Sunday, August 1, 2010


Since Helpful Buckeye and Desperado are on the road this week in Pennsylvania, the format of this week's issue will be a little less structured so that our readers can sit back and enjoy some casual interesting stuff about dogs and cats.  But first, let's whet your appetite a little bit for next week's issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats.

If your dog or cat has an encounter with one of these, is there any cause for concern?

How about one of these?

Or, how about these?

Then, there are these....

Finally, this last one....

Helpful Buckeye has had several questions relating to snake bites the last few weeks, so it's time to address that concern...which we will do in next week's issue...stay tuned!

To properly begin this week's relaxed approach to enjoying the lighter side of dogs and cats, let the Beach Boys entertain you with a biggie from 1964 (which was later featured in the hit film, American Graffiti in 1973):


How many of you with medium-sized or larger dogs have felt like your dog is taking you for a walk rather than the other way around?  Tired of being pulled by your dog?

Here's some great advice from a pro:

Meet Mary Burch, American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen Director and Paw Nation's expert columnist addressing your questions on animal behavior. Dr. Burch has over 25 years of experience working with dogs, and she is one of fewer than 50 Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists based in the United States. She is the author of 10 books, including the new official book on the AKC Canine Good Citizen Program, "Citizen Canine: 10 Essential Skills Every Well-Mannered Dog Should Know."

Question for Dr. Burch:
I have a 2-year-old Lab mix named Carlos. He has a lot of energy and still acts like a puppy. That's OK with me for the most part, but I'm concerned about how hard he pulls on his leash. Sometimes it feels like he's going to yank my arm off or pull me down the stairs. I'm considering getting a no-pull leash, but I don't know if that will be enough. Do you think I can train Carlos myself?

With patience, you should be able to train Carlos to walk nicely on a leash. At 2 years old, he's an adult (even though he acts like a puppy), and this is the perfect time for him to learn good manners. Pulling isn't just annoying, it is also potentially dangerous as even small dogs can pull you off your feet or injure your joints and muscles with their tugging.

Here are several things you can do to break the leash pulling habit.

1. Don't Reward Pulling

Your dog tugs on the leash to get the forward motion he needs to reach another dog, a great new smell, or something else that he badly wants. Every time you allow Carlos to pull you along, you are rewarding him for dragging you down the street. The trick is to teach him that pulling actually keeps him from his goal (the dog run, park, etc.) whereas walking nicely gets him there much faster. In the book "Citizen Canine," we describe two techniques that are effective for training your dog.

Technique A: If the dog pulls, you stop.
1. When your dog starts to pull, stop.
2. Stand still. Don't move forward with the dog.
3. Wait. The dog will pull, but eventually he'll stop.
4. When he stops pulling, you can praise him and move forward.
5. Uh-oh. He is so excited that you're moving forward, he's pulling again. Now what? Repeat the procedure. It won't take long until he figures out you aren't going anywhere as long as he pulls.

Technique B: If the dog pulls, change directions.
1. When your dog begins to drag you in the direction he wants to go, briskly turn and go in the opposite direction. He'll have to come along, and most often, he will hurry to keep up with you.
2. When the dog begins to follow along in the direction in which you are moving, praise him and, during the beginning stages of training, give him a treat for coming. Your dog will soon learn to look to you to guide the walk rather than taking off in the direction he's decided he wants to go.

Remember, your dog may be stubborn and he may keep pulling for a while. You have to be just as stubborn and be willing to take the time to curb his bad leash habits.

2. Do Take Time to Smell the Roses

When you go on a walk with your dog, you may have a destination in mind. You may be walking around the block or across the park. That's fine. Remember though, walks are also a way for dogs to learn about the world in which they live, and sometimes you should let the dog sniff and smell to explore new objects or scents. The problem is that the dog can get confused about what behavior you expect from him during these different types of walks.

Verbal cues will help the dog distinguish between when he needs to trot along with you and when it is acceptable to stop and sniff. If you are seriously walking from point A to point B, give the dog an instruction such as "let's walk." He'll soon begin to walk at a brisk focused pace when he hears "let's walk."

If he is allowed to sniff and smell to his heart's content, try saying something like "free dog" (even though the dog is on leash) to help Carlos differentiate between walk time and casual sniffing time. Clear commands will make you both happier during the walk.

