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

What Dog Is That?

Rare breeds are attention-getters. Here’s the bite-size version about some you may have seen on the street

By Kim Campbell Thornton

Andrews McMeel Syndication

You’re walking down the street and you see a dog like none you’ve ever seen before. What is that breed? Many of us have had that experience at one time or another.

More people are taking an interest in rare or unusual dog breeds, importing them after seeing one in a photo or movie, bringing them home from a trip or seeking out the few breeders available in North America. Some owners share what they’re like to live with.

-- Alaskan klee kai

If you see what looks like a miniature husky, you might have encountered a klee kai. This relatively new breed was developed in the 1970s and 1980s by a breeder in Alaska, using Siberian huskies, Alaskan huskies, schipperkes and American Eskimo dogs. Klee kai are sweet and active but cautious in new situations or toward new people, says petsitter Terry Albert, who has one as a client. Their double coat needs to be brushed weekly, and yes, they shed. Klee kai come in three sizes based on height: standard, miniature and toy.

-- Cirneco

The Cirneco dell’Etna, a small Italian sighthound from Sicily, is naturally athletic -- we know one who’s a dock diving star -- and friendly to boot. The Cirneco (cheer-NAY-ko) has a short, easy-care coat that needs only a weekly brushing. Cirnechi (the plural of the breed’s name) think training is fun as long as you keep sessions short and provide treats, praise and play. When not chasing rabbits or other furry animals, they love curling up on soft furniture or bedding.

-- Kooiker

Beyond the obvious attraction of the kooikerhondje’s pretty silken white-and-red coat accented by black earring tassels and a plumy white tail is the appeal of her lively and affectionate character, says breed expert Betty Dalke Wathne. Sensitive and intelligent, they are highly trainable. Devoted to family, kooikers can be a little fierce when alerting to strangers and impulsive when their prey drive is engaged. The best family for a kooikerhondje will have some dog experience and be willing to put time into training.

-- Mudi

This medium-size Hungarian sheepdog is smart and active, a good watchdog and a talented athlete. Mudis have a medium-length double coat, wavy or curly, that’s easy to groom. Being a herding breed, mudis can be barkers. Breed enthusiast Pamela Sturtz says, “I love their smaller size and the merle coloring. If they didn’t have such a piercing bark, they would be perfect.”

-- Polish lowland sheepdog

This delightfully shaggy herding breed, called Polski owczarek nizinny in his homeland (PON for short), is loyal, smart and easy to train, but he’ll take over if you give him half a chance. They can also be a bit stubborn and determined, says expert Carol Oliver. The long double coat requires regular brushing.

-- Portuguese podengo

Hailing from Portugal, this sighthound comes in two coat types and three sizes: pequeno (the one you’re most likely to see), medio and grande. Both smooth and wire-coated dogs are easy to groom. Karen Sage, who has wire and smooth pequenos, says they are loyal, biddable, happy and comical, with a moderate energy level. “Mine make me laugh constantly,” she says.

-- Silken windhound

Gentle, friendly and affectionate, silkens are quintessential sighthounds who love to run a bit (only in safely fenced areas) and nap a lot -- always sharing your sofa or bed with you. Owner Carla Wilson-Leff describes them as “cats wearing dog suits,” and owner Linda Strauss says, “They are very smart and use their eyes to communicate in complex and subtle ways.” Beware: Some are high jumpers.

-- Stabyhoun

These striking dogs with the black head, black and white coat and plumy tail are considered national treasures in their homeland, the Netherlands. They have strong retrieving, pointing and tracking skills, making them great at dog sports. Ari Goerlich’s stabyhoun, Rimke, has earned an astonishing 105 titles to date in eight dog sports, including dock diving, rally and nosework.


Pilling a cat

can be doable

Q: Argh! I have to give my cat a pill every day. Do you have any tips on how to get it down her?

A: Every cat owner dreads this day, but it doesn’t have be a struggle for you or for your cat. Here are some tips to help you be successful.

If you’re dealing with a pill, the first thing you might try is the “sneak” technique: putting the pill inside a tasty morsel of meat, cat food or cream cheese -- whatever your cat loves. It should be something she doesn’t get every day. Offer one bite of the treat plain -- no pill -- then one with the pill, followed by another plain piece to sweeten the deal. When the sneak method works, it’s easiest on both of you.

Ask your veterinarian about having medication compounded into a flavored liquid or chew; think tuna or chicken. Another option is transdermal delivery through a patch on the skin.

When your cat turns up her nose at treats or scratches off patches, though, you have to go with a hands-on approach. Snuggle your cat into your left arm (reverse this if you’re a lefty), place your hand over the top of the muzzle in a C shape and squeeze gently so the mouth opens. Gently pull down on the lower jaw for a wider opening. Place the pill in the mouth as far back as you can, then gently close the mouth and stroke your cat’s throat to encourage swallowing. Follow the pill with a treat or a sip of water to make sure the pill doesn’t get stuck in the esophagus. You’re done!

Practice the mouth-opening motion, followed with a tiny treat, before you ever have to give a cat a pill so she learns to enjoy the handling. -- Dr. Marty Becker and Mikkel Becker

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Cat population

takes downturn

-- There aren’t as many pet cats in the United States as there used to be. Feline population numbers have been revised downward by the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine from 74 million in 2014 to 58.4 million in 2018, a decrease of 21%. Why is the CVM counting cats? The estimates, based on information provided by the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Department of Agriculture, help the CVM determine “minor-use” drug needs for major animal species, including cats, dogs, horses and chickens. Minor-use drugs are used to treat diseases or conditions that aren’t common or occur only in certain locales.

-- It’s toad season in south Florida. The invasive amphibians (Rhinella marina), which go by the names cane, bufo, marine or giant toads, secrete a skin toxin that’s lethal to dogs who have the misfortune to lick or bite them. Get your dog to the veterinarian quick if you see excessive drooling, red gums, vomiting, disorientation, incoordination or seizures. They can die within minutes if left untreated. Keep pets away from standing water, ditches, streams and canals, where the toads are most likely to be found. This type of toad is also seen in the lower Rio Grande Valley of southern Texas.

-- You’ve heard that foraging -- by way of puzzle toys -- is important for the mental well-being of dogs and cats, but did you know that birds need foraging experiences, too? It’s a way to help animals perform natural behaviors -- in this case, seeking food -- that aren’t really possible for them in our homes. You can find puzzle toys for parrots and other pet birds for sale at bird stores or online. You can also make them yourself by hiding your bird’s favorite treats in half-covered bowls or wrapping food in pieces of paper and placing them in the cage or play gym for your bird to tear up and enjoy. -- 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.