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

Friends Forever

Two new books help kids learn how to care for pets and build a long-lasting relationship

By Kim Campbell Thornton

Andrews McMeel Syndication

What does it mean when my dog barks or whines? Should I get a kitten or a cat? What makes my dog or cat happy? We all have questions like this about our pets -- kids most of all. They go all in when it comes to finding out what makes dogs and cats tick.

A generation or three ago, when many of us were growing up, we loved our dogs and cats, but in some ways the relationship has changed. It’s more dynamic, more interactive, more public now. Kids these days really love their animals, and they want to know as much as they can about caring for, playing with and teaching them.

A pair of books, “A Kid’s Guide To Cats” and “A Kid’s Guide To Dogs” (Storey Publishing), provide them with answers to questions such as “Why do cats pant?” and “How many treats are too many for my dog?” as well as explain pet behavior and body language; offer tips on training, grooming, feeding and poop scooping; and suggest fun DIY projects for making pet toys, beds, treats and more.

We spoke to author Arden Moore, who teams up with her shelter alum pets, Casey the cat and Kona the dog, to teach pet first-aid and behavior classes around the country. She says the kids she meets are on the ball about their pets.

“They ask intelligent questions, they know things and they really want to know what they can do to make a difference individually,” Moore said. “A lot of them want to know what they can do to help a dog or cat they just adopted have a better life, what they can do in their school, so I’m digging the kids of this generation.”

Moore’s background as a pet first-aid instructor and her Fear Free training come to the forefront. In the pages, kids learn how to perform a weekly wellness check (ticks like to hide between toes), what to include in a pet first-aid kit, and how to recognize when pets are feeling fearful, anxious or stressed.

Photos and illustrations demonstrate pet body language and how to greet animals and teach tricks, identify various breeds, avoid trouble -- like an overturned trash can -- and play games. Lists and charts help readers determine their pet’s age in human years, set up a pet chore chart and know what “people foods” are OK to give and which are harmful. Heck, plenty of adults could benefit from these books.

Throughout, Kona and Casey offer tips and advice from their pet perspective, explaining why dogs feel good about chewing up our stuff (and how to prevent it) or why cats might seem to be finicky. From the human side, Moore gets answers from veterinarians on the real questions kids ask: “How does a dog still walk if he only has three legs?” “Why are dogs so playful?” (answered by our own Dr. Marty Becker) and “How can cats jump so high when they’re so small?”

No kid is ever going to enjoy scooping poop out of the yard or a litter box, but Moore uses her platform to explain why that’s important for a pet’s health and happiness. Parents may want to take a cue from her and make their kids “poopologists,” the family’s experts on pet pee, poop and vomit, responsible for reporting changes that might indicate problems.

Kids are the pet owners of the future, and Moore thinks they’re going to make the planet better for dogs, cats and other animals. “When I ask kids questions about the human-animal bond, they shout back things like, ‘They make me feel better,’ ‘They pick me up when I have a bad day’ or ‘My dog or cat does goofy things and I just laugh.’ They know the importance of all the good qualities that dogs and cats give to us to make us better people.”


How to handle

puppy setback

Q: I’ve had a miniature poodle puppy since he was 9 weeks old. He is now almost 14 weeks old. Because it was so cold when I first got him, I started to pad-train him instead of taking him outdoors, where he will eventually be expected to go. I thought we were making great progress -- only three to four accidents. Then I brought him to a groomer for a puppy cut to get him used to combing and brushing and grooming. They gave him a full poodle clip instead, and ever since, he has almost totally ignored the training pad, piddling all over the floor and rugs in the area where he is kept. Do I have to start all over again?

A: Your puppy is still too young to be fully housetrained, even though he was doing well previously. It’s certainly possible that the experience at the groomer could have set him back. You are right to think of starting over with him; moving back to a stage where the dog was previously successful is always a good idea in any kind of training if you run into a roadblock.

For housetraining, take him out on a schedule. Don't let him have the run of the house; he's too young for that. If you can't actively supervise him, he should be in his crate or a small dog-proofed area such as a bathroom, laundry room or inside a pen on an easy-clean surface. Put down a potty pad in that area so he has an acceptable option for pottying if he has to go. Take him out to potty (don't just send him out by himself), and give big praise and food rewards when he goes in the right place. -- Mikkel Becker

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Veterinarian helps pets

of health workers

-- In Danville, Virginia, pet-owning health care workers and first responders on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic can work with an easier mind. Veterinarian Jeff Smith at Danville Family Vet offered to house their pets at the clinic’s boarding facility if work or illness keeps them from caring for their animals. “If you are a first responder or a healthcare worker and you have to do long shifts at the hospital, or you’re someone who’s gotten sick, (your pets) can come stay here," Smith told WSLS News. Owners should bring pets’ food, needed medication, and toys or beds to help them be comfortable in the unfamiliar surroundings.

-- When their dog Jerry was diagnosed with cancer and lost a leg to the disease, Jim Nelson and Rene Agredano sold their business and home, purchased an RV and began traveling around the country with Jerry so they could all enjoy his last months together. Jerry survived another two years, and the couple found a new life as advocates for three-legged pets, or tripawds, as they call them. Now they’ve written a book about their experiences, and the lessons learned: “Be More Dog: Learning To Live in the Now.” A foreword by Patrick O’Donnell, creator of the beloved “Mutts” comic strip, leads readers into their story, filled with adventure, celebration and sadness, as well as advice on living well and facing loss.

-- Does your cat love to talk? And do you talk back to her? If you love to carry on a conversation with your cat, you’ll enjoy discovering that certain cat breeds are known for their chatty nature. At the top of the list, no doubt about it, is the Siamese, noted for a loud, raspy voice. Other communicative cats include the Oriental, Tonkinese, Singapura, Maine coon, Burmese and Japanese cobtail. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker


Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts headed by “The Dr. Oz Show” veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker, founder of the Fear Free organization and author of many best-selling pet care books, and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. Joining them is behavior consultant and lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets 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.