Why do dogs like to roll in the dirt?
MARC: Dogs and humans have very different preferences as far as smells go. In fact, the scent on a dog's body after a good roll in the dirt is as pleasing to him as perfume might be to us. Conversely, if you let your dog sniff some perfume, he or she is likely to find it very unpleasant.
How do I care for an older dog?
MARC: Dogs age at different rates and often according to size. For example, a large dog is considered a "senior citizen" when he or she turns 6 or 7, while a smaller dog may reach that status around its 8th birthday. Large or small, older dogs tend to appreciate beds more than they might have during their younger years. If you obtain one for your pet, make sure she can get in and out of it easily. Because a dog's activity level tends to decrease with age, it's a good idea to switch her to a lower-fat food that's enriched with more joint-supporting nutrients; ask your vet to recommend a good brand. You may also find that your dog craves rest, peace, and quiet more often than she once did, and you should give her the time she needs. Be certain to monitor any health changes, and consult your vet if anything seems abnormal.
How do I get my dog used to brushing?
MARC: Let your dog chew on treats while she's being brushed, and remember that you don't have to brush her thoroughly all at once. Try getting her used to gentle brush strokes, and praise her while you're brushing. This way, your dog will consider grooming a pleasurable experience and undoubtedly become fond of the added attention.
Why do some dogs know how to swim while others don't?
MARC: Some dogs were bred to swim, and others weren't. Sporting breeds such as spaniels and retrievers are great swimmers, while English bulldogs, for example, have short legs and dense bodies that make it difficult to stay afloat. Other dogs are simply afraid, and they should be gently introduced -- but never forced -- to water.
My mother's dog growls and nips when on the bed. What should I do?
MARC: Positive reinforcement works best in these situations. When you approach the dog on the bed, instead of just confronting her, show her a bit of cheese or some other favorite treat. Lure her off the bed with the cheese and then give her the treat and pick her up and carry her out of the bedroom. If you are consistent about this she will quickly learn to jump right off the bed when you enter the room.
How can I stop my cat from play-biting?
MARC: Your cat is play-biting with you because he is using you as a cat substitute. When cats play with each other they play bite -- but our hands are a lot more sensitive than a cat's paw. You really should not encourage your cat to think of you as a cat toy. Get a large sock and fill it with crumpled paper and catnip. When your cat does treat you like a toy, just distract him with the sock and encourage him to play with that instead of you.
My dog has itchy skin. What kind of shampoo and conditioner should I use?
MARC: There are special oatmeal shampoos and conditioners available for dogs like yours with sensitive skin. But depending on the kind of fur your dog has, he may need a specific shampoo. Ask your vet what the best choice is for your pet.
Sometimes my dog gets bad breath. Can you tell me how to brush his teeth?
MARC: Be sure to use a toothpaste made specifically for dogs; human toothpaste can cause your dog to become ill if he swallows it. When you get some dog toothpaste, let him lick some from your finger and then a toothbrush. Once he's used to it, begin to gently massage his teeth and gums with the toothbrush.
My dog has a lot of hair; doesn't she get hot in the summer?
MARC: All dogs get hot in the summer, and while brushing her coat frequently will help keep her a little cooler, there are a few other helpful hints to follow. Keep her in an air-conditioned room as much as possible; if she doesn't want to go outside, don't force the issue. Keep plenty of clean fresh water available both inside and outside, and place a couple bottles of frozen water on the floor for her to lie on. And remember: Under no circumstances should you ever leave your dog in a hot car.
Can a dog pass poison ivy to humans?
MARC: It's far easier than you might think for the irritating oils of the poison-ivy plant to get onto your pet's coat and then your hands. And even though it isn't a frequent occurrence, some dogs can actually get poison-ivy blisters themselves on areas such as the stomach, which have less fur protecting their skin. Do your best to keep your dog clear of poison ivy, and give the dog a bath if you think he or she might have come into contact with the plant.
Why does my dog eat grass?
MARC: Dogs eat grass because they like the texture and the taste, but because they are incapable of digesting it, their stomachs usually send it right back up. Theoretically, eating grass is harmless, but keep one thing in mind: Many lawns are often treated with chemicals and pesticides, which are decidedly not harmless. Even if your dog isn't eating the grass, he or she is rolling or running around in it. When they later lick their feet and fur, dogs can ingest any chemicals that might have been applied. You can protect your dog at home by using pesticide- and herbicide-free lawn-care products (available at many garden centers) and rinsing your dog and his or her toys after spending any time in someone else's yard or at a public area with a lawn, such as a park.
Why does my pet have accidents in the house?
MARC: The whole world seems to think that pets will deliberately have toilet accidents in our homes out of spite. Nothing could be further from the truth -- animals are not capable of spite! It's just a matter of them having to go and your not giving them the opportunity to do it in the area you want them to.
