Dear Matthew: We have a question for you. We have an 11-week-old Cairn Terrier and we are trying to potty-train him. We tried the newspapers, puddle mats and some other things, but all he wants to do is sleep on them.
The vet said to put the mats on harder ground so they weren't so comfy, so we did and he dragged it back onto the carpet and went to sleep on it. We have tried training him to go outside, but we can't train him to tell us when to go. Since I don't work, I keep a pretty close eye on him and also take him out when the books say (15 minutes after eating or drinking, after waking up, etc.) but it doesn't work.So how do I either get him housebroken to go on paper OR EVEN BETTER train him to tell me when he needs to go out.
- Kimberly in Tigard, Ore.
Dear Kimberly: Although you may not have been able to housebreak your dog, at least you've provided him with a comfortable bed!
The first thing you have to do is absolutely make up your mind whether you want to paper train or housebreak your puppy. You can't do a little of both and hope the dog will choose which one he prefers.
Since you said you want him housebroken, you should try to crate-train him. This means confining him to a comfortable-sized crate. Your puppy won't go to the bathroom in an area where he sleeps and eats, so he'll have to hold it until you let him outside. Since you do stay at home during the day, this procedure should be easy to do.
Also, you should immediately clean all the areas that your puppy has used as a bathroom so he won't be encouraged by the scent to soil the same area again.
I recommend you buy a good book on crate training and follow the instructions carefully. If you have perseverance, chances are your terrier will come around in the end.
Dear Matthew: My vet has recently told me I need to switch my cat from canned, wet food to dry food. I've been trying this for the past few weeks, but he turns up his nose at what I'm offering him.
Although my Chester is a little overweight, I'm afraid he's going to starve himself! Is there anything I can do to encourage my cat to eat his healthier diet?
in Fort Stockton, Texas
Dear Lucianne: If your cat has edible food in a place where he can get to it, then he's not going to starve to death. If Chester gets hungry enough, he's going to eat the dry food.
But, rather than wait for him to eventually give in, there are things you can do to help make his dinner more appetizing while still keeping it healthy. Try adding a sprinkling of water from a package of tuna or clam juice to add some flavor. Garlic powder can also add a bit of taste to an otherwise dull dish of chow.
Another option is to put a little water on the cat food and heat it for half a minute in the microwave - this will help increase the aroma of your cat's meal.
Once you've found the addition that makes your cat happy, stick with it a few weeks, then start cutting back. If you gradually decrease the flavoring, your cat should be eating the plain, dry cat food without a bit of complaint.
Dear Matthew: A friend recently told me that my breed of dog - the Siberian husky - is at risk of suffering from hip dysplasia. What is this disease, and should I be concerned?
- Jared in Boise
Dear Jared: Hip dysplasia is a deformation of the hip joint that can create pain and difficulty in walking similar in effect to a bad case of arthritis. Large, purebred dogs are most susceptible to this disease, although some smaller breeds - like Welsh corgis - are also at risk.
Since a propensity for hip dysplasia is passed on from parent to child, careful breeding can reduce the chances of creating offspring with this problem. If you're buying a purebred puppy, be sure to ask the breeder about this condition.
There are things you can do to minimize the chances that your dog will develop dysplasia, such as regular exercise to strengthen the hip joints, making sure your dog isn't overweight and massaging your dog's hindquarters after a brisk walk.
I recommend you consult your veterinarian if you have any further questions, but if you bought your dog from a reputable breeder, you shouldn't be overly concerned.