I'm Sam Litzinger back with Dr. Gary Weitzman. We would like to hear about your pet problems. That's what we're here for -- Gary's here for, anyway. I'm the facilitator, you're the expert.
Oh, I think you under -- under appreciate yourself.
Hmm, no. I over -- I under...
One of those.
Something is happen there. 1-877-610-3647. Animalhouse@wamu.org. Our telephone number is 877-610-3647. Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. See if you know our Animal of the Day. Go to facebook.com/wamuanimalhouse. Let's get right to work. Here's Kristen calling. Kristen, glad to have you with us in "The Animal House." Question for Dr. Gary?
Yes. I have an 18-month-old Beagle, Border Collie, Basenji mix.
Oh, that's a mix.
It's quite a mix.
But all Bs. Okay. You went with the B breeds.
What's the name by the way, Kristen?
His name is Fred.
And we've had him for about 16, 17 months. He's 18 months old. A year ago he all of a sudden started barking at any time anybody comes up our driveway, especially the mail lady.
Oh, don't you love that. Okay. Terrific.
Yeah. We went like four months no barking...
What is it about dogs that they think the postal service is the enemy?
They think they're delivering bills to them personally, that's what they're upset about.
Or another catalog. That's all I know that I get.
I can't take it. I can't take anymore.
Yeah. But he also barks at my husband when he comes home at night.
My kids coming home from school, it doesn't matter who's in the driveway...
...he barks at them. And my husband picked him up the other day, and he said, he's absolutely trembling.
Really? He gets himself all worked up.
And this is when your husband comes in the house?
Anybody, but including your spouse?
Including my spouse.
Now, if he's in the crate, if we've all been out of the house and he's in the house by himself and he's in his crate, come in, he's totally silent. He'll just wait up there for you to come let him out.
Okay. So it's only when he has access to the door, and he's the greeter.
Okay. It's interesting. Nicholas Dodman at Tufts University has written some phenomenal books on dogs and cats, and it's basically that we yell at dogs to stop barking when they bark because someone's coming to the house. In actuality, they're helping. They're doing their jobs. They're telling us someone's coming up the walk. It doesn't always have to be the enemy, the postal service for instance.
So, you know, we're telling them to stop barking, but it's actually -- it's an, you know, early warning system, and they actually think they they're helping. So the best thing to do, and this is what Dr. Dodman says, is actually, thank your dog, don't over react, just say great, thank you, Fred. I understand someone's coming to the door, that's fine. And that at least is acknowledging he's done his job. So that's under the assumption that he's actually trying to be the early warning system.
Now, the other possibility is that he's actually getting very reactive because someone's coming toward the house, and that's not using all of his powers for good anymore. It's actually -- it could be dangerous. He could bite somebody, but I don't know if a Beagle -- what'd you say, Beagle, Bassett and Basenji is necessarily gonna be...
Beagle, Border Collie -- Border Collie, Basenji.
Oh, Border Collie. Okay. So he's got the voice of a Beagle and the brains of a Border Collie, and let's see, Basenji's don't say a word, so you didn't luck out there, I guess.
Perseverance, there you go.
We were really -- we thought we had the first couple of months because he never...
Oh, but then he became an adult.
And what happened was, a year ago at Christmas, a week before Christmas, somebody was putting a flyer in our door, and they jiggled the door handle, but didn't come in or ring the doorbell.
And that set him off, and ever since then, any -- and, I mean, the UPS truck drives down the street and he barks.
Oh, okay. Let's take the second theory, that's he's actually not using his powers for necessarily good anymore, and let's do some classical conditioning with this guy. What we do in the shelter, because we get dogs from everywhere, and some of them don't know how to deal with people, some are scared of people, some bark at people, and that's the last thing that we want dogs to do when we're trying to get the public to adopt them.
So we do what we call -- and it's a national program, it's called Open Paw. It really addresses a lot of issues for dogs, and one thing that we do is actually classically condition them and shower them with treats. The trick here is, not to associate necessarily the treats with anything in particular. It's to give the treats regardless. So when Fred is near the door, just get treats near him. Just get him lots and lots of treats so that everything associated with the door, whether it's good or bad, comes with food.
And so don't worry if he's barking, give him treats. If he's growling, give him treats. If he's sitting there quietly wagging, give him treats, so that he will forever associate the door and whatever happens on the other side of it, with treats. It takes a while, but I'd say do it for maybe 20, 25, 30 times. Just get him used to that the door is a good thing, people coming the door are a good thing, and that's really classically conditioning him.
If you want to get real fancy, I would say first of all, get a trainer. There's a lot of work that can be done with a trainer, and I'd say, you know, maybe five or six sessions at the most and you really get this guy trained not to be so exuberant when someone comes to the door. And he's getting himself all worked up. It doesn't matter if it's the mailman, or your husband. I'd hate to be near your house on Halloween.
We are lucky. We're at the end of a cul-de-sac, and we only had like three trick-or-treaters this year.
Ah, okay. That is very lucky. That's good.
