Ask Our Dog Experts

Deciding when your dog is ready to be left out of the crate can be tough. Here are some guidelines to follow.

Many pet owners start to use a crate when they bring home a puppy for housetraining purposes, and preparing your home for a puppy to run around in takes a bit of work. Nayiri Krikorian is a professional trainer with Zen Dog Training, and a member of the Harry's Picks Advisory Panel. If you think your dog might be ready, Krikorian recommends being proactive by rolling up and storing your rugs and purchasing some enzymatic cleaner in case of any accidents.

After that, Krikorian suggests a few steps to puppy proofing your home:

1.  Get down on the ground and identify anything in your room that might be a particularly tantalizing chew "toy”. What about all the cords connected to your television? Take a look the magazines on your coffee table, not to mention the coffee table itself. Are your sofa cushions safe? If you can remove some of these items from the room, then do so temporarily.

2. If you are worried about your puppy chewing furniture, you can spray the surfaces with a chew deterrent, like Bitter Apple.

3. Create a containment area using baby gates or an exercise pen. Inside should be her crate, with its door open so she can relax there and snooze inside if she pleases, some toys and maybe a water bowl and food dish. By including her crate inside the containment area, you’re basically expanding her feelings about her crate, comfort, cleanliness and security into the new space. After you have your confinement area, start teaching your dog to treat the space the same way she treats her crate. Start off small; have her new “room” be only slightly larger than her crate. If she's successful in there (meaning a few consecutive days free of accidents or destructive behaviors) gradually increase her square footage.

With a little patience, time and training soon your dog will have free reign of your home without having accidents or tearing apart your possessions.

Read this before you decide to whip your dog up a sampling of Grandma’s old-fashioned stew. (Or any other homemade recipe, for that matter.)

Q: Can I feed my dog homemade food?

A: It’s only natural that we would want to share some of our favorite recipes with our favorite friend – our dogs. But is that a smart idea? Here’s what Oscar E. Chavez, DVM, MBA, Member of the American Academy of Veterinary Nutrition, has to say about it:

You certainly can feed your dog homemade food – as long as it’s a balanced, tested recipe. Just five years ago, I would have leaned toward a ‘no’ answer, as there weren’t many proven options to support pet parents in making their own dog food. That’s changed, though. Here’s something to remember though: Wild dogs, without veterinary nutrition and care, only live about six years, on average. Thus, the incredibly long lifespan we are achieving in our domestic dogs today must be due to something, and it’s unlikely to be just evolution, as the time range is too short for them to have evolved an advantage in this respect, and there are no natural selection pressures in the pampered pooch lifestyle.

Thus, biologically, the only explanation is balanced veterinary nutrition. For this reason, a home-made diet must be balanced in order to continue to provide the life extending benefits we have come to expect. My dog, Rey, is a 16-year-old Golden Retriever still going strong—and he’s had a balanced meal all his life.

“Good” recipes will attempt to balance a majority of the food with wholesome ingredients. Keep in mind, though, that achieving a daily complete nutritional balance with ingredients alone is practically impossible. Just as we need our daily multivitamins, homemade diets are balanced by adding a specifically compounded vitamin and mineral supplement blend to the food at the end of cooking it.

And beware of ‘one size fits all’ powders or blends that claim to balance any mix of ingredients. Instead, a specific blend should be used for each ‘recipe’ of home-made ingredients, custom tailored for that specific purpose.

Find out what your dog’s nutrition has to do with his appearance here.

Grooming your dog can get expensive. Here’s how to tell if what you’re paying is normal.

Getting your dog groomed not only makes your pooch clean, but it’s vital for her optimum health. The services that a professional groomer provides vary, and there are a few you can do yourself, while others are best left to the pros.

The first thing to decide is how often your dog should go. Nicole Rigger, owner of Pets a Go Go, suggests having dogs cleaned on quarterly basis, to include basic beautification like baths, brushing, trimming and/or filing or nails, and cleaning and brushing teeth. For longer haired breeds, undercoat maintenance is important in warmer months, as well.

The average prices for grooming services will vary depending on location, frequency of service, breed, type/condition of coat and desired services. For example, Pets A Go Go’s services range from $35-$125 for grooming. “A good groomer will include nails, ears and teeth within their price point, and will not charge for every add-on service,” says Rigger.

A full service groomer will provide many additional services such as show and puppy cuts, basic baths, anal gland expressing, nail care, ear cleaning and hair removal, sanitary shaves/trims, and teeth brushing and/or scaling. 

If you’re looking for a more tailored treatment, those are available at certain places, as well. “Depending on color and type of coat, specialized services such as blueberry facials, dematting, hand stripping, shave downs and even de-skunking can be within the repertoire [of the groomer],” says Rigger.

Want to try your hand at grooming your own dog? “Depending on skill and desire, a pet parent can easily learn to furminate (remove undercoat), cut nails, brush teeth and clean/remove ear hair,” explains Rigger.

Check this piece out for more ways to groom your dog at home

I want to adopt a dog for my older parents. What are some of the best breeds for the elderly?

A dog can be the perfect companion for older people -- if you pick the right one. “A dog can give [elderly people] of feeling of self worth,” said Jacqueline Geary, LVT. “It will allow them to satisfy the need to take care of something.”

When choosing a dog, Geary recommends a dog that is older than 4 years old. “An older dog in general is a calmer one,” she said. “They have already gone through their ‘crazy’ puppy phase of chewing and teething, and most are already spayed or neutered.”

As an added bonus, if you decide to adopt from a rescue organization or shelter, you’ll likely to get an older animal that has been through a behavior screening. Most of these animals have a basic understanding of living with people, and they may even know some commands.

Find out more about adopting an adult dog here.

The type of breed that would work best for someone who’s older depends on their level of activity. For example, if the couple likes to travel, they may want a small breed dog, such as a Yorkshire Terrier or miniature Poodle, that’s easy to tote around. For people who are less active, Geary suggests rescuing a mixed breed from a shelter. You might want to consider sticking with a dog that’s under 50 pounds, as well, since a bigger dog may pull too hard on a lead and could be too much for an elderly person to handle. Some pure bred breeds that make good choices are Beagles, soft-coated Wheatons and Golden Doodles.

You might also consider adopting a dog through your local veterinary hospital. Most places receive calls from people who are looking for homes for older dogs after their owners have passed away or relocated. 

Are greyhounds a good breed for adoption?

The greyhound is a wonderful choice of breed to adopt into your family. Greyhounds are bred to race at high speeds, and once they are retired from the track, the dogs need to find forever homes. There are organizations that take in the ex-racers and help to place them. Lisa Sallie, the president of Grateful Greyhounds, says, “Greyhounds make a great companion dog, regardless if you are an active family or a retired couple looking for a pal.”

In terms of their demeanor, greyhounds are calm and relaxed, and they enjoy going for walks and a run around a fenced in yard to stretch their legs. “They are a mellow breed, and more often than not are found sound asleep on the couch,” said Sallie. The breed is also very good around children, which makes greyhounds a great choice for a family.

Here is a list of other breeds that are good for children

An important fact for potential owners to know is that the greyhound is a sight hound. “That means that the dog needs to be on lead at all times unless in a fenced in area,” says Sallie. “If the greyhound sees a rabbit or something that catches her interest, it will be natural for the hound to investigate.”

My dog is well-trained, but he does misbehave from time to time. How can I quickly get it to stop?

Mischief in your view probably means something else to your dog. Canines are inquisitive by nature, so when your dog is "misbehaving," he's probably just being stimulated by some intriguing sight, smell, taste or sound. If you swear and yell, your dog will probably think you are the one who is having some kind of behavior breakdown. When you need to redirect your dog's attention, call its name firmly and loudly to bring your pet's focus back to you. Next, give out a command that your dog understands, such as "stay" or "sit." Offer a head rub and a treat when your dog follows this command. Over time, your dog may start to anticipate the reward, behaving properly before you even consider a scolding.

I need to buy my dog some new food and water bowls, and I'm looking at some inexpensive plastic ones. What do you recommend?

Skip plastic water and food dishes for your dog, if at all possible. Here's why: Dogs with a penchant for chewing may bite into the plastic, possibly injuring themselves and destroying your purchase in one swift chomp. Even if your dog's biting doesn't outright break the dishes, the gashes on the bowls could have microscopic rough spots that can be difficult to clean, leading to bacterial growth.

A recent study shows that plastic emits potentially harmful chemicals into food and water, which is why I always look for glass containers when purchasing bottled liquids for my own family.

Finally, plastic can absorb flavors and odors. This can put a damper on your scent-sensitive dog's enjoyment of food. You may not like the odors the dishes leave in your home after mealtime too, so pass up the plastic. Instead, select dishes made from sturdier materials that are easier to wash and maintain, such as thick ceramic.

Over the summer, I will be visiting a few beaches in different states. Do state laws concerning dogs at beaches widely differ?

Laws differ, but more on a beach-to-beach level rather than by state. Some beaches only allow dogs during off-seasons, which typically occur from October to the end of April. Some beaches specify that dogs should be kept on leashes no longer than 6 feet. Still others require that dogs may only walk on areas of the beach that are washed by the high-tide line, or that dogs be kept out of public areas, such as those reserved for camping, bathing and picnicking. For best results, do some advance research online or by calling public park authorities to find out what restrictions might apply to the beaches you hope to visit with your dog.

How old should a puppy be before I adopt it?

Dog experts advise that a puppy is best brought into a home when it is around 7 to 8 weeks old. The puppy should remain with its mother for the earlier period to allow for weaning and social development. Dogs will nurse until they are approximately 6 weeks old because they do not even have proper teeth yet for consuming other food. At this time, the puppy will also learn how to interact with other dogs -- in this case, its siblings -- and its mother will teach it basic skills as well. When the puppy is about 2 months old, it becomes very susceptible to imprinting. This is the ideal time to bring the pup into your own family. Dogs are meant to live in packs, so your own pack, even if it's just you, will become your puppy's new family.

Dog lovers sometimes claim that owning dogs can lower the owner's medical bills. Is there any truth to this?

Many studies support that dog ownership is beneficial to human health. In terms of mental health, dogs have been shown to improve an individual's ability to handle crises, as they provide loyal companionship and unconditional loving support. People suffering from loneliness and depression have had their symptoms improved after getting a dog. That is one reason why dogs are often brought into hospitals and other medical facilities. Additionally, studies demonstrate that dogs can actually lower our blood pressure. Enjoying even the simplest of activities with a dog, such as petting it, can reduce stress and blood pressure. This, in turn, can help to prevent cardiovascular disease and will support the immune system. In the long run, these studies indicate that dog owners often have lower personal medical bills than people without pets.

My veterinarian has prescribed pills for my dog. What is the best way I can administer them?

To administer pills to your dog, begin by holding the top part of your dog's muzzle with your left hand (your right if you are left-handed), with your thumb on one side and your fingers on the other. Lift your dog's nose up while gently squeezing behind your dog's canine teeth; this will cause its mouth to open. Hold the pill with your free hand's thumb and forefinger and use your other fingers on that hand to push open your dog's lower jaw a bit more. Place the pill in the back of your dog's mouth. Gently hold your dog's mouth closed for a minute, blowing on its nose to stimulate the swallow reflex. Reward your dog with praise and a food treat afterward. You could further try hiding the pill in a small portion of dog food or a tiny amount of peanut butter. Pill guns for dogs are also available. They essentially shoot pills into your dog's mouth at a safe, low pressure.

I'd like to go on vacation with my dog this year and spend some time relaxing outdoors in a scenic, canine-friendly area. Any suggestions?

A few years ago, DogFriendly online released a list of their top 10 dog-friendly resort areas to visit in the United States. From first to last, their list is Portland, Maine; Carmel/Monterey, Calif.; Ashville/Blue Ridge, N.C.; Key West, Florida; Charlottesville, Va.; Black Hills, S.D.; Lake Tahoe, Nev.; Cape May, N.J.; Grand Canyon, Ariz.; and Hocking Hills, Ohio. Each of these places has its own charm and outdoor activity offerings. A walk along the Grand Canyon rim with your dog, for example, is something that the two of you will never forget. On the other hand, it's hard to beat the rugged Monterey coastline, with beachside trails and numerous dog-friendly restaurants. You can hear the surf roll in while you and your pet dig into breakfast. Consider your and your dog's activity preferences, however, along with your budget and the length of your stay before deciding on your vacation destination.

I'd like to adopt a dog but am torn between getting a puppy or an adult dog. Are there any reasons why I shouldn't bring home an older dog?

The short answer is no, and you can probably find a new furry housemate at your local animal shelter. Canines sometimes wind up in shelters through no fault of their own. Many unforeseeable situations could lead to that predicament, such as owners having to move or a new housemate suffering from severe allergies. There are numerous benefits associated with adopting an adult dog. They're usually socialized and ready to be your best buddy. Although they still like to play, older dogs tend to have a mellower disposition. You won't have to worry much about roughhousing -- a perk if you have young kids. While there are also misconceptions that adult dogs might require more expensive care, your mature canine would typically just need its biannual veterinary office checkups, compared to the cost of a puppy's shots, and spaying or neutering.

My new puppy is a chewing machine. Do you recommend a toy that could best satisfy his need to gnaw?

Rawhide, canvas and durable rubber are just a few of the many different materials used to make puppy teething toys. A company called Nylabone constructs several chew toys out of a safe nylon that is impregnated with dog drool-inducing flavors, like ham. You can also try filling a hollow rubber toy with a few dog biscuits. That could keep your pup busy for a while, since he can chew the toy itself, search for what's inside and then eat the biscuits. The longer he spends with such toys, the less time he'll have to investigate other objects in your house, like your favorite pair of slippers.

How can dog food help give my pet a shiny coat? Is it just due to oils within the food?

Fatty acids are dog food ingredients that can help to promote a shiny, healthier coat. Omega-3s, derived from fish and some plants, form one group of fatty acids commonly found in quality dog foods. These oils do not cause inflammation, as some other fats can. In fact, studies show that omega-3s may improve cardiovascular function while conferring other health benefits. Your dog can therefore not only look great but also feel great too.

Fatty acids, however, aren't the only dog food ingredients that can help maintain your dog's coat. Vitamins A, E, C and B2 also support your dog's skin and coat, contributing to lush fur. Biotin, zinc and copper additionally promote coat health. Copper, for example, helps your dog to better metabolize fats and proteins, ensuring that all those omega-3 fatty acids are put to good use.

What is touch therapy, and how can I try it on my dog?

Touch therapy, also known as TTouch or Tellington Therapy, refers to a massage technique developed by horse trainer and competitive rider Linda Tellington-Jones. She noticed that when she massaged her horse a certain way, it improved behavior and reduced tension. The technique has since been successfully used on dogs.

Circular motions are key to the system, with body target areas forming an overall circle and hand motions directed into this pattern. For example, one or two fingers are even used to massage in circles over a dog's gums. There's also a move called the "ear slide," where each ear is gently rubbed in a sliding motion from base to tip. For more information, check out Tellington-Jones' book, The Tellington TTouch: A Revolutionary Natural Method to Train and Care for Your Favorite Animal (Penguin 1995).

I would love to bike more, especially with my dog, now that the weather is warming up. I don't want to hurt him though. Do you have any tips?

Bike riding with your dog can be a fun and rewarding way for you both to get some exercise, but it can be dangerous, as you suggest. Your dog must be in good physical condition, well-trained and responsive to vocal commands.

Although you may think it's best to begin with a long leash, a short leash is safer, since longer leashes may become tangled with the front wheel. Begin by holding the leash out to the side, with your dog moving along with the bike -- never ahead of it. It's imperative that you never make your dog run faster than an easy trot.

Bring water and stop for frequent breaks. You might also investigate products that facilitate this activity, such as the "Walky Dog" Dog Jogger. Most of these devices include a short leash that attaches to the bike, eliminating the need to hold the leash by hand.

I don't so much walk my dog, but rather, she winds up pulling me around the block. How can I get her to settle down and make this a more pleasant experience for the two of us?

It sounds like your dog becomes dominant when she is out on her walks, so you need to establish on-leash leadership. Sometimes canines are so excited and happy to be out that they become distracted and seemingly forget any earlier training.

Whenever this happens, refocus your dog's attention by gently flicking the leash and using a verbal command, such as uttering your dog's name in a low, disparaging tone. Once you've gained her attention, provide verbal praise and encourage her to keep walking. Vary your pace on walks to turn the activity into a stimulating game for your pet.

In addition, because dogs are very attuned to noises, try shuffling your feet to indicate that you plan to stop walking soon, such as when approaching an intersection with a stoplight. When changing directions during the walk, cue your dog with a gentle leash tug first to indicate a turn is coming. More control on your part and constant dog-directed communication like this can help to keep your pet in order.

My groomer of many years just closed her business, and I need to find someone else. Are groomers required to be licensed, and are there other factors I should consider when selecting someone new?

Business and permit licenses required for pet groomers can vary from state to state, so contact The National Dog Groomers Association of America for additional information. You could also contact your local Better Business Bureau to see if anyone has filed a complaint against a particular groomer. Ask your veterinarian, friends, local pet shop staff and others for recommendations.

If you still come up short, note the lighting and cleanliness when visiting a grooming business for the first time, as well as how dogs and cats are separated. Cages should be adequately sized. Observe how well the groomers interact with the animals and their owners. Groomers should handle their charges with care, always monitoring the proceedings. Some less-experienced groomers, for example, leave dogs alone when the canine's fur is being blow-dried, but that can lead to dried skin and even burns.

With such investigative homework on your part, you should be able to find a skilled professional to take care of your dog's grooming needs.

I'm a first-time dog owner, having just adopted my friend's dog when she moved into a no-pets-allowed condo. Can you offer me any advice?

You've taken a good initial step by reaching out to others for guidance. According to The Humane Society of the United States, there are several basic things you should do.

The first steps to take are making sure your dog is outfitted with a collar and ID tag that includes your name, address and telephone number. Follow local laws for licensing your dog and vaccinating it for rabies. Spay or neuter the dog, if this wasn't done before, and schedule regular veterinarian checkups.

In addition to the immediate actions listed above, always keep your dog on a leash when outdoors -- for the safety of both your pet and others. Enroll your dog in a training class, if necessary, and provide it with a nutritionally balanced diet and access to fresh water. Finally, be loyal and patient with your new housemate. If a behavioral problem arises, contact your veterinarian or local animal shelter for additional guidance.

A friend tells me that my dog, Natalia, often overexerts herself when playing and exercising just to earn my approval, but I think Natalia knows when to stop. Who's right?

Your friend is correct. Natalia likely loves to please you, enjoys your good company and praise, and looks to you for guidance. As a result, she may endanger her health by persisting in physical activity beyond the point of sheer exhaustion. You must monitor your dog's physical condition for signs of fatigue, which include heavy panting, initial reluctance to move, sore paws and more. If you notice these signs, take time to rest. The breed and age of your dog can help determine how much exercise Natalia should get. For tiny breeds, a walk around the block can seem like a marathon, while larger, more muscular dogs may find that same activity to be a piece-of-cake warm-up. Consult with your veterinarian to see what level of exercise is right for your dog and then make sure it isn't exceeded.

