DEAR DR. FOX: I have been a dog trainer and behavior consultant for over 20 years and am certified by five dog-training organizations.
I am writing a book on puppy socialization for owners. I am researching the Bio Sensor program by Dr. Carmen Battaglia and have found that it is controversial, with some sources saying that there is no data to back up the claims. One example can be found at border-wars.com/2012/02/bio-sensor-is-bad-science-the-failure-of-super-dog.html.
Your name has come up in the discussion, and I am wondering if you could comment on the method. -- C.W., Los Angeles
DEAR C.W.: While I was an associate professor of psychology at Washington University and having my Ph.D. dissertation ("Integrative Development of Brain and Behavior in the Dog") published by the University of Chicago Press, the United States Army Veterinary Corps contacted me as a civilian advisor. They wanted help improving the in-field performance and well-being of their military dogs serving in Vietnam and being raised and trained at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. Although opposed to the war, I was concerned about both the dogs and the troops.
The German shepherd dogs that I saw initially were kennel-confined and shy, and in dire need of social and environmental enrichment -- remedies that I helped initiate. Their offspring were given various forms of sensory and social stimulation during their first weeks of life. These were based in large part on procedures and findings detailed in my dissertation and summarized in my book "Understanding Your Dog."
I worked with Col. M.W. Castleberry and his staff to set up what we decided to call the "Superdog Project." One officer, Dr. Jeff Lynn, worked closely with me and earned a master's degree from the Washington University department of psychology by detailing and evaluating this project, which was indeed a success.
It has disturbed me that various individuals have made claims to having developed or being involved in the Superdog Project, though I had no professional relationship with them and they never cited my original work on the beneficial effects of early brain and sensory stimulation in puppies. I see them as trying to capitalize on my work -- work that I did for no remuneration, and with the only purpose of helping improve the adaptability and performance of these military dogs under the stresses of combat, and saving a few soldiers' lives in the process.
So long as American forces continue to operate in foreign countries with military dogs, I would like to see better protective footwear and protective vests (including cooling vests) and goggles provided as needed for the dogs. Additionally, suitable local dogs, better adapted to the area's climate and diseases, could be trained for military use and then brought back to the U.S. after service for adoption.
DEAR DR. FOX: Our sweet, blue-eyed, half-Siamese 9-year-old cat has a vomiting problem. She gulps her food down in desperation and then vomits. Sometimes she has a hairball; usually it's because she eats so fast. We have been scrupulous with her food and feed her a wet, high-protein diet. When we feed her in the garage, we let her relax awhile before letting her back into the house.
When we adopted her from the shelter, she was quite thin, and we knew that she had been abandoned. We thought that with time, she would adapt to frequent small feedings and a very loving home. This has become very troubling, as we've had to clean up her vomiting episodes on the couch and even on our bed. -- A.S., Ashland, Oregon
DEAR A.S.: This is an all-too-common problem in cats with many causes, and therefore solutions.
Eating too fast is one possible cause; therefore, cats do better being fed very small meals four to five times daily, rather than twice, or -- cat forbid! -- once daily. Some vets advise placing a couple of golf balls in the food to slow down the rate of ingestion. Chilled food from the fridge may trigger vomiting, and most especially food allergy and additives like carrageenan in canned cat food, which should be prohibited. Try my home-prepared food recipe, which you can find at DrFoxVet.com.
Also, check out some of the new freeze-dried cat foods, which must be soaked briefly before feeding.
(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.)