Dr. Gary Weitzman Answers Your Pet Questions

MR. SAM LITZINGER

12:17:40
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 animalhouse@wamu.org. Here's John calling. John, glad to have you with us in "The Animal House." Question for Dr. Gary?

JOHN

12:18:06
Yes. Good afternoon, how are you?

DR. GARY WEITZMAN

12:18:07
Good, how are you?

JOHN

12:18:08
Very well. I had a question about my very spoiled, large chocolate Lab.

WEITZMAN

12:18:13
Oh, that goes without saying, very spoiled. Okay.

LITZINGER

12:18:15
What's his name by the way, John?

JOHN

12:18:17
His name?

LITZINGER

12:18:17
Yeah.

JOHN

12:18:18
His name is Rocco.

LITZINGER

12:18:19
Rocco, the spoiled Lab. Okay.

JOHN

12:18:22
Yes. It's his world, we just live in it, pretty much. (laugh)

WEITZMAN

12:18:24
I think Sam's got a Beagle like that too.

LITZINGER

12:18:26
Yeah. What's his problem?

JOHN

12:18:28
Well, it's very odd. He has taken to only removing yellow cushions from the furniture.

WEITZMAN

12:18:34
Oh.

LITZINGER

12:18:35
Only yellow cushions?

JOHN

12:18:37
Yes. And I thought dogs were color blind.

WEITZMAN

12:18:39
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?

LITZINGER

12:18:51
I was gonna say, okay. And it's only the yellow ones that he takes?

JOHN

12:18:55
It's only the yellow ones, but I do have -- I move them around.

LITZINGER

12:18:59
Wow.

JOHN

12:18:59
I've put other cushions on top of them, but they're the only ones he moves off...

LITZINGER

12:19:03
What does he do with them when he moves them?

JOHN

12:19:04
He pushes them onto the carpet so that he can lay on the couch.

LITZINGER

12:19:09
Is he an interior decorator dog? Maybe he just doesn't like the design scheme you've got going?

JOHN

12:19:13
I guess maybe he wants more of a contemporary scene. (laugh)

WEITZMAN

12:19:16
Yeah. Apparently.

LITZINGER

12:19:18
All right, Dr. Gary. You got a...

WEITZMAN

12:19:21
A solution for the interior decorator chocolate Lab.

LITZINGER

12:19:21
...a dog that is supposedly color blind...

WEITZMAN

12:19:24
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.

JOHN

12:19:38
Okay.

WEITZMAN

12:19:39
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?

JOHN

12:19:47
Yes.

WEITZMAN

12:19:47
And he leaves those?

JOHN

12:19:49
Yes.

WEITZMAN

12:19:50
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?

JOHN

12:19:59
No.

WEITZMAN

12:20:00
No? Okay. Oh, and I'm gonna get one-word answers. Okay. This is like a 1950s game show.

LITZINGER

12:20:03
This is good though. Okay. Now, here's my question. Are they different textures?

WEITZMAN

12:20:07
Exactly.

JOHN

12:20:08
Yes.

WEITZMAN

12:20:09
A-ha. Okay. All right, Soupy Sales. What's next?

LITZINGER

12:20:10
That's my contribution. You -- now you, Gary.

WEITZMAN

12:20:13
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?

JOHN

12:20:30
No.

WEITZMAN

12:20:30
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.

JOHN

12:20:48
Okay.

WEITZMAN

12:20:48
But it's got to be something about the texture. So what's the -- what are the pillows like?

JOHN

12:20:55
Gosh, I don't even remember where I got them. They're...

WEITZMAN

12:20:59
Well, they're not leather, they're not rawhide are they? (laugh)

JOHN

12:21:00
No. No. No.

LITZINGER

12:21:02
The pillows are made out of meat.

WEITZMAN

12:21:03
Exactly.

LITZINGER

12:21:04
Oh, okay.

JOHN

12:21:04
No. They are cloth, but they're the only ones that have a fringe border.

WEITZMAN

12:21:07
Oh, there you go.

LITZINGER

12:21:08
This is even better, John. You're helping him now, okay.

WEITZMAN

12:21:10
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.

LITZINGER

12:21:16
Throw me on the floor.

WEITZMAN

12:21:17
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.

JOHN

12:21:32
Okay.

WEITZMAN

12:21:32
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.

JOHN

12:21:49
No. He's got plenty of time on his hands during the day.

WEITZMAN

12:21:51
Yeah. That's exactly it. Well, if it's a problem, which I'm not sensing it's a problem, is it?

JOHN

12:21:56
No. It's just...

LITZINGER

12:21:58
Curiosity.

WEITZMAN

12:21:58
Yeah.

JOHN

12:21:58
...weird, yeah.

WEITZMAN

12:22:00
Yeah. It's just -- Sam's right. It's absolutely got to be texture, size, something like that.

LITZINGER

12:22:04
Any other problems with Rocco, John? Other than that is he doing okay?

JOHN

12:22:08
It's fine with that. He's not fond of domestic cheeses, but, you know, he's still loving his life.