How much water should my dog, Peter, drink each day? He's a German shepherd that weighs about 70 pounds.

Based on the size and breed of your dog, Peter should have 62 ounces, or nearly 8 cups, of water daily. Keep in mind that some of that water can come from your dog's food, so pay attention to moisture content information on pet food labels. Body weight is used to determine water intake, for the most part. A 5-pound dog should receive just under 1 cup of water, while a 10-pound dog should have 14 ounces. For body weights over that amount, the general rule is to add 7 extra ounces of water daily for every additional 10 pounds, assuming the canine's weight is within an average range.

I often groom my Scottish terrier, Margie, but when it comes time to clean her eyes, I'm afraid that I could hurt her if I rub too hard. Is there a correct way to clean a dog's eyes?

One of the easiest ways to clean your dog's eyes at home is with a warm washcloth. Gently wipe away any discharge around your dog's eyes, being careful not to brush the eyes themselves. A certain amount of material in this area is normal, due to the eye's natural self-cleaning abilities. Be on the lookout, however, for green or yellow-colored discharge, as this could be a sign of infection requiring medical treatment. Some white-furred dogs also experience discoloration around their eyes, usually due to normal tearing. Pet stores sell solutions to improve the appearance of such dogs, but from a health standpoint, the regular warm washcloth wipes should do the trick.

I exercise and often check my pulse before and after. Can I also check my dog's heart rate at home?

Many dog owners don't realize that it's easy to check your dog's pulse at home. Your dog's pulse should fall between 50 to 140 beats per minute when resting. Consult with your veterinarian to see which narrower range your dog fits into. Puppies and smaller dogs tend to have faster heart rates, while larger dogs often have slower rates.

To check your dog's heart rate, encourage your pet to roll onto its right side. Gently feel on the left side of your dog's chest for the heartbeat. You can also touch the inside of your dog's left hind leg, where there's an artery and a thin patch of skin.

I've heard that dogs can detect a person's mood just by the sound of the individual's voice. Is that true?

Dogs are very adept at understanding human moods based on the person's tone of voice. Perhaps that's because dog vocalizations themselves are so linked to emotions like fear, playfulness, anger and more. In fact, how you say a word is very tied to its meaning, in your dog's mind. If you say "bad dog" using a happy, upbeat tone of voice, your dog will probably think all is well. That's why it's important to think through all of the signals you send out to your dog. An angry-sounding "bad dog," combined with a hand motion and the command "sit," will do a better job at getting the desired message across, should your dog misbehave.

My dog is old -- I can't even remember the year we first got her! Now that she's a senior, should we change the way we care for her?

There are several steps you can take to help ensure that your senior dog continues to enjoy a happy, healthy life. The first is to have your veterinarian perform blood and urine panels on an annual basis. You should also schedule thorough physical examinations annually, or even twice yearly, in addition to any other necessary visits. Provide your dog with fresh, filtered water, if possible. Older dogs seem to be more sensitive to additives, such as chlorine, in tap water. Feed a high-quality diet made for senior dogs and provide tartar reducing chew treats and biscuits. Dental care at this stage is critical, so either take care of this task yourself on a regular basis or arrange for your dog to have annual or biannual dental cleanings at your veterinarian's office.

My dog, Hinchcliff, often chases his tail. Why does he do this?

Dogs are very aware of movement in their environment. When their peripheral vision catches sight of something moving, be it a slithering bug or a tail -- even their own -- the first reaction is often to pounce on whatever it is. Tail chasing is therefore a very common behavior. If your dog does this excessively, though, it's a sign that he probably isn't getting enough stimulation and playtime. Offer your dog toys and spend more time diverting his attention to other amusements. Tail chasing can also be a sign of physical discomfort, caused by fleas or another type of irritation in that region. If you suspect that could be the case, a trip with your dog to the veterinarian may be in order.

My dog was recently diagnosed as having arthritis. My veterinarian is monitoring his condition, but what do you think about natural and alternative therapies?

Numerous dog owners, as well as many veterinarians, believe that natural and alternative arthritis therapies for dogs can help to relieve the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. Daily intake of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate is probably one of the most common such treatments, both for humans and dogs. Studies suggest these compounds help to protect and lubricate joints. You might also consider acupuncture for your dog. Proponents believe it increases circulation at target body areas, thus stimulating your dog's natural defenses. Also, talk with your veterinarian about possible physical therapies, such as daily stretches, massage and even swimming, which strengthens muscles and improves cardiovascular function, but has very low impact.

During the winter, I tend to not play much with my dog Rocky, since Frisbee toss and some of our other favorite games are better played outside. Could you suggest a fun indoor game or two?

Did you ever see the film Mary Poppins? There's a scene where Mary Poppins, the nanny, shows her young charges that cleaning up toys can be like a game. You can do the same thing with your dog, so long as your pet knows basic fetch and return skills. It helps to have a toy box, basket or some other type of container that you can hold. Start by taking a soft toy out of the container, in front of your dog, and tossing it. When your dog returns the toy to you, have him place the toy back in the basket. If you clicker train your dog, click as he does this, and then reward with a food treat. As your dog learns the game, you can remove more than one toy at a time to create a greater challenge.

A variation on this activity, if you have friends or family at your home, is to hide one of your dog's toys while your dog is out of the room. Have each human participant take turns giving your dog a visual or verbal clue as to where the toy is located. The human winner is the one who succeeds in guiding your dog. Both your dog and the human winner then receive a food treat once canine and toy are reunited.

I'm going to take my dog with me on a two-week trip, but I'm not sure what to pack. Do you have any suggestions?

Before you leave, do a bit of research about your destination to find out the names and phone numbers of emergency veterinary clinics there. Make a list and bring that with you, along with a list of local parks and other canine-friendly destinations. You should also bring your dog's crate or bed, so that your furry friend will have a safe and familiar rest and sleeping spot available at all times. Obtain a certificate of health from your veterinarian beforehand, showing that your dog has all of its necessary vaccines and is in good condition. ID tags are a must, as is a photo of your pet in case it gets lost. Medication, towels, food bowls and water bowls, bottled water, dog food, treats and your dog's favorite toys should also go in your pet's travel bag.

I tend to be very gentle when I brush my dog, but I've seen some people, even experts, use more firm, vigorous strokes. Which method is better?

If you have a large, long-haired breed, such as a sheepdog or a Lhasa Apso, brushing and combing sessions can provide you a workout. Many dogs, like cocker spaniels, also have very thick fur. If the fur is full of tangles, some effort will be required to remove them. You should, however, avoid brushing hard against your dog's skin. Some owners do this to the point that medical attention is required for their pets. The problem is known as "dog brush burn."

You could try using a spray-on coat conditioner before the grooming session. Such conditioners are somewhat comparable to de-tanglers for children. They contain oils to help separate individual fur strands. Take care when brushing and combing your dog's stomach area, at or around the head and along the inside of your dog's legs. These places are tender and require a gentler touch.

My dog Bart and I have been close buddies for years, but now my uncle has asked me to care for his cat. Bart is very set in his ways. Do you think he can learn to tolerate a new housemate?

There are countless examples of dogs and cats living together in perfect harmony. Certain breeds, however, tend to be less tolerant of felines than others. Hounds and hunting dogs, for example, often have a hard time making peace with kitties. But even these dogs can learn to tolerate, and even treasure, a kitty friend. Be sure to keep your dog on a leash when you first bring home the cat. Supervise all dog and cat get-togethers during this transitional period. Owners with two or more dogs need to be especially vigilant, making the introduction one supervised dog at a time. Be sure to feed your dog and cat in separate areas and at separate times -- at least initially. Also, keep in mind that scared felines can hurt well-meaning, inquisitive dogs. Both animals need to feel safe and secure around each other to avoid dangerous swipes and bites, or worse.

Loud noises, such as fireworks, noisemakers and human cheers on New Year's Eve, often disturb my dog. Could such sounds damage my dog's sensitive ears, and if so, what can I do to protect my pet?

Loud sounds can indeed cause permanent damage to dog hearing. While a distant sound of fireworks would probably not hurt your pet, the noise of a nearby firecracker or that of someone blowing a loud noisemaker right next to your dog could cause hearing problems. If you are planning a party, or are going to an event that you predict will be noisy, it's better to keep your dog in a quiet room with all of its comforts -- bed, toys, food, water and more. There is a new product on the market now called Mutt Muffs ®, which are the world's only over-the-head hearing protectors for dogs. They look like stereo headphones. Dogs belonging to hunters and other individuals who must frequently withstand very loud sounds would likely benefit the most from the new device.

My teenage daughter told me that she wants a dog for Christmas. I think it's a good idea. We have space in our home, and I know my daughter would take good care of it. How should I best honor her request?

For open and loving homes, such as what it sounds like you and your daughter can provide, receiving a dog for Christmas can be one of the most joyous, memorable and ultimately life-changing experiences. Movies often show a puppy sitting under the holiday tree wearing a big bow. While this seems like a good idea, experts advise that you wait until after the holidays before you bring home the new family pet. The noise and confusion of the holiday can distract the dog, which should begin its life in a more "normal" environment, meaning one that better reflects the everyday activities of the household. What you can do instead is to gift your daughter with beautifully wrapped necessary dog care items, such as a leash, brush, bowl and more. As she unwraps them, the mystery and anticipation of what could be coming will probably lead to even more holiday fun. You should then give her at least a week to prepare for the new arrival.

I'm still confused about when a dog should be spayed or neutered. Please clarify what the right age for this is.

Your veterinarian will be best at deciding the time most appropriate for your dog to be spayed or neutered. Most veterinarians will recommend these procedures occur between four and eight months of age, with six months being the most common. According to the American Veterinarian Medical Association, spaying a female dog before her first heat greatly reduces her risk for breast cancer later. In male dogs neutering reduces the risk of certain cancers. It also helps to lower male hormones related to dominance, which benefited wild canines but are not optimal for the lifestyle of a domesticated house pet.

My veterinarian recently suggested that I give my dog a new oral medication to control fleas. How do oral medications differ from the topical flea control products that I normally use?

Your veterinarian probably found a lot of fleas on your dog, which is why an oral medication was recommended. This treatment starts to kill fleas almost immediately, and all fleas on your pet should die within four hours. The prevention lasts for up to a day after your dog ingests the pill.

The active ingredient -- an insecticide called nitenpyram -- short-circuits the nervous systems of fleas, causing almost instantaneous death. Tests indicate this is safe for dogs older than 4 weeks and weighing at least 2 pounds, but your veterinarian should advise you.

Once the infestation subsides, you could return to a more regular flea control regime (e.g., applying a topical liquid product monthly). Be sure to clean your home often to get rid of flea eggs, which can hatch and start the miserable cycle all over again.

I just adopted a new puppy and am considering purchasing pet insurance. Should I do this now or wait until she's older?

The sooner you insure your pet the better, for a few important reasons. First and foremost, you never know when a health emergency may arise. Pet insurance will give you peace of mind, since you'll know you are financially prepared. Over an animal's lifetime, monthly insurance payments should only add up to approximately $6,000 to $8,000. This may seem like a lot, but if you weigh that against full-price medical bills, you'll no doubt experience substantial savings.

Secondly, preexisting health conditions can complicate, or even prevent, your pet from receiving coverage with some pet insurance providers. Dogs may also not be allowed coverage once they go over a certain age.

Weigh various plans carefully and consult with your veterinarian for his or her views. When you decide on a carrier, know that you've just made a positive investment toward the future of your new pet.

Are some dogs just naturally smarter than others? I've noticed that certain dogs seem to be so much easier to train.

Several studies have investigated canine intelligence over the years. It appears that intelligence levels can vary across individuals, since there is a genetic component. Two factors, however, complicate this issue for canines. The first has to do with different dog breeds. Even if your pet is a mutt, it still retains a particular mixture of breed characteristics. Each breed comes with a skill set, such as dogs bred for hunting, scent detection, herding, agility and more. Because your dog inherited one or more of these skills, some mental and physical tasks may be easier for it than others. The second matter affecting dog intelligence has to do with environment and training. Some dog behaviorists argue that there are no dumb canines. Instead, there are only dogs that have received proper training in a nurturing environment and those that have not.

I live in an apartment that allows pets and I'd like to get a dog. Do you have any suggestions?

Due to space and sound considerations, apartment dwellers such as yourself would be wise to adopt a dog that does not require a large living space and that possesses a relatively calm and quiet demeanor. The pug dog is one of the most popular breeds in Manhattan for those very reasons. Most pugs weigh between 10 and 25 pounds, have short, low-maintenance fur and enjoy daytime snoozes, so long as they receive walks and attention on a regular basis. Other breeds to consider include schipperkes, schnauzers, Scottish terriers, Yorkshire terriers, cocker spaniels, Welsh corgis, West Highland white terriers, whippets and Italian greyhounds -- which are tiny, 10-pound versions of their larger, faster greyhound relatives.

A friend had some leftover chocolate candy that he fed to his dog, Sandy, but it didn't seem to bother her. Isn't chocolate poisonous for dogs?

Your friend's dog was lucky, because chocolate can indeed be toxic for dogs. The short answer is that you should never feed chocolate to your dog, and here's why: It contains compounds known as methylxanthines that, in low doses, can lead to vomiting or diarrhea in dogs. Ironically, these same substances give cocoa-craving humans a little chocolate buzz that most of us enjoy. Dark and unsweetened chocolate contains more of these compounds by weight, so my guess is your friend's dog consumed another, milder type. Even so, all chocolate contains another substance, called theobromine, as well as caffeine, both of which don't agree with dogs. In fact, some canines can suffer muscle tremors, or in severe cases, seizures. Unless a person is allergic to chocolate, we don't experience these problems, so save the chocolate candy for just yourself and your human friends.

Why is establishing a routine so important for dogs, and how does it help with training?

Even though most of us know routines can be comforting to canines, I think many pet owners, including seasoned dog aficionados, don’t fully understand just how important routines are for dogs.

Kate Delano Condax explains the matter in her classic book, 101 Training Tips for Your Dog: Learn the Experts Way to a Happy Well-Behaved Pet. First of all, the essence of canine happiness is in expectation. You feed your dog at the same times each day, so your furry pal anticipates those moments, looks forward to them and, conversely, will feel disappointment if the food isn’t there on time. As Condax explains, such pleasant routines prevent anxiety in dogs and build reassurance in them.

Routine tells your dog that there is security, logic and order to life with you. If you get off the schedule for a day or two, your dog can handle that, of course. But even then, you should offer verbal praise and a head pat or two to enforce reassurance.

At the root of all good training programs are trust, logic and order. I fully agree with Condax when she mentions, “Routine is the beginning of establishing a language between you and your dog. It lays the groundwork for the next stage, which is training.”

Maintain routine throughout the entire life of your dog. Although canines, like people, enjoy a little excitement now and then to help prevent boredom, you’ll have a happier, more relaxed dog if its expectations of your good care are regularly met.

Do dogs sometimes sniff everything around them when they are feeling anxious?

Sniffing can indeed be a sign of canine anxiety, but the difference between that and regular exploratory sniffing is subtle.

Your dog experiences much of its world via scent. What’s the first thing your dog does when it sees one of its buddies? It probably sniffs that individual’s face and bottom, perhaps going around in circles to get a better full-nose whiff. Animals (including humans) release all sorts of important information in compounds with slight, and sometimes even pungent, odors. This info reveals certain aspects of health status, sex, age, mood and other things. Dogs are particularly good at teasing apart all of that data.

When your dog is scared, or if it wants to be left alone, it may sniff other things, according to Evelyn Pang and Hilary Louie, authors of the book Good Dog!: Kids Teach Kids About Dog Behavior and Training. As they share, your dog might sniff the grass, a bush or even the ground -- basically anything but the other dog, person or whatever it is that triggered the anxiety. Pang and Louie aren’t exactly sure why dogs do that, but this type of sniffing seems to tell other dogs to keep their distance. My guess is that when a dog senses danger, it will do this type of sniffing so that other dogs heed the visual warning.

Sniffing isn’t too worrisome, though. If your dog were really terrified, it would growl, bark and make a bigger ruckus. But do pay attention to whom and what your dog sniffs. Sniffing in dogs can actually be a compliment, since the sniff-ee is of sufficient interest and isn’t perceived as a threat by your pet.

How can I monitor my dog’s mood by studying its mouth and tongue movements?

All mammals have evolved the ability to read subtle and not-so-subtle facial features. It’s not too hard to tell when a fellow human is really angry, for example. His mouth may be downturned, and his brow could be wrinkled. We can often even tell a fake smile from a real one, just based on how certain muscles affect the way the skin, mouth and eyes look.

Such visual signals differ depending on the species, though. For instance, your dog doesn’t smile like you do. Focusing just on your dog’s mouth, you can glean helpful clues on how your pet is feeling. Evelyn Pang and Hilary Louie go over this in their book Good Dog!: Kids Teach Kids About Dog Behavior and Training. Here’s what they advise to look for:

· Happy: Your dog’s lips will look relaxed and its tongue may be out. Some breeds may even look like they are smiling, even if it’s just a doggy version of a smile.

· Scared: When your dog licks its lips when no food or drink is around, it can be showing signs of fear.

· Wary/Annoyed: If your dog nips at you without tooth pressure, it is doing what’s known as “bite inhibition.” Sometimes, puppies will do this just to investigate things, but adult dogs use it as a warning. It’s as if your dog is telling you, “Stop it, or I’ll bite you for real.”

· Angry: This mood is easier to detect, thank goodness, although a subtle cue can be when your dog purses its lips tightly. Most dogs, however, will tend to show their teeth and combine that with a growl or testy bark.

Your dog pays a lot of attention to visual cues that you communicate. Try to do the same with your dog and you will then both feel more connected -- even without your saying a word or lifting a finger.

My dog has started to bark incessantly. Why is he doing this?

Dogs bark for a number of reasons. They could be alerting you or others to some perceived threat, such as an approaching strange animal or person. They could just be in a playful, excited mood, vocalizing similarly to how children sometimes shout or squeal while playing. A startled canine is also more likely to bark. More than likely, however, especially since the overt barking just started with your dog, he is feeling lonely, bored and/or anxious. Often these emotions -- and the related barking -- arise with a problem known as separation anxiety. Your dog feels alone and is probably missing you. Avoid approaching your barking pet, even out of annoyance, since any attention may be encouraging the behavior. Providing a good, stimulating environment for your canine, with plenty of toys, walks and care, can help to ease the situation overall. You might also have to train your dog to be quiet by using a command, such as the familiar, "No!" when he barks. When he silences, award him with a treat. Animal trainers and behaviorists can often help when the problem gets too out of hand. Ask your veterinarian and groomer for recommendations.

