Welcome back to "The Animal House." I'm Sam Litzinger with Dr. Gary Weitzman of the San Diego Humane Society. Call us at 1-877-610-3647 if you have an animal-related question. You can send your question via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't forget to visit our "Animal House" Facebook page to see animal news, videos, our Animal of the Day. You can also follow "The Animal House" on Twitter if you'd like to do that, and we would encourage you to do it. Let's take a telephone call...
You can never get away from us.
(laugh) We're everywhere. We're coming to your home.
No matter what you do. Right.
We're moving in with you.
Let's take a telephone call from Emily. Emily, glad to have you with us in "The Animal House." Question for Dr. Gary?
Hello. We have a sweet, middle-aged, we rescued him, so we're not sure how old he is...
...Beagle Bassett mix.
He -- we have a controversy going on in our family among mostly my nine-year-old daughter and my husband, who think it's great fun to howl or to play the recorder in such a way that he howls back. I'm not an expert, but I've known a lot of dogs. To me, his response and the body language and the movements that he's making tell me he's very uncomfortable. They think it's tons of fun, and want to, you know, make him howl all day long.
Emily, because we've had this topic on before, I thought I would bring in one of our veteran experts here. This is Janet Marlow of Pet Acoustics who knows about all things sonically related to animals. Janet, glad to talk to you again.
Great to be here. What a great scenario to talk about. Well, the first thing is, I think there's a range as to which the -- there's a tipping point for, Baxter is the name? And so for example, the recorder pitch is definitely stimulating his sense of response as if he's in the wild. So obviously the howling is part of the Beagle breed, and it's a conversation, and let me ask Emily, what is the body language that's going on behind that?
It's an anxiousness. He's not putting his tail behind his legs, but he -- I wish I could -- well, I could make him do it right now, but….
That would be wrong, Emily. Don't do that.
It just reads to me that his face alerts in a way that's so different than any other calm, you know, motion that he makes. It just reads anxiety to me.
I don't think -- it doesn't sound to me like it's a bad thing. I think there's a tipping point, like for example, barking. It can get into, you know, every -- some dogs, you know, protect the house. They bark at the door, but if it goes into an excessive stage then you're into a, you know, a negative behavior. So just understand that dogs hear twice as much as we do, so any sound that you produce in the house, especially a musical instrument that's going to be very pure of tone and volume, is going to definitely cause a very direct response from your Beagle.
I think the question is what to do about that. So when your daughter and husband do this recorder for the dog, what's the purpose of it?
The purpose is to make the dog howl, and they think it's funny. And he gets very -- he's a very calm dog normally. He does -- he's like, I mean, my husband jokes, saying he's half dead. He like really does not get up off his bed for most of the day unless...
...there's food or some other exciting thing.
Well, I would suggest this, utilizing the alert response to sound if they want to get kind of the giggle out of playing the recorder, that they utilize that in a time where it's gonna be a play time interaction with your family, either with some kind of toy or, you know, it's time to go out for a walk, you know. So - because you don't want to get the dog out of its state of rest and relaxation with that kind of play. The response is natural, but I think you can incorporate it so that it becomes like, hey, it's time to, you know, play with the ball or time for a treat and a walk, you know.
Something so that it's the active part of your dog's daily life, and I think that can be a really positive thing for your dog.
Janet, just a quick question from me before I let you go. Is there an alternative? I mean, what else should Emily try for Baxter? Some kind of music, some soothing sound that Baxter might like?
If you're going to play any other instrument, you know, recorders can be very piercing to a dog's ears, you know. Of course, in my field I actually provided relaxation and calming music, but if you're going to do an instrument, you know that -- just know that that's going to stimulate alert behavior. So you can choose different kinds of instruments. I mean, you know, do not play saxophone, whatever you do. (laugh) You know, just manage your dog's life in terms of sound in regards to is this for play, or is this gonna disturb rest.
And if you...
And wouldn't you also say, Janet, that if Emily sees stress on Baxter's face, there probably really is some stress there, so maybe don't do this quite as often as her husband and daughter have been doing it.
