Dear Matthew: I have a black lab-Newfoundland cross that weighs in at 120 pounds. He will obey me except when there are other people around.
He loves to socialize. When I have him on a leash to go be groomed, the moment he gets a whiff of the front door, he drags me - all 195 pounds of me. When we walk in my rural neighborhood, I have no problem. He loves all people, dogs, children and cats, and he even tried to make friends with a nice little black kitty with a white stripe!How do I get him to pay attention to ME when in company or where many other dogs have been?
- Joanne in Litchfield, N.H.
Dear Joanne: They say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, and that's also true for dogs. The best way to have your pet pay attention to you is to have some kind of treat or snack that you can give him when he behaves correctly.
Put your dog on a leash, and take him out for a walk. If he starts to go off after people or other animals, give the leash a strong pull and say "No!" Once he stops pulling and gets himself under control, lavish him with praise and give him a treat.
If you do this every time your dog is around strangers, he'll begin to learn what is and is not expected of him. And he'll start to pay more attention to the instructions you're giving him.
I'd like to add, however, that your dog's behavior probably means he needs to be put through a complete training course. A well-trained dog is much easier to handle than one that is undisciplined - especially when that dog weighs over 100 pounds. I'd recommend you buy a good dog book or enroll you and your pet in a training course. Trust me, the work will pay off!
Dear Matthew: We have a 2-year-old cat, which my wife and I bought when we first moved in together right after college. Tammy, the cat, has always seemed very happy - both with us and with her surroundings.
Lately, however, she seems rather listless. She isn't jumping around the way she used to, and it seems she spends most of the time sleeping. Recently, both my wife and I started full-time jobs, so we aren't around the house much to entertain her anymore. Could she be getting lonely?
My wife thinks we should get her another cat to play with and keep her company while we're gone. We live in a two-bedroom apartment, so I think there's enough room for both of them. What do you think? And if we get a new kitten, how should we go about introducing them? Thanks for your help.
- Luke and Jean in Houston, Texas
Dear Luke and Jean: They have a term for what your cat is experiencing - it's called growing up. Do you run around nearly as much as you did when you were a kid? Probably not. So don't be surprised when your adult cat stops doing kitty-like things.
While it may seem that Tammy is sleeping her days away, she's probably just keeping different hours from you. When you're away at work or asleep, she very well may be up and active. Unless your cat starts gaining weight, I wouldn't worry about her perceived laziness.
Now, should you get another kitten? Well, if your only reason for getting one is to keep your cat active and happy, the answer is no -since your cat probably isn't lonely and isn't too lazy. Also remember that cats are generally solitary creatures that don't really need other cats to keep them company. If you bring a new kitten home, you may just be stirring up more problems, rather than solving anything.
But if you do decide to get another kitten, a two-bedroom apartment should provide enough room for both of them to live happily. And since it sounds like Tammy is a rather sedate cat, the introduction should be fairly easy.
When you bring the new kitten home, put it in a separate room from Tammy - so they can smell each other's presence but not actually meet face to face.
A few days later, switch rooms, so the cats will get even more used to each other's smell. Finally, after about a week, try an introduction. Don't force the animals together, just open the door so they can meet at their own leisure. As long as the cats don't start clawing each other, allow the meeting to progress. If there is any trouble, go back to isolating them in separate rooms, and then try the introduction again later.
So, the bottom line is this: Don't get another cat because you feel like Tammy needs a companion - she's probably just fine. But if you want to get one for your own personal reasons, go right ahead. Just take it slowly, and your cat will adjust.