Do Tame Wolves Act Like Dogs?

Raymond and Lorna Coppinger delve into your question in detail in their excellent book, Dogs: A New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior and Evolution. They ask your question another way: “Do tame wolves act like dogs?” The answer turns out to be rather scary.

That’s because, as the Coppingers write, “a wolf that is unafraid of humans is more dangerous to humans than is a wild wolf. A wild wolf will flee when approached, but a ‘tamed’ one is not afraid to move in and bite.”

I can already think of friends, however, who will debate me on this point. One fellow who enjoyed spending time in nature owned a dog that is considered to be a “wolf dog,” that is, a canine hybrid resulting from the mating of a wolf and a dog. But even in that case, his pet was more dog than wolf, and he spent countless hours attempting to train it. There is the added problem that, the more wolves and dogs breed, the less distinct the already threatened wolf species becomes. If you want to help wolves, my advice is to support conservation groups that work to provide suitable habitats for them in the wild.

Also keep in mind that domestication of dogs has occurred over thousands of years. Genes tied to tameness, cooperativeness with humans, and other desirable pet qualities are likely hardwired into domesticated dogs. Taming a single wolf over its lifetime therefore holds little hope of producing a dog that is as friendly and obedient as today’s domesticated canines.

My dog is an incessant backyard digger, especially now that it’s summer. Why do you think my dog is doing this, and how can I get it to stop?

Dogs dig for a number of different reasons. The iconic bone-burying image demonstrates how canines dig to store coveted food and other objects. They will also dig to explore underground sounds and scents, often left behind by other animals. In your case, I think your dog is digging in an effort to stay cool. How can exerting itself lead to coolness?

Once your dog has created a hole big enough for itself, it can lie in it. The moist soil surrounding your pet can then help to disperse heat. Some shade may also result. Just the opposite can happen in winter, when holes can serve as beds that will conserve your canine’s body heat.

I therefore advise that you do two things. First, be sure to provide your dog with plenty of cool water and shade in your backyard. If the weather is very hot, don’t let your pet stay out there unsupervised. Better yet, keep it indoors where you might have the air-conditioner on.

Second, if space allows in your yard, consider building your dog a sandbox. Arden Moore describes how to do this in her wonderful book Happy Dog, Happy You. Basically, all you have to do is dig down about 18 inches and fill the hole with sand or soft dirt. Tuck treasures for your dog to find within this space. A few treats on top will clue your dog in on the fun that awaits it.

Is there a fast way that I can test my dog's IQ?

The short answer is yes, but before I get into that, it's important to think about what intelligence in any animal actually is and how it develops. Like all behaviors and attributes, intelligence appears to be a component of genetic, environmental and day-to-day factors. Your dog therefore has inherited some of its braininess from its relatives, just as you have. But its smarts are also a reflection of how stimulating its environment is, how much education/training it has received and how much stress is in its life. Intelligence is also hard to quantify outside of rigid scientific and medical tests. Your dog may be brilliant at coming up with creative solutions to problems or at making surprising connections, like an artistic human may be. This skill isn't always necessarily reflected in IQ scores. With that background in mind, many experts suggest trying the following: Have your dog stand and then place a small, lightweight blanket over its head covering the eyes. "Smart" dogs usually figure out how to remove the blanket in less than 15 seconds.

If you were to train your dog with just five to ten commands, what should they be?

Proper obedience training is critical in ensuring the safety of your pet and your family. Well-trained dogs often live longer -- with a better quality of life too.

Most trainers stick to some variation of the following eight commands: come, sit, off, stand, stay, drop, heel and bed. You can probably guess what sit, off, come, stay and heel mean.

"Stand" is handy at the veterinarian's office and when you need your dog to position itself properly for washing and grooming. "Drop" is important, should your dog get ahold of potentially dangerous or valuable items. Many owners fail to teach their dogs "bed," or a similar command indicating it's time for the dog to go to his or her sleeping spot for a snooze. If your dog sleeps with you, the command helps to instruct your pet to move to the proper spot on the bed, thereby not crowding your space.

Photo: @iStockphoto.com/skynesher

Can the breed of a dog affect the way it plays with me?

Breeding can determine and enhance behavioral characteristics in dogs, so some canines are better than others at activities for work or for play. The American Kennel Club recognizes over 150 breeds, so there are plenty of choices. For example, Labrador retrievers, also called "gun dogs," often accompanied hunters and retrieved their prey. If you'd like to play Frisbee and tennis-ball chase with your pet, any retriever breed would be a good companion. On the other hand, breeding can sometimes rule out activities for dogs that just aren't physically up to the necessary demands. While exceptions always exist, dogs bred to be hefty and with short legs, such as basset hounds and English bulldogs, tend to be poor swimmers. But these dogs are also often experts at retrieving toys, possess a keen sense of smell and do well around children. A toss game with a toy that smells like meat would therefore prove to be a better pastime than a dunk in the pool with these breeds.

I’ve read that pregnant women may be healthier if they own a dog. How do dogs help moms-to-be?

We usually associate certain things -- like eating a balanced diet and not smoking -- with a healthy lifestyle, but the latest research suggests dog ownership should be mentioned on that list too. Pregnant women who own dogs are more physically active than those who don’t, according to a paper that was recently published in the journal PLoS ONE.

The authors of the study found that pregnant women who owned dogs were about 50 percent more likely to achieve the recommended 30 minutes per day of exercise. They did this primarily by briskly walking with their pets. The study looked at more than 11,000 pregnant women in the U.K. using data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. The PLoS ONE study is the first study to look specifically at the effects dog ownership has on activity levels during pregnancy.

While all of us can benefit from appropriate exercise, pregnant women must pay particular attention to getting sufficient activity. If the mother-to-be gains excessive weight, prior research shows that a range of health complications could ensue, affecting possibly both her and her unborn child. Dog-walking could therefore be a fun and easy way for pregnant women to stay active and motivated during a sometimes-challenging physical time.

“We are increasingly seeing that exercising with a dog can lead to improved motivation and effectiveness,” says Sandra McCune, one of the researchers who worked on the study. “As a low-risk exercise, dog-walking can help women, who may otherwise find it hard to meet their exercise targets, keep active and stay fit during pregnancy. Together with a balanced diet, it could therefore help toward ensuring a healthy pregnancy.”

Photo: @iStockphoto.com/sdominicksdominick

Only one of my two dogs seems to be jumping all of the time. Why are some dogs so skilled at jumping?

All healthy dogs come into the world with a certain amount of jumping ability. The behavior goes back to puppyhood, when puppies must jump to obtain solid food from their mother’s mouth. This happens during the transition from nursing to self-feeding.

As dogs develop into adults, they associate jumping with a social greeting. Most dogs will therefore happily jump on you, guests or other welcome individuals. It’s a friendly gesture, demonstrating their openness to you -- body, tummy, paws and all. Jumping like this can become a problem, however, if the dog is too enthusiastic or the guest cannot tolerate such attention. As Bobby Pitt -- author of the book Dog Training -- points out, the person could be young, elderly or disabled, so there are good reasons to train your dog how to handle social jumps.

Beyond enjoying jumping, certain breeds were raised to emphasize leaping ability. Newfoundland water dogs, for example, were bred to jump into fishermen’s boats to grab nets. Certain dogs, because of their leg length or muscle strength, also just seem to be smoother jumpers than others. Border retrievers, poodles and collies take jumping to new artistic heights, since they leap in a beautiful, rounded arc manner.

Jumping is key to a dog sport called “agility.” Hurdles are included in agility courses, with dogs going over them like human track stars. If your dog has an inclination to leap and enjoys outdoor physical activity, you might consider joining an agility group. The United States Dog Agility Association offers good basic information concerning rules and regulations, training, events and more.

Why is my dog’s body temperature higher than what’s normal for humans? Does this higher temperature affect my pet’s behavior in any way?

First, consider three factors: your dog’s basal metabolic rate (BMR), its core body temperature (CBT) and its size. The BMR is the minimum calorific requirement needed to sustain life in your dog when it is resting. It’s therefore the amount of energy, measured in calories, expended by your dog’s body when your pet is asleep.

The CBT for dogs is between 100.5 F and 102 F. While that’s higher than the normal temperature for humans, 98.6 F, even our temperature can vary during the day, sometimes going as low as 97 F in the morning and as high as 99 F in the evening.

Throughout the animal kingdom, there is a general relationship between an animal’s BMR, its CBT and its size. Smaller body size predicts higher BMR and higher CBT.

Your dog’s metabolism is therefore higher, as is the amount of heat energy released by your dog. Cats and birds also have higher CBTs, while elephants have a predictably lower measurement.

The slightly higher temperature of your dog does not affect its outward behavior. If you wish to take your dog’s temperature, you can use a digital rectal pediatric thermometer lubricated with petroleum jelly.

I’ve always wanted to show off my female dog in my town’s Halloween parade, but she can be skittish, especially when she’s around crowds. What can I do to prepare and train her?

Parades can be either tremendous fun or a nightmare for dogs. On the upside, they provide yet another activity we can share with our pets. Parades also provide a great opportunity to show off our pets, as you mention. Dogs understand the attention and often make new friends among the other canines along the parade route.

As Kyra Sundance points out in her fun book 101 Ways to Do More With Your Dog!, your dog needs to be socialized to get into the parade vibe. If not, the strange people, unfamiliar dogs, loud and unpredictable noises, costumes and more could feel like your dog’s worst dream ever.

Socialization is a long-term process, so you cannot train your dog at the last minute if it isn’t already acclimated to being in busy social environments. Such socialization should take place from puppyhood onward. Hopefully your dog has already gone through the process and is ready to go.

If that’s the case, Sundance advises bringing water and pickup bags. Don’t assume the event organizers will have these readily accessible. Depending on the weather, also pay attention to the temperature of the substrate by checking it with your hands. Asphalt on a hot day can cause damage to sensitive paws. A costume plus warm weather could spell disaster.

Some parade participants elect to carry their dogs. If your pet is well-socialized but infirm or elderly, carrying it may be the best solution -- so long as you can do it comfortably. Assuming everything works out and you both have a fantastic time, you might consider going to other dog-friendly parades throughout the year. Two very popular ones: the annual Woofstock, which is held in different cities, and the Barkus Pet Parade in St. Louis.

What are “fear periods” for puppies? I just got a new puppy and I keep hearing that term, but I’m not sure what it means. Please explain.

To understand “fear periods,” you need to imagine what life is like for your dog’s wolf ancestors. In the wild, you don’t often get too many chances to escape a dangerous situation. Learning to avoid something potentially dangerous can be a lifesaver. Fear in those moments can be a good thing. Young wolves, and puppies, are therefore heavily imprinted by their early social experiences.

According to Nancy Frensley, behavior and training manager at the Berkeley East Bay Humane Society in California, fear periods in puppies generally occur during these ages: 7 to 9 weeks; 4 to 6 months; at about 1 year; 14 to 18 months.

“During these periods, puppies may show fear of items, situations or people with whom they formerly felt safe,” says Frensley. Submissive urination, crouching, shaking and other related behaviors might be evident.

Frensley advises that you remain patient during these times and keep to a familiar routine. Avoid reprimanding your dog and abruptly introducing it to new situations. If you do, you could be establishing a more permanent level of fear that could turn into aggression as the dog grows older.

A better approach is to praise your puppy for good behavior. Verbal praise, favorite food treats and gentle petting will encourage your dog to act appropriately again in the future. New introductions to people, places and things should happen gradually instead of suddenly. Your puppy, as part of your pack, is also very watchful of you during these “fear period” times. If you act confident and calm, your pet will watch and learn, hopefully mirroring your reactions to some extent.

I know some basics when it comes to reading my dog’s tail-wagging “language,” but I’d like to better decipher what he is telling me. Please shed some light on this puzzling form of communication.

Reading your dog’s body language can inform you of its emotional state. Think of it as sign language for dogs, since they use it with each other to detect important information before possible encounters.

In their book Dog Lover’s Daily Companion, Wendy Nan Rees and Kristen Hampshire provide translations for common tail movements.

  • Tail up and wagging: happy, positive
  • Tail up and wagging quickly: anticipation, excitement
  • Tail straight out (horizontal) and wagging: steady, caution, worry
  • Tail relaxed, slight wag: contentment, ease, life is good
  • Tail up, quivering: nervous but friendly
  • Tail sweeping broadly: pre-attack anticipation, nervousness
  • Tail tucked between legs: submission, fear, anxiety

As you can see, some of the differences in movement are rather subtle. For example, there’s a fine visual line between a happy dog and one that is nervous. Take the time to read through the list so that you will be able to decipher your dog’s tail-wags the next time you see your pet. The info also helps when encountering a strange dog.

I’ve seen owners dancing with their dogs, doing some really cool moves. I’m not interested in competitions for this, but I would still like to train my dog to dance with me. Any tips?

Dog dancing, also known as musical canine freestyle, mixes dog obedience and tricks with creativity, costumes and more. You and your dog can, of course, skip the visual flash associated with competitions and just focus on the basics.

According to Kyra Sundance, author of Do More With Your Dog, every breed of dog can excel at dancing. However, some of the top dogs have been border collies, golden retrievers, poodles and various mixed breeds, she says.

To begin, Sundance advises that you select a short musical piece of about one to two minutes that reflects your dog’s energy and pace. High-energy pups would do better with a very up-tempo song, while a lower-energy dog would do better with slower music. “Choreograph a routine and break it into pieces of two or three moves,” she suggests. “Train these pieces as a sequence.”

One of my favorite moves is to teach a larger dog to put its paws on one arm while you’re standing. If the dog walks on its hind legs, it looks like you are really moving together. This is not just for show either. As Sundance points out, if your dog learns to greet guests in this manner, with paws on one arm, the individual will feel welcomed -- not threatened.

For the dance move, it’s best to start on your knees at dog level. Raise one arm and lure your dog’s head upward with a treat held by the opposite hand. Your dog might put its paws on your arm by itself, or you may have to do some gentle coaxing with your hands. Once your dog is in the desired position, provide a food treat. Repeat this a few times while using the verbal cue “Paws up.” When your dog gets the knack of this, stand up and repeat the exercise just as before. Voila! Your dog is in dance partner position.

My new puppy is constantly biting me, and I’m concerned it’ll keep doing this as it gets older. Will my pet just naturally grow out of the nipping?

Most puppies typically do a bit of harmless hand-nipping. For all animals, playtime is meant to develop skills that the individual will benefit from in later life, so puppies use their mouths, tails and everything else when playing with you and other pups. It’s one thing to have a little puppy nip at your hand, but it’s quite another to have a toothy adult dog take a chomp, as you point out. The goal is to redirect your dog’s natural tendencies toward something more productive and less potentially dangerous.

The Humane Society of the United States advises that you offer a chew toy whenever you go to pet your puppy. If you have kids, have them do this as well, saving more sensitive hands. As you pet your puppy, let it continue to chew on the toy. This will keep its mouth busy and reinforce how much fun it can be for your pet to be around people.

One tip, according to the Humane Society, is to alternate which hand you use for petting and scratching and which one you use to hold and provide the chew toy. Try petting or scratching your pup first, since this stimulation usually gives puppies more energy and brings out the nipping/playing tendencies. When you think those might surface, hand over the chew toy.

Even without a chew toy at the ready, you must educate your puppy about proper social behavior. If your pup does bite, look right at it and yell, “Ouch!” and then ignore your pet until it’s calmed down. You might have to leave the room for a short while. Once things have settled down, try the petting/chew toy approach again. Your puppy should soon learn that one behavior results in a negative outcome, while another makes everybody happy.

I like to jog with my dog, but the experience is always uncomfortable for both of us. The last time, the leash cut into my hand, and my dog almost knocked me over. How can I make this less stressful and more productive?

I’m glad that you haven’t given up on your dog as a jogging partner. There are many perks to exercising with your dog, so long as you both are in shape and up to the task. (Confirm that with your dog’s veterinarian and with your own doctor.) You both need regular exercise, and your dog is ready and waiting to go out when you are.

Arden Moore, author of Happy Dog Happy You, offers some helpful tips on how to best jog with your dog. Moore advises that owners like you should:

  • Use a leather leash. You are probably using nylon or some other material now, which can be harder to grip and may cut into your hand, as you describe.
  • Be prepared. Bring water and disposable bags for any necessary cleanups.
  • Run on grass, if possible. You may have the latest high-tech running shoes with a thick rubber sole, but your dog’s paws come into direct contact with the substrate.
  • Watch the weather. Don’t attempt outdoor jogging or other strenuous exercise with your dog on extremely hot or cold days.
  • Practice safety. At night, use reflective tape and safety lights.
  • Train your dog to run at your side. Moore says that you should “extend your leg in front of your dog,” should it try to cut in front.

I’ve heard about a new program called C.L.A.S.S., which is supposed to help owners train their dogs to mind their manners in public places. Can this program help my misbehaving German shepherd?

Recently, the Association of Pet Dog Trainers launched a new program to provide basic training and obedience skills for dogs. The acronym for the program is C.L.A.S.S., which stands for Canine Life and Social Skills. It sounds like it could be a perfect match for your dog’s training needs, since their trainers use positive reinforcement to teach dogs how to properly behave in public places, such as outdoor patios, hotels and retail stores that allow dogs.

After you sign up at the APDT website, you’ll find resources to locate a certified dog-trainer closest to you. Their trainers are located all across the country, so there’s a good chance one is in your area. You and your dog then attend the six- to eight-week program. At the end of that period, each dog is evaluated and can obtain certification.

“This program educates pet owners and gives them the tools they need to not only provide good canine manners, but include the dog in more types of activities," says APDT executive director Mychelle Blake. “Without the proper training, these leisure activities can be stressful for both dog and owner. A well-trained dog is a happier dog.”

According to APDT, the C.L.A.S.S. curriculum uses fun games and exercises to test and develop real-life skills and manners for dogs. Trainers are invited to submit their own games and exercises on the C.L.A.S.S. website. “It’s not just dogs that benefit from the program,” said APDT board member Cathy Bruce. “The exercises are submitted by APDT members, so we’re very involved in the process.”

For more information on C.L.A.S.S., you can visit MyDogHasClass.com.

My dog seems to be devastated every time I leave him alone. How can I train him to not be so upset and to make him know that I’ll be back later in the day?

If your dog seems sad and lonely every time you leave the house, he’s most likely suffering from a behavior called “separation anxiety.” To some extent, that’s not a bad thing, since it shows how much your dog loves you and craves your good company. But reasons for the problem can be even more complex, such as a traumatic event in your dog’s life from the past, or recent changes to his routine that could be causing him anguish.

As you’ve probably learned, dogs with separation anxiety can act out, sometimes in destructive ways. They might repeatedly scratch at doors and windows, howl, bark nonstop, or even exhibit inappropriate elimination.

