Welcome back to "The Animal House." I'm Sam Litzinger joined by Dr. Gary Weitzman, the executive director of the Washington Animal Rescue League. To be on the program you can call 1-877-610-3647. Again, that's 1-877-610-3647. You can also send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Here's John calling. John, glad to have you with us in "The Animal House." Question for Dr. Gary?
Yes. Good afternoon, how are you?
Good, how are you?
Very well. I had a question about my very spoiled, large chocolate Lab.
Oh, that goes without saying, very spoiled. Okay.
What's his name by the way, John?
His name is Rocco.
Rocco, the spoiled Lab. Okay.
Yes. It's his world, we just live in it, pretty much. (laugh)
I think Sam's got a Beagle like that too.
Yeah. What's his problem?
Well, it's very odd. He has taken to only removing yellow cushions from the furniture.
Only yellow cushions?
Yes. And I thought dogs were color blind.
Yeah. Well, and he's not a yellow Lab either, so this is unusual behavior. So have you done a very controlled experiment on this? Are you sure it's only the yellow cushions? Well, actually, do you have other cushions besides yellow cushions?
I was gonna say, okay. And it's only the yellow ones that he takes?
It's only the yellow ones, but I do have -- I move them around.
I've put other cushions on top of them, but they're the only ones he moves off...
What does he do with them when he moves them?
He pushes them onto the carpet so that he can lay on the couch.
Is he an interior decorator dog? Maybe he just doesn't like the design scheme you've got going?
I guess maybe he wants more of a contemporary scene. (laugh)
All right, Dr. Gary. You got a...
A solution for the interior decorator chocolate Lab.
...a dog that is supposedly color blind...
Yeah. Yeah. No. You know, dogs are color blind, and everybody -- and we all know that, but, you know, the variation in hues they can see almost makes up for it. So not everything looks, you know, black and white like an old, you know, 12-inch TV set, you know, some of us used to have.
But, you know, that said, it's probably not the color that's getting your dog's attention. Now, there are other cushions, right, on the couch?
And he leaves those?
And, you know, this is gonna take a little bit of sleuthing. Because are the yellow -- I've got 16 questions for you. Are the yellow cushions in the way of him lying down comfortably?
No? Okay. Oh, and I'm gonna get one-word answers. Okay. This is like a 1950s game show.
This is good though. Okay. Now, here's my question. Are they different textures?
A-ha. Okay. All right, Soupy Sales. What's next?
That's my contribution. You -- now you, Gary.
Right. Well, that would be it. It's got to be texture, smell, size, shape, density, softness, that kind of thing. There's got to be something that attracts him to it. But it's a mouth feel thing for this dog, because he's actually removing them from the sofa, but John, you said he's not lying on them, right?
So it's not a comfort thing, it's just a mouth feel thing for him. But you're absolutely right. It cannot be about the color. It has to be about some other sensation for Rocco that's making him take them off the couch. And, you know, I presume it's not just so he gets more room on the couch, because, you know, hell, dogs don't care. They'll lie on a million things on a sofa as long as they can get up there.
But it's got to be something about the texture. So what's the -- what are the pillows like?
Gosh, I don't even remember where I got them. They're...
Well, they're not leather, they're not rawhide are they? (laugh)
No. No. No.
The pillows are made out of meat.
No. They are cloth, but they're the only ones that have a fringe border.
Oh, there you go.
This is even better, John. You're helping him now, okay.
Ah, so you've got Buddha bones on your sofa, and that's just screaming, I'm a dog treat, take me off the sofa.
Throw me on the floor.
You know what's interesting though, and Sam, you asked this. He's not ripping them apart. He's not doing that big head shaky thing. You ever see -- see dogs with those rope bones? Yes, exactly. It's the most fun in the world. And the fact that he's not doing it, you know, it's not exactly fulfilling its function as a toy for him.
But it's definitely getting his attention. So it's -- yeah. It's got to be the fringe or something else. And it's always these pillows. It'd be fun to actually try to trick him a little bit. Are you very bored lately, because I got a whole handful of things you could do to switch up these pillows. But it's just -- it's got to be a texture.
No. He's got plenty of time on his hands during the day.
Yeah. That's exactly it. Well, if it's a problem, which I'm not sensing it's a problem, is it?
No. It's just...
Yeah. It's just -- Sam's right. It's absolutely got to be texture, size, something like that.
Any other problems with Rocco, John? Other than that is he doing okay?
It's fine with that. He's not fond of domestic cheeses, but, you know, he's still loving his life.
He likes imported cheeses? (laugh) I'm not sure where that segue was, but okay.
Only imported cheeses from Eastern markets, so...
Oh, okay. All right. Smart dog. Very smart dog.
Well, can't blame him for that.
Well, I think you got a really fun dog here and, you know what, take a video of this pillow extraction for us and let us know what it looks like. But I think it's -- that's all about what it looks like and feels like to him.
