Training and Living With Dogs
Tuesday, October 11, 2005; 1:00 PM
Have you ever wondered the best way to develop a successful relationship with your dog? How to pick the best dog for you and your family?
Jon Katz, author of "Katz On Dogs: A Commonsense Guide to Training and Living with Dogs," was online Tuesday, Oct. 11, at 1 p.m. ET to talk with you about the dogs in your lives and his new book.
Katz has written fourteen books -- six novels and seven works of nonfiction -- including "A Dog Year," "The New Work of Dogs" and "The Dogs of Bedlam Farm." A two-time finalist for the National Magazine Award, he has written for The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone and The AKC Gazette. A member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, he writes a column about dogs for the online magazine Slate, and is co-host of "Dog Talk," a monthly show on Northeast Public Radio.
The transcript follows.
Jon Katz: Hey, I am tickled to be here and eager to answer your questions. I thank you for coming. "Katz on Dogs" is an effort on my part to be useful, and to help you choose, train, live with (sadly) even end your dog's life based on my experience, working with 30 volunteer dog lovers and their dogs, and years of research with behaviorists, trainers, rescue and shelter workers and breeders. There are a lot of owned dogs in America - nearly 70 million - and we love them to death,but it seems to me that we often know little about them. We choose them impulsively, train them poorly (one study found that only 3 to 5 per cent of dog owners train their dogs at all) and struggle to remember that these are wonderful but simple animals, not children with fur. I hope the book helps and I hope I can be of use today. Again, thanks for coming.
Barking and whining?: What is the best way to combat this behavior? I've heard two things - ignoring it and telling the dog "no." I'm not sure which one is best.
Jon Katz: You want to reinforce the behavior you like, not the behavior you don't. Dogs love attention, and when you yell at a barking dog, the dog is often delighted, and thinks you are joining in. Wait until he dog is quiet, and then offer treats and praise. This is tough and requires patience and times, but is much more effective than yelling.
Dogs love attention, and they often don't care if it's "good" attention or "bad" attention. Make sure you only pay attention when the dog is doing what you want. It takes awhile. It usually takes 2,000 or more repetitions before a dog completely grasps a behavior. The idea that you can teach a dog to be quiet in a few classes or bursts of yelling is just not so. People greatly underestimate the time and patience training takes, but it's worth it.
McLean, Va.: I am interested in getting a dog, and would love your advice on the type of dog I should be looking for. My husband and I live in a townhouse, and don't have a yard. We work long hours - but often work from home one to two days a week ... and are home on weekends. We're going to have children in a few years. Any thoughts on a dog that is good with children, and can handle being home all day alone if needed? Any size is fine -- but I would assume that large dogs would need a big yard to play in. THANKS!
Jon Katz: It's admirable that you are being so thoughtful about the choice of dog. Most people get dogs impulsively, and regret it. In your circumstance, a dog that needs little exercise and has a reliable temperament (because of the kids) is critical.
Labs are great pets, but they do need exercise and space. I'd look at some shelters for older Labs or Retrievers that might need a home (due to divorce, illness, etc.) or from rescue groups on Petfinder.org. You could also try out breeds like cock-a-poos or Westies, smaller dogs with good dispositions, or dogs like Standard Poodles (often overlooked by people who associate them with with wealth and silliness) but lovely, even-tempered pets that don't love a ton of exercise.
I'd go to the AKC Web site and look through breed descriptions, visit local shelters - and be honest with them about your circumstances and needs - and also look at some rescue groups. New breeds of "designer" dogs, mixes of Labs and Poodles, Retrievers and Poodles (Lab-A-Doodles) are great family dogs and can often be calm. A good breeder will also help choose a mellow dog that is good with people from a litter. In any case, a good breeder, rescue group or shelter worker should be skeptical and ask you a lot of questions. This isn't obnoxious, but appropriate. The end result will be a better dog for you.
Choosing the right dog may be the most important decision you make in your life with a dog. Don't be impulsive. Don't get a dog because you went to a Disney movie, saw a cute puppy at a mall, or want to give your kid a Christmas gift. Beware puppy mills (mall dogs), backyard breeders, and amateur rescue groups that don't ask you a lot of questions. Make sure dogs temperament has been considered via breeding or temperament testing. The more thinking you do, the happier you and the dog will be. Be aware that more than 400,000 children - and five million adults - were bitten seriously enough last year to result in police calls or emergency room visits. Sadly, you have to be careful, thoughtful and patient.
Bethesda, Md.: I'm going to be getting an 8-week-old female golden retriever on October 22. I live in an apartment and my biggest concern right now is how to best housebreak her. I've been told crate training is the best way to go. Any suggestions would be really appreciated ... thanks!
Jon Katz: Hey there. I am a huge fan of crate training for puppies and for calming training with older dogs. Housebreaking is often the first encounter we have with our dogs, the first real experience and language together. I put my puppies in a crate, feed them there, wait 10 or 15 minutes, leash them up and walk them or carry them quickly outside. They will go eliminate, and that is the time to praise and reward them.
I detail this in the book, but I think it's critical to make housebreaking a positive and successful experience. It bonds the dog to you (DO NOT rub the dog's nose in urine or feces, or yell at the dog. That is a ridiculously ineffective way to train a dog). Dogs naturally want to eliminate outside, so give them the chance to be natural, and reward them for it. Dogs want to go outside, and once they start, they will almost always continue. Remember puppies do not have large bladders or bowels or long attention spans, so expect accidents. Do not scold them for accidents. They can't help it.
Crates are natural environments for dogs, who are den animals. They love the safety and comfort of them, and I use crates throughout the life of my dogs for safety, calming training, and my own peace of mind. Whenever I leave the house, my dogs are crated. I often feed the dogs in their crates, tie bones to the back of the crates and often toss treats in the crates for the dogs to find. When I go out, I yell "crates" and my dogs rush into their crates to find the treats. I never have to come home and worry about what has been chewed, the dogs learn to be calm and relaxed.
So crate training is great for housebreaking, and also for the adult dog. As I said, I'd feed the puppy in the crate (the crate shouldn't be too large - check with the pet store). Dogs need to eliminate soon after they eat in puppyhood so get them outside, praise them. This is usually our first dialogue with our dogs. I think it ought to be positive and successful. It shouldn't take more than a few days.
Washington, D.C.: We have a small dog that just can't get enough exercise. She goes for long walks every night, but still has energy in the middle of the night (she is a year old). Any suggestions on how we can keep her busy without more long walks (especially as daylight decreases)?
Jon Katz: Depends on the breed. I assume this is a young dog. You might try some "aerobic" activities like a few minutes of ball or frisbee throwing. But a dog should not need exercise all day. Make sure you're not reinforcing hyperness out of guilt. If the dog is getting two or three good walks a day, that's enough. Don't let the turn force you to turn him or her into a hyped up frisbee or ball addict. There is a big difference between what dogs need and what we feel we ought to give them. Guilt is a big problem among dog lovers.
Alexandria, Va.: Thank you for doing this chat!
My husband and I are absolutely in love with our 1.5-year-old rescue mutt. We are also happy that we live in Alexandria, which is very dog friendly. At most restaurants, dogs are welcome on the patios. My question is whether dogs can really enjoy this, or if taking dogs to restaurants is another case of anthropomorphic behavior towards our canines. Since they are forced to sit at our feet through our meal, is is really fun for them? I tend to think that our dog just likes to be with us as much as possible, so we take him as often as we can. However, some neighbors think it is better to leave the dogs at home, since restaurants aren't meant for dogs. Do you have any thoughts on this?
Jon Katz: Great question, I think. Dogs don't need to come to restaurants or always go with us to see friends or go on vacations. They often enjoy coming along or hanging out with us and that is often a good way to socialize them.
Personally, I spend a lot of time with my dogs and I don't feel either they or I really need to be together every minute of every day. Most dogs are just as happy to be chewing a bone back home or in a crate as sitting in a restaurant.
If you enjoy it, and they behave well, there is surely no harm in it - especially if it helps socialize them. But there is also a risk to it. You want to keep some boundaries between your life and the dogs, and lots of people out there don't want to be bothered by dogs when they go to public spaces. So I don't think it's something dogs need, really, or is always healthy. That's a generalization. In Ireland, border collies love to doze under tables in pubs, and we all know about France. But it isn't something you should feel obliged to do, I don't think.
Bloomfield, N.J.: Hi Jon! I loved reading "The Dogs of Bedlam Farm"! A question I hope you can help me with: Do you think those dog cages are cruel? I have to work (don't we all?) and if I leave my beagle alone all day, she gets into all sorts of mischief. Chews clothes, raids cupboards, etc. A trainer I heard on the radio advocated leaving dogs in these cases while you're away, but the very idea of shutting Trixie up all day makes me very uneasy. I want to do what's right for her, she's such a doll. But I also can't keep replacing my wardrobe!
Jon Katz: Thanks for the good words. Crates and cages are not cruel. They promote calm, safety and ease the behavioral issues (like the ones you are dealing with) that often result in dogs being given away or put down. Dogs are den animals, they do not mind crates, providing the crates are not used as punishments and there is proper acclamation .My dogs are in crates whenever they are alone in the house, and they rush in happily and rest calmly and quietly. Good for them to be calm. As to how long, all day is a long time. I'd do three to five hours at a pop. Maybe find a dog walker to come to your house and walk the dog once while you are out? But no, crates are not cruel and you have the right to a safe and protected home.
Pittsburgh, Pa.: Are there dog breeds that are easier to train than others or is that an urban myth?
Jon Katz: It is absolutely true that some dogs are easier to train than others. Nose dogs - beagles, hounds - are tough because they are bred to follow scents and move away from us. Jack Russels are tough because they are fearless and not imbued with much desire to please (they are great dogs, but independent). Labs and Retrievers are trainable because they are bred to hang out with humans and pay attention to them (they were bred to work with hunters and love food). Terriers and small dogs are often verbal and excitable, because it helps protect them.
Dogs vary wildly in trainability. Often rescue and shelter dogs have been mistreated, so they may need more training and patience than purebred dogs (often purebred dogs are in shelters and are the rescue dogs). But there is enormous disparity in how breeds respond to training and you are wise to ask and to do your homework - there is a ton of stuff online and in books about training and breeds. Doing this research can be the difference between living with a happy, trained dog and having enormous troubles. Remember, behavioral issues are one of the leading causes of death for dogs. We are not always doing a favor to a dog we don't understand when we get him or her. People abandon, give away or kill dogs who have serious training and behavioral problems .So research on breed and temperament is critical. There are HUGE differences in trainability.
Washington, D.C.: Hi Jon. I really appreciate your work.
I have two rescue dogs, got them 3 months apart (it was a case of rescue them or they get put down). I love them and we have done a lot of work with a lot of difficult behaviors.
One major hold out is door aggression. They won't let anyone into the house, essentially. When the mailman puts the mail through the slot, they tear at the door (and it shows).
They even go crazy at people that they know and like until they calm down.
I have tried to bring people into the house by meeting them with the dogs on leash outside and then walking into the house together. That works fairly well, but is still imperfect.
They are not aggressive in the dog park off leash and don't react to people that walk near them when walked on leash.
It's all about the house. One is a tibetan terrier mix so I know he is doing his job. The other is less aggressive but tends to pack up with the first one.
Thanks for any help.
Jon Katz: You have lucky dogs, I think. I would change environments. I'd keep the dog away from the door, either by crates or by constructing kennels and crates in a different part of the house. It is possible to train your dog out of this, but it may take an enormous amount of time and there is a safety question to consider. If your dog bites someone at the door, you will be sued, your insurance may be cancelled, someone may get hurt, and the dog could lose its life.
So I would make sure this dog is never near the door without leash control or other supervision. The other alternative is to get a trainer and try doing work with visitors and food. But honestly, that is tough and takes a long time.
Allentown, Pa.: Mr. Katz, does your new book "Katz on Dogs" get into the issue of feeding? The vet is after me to help my golden retriever lose weight. But this dog seems ALWAYS hungry, begs at the table for food, will grab a bagel off the kitchen counter if I leave it for more than a few minutes. I suppose I could increase her exercise to help burn calories, but that might take a lot more time. How can I satisfy a hungry dog (those eyes!) and still keep her healthy? Thanks for your response; enjoyed your past books about dogs.
Jon Katz: Thanks for this question. I have a chapter on feeding, single and multiple dog households. Obesity is a huge problem for dogs..a major cause of illness and death. We love them so much we can't bear to deny them too much food. You should be able to feel your dog's ribs. If you can't,they are too fat, and you are doing them more harm than if you kicked them. I have two Yellow Labs. They get a bit less than two cups of food a day, period. Do not overfeed your dog. Use low fat brands, up their exercise, cut back on treats. But you are seriously harming your dog if you overfeed it, which most Americans do.
Herndon, Va.: I have two mix-breed dogs. They have been sharing a bowl for feeding. When we got the second dog earlier this year, we tried using 2 bowls but they both wanted the same one. Now the vet says the larger dog (the new one) needs to lose at least 5 lbs and best would be 10 lbs (currently 65 lbs - chow mix). Our other dog is under weight probably 25-28 lbs - could use a couple lbs. How should we handle getting the one dog to eat more and the other to eat less? Currently using Kirkland lamb dog food.
Jon Katz: P.P.S. the dogs should be fed separately. Food should be put down, then removed in five minutes. No leaving food around all day.
Arlington, Va.: For the people in a townhouse and not at home during the day -- don't overlook adopting an older dog. They often don't require constant supervision or large amounts of exercise, like a puppy. Also, they are already house-trained which is a huge plus.
Jon Katz: I mentioned this point in an earlier reply. It's quite true..many older dogs in shelters and from rescue groups and online sources like petfinder.org see earlier reply
Phoenix, Ariz.: I heard you speak on Diane Rehm's show about learning from your dogs (that's how I interpreted it). We just lost a dog, at the age of eight, far too prematurely. He was a collie-shepherd mix; he wondered into our backyard as a six month old stray when we lived back east. My wife coaxed him into the house, and he became an important part of the family. When we moved out west and my wife got a horse, she would go trail riding and take our dog with her. The dog was a perfect barn and trail dog...oddly enough he was terrible on a leash, but obedient and quiet off the leash. He was an introverted dog, too. I guess this is all to say that sometimes, great things can come when we are open to animals who 'happen' into our lives. We have great memories, fond memories. Our only fear is that we may never find/encounter/get to embrace a dog of his kind again. That's the sad part of it, and though it seems odd saying it, we feel we have grown as a result of having this dog as part of our family.
Jon Katz: A beautiful message, and it shares my feelings in the most heartfelt way. Dogs can open us up, lead us places, teach us things. But don't be so blue. I am sure there is another dog for you.
My border collie Orson changed my life. I dedicated this book to "orson, who rescued me." Five years ago, I was writing books few people were reading, living in a place I didn't like, was restless and had few close friends. Now I am loving writing about dogs, have a 110 acre farm I love with donkeys and sheep and dogs and much beauty, and it all happened because they crazy dog entered my life, sparked my interest as a writer and now almost everything in my life has changed ('cept for my wonderful wife and daughter) and for the better. Dogs are powerful creatures. If you let them, they can take you to some wonderful places and improvise your sense of mercy, compassion and humanity. They can also lead you to people. I thank the author of this beautiful not and urge her not to give up on opening her heart and life to another wonderful dog.
One dog vs. two : Hello Mr. Katz,
I'm a prospective first-time dog owner who lives alone and is at work for 9 hours/day M-F. I'd very much like to rescue a shelter dog. However, I've read that shelter dogs, more than dogs obtained from a breeder, can have problems with separation anxiety. Are there particular breeds that do better alone? Realistically, how much more work would it be to bring home two dogs rather than one?
Thanks for being on-line today and taking my question!
Jon Katz: Shelter dogs often have more behavioral problems than other kinds of dogs simply because they have been through a lot. But I wouldn't generalize too much. Many shelter dogs are great dogs from good homes whose owners just can't care for them -- divorce, illness, death. They have wonderful temperaments, are housebroken and needy, and would much prefer life with you to a crate in a shelter. Don't give up on the idea of a shelter dog. You may or may not have behavioral problems, but the shelter workers should help you prepare for that. Good luck. I'd go for it.
Arlington, Va.: We have a 5-year-old Schnauzer-mixed mutt whose behavior is generally excellent, but one thing she has never been adequately trained to do is heel when on a leash. She tugs herself strenuously, gasping and choking on her collar. Can you give any quick tips on training her to heel?
Jon Katz: You might try the gentle halter leads they sell in pet stores..they restrain pulling dogs without hurting them..that breed is tough to get to heel because they are restless and curious..try a gentle leader...
Chevy Chase, Md.: Hi! Thanks so much for taking the time to do this chat. We rescued a Cairn Terrier in April, he is settling in but sometimes he will get terrified and run to his crate this can be set off by anything from a plastic bag falling near him to a loud noise. Other times, he will not react at all to these same things. When he runs to his crate I try and give him space and then go speak very softly near by to let him know everything is ok -- I hope I am helping and not enabling- we have had a devil of a time even getting him 85 percent house trained- any advice would be very helpful -- Whatever someone did to this little guy is just unforgivable.
Jon Katz: Thanks for visiting. One thought: Amazon and other places sell dog "desensitization" CD's..My border collies were terrified of thunderstorms, so I got a CD with thunder and played it..low at first, then louder - when we were in the house..The problem got much better, though it still does persist in violent storms....There is a whole range of these sound and sensitivity CD's for dogs, from gunshots to backfires to storm noise..They work, though not always completely.
Alexandria, Va: We are preparing to bring a standard poodle puppy home and the breeder has stated she keeps their food bowls out with kibble all the time. Her dogs have all day access to play outdoors, is that why she can keep them supplied with food yet they are not overweight?
Jon Katz: Not my approach. I have a bunch of dogs. Bowl goes down for three to five minutes..Then it comes up 'til the next meal time..My dogs eat quickly and in an orderly..I never leave food lying around, just an invitation to trouble, at least for me. But everybody has a different approach, every dog is different.
One reason I wrote Katz on Dogs is that I feel training approaches are too rigid, too generalized. What I do on my farm doesn't necessarily have any bearing on the dog life of a bush housewife in Akron with two small kids.. We need to pick and choose from training methods and find out what works for us and our dogs.. call it the"Rational Approach" to training. There are too many gurus in the dog world, and they are sometimes too certain and self righteous for me. I advocate a flexible, positive approach that recognizes every person and every dog is different. Positive training is great, but I am not all positive myself, and I sometimes yell at my dogs (as when my Lab Clementine brings dead rats into my house)
Arlington, Va.: Hi, I have in my care Sera, a 6 year-old female mixed shepherd. I've raised her since she was a puppy. I'm considering bringing another dog into the family as playmate for her (and me). What things should I take into consideration when making this decision?
Jon Katz: Great. I honestly believe two dogs are easier than one, 'cept for vet bills. Dogs love to hang around with other dogs. Puppies are easier for older dogs often, because they are no threat or challenge. I would acclimate the new dog slowly - put it in a crate for a few days, let them meet outside or around a fence..then once things are settled, leave them alone to work it out. If there is no blood, there is no need for human interference.
Puppies are very dramatic..They will often scream and shriek as if they are being murdered..Stay out of it unless it is serious, but do let them get used to the smell and sight of each other before leaving them alone..I think you will be happy.
Silver spring, Md.: Crates are not evil! my dogs were crated for 8 hrs while I was at work. When puppies, I would come home at noon to play for an hour and relieve themselves.
Now, they go into their kennels without any insistence or trouble. They even sleep in there during the day when we are home and the doors are open.
-1. NEVER scold the dogs and use the kennel as punishment. The crate should be a safe, clean, happy place for them.
-2. Never use the kennel as a means of cornering the dog. For example. my dog hates having her ears cleaned. She rushes for the kennel when the bottle comes out. I NEVER NEVER NEVER pull her out, or try to clean them in there. I patiently wait. I have in the past closed the door prior to getting the cleaner but now, with a cookie in hand, she grudgingly accept the ear cleaning.
-3. This is the dog's home within the home. Respect that.
Jon Katz: Good rules..sensible and true.. I always toss goodies in a crate before the dogs go in..they love to go in..
Beltsville, Md.: Thanks for doing this chat.
I have a two year old Lab (turned two yesterday) that I love and am very happy with his behavior for the most part. I took him to training classes for 8 weeks at a local non-profit organization where he did well, and he listens very well when he is on a leash, especially when his training collar is on. My problem is that when people come over he gets so excited and wants to jump up on everyone, no in an aggressive manner, just to greet them. After about 5 minutes he calms down and listens pretty well. What can be done to stop this?
Jon Katz: I could lie to you, but probably not much..One thing I do is toss treats in the opposite direction of visitors when they come, so that the labs run away from people, not towards them..then they calm down..you can also fill a soda can with pennies and shake it saying 'off" or dropping it on the floor to startle them, saying "off." But honestly, Labs are genial and physical and social, and they tend towards exuberance..I had success with the can filled with pennies..
Baby-ville: Thanks for taking my question. We have a 7-year-old German shorthaired pointer who has been a really great pet for us. Most people would think he has a very nice life and I would tend to agree. He's most definitely a part of our family, to the extent that we try to find vacation spots that are dog friendly and take him with us whenever possible. He gets very long walks in Rock Creek Park every day regardless of the weather, he swims nearly every day when the weather is good, and he gets a fair amount of love and attention at home. He's rarely left alone for more than a few hours at a time, and we make an effort on the weekends to not leave him at all. We had a baby about 13 months ago and things have obviously changed in our family, although our GSP still gets the walks, the swims, and is rarely left alone for long periods of time. What has changed is that he doesn't get quite as much individual attention as he used to, and I feel like he's been a little bit depressed as a result of that. He's never been aggressive around the baby but he's just not quite himself. He keeps to himself more than he used to, goes to bed earlier, etc. I don't know if this is a function of him just getting older or if he really truly is depressed or feeling left out. As I said, I think we've given him a great life and he's very much a part of the family, but it's hard for me to see him not as happy as he used to be. How can I tell the difference between a depressed dog and one who is just getting older?
Jon Katz: Important and thoughtful question, I think. I'd be careful of projecting too many human emotions onto this dog. He is much loved and cared for. Dogs can get depressed,for sure, but my guess is that he is just adapting to a new reality. Dogs love rituals, rules and tradition and when things change, they often appear confused or depressed for awhile. I'd try and make him feel the baby is an add-on, not something that took something away. Let the dog in on family cuddles, toss treats when the baby is around so that he comes to associate the child with something good, something he didn't get before. Try not to excuse him from intimate moments like lying together in bed. Help him to feel this is still his family. And most of all, be patient with him. Things have changed and he has to learn to live with it period.
He will get less attention, and he should. But he is still a lucky, loved and well cared for dog. For a few months, or even longer, he will have to adapt to that. Dogs are remarkably adaptable creatures, if we let them. Don't feel guilty about bring a child in the world. Try and share the joy with him if you can. But I am confident in a few months you will will have adjusted. Thanks for the good and loving question.
Leesburg, Va.: Jon, thanks for posting how much you feed your dogs. We have a golden retriever and bernese mountain dog (smaller than the golden if you can believe it) that get 2 cups a day. And even though they're both at great weights and proclaimed in top shape by our vet, I still scratch my head that I'm feeding them so much less than what the bag recommends. I get shocked looks whenever I tell people how much I feed them. It makes me sad to see so many overweight pets.
Jon Katz: Very good point. Do not follow instructions on dog food bags. They are often designed to sell dog food, not keepdogs healthy. Ask the vet. Almost always, people feed their dogs more than they need. In natural environments, many dogs don't even eat daily.
Essington, Pa.: Thanks for this chat! You mention in a recent Slate column that dogs have no sense of time, that 5 minutes could be 5 hours to them. Does that mean I shouldn't feel guilty for leaving my dog at home alone 9 or 10 hours on weekdays? Thanks.
Jon Katz: I think 9 or 10 hours alone is okay once in awhile, but it is a long time for a dog. They don't understand time but they can get restless and need exercise. I am quite comfortable leaving my dogs alone,but if it is more than four or five hours, I usually hire somebody to let them out and walk them. there is too guilt about owning dogs, but at the same time, and subject to differences in dog breeds and needs, I feel 10 hours is stretching it, except rarely.
New York, NY: I live in a large New York apartment adjacent to Central Park. Would a border collie be a good choice for me-- or a terrible mistake for both me and the poor dog?
Jon Katz: I think a border collie would be the last dog I would recommend for where you live..There are many wonderful breeds that need little exercise,but this is a breed that desperately needs to run and work - and not just for a few minutes. I know there are border collies in NYC but it saddens me to see them. Border collies can run more than 30 miles a day and to leash walk them or confine them in a dog run and not to give them work is, to me, a form of abuse as cruel as beating. I know you mean well and they are great dogs, but so many border collies are driven mad by too little work and inactivity it's a tragedy.