The good news is that separation anxiety is easily treatable. The Humane Society of the United States offers the following remedies:

  • Downplay the times when you leave and return to your home. Try ignoring your dog for a few minutes before petting and vocally soothing him.
  • Create a safe place for your dog to chill out. This can be a well-stocked, quiet room full of favorite toys, an old shirt that smells like you, a comfortable place for your dog to rest and more. With sit-stay and down-stay commands, you can reinforce that this is the right space for him to be in, and that he will be safe there until you can spend time with him.
  • If you are gone for extended periods throughout the day, consider hiring a pet sitter or dog walker. A dog-loving friend or neighbor might be willing to check in on your dog for free.
  • If you can, take your dog to work or school with you. Many businesses are becoming more open to this option.
  • In more serious cases, your veterinarian might be able to provide anti-anxiety medication.

The key is to desensitize your dog to the misery he now associates with your leaving. Crating or punishing your dog will only make the problem worse. Hopefully one or more of the above suggestions will solve the problem.

What is “skimboarding” and how can I teach my dog to do this?

A skimboard is like a skateboard without wheels that skims across waves that have just hit the shore. You can also think of it as a more land-based surfboard with a smaller, thinner shape. Some dogs love skimboarding, just as some humans do. Like people, the dogs have to be comfortable around water, love beach visits and be in good physical condition.

Kyra Sundance, author of 101 Ways to Do More with Your Dog, describes a bulldog named Tillman who enjoys jumping on his skimboard “with all four paws” and riding the surf. He then picks up the board with his teeth and barks at his owner for another go. Dogs like Tillman can ride incoming waves on their boards for about 50 feet before the waves pull off of the sand, says Sundance. The water and smooth sandy substrate provide a slick surface for the skimboard, which owners toss onto the sand just as the wave hits.

Sundance says some breeds seem to enjoy this activity more than others. Bulldogs and small terriers are often natural-born skimboarders. These same dogs tend to like skateboarding, so if your furry pal is a skateboarder doggie dude, chances are your pet will also enjoy this fun beach sport.

My dog squirms like crazy when I try to groom it. What can I do to calm my pet down so it will look forward to such necessary grooming and cleaning times?

When most kids have their first haircut, they are terrified. Think of it from their perspective: A stranger is coming at them with scissors while they are being restrained. Your dog probably feels some of that same fear when you try to groom it. Even though the dog knows you, you are restraining it and doing unfamiliar things that it perceives as threats.

Sandy Blackburn’s The Everything Dog Grooming Book has some helpful tips on how to make grooming far less stressful for your dog. She first says that it’s important for you to not show frustration and fear, even if your dog does. Stay calm, upbeat and in charge, since your dog is attuned to your feelings.

Blackburn advises that you can desensitize your dog to some grooming phobias. Many dogs, for example, run like crazy when they hear a hair- or fur-dryer. She suggests touching your dog with the dryer while it is not running, just so your pet can get accustomed to its presence, look and smell. Then, turn the dryer on low, but don’t let the air touch your dog. Again, the idea is to just teach your dog that this is a safe gadget. When you do progress to actually drying your dog’s fur, be sure to do it slowly while massaging its fur.

This slow and comforting approach can apply to introducing new hair combs, brushes and other grooming tools. Sweet talk and treat bribery may help too. Dogs and cats seem to have incredible memories when it comes to bad grooming experiences, but if you make the work pleasant, your dog should look forward to the necessary tasks in future.

I have three dogs of different breeds and would like to involve them in sporting activities that would best suit their talents. How can I best determine what those are?

It does help to consider your pet’s breed when considering a canine sport. Wendy Nan Rees and Kristen Hampshire, co-authors of the Dog Lover’s Daily Companion: 365 Days of Tips, Tricks, and Techniques for Living a Rich Life With Your Dog, provide useful suggestions for determining sporting activities based on your dog’s talents. The authors match breeds to activities.

See if you can find your dogs’ breeds on their lists:

Agility: Australian shepherd, Belgian sheepdog, border collie, miniature schnauzer, mixed breeds, papillon, Shetland sheepdog, standard poodle

Swimming: Flat-coated retriever, golden retriever, Labrador retriever, Newfoundland, Portuguese water dog

Fetching: Border collie, Chesapeake Bay retriever, German shepherd, golden retriever, Labrador retriever

Jogging: Dalmatian, Irish setter, pointer, Rhodesian ridgeback, vizsla, Weimaraner

Flyball: Australian cattle dog, border collie, Canaan dog, Jack Russell terrier, mixed breeds, Shetland sheepdog, whippet

Tricks and Obedience: Bichon frise, German shepherd, golden retriever, Labrador retriever, papillon, toy poodle

The above are just suggestions, of course. Some terriers may love to swim, for example, while certain dalmatians may excel at obedience. Much of that depends upon each of your dogs’ individual talents and experiences.

Why does my dog often fixate on motionless objects as though they are food or moving prey? Is it possible that my dog would need glasses … if he could get them?

We tend to think of animals as having super sensory abilities, and that is true for some senses. Your dog, for example, has smelling skills that could be up to 1 million times more sensitive than those of humans. It’s no wonder that canines seem to sniff everything in sight.

Vision is a different story for dogs. We actually rely more on our sense of vision than canines do, according to Arden Moore, author of The Dog Behavior Answer Book. Moore explains that canine eyes are more sensitive to movement and light, but we are better able to focus on objects.

Moore explains that dogs possess large pupils and a wide field of vision. They can see a bird flying around that you might otherwise ignore, but they are also nearsighted. As a result, it takes dogs a while to process objects that, to us, aren’t very far away. Your dog doesn’t need glasses, though. His vision likely compares with that of other canines.

One thing your dog does excel at: peripheral vision. Without turning his head, your dog can see a 250-degree field of vision. If you think your canine pal is staring at you covertly sometimes, you’re probably right.

What’s flyball, and can any dog participate in the sport? I have a female beagle that is very active.

The sport of flyball began over two decades ago and is one of the fastest-growing dog sports in North America. According to the United Flyball League International, flyball is a canine relay race in which teams of four dogs and four handlers compete head-to-head with other teams to complete the flyball course in as little time as possible.

Each dog must negotiate eight hurdles. Halfway through, the dog must trigger, release and catch a ball from a spring-loaded box. The dog then carries the ball back over the original four hurdles. For spectators and owners alike, it’s always a fun, suspenseful moment to see the flyball. The sport can get incredibly speedy, with top dogs completing the course in less than 16 seconds.

Says Leerie Jenkins, chair of the board of directors of the North American Flyball Association: “As long as the dog is physically able to safely compete, can get along with other dogs and people, and is at least 1 year old, they can compete.” He adds that small dogs and less-common breeds are valued team members. There are different classes of competition too, including a veteran’s class for dogs over the age of 7.

If you haven’t already done so, check out a local competition with your dog and see if you both like it. My guess is that you’ll both soon be flyball fans and participants.

Are there vacation clubs for dogs, similar to human-only resorts? If so, can I go on vacation with my dog, or are these places really more like fancy kennels?

In recent years, smart entrepreneurs have figured out that dogs, the people who love them and vacations go together like birthdays, presents and cake. In other words, what’s not to like?

You asked about vacation clubs in particular. One that’s gaining nationwide attention is Canine Club Getaway. Based in Lake George, N.Y., the club offers swimming, hiking, agility, Frisbee, classes, seminars and just lazy dog-day moments for you, your dog and other pet owners.

“It’s all the fun you remember from summer camp, but with resort accommodations for the grownup in you who can’t go without air conditioning, private baths and Wi-Fi,” explain founders Janie Costa, Carole Kralstein and David Kralstein. There’s a Yappy Hour and nightly entertainment, plus gourmet meals for both you and your dog.

Here are a few other pet-centric resorts and vacation spots:

If you and your dog would rather not travel too far from home, chances are there’s a dog-friendly hotel, club or resort near you.


I’m familiar with conditioning, such as getting my dog to sit after hearing the command, “Sit.” But what is counterconditioning, and can I do this to stop my dog from misbehaving?

Conditioning is when your dog behaves in a specific, predictable and usually desired way when presented with a certain stimulus. It’s the basis of nearly all training. A simple example is when you say, “Sit,” your dog (should be) conditioned to sit. The word, in this case, stimulates your dog into action.

Counterconditioning is just the opposite. According to Bonnie Beaver, author of Canine Behavior: Insights and Answers, the termcounterconditioning” refers to when “learning is used to replace an unacceptable behavior with an acceptable one in response to the same stimulus.”

Beaver provides a wonderful example of a dog that often goes out into the yard, has fun playing and then returns into the home, happily tracking mud everywhere. The situation doesn’t trouble the canine one bit. But the owner then has to pull out the mop or vacuum cleaner.

Counterconditioning can be used to correct this problem. With a food treat or other reward, you can train your dog to sit as soon as it enters your home. This just requires a bit of effort on your part to be at the entrance and to reinforce the already learned “sit” command. You can then wipe off your dog’s paws, forever preventing the muddy paw-print problem.

Some breeds seem to be smarter than others. How can I determine how smart my female poodle is?

I tend to question measures of dog intelligence, especially related to particular breeds, since each type of dog was bred for different reasons. A dog selected for searching and digging ability has evolved a completely different skill set than a dog bred to herd, for example. We also tend to equate intelligence with our own human abilities, so dogs that share more of our particular talents tend to be rated higher.

Nevertheless, it can be interesting to study research on dog intelligence. Canadian psychologist and dog trainer Dr. Stanley Coren created a canine IQ test. Using it, he concluded that the border collie is one of the most intelligent canines. Other smart dogs, based on this technique, are poodles, German shepherds, golden retrievers, Doberman pinschers, Shetland sheepdogs, Labrador retrievers, papillons, rottweilers, and Australian cattle dogs. Your female poodle is therefore in the top of this smart crop.

Intelligence doesn’t just vary among breeds, of course. Like humans, it can vary among individuals, due to genetics, life’s experiences, environment, health considerations and more. In The Dog Behavior Answer Book, author Arden Moore suggests a few simple tests you can do to measure your dog’s smarts. One is called “The Towel Test.” Just drape a large (for her body size) bath towel over your dog’s head and see how long it takes for her to get out from under it. Moore says smart dogs can figure this out in less than 15 seconds. Less brainy pooches require 30 seconds or more.

Another test is to see how long it takes for your dog to come to you after she sees you pick up her leash and house keys, or whatever objects you routinely use when going on walks. Smart dogs can associate such objects with events and should run to you immediately -- so long as they want to walk!

My dog is constantly running to the door, and I’m afraid that it may escape one day and become lost. It’s microchipped, but I still worry about what could happen.

The worst thing you can do is let your dog actually run past you through the front door. This usually gives your would-be escape artist a taste of freedom and adventure that it will never forget. But such uncontrolled wandering outside comes with dangerous risks. The goal is to keep your dog safe and inside.

First, reinforce basic “sit” and “stay” commands. Your dog should adhere to these no matter the temptations, be they the opened front door, a new female dog friend, or more. Second, the organization PAW in Greenbelt, Md., suggests that you teach everyone in your home, including regular guests, “the doggie doorknob rule.” This holds that no one should even begin to open the door without first knowing exactly where the dog is. If worse comes to worst, keep your dog on a leash and by your side when expecting multiple guests and where such vigilance becomes difficult.

Another tip, shared by Patricia McConnell in her book For the Love of a Dog: Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend is to train your dog to associate the sound of a doorbell -- or a knock at the door -- with a desired reward, such as a food treat. This should be accompanied by a “go to your place” command, during which you lure your pet to its safe designated area with a treat or toy. This safe spot could be another room or a crate. Practice taking your dog to this area, and do this well before guests are expected to arrive. Before long, your dog will learn to go by itself to this safe spot, where it will wait a bit for a reward.


Photo: @iStockphoto.com/airportrait

Food treats work wonders with my male Labrador during training sessions, but do you have any tips on how to best choose and use them?

Treats provide a memorable, tangible and delicious reward for a job well done. Some trainers advocate training without treats, and you can certainly wean your dog off treats after a while. There are also dogs that don’t respond to food treats during training sessions -- believe it or not -- opting instead for Frisbees, flashlight beams and other kinds of game-centered fun. But I enjoy training dogs with food rewards, and the dogs I’ve worked with have definitely enjoyed them and the time spent together.

Here are seven tips for selecting and using food treats for training:

1. Just because the food is a treat doesn’t mean it has to provide empty calories. Look for biscuits with balanced nutrition. Tartar-control treats can help clean your dog’s teeth as he chews on them.

2. Make sure the treats don’t add excess calories to your dog’s daily food intake. Subtract the calories of what you’re offering from your pet’s regular diet.

3. If you do buy larger-sized treats, break them up into smaller bites. Your dog shouldn’t get too distracted while consuming them.

4. Place the treats in a treat pouch (sold at pet food stores), a plastic bag or another odor-concealing container. This will make the reward more of a surprise and prevent your dog from becoming fixated on the treats you’re carrying.

5. Avoid providing special treats during the holidays, such as barbequed steak on the Fourth of July, or turkey on Thanksgiving. This may seem like a good idea at the time, but such foods can often cause canine stomach upset.

6. When training with treats, the length of sessions should be no more than 10 minutes, so that your dog will not receive a lot of food rewards at one time.

7. As Paul Owens and Norma Eckroate -- authors of the book The Dog Whisperer: A Compassionate, Nonviolent Approach to Training -- write, you want to use treats to lure and reward your dog, not bribe him. A lure is just meant to entice your dog, to get him interested in the promise of a reward. If you always use treats to get your dog to behave, however, you may wind up bribing -- instead of training -- him.

I recently moved with my spayed 2-year-old female shih tzu to live with my sister, who has three male golden retrievers and one female Bernese. My shih tzu instigates high-energy play several times a day, causing chaos and potential injury. How can we stop this -- without discouraging play?

I love that your shih tzu is so friendly, instigating play with other dogs. Some members of this breed aren’t comfortable around other humans, much less dogs, and require many socialization classes to overcome the problem. It sounds like your dog is just the opposite.

The situation you describe is not much different from what happens to certain human children. If a child grows up surrounded by others who are congenial and not threatening, and the child has no knowledge of outside dangers, he or she may mistakenly think everyone is friendly. You can teach a child otherwise, but it’s difficult to train your dog to think this way.

Eve Adamson, author of Shih Tzu for Dummies, advises that you should never stop supervising play, even when your pet is with other familiar dogs. It's easy for small dogs like this to feel "overwhelmed," as she calls it, so care is needed.

When all of the dogs are together, you may also try confining them to someplace where supervision is easier for you or your sister. You could also try exercising your dog beforehand to work off some of that energy. Your dog's desire to play, and faith in others, may exceed the reality of the situation. Adamson further advises that shih tzus should not be taken to dog parks where a lot of canines go, due to related concerns.

My 21-month-old miniature schnauzer likes to play and bite/nip. I constantly tell it, “No biting!” while holding its mouth closed, but it isn’t working. What else can I try?

In general, miniature schnauzers are not known to be aggressive dogs. As you’ve learned, however, some can be more dominant than others -- even though it sounds like your dog just has a playful streak. Nonetheless, for the safety of other people and himself, it is very important that he learns to obey your commands.

Fredric Frye, author of Schnauzers: Everything About Purchase, Care, Nutrition and Diseases, advises that dog commands are better understood when they just contain one syllable. A firm “No!” or “Stop!” is better than “No biting,” according to Frye. Say it loudly and firmly. You may also follow this with a “Sit!” command, so that your dog will focus on another positive behavior. Adding an extra sound component to the verbal command, such as shaking some coins in a jar, could also help get his attention -- a tactic many trainers recommend.

Your dog is still young, so you should try an obedience class. If you properly socialize him now, you will improve the quality of his life and yours -- and prevent bigger problems from emerging in future.

My Shih Tzu keeps licking its nose. It also trembles in its sleep, even when it's not cold. What's causing these behaviors?

From the nose-licking to the trembling, it sounds like you have a stressed-out pet. According to Joan Hustace Walker, author of Training Your Shih Tzu, the type of licking that you describe -- when it appears the dog is frequently trying to lick its nose -- can be a symptom of anxiousness. Other “stressed body language,” as she calls it, includes a droopy or overly stiff tail, a “half-moon eye” sideways glance, panting, a closed mouth when panting, yawning and flattened ears.

Excessive trembling, cringing, hiding, crying and whimpering are also all behaviors tied to stress in the Shih Tzu, writes Walker. You mention that your dog trembles in its sleep, however. Many small dogs do experience trembling and tremor with some frequency. Theories as to why this happens range from body-heat maintenance issues to genetic issues. Some medications can help to reduce this behavior, but speak with your veterinarian about what is best for your particular dog.

I’m a proponent of not over-medicating unless absolutely necessary, given possible side effects, the expense and more. In this case, your dog may not even be in any pain -- especially since it’s sleeping through the trembles -- but your vet is the one who can make the determination about the need for medication, such as prednisone or other corticosteroid therapy.

My dog loves to ride in the car with me, but my wife says it shouldn’t be allowed to move around freely while I’m driving. How can I keep him safe without restraining him?

Many dogs enjoy a nice car ride, as it gives them extra time with their owners, provides fresh air with the windows rolled down and allows for a view of the world whizzing by. It’s a mini adventure from start to end, with your dog having no idea what’s around the next corner.

Kim Saunders, author of Petfinder.com’s The Adopted Dog Bible, offers these tips to ensure safe travels while your dog is in the car:

  • Never permit your dog to sit in the front seat. An air bag, if deployed, can crush some dogs.
  • All four of your dog’s paws should be inside of the car. Hanging out of a window is a no-no and can put your dog at risk for ear damage and lung infections.
  • The best place for your dog to sit is in the middle of the backseat.
  • Make sure your dog goes to the bathroom before the car trip.
  • Avoid feeding your dog large meals before heading out. Even if you address the bathroom issues, some dogs can get carsick.
  • When you arrive at your destination, put your dog on a leash before opening the car door.
  • It is best to use a safety harness or to crate your dog for longer trips.

By taking the above precautions, you can enjoy many more car adventures with your dog.

I’m now caring for my brother’s Siberian husky and it bites a lot. While it hasn’t caused any serious damage to my home yet, how can I prevent future problems without having to muzzle it?

Siberian huskies can be a handful. They are often included on lists of dogs that tend to bite and cause serious injuries. Over a seventeen-year period in the U.S. alone, from 1979 to 1996, Siberian huskies were involved in 14 human fatalities, so this is a serious matter. To prevent your dog from biting, The Humane Society of the United States offers the following tips:

  • Make sure your female Siberian husky is spayed. Spayed or neutered dogs are much less likely to bite.
  • Seek professional training help from your veterinarian, an animal behaviorist or a qualified dog trainer. You can do some training on your own, but it’s best to involve an expert. Your local community animal care and control agency or humane society may also provide some training services.
  • Avoid stressful settings, such as crowded and busy environments, until your dog has been properly socialized. The muzzle that you mention might be needed until your dog feels more at ease and is less threatened.
  • Spend quality time with your new pet. Dogs that receive sufficient exercise, are socialized and are well-supervised are less likely to bite.
It also helps to connect with other owners of your same breed. The Siberian Husky Club of America Inc. maintains a directory of clubs throughout the country. To see if one or more are in your particular area, please visit their website.

