- 19 percent offer bread crumbs

Source: American Pet Products Association

ON GOOD BEHAVIOR

Teach pet that vet isn't bad

Why wouldn't a pet be afraid of her veterinarian? After all, many pets see the veterinarian mostly for scary and painful events, and often when they're not feeling well already.

Think about your pet, in this respect, like a child. Many doctors and dentists give goodies to children when they come in, helping to turn a bad experience into a good one. You can do that for your pet, too.

Make sure your pet is hungry when it's time to go to the vet, and bring along his favorite treats. Give your pet treats in the car, in the parking lot, in the lobby and in the exam room.

Over time, your pet will come to associate the sights, sounds and smells of a veterinary practice with good things, not bad.

(Animal behavior experts Susan and Dr. Rolan Tripp are the authors of "On Good Behavior." For more information, visit their Web site at AnimalBehavior.net.)

Pet Connection is produced by a team of team of pet-care experts headed by "Good Morning America" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are also the authors of several best-selling pet-care books. Contact Pet Connection in care of this newspaper, by sending e-mail to petconnection@gmail.com or by visiting PetConnection.com.

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