Why has my cat stopped using the litter box?
MARC: Cats usually ditch the litter box because it's not clean or it's too small. You never hear about kittens not using the litter box. We tend to get lazy as the kitty gets older, forgetting to focus on our cat's litter box, toys, etc.
Should my dog wear rain gear?
MARC: Whether or not you should dress your dog in a poncho and boots -- or any clothing for that matter -- when the weather is bad depends on the dog. Remember, some dog breeds were created for warm climates and some for cold climates, depending on their needed functions. If you have a dog whose coat is short-haired and who doesn't seem to tolerate lower temperatures too well, and you live in a cold-weather environment, your dog would probably appreciate protective footwear and clothing. Or, if you and your dog spend a lot of time running through the woods or walking on salt-laden, icy streets, boots may be more comfortable.
Can I feed my dog table scraps?
MARC: Many dog foods are often overly processed, so the addition of any nutritious home-cooked or home-prepared foods to a diet that's mostly made of processed foods will always be beneficial. The key word is nutritious -- stay away from cooked poultry bones or very fatty foods, and always discuss any changes in your pet's diet with your veterinarian. And, no, feeding your dog from the table doesn't guarantee he'll start begging or gain weight. Begging is a learned behavior, so if you're feeding scraps when the dog is sitting by your chair, looking at you, that's the behavior you will train. If you feed your dog when the dog is lying in the adjacent room, not paying attention to the dinner table at all, that's the behavior you will encourage. It's in the timing.
Is it okay to get a kitten from a friend or should I get one at a pet store or animal shelter?
MARC: I have gotten kittens from friends' litters, shelters, pet stores, and off the street, and all have been fine pets. Getting a kitten from a municipal shelter would, in many cases, save a life, so if you do get one from your friend, perhaps consider going to your local municipal shelter to adopt a second one, so you have two kittens -- two kitties are twice the fun and, for the kitten, the best toy is... another kitten!
I want to dye my poodle's hair for Halloween. Is this okay?
MARC: Dogs cannot see colors as we do, so I am sure they could care less about getting their hair dyed. To a dog, a bath is a bath no matter how the dog ends up looking. However, it may not be the best idea for your dog's coat. It is best to let a professional groomer handle this job, so you can be sure the products used are safe for pets. Ask the groomer to use nontoxic hair dyes specifically made for animals. You can also make your poodle its own Halloween costume (without using hair dyes).
What breed of dog will get along best with my kids?
MARC: All dogs can interact well with children, especially if they're introduced as puppies to a home where children are already underfoot. A dog should be socialized and raised in a structured environment that reminds the animal of its subservience to the rest of the household. Problems usually arise when dogs are mentally unbalanced, or if they have never been socialized or trained correctly. When a new dog does come into your home, be sure to monitor the first interactions between your children and the pet.
Why do some dogs have a small claw on the inside of each front paw while others don't?
MARC: All dogs have five digits on each of their front feet and four on each of their back feet; the fifth digit, or dewclaw, corresponds with the human thumb. Some dog breeders will have the dewclaws removed when puppies are born so trimming isn't a worry as they grow older.
Our dog never stops barking. Do we have to resort to a shock collar?
MARC: The best cure for dog barking is intense behavior modification. Most people work and don't have the time to spend training their dogs not to bark, so a shock collar is often considered a quick-and-easy solution. A more humane idea is to use a citronella collar. You put the collar on when you leave for work, and if the dog barks excessively, the collar releases a puff of citronella. This is not harmful to the dog in any way, and it usually distracts the animal and keeps it from barking. The collars are very expensive, but they are worth the cost if they keep the peace. If that fails, you should find an experienced dog trainer or animal behaviorist in your area.
Our dog loves to stick his head out the car window while we drive. Is this safe?
MARC: Although dogs can't seem to resist poking their heads out the window to enjoy the breeze, one of the biggest dangers in allowing them to do so is the potential for their eyes to be damaged by the dust and grit flying through the air. If your dog really loves the fresh air, try using a window vent guard, which will keep his eyes well protected. And it's worth reminding all dog owners that they should never leave their pets unattended during the summer. If a car is in direct sunlight and the air outside is hotter than 80 degrees, the car's interior can exceed temperatures of 150 degrees within a mere 15 minutes -- and even higher temperatures if the car is a dark color or the weather is humid.
How can I keep my indoor cat cool during the summer?
MARC: Air-conditioning is the best way to keep your pet cool, but it isn't necessary to maintain especially low temperatures. Pets shouldn't spend any significant time in temperatures above 85 degrees, so if you set your air conditioner's thermostat to that level, your pet will be fine. Pets are also adept at seeking out cooler areas inside, such as tile floors in bathrooms. One other idea for cats or puppies that spend time in baskets or crates -- or even for smaller animals that live in cages -- is to use frozen water bottles, which your pets will love leaning against.