My dog made a horrible sound the other day and a friend told me it was a reverse sneeze. Should I be concerned?

Reverse sneezing in dogs happens every so often, and is more common in corgi and beagle breeds. It usually begins with a loud snorting sound, followed by heavy breathing. Just like a regular bout of sneezing, this may occur several times in a row. Also like sneezing, the event usually ends almost as soon as it begins, with your dog acting like nothing happened.

The technical term for a reverse sneeze is “laryngospasm.” According to Dr. Liisa Carlson, a veterinarian and the co-author of the Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook, reverse sneezing is sort of like the tickle that humans sometimes get with postnasal drip. Mucus might fall on the vocal cords, leading to a temporary spasm of your dog’s larynx muscles.

Carlson suggests this easy trick for stopping the reverse-sneeze attack: Gently massage the front of your dog’s neck just below the jaw. This will induce your dog to swallow, likely ending the reverse sneeze. Keep in mind that dogs will also snort and behave in a similar way if there’s an obstruction in the larynx. If the attack doesn’t stop, be sure to contact your veterinarian.

My dog loves to go on long walks with me, but it’s getting older and I think it is considered to be a senior at this point. Is there anything I should be more aware of now?

You are good to be mindful of your aging dog. We are said to be as young as we feel, but it’s difficult to know precisely how our dogs are feeling. Animals will often try to mask their aches and pains; it’s a survival tactic they use in the wild to prevent them from attracting predators.

Dogs, just like humans, need special care once they become seniors. Generally, dogs are considered to be in the senior stage of life at 7 years old, but ages will vary depending on the breed. The American Kennel Club offers the following tips to help you make your dog’s golden years happy and healthy:

1. Pay attention to change. Older dogs have predictable routines and behaviors, so any change in your pet’s behavior, activity, weight, or eating and bathroom habits could be a sign that something is wrong. Be observant of any changes and go see your veterinarian to rule out any developing conditions.

2. Schedule twice-yearly wellness visits with your dog’s vet. Since dogs age faster than humans, early detection of age-related problems is key to keeping your senior dog happy and healthy. Have your elderly dog examined by your veterinarian every six months. These regular exams will help you catch any age-related illnesses before they become too advanced.

3. Make your home senior-friendly. As dogs age, they can become less agile. Smaller dogs may have trouble jumping onto or off of furniture, and larger dogs may have trouble getting in and out of cars. Set up carpet-lined steps or a ramp to help your dog do the simple things it used to do in a safe and comfortable way.

I have two dachshunds and they clean each other’s mouth and teeth. Is there something wrong with them, or are they just helping each other to stay clean?

The behavior that you describe is normal and common for Dachshunds. In her book Training Your Dachshund, Amy Fernandez notes that submissive dogs engage in what she calls “appeasement rituals” with more dominant dogs. These include whining, licking and nuzzling the dominant dog’s mouth. Submissive dogs may also roll over, showing their tummy to the other dog.

For your dogs, since the behavior is reciprocal, it sounds like they have equal, or near equal, status in your family pack. The ritual cleaning and licking helps with their bonding. It’s actually a handy habit, because it saves you extra effort in cleaning off the mouth area so much! Dachshunds, like other dogs, are very prone to tooth and gum problems, however. Be sure to brush their teeth regularly, offer dental care food and treats if needed, and regularly discuss their oral health with your dogs’ veterinarian.

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My 6-month-old beagle urinates inside, even though I take it out for walks regularly. What is causing this, and how can I stop it?

Your young beagle could be urinating inside for a number of different reasons. The most worrisome one is that your dog could have an underlying health issue. Liz Palika and Kim Campbell Thornton, authors of Your Beagle’s Life: Your Complete Guide to Raising Your Pet From Puppy to Companion, point out that excessive urination and urination inside the house “can indicate a bladder or kidney infection, or diabetes.” Excessive thirst will often accompany the behavior you’ve noticed. To rule out any of these conditions, schedule an appointment with your dog’s veterinarian.

Another possibility is that your dog has just developed a bad habit that, to him, is perfectly fine and normal. Beagles will sometimes mark their sleeping areas by urinating on them. Remember that they are scent hounds, so information shared via the olfaction system -- no matter how stinky it is to us -- works for them.

If you rule out health problems and determine that a behavioral issue is the likely cause, a refresher period of housebreaking -- perhaps with a crate -- may be needed. Wash all bedding and other soiled areas thoroughly, as dogs tend to go where they’ve done their business before. Use a non-ammonia enzymatic cleaner for floors and other soiled areas.

I have a 10-month-old male bichon frise that is very nervous when we go out on walks. We are also having problems with him chewing. Can you please help?

Bichons tend to be very sensitive dogs, but their sensitivity does come with a price. As Richard Beauchamp -- author of The Bichon Frise Handbook -- points out, if you “yell a little too loud” at an unfamiliar bichon, you’ll soon regret that you did because “the breed does not tolerate abuse.”

Beauchamp adds that these dogs are also creatures of comfort. If you teach him the “No!” command, but then relent every so often, your dog will not properly learn. The chewing problem you mentioned would then continue and the dog would become spoiled, not reacting well to situations that it perceives as stressful. Going out for walks, as you suggest, can be one such stress instigator for an improperly socialized dog.

The Bichon Frise Club of America Inc. recommends that you enroll your dog in a “kindergarten” training program, or basic obedience training. All dogs need socialization and training, and these skills can really help your pet avoid problems like fear, aggression and separation anxiety. The club recommends trainers who emphasize positive reinforcement in their programs.

My Shih Tzu will only eat its food if I spoon feed it. How can I get it to eat on its own?

It sounds as though you may have spoiled your Shih Tzu. You have made it easier for your dog to eat by spoon-feeding it, so why should your pet make the extra effort? Admittedly, it can be cumbersome for some Shih Tzus to drink out of a bowl and eat wet food: Their furry faces can absorb some of the product when they have not been groomed.

For drinking, one solution is to offer your dog a water bottle with a drinking nozzle, such as the ones used to feed hamsters and gerbils. Eve Adamson, author of Shih Tzu for Dummies, suggests placing some soft food on the tip of the nozzle to stimulate your dog and to get it interested in using the device.

For feeding, Adamson says mixing wet and dry food can give your Shih Tzu the the best of both textures. Offer meals two to three times daily -- always at the same time and in the same bowl and place. Shih Tzu dogs are comforted by consistency. Since you’ll need to retrain your dog to eat by itself, you may have to be near the bowl or offer it up to her at first. Try warming wet food briefly in the microwave in order to help release some of the odors that your dog will find enticing.

I’m planning a big party to ring in the new year, but my dog gets apprehensive when it’s surrounded by unfamiliar people. What preparations should I make to ensure that she enjoys the evening as much as we do?

Charlotte Reed, aka Miss Fido Manners, suggests that being a pet owner and a party host can be challenging -- but it’s definitely doable. In her book The Miss Fido Manners Complete Book of Dog Etiquette, Reed offers suggestions for throwing a party that your friends -- and your dog -- will love.

First, ask houseguests if they suffer from pet allergies. Good grooming and air filters can help alleviate problems associated with airborne allergens, including dog dander and fur.

Next, consider your dog’s personality. Depending on the level of apprehension your dog experiences when it’s surrounded by new people, Reed says you can reinforce basic training commands like “Sit,” “Stay” and “No!” If you feel like your dog can tolerate some noise and commotion but would be overwhelmed by a party, then create a safe, quiet haven in your home with all of your dog’s creature comforts. This place should be off-limits for your guests. For severe cases, Reed mentions that veterinarians can prescribe anxiety-reducing medications. If it comes to that point, however, you should just plan on leaving your dog with a pet sitter away from home.

It’s good that you are concerned about this issue. As Reed suggests, some dogs seek peace and quiet by escaping from the front door and running away. The best way to avoid this nightmare is to plan ahead.

I have a 5-year-old male shih tzu, and I was recently given a 10-week-old female shih tzu puppy. My older dog does not like this puppy. What can I do to help them bond?

Shih tzu dogs are generally very friendly and open to making new connections. According to Eve Adamson, author of Shih Tzu for Dummies, it’s not uncommon for an owner to have three or more such dogs living happily together. “That doesn’t mean your resident dog won’t be jealous or a little put out by the presence of a new dog in the house,” says Adamson.

She advises that introductions be made slowly and under your supervision. Your adult dog may have to be on a leash, but keep it loose so he doesn’t feel too restricted. Hold the introductory get-together on neutral territory -- not where one or both dogs frequently hang out. Your male dog, in particular, may become more territorial if he is encountering the new puppy at his favorite special locations.

Dogs live in packs, so they need to work relationships out on their own terms. Your goal should be to minimize any aggression and scrapping during this relationship-building stage. Keep your new puppy’s food separate to ensure that she can eat it in peace,  without having to worry about your adult dog “stealing” it. Finally, give both pets plenty of attention so that neither one feels left out.

My 5-week-old female Boston terrier shakes a lot at different times. Is this normal for such a young puppy?

According to the American Kennel Club, the Boston terrier was originally bred by crossing an English bulldog with a white English terrier. The result is a strong and regal short-coated dog whose good looks always catch the eyes of judges at dog shows.

Many owners report to the AKC, the Boston Terrier Club of America and other related groups that their Boston terriers tend to shiver -- most likely because the bodies of these dogs tend to not retain warmth as well as some other breeds’. Puppies are particularly susceptible to cold too.

When I worked at a pet shelter, I noticed that many puppies would also shiver from excitement or anxiousness when introduced to new people or unfamiliar surroundings. That could be what’s happening with your pup. However, Wendy Bedwell-Wilson, author of Boston Terriers for Dummies, points out that shaking can also be a sign of infection, ear parasites or other health issues. My guess is that your puppy is fine and will grow out of the behavior -- but you should have your veterinarian examine her just to make sure there is no underlying medical problem that could be causing the trembling

My dog seems to get more stressed out during the winter holidays -- perhaps because of all the changes to its usual routine. How can I protect it from harm and ensure that it enjoys this special time of year too?

From edible Christmas decorations to overcrowded rooms, many problems can occur during the holiday season that may put your dog’s safety and happiness at risk.

To avoid these problems and worse, it’s best to maintain your dog’s usual routine over the winter holidays while you still enjoy the different foods, extra socializing and more. Jenna Stregowski, a registered veterinary technician and an About.com guide, suggests you avoid feeding your dog potentially harmful table scraps. That includes anything with onions, grapes, raisins, chocolate and bones. Be sure to keep alcoholic beverages and sweets out of your dog’s reach too. It’s best to stick to your dog’s regular diet.

Holidays aren’t just stressful for people: During this time of year, shelters often take in dogs that have run away from their homes because of anxiety and opportunity. While owners are preoccupied with guests, uneasy dogs can run past unattended doors. Stregowski suggests that dogs -- especially skittish types -- be kept in a crate or a quiet room during more boisterous celebrations.

My puppy never lifts his leg when he relieves himself. Should I be concerned, and could that lead to other problems -- even in terms of cleanup?

When a dog lifts its leg before relieving itself, the position allows for spray marking, something that most owners try to prevent, especially when the dog is indoors. According to Dr. Bonnie V. Beaver, a professor at Texas A&M University's College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, the behavior is hormonally controlled. When testosterone levels rise in many male dogs, their leg does too, so to speak. It is not, therefore, something that a dog just learns to do.

The leg-lifting is actually a power move. The higher a dog can spray its urine, the taller it will appear to other canines that walk by and investigate the spray odors.

Beaver points out that some females will engage in this behavior too. Males that are neutered before sexual maturity may never lift their leg before relieving themselves. My guess is that’s the case for your dog. If so, then you needn’t be concerned, unless your dog is exhibiting other elimination problems. Your veterinarian could rule out if there are any underlying health issues.

I've heard that not all dogs should be house-trained on newspaper. Is that true?

House-training on newspapers, or providing a litter box, works best for smaller dogs and dogs that do not have easy access to the outdoors. Owners who live in apartments, for example, often elect to house-train their dogs on discarded newspapers. The papers absorb waste and can be disposed of easily. Some devices, such as the Doggie Dooley, even allow you to compost your canine's waste.

If your pet is large, however, and if controlled access to your yard is possible, it often makes more sense to begin house-training your dog in your outside enclosed space. If not, your dog will have to be later retrained to relieve itself outdoors. The amount of waste emitted by a large dog also makes the traditional paper technique impractical.

Depending on your home setup, you might consider using a dog potty pad. A popular one is called the Potty Patch. It features faux grass, which will not look out of place in your garden or on your patio. The pad is also suitable for indoor use. The grass is made out of an antimicrobial material that is odor-resistant and washes clean with soapy water.

My budget is limited, but I’d like to better train my dog. What equipment -- if any -- do I need to buy?

Dog training relies more on time and patience than it does on expensive equipment. While some owners can benefit from using ultrasonic clickers, premium agility tools and other high-tech gadgets now available on the market, all that's really needed is a leash, a properly fitted collar and some sort of positive reinforcement, such as doggie biscuits. Look for a leash that is sturdy and feels comfortable to you. Usually this means a 6-foot leash that's made of leather or a flexible material like nylon. It shouldn't be too narrow (which could break, tangle or hurt your pet) or too wide (which could impair your hand movements). Information found online, in apps and on DVDs can provide training tips. You can also do searches for "top-selling dog training books" on Amazon.com and at other retailers' sites. A book's popularity, however, doesn't always mean the writer's techniques are best for your particular dog, so consider asking your veterinarian and pet-owning friends for book recommendations.

I have two dogs, one older than the other. They are always competing, which forever frustrates my senior pet. Is there anything I can do to make life easier for my older dog?

After the first introductions, dogs will usually establish a pecking order among themselves, with one tending to be more dominant than the other. If the two dogs are fairly evenly matched -- in terms of body size, personality and other factors – a less stable competition for “top dog” status can occur. You did not mention what happens when the dogs are competing, but I hope that the tiffs do not escalate to physical harm and constant bullying. If so, you may have to leash the more aggressive dog, fully monitor interactions and consider calling in a trainer. One less drastic option is to try a technique suggested by the late trainer and dog expert Job Michael Evans. He suggested that owners have their dogs sit side by side for half an hour at a time. This “Down-stay” exercise can help you achieve at least two possible benefits. First, it establishes you as the pack leader. If you tell the more dominant dog to back off during fights or meal squabbles, it will do so. Second, it teaches the dogs to remain calm and quiet, staying on their best behavior when in each other’s presence.

My dog is such a drooler, I usually carry paper towels with me to tidy her up. Is it normal for my dog to drool so much, and is there anything I can do to prevent it from happening so excessively?

You didn't mention your dog's breed, but some breeds do tend to drool more than others. Saint Bernard dogs and mastiffs, for example, are well-known for their heavy drooling. Owners like you often then carry around paper towels and other things in order to clean up the dogs. This is not necessary for health reasons, but just for cosmetic tidiness. I've even heard of some owners putting bibs on their dogs during car rides or carrying baby wipes around with them. Excessive salivation that suddenly develops, however, should be cause for alarm. If your dog starts to drool a lot but didn't do so before to such a degree, you should have your pet checked out by a veterinarian immediately. Ingestion of toxins, dental problems or certain diseases can cause increased salivation, so you should rule out those reasons before concluding that your dog is just an excessive expectorator.

My dog is very shy around strangers and other dogs. How can I help get him out of his shell?

In general, dogs are born party animals. Their pack animal mentality means they usually crave companionship, acceptance and good times. But even dogs need to develop confidence and feelings of comfort around others, especially humans or dogs that they may not have seen before. Ideally, dogs should receive socialization training when they are between 4 and 14 weeks of age. During this time, you should safely expose your pet to all sorts of different people and situations -- even to his own mirror reflection. It sounds, however, like your dog is past puppyhood and now requires a bit more time and patience. Try staging friendly, non-threatening visits with strangers and their dogs. Keep the dogs leashed and well-supervised. When your pet begins to display confidence and appropriate behavior, offer a reward such as verbal praise or a head rub. Food treats may be offered too, but in the future your dog could become conditioned to expecting them all the time. If you repeat this exercise over time using different people and places, your dog should gradually learn that meeting new humans and dogs can be something to look forward to.

My dog barks like crazy at our local mail carrier but doesn’t bark as much at other strangers who come by the house. Why do some dogs seem to loathe mail carriers?

The United States Postal Service reports that thousands of urban and rural mail carriers are bitten each year by dogs. It's such a serious problem that the U.S. Postal Service helps spread the word about National Dog Bite Prevention week every May. Certain territorial dogs are very disturbed by mail carriers. Think about it from your dog's perspective: An individual shows up daily, so he or she means business and poses a potential threat. The carrier often comes right to the door. The carrier may even slide scary objects through the door, invading your dog's space. Some dogs even become conditioned that their bark helps to ward off the carrier. Each day the mail delivery person comes, your dog barks and the carrier leaves. To the dog, that means its loud technique is working. Better socialization of your pet, such as through training classes, can improve its behavior around all people, including your dutiful mail carrier.

My dogs will often stop and listen to music playing in my house. Do dogs enjoy music like we do, and if so, is there any particular kind of music I should play for them?

Scientific studies published in peer-reviewed journals suggest that most nonhuman animals prefer silence to music, but there's a big catch. The music they've been listening to was created by humans for humans. Many animal behaviorists, and even top composers, are now realizing that dogs can enjoy music too, so long as the compositions have been made for canine hearing and tastes. As anyone with a dog whistle knows, pooches detect higher frequency sounds that we cannot hear. Composer Laurie Anderson recently performed a 20-minute composition called "Music for Dogs." The entire piece was silent to human listeners, but it tapped into the outer reaches of dog audition. Humans who went to the concert, held in Sydney, looked amused and bewildered as their dogs howled along during the performance. Dogs will also respond to recorded barks, audible howls and growls, or human noises that somewhat duplicate what dogs perceive in their own communication world. Studies show that some dogs also enjoy quiet classical music, perhaps because some of the instruments tap into animal-known sounds. Google the words dog music to find specially recorded canine songs and CDs, many of which are online.

I have a 2-year-old Havanese that is so picky about food that he will go for long stretches of time without eating. What can I do to encourage him to eat?