But I think, you know, honestly, let's this guy classically conditioned, and then get a -- if that doesn't work, get a trainer. Boy, we're gonna make this guy fat.
That's okay. He's a skinny little dog.
For a while. I know, okay. Okay. Be careful of that. Maybe use low cal treats.
Try that and report back to us if you would, Kristen...
...at the end of the few days here.
Poor Fred. He's just trying to do his job, I think.
Right. He doesn't understand.
Thanks very much, Kristen. Now, the thing about this is, this is a genius dog, Beagle, Border Collie, Basenji.
Beagle, right. Yeah.
So, I mean, it'll take Fred like two times...
...and he'll be like, okay. Oh, you don't want me to bark? All right. I won't bark.
Good. We want to hear that.
Now, where's my treat? 1-877-610-3647. Animalhouse@wamu.org is our email address. Let's take a telephone call from Jimmy. Jimmy, glad to have you with us in "The Animal House." Question for Dr. Gary?
Santa Claus went way out on a limb and brought us kittens for Christmas.
Oh, okay. Did someone send Santa a letter asking for kittens?
No, we didn't. It was a risk, but they're really, really sweet.
Okay. That's good.
And we really, really love them.
They're named Somerset and Caroline, and they're about six months old, and they play hard. They wrestle very hard.
And I wouldn't worry about it so much, but two things that I've never seen in cats before, they will grab each other in headlocks and roll around, and it looks to me like someone's getting poked in the eye because they come back blinking, and occasionally they'll do the Halloween cat pose, you know, the arched back.
Oh. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
Oh, gotta love it. Yeah.
I wouldn't expect that from littermates, so...
Okay. I was gonna ask you...
Yeah. And you're worried this is turning into like the World Wrestling Federation or something.
Wait a minute, you wouldn't expect it from littermates? Do you have a brother or a sister?
No. It's just two sisters.
Oh, no. No. You, yourself, because definitely littermates can do this. But you know what, they're probably having a blast. Kittens roughhouse. It looks awful, but I always tell people if no blood is drawn, and the drapes are still hanging up, you're fine. And you know, they tend to play very vigorously when they're young, and then completely ignore each other when they hit a year and a half.
But do they know when to stop as kittens?
Now, you said -- how old were they, Jimmy?
I'm thinking about six months.
Okay. Yeah. Probably they do, you know.
This is pretty natural...
Because that's probably what you're worried about, Jimmy, that things are getting so out of hand, they're gonna hurt each other.
That's what I'm worried about.
But remember, cats, when they play, it's a prey-predator kind of role play. So when two kittens are doing it together, it looks like Armageddon, but actually they're absolutely having a blast. But, you know, Sam's right. You still have to be the hall monitor. So if it looks like these guys are really getting out of hand, they could injure themselves, you know. They could really get a nail into the cornea or something like that. You sort of kind of have to watch it.
But, you know, you can't be there every minute. So I would say don't worry too much, just keep an eye out, tell them to break it up if it gets too crazy. But seriously, probably in three to four months they're not even gonna look at each other.
You need a little referee shirt and a whistle or something, Jimmy, to get between them.
Yeah. You know, and especially two female cats, they're probably not gonna play a whole lot like this in about three, four, five, six months.
So patience, Jimmy.
And as Gary suggested, if things get way out of hand -- how should he break it up by the way?
Is there a procedure for that?
...don't stick your hand in the middle, yeah.
Yeah. I would think that would be a bad idea.
It'd be like putting your hand in the blender. Yeah. Don't do that. I would say probably the best thing is a noise of some sort.
And you know what I would love you to do? They're a perfect age, start clicker training with them. So that's a noise that's not obnoxious. You can actually direct their energy towards something good. Clicker train these guys to expect a really fantastic treat when they break it up, but you gotta get their attention, so I'd say either something with noise, or just go and 69 cents, buy a clicker.
Thanks, Jimmy. Much appreciated.
Fair enough. Thanks.
Yeah. So in theory they're not gonna hurt each other.
No, probably not.
And then, as you suggested, in a little while they get bored with each other.
They're gonna totally ignore each other, yeah.
I don't like you anymore. I don't want to play with you.
Our telephone number, if you want to write it down, is 1-877-610-3647. Our email address is email@example.com. Let's take a telephone call from Gene. Gene, glad to have you with us in "The Animal House." Question for Dr. Gary?
I'm talking to you from Ocean City, Md.
Oh, okay. How's the weather? Cold? Cold winter?
I have a black Pit Bull, Dr. Gary, she's three and her name is Luna, and my question to you is regarding sugar and chocolate in an animal's diet.
You know, I recall years ago my parents setting down a small amount of ice cream for our dog when we were having it...
...and I sometimes see pet owners give their pets ice cream on the boardwalk in the summer, yet I've heard that sugar and chocolate are taboo.
Right. Right. Yeah. You definitely...
Can you shed some light on that?