WEITZMAN

12:22:15
He likes imported cheeses? (laugh) I'm not sure where that segue was, but okay.

JOHN

12:22:20
Only imported cheeses from Eastern markets, so...

WEITZMAN

12:22:23
Oh, okay. All right. Smart dog. Very smart dog.

LITZINGER

12:22:25
Well, can't blame him for that.

WEITZMAN

12:22:26
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.

JOHN

12:22:38
Okay. Well, thank you very much, I appreciate.

LITZINGER

12:22:39
Yeah. Thank you very much.

WEITZMAN

12:22:40
Sure.

LITZINGER

12:22:41
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...

WEITZMAN

12:22:45
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.

LITZINGER

12:22:56
Maybe it's -- it's my dream with the paperwork. The dog is doing your income taxes.

WEITZMAN

12:22:58
You would like that. Yes. That would be nice.

LITZINGER

12:23:00
That is my theory. 1-877-610-3647 is our telephone number. That's 1-877-610-3647. You can always e-mail us, animalhouse@wamu.org. 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?

CLAUDIA

12:23:18
Hi, thank you.

WEITZMAN

12:23:19
Sure.

CLAUDIA

12:23:20
My dog, America, is nine. She's part Beagle, part Basenji. She's got a great temperament.

WEITZMAN

12:23:26
Oh, interesting mix, okay.

CLAUDIA

12:23:28
Yeah. Oh, she's a...

WEITZMAN

12:23:29
So all the Beagle barking gets neutralized by the silence of the Basenji?

CLAUDIA

12:23:33
Well, she's quiet in the house...

WEITZMAN

12:23:34
Thank the Basenji for that.

CLAUDIA

12:23:34
...and she barks at unauthorized wildlife outside. (laugh)

WEITZMAN

12:23:37
Oh, okay. Okay.

LITZINGER

12:23:39
So she's a dog with a job. Yeah.

CLAUDIA

12:23:41
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...

WEITZMAN

12:23:49
Oh, okay.

CLAUDIA

12:23:49
...of her ear. And...

WEITZMAN

12:23:51
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.

LITZINGER

12:23:56
Okay.

CLAUDIA

12:23:56
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.

WEITZMAN

12:24:05
Oh.

LITZINGER

12:24:06
Is she on medication currently?

CLAUDIA

12:24:08
No.

LITZINGER

12:24:09
Okay.

WEITZMAN

12:24:10
Good. Okay. How long ago was the surgery?

CLAUDIA

12:24:12
It was between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

WEITZMAN

12:24:15
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?

CLAUDIA

12:24:22
She had...

WEITZMAN

12:24:23
Or sutures in there for quite a while?

CLAUDIA

12:24:25
She had sutures in there for two weeks.

WEITZMAN

12:24:27
Right.

CLAUDIA

12:24:27
She had bandages, and she had...

WEITZMAN

12:24:29
Oh, it's awful.

LITZINGER

12:24:30
Yeah.

WEITZMAN

12:24:30
They look like Washington's wounded going across the Potomac.

CLAUDIA

12:24:33
Oh, it was -- yeah.

WEITZMAN

12:24:34
It's just the saddest thing to see a dog with that.

LITZINGER

12:24:35
Did she have to have one of those giant plastic collar things, or no?

CLAUDIA

12:24:39
Yeah. We called it the cone of shame.

LITZINGER

12:24:40
Yeah. I know (laugh) because the dogs...

WEITZMAN

12:24:42
I think dogs call it that too. (laugh)

CLAUDIA

12:24:44
Yeah.

LITZINGER

12:24:45
Because it's like, I'm so embarrassed.

WEITZMAN

12:24:47
Right.

CLAUDIA

12:24:49
(unintelligible) she has her freedom was restricted. It was just hard.

LITZINGER

12:24:50
Yeah. Okay.

WEITZMAN

12:24:51
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.

WEITZMAN

12:25:11
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.

CLAUDIA

12:25:24
That's true.

WEITZMAN

12:25:25
And that would be, you know, where America might be.

CLAUDIA

12:25:27
Yeah.

WEITZMAN

12:25:27
So -- but I think -- have you gone to your vet? You've done some rechecks, you got a good clean bill of health?

CLAUDIA

12:25:32
Yeah. Yeah.

WEITZMAN

12:25:33
Okay.

CLAUDIA

12:25:33
She went back and everything looks fine and...

WEITZMAN

12:25:36
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.

CLAUDIA

12:25:42
Okay.

WEITZMAN

12:25:43
But what exactly is she not doing that's bothering you?

CLAUDIA

12:25:45
Well, what -- it's more what she is doing.

WEITZMAN

12:25:49
Oh.

CLAUDIA

12:25:49
She's very clingy. She wants to be close to me all the time. Which, I love her...

WEITZMAN

12:25:54
Yes.

CLAUDIA

12:25:55
...but my lap is...

WEITZMAN

12:25:55
I know. I know.

CLAUDIA

12:25:57
...where I put my computer, and plus she's like compulsively licking the cat's ears.

WEITZMAN

12:26:02
Oh, really? Okay.