Havanese dog owners often describe their pets as being picky or quirky eaters. There are even reports of these very social dogs not eating unless a person is in the room with them. If you spend a lot of time with your dog, his wishes make sense. He basks in your company and then may feel suddenly abandoned come mealtime. The food itself could be part of the problem. Choose a high-quality dog food and try out a few different flavors to see which one your pet prefers. If you are feeding dry food, select a "minichunk" variety that is easier for small dogs to chew. Pet food manufacturers now also offer sauces in flavors like bacon, country chicken and pot roast that can entice many picky eaters to nosh. If you feed wet food, try warming it for a short time in the microwave. You can also add some warm water or the previously mentioned sauce to boost the food's mouthwatering aroma appeal. Feeding times are also important. Some Havanese owners offer food for limited periods, such as 15 minutes at a time. If the dog doesn't eat then, remove the food for a while and offer it later. Constantly leaving food out may not provide enough mealtime stimulation for your pet. Even though your breed does have a reputation for being finicky, you should also make sure that there isn't an underlying health issue affecting your dog's appetite. Stress, teeth problems and many other health issues can lead to loss of appetite. Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to rule out any of those other possible causes.

Why does my Maltese shih tzu urinate over my miniature Australian shepherd, when the Australian shepherd is actually the dominant dog?

The urinating that you describe in called submissive wetting. Puppies will do this to demonstrate submission, but some adult dogs will also engage in the messy behavior. In adult dogs, it can also be a sign of fear and insecurity -- a sort of wetting-the-pants moment (without the pants) or the dog version of saying, "I'm sorry." Sensitive canines are prone to this. Try to identify which stimulus is leading to the submissive urination. It sounds like your Australian shepherd could be asserting itself over your Maltese shih tzu, or even bullying it. Instead of yelling, "No!" or punishing the Maltese shih tzu, direct it toward more appropriate behaviors, such as reinforcing the basic "sit" command with both dogs. You may need to take them both to a training class with a professional to improve their relationship and help resolve the problem. A veterinary visit may also be in order, as excessive urination can be a sign of certain health issues. It's best to rule out those before proceeding with other troubleshooting measures.

The area surrounding my dog’s feet is red, and she licks it a lot. What kind of treatment can I apply?

Most of your dog's sense of touch is located in its paws, and it sweats there too, so it's good that you noticed the problem so you can keep your dog's paws in good shape. The good news is that the symptoms you describe -- redness and your dog's paw licking -- are quite common. The bad is that any number of causes can lead to this behavior. They include: Skin irritants, such as salt or chemicals on the ground Infection due to parasites, fungi or bacteria Allergies, arthritis or some other more internal problem Cysts or other growths Paw redness can also be due to dogs habitually chewing and grooming the area, similar to a child biting its fingernails a lot. It could be your dog reacting to stress and boredom. Schedule a visit for your dog with her veterinarian to precisely determine what's going on. If there is no medical cause, behavior modification might be needed to break your dog's paw-licking habit. You would also need to identify the source of any stress and try to resolve that issue as well.

I am fostering a Scottish terrier, and she will not drink water. What can I do to solve this issue?

Dogs need to drink water every day to stay properly hydrated, so you are right to be concerned. It could be that your Scottish terrier is getting some liquids from other sources, such as wet food or even an open toilet bowl. However, wet food by itself does not provide sufficient moisture for canines. Since you are fostering the dog, it could be stressed out in its new home. Other reasons for not drinking include mouth obstructions, illness and injury. Additionally, dogs recovering from surgery may also take a while to get back into their regular eating and drinking habits. Average daily water intake requirements are generally based on a dog's size. Scottish terriers are on the small side, typically weighing between 18 and 21 pounds. That means your dog should be drinking at least 24 ounces of water per day. You can try moistening your dog's food with extra water to see if that will coax your pet to drink. If the problem continues, especially during hot weather, consult your veterinarian.

My dog is a 2-year-old beagle-corgi mix that I adopted a few months ago. He has a habit of using his nose to flick dirt into his food dish, and then he continues to eat his food. Could this be a flavor thing, or is he somehow supplementing his diet?

Dogs will sometimes eat strange things, including dirt. The behavior is not necessarily breed- or age-specific. If the habit weren't potentially unhealthy, I'd say your dog is quite clever for coming up with the nose-flicking technique. One or more of at least four basic reasons could help explain your dog's dirty additions. If you are feeding your pet an unbalanced diet without sufficient nutrients, your pet could develop a mineral deficiency that he is trying to fix with the dirt "supplement." Switching to a high-quality dog food would resolve this problem, since manufacturers include all of the vitamins, minerals and other ingredients that your dog needs. Some dogs are thought to enjoy the taste of certain plots of dirt. A fish fertilizer might also tempt your dog's taste buds. Bacteria, germs, toxins and all sorts of undesirables are found in dirt, however, so never think that dirt noshing is OK for your pet. Dirt consumption habits can also be a cause of boredom, obsessive-compulsive disorder and other behavioral problems. You mentioned that you just adopted your little dog. It's possible that his previous owner did not feed a quality food and the dog got in the habit of adding the dirt. Or perhaps something disturbed the dog, and he developed this nose-flicking behavior in response -- similar to a kid sucking its thumb for comfort. Have your dog checked out by a veterinarian to rule out any health problems.

My dog lost a lot of weight, although he still has the same diet and drinks large amounts of water. He also sometimes shows signs of water retention. What could the problem be?

Dogs experience some seasonal weight changes, as do most animals -- including humans. These changes are usually quite minor, however. Since you say that your dog has lost a lot of weight, presumably in a short period of time and without any feeding changes, you are right to be concerned. You didn’t mention what specific signs of water retention you’ve noticed, but this can be a very serious condition. It could signify an edema in the legs, which is swelling from excessive accumulation of watery fluids. Another possibility is ascites (accumulation of fluid) in the abdominal area. Both of these problems are associated with heart and liver concerns. Any time you notice a major change in your dog’s weight, eating and drinking habits, you should schedule a visit with your dog’s veterinarian. I’ve mentioned some of the medical possibilities, but a thorough examination of your dog is needed to fully diagnose what could be wrong.

I have a standard poodle that was given to me by a relative. He will not eat dry dog food, so I’ve had to give him just wet foods. But is dry food better?

High-quality pet food manufacturers ensure that both their wet and dry food lines contain all of the essential vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that your pet needs. From a nutritional standpoint, therefore, dry food is on equal footing with moist dog chow. If you look at the ingredients list of your dog’s wet food, you might see “water sufficient for processing,” or a similar phrase, as the first component. So water and the preparation methods are the biggest differences between dry and wet foods. Water seems like such a simple thing, but it can affect the flavor, aroma and texture of the product. Some dogs prefer the mouth feel and smell of wet food, while others like to crunch on crispier dry chow. Dogs also become accustomed to eating a certain type of food over time, so your relative probably always fed your standard poodle wet food. He may now expect it all the time out of habit. If you’d like to transition him to a dry food, make the change gradual. Feed both types of chow, side by side, over a weeklong period. Be careful to stay within the recommended feeding guidelines, so as to not overfeed your dog. Overfeeding can cause potentially dangerous weight gain. Gradually increase the amount of dry food over the amount of wet food as the week goes on, until you are feeding him only dry food by day seven.

We have a 13-year-old Maltese-cocker who enjoys playing on the air conditioner vent when it is on. I also noticed that she lies on it for heat during the winter. My concern is that sometimes when she is sitting near me, she shivers. She isn’t cold, and she doesn’t seem to be in pain. What else could be causing the shivering?

Shivering is quite common in many dogs, particularly certain breeds. Maltese are prone to this behavior, but that doesn't mean you should ignore it. You are wise to take notice and be concerned. Such trembling can have many possible causes. Although your dog may not be cold, shivering is one way that the body can increase its temperature. Puppies, for example, sometimes tremble to regulate their body heat. But trembling can also be due to fear, or as a result of neurological, skeletal or muscular problems. Conditions such as arthritis, anemia, diabetes, epilepsy, hypothyroidism and lupus can also lead to canine shivering. Have your Maltese-cocker examined by a veterinarian to rule out any of these obvious suspects. If your dog receives a clean bill of health, then it is possible that the shivering is either tied to her body's heat regulation or to her genetic makeup. Our breeding of dogs results in certain desired traits, such as floppy ears, big eyes and other attractive features. But the breeding process can also lead to certain behavioral issues tied to those selected genes, including shivering. Researchers haven't fully determined yet why certain dogs tremble, even when there is no known medical cause and the animal is not showing other signs of fear or discomfort. What's important is that your dog is healthy and not in any pain.

My 12-year-old Pomeranian mix was exposed to a dog that died of parvovirus. My dog was vaccinated for this only once, seven years ago. Is he at risk?

Parvovirus, first identified in 1978, can be a deadly disease. Sadly, dogs afflicted with the virus may die before anyone even notices symptoms. In other cases, dogs with parvovirus could develop a high fever, have bloody diarrhea and suffer from frequent vomiting. If your dog shows any of these symptoms, an immediate veterinary office visit is in order. Your dog may or may not be at risk, since the lack of booster shots over the years poses a tension-filled question mark. Animal health experts believe that in most dogs, a single injection of the vaccine at 16 weeks of age or older will confer immunity, but not necessarily lifelong. But "should" and "probably" do not firmly answer your question. Dogs with regular booster shots are better-protected against this potent virus. While parvovirus is rightfully on your mind now, keep in mind that other viruses can afflict your pet. Schedule regular visits with your dog's veterinarian to ensure that your pet receives all of his proper vaccinations.

I’m planning some hikes with my dog over the summer and have been looking at dog backpacks, which seem like a good idea. Could these hurt my dog?

Not all dogs can wear a backpack. The weight would be too much for smaller dogs, canines with preexisting health conditions, older dogs, and “couch potato” dogs that aren’t in peak physical shape. You might wish to consult with your veterinarian before buying one. Even for a fit dog, make sure that the backpack fits properly. The weight should fall over your pet’s shoulders and definitely not over your dog’s back. Other good features to look for include waterproof, lightweight material; padding to prevent chafing injuries; quick-snap buckles; adjustable straps; and bright colors, like red, yellow or orange, which will be easier to spot if your dog is off-leash. It’s always safer to keep your dog on leash, however, even in open areas. If you do buy a backpack for your dog, try it out for a while at home. Fill it with items you plan to bring on your trip, or items of similar weight. You can then see how your dog reacts. If your dog can’t handle the extra baggage, however, you might have to be the only backpack wearer during your adventure with your dog.

Does the breed of a dog affect its intelligence?

The short answer is yes, given the way you phrased the question. Numerous studies conclude that a dog’s breed does affect its intelligence, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that one breed is more intelligent than another.

Stanley Coren of the University of British Columbia addressed this very subject at last year’s American Psychological Association Convention. Coren gave a presentation with the topic of how dogs think. He said, “There are three types of intelligence: instinctive (what the dog is bred to do), adaptive (how well the dog learns from its environment to solve problems), and working and obedience (the equivalent of ‘school learning’).”

Based on the working and obedience part, Coren said, “Border collies are No. 1, poodles are second, German shepherds are third. Fourth on the list are golden retrievers; fifth, Doberman pinschers; sixth, Shetland sheepdogs; and finally, Labrador retrievers.” These rankings were based on data from 208 dog obedience judges from the United States and Canada.

Another important point to keep in mind is that individual intelligence also varies. A dog that may not solve certain problems, and another dog may be especially affectionate and play in more creative ways.

I have a 4-year-old male and a 3-year-old female miniature schnauzer. Over the past year, the male has been extremely jealous of the female, often resulting in a dogfight. He also jumps on her if she even so much as looks at him while he’s eating. What is causing this?

The problem you describe is common among dogs of many breeds. Miniature schnauzers vary tremendously in personality. Some miniature schnauzers spoil easily (because they are so cute and lovable) but have dominant personalities, as you've learned the hard way. A dog's level of dominance is partially determined by genetics, and puppies will even tend to show such qualities very early on. Your male dog is asserting his dominance in your pack, overpowering you and your female dog. You need to be the alpha force of your family. Has the male been neutered and the female spayed? Unneutered males tend to be more aggressive, but dominance problems can surface in neutered dogs too. Your dog needs a round of basic training and socialization from a trained professional. If you've done this before, a refresher course is due. Most pet stores offer such services, and you might also consult with your dogs' veterinarian for a recommendation.

My cocker spaniel likes to gently chew on a soft toy while moving his paws up and down in a digging motion. He sometimes falls asleep while performing this ritual. Why does he do this?

Not all dogs engage in this behavior, but those that do tend to be very gentle, sensitive souls. Kneading in cats is well-documented, but little research has gone toward dogs that do this past puppyhood. Some experts theorize that the phenomenon is tied to nursing motions that some adult dogs don't grow out of. A clue is that certain dogs ritually cuddle with particular toys before they sleep and may even try to nurse on the toys! Since your dog does something similar and the behavior often leads to sleep, the soft toy is obviously comforting to him and could be a substitute for the care he once received from his mother, or even from you. Dogs like this tend to be very close to their owners, requiring their company and protection. Some of them will even resort to laundry stealing, since the objects with your scent on them provide a welcome reminder of you. Orphaned puppies, or puppies that were taken away from their mothers at a young age, may additionally develop this "security blanket" habit. These resourceful pups sometimes seek out their mother's comfort elsewhere. Once the habit has been established, the dogs usually won't quit.

My dog is terrified of fireworks, to the point where it takes me hours to calm him down on the night of Fourth of July. How can I help ease his fears?

Fear of fireworks and other loud noises is very common in dogs. Their sensitive ears pick up every ka-boom. When you hear fireworks, you know exactly the noise is. For your dog, the explosion noises trigger the fight-or-flight “run for cover” reflex. For this reason, many owners report their dogs lost on either July 4 or 5.

It is imperative that all owners pay special attention to their dogs on the Fourth of July holiday or during any time when fireworks are to be featured. The Humane Society of the United States suggests that you take the following precautions:

  • Do not take your dog to fireworks displays. Keep your dog at home, ideally with a friend or sitter who can ensure your dog’s safety and provide a comforting presence.
  • Never leave your dog in the car while you go enjoy the fireworks and other festivities. Even if the weather is mild on this summer’s day, there is often not enough air in cars to keep dogs comfortable for long periods when the windows are rolled up. Plus, someone could take your dog.
  • Create a “safe room” in your house where your dog can chill out during noisy fireworks displays. If your dog feels more at home with the radio or television on as background noise, include those devices to provide some familiar sounds.
  • Don’t leave your dog alone outside on the Fourth of July. Dogs that normally stay put are likely to find ways of escaping when terror sets in.
  • Always keep identification on your dog. In the event that your dog does run away, at least it will have proper ID.
  • Hire a sitter. If you plan to go on vacation for the Fourth of July, be sure that a good sitter or trusted friend will be with your dog when the fireworks begin.

Finally, keep in mind that dogs with a strong aversion to loud noises usually cannot be trained to fully tolerate them. Some dogs even develop phobias to lightning and thunder, requiring medical attention. Your veterinarian can provide medication to help your dog relax, but use it only as a truly last resort. Consult with your veterinarian first before going the medication route.

My dog, Dingo, is jealous of my 1-year-old daughter. Whenever I play with her, he comes over and pushes her away, even though I give him attention at other times. How can I stop him from being so jealous?

You didn't mention how old Dingo is or how long he's lived with you, but if he was the "baby" of your house before your daughter came into the scene, this type of jealousy over someone changing the dog's previously cherished routine is quite common. In this regard, dogs aren't so different from humans. But dogs are hardwired to live in packs with a strict social order, unless one member challenges another to move up in rank. Since your daughter cannot really fight back, Dingo is getting the upper paw in this case. Ideally you should have reinforced "down" and "stay" commands at least a few months before your daughter was born. Right after that time, you should have given your dog positive attention -- verbal praise, treats, a rubdown -- whenever your daughter was present. By doing this, you would have helped him link your daughter with happy, desired moments. Other important commands to reinforce are "sit" when Dingo is near your daughter; "come" so he will approach you when called; and "let's go" to leave the area, should the jealousy arise again. At least it sounds like Dingo is not showing any dangerously threatening, aggressive behavior. Nevertheless, you should still supervise interactions between your daughter and Dingo. Your dog is used to the way you handle him, but your daughter's less predictable touch could cause your pet to react negatively.

I have a 4-year-old male and a 3-year-old female miniature Schnauzer. The male is extremely jealous of the female and won’t even let her eat in peace or sit in my lap without reacting. What could be causing this behavior and how can I stop it?

Showing aggression is one of the most common -- yet quite serious -- problems seen in dogs. There are different forms of this: possessive aggression (when a dog challenges others over favorite objects and people), territorial aggression (when a dog defends its territory, which may even include you) and dominant aggression (when a dog asserts its strength and status over another dog). There are other types, but it sounds like your dog displays all three of these. Neutering, if you haven't done that already, can solve many such problems. Also, depending on how your pet was raised as a puppy, or what training he has received, aggression can be something that emerges in very young dogs that they will not outgrow on their own: They must be properly trained and socialized. You need to assert your pack leadership over your male dog. When you tell him to stop doing something, he must learn to obey your commands. If your dog has already gone through basic training, regularly reinforce those exercises. For the sake of your younger female dog, yourself and your houseguests, you may want to try professional obedience training for your dog, even if this will be a refresher course. An experienced trainer can work with your pet over a period of time. If your dog is acting out among familiar faces, he's likely to be in an even more combative mood around complete strangers.

My female miniature Chihuahua/pincher has had an excitement-induced cough for two days. She was boarded at a veterinary hospital last week. What should I do?

While an excited dog may make a coughing sound, a persistent cough isn't just due to an emotional state. Sometimes older dogs with preexisting health issues, such as heart problems, can develop a cough when they are excited or after they exercise, but the increased adrenaline isn't the real cause of their hacking. Many illnesses can make your dog cough, and these include bronchitis, pneumonia, lungworms, heartworms, roundworms and heart disease. In your case, the most likely culprit is kennel cough, given that your dog was recently boarded. Kennel cough is a contagious upper respiratory infection. Although the coughing can sound horrible, the ailment is not usually serious. Antibiotics and cough suppressants can help, but schedule a veterinary visit to make sure this is the cause. If your dog does have kennel cough, the illness should clear up in a few weeks.

Do dogs need to warm up and stretch before exercising? We usually leave the house with no preparation.

Warming up and stretching are actually two different activities, in terms of dogs. According to sisters Sasha and Ashley Foster, authors of the book The Healthy Way to Stretch Your Dog, dogs should be stretched after exercise. They say research on human athletes has demonstrated that muscles need to warm up before being stretched. That principle, they believe, is no different for dogs. "Stretching before the body is heated can cause injury. We want the muscles nice and warm -- after a walk or a swim -- before we stretch," says Sasha Foster. The stretches increase blood flow to working muscles. This helps prevent muscle stiffness that could lead to future health problems. Doing the stretches also provides a good transition for your dog from activity to rest. You'll find that your pet will look forward to this extra quality time with you. An easy stretch to start off with is to get your dog to do a play bow. Hold a treat just out of reach until your dog fully stretches out its front legs. You can also manually stretch your dog's limbs by having it lie on its side. Very gently stretch each of your dog's legs out and hold for 5 to 10 seconds before releasing. Before you and your dog go out to exercise, however, you can get your pet's circulation going and give it an energy boost with a brief warm-up. For example, have your dog turn around in circles a few times, weave in and out of your legs, or otherwise move a bit more briskly before you bring up your dog's heart rate with the longer exercise.

