DEAR DR. FOX: I've owned five Pomeranians over the course of my lifetime. My latest pom is named Yancy. When Yancy was a puppy, he would run and scamper in the backyard freely, wanting me to chase after him. Yancy is now about a year old, and he refuses to step off the back porch without me accompanying him and staying with him. In the rare instances when Yancy does venture off the porch, he refuses to do his business in the backyard. He requires me to walk with him on-leash for five to 10 minutes before he decides to finally poop. I routinely walk him three times a day. Yancy gets excited when he sees me getting his leash. It's obvious that he enjoys our walks, but it's taxing me, not to mention my neighbors. My other poms enjoyed occasional walks on the leash, but they acknowledged the backyard as their sanctuaries and depositories.
Do you have any suggestions to get Yancy to bond with my backyard on a more personal level? -- C.G., Hyattsville, Md.
DEAR C.G.: A good friend of mine has a Labrador retriever who will urinate and defecate only when he is walked on his leash and is away from his yard. My friend is glad to have a dog like this.
Some dogs choose not to evacuate on their own property, and, when they have no choice, some clean up after themselves, engaging in coprophagia (poop eating). This behavior may be triggered when they see their owners picking up stools in the yard. Such behavior stopped in a few instances when the dogs were kept indoors and were not able to see the yard being cleaned up.
With your dog, I would stick a short post or tree stump in the yard and put some of his urine on it, which you can sponge up and put in a plastic bag (ditto with his poop) when out on your walks. Put the urine on what may hopefully become his marking post, and he'll deposit his stools in one corner that may become his regular latrine.
DEAR DR. FOX: I inherited a lovely cat who was given up by her owners because she eats plastic.
She particularly likes the thin plastic bags that newspapers come in. We keep all plastic bags away from her, but sometimes she'll eat the trash bags when she's hungry (we try to make sure that there are no edges she can grab onto).
We've found tiny plastic bag pieces in her feces once or twice, but we usually do everything we can so she can't find them.
Do you know how we can stop her from this awful habit? -- B.L.
DEAR B.L.: Many cats like to chew and even swallow pieces of plastic. Larger pieces can cause intestinal blockage, and some chemicals in plastic may cause cancer and disrupt the endocrine system.
Cats and other animals may be attracted to plastic because manufacturers often incorporate animal byproducts called stearates. Similar animal fat derivatives are used in the sizing of money, which may explain why some cats steal dollar bills!
Never let your cat near any plastic bags or other plastic materials. Stores should phase out non-biodegradable plastic bags -- they pollute the oceans and kill many marine creatures who eat the material they think is food. Plastic kills cattle, goats, horses and various wildlife species abroad who consume discarded bags, food wrappers and containers in streets and fields.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
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