Universal Press Syndicate
The first step in turning an adult dog into a reliable house pet is to embrace a key concept: There's no such thing as a "partially" house-trained dog. He either is or he isn't.
Why is realizing this important? Because if you have a dog who is "sometimes" reliable, you have a dog who doesn't understand what's required of him, probably because no one taught him properly in the first place. Punishing your pet isn't fair, and it isn't the answer: You have to go back to square one and teach him properly. No shortcuts here.
Before you start training, though, you must be sure that what you have is really a behavior problem and not a physical problem. This is especially true with a dog who has been reliable in the past. You won't be able to train your pet if he's struggling with an illness. So check with your veterinarian first for a complete checkup.
If you've ruled out medical problems, house-training an adult dog uses the same principles as house-training a puppy, except you have to be even more diligent because you need to do some untraining, too. And a lot of cleaning: You must thoroughly clean any soiled area with enzymatic cleaner (available through pet-supply outlets) to eliminate the smell that invites repeat business.
You'll need to teach your dog what's right before you can correct him for what's wrong. To do this, spend a couple of weeks ensuring that he has nothing but successes by never giving him the opportunity to make a mistake.
-- Leash him to you in the house so you can monitor his every move during his training period. If he starts to mess, tell him "no," take him outside, and give him a command for going ("go now" or even "let's hurry"). Then praise him for doing right, so he starts to understand what you want.
-- Put him in a crate whenever he's not on leash with you. It's not unfair during training to leave him in a crate for four or five hours at a stretch -- assuming, of course, that he's getting his regular daily exercise.
-- Take him outside first thing in the morning, as soon as you get home from work and just before you go to bed (when you put him in his crate for the night). Always remember to give your "go" command, and praise him when he does as you wish. People never seem shy about punishing their dogs, but too often forget to praise them -- they take it for granted the dog should do the right thing. Never, ever forget the praise!
If you've been consistent, your dog likely will get a good idea of what's expected of him within a couple of weeks, and you can start to give him a little freedom. Don't let him have the run of the house yet. Keep his area small and let him earn the house, room by room, as he proves his understanding of the house rules.
Accidents happen. If you catch him in the act, tell him "no," take him outside, and give him the chance to set things right. Give your "go" command, and praise him if he does. Clean up the mess inside promptly and thoroughly, so he won't feel inclined to refresh his smell there. Don't punish him for any messes you find.
If you aren't catching him, you're not keeping close enough tabs on him. Go back to the crate and leash, and start over.
If you continue to have problems, ask your veterinarian for a referral to a veterinary behaviorist. One-on-one assistance can pinpoint the problems in your training regimen and get you both on the right track.
Pet costumes offer good time for most
Q: What do you think about the ridiculous habit of putting Halloween costumes on pets? What are you pet freaks thinking? -- J.G., via e-mail
A: I guess we're not in the dark about how you feel about dressing up pets. Here at the Pet Connection, we realize that putting costumes on pets is fun for people, so if it brings a smile to someone's face, why not?
For those who actually do like pets and are thinking about the holiday, here are some Halloween safety tips:
-- Costumes: If you buy ready-made, make sure the costume is comfortable and nonrestrictive, and doesn't involve anything that could be hazardous, such as dye or paint. Same goes for anything you make yourself: Be sure it isn't going to cause a problem for your pet, and monitor pets while they're wearing costumes.
-- Injuries: With the increase in activity, cats and dogs get nervous or excited, and some will take off if they can. That means an increase in animals being hit by cars. Other animals may also be a cause of injury: All those costumed young visitors can trigger territorial instincts or fear-responses in some dogs, who may then become a bite risk. Keep pets confined inside, away from the action, in a crate or behind a closed door.
