Q: Why do you take issue with the dog whisperer, Cesar Millan? He's quite innovative and he helps dogs.
A: TV dog whisperer Millan is hardly innovative. Quite the reverse, his methods are 20 years old. Though dogs can be intimidated into doing what they're pushed to do, they're far more willing and learn more efficiently when motivation is used rather than intimidation. In dog language, by staring dogs down and pushing them to their limits, Millan is actually screaming. He might as well call himself the "dog screamer."
I do agree with some points Millan consistently makes, including that dogs are not small children; that dogs are underexercised; and that pit bulls aren't inherently bad. I applaud his efforts arguing against pit bull bans.
Time for training
Q: I adopted Scruffy from the local pound. I was told he was housebroken, but when I let him out to do his business, he wanders around aimlessly. He might relieve himself outside, but he might also come indoors to do it. I don't have all day to deal with this; I have to get to work. I do use an odor remover but that's not working. What next?
A: Odor removers don't train or teach dogs about where to go. Teoti Anderson, author of the Super Simple Guide to Housetraining (TFH Publications, Neptune City, N.J., 2004; $9.95), says Scruffy apparently wasn't house-trained, or perhaps forgot his training. "Take your dog out on a leash to the same location for maybe five minutes," she suggests. "When he goes, offer lots of praise and a really good treat."
If Scruffy doesn't relieve himself, go back inside. However, since you know you have a "loaded weapon," restrict his movements so he can't have an accident. Either crate Scruffy or tether his leash to you. If you see him begin to circle or squat, immediately take him back outside, or simply wait 15 minutes and go outdoors again. Begin this training on a weekend, so you're not in a hurry.
Anderson, a past president of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, suggests getting up 30 minutes earlier during the week to walk your dog. "It will pay off because you're also going to put his bathroom business on a cue," she adds. "I use, 'Do your business.' I taught this by saying the cue just as the dog was beginning to 'do business.' Now, whenever I use the cue, my dog goes. It sure pays off if I'm in a hurry or when the weather is bad and I don't want to stand outside forever."
Q: You said keeping a cat indoors keeps the pet safe from feline leukemia. My cat was an indoor cat, and only very occasionally went outside on a leash. He began to lose interest in food, but by the time he went to the vet, the end was near. He died of feline leukemia. What happened?
A: First, please accept my condolences.
There are several possible explanations for how your cat contracted feline leukemia, according to Dr. Colleen Currigan, a veterinarian who limits her practice to felines. If your cat was adopted, it's possible the shelter never checked to determine if he had feline leukemia. Currigan notes that the disease has a long incubation period so it may not show up initially.
Currigan explains that cats are infected with feline leukemia as a result of direct contact with an infected cat. Is it possible your cat had a "friend" who may have been sick?
For indoor cats, most vets now agree, unless you expose such cats to strays or any cat whose health may be unknown, there's no need to vaccinate for feline leukemia. The back yard is usually safe, as long as that's as far as an indoor cat ever goes. Cats who roam freely outside should be protected.
By the way, if you have other cats, they've likely been exposed, so have them checked for feline leukemia.
Send questions to Steve Dale, Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY 14207 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.