LITZINGER

12:26:04
How is the cat with that, by the way?

CLAUDIA

12:26:05
He's okay for the first five minutes.

WEITZMAN

12:26:08
Right. (laugh) Yes. That's generally what cats are.

LITZINGER

12:26:11
And then at five minutes and one second it's like, okay, that's enough of that.

WEITZMAN

12:26:14
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.

CLAUDIA

12:26:37
Oh totally.

WEITZMAN

12:26:38
You were closer to her.

CLAUDIA

12:26:39
Yeah.

WEITZMAN

12:26:39
I mean, I'd be -- I'm all over my animals when anything goes wrong.

CLAUDIA

12:26:42
Yeah.

WEITZMAN

12:26:43
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...

CLAUDIA

12:26:56
Yeah. I was gonna ask if there's like an offer it up command.

WEITZMAN

12:27:00
Yeah. Oh, there's a command for everything. I mean...

CLAUDIA

12:27:02
Okay.

WEITZMAN

12:27:03
...dogs are completely, you know, we can make them do everything as long as they listen.

LITZINGER

12:27:07
Do the taxes. Do the taxes.

WEITZMAN

12:27:08
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.

CLAUDIA

12:27:22
I might do that.

WEITZMAN

12:27:23
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.

WEITZMAN

12:27:51
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.

LITZINGER

12:28:00
Yeah. And my human accountant too.

WEITZMAN

12:28:02
But that's it.

LITZINGER

12:28:03
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?

CLAUDIA

12:28:10
Oh, no. I stopped doing that.

LITZINGER

12:28:12
Okay.

CLAUDIA

12:28:13
I'm like oh, hi, how are you?

LITZINGER

12:28:14
Okay, good. Just checking.

WEITZMAN

12:28:15
And then you duck because you don't want him to jump into your lap. (laugh)

LITZINGER

12:28:17
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.

WEITZMAN

12:28:22
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.

CLAUDIA

12:28:31
Oh, I got one of those...

WEITZMAN

12:28:32
Yeah. All that stuff to...

CLAUDIA

12:28:32
...curls that you stick in it, and you try -- you have to get the treats out?

LITZINGER

12:28:37
Yeah. Mm-hmm.

WEITZMAN

12:28:37
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.

CLAUDIA

12:28:51
Okay.

WEITZMAN

12:28:51
Go for it.

LITZINGER

12:28:52
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.

CLAUDIA

12:28:58
Okay.

WEITZMAN

12:28:58
Yeah. She sounds like a wonderful dog though.

LITZINGER

12:29:00
Yeah. A very good dog.

CLAUDIA

12:29:00
Oh she's the best ever.

LITZINGER

12:29:03
Thanks very much, Claudia.

WEITZMAN

12:29:04
There's no love there. (laugh)

CLAUDIA

12:29:05
Thank you, bye.

LITZINGER

12:29:06
We all think our dogs are the best, and we're all right.

WEITZMAN

12:29:08
We are right.

LITZINGER

12:29:08
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?

WEITZMAN

12:29:16
Oh.

LITZINGER

12:29:16
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.

WEITZMAN

12:29:44
I know.

LITZINGER

12:29:45
They get a...

WEITZMAN

12:29:46
They do.

LITZINGER

12:29:46
...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..."

WEITZMAN

12:29:58
Say that fast.

LITZINGER

12:29:59
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.

WEITZMAN

12:30:19
Right. Yeah.

LITZINGER

12:30:20
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?

WEITZMAN

12:30:28
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.

LITZINGER

12:30:35
Yeah.

WEITZMAN

12:30:36
Mockingbirds, Jay Birds...

LITZINGER

12:30:37
Grackles.

WEITZMAN

12:30:38
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.

LITZINGER

12:30:55
Oh, yeah.

WEITZMAN

12:30:56
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...

LITZINGER

12:31:19
Yeah.

WEITZMAN

12:31:19
...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.

LITZINGER

12:31:33
I'm amazed at what people come up with.

WEITZMAN

12:31:34
I know. But now you want to buy the -- what is it again, the Absolute...

LITZINGER

12:31:37
The Absolute Squirrel Proof. I want one of those. And then I want the MoBi Mesh Squirrel Proof Peanut Feeder.

WEITZMAN

12:31:42
Yeah. Yeah.

LITZINGER

12:31:43
Will you get me one of those right away?

WEITZMAN

12:31:44
I absolutely will. When's your birthday? Absolutely.

LITZINGER

12:31:46
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.
Transcripts of WAMU programs are available for personal use. Transcripts are provided "As Is" without warranties of any kind, either express or implied. WAMU does not warrant that the transcript is error-free. For all WAMU programs, the broadcast audio should be considered the authoritative version. Transcripts are owned by WAMU 88.5 FM American University Radio and are protected by laws in both the United States and international law. You may not sell or modify transcripts or reproduce, display, distribute, or otherwise use the transcript, in whole or in part, in any way for any public or commercial purpose without the express written permission of WAMU. All requests for uses beyond personal and noncommercial use should be referred to (202) 885-1200.
The Animal House is produced by