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



By Kim Campbell Thornton

A few months ago, I wrote about our foster cavalier, Kibo. Since then, Kibo -- now Keeper -- has become a permanent part of our family, and I'm happy to say that he's adjusting nicely. Other than occasionally climbing onto the dining room table to check for food when someone forgets to push in a chair after eating, he hasn't really broken any rules or caused any damage. He's a nice dog in general, but I think it helped that we provided him with clear expectations and a structured environment from day one.

It's all too easy to start off by spoiling a foster dog or one adopted from a shelter or rescue group. Who wouldn't want to give him a little special treatment after the upset of losing his family?

Think again. Free run of the house, lots of treats and no demands are a good recipe for trouble and can make it difficult for him to fit in as a new family member. The following tips will help you set up your new dog for success:

-- Housetraining. Even dogs who are already housetrained may be anxious and forget their manners in a new place. I was concerned about Keeper lifting his leg in the house. Treating him as if he were a puppy ensured that he had only one incident of urinating where he shouldn't. Here's what to do:

1. Take him outside to potty on leash on a regular schedule and praise him when he performs.

2. When you can't pay close attention to him, confine him to a crate, exercise pen or room with an easily cleanable floor.

3. If you take him outside to potty and he doesn't do anything, put him into his crate and then take him back out later.

-- Set rules. Keeper was very comfortable jumping onto the sofa and chairs. Fortunately for him, that's OK in our house, but a couple of chairs are off-limits to dogs. When he jumped on them, I gave an immediate "Off" command and directed him to the sofa.

If your house rules call for dogs to keep four on the floor, establish that from the beginning. No "just this once" or "just while he's getting settled in." Dogs don't get the concept of "sometimes." If you find him on the furniture, say "Off" and indicate what you want with a pointed finger or sweeping motion of your arm. If necessary, lure him with a treat to an alternate spot, such as a dog bed or blanket on the floor. Praise and reward him when he's on it. Repeat as needed, always using a neutral and matter-of-fact tone. There's no need to sound angry.

-- Ban begging. Keeper's worst habit is begging at the table or hanging out in the kitchen waiting for something to drop onto the floor. A couple of techniques can help to deter this habit, or at least make it less annoying:

Feed your dog before the family eats so he has no reason to beg. At mealtime, send the dog to his crate or dog bed using a neutral, matter-of-fact voice. Repeat as needed, making sure the kids and your spouse aren't slipping him their Brussels sprouts when you're not looking.

Use the same technique in the kitchen when you are preparing meals. There's nothing wrong with the dog being in the kitchen while you cook, but he should be in a corner, out of the way.

To recap: Be firm and consistent, show him what you want instead of scolding him for what you don't want, and offer praise and rewards when he does things you like. As you come to know him and he becomes familiar with the house routine, you can gradually give him more freedom to make himself at home.


Compulsive behaviors can

affect cat's well-being

Q: My cat deliberately pulls out big chunks of her fur. She'll be grooming herself, and then she just starts licking faster and faster until the next thing I know, she's pulling out fur. It's something she has done since she was a kitten. Why does she do this, and how can I get her to stop? -- via email

A: Assuming you have taken your cat to a veterinarian to rule out any medical problems, such as allergies or parasites for her behavior, it's likely that the fur-pulling is an example of compulsive disorder.

Similar to obsessive-compulsive disorder in humans, repetitive behaviors -- which in cats often manifest as wool-sucking or excessive grooming -- are an abnormal response to normal environmental stimulation. Your cat's habit of pulling out fur isn't just unsightly, it can also cause skin lesions. And some cats who groom obsessively can even start doing it to other pets.

Cats like this are generally suffering from anxiety. They may be having a conflict with another cat or are stressed by some change in the household, whether it's a new baby, a new spouse or an air freshener with a different scent. Sometimes it's impossible to know what has triggered the behavior. Cats who were taken from their mothers at a very early age may exhibit this type of behavior.

It's not easy to diagnose or treat compulsive disorder. Once you rule out medical causes, seek the help of a veterinary behaviorist who can assess the environment, family/pet relationships, and factors such as activity level and diet. Then she can recommend ways to reduce the cat's stress and behavior modification techniques to help the cat deal with the circumstances that trigger the compulsive behavior.

In severe cases, medication may help with the anxiety, but it can work only in conjunction with behavior modification and environmental changes. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker


Pit bull pup gets

new paw, new home

-- A pit bull puppy found near Miami with her front paw severed got off on the right foot after some kind children found her and took her home. Their mother brought her to 1 Lucky Dog Rescue, and with the help of some media attention, the gray-and-white dog, named Little Debbie, now has a new home and a prosthetic paw donated by ABC Prosthetics and Orthotics in Orlando, Fla. The plastic and carbon-fiber limb is Debbie's fourth since she was found. Replacements are made as dogs grow or gain weight and for normal wear and tear -- including chewing.

-- Boas and pythons are prone to a virus that causes highly infectious inclusion body disease, but University of Florida researchers have developed a screening test to identify the usually fatal condition. Snakes with IBD may show such signs as head-tilting or chronic regurgitation. Others appear healthy even though they are infected. Elliott Jacobson, DVM, Ph.D., professor emeritus of zoological medicine at the UF College of Veterinary Medicine, says, "This simple blood test will help determine whether or not an animal has the disease and potentially will help clean up colonies of snakes that will ultimately be disease-free."

-- Cats appear to view us as larger and clumsier felines rather than as a different species, says behaviorist John Bradshaw in an interview with National Geographic. The author of "Cat Sense" says that unlike dogs, who perceive humans as being different than themselves and change their behavior in consequence, cats don't change their social behavior much when they interact with us. "Putting their tails up in the air, rubbing around our legs, and sitting beside us and grooming us are exactly what cats do to each other." -- Kim Campbell Thornton


Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.