As adorable as puppies can be, anyone who's raising one will tell you they can drive you crazy. To get through those sometimes trying months and come out with the dog you want, always remember two things in dealing with puppies: Be patient and be positive.
Every puppy needs to be guided on the road to good behavior, and along the way many a puppy strays off the path into trouble. The best way to avoid problems is to set up your home and your handling of the puppy so his only choice is to do what's right and get praised for it.
But what if your puppy makes a mistake? A verbal correction, properly timed and correctly delivered, is usually all you need. Speak low and sharply, but don't yell at your puppy. Really, all you need to do is provide a distraction to stop and then redirect the errant behavior.
Here are two more ways to send a clear message of disapproval:
-- Distract and redirect. Especially useful for the young puppy, this technique stops a behavior you don't want and guides the puppy to one that's acceptable. For example, if your young puppy is chewing on your nice leather shoes, make a noise to startle and distract him -- slap the counter or clap your hands -- and then give him something you do want him to chew on, such as a toy. When he takes it, praise him for redirecting those sharp puppy teeth.
With older puppies, you can often stop a bad behavior by asking for a better one, and praising. Ask the puppy who's jumping up to "sit," and praise or give him a treat for doing so. Tell him once, and if he doesn't mind (to be fair, be sure he understands what you want), gently guide him into a sit, and then praise and treat.
-- The time-out. Puppies thrive on your attention, even if it's negative. The time-out removes this reward. This technique is especially good for a puppy who doesn't want to keep his mouth to himself, a bad habit for any dog to get into where people are concerned. When the puppy starts nipping, tell him "no," and then clam up, pick him up and put him in a crate or other small, safe area for a few minutes. Ignore the cries and whimpers. After a few minutes of quiet, let him out without fanfare and let him hang out with you gently for a while. The message: When the teeth touch skin, it's "game over."
If your puppy has been running around for a long time and just seems bratty, he may be tired. If that's the case, put him down for a nap in a crate or small area, along with a chew toy. Again, ignore his fussing. Chances are, he'll be asleep in a few minutes.
Corrections have their place in puppy-raising, but in general, a positive approach is preferred by today's dog-training experts. Positive dog-training isn't about letting your puppy or dog be boss, but rather about setting limits without yelling or hitting. If you find yourself resorting to any of these techniques constantly, you could probably do with some help from a trainer to spot what you're doing wrong with your puppy and to make some constructive suggestions.
Don't let your puppy grow up to be a monster. Be patient and positive, and be fair with corrections. And don't forget: Get help at the first sign of trouble, and you'll save yourself a lot of trouble down the road.
Get that puppy into class!
One of the best things you can do to get your puppy off to a good start is to get him into a puppy class. These classes are more about socialization and teaching puppies to pay attention than they are about overtaxing a puppy's short attention span. And that's perfect for a youngster who's just learning about the world around him.
Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation, or check out local pet-supply shops or park and recreation districts. You'll often find puppy classes running nearly year-round, to help catch little problems before they become big ones.
Compromise on cat situation
Q: My boyfriend is moving into my home. My cat has been a point of conflict, because he doesn't like cats, says the litter box stinks and is mildly allergic. The cat is the only problem we have, and he wants me to make Miles an outdoor cat. Miles has been with me longer than the boyfriend has. What do you suggest? -- H.C., via e-mail
A: Compromise. And if compromise isn't an option, I'd really think twice about having this man move in. I think you'll be having more problems down the line living with someone who won't compromise on an issue as important to you as a beloved pet.
Let's take this one complaint at a time. He doesn't like cats, but maybe you don't like something he does or has. I'm not a relationship counselor, but I do know that in a relationship, everyone has to tolerate what a partner cares about. He doesn't have to like your cat, but he will have to tolerate the animal. The ball's in his court on that one.
Stinky litter box? If you're removing the clumps a couple of times a day and cleaning the entire litter box regularly, this shouldn't be a problem. You might try switching to a different litter with odor-fighting properties, but beware: If your cat doesn't like the new litter, you'll have deposits all over the house instead of in the box. You might also try moving the box to a more out-of-the-way location. But again, you're tempting fate with this one if the new locale doesn't meet with your cat's approval.
Diligent vacuuming, weekly bathing of the cat in clear water and an air purifier may make your cat less likely to trigger allergies, as will having your boyfriend take allergy medications. If your boyfriend pets the cat, he needs to get in the habit of washing his hands before touching his eyes and triggering an allergic reaction. Making certain portions of the house permanently off-limits to the cat -- especially the bedroom -- is another option.
Work out all the issues before anyone moves anywhere. If you toss your cat outside, you're increasing the likelihood that his life will be shorter and denying yourself the pleasure of his company.
Too much hair!
Q: My shorthaired calico sheds more than any cat I've ever known. Her hair is everywhere, especially white hair. I thought shorthaired cats shed less. What can I do to stop this? -- T.A., via e-mail
A: Assuming the fur coat looks healthy -- sleek, shiny and full with no bare patches -- your cat is probably shedding a normal amount, which is to say, constantly.
It's a myth that longhaired pets shed more than shorthaired ones. The former just appear to shed more because the hair they lose is more visible. Your cat's shedding may seem more prolific because much of the fur is white and thus shows easily on any dark-colored piece of clothing.