-- Food problems: Candy is a problem more for dogs than for cats, because cats are generally picky about what they eat. Not so for most dogs, who'll wolf down candy -- wrappers and all -- if given the opportunity. Keep candy bowls and trick-or-trick bags out of reach of those animals who may be tempted to help themselves. -- Gina Spadafori
Pet theft seems to be on the rise
-- Is dog-napping on the rise? The American Kennel Club has kept informal tabs on the stolen pet numbers and says pilfered pets aren't uncommon. Last year there were media reports of at least 71 stolen dogs, with more than 100 thefts so far this year. Some states are considering legislation to strengthen penalties. Pets are stolen for many reasons, including keeping the pet as one's own, resale or trying to get a ransom. One California woman paid $10,000 to have her dog returned after it was stolen from her parked car. Crimes that occurred just in one month over the summer included a puppy stolen from the lap of a 5-year-old in a public Idaho park, a 16-week-old boxer stolen from the owner's yard in Oklahoma, and a Lhasa apso taken from a North Carolina backyard.
-- Petting a dog or cat has been shown to significantly lower the stress hormone cortisol, making us feel more merry, say University of Missouri researchers.
-- What is believed to be the world's most expensive dog recently changed hands for $582,000. The Tibetan mastiff known as Yangtze River No. 2 was purchased by a millionaire identified only as Mrs. Wang of the Qinghai province of northwest China, where there are many residents of Tibetan descent. A motorcade of 30 luxury cars met the dog at the airport when he arrived. Mrs. Wang already owns a Tibetan mastiff and has plans to mate the dogs. A Florida family's pet purchase seems a bargain by comparison: $155,000 for a Labrador named Lancelot Encore, which includes the cloning of the original Lancelot. -- Dr. Marty Becker and Mikkel Becker Shannon
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a 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.
On PetConnection.com there's more information on pets and their care, reviews of products, books and "dog cars," and a monthly drawing for more than $1,000 in pet-care prizes. Contact Pet Connection in care of this newspaper by sending e-mail to email@example.com or by visiting PetConnection.com.
Is your pet ready to be on the bed?
In many homes, the "pets on the bed" debate is long over -- and the pets won. Proof can be found in the marketplace, where accessories abound to help pets get onto the bed -- and keep the bedding cleaner.
The trend isn't for everyone, however. Letting pets sleep in the bed has been suggested as one of many reasons why people have problems getting a good night's sleep. If you have insomnia, you might consider getting your pet his own comfy bed and keeping yours for yourself. If you have allergies, or your pet has behavior problems, a no-pet bedroom is also recommended.
Otherwise, why not share?
I've always kept an eye out for sales on relatively inexpensive, washable cotton quilts to throw over the top of the bedding. I also use rubber-backed fuzzy bath mats on top of the quilts when older pets get leaky.
For high beds and older pets, there's even an easier way up: A number of manufacturers make pet-sized sets of steps to help aging or small animals get onto the bed or couch. Pet retailers have a wide selection to match your budget and decor. -- Gina Spadafori
BY THE NUMBERS
Buy big and save
Buying in bulk can make pet-food budgets go further, a cost-cutting strategy already popular with many dog lovers. Here's how bag sizes for dry dog food rank in popularity at the cash register:
5 pounds or less: 10 percent
6 to 10 pounds: 13 percent
11 to 20 pounds: 22 percent
20 to 40 pounds: 26 percent
40-plus pounds: 23 percent
Don't buy dry: 3 percent
No answer: 3 percent
Source: American Pet Products Association
PETS ON THE WEB
Pet your cat where he's comfortable
With a scratch-happy cat, always work to eliminate the triggers for unwanted behavior, and work on your cat's tolerance levels for being petted. If you're patient and consistent, your cat can learn to play nice.
Some kinds of petting are easier for cats to tolerate than others. For a highly reactive cat, restrict your caresses to behind the ears, under the chin or the base of the tail.
A long stroke down the back is too much for some kitties, and you're really taking chances when you decide to tickle your cat's tummy. The cats who enjoy it are greatly outnumbered by the cats who'll quickly tire of a tummy rub and will seek to stop it with teeth and claws. -- Gina Spadafori
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting PetConnection.com.