Could it hurt a dog to keep it in its crate all day while I’m at work?

The answer is yes, although it depends on how long you are at work. Most experts say a dog should be in its crate for no longer than six to seven hours. Dogs need activity, so the confinement could hurt circulation and lead to health problems. You're most likely keeping your dog crated to prevent it from soiling parts of the house and from engaging in some other destructive habit, like pulling off bed covers or jumping on valued furniture. But keeping the dog crated for long periods could actually cause it to develop bladder problems. Dogs don't want to soil their sleeping/rest area, so they try to hold in waste for as long as possible. Eventually, nature could take its course, and the dog could even lose some of its crate training skills. If you plan to be away for longer than seven hours, and cannot let your dog out in your home, try to find a pet sitter to walk your dog in the middle of the day. A trusted neighbor who has the time could help with this duty.

I just got a new puppy and was wondering if I should start out crate training him with a big crate to use for his entire life or get a smaller crate just for the beginning.

One reason why crate training works is because dogs instinctually avoid soiling the places where they sleep. If your crate is too large, your puppy could just go in a corner and then move to another spot in the crate. Also, the crate is meant to be a rest area and not a house of play. Large crates promote the latter, again ruining the training process. A good rule of thumb is that the crate should be large enough for your dog to turn around in comfortably. It should be sturdy, so look for crates with metal bars, or a high-impact plastic body and metal grate. Your puppy may belong to a medium or large breed that will require you to invest in another, bigger crate later, but some dogs can use the same crate throughout their lifetime. Before placing your puppy in its new crate, encourage it to go to the bathroom. Next, place a soft blanket and a few toys in the crate, creating a welcoming environment for your new pet. Initially, only put your puppy in the crate for short periods, rewarding with a treat snack. Your pup will need to get used to the sense of confinement while also associating it with pleasant things.

What are the most suitable dogs for seniors?

While each and every dog has its own unique personality and temperament, it's true that some breeds might be better-suited for seniors than others. According to the American Kennel Club, you should first mull over the following questions: How active are you and how much exercise are you willing and able to give your dog? What are your favorite activities? Where do you live? How big is your family? How much do you travel? Do you have the financial resources to care for the dog? Should you get a puppy or an adult? Where will you obtain your dog? Assuming you are ready to now take the adoption leap, you can then select your desired and appropriate breed or mixed breed based on the above considerations. I know very active seniors with roomy yards who have enormous, young and very energetic dogs. And then I have other elderly friends with treasured smaller dogs better suited to apartment living. For most situations, you usually can't go wrong with one of these breeds: American Eskimo, Boston terrier, Chihuahua, cocker spaniel, Maltese, Pekingese, Pomeranian, schnauzer, Scottish terrier, shih tzu, toy poodle, Welsh corgi and Yorkshire terrier. Remember that adult dogs have often already been trained and been given their primary shots. Dogs in their own senior years are often passed over for puppies, so you might save a canine's life -- and improve your own -- by adopting an adult dog.

I recently got two dogs from a shelter, and my cats are not used to having them around. How can I get them used to the dogs so they won’t hide?

Dogs have an inherent "prey drive" to chase small animals, and unfortunately your cats could fall into that category. In fact, one of the most common reasons why cats run away from home is a new dog in the house, so I'm glad you are taking steps now to avoid that scenario from happening. Introducing your animals should occur over at least six stages: 1. Place your cats in a "safe" room that your dogs cannot access. This actually should have occurred when you first brought your new dogs home. Your dogs can then become acclimated to their new surroundings without torturing your cats. 2. Permit the dogs and cats to sniff each other through the door. They can communicate identity, intentions and other information through scent alone. 3. Introduce your cats to your dogs, keeping your dogs leashed and well-supervised. Offer treats to both dogs and cats so that each will associate such time spent together with a positive reward. 4. When you allow your dogs and cats to freely roam your house, make sure your cats have a place to retreat to if your dogs are in a particularly frisky or aggressive mood. A high window seat, shelf or gated room, for example, could all provide some cat security. 5. All of your pets should have their own feeding bowls and beds in separate locations. Litter boxes should also be kept away from the dogs' area. This is for the safety of your cats, which are vulnerable when they do their business, and for your dogs, which tend to investigate the box contents. 6. Pet and groom your cats with your dogs present. Your dogs will see that you value these other pack members and should fall in line with their own good behavior. With proper introductions and training, most dog-cat matches can work. Keep in mind, however, that dogs bred for regular hunting, such as terriers and greyhounds, might be less tolerant of cats than, say, a shih tzu, which has been used as a companion dog for ages.

Our dog went to the groomer and came back a different dog. He acts very withdrawn, has lost his appetite and sits frequently during walks. What should we do?

First, ask your veterinarian for a dog groomer recommendation. Also, the National Dog Groomers Association of America (NDGAA) grants the professional designation "national certified master groomer," so look for that or contact the NDGAA directly for recommendations within your area. There are many wonderful, experienced groomers, so your groomer most likely did not cause your dog's present condition, unless your pet caught an illness from another animal or from poorly sterilized equipment. Traumatic emotional experiences can lead to the symptoms you describe too, but usually those will diminish over time. Take your dog to the veterinarian for a checkup. An infection or other illness could make your dog tired, explaining the frequent sits during walks. It could also reduce his appetite and lead to behavioral changes, such as the antisocial, withdrawn demeanor you describe.

My 4-year-old female dachshund piddles when she gets excited. Otherwise, she’s perfectly potty trained. Is there anything we can do about this?

"Excitement urination" is a fairly common problem, especially for female dachshunds. Dogs that tend to be submissive in nature -- due to their size, genetics, sex and other factors -- are more prone to do this undesired behavior. Believe it or not, in the dog world, it's a sign of respect: The release sends a chemical, and very odiferous, message to the other dog or person about the piddler's non-threatening social standing. Have your dog checked by your veterinarian to rule out any underlying health issues, such as kidney and bladder infections, which can cause more frequent urination. Assuming your dog is healthy, try to identify what triggers its excitement. Often, owners leave their pets at home alone all day. When they return and greet the dogs, the combination of good company, attention, playtime and food could understandably bowl over any sensitive, loving animal. Many owners report that they pretend to ignore their dogs at first, letting them calm down before providing food and attention. Ask your guests to do the same. The goal isn't to disregard your dog's needs but to slowly calm everything down so your pet doesn't get emotionally overwhelmed. Another trick is to reinforce "sit" and "stay" commands with your dog. Using these commands when you greet your dog, and at other predictable piddle times, can help redirect its attention during moments when your pet is most excited.

My fiance and I want to get a new dog. He is allergic to cats but hasn’t shown signs of a dog allergy. Should we be cautious about getting a particular breed, and what are the best breeds for people with allergies?

Many people who are allergic to cats are not necessarily allergic to dogs, so it's possible that your fiance falls into that group. The culprits are usually proteins found in the animals' saliva, which dries, turns into dander and can become airborne. Since these proteins differ between cats and dogs, and cats lick themselves clean more often, cats tend to cause more allergic reactions in humans. Dog fur, however, can also retain such dander and may itself be an allergen to certain people. It can additionally serve as an irritant trap -- like an un-vacuumed carpet -- holding pollen, mold spores, dust and more. No matter the breed of dog you choose, it's important to bathe it once a month to keep such problems in check. If you clean your new dog too much, that can deplete healthy oils from its skin and fur. President Obama and his family faced a similar problem when trying to select a pet for their daughters, since Malia suffers from asthma. They chose Bo, the Portuguese water dog, because this breed produces little dander and doesn't shed often. According to the American Kennel Club, the following dog breeds are also recommended for allergy-prone individuals who are still interested in owning a dog: Bedlington terrier, bichon frise, Chinese crested, Irish water spaniel, Kerry blue terrier, Maltese, poodle, schnauzer, soft-coated wheaten terrier and Xoloitzcuintli (aka Mexican Hairless Dog).

Two months ago, I adopted a 3-year-old German shepherd mix. I have taken her to obedience training class and taught her basic commands, but she does not pay attention to me when we go to new places. How can I get her to listen to me?

Dogs are born party animals. Even well-trained dogs will show curiosity and interest in new people and places. Properly trained dogs, however, should not panic, bark, run away, show aggression or ignore the commands of their owners. You've only had your dog for a few months, so I think you need to reinforce the basic commands. When walking your dog on its leash, your pet should not resist moving, pull back or attempt bolting. It should also be able to sit on command, stay in position, and accept unfamiliar dogs and people. When at home, try dropping a book about 10 feet behind your dog. (Some experts use this as a simple test to determine how dogs react to sudden noises/happenings). Your dog should pay attention, as most of us would, but it shouldn't freak out and start to bark. If she does, that means she is reacting too much to distractions. You can also try putting your dog through her training paces in public. Follow the skills you both learned in the obedience training classes, and be prepared to reward your dog verbally and with treats for good behavior. Set aside time to do this so that when you need to go out and focus on other activities, your dog will be ready for the outing too.

A friend brought booties and a sweater for my dog, but my collie refuses to wear them, even on the coldest days. How can I get my pet to wear these items and feel comfortable in them?

Dogs are conscious of what's on their fur and skin, and for good reason. Parasites, thorns and other items can become embedded in dog fur, so dogs are sensitive to foreign objects and will often check for them. The sweater and booties probably trigger this natural "get rid of it" reflex. First, make sure that the items are the right size for your dog. Canines may feel uncomfortable in ill-fitting clothing just as we do. Use a cloth tape measure to figure out the dimensions of your dog's body, chest, neck and legs. To determine shoe size, be sure to measure around the widest part of your dog's paws. You then will have to train your dog to wear the clothing. Begin by introducing the items to her. Let her sniff and get used to them. Have her sit and stay, then introduce the items again and praise her, perhaps with a small treat. Next, put one of the items on her. Praise your dog and offer another food reward. Remove the item and then put it on your dog once more, this time for a longer period. Praise and reward her. Continue doing this for gradually longer stretches of time. If your dog seems particularly fidgety, you might have to stop and try again on another day when she's in a more accepting mood.

I’ve heard that dogs can learn up to 100 words. Is that true, and if so, why 100? How can I teach new words to my dog?

The estimate of 100 was based on findings that dogs have language comprehension skills comparable to those of adult apes, adult parrots and 3-year-old humans. Other species probably could be included on that list, but more studies have been conducted on the aforementioned animals. Psychologist Stanley Coren, who has studied dog intelligence, thinks dogs can learn 160 words and possibly more. The number of limitations have to do with how much knowledge your dog's brain can store concerning auditory representations of people, places and things. Vocabulary-building lessons for your pet are fun, and your dog should enjoy the extra attention and mental stimulation. Similar to teaching basic commands, you need to get your dog to associate the spoken word to the behavior, object or individual. Speak clearly, have patience and remember that dogs learn through repetition. They also understand visual signals, so try to create a unique hand signal or gesture for each word. That way, your dog will have both the verbal and visual cue.

Which common garden plants are poisonous to dogs?

Many plants are poisonous to dogs, and there is the added danger that "safe" plants may have been exposed to fertilizers, pesticides and compounds that could hurt your dog. Animals with illnesses might also have investigated the plants beforehand, so there are many compelling health reasons why your dog should not consume garden plants. Laburnum trees, mistletoe, all sorts of fungi and plant bulbs can be toxic to dogs if they ingest them. Other potentially poisonous plants are columbine, hemlock, oleander, yew, lupine, boxwood, clematis, ivy and lily of the valley. In early spring, when dogs tend to go outside more and people start working on their gardens, dogs often wind up at the veterinary office due to ingestion of plants. If your pet has access to your garden, be sure to landscape your yard with plants that aren't known to be poisonous to dogs.

How often should I walk or jog with my dog each week?

A very general guideline is that healthy, active dogs should receive about half an hour of aerobic exercise at least three to four times a week. That exercise could be a brisk walk, swimming, jogging, fetch or other activity that will bring up your dog's heart rate. If you can do these activities with your dog, you will benefit too. Beyond that basic recommendation, many factors affect how often and for how long you should walk or otherwise exercise your dog. One is whether your dog is indoors-only or if it has some access to a midsized to large yard throughout the day. Another consideration is dog breed and size. Long-legged dogs generally need to walk longer distances than short-legged ones, which must move faster for each of your own steps. Certain breeds, like huskies and terriers, were bred for stamina. These dogs can usually run and play for long periods of time. It's a myth, however, that greyhounds make good jogging partners. They can reach high running speeds but only over short distances.

I have a pit bull terrier and would love to eventually get another dog. How can I make sure my pit bull won’t get jealous or aggressive?

Pit bulls have gained a bad reputation in recent years due to poor management and breeding practices enacted by a relatively small percentage of people. The reality is that the majority of bull and terrier breeds -- such as your pit bull terrier, the Staffordshire bull terrier and more -- make well-mannered pets as long as they come from a reputable breeder and have been properly socialized. Ideally, your dog was exposed to other people and animals in a positive, nurturing environment starting at no later than seven to eight weeks of age. However, your expression of concern over your dog potentially getting jealous and aggressive is a hint that your dog may not have been properly socialized or that it needs an obedience refresher course. Such classes allow you to introduce your pet to unfamiliar people and other dogs under very controlled, supervised conditions. Local humane societies, pet stores and other places often hold these classes.

What is the best way to curb the nonstop barking of a miniature dachshund?

Dachshunds were bred to bark. In the past, the body shape and size of these unique, social canines made them perfect for smelling, chasing and digging out underground prey. They would then alert their owners by letting out excited barks. On the upside, you have one of the world's best alarm systems. Dachshunds, as you suggest, tend to bark at anything and everyone. Barking is self-rewarding to some extent: It's a release for your dog. Besides, some attention from you is better than none, so even if you answer the barking call with a scold, your dog still succeeds in bringing you near. It's much easier to reward silence than it is to punish barking. When your dog goes on his next yipping spree, call your pet to you and give the "sit" and "stay" commands. Your dog should know these already. If not, a basic training or refresher course is in order. When your dog is still and silent, reward the good behavior with a treat, praise and attention. With a similar process, you can also train your dog to bark on command. Save that lesson for later, though, because you don't want your pup to confuse the two orders.

My small dog seems to be shaking when I walk him in the cold. Should I put a coat on him for the winter, or does he have his own way of staying warm?

Protection from the cold can be a life-or-death matter for all dogs, and this is especially true for small breeds. Your dog is shivering in a futile attempt to stay warm, so you should either limit his outdoor exposure or buy him properly sized booties and a warm coat (or other appropriate clothing). Dogs, like all mammals, experience heat loss that's proportional to the surface area of their bodies. The heat created by their bodies is, in turn, proportional to their mass. Large, warm-blooded animals generally create more heat than they lose, but the ratio can easily go out of balance for tiny dogs exposed to cold conditions. Many toy and small breeds -- such as Chihuahuas, miniature pinschers and toy terriers -- don't possess thick coats and other body structures that can help these pups tolerate much cold. Problems can even occur indoors, so make sure your house is kept at a comfortable temperature for both you and your dog.

I live in an apartment with toddlers. What is a good, small dog for my family?

Before you limit yourself to a certain size of dog, keep in mind that large dogs don't always fare poorly in smaller spaces. An easygoing golden retriever, for example, might actually be better-suited to apartment life than would an energetic schnauzer. A lot has to do with the temperament and lifestyle of the individual dog. Mixed breeds often get a bad rap, but they frequently provide the best of all worlds in terms of temperament, care, health and more. It depends on the individual and his or her particular breed history. You might look for a beagle, bichon frise, poodle or a terrier breed and mix, since these dogs tend to be friendly and smart. Cairn terriers are often favorites for families with toddlers, since these dogs usually love to play but also tend to have a gentle disposition.

My Yorkie licks his nose for about one hour every night and sometimes starts whining. Why is he doing this?

There are a few different reasons your Yorkie could be repeatedly licking his nose and whining at night. Your dog may be feeling anxious and alone at this time, since both nose licking and whining are two ways that dogs communicate submission and distress to others. Cats often lick themselves when they feel anxious, as a means to calm down. It's thought that nose licking in dogs also helps to ease tension. Your dog could, of course, also be suffering from an infection or an obstruction in his nose. If you haven't done so already, be sure to discuss the matter with your veterinarian. Once possible underlying health issues are ruled out, you can better address what might be stressing out your Yorkie at night. If stress is indeed the problem, try to spend time playing with your dog in the evening -- but not just before bedtime, because you don't want to wind him up too much then. Before the lights go out, provide reassuring attention. Make sure your pet has a comfortable, quiet, clean and safe place to sleep.

Can dogs suffer from osteoporosis? My doctor recently recommended that I take calcium supplements, so I was wondering if similar supplements could have benefits for my dog.

Osteoporosis is the thinning of bone tissue and the loss of bone density over time. Dogs can suffer from this disease, which may make their bones more prone to fracture. The disease is extremely common in humans, with more than 28 million Americans suffering from osteoporosis. Dogs that consume a meat-only diet are more susceptible to getting osteoporosis. It is very important that you feed your dog a well-balanced, high-quality diet. Calcium is usually added to dog food. It’s often listed as calcium carbonate and/or calcium pantothenate. Reputable manufacturers spend tremendous resources and effort investigating how much calcium and other nutrients should be included in their products. As a result, your dog’s food should contain just the right amount of these nutrients, so supplements are not necessary. In some rare cases, veterinarians will prescribe calcium for fast-growing breeds. For most dogs, however, supplements are not helpful and can even lead to other health problems.

My dog is fed a high-quality diet, but he’s always trying to grab meals off my dinner table. What can I do to prevent him from stealing human food?

In addition to being hunters, wolves are scavengers by nature, so dogs have inherited the trait. To a scavenger, the world is its food bowl, which helps to explain why your dog might also try to nibble seemingly unpalatable things. In his mind, he’s not stealing. He’s grabbing a free and available bite to eat. Chances are your dog has grabbed food off your table more than once. Your dog felt rewarded, so the behavior was reinforced. He probably remembers the treats more than he does your scolding. To teach your dog better dinner manners, feed him only out of his bowl. Otherwise, he might associate his food with human plates and your dinner table. Teach your dog to sit before you put his filled bowl down in front of him. Doing so allows your dog to learn that he must obey you before eating. He will therefore not be so inclined to “steal” food when your back is turned.

I’m pet sitting for a neighbor soon, and I might have to carry her puppy as well as her adult dog. Is there a correct way to lift and carry these different-sized dogs?