You can't stop a cat from shedding, nor should you try to. It's a normal process for a healthy cat, in which old fur is replaced by new. You can reduce the impact of shedding by grooming your cat daily. After all, the fur you catch on a brush won't show up on your clothes or furniture. Gentle brushing is also an experience that will strengthen the bond with your pet.
For your shorthaired cat, try a grooming glove. These have nubs to catch the fur while you're petting your cat. A couple of minutes a day will collect a large amount of the loose fur that's ready to be shed. -- Gina Spadafori
(Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
All pet iguanas need to bathe
In the wild, reports Melissa Kaplan in her marvelous book "Iguanas for Dummies" (Wiley, $20), iguanas keep themselves sort of clean by rubbing against rough bark or dousing themselves in swimming holes. In captivity, rough bark and swimming holes are rare, which is why Kaplan recommends frequent -- as often as daily -- bathing for these pets.
Fill the bathtub chest-deep to the iguana and let the pet enjoy the warm water -- no soap, please! -- to his heart's content. Blot the animal dry with a towel and return him to his enclosure before thoroughly disinfecting the tub.
An important note of caution: If there are children or immune-compromised individuals in the home, use a completely separate bathtub for the iguana. Even with careful disinfecting, the consequences of bacterial infection for immune-compromised folks are too dire to take any chances. -- Gina Spadafori
PETS ON THE WEB
Funding research into pet health
The Morris Animal Foundation (www.morrisanimalfoundation.org) funds research at veterinary schools and colleges that seek to cure some of the diseases that claim the lives of companion animals.
Founded in 1948 by veterinarian Mark Morris (who founded the company now known as Hill's Pet Nutrition), the foundation gives more than $4 million annually in grants for animal-health studies. The foundation's Web site offers detailed information on studies in progress, and on upcoming events. -- Dr. Marty Becker
You'll find even more pet-care help on the PetConnection.com Web site.
PetConnection.com features a weekly drawing for free prizes -- now featuring memberships to 1-800-HELP4PETS and gift baskets from the Kong company. It also offers tips on pet health and behavior, a searchable archive of all past columns, and reviews of "dogmobiles," products and pet-care books, along with a popular Web log offering frequent contributions from the entire Pet Connection staff.
Turn your love of pets into profit
Would you like to make money writing about or taking pictures of animals? These days it's as easy as starting your own Web log or picking up a digital camera. The Internet offers opportunity for breaking into writing, and I know several people who've been asked to contribute magazine articles, develop book proposals or sell images just by doing what they love -- writing about animals.
A great place to start is with a class in free-lance writing or photography, which you can often find at a community college. These courses teach you the basics of marketing your ideas, contacting editors and more.
A great way to advance is by writing for the newsletters, magazines or Web sites of nonprofit groups such as animal shelters, breed or training clubs, or pet-therapy groups. While they generally don't pay, these publications will provide you with the experience and clips you need to show to editors at national publications. To sell images, try uploading your best work to a stock photography Web site, which will pay you a small amount every time your image is purchased.
Read the publications you want to write for to get a feel for the subject matter they're interested in. You wouldn't want to pitch an anti-hunting piece to a hunting-dog magazine, for example, or a pro-hunting piece to an animal-rights magazine. You also need to know what has been covered lately, so you don't waste your time or the editor's by pitching an idea that's already been done.
Finally, consider joining the Dog Writers Association of America (www.dwaa.org) or the Cat Writers' Association (www.catwriters.org). These groups support and encourage beginners who write about animals through an annual conference (co-sponsored by both groups) and competitions (held by each). Sorry, there are no groups (at least not yet) for those who write about reptiles, birds or rodent pets. -- Gina Spadafori
BY THE NUMBERS
Almost half (49 percent) of all dog owners responding to a 2004 survey said they didn't use any training devices or service at all. Of the remainder, here are the most popular responses:
Treats 37 percent
All other 12 percent
Books 11 percent
Hired professional 9 percent
Whistle 5 percent
No-bark collar 4 percent
Videos 4 percent
Electric fence 3 percent
Clicker 3 percent
Source: American Pet Products Manufacturers Association
ON GOOD BEHAVIOR
Causes of, cures for aggression
When a pet bites, the first step is to get a veterinary exam with diagnostic tests to rule out any health problems. The next step is to work with a behaviorist.
Beware of simple answers. Any combination of factors may be triggering aggression, including fence-fighting, displaced aggression, dominance, drug side-effects, other pets, pain triggers, predation, possessiveness, fear, hormonal changes, protection of young, pack response, play, protection of home or family, neurological abnormalities, improper socialization, and intentionally and accidentally trained behaviors.
Once a pet has bitten, it's more likely the behavior will be repeated. If the bite broke the skin or there were repeated bites, the prognosis is even grimmer. Getting professional help right away is essential.
(Animal behavior experts Susan and Dr. Rolan Tripp are the authors of "On Good Behavior." For more information, visit their Web site at AnimalBehavior.net.)
Pet Connection is produced by a team of team of pet-care experts headed by "Good Morning America" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are also the authors of several best-selling pet-care books. Contact Pet Connection in care of this newspaper, by sending e-mail to email@example.com or by visiting PetConnection.com.
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