Okay. Well, thank you very much, I appreciate.
Yeah. Thank you very much.
Yeah. I guess dogs just -- it's like, okay, this is different. And I may not like it. I think I'll throw it on the floor and come over here...
Yeah. Yeah. You know, every dog has -- and cat has something that they really focus on. I've got people that tell me all the time they come home and all their paperwork is on the floor because the dog loves the paperwork. Or cats love cellophane.
Maybe it's -- it's my dream with the paperwork. The dog is doing your income taxes.
You would like that. Yes. That would be nice.
That is my theory. 1-877-610-3647 is our telephone number. That's 1-877-610-3647. You can always e-mail us, email@example.com. Let's take another telephone call. This is Claudia calling. Claudia, glad to have you with us in "The Animal House." Question for Dr. Gary?
Hi, thank you.
My dog, America, is nine. She's part Beagle, part Basenji. She's got a great temperament.
Oh, interesting mix, okay.
Yeah. Oh, she's a...
So all the Beagle barking gets neutralized by the silence of the Basenji?
Well, she's quiet in the house...
Thank the Basenji for that.
...and she barks at unauthorized wildlife outside. (laugh)
Oh, okay. Okay.
So she's a dog with a job. Yeah.
She's a perfect dog. But a couple of months ago, she had to have surgery to take off a -- take a hematoma out of the flap...
...of her ear. And...
And that's just -- for everybody listening, that's just really a blood blister in the ear, and it can pull the ear down. It's just looks awful.
It was awful, and it was huge. But she's healed up fine physically. The problem is, she doesn't seem like her old happy, enthusiastic self.
Is she on medication currently?
Good. Okay. How long ago was the surgery?
It was between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Oh, so a few months ago. Okay. Well, you know, it can take awhile. I'm sure you had -- after that surgery she had to have a little device in her ear for a few weeks to drain it?
Or sutures in there for quite a while?
She had sutures in there for two weeks.
She had bandages, and she had...
Oh, it's awful.
They look like Washington's wounded going across the Potomac.
Oh, it was -- yeah.
It's just the saddest thing to see a dog with that.
Did she have to have one of those giant plastic collar things, or no?
Yeah. We called it the cone of shame.
Yeah. I know (laugh) because the dogs...
I think dogs call it that too. (laugh)
Because it's like, I'm so embarrassed.
(unintelligible) she has her freedom was restricted. It was just hard.
Well, you know what, Claudia, I bet -- I'm sure you've been back to your vet many times, because the first thing that obviously you got to make sure of is these things take forever to heal. And I've left, you know, I've done these surgeries and had to leave drainage tubes in there for two to three weeks. You pull them out, and then the hematomas come back and you just curse yourself for that. So it can take weeks to really have them heal.
So obviously, make sure your vet has checked in her ears and you know that there's not an infection in there, or a deeper infection, something that might be changing her whole behavior. Because that's a possibility and it hurts. And you know, if you have a headache, you're not gonna be your playful happy self.
And that would be, you know, where America might be.
So -- but I think -- have you gone to your vet? You've done some rechecks, you got a good clean bill of health?
She went back and everything looks fine and...
Okay. Well, I would say if the behavior continues and you know she's had an ear infection, I probably would check one more time.
But what exactly is she not doing that's bothering you?
Well, what -- it's more what she is doing.
She's very clingy. She wants to be close to me all the time. Which, I love her...
...but my lap is...
I know. I know.
...where I put my computer, and plus she's like compulsively licking the cat's ears.
Oh, really? Okay.
How is the cat with that, by the way?
He's okay for the first five minutes.
Right. (laugh) Yes. That's generally what cats are.
And then at five minutes and one second it's like, okay, that's enough of that.
Usually it's not exactly five minutes that you get. You know what, there's one thing that's really interesting. You know, this may be all be coincidental with the surgery, if she's okay, your vet thinks she's okay, this may have nothing to do with the previous surgery. And it may just be okay, she had a little bit of a trauma, had some surgery. You're, you know, you being her, you know, wonderful, loving mother, probably gave her like all of us would, more attention, more affection.
You were closer to her.
I mean, I'd be -- I'm all over my animals when anything goes wrong.
So maybe that pattern is getting reinforced, and this really has nothing to do with the previous ear infection. But you may want to just kind of do some tough love now, and you don't want her to be as clingy, make her a little bit more independent. So when she...
Yeah. I was gonna ask if there's like an offer it up command.
Yeah. Oh, there's a command for everything. I mean...
...dogs are completely, you know, we can make them do everything as long as they listen.
Do the taxes. Do the taxes.
Except the taxes. Sam's focused on taxes today. But, you know, you really can. You certainly can. And, you know, you're protecting her, she senses that. I think there's also maybe some projecting going on, which we all do with our animals.
I might do that.