Sure. It's a good question too. Sugar is definitely something we want to do in moderation with every juvenile, and dogs are juveniles forever, so kids and dogs, cats too, just I would keep sugar to a minimum, but there's no real harm in sugar. Calories, energy spikes, things like that obviously we want to watch out for diabetics, but sugar itself is not at all toxic to dogs or cat. What you want to be careful of, of course, is chocolate, and we want to be very careful of things like Nutrasweet and artificial sweeteners that actually do have some toxicity that may be in some of those products.
Low-cal versions of whatever you're worried about on the boardwalk. But sugar is okay, but I'd be very careful of chocolate. Now, the good news is about ice cream is, very little ice cream has real chocolate in it, so it's not like you're giving a bar of Baker's chocolate. It's more that it's chocolate flavoring, maybe a little bit of chocolate, so chances are things are okay. But I'd still -- I would very much avoid chocolate for dogs, and I would be very careful of raisins or grapes, anything like that, because we know that even one of those can be a problems with dogs and it's a very bizarre toxicity.
Really? Now, I didn't know that.
How interesting is that? Yes.
So be careful of those. Don't do -- if you're gonna do ice cream, do not do rum raisin, all right?
Or chocolate rum raisin.
(laugh) Or chocolate rum raisin, exactly. But you're okay with a little bit of sugar.
This Pit Bull loves, believe it or not, cranberries, the dried cranberries, you know, the sugared cranberries I should say.
Okay with that?
Isn't that kind of weird?
Yeah. That's okay. I don't think there's -- I gotta go back and research that I think, but I don't recall ever seeing a problem with cranberries.
Sure. Okay, Dr. Gary. Thank you very much.
Thank you, Gene. Our telephone number is 1-877-610-3647. Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Here's an email from Margaret and Steve. I'm afraid this is a sad one. "We have a 14-year-old cat that's just been diagnosed with untreatable carcinoma, at best has six more months to live. While we'll be trying to make his last days as happy as possible, how can we also help our seven-year-old cat handle this loss to his life? Both cats are extremely close to each other." This is a tough one.
Yeah, it is tough.
All right. Where do we begin?
And we all go through this.
The place to begin is actually to acknowledge that it's an issue. Just the very fact that Margaret and Steve know that this is something that might affect their younger cat, a lot of us don't really act like that.
Yeah. We try to ignore it, or...
Yeah. But still, it's very difficult to -- you can't really prepare the other cat. All you can do is react appropriately after the fact, and that is not overdo the attention, but just realize you've gotta give the remaining animals attention and distraction and toys and treats and, you know, don't overdo, because we don't want to have them overreact, but just realize that it's an issue.
At some point, and I'm thinking just because Margaret and Steve are obviously cat people, would they consider getting another cat and at what point would that be...
Yeah. I think it's really horrible when someone has one animal or they, heaven forbid, lose two at the same time, but, you know, we always say it's great to have another animal around just because they can do a lot for the current animal. But that is assuming that the cat that survives like other cats besides this one.
So that's always an assumption, but I think that can be -- in the right time, that can be an appropriate thing to do. But I'd say in the immediate remedy for this would be just to give that cat as much attention and love as you can.
Very good. Anything to be done for the 14-year-old cat? Now, Margaret and Steve indicated they would be trying their best to make his last days as happy as possible.
Any tips there?
No. You know, hospice care right now, we're doing a lot of veterinary medicine with that, and I think talking to their vet about what can be done to make that cat more comfortable, including if there is any kind of treatment of all, obviously to consider that. But really hospice care is something that I'm very proud that the profession is looking into because it's a fact of life.
Dealing with the inevitable, unfortunately. Thank you, Dr. Gary.
I'm Dr. Gary Weitzman with an "Animal House" pet care tip. Does your dog turn his nose up at the food bowl? Does he walk away from that bowl after turning his head toward to condemn your cooking in front of your whole family? Okay. Maybe that's my kitchen. But for those of you with yellow, black, or chocolate Labs, or frankly, any color Beagle at all, you probably think this is an entirely impossible situation. Of course he eats whatever I put in his bowl you might say. Well, I can't say that, and lots of us dread the dinner hour walk away.
The bottom line is, for many dogs you have to mix it up. Variety is the spice of life, and that's as true for our canine family members as it is for us. So spice it up. Try to stay in the same brand or style of food if you can, and try to ease into a gradually. A little variety at meal time goes a long way toward having a happy, healthier pet. For "The Animal House," I'm Dr. Gary Weitzman.
This edition of "The Animal House," is almost a wrap. First we have the answer to today's Animal of the Day quiz. Earlier we asked if you knew the species of the fish that is the star of the animated film "Finding Nemo." The answer is the Orange Clownfish. You'll have to travel to warmer waters in the Pacific and Indian Oceans to see the Clownfish in its natural habitat, but I bet it's worth the trip. Thanks to our guests, Juliet Eilperin, Greg Lewbart, Alexander Horowitz, and John Bradshaw.
We also thank Bob James and Mark Isham for their music today. Also thanks to Dr. Gary Weitzman for his contribution today. Above all, thanks to you for joining us in "The Animal House." I'm Sam Litzinger.
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