Absolutely, I agree.
If your dog is a chill kind of dog, you know, you really want to access, and you want to foster that behavior, so that you're not getting them out of that and into a (unintelligible).
Yes. That calms is what -- that is our goal.
Calm is good. Janet Marlow...
Calm is good.
...of Pet Acoustics, thank you very much for that excellent advice. Much appreciated.
Oh, my pleasure. My pleasure.
Gary, in the shelter there, in the San Diego Humane Society, do you use music therapy at all for the animals?
Actually, we're starting to. There's a few things. There's "Through a Dog's Ear," and I think that Janet could have spoken to that as well, and we're actually looking at a lot of different media now to actually enrich the dog experience in a shelter, and then also of course in their home. So the last thing in the world we want to do is to get them all aroused. So I think that this is a good lesson, Emily, for your family, and if you need Sam and me to come over, we can come over and talk to them.
But I think this -- we're looking for calm, not for excitement in dogs.
Thank you, Emily. So I guess, Dr. Gary, what you're suggesting is my Black Sabbath albums for the animals, those are...
Maybe not so much.
Yeah. Okay. Very good.
(laugh) Not so much.
Our telephone number is 877-610-3647. Our email address is email@example.com. Let's take a telephone call from Elaine. Elaine, glad to have you with us in "The Animal House." Question for Dr. Gary?
Yes, I do. Can a pet cat be trained to walk on a leash, and if so, what would be the best way to go about it? In the past, I have had Cleopatra, a lovely Siamese, and after that I had Chester, a very lovely, smart Tabby….
…and neither one would have anything to do with it.
Anything to do with it. Actually, you insulted them by getting the leash out. Okay.
They're leash escape artists when it came to getting out of the harness.
Ah, all right. Well, Elaine, what do you have now? Which cat do you have now?
Well, I had Chester, but I don't have it anymore.
Oh, okay. And you haven't had -- you haven't...
But I'm thinking of getting another...
...and I was wondering if it would better with a kitten. These two were...
...full-grown cats when I...
When you got them?
Yeah. Okay. So first of all, of course, go to a shelter, or go to a rescue group to get your next cat.
But definitely, if you start with a kitten and you get them used to a collar, or my preference is a harness, then they're -- it's for a cat what they get used to, and here's the way the start. Just get -- start with a harness if you can do it, because that's a little more complicated, but it's more comfortable for the cat.
Just a loose-fitting one that sits on them comfortably, and just get them used to it. You start by putting it near them, letting them, you know, sniff it and see it and not be alarmed by it. Then you can part of it on them and not hook it up. Give them treats as you're doing this, and pretty much every cat you try to harness train, you can actually do that. If you don't want to use a harness and you'd rather go with a collar, you can do it, but honestly, if your goal is to eventually get them outside on a walk with you...
...or some kind of more contained...
That's the goal.
…area, if you're out gardening or you want them in the yard, then I really would try to go for a harness rather than a collar, because you can...
That's my though.
...comfort them more. Yeah. You can control them more. And they don't -- in case they get alarmed, you know, they don't slip out of the collar.
I had the nicest, most comfortable harness I thought I could get.
Put them on the cat and they would let me put it on, and I thought, oh, boy, this is going to work. And they jumped away and was out of that harness before you know what happened. It was really...
And so I was thinking maybe I didn't start early enough.
But I really would like to take a pet cat for a stroll instead of a drag, because they….
Can she get in touch with you if she needs a little extra advice?
Well, I'd say or any shelter that you adopt a cat from, they'll help you with fitting the harness. You can actually often get some help at a pet store, if you go to a small boutique pet store, or your veterinarian can help you. The technicians there definitely can help you get one that actually fits comfortably and safely for the cat, and then go slow. Don't go for a walk for the first couple weeks. Just stay in the house. Get the leash attached, and it should be a light leash that you can control and not weigh the cat down, but definitely get some help to get it fitted correctly.
Good for you, Elaine. Thank you very much.
Yeah. Good to hear that.