And I'd say, you know, if she comes to curl up on you, or to get in your lap, the easiest thing that our trainers always tell people, stand up. You can't climb up on someone's lap if you're standing up. And then after a few times, even though it breaks our heart to do it. After a few times, the dogs don't do that as much anymore. But then I would redirect all of that. So do the things we always say, reward, enrich, and redirect. And if you're trying to get her to do something different when she gets to your lap, have her sit and give her her favorite treat.
You know, there's some dried chicken strips that are out that my dogs insane over. I think I could get them to do my taxes by giving them one of these. You might try that with Ella, Sam.
Yeah. And my human accountant too.
But that's it.
Who doesn't like dried chicken? And the other thing -- a quick question, Claudia. When you come home, are you really like enthusiastic and effusive?
Oh, no. I stopped doing that.
I'm like oh, hi, how are you?
Okay, good. Just checking.
And then you duck because you don't want him to jump into your lap. (laugh)
I was just checking because sometimes, you know, it's the greatest event in the world when you come home, and that may be reinforcing a little of her behavior.
Right. It's a July 4th parade. But yeah. Absolutely. Redirect her to something else, some treats, some stimulation, you know, a Kong stuffed with frozen peanut butter.
Oh, I got one of those...
Yeah. All that stuff to...
...curls that you stick in it, and you try -- you have to get the treats out?
Yeah. Yeah. Perfect. A busy bone, and that actually dispenses treats, and that's great. And it keeps them really occupied. You want to kind of -- what we all want to do is exhaust our dogs. So definitely lots of exercise too. And I think as long as your vet said she's healthy now, go for it.
Go for it.
So maybe one more checkup just to make sure that everything is okay, Claudia, and then kind of a little distance, and see if you can get back to the old ways there.
Yeah. She sounds like a wonderful dog though.
Yeah. A very good dog.
Oh she's the best ever.
Thanks very much, Claudia.
There's no love there. (laugh)
Thank you, bye.
We all think our dogs are the best, and we're all right.
We are right.
That's the thing about it. Here's an e-mail. A few weeks ago Nigel phoned in to tell us about a greedy mockingbird taking over all his birdfeeders. You remember that?
We had several listeners e-mail us with suggestions, including this one from Earl. Earl says, "There is a brand of birdfeeders, Absolute Squirrel Proof is the name, with a pivoting perch in front of seed ports. The perch pivots down" -- this is very technical. "The perch pivots down and closes the seed ports if there's too much weight on the perch. Although intended to exclude squirrels, the pivot counterweight can be adjusted to reject large birds too. Mine, for example, excludes grackles." Poor grackles.
They get a...
...they get a rough rap all the time. For peanuts, the -- you didn't know this. Aren't you glad you tuned into this program today, including you, Dr. Gary. "For peanuts, the MoBi Mesh Squirrel Proof Peanut Feeder has a..."
Say that fast.
No. I can't. You think I would be able to as a broadcast professional, but I can't. "The MoBi Mesh Squirrel Proof Peanut Feeder has a wire cage that keeps squirrels and grackles out." So Earl has sent this thing that is basically a schematic that involves, you know, how you would do all this stuff to get the squirrels out of here, and just give the food to the birds, which was was the intended target.
What do you think about that? Have you had any experience with either the Absolute Squirrel Proof, or the MoBi Mesh Squirrel Proof Peanut Feeder?
No. But I'm going to go right out and order one on the Internet tonight. You know, actually it's funny, because we get -- we get questions like that a lot. Because there are some bully birds out there.
Mockingbirds, Jay Birds...
Grackles. The poor mis -- you know, misnamed grackles. The problem with this, yeah, you can adjust it so a squirrel can't get on it, because a squirrel weighs considerably more than any of these birds. But if you adjust it to try to discourage other birds from getting on, you tend to get a flock of birds on a birdfeeder.
So it's the, you know, the numbers that are going to work against you. So if you get five little sparrows on there, the thing's gonna shut down. So that's -- I think you could do some, you know, creative adjusting knowing that you are gonna exclude some species out there. It works way better to have a, you know, an errant mammal climb up, then it does to have other birds go on there. So I think that would be the only thing. But if someone's really concerned about this, Nigel, who we talked to...
...I think it's worth a try. Interestingly, you know, mockingbirds really like berries, and they're not so much seed eaters, and the fact that this mockingbird was a problem on a seed-filled, you know, birdfeeder, just change the feed. Yeah.
I'm amazed at what people come up with.
I know. But now you want to buy the -- what is it again, the Absolute...
The Absolute Squirrel Proof. I want one of those. And then I want the MoBi Mesh Squirrel Proof Peanut Feeder.
Will you get me one of those right away?
I absolutely will. When's your birthday? Absolutely.
All right. Dr. Gary will be back to answer your pet questions later in the show. Up next we'll discover the American Kennel Club's newest and most popular dog breeds.
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