While it’s best to use a leash, there are times when any caretaker might need to lift and carry a dog. It’s good to know the proper way to do this. If you hold a dog incorrectly, such as with both hands behind the forepaws, it could cause the animal substantial discomfort. With a squirming puppy or otherwise fidgeting dog, it could also cause the canine to get loose, possibly putting itself and others in danger. This technique is best for a puppy, but it works for most dogs too: Begin by placing one of your hands under the dog’s chest, behind its two front paws. Place your other hand under the stomach area. When you lift, allow the dog’s legs to rest on your arms, and cradle the legs for support. Keep the tail tucked in to avoid it getting hurt should the dog accidentally fall out of your arms or jump.

My dog’s eyes seem to glow at night. Am I just imagining this? If not, why do they glow?

Dogs’ eyes do indeed glow at night. The effect is produced by a part of your dog’s eye called “tapetum.” This mirror-like structure is located at the back of your dog’s eye. It reflects light, so even the faintest amount of light shining on your dog in near-darkness will make your pet’s eyes glow.

The reflection allows your dog’s retina to register more light, permitting better vision in dimness. How much better? Your dog can see in light that is five times dimmer than you can see in, according to Dr. Paul Miller, a veterinary ophthalmologist and professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Miller discovered this after extensively studying canine vision.

Your dog’s cool nighttime glow and good evening vision, however, come with a minor price, says Miller. Perfect human vision is described as 20:20. Dogs have 20:80 vision, he explains, since the tapetum scatters light, causing a slight degradation.

Why do dogs “kiss” each other? And is it OK to accept a slobbery lick in the face from a dog?

Many mammals kiss in different ways, and dogs and humans each have their own unique methods for doing this. Believe it or not, kissing can be a dangerous gesture, because any kind of greeting with the mouth or face exposes that more vulnerable part of the body and leaves the individual almost defenseless in the moment. The face could be attacked if the recipient isn’t quite so friendly.

When a dog licks the muzzle of another dog, it is usually deferring to the recipient dog’s hierarchy. The lick is a sign of respect and affection. Dogs also take note of the licker’s smell during the “kiss,” which can reveal the individual’s gender, breed, health and what it recently ate.

If your dog kisses you in such a manner, consider yourself lucky: The lick is like the dog version of a belated holiday gift or a bouquet of roses. Your dog respects your higher position in the pack and views you with fondness. A dog-slobbered face can be a bit undesirable, however, so some owners train their pets to paw-shake or to have the dog rest its head in the owner’s lap instead of licking.

I have a 4-year-old Aussie that is coughing and sounding worse. Her cough is especially noticeable when she is excited. Any suggestions?

Coughing can be a symptom of a variety of problems in dogs. Kennel cough is a contagious illness that causes inflammation to your dog’s voice box and windpipe. While the resulting cough can sound really horrible, kennel cough usually clears up after a couple of weeks and certainly wouldn’t persist for months unless your dog has a more serious underlying infection. Other bacterial or viral diseases can lead to coughing as well. Sometimes an afflicted dog will stretch out its neck, make a gagging sound and then cough. Bronchitis and pneumonia, which target the lungs, could cause such chronic coughing, as could certain allergies or an obstruction in your dog’s airway. Your dog should be thoroughly examined by a veterinarian. If your veterinarian rules out infection and obstructions, ask about allergies and possible behavioral issues. It’s interesting, for example, that the coughing happens more when your dog is excited, so it could just be that she needs more socialization to help eliminate all of that excessive barking.

I just adopted a 9-month-old American Staffordshire terrier, and she slept in the bed with her foster mom. Is there anything I can do to get her to start sleeping in her own bed?

Aside from the fact that your terrier is used to sleeping in the “human bed,” she probably loves the extra warmth and its roomy size. Nevertheless, dogs aim to please their owners, so you can train her to sleep in her own doggy bed. Make sure that the bed you bought for her is soft and comfortable, with a washable cover that will hold body warmth on chilly nights. Take the dog bed cover off and place it between your own bedcovers. Keep it there for a few days where it can absorb your scent, which may not even be perceptible to you on the cover. Place the cover back on your dog’s bed. When it’s sleep time, direct your dog to the bed while saying, “Go to your bed.” Like “stay” or “sit,” be consistent with the “go to your bed” phrase. A treat or toy “bribe” sometimes helps, but you don’t want to train your dog to expect that reward every time. It’s better to use the basic “down” command once your dog goes on its own bed. Over time, your dog should associate the combination of commands with snoozing on its own bed. Once your pet learns this, be sure to wash the bed cover on a regular basis, just as you do your own bedding.

I have just brought home a 2-year-old Lab, but now my 7-year-old dog keeps showing her teeth to the new dog and also tries to attack her. How can we get her to stop?

It sounds like a refresher separation is in order. Try crating your new dog,= while letting your 7-year-old have run of the house. During that time she can familiarize herself with this new dog’s presence without feeling so threatened. Your new dog will be safer as well. Next, reverse the crating, allowing the new dog run of your house. Both dogs should become more familiar with each other during this time. When signs of aggression diminish, release both dogs but do not allow them to interact with each other unsupervised. You didn’t mention what breed your 7-year-old is, but you can try keeping a water bottle at hand by squirting her gently in the face to break up fights. This sometimes won’t work with larger dogs, which need to be on a leash for better control until the fighting stops. It sounds like your dogs have not established a pack order. This should occur over time, and you may need to consult a trainer or other dog behavior expert to facilitate the process. Once your dogs do settle on a pecking order, respect that to avoid creating confusion for your dogs.

My dog seems to have a mild skin allergy -- scratching and biting at her hindquarters and paws. My pet seems uncomfortable, what should I do?

If your dog is scratching and biting at its hindquarters and paws often, then she could have any number of problems. A big concern is that a bacterial skin infection has set in, so you might want to check back with your veterinarian, or even consult another pet health specialist, to rule out that possibility.

Allergies result when the immune system overreacts to something. Identifying what that “something” is can be a challenge. Possibilities include pollen, dust, shampoo or food. Dogs will also sometimes bite and scratch right after their coats have been clipped. Hypoallergenic shampoos for dogs are available, as are foods meant for canines with allergies.

Major manufacturers are now offering veterinary formula pet foods that target skin and coat problems. Ask your veterinarian about those. You might also ask your veterinarian about anti-inflammatory medications, but those will only temporarily relieve your pet’s apparent discomfort. It’s better to have an expert fully diagnose the cause of the allergy or other health problem before moving forward with any treatments.

My small terrier can be very aggressive. Is it true that neutering him will stop most of his aggressive behavior?

Aggression is often tied to an animal’s hormonal cycles; however, your dog may also require behavioral modification. Neutering your small terrier may help to eliminate your dog’s aggression problem. Unless an owner plans to breed the dog, all canines should be spayed or neutered for various compelling reasons; aggression prevention is just one of them.

In terms of neutering, males that undergo this procedure have a reduced risk for later prostate problems. Your terrier will also roam and fight less. Urine marking is additionally tied to the mating cycle, so your dog will not be as inclined to soil your favorite carpeting, furniture and more.

Neutering also helps to keep dog populations in check. It’s a very sad fact that more than eight million dogs and cats are put down each year because they are not adopted. In general, only one in four dogs find a home, so the statistics are stacked against your dog’s puppies, should your pet breed.

It’s best to neuter dogs between 2 and 6 months of age. Consult with your veterinarian; if your terrier is older, it should be neutered as soon as possible.

My English mastiff is very afraid of people and runs away from anyone. How can I get rid of her fear, since I’ve heard fear can turn into aggression?

You are quite right that fear can turn into aggression. In fact, recent studies on dog aggression show that some of the smallest dog breeds are actually the most notorious biters, since their tiny size makes them feel easily threatened by others. Although mastiffs, weighing more than 80 pounds, don’t fall into that category, it’s still important to quickly resolve this problem.

Keep in mind a couple of things. First, fear of people and a tendency to overreact to common stimuli are very common in mastiffs, so you’re not alone. Second, both fear and aggression can stem from the same root problem: antisocial behavior.

Try to spend at least an hour each day with your dog, exposing her to various social situations in a slow, gentle and non-threatening manner. You might find Dr. Patricia McConnell’s book The Cautious Canine to be of some help and guidance. Working with a professional dog trainer will yield the best results. Ask your veterinarian for recommendations and check out the Association of Pet Dog Trainers Web site for names of members in your area.

My 2-year-old yellow Labrador retriever wakes me up in the wee hours but doesn’t need to go to the bathroom. How can I break this habit?

A 2-year-old yellow Labrador retriever is usually full of playful energy. Your night owl dog apparently likes to work off some of that energy at odd hours. One suggestion is to take your dog for a brisk walk or to conduct an intense play session before bedtime. This should make your pet more inclined to snooze than wake you up.

Your dog could also need a training refresher course, since any kind of irritating activity like this falls under unwanted behavior. Assuming the dog will sit and stay on command, it should also be taught the “down” command. This involves the dog sitting at the owner’s side, with a food treat used to prompt the dog’s appropriate legs-forward position.

Once your dog has aced the “sit,” “stay” and “down” commands, it can graduate to the ever helpful “go to your bed” command, which is really a combination of all three of the aforementioned commands. A properly trained dog should know that when it hears this order, it’s bedtime without argument.

I was given a 2-year-old Pomchi, which was very nervous when it first came into my care. Its old owners would like to come see her, but I’m worried that this will cause confusion and anxiety for her. Should I allow them to see her?

The Pomchi is a cross between a Pomeranian and a Chihuahua. They make wonderful, loyal pets but do tend to be a bit nervous at times and untrusting of strangers. That’s true for many dogs, but especially so for smaller breeds like the Pomchi. On the up side, they are often good barking watchdogs as a result of their vigilance and loyalty to their owners.

Your dog is still quite young but was most likely a puppy when her former owners had her. Puppies and young dogs tend to bond faster to people when they are about 8 months to 1 year old. This is a period when they readily absorb life’s experiences along with everything -- and everyone -- around them.

It’s perfectly normal that she was skittish when she initially came into your home, since all dogs need time to adjust. But now that she has bonded with you, I see no problem in allowing her former owners to visit. Just show her how much you love her through verbal praise, playtime and petting, and she won’t forget your kindness. Dogs, like humans, may have their unpredictable pooch and people preferences, but it’s hard to resist a caring owner. You are likely her pack leader now.

Our 13-week-old shih tzu is still not potty trained. How do we get him to tell us when he needs to go out?

Dogs often want to relieve themselves after waking up, eating, drinking, playing and doing other activities. The urge could occur every few hours, since your pet is still a young pup. Generally, a dog will sniff the ground and/or start to move around in a circle beforehand. When you see this or cue into other similar signals, place some newspaper in the designated space for your dog to use. If the designated spot is outside, take your dog to that area when your pet needs to go. Always direct your dog to the same spot, using the same travel route.

Doggy litter boxes are also available now. Cats have had them for years, so why not dogs? Some feature an attractant that encourages a dog to do its business, and even fake grass to provide a somewhat authentic “call of nature” experience.

I’m going to a campground for vacation and want to take along my two Yorkies, but they constantly bark. The campground rules state that only quiet pets are welcome. What can I do?

Your dog chorus duo sounds rather amusing, but probably not when people are trying to sleep, read or relax nearby. Most dogs bark to signal hunger, boredom, anxiety, aggression, playfulness and other emotions.

You may be unintentionally reinforcing the barking. Sometimes, attention-seeking pets would rather have you come to yell at them to “shut up” than have no attention at all. The solution is to train each of your dogs to be “quiet” on command.

Separate your dogs so that you can work with one at a time. When your dog barks, say “Quiet!” in a firm voice while placing your hand over your dog’s muzzle. When your dog is quiet, offer verbal praise, perhaps in combination with a bit of doggie biscuit. Over time, your dog should come to associate being quiet with something pleasant and will follow your instruction.

If the problem persists, you may have to hire a professional trainer to help you out. Pet stores also sell anti-barking collars that spray a smelly yet nontoxic mist whenever your dog barks. I would use those as a true last resort, however, and rely more on patient training of your bark-happy dogs.

I have a 3-year-old Weimaraner, and I am adopting another 8-month-old pup from a rescue center. How should I introduce them?

You are off to a good start, since introducing a new dog to a home that has a resident adult dog is easier when the second dog is a puppy. Your 8-month-old is already into puberty but is young enough to not be too much of a threat to your 3-year-old Weimaraner.

Confine your adult dog to a specific part of your house, where it will be out of sight when the younger pup arrives. Let your new dog roam around the house. It will detect the scent of your adult dog and realize it’s not alone.

It is best to introduce the two dogs on neutral ground, such as on the sidewalk in front of your house. Keep them both leashed and supervise them closely at this time. If they get along, continue to supervise their interactions, but your dogs should work out territory and pack-order issues on their own.

If they don’t tolerate each other during this first introduction, you may have to crate the new dog for a while, giving your older dog time to adjust. Then reverse the crating, giving your new pup run of the house. Over time, your dogs should accept each other’s presence and develop a closer bond.

I am leaving on vacation and have a sitter for my house and dogs. How can I make my Chihuahuas feel more comfortable about my leaving them for a week?

Since dogs are creatures of habit, their happiness and comfort level is often tied to anticipating something good -- like breakfast -- and then getting it when they expect it. Your pet sitter should try to follow your Chihuahuas’ usual daily schedule so your dogs feel better about the situation.

Before your trip, have your pet sitter come to your home and visit with your dogs. If possible, also introduce your sitter to a neighbor who will be home during your vacation, especially if the sitter will be staying in your home throughout the duration of your trip.

In a prominent spot in your home, such as on the refrigerator door, post information about each of your dogs, including their medications, favorite foods and leash locations. Other important information includes contact numbers for your veterinarian and the local pet emergency hospital, as well as instructions about operating your home’s thermostat.

Finally, anticipate any problems you have faced before. The more preparation you do ahead of time, the better off your sitter and your Chihuahuas will be while you’re enjoying the trip.

I would love to bring my dog to work with me at my office, but am I just dreaming?

You’re not alone in that thought. Pet Sitters International holds a Take Your Dog to Work Day event, which has the appropriate motto: “It’s the leash you can do.” In fact, there’s evidence that dogs promote productivity, creativity and teamwork, which all businesses value.

Consult with your colleagues first to see how they feel about the idea; some may be allergic or afraid of dogs. But if they all agree to the idea and necessary permissions can be granted, set aside some ground rules to make the plan work.

For example, electrical cords should be out of your dog’s reach, along with potentially toxic items, like correction fluid. Dogs must still be fed and walked regularly, with pooper-scooper in hand. Each dog should have its own crate that serves as a familiar resting spot. It also helps to have toys and treats on hand when making introductions to colleagues and visitors. For more general information, please visit the Take Your Dog Web site.

My dog loves to stick its head out of the car window while I'm driving, but is that safe?

Dogs aren't the only ones that enjoy this activity. The "air massage" against a head or hand sticking out of a car can be a pleasant sensation for kids too. When driving in a remote area, it's also a fun way to teach children about the physics of flight, since an outstretched hand can illustrate the sensation of air uplift underneath the hand.

That said, it's not a good idea to allow any of your passengers -- human or canine -- to stick their head or limbs outside the window, particularly in busy, urban areas. Rocks, glass or even worse objects could cause severe injury. You can, however, roll down the window just enough to let your dog feel a small wind rush. Pet stores also sell safety goggles for dogs, which offer some protection if your dog must place its head outside the car window -- but be prepared for a lot of bemused stares!

I just brought home a new puppy and am eager to teach her as much as I can. How can I best socialize my pup so that she will bond with my family, behave well, be as smart as possible and develop confidence?

A critical learning period for your puppy is when she is between 4 and 14 weeks old. During this time, she will absorb information about the world that could affect her for the rest of her life. It is therefore important that you expose her to as many different places, people and experiences as possible. When doing so, make sure these times are positive and quell any fears you detect. We humans undergo a similar period of intense learning, only ours goes further into childhood and adolescence.

Usually, puppies that encounter cats at this time can later bond with felines, so try to introduce your dog to a cat during this period. A trick to get your puppy geared up for future veterinary office visits is to place your pet on your washing machine when it is turned off. The height and slippery surface mimic the metal tables at veterinary clinics, allowing your pet to get accustomed to this sensation in a more relaxed environment.

Is it a myth that you shouldn't bring your dog to a firework display? A friend told me that loud noises may frighten my dog but won't do any real harm.

The loud explosions could hurt your dog's more sensitive hearing, depending on how close you get to the fireworks. Some dogs become so traumatized by the sounds that they actually may cower and shiver or try to escape. Dogs have even been known to run for their lives through an open door or window during city firework displays. It's best to leave your pet at home in a quiet, closed room. For company while you're gone, you can leave a radio or television on at normal volume to help establish a more familiar sound environment for your dog.

Now that we're well into spring, I'm concerned about heartworm, as I've heard that it is more common in dogs at this time of year. Should I take extra precautions for my pet?

Heartworms are insidious little parasitic worms that can live in the heart and lungs of your dog. They can cause heart malfunction, which may lead to organ failure and even death. Infected mosquitoes help spread heartworms when they bite their victims. During the spring, your dog has a greater chance of being exposed to this insect vector, due to larger numbers of mosquitoes and more time spent outside. Even indoor-only dogs are at risk, since mosquitoes can enter your home.

All dogs 6 months and older should receive regular blood tests for heartworm. Some veterinarians recommend that dogs receive monthly heartworm medication all year long, but you should consult with your own veterinarian on this matter. Mosquitoes can carry other parasites and diseases, as well, so an added prevention step is to make sure your window screens have no tears, holes or other gaps. Hardware stores carry screen repair kits if you need to hold off on replacing the entire screen at this time.

I've read that antifreeze is so poisonous to dogs that owners should try to buy a special kind. Is that true, and if so, what should I buy for my car?

Most antifreeze mixtures contain a chemical called ethylene glycol. It has a sweet taste that appeals to many pets, not to mention wildlife that might come across it, which is what makes it so dangerous. Just a little lick can prove fatal. Studies show that only one teaspoon of antifreeze can kill a 7-pound animal.

To prevent this from happening, keep your car well serviced and clean up any kind of auto fluid leaks. As for the antifreeze you should buy, look for products containing propylene glycol -- which is also found in some toy snow globes -- instead of ethylene glycol. Propylene glycol is far less toxic if ingested.

I would love to get a dog, but I work long hours and worry that I wouldn't have enough time to devote to pet care, mostly in terms of keeping the dog company. Should I forgo the idea?

Not necessarily. As long as you can devote proper time to basic pet care, such as feeding, cleaning, grooming, walking and regular veterinarian visits, your dog should be OK. That, however, doesn't address the loneliness your pet might feel when you are away. You might at first balk at this suggestion, but you would probably be better off adopting two dogs instead of one, if your living arrangement allows for it. Canines are pack animals and enjoy the company of others. If you can properly take care of your dogs, they can also help to take care of themselves, in terms of keeping themselves company when you are away. Never leave a dog alone for more than a day or so, though, even if other canine company is around. If you need to travel for business or pleasure, be sure to get a dog sitter or board your pet at a kennel.

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