EXERCISE THERAPY: TIRED DOGS ARE MORE LIKELY TO BE WELL-MANNERED
The joke in dog training these days is that when you get two trainers together, the only thing they'll agree on is that a third trainer is doing it wrong.
But there's something else that the fiercest advocate of a no-punishment training approach will find in common with the trainer who believes that a dog's actions need consequences: They'll both agree that your dog is likely not getting enough exercise, and that sedentary lives are at the root of a lot of canine behavior problems.
Look at the big, active dogs we adore, such as the Labrador retriever and the German shepherd. You don't have to go far down the popularity list to find other active breeds, such as the always-in-motion dog commonly known as the Jack Russell terrier. Factor in the countless retriever, shepherd, husky, hound and terrier mixes, and you have a lot of dogs whose genetics have prepared them to work nonstop for hours at a time.
Instead, many of them spend their lives in small, boring backyards. To burn off all that natural energy, they're busy barking, digging and chewing.
If you're thinking of getting a dog, think very seriously about what breed or mix you want and whether you can provide an active dog with the exercise he needs. If you can't honestly say that your dog will get 30 minutes of heart-thumping aerobic exercise at least three to four days a week -- daily is better -- then you really ought to reconsider those breeds and mixes.
Fortunately, there are alternatives. All dogs love and need their exercise, but not all dogs will misbehave if they don't get a ton of it. Consider dogs of breeds or mixes that are content with less exercise. For large dogs, consider adopting a retired racing greyhound, a dog known as the "30 mph couch potato." Many of the pug-nosed breeds are also touted for their couch-potato ways, but beware: that's because they're often born with compromised respiratory systems, with health problems to match.
Many small breeds are easy in the exercise department, and they're well worth considering because it's not as difficult to exercise a small dog with short legs. A Yorkie, pug or corgi can get good exercise in a small yard or on a brisk walk, but remember that even short legs won't get you off the hook with the most active and tough-minded breeds of terrier. These dogs need as much regular cardio as their bigger, more powerful relatives.
What if you already have an active breed of dog? I know the answer to this one, having shared my life with retrievers from high-drive hunting lines for almost 20 years. Keeping them exercised is a big part of my life. There's always a tennis ball in my truck, and I know all the safe and legal places to throw it, especially those that involve bodies of water.
So get out that leash. Find that tennis ball. Scope out the nearest pond. And make some time to get your dog moving a half-hour a day, every day. Your dog will be happier and healthier, and so will you.
As for those behavior problems, you'll find they're easier to fix if your dog isn't frantically looking for a place to direct all that energy. Ask your veterinarian for a trainer or behaviorist who can help.
Adopting declawed cat
better than declawing
Q: I am thinking of adopting a cat or kitten, but shelters won't let me if I plan to declaw. I've always done it, and I've always provided a good home for life for my cats. Can I just lie on the forms? -- via Facebook
A: No. If you absolutely, positively have no tolerance for scratching, adopt a cat who has already been declawed rather than take home a kitten or cat with the intent to declaw. If you fall in love with a cat or kitten with claws, you can teach him to keep his claws off what you don't want scratched.
The best investment you can make for your pet's enjoyment -- and your furniture's preservation -- is a cat tree.
You can make a cat tree even more appealing by playing games with your cat on the tree and by petting and praising him for scratching there. Some cats may enjoy having fresh catnip rubbed onto the cat tree as added enticement.
Cat trees aren't the only options. Add other approved places for your cat to scratch, such as vertical or horizontal posts, scratching trays filled with corrugated cardboard or scratching pads hung from doorknobs. Experiment to see what your cat likes best.
Once you have approved scratching areas in place, make the places your cat shouldn't be clawing unattractive by putting double-sided patches (such as Sticky Paws) or tape on the furniture. Cats hate to touch anything sticky, and anything mounted sticky-side out will discourage scratching.
Start with your scratching alternative near the problem area. Your cat may shift his attention to the scratching post or tree and away from your furniture. Offer praise and treats for good behavior.
Once your cat understands what the scratching post is for, you can slowly move it to the part of the room where you'd like it. Leave the sticky deterrent on the furniture during the transition and be patient. -- Dr. Marty Becker
Check your young dog
for retained baby teeth
-- Puppies have 28 sharp little deciduous teeth that are eventually replaced with 42 permanent ones. Sometimes, baby teeth are retained after the adult ones come in, a situation that can cause many problems, including the misalignment of permanent teeth, incorrect development of the jaw and infections. Baby teeth that refuse to fall out on their own may need to be removed by your veterinarian.
-- Cats can get acne. Although most classic feline acne cases occur in cats who are simply not good chin groomers, there are other possibilities, including mites, ringworm and allergies. You'll need the help of your veterinarian to get your cat's chin cleared up. The area needs to be kept washed, at the very least, and resist the urge to squeeze any blemishes. You may also get prescription creams and pills. Since some cases are caused by an allergy to plastic, your veterinarian will probably also recommend switching to ceramic or stainless steel food and water dishes, and keeping them scrupulously clean.
-- Scientists from the Johns Hopkins University Medical Center say the parasite that causes the dangerous disease toxoplasmosis is more common that previously feared. The eggs of the parasite are found in raw meat and cat feces. The researchers did not go so far as to suggest that owning a cat puts a person at higher risk, but they did encourage keeping children out of public sandboxes, gardening with gloves and following safety recommendations in handling meat or cleaning the litter box. -- Dr. Marty Becker and Gina Spadafori
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts headed by "Good Morning America" and "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are affiliated with Vetstreet.com and also the authors of many best-selling pet care books. Dr. Becker can also be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker.