Dear Matthew: We moved into a new house a couple of months ago. Instead of a mailbox, we have a slot in the door.
Our dog seems obsessed with the mail slot! I keep her in the kitchen while I'm at work. When I open the gate, she tears to the door, picks up the mail and shakes it. If I don't get there soon enough, it's shredded. She runs to the door often and barks at it. She jumps up to the slot and tries to bite it.At first, it was funny, but now, it's getting old. Any suggestions?
- Marge in Bowie, Md.
Dear Marge: I have the feeling your dog considers the mail slot a chew-toy dispenser. Once a day, she gets a nice, fun treat pushed through the slot for her to play with.
Of course, when your dog's chew toy happens to be an important check or letter, it's no longer fun and games - so I can understand how the humor of the situation has worn off quickly. And, to be honest, the fact that you tolerated this behavior at first has probably worsened the problem and will make it a harder habit to break. You need to take immediate steps to make sure this puppy's habit doesn't become an adult obsession.
The first thing you might want to consider is spraying the incoming mail with a product called Bitter Apple before you open the gate and let your dog out. This product will make the mail taste unpleasant and should significantly reduce the likelihood that she'll pounce on your letters.
Another option is to attach a leash to your dog before you let her out. When she runs to where the mail is, give the leash a firm tug and say "no!" Once she stops and moves away from the mail, lavish her with praise and affection. At that point, you might also want to give her an acceptable chew toy, in the hopes that she'll find that more interesting than your mail.
And if worst comes to worst, you can always make sure the dog is somewhere else when the mail comes and that you get to it first. But with a little work, you should be able to train your dog that it's better if she doesn't act as your canine mail-sorter.
Dear Matthew: My husband and I have two indoor cats (and one dog). We feed the cats a half can in the morning and a half can at night. Our problem is that both cats throw up frequently.
At first, I thought the dog was upsetting the cats while they were eating, so I separated them, and the cats are fed in the other room by themselves. The problem is still persisting, and my carpets are getting ruined.
Do you have any suggestions? We love our animals dearly and consider them our children. We want them to be happy and healthy.
- Julie in Albany, N.Y.
Dear Julie: There could be a number of reasons why your cats seem to have unusually upset tummies. It could be that they're under a lot of stress; it could be the type of food you're giving them, or it might be some other medical condition.
If your dog is a new arrival, then it could definitely be having an impact on your cats' eating habits. Cats are creatures of habit and are very sensitive to environmental changes - a major change in their routine, whether it be a move or a new arrival in the house - could put them out of balance.
A more likely culprit, however, is the type of food you're giving the kitties. Canned cat food (the wet variety) is often harder on a feline stomach than the scientific diet dry food you can buy at pet stores and larger grocery store chains. The first thing I'd recommend you do is switch from wet to dry and see if your cats start holding more of their food down.
Also, don't feed your cats too late at night - once a day, around your dinnertime seems to work the best.
I know, you probably like to baby your cats and give them the tastiest food you can buy - but, believe me, your cats will adjust to the new food within a few weeks.
If the problems continue, then I suggest you consult your local veterinarian. Although it's unlikely that the same medical condition would strike both cats at once, it's better to be safe than sorry.