3. Maybe You Should Try No-Pull Collars, Leashes, and Harnesses

You mentioned getting special equipment and it is true that no-pull leashes, harnesses and collars can be excellent management tools. The problem is that in many cases, the dog does not learn new skills as a result of wearing these devices. If you remove the no-pull leash and the dog pulls again, he has not learned to walk nicely on a leash, and you have simply managed the behavior.

Having said that, no-pull specialty collars and leashes can be good tools for owners who have physical problems and are particularly helpful to the elderly or disabled. They can also be good when an owner suffers an injury where pulling can be harmful. In these cases, a no-pull harness can prevent injuries to the owner and provide the dog with an opportunity for a daily walk that he might not otherwise receive.

Then, moving on to our cat-owning friends, how many of you have an adult cat that just won't stop scratching on your furniture?  Dr. Burch has some helpful advice for this as well.
Cartoon from The New Yorker
Question for Dr. Burch:
I adopted an adult cat recently, and she's using my entire living room as a scratching post. She's made her mark on every sofa and chair I have. I've bought several scratchers – tall ones she can climb, short ones at floor level -- but she prefers to destroy my furniture! I adore her and am committed for the long-haul, but I do want to keep my living room intact. Help!

How frustrating! I'm glad that you 're willing to be patient while coming up with a good solution for your new roommate. To deal with what's going on in your home, it may help you to better understand what's behind your feline's behavior and then evaluate various options to try.

1. Why Cats Scratch

Giving their claws a workout is about more than you may think. Cats scratch to:
-- Exercise. It feels good when they reach up to scratch.
-- Relax. The kneading motion is soothing.
-- File their nails. This is the most typical reason for scratching as it removes old layers of the nails.
-- Mark their territory. Cats have scent glands between their paws that release scent on the furniture. (This may be particularly appealing to your cat now that she's in a new home.)

2. Ways to Stem "Bad" Scratching

First of all, let me stress that we do not suggest declawing the cat. It is not like trimming the nails; declawing is basically the equivalent of amputating the last joint of a finger.

There are, however, several humane solutions you can try to help prevent your cat from destroying your furniture any further.
-- Keep the cat's nails trimmed. This will be more comfortable for both of you.
-- Evaluate what kind of fabric the cat likes. For example, if your cat seems to like the woven fabric of your couch, you could cover the couch with a different kind of fabric. However, we understand that you didn't spend good money on your furniture to keep it covered with a sheet.
-- Make the cat's favorite scratching areas annoying to her. Most cats will scratch one or two areas on a piece of furniture. While you are trying to deter the behavior, try putting double-sided tape on the places the cat scratches. There is a product called "Sticky Paws" that works great. The feel of the adhesive strips is unappealing to many cats.
-- Make the scratching post more desirable by choosing a different material. Some scratching posts are made of attractive carpet in nice neutral tones that match the living room. The problem is, these appeal to the people in the house and not the cat. Many cats prefer a scratching post made of sisal fabric (not rope).
-- Choose the best location for the scratcher. If you already have a sisal post, try placing it right beside the furniture where the cat likes to scratch. This may look a little strange, but it's temporary. When the cat starts to use the post, very slowly, over a number of days, begin to inch it toward where you want it in the house.

If all else fails, there are plastic/vinyl nail caps available for cats.


1) The folks at have put together an interesting list of unusual pet behaviors, in addition to some helpful solutions at:   Be sure to click on the "GREEN" arrows to view all the problem behaviors.

2) From the same people who brought you the video of the mechanism of a dog drinking water, here is another video, this time in slow motion, of several dogs expressively following a piece of dog food through the air:

Of course, this was filmed as part of an ad campaign, but so what....

3) Now that we've gotten you hooked on videos, watch this cat standing up straight on its rear legs:

Seeing as cats were meant to be quadrupeds, this is pretty impressive!

4) Another video treat for you comes from Las Vegas, where dog owners tell us what they do to help their dogs beat the summer heat:

5) The US Congress has just gone through a rigorous health care reform bill...for humans.  Now, the California state legislature is pioneering some health care reform insurance policy owners.  The CA legislature is considering requiring all pet health insurance companies to regularly post detailed information online concerning the exact types of coverage they offer.  Read the rest of the story:

Sounds good to Helpful Buckeye....


Remember, we need to hit the ground running for next week's issue.  Until then, take in a few thoughts from Will Rogers: "Lettin' the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier 'n puttin' it back in."
"Everything is changing. People are taking the comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke."  Wow, given the political scene we have today, Will Rogers was ahead of his time with this one!

~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~

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