You'll be the talk of the town in a few months as you're out walking your cat around. Our telephone number is 877-610-3647. Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Let's take a telephone call from Jeff. Jeff, glad, to have you with us in "The Animal House." Question for Dr. Gary?
Yes. I have a -- well, I am the third owner of a neutered male Great Dane.
And I got him at 15 months old. He seems to have a high prey-predator drive. He will...
...bark and lunge at kids, bicycles, joggers, and strollers.
Oh, boy. All right.
I've tried something what I would consider counter conditioning where I give him a high-value treat before somebody walks by and put it right in his nose to keep him busy, and try and associate him with something...
...pleasureful and positive, before they get there, and that has not worked. And in the meantime, I just use an Easy Walk harness and leash...
...and just pull him as far away as I can.
I've also taken him to our local town center, which is like a little town, and keep him close to me and heel with him around crowds, not letting him meet anybody, but just getting him used to being around crowds.
Okay. Is he actually overtly aggressive when he sees people?
Typically at the dog park he's never aggressive to people. He's very friendly. Sometimes he'll go up and he'll stick his nose in somebody's gut or something when he's meeting them at the town center, but when I have visitors to my house, he's pretty reliable. He doesn't bark or jump on them. He's pretty good that way, but there are times in the car I've noticed, for example, when we're going to the dog park, he will bark excessively and aggressively when he sees workers, joggers, people walking along the road.
But after the dog park, he will calm down on the way home.
By the way, Jeff, what's his name?
He actually pulled me down on the ground one time with a jogger who stopped right next to us. Instead of jogging by, he stopped and my dog spun me around and actually made contact with the guy's leg.
Ooh, all right.
He made contact, but it wasn't severe.
Jeff, you've got a pretty serious situation here. I think you probably know that. You absolutely need to have a trainer with you. You need to work with this dog very intensely, and I don't think you're gonna be able to change a lot of these behaviors, but the key here is you need to be able to control them. So the three steps would be one, avoidance, and the second thing you've got to do is get a positive trainer to work with a reactive dog.
And he is a reactive dog. I've got one too. I've got a big hundred pound German Shepherd. I have to be very aware of what my dog is capable of doing, and the third thing you need to do is make sure that no matter what, this guy focuses on you, not the outside environment. So I don't know if you've done training with him already, but you should have a positive trainer, no prong collars, no electric collars. I would go with what you've already done, some kind of a freedom harness or, yeah, a gentle leader.
Those are okay too, but I like the harnesses that you can really control your dog with. But you're gonna need some skilled professional help with this guy so that you can control your Great Dane. And I think it's gonna happen. I think it'll be -- you'll be successful with it, but you just gotta always keep in mind that you've kind of got, you know, a powder keg. I know I do with my German Shepherd. So you've just got to know that with this Great Dane, but I do think you'll be able to control him, but definitely get some positive training help there.
Jeff, you have a project ahead of you it sounds like.
Thank you very much for calling. Thank you very much, Dr. Gary.
I'm Karen Munson, and this is "The Animal House" Dateline.
As the Arctic melts, the rush to exploit its resources is starting.
That's actor Jude Law and the music of British rock group Radiohead, in a new Greenpeace ad that is being used to help raise awareness about Arctic oil drilling and the loss of wildlife habitats as a result.
Save the Arctic.
Incidentally, the ad also shows a homeless polar bear wandering the streets of London. Recently a Jack Russell Terrier in Ireland suffered from a bout of wanderlust. The dog named Patch was spotted aboard a train to Dublin, alone. Luckily 32 minutes after an Irish Rail employee sent a lost dog Twitter message, Patch's companion responded with the message, that's my dog, and the two were later reunited.
And did you know that babies who spend time around pet dogs have fewer ear infections and respiratory ailments than those whose homes are animal free. According to a study published in the U.S. Journal of Pediatrics, the report suggested that being around a dog that spends at least part of its day outdoors, may boost a child's immune system in the first year of life. Cats too seem to convey some protection to babies, though the effect observed was weaker than with dogs. More information about these stories and a link to the video is at wamuanimalhouse.org.
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