Dear Uncle Matty: My dog keeps chewing his left back foot and his left front leg in the same places day after day. The hair is missing from those areas, and they are red and raw-looking. What causes this? Is it serious? Thanks for your advice. — Marianne W., Denver, Colo.
Dear Marianne: Your veterinarian is a better source of advice for this problem, but I'd say you are dealing with hot spots caused by chewing, scratching or both. You need to find out what creates the itching that prompts the scratching or chewing. This could be anything from fleas and ticks to burrs or allergies. If the area is near the ears or head, this could be an ear infection. Near the tail may indicate an anal infection. And yes, if untreated, this is serious. A circular lesion can spread rapidly and ooze fluid. Infections can develop, and your dog's temperature may elevate.
Treatment will include clipping the hair around the area and cleaning the hot spot thoroughly with hydrogen peroxide, but if the problem is serious, you will probably want your vet to do this, and the dog may need to be tranquilized. Your vet will probably recommend an anti-inflammatory spray of some kind but no creams, as the area must be kept dry. Other medication may be prescribed. Longhaired pets should be groomed and clipped frequently.
Dear Uncle Matty: I started training my dog using your training material and a chain-link training collar, which is what you call for. My neighbor was very upset that I was using this collar and suggested that I immediately get rid of it because it will hurt and choke the dog. I don't know what to do. — C.J.M., Orlando, Fla.
Dear C.J.M.: The training collar you are using is a safe, wonderful way to work with your dog and communicate properly. All you have to do is follow the instructions for properly putting the collar on your dog and then for proper use when correcting your best friend.
This collar is not meant to be used aggressively — or to pull your dog off his feet. You are using the leash so you can get the dog's attention and stop an unwanted action. It's a quick jerk-and-release that gets the dog's attention. There is no choking involved when it is executed properly. I guess any tool used for any reason can be misused. So be sure you follow directions.
If you decide not to use this training collar, then don't. But whatever training method you select, as long as it is humane and effective, follow it to a "T." Don't mix training methods. It will only be confusing to you and especially your dog.
Dear Uncle Matty: During the last week of walking my dog, I have noticed that he does not defecate. How serious is this? — Barbara N., Oakland, Calif.
Dear Barbara: Get this dog to the vet. Find out what's causing the constipation. Dogs should not go longer than a couple of days without elimination.
And to all my doggy friends: Aggressive behavior and the failure of dog owners to deal with it properly are a national problem. Often, I find that dog owners do not understand what aggressive behavior is — from the tell-"tail" signs to the various types. And therefore, they don't know how to respond to the problem. I have recently added an entire section on my Web site that will help you determine how aggressive your dog might be. You can test your dog and find out some courses of action to consider. Visit the doghouse at unclematty.com, and test your dog. You may avoid a serious tragedy.
Dog trainer Matthew "Uncle Matty" Margolis is co-author of 18 books about dogs, a behaviorist, a popular radio and television guest, and host of the PBS series "WOOF! It's a Dog's Life!" Read all of Uncle Matty's columns at the Creators Syndicate web site at www.creators.com, and visit him at www.unclematty.com. Send your questions to dearuncle.gazetteunclematty.com or mail to Uncle Matty at P.O. Box 3300, Diamond Springs, CA 95619. © Creators Syndicate