DEAR DR. FOX: I was wondering if you had any suggestions for my former laboratory research dog. He is a 1-year-old bloodhound mix. He is a smart, lovable dog.
I am having trouble with housebreaking him. He voids in his crate. He is too curious to not be crated; he gets into things. Unfortunately, he really dislikes his crate. I have a plastic and a metal crate, but he doesn't like either one. How should I handle him? -- S.F., St. Louis
DEAR S.F.: Good for you for adopting an ex-laboratory research dog. He is probably suffering from a combination of post-traumatic stress disorder and cage-confinement syndrome of having to evacuate in his living space, a condition that only patience, housebreaking and time will remedy.
Confinement in a crate is likely to make things worse. Of course he is curious and will chew and destroy things, so remove all items you do not want him to chew and provide safe chew toys and an open crate with bedding to serve as a den. He needs lots of outdoor physical activity and interaction with other dogs, perhaps in a playgroup. He is still young and will take at least another year to mature and calm down.
Be patient, avoid indoor paper training and get into a routine of taking him outside to evacuate first thing in the morning and last thing at night and before and after meals. Avoid strenuous activity after meals. Calming classical music may help calm him when you are away. Check out the "Through a Dog's Ear" CD series. A few drops of lavender oil on a bandana around his neck may also help calm him.
The use of dogs and other animals in research and for teaching purposes is an unresolved ethical issue where human life and interests always take precedence over non-human life -- an anthropocentric attitude that is a disease in itself. The use of alternatives to live animals is, however, gaining momentum, along with the adoption rather than the killing of cats and dogs whose "services" are over.
DEAR DR. FOX: In a few weeks, I shall be moving to a much smaller apartment. I'm concerned about my cat, George, having to cope with tighter quarters.
Presently, we are in a large seven-room home with screened-in pool and patio. George loves the comfort and life that he leads. He is very well behaved, and because I will be renting at an independent living facility, I'm concerned about him settling down. -- J.D., Cape Coral, Florida
DEAR J.D.: So long as there are familiar pieces of furniture and items that your cat has marked, and, ideally, positioned in one of the new rooms as they were in the old, your cat should settle down fairly soon.
Cats may feel more secure when off the ground in a cat condo with high, padded shelves and one or two cubbyholes to hide in. For additional environmental enrichment, set up an outside bird feeder your cat can observe from the condo or a padded windowledge. A plug-in diffuser of the feline pheromone Feliway may help your cat settle down. Be sure he has a breakaway collar and ID tag just in case he slips out -- some cats do try to get back to their original homes, sometimes making incredible journeys of hundreds of miles, as I describe in my book "Cat Body, Cat Mind."
Good luck to both of you with the move, and keep your cat in a safe room in the old home until you are fully moved in to your new accommodations.
(Send all mail to email@example.com 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.
Visit Dr. Fox's website at DrFoxVet.net.)