There are plenty of dogs that would love an apartment in NYC..I strongly recommend a different one. And I applaud you for asking.
Washington, DC: I have a german shorthaired pointer puppy that was bred with good bird flushing qualities and also good home characteristics. So far on the home the crate has worked well and he's a pretty docile puppy inside the house. I'd like to develop his bird flushing qualities (so he's always learning) what do you recommend for activities that could supplement birding?
Jon Katz: I'd go to the AKC.site and find a bird trainer..they are all over the Northeast. I don't know much about this training personally, but I know there are a lot of people who do.
Florida: Thanks for taking my question--my parents, who are in their late 60's, just lost their dalmation to old age. They need a new dog and are considering a standard poodle and a labradoodle. They have young grandchildren who visit frequently, lots of running space for a dog, and a desire to have a smart pet. Your thoughts...
Jon Katz: Those are two great breeds..I assume they are active and would give the dogs some exercise, but barring that caveat, they are great breeds for that situation..
Washington, D.C.: Hi and thanks for doing this chat.
I have a question about dog park etiquette ... I love taking my Aussie (nearly 6 months) to the dog park and it's a great form of exercise and socialization for her ... However, sometimes the play can get pretty rough--my dog included. When is a good time to break up two dogs that are not aggressively fighting, but just playing too rough? Should it be broken up when there is yelping? I'd like to prevent any unnecessary vet visits or allow the dog negative associations with playing with other dogs ...
Jon Katz: Thanks for coming. It's odd -- and remember there are many different points of view -- but I am not a big fan of play groups for adult dogs. Puppies need play to be socialized. Adults dogs are generally brought to play groups to make humans feel better. Play is not something most dogs need. In large groups, dogs get aroused and hyper in just the ways you describe. So I don't bring my dogs to them. It's just a personal preference. I throw balls and frisbees for my dogs once or twice a day and their social life and other life seems just fine.. I think your dog is getting over aroused in that group, and that brings up qualities in a dog you don't want to bring up...
Rockville, Md: Jon: I have a miniature dachshund who is wonderful, a little excitable but doing amazingly well after surgery last year for two ruptured discs. He is 10, almost 11 years old and very friendly to people with whom he is familiar. But, when the doorbell rings or the alarm goes off and a person he doesn't know comes in, he barks nonstop. Sometimes he continues to bark, other times he stops immediately. I'd like to get him to stop altogether. Is it too late?
Jon Katz: It's not too late, but it's hard..that's a verbal breed and he is, after all, doing his job..you can reinforce him when he's quiet,or confine him away from the door (or change the kind of doorbell) ..but I have not seen much success with getting this breed to be quiet when strangers come in..maybe try and distract him with food?
London, U.K.: My lab/border collie mix, Charlotte, and her sister, Belle, will be joining my husband and me in London in February. Charlotte is a very vocal dog, who has lots to say to postmen, passersby, dogs, squirrels, vacuum cleaners, and anything else that moves. It's been a while since Charlotte has lived in an apartment, and I'm concerned about her barking, as we have neighbors above and on either side. I'm also concerned about walking her, as her barking is worse on a lead and makes her seem very aggressive...these London dogs are very posh, and I don't know how they'd react to a noisy American. How can I curb her barking, both indoors and out?
Jon Katz: This is a difficult issue..Mostly, you can create alternative behaviors (food, balls) or being praising her whenever she is silent..But this will take awhile and I fear you are in for some annoyed neighbors...Mostly, I would ignore her while barking and begin "aggressively" praising and rewarding her when she is quiet..
Munich, Germany: House training is perhaps the first thing on everybody's mind when getting a puppy, but how about some of the other commands that are important when walking with your dog, such as heel, or if they start rough-housing with other dogs, to get them to return to you.
At what point is obedience training imperative for a dog? I've read that dogs are generally happier after obedience training. Your thoughts?
Jon Katz: In "Katz on Dogs" I write about what I call the "Good Enough Dog," a dog who behaves and responds to the degree that we need them to. People are busy, distracted, weary and I recommend concentrating on basic simple commands which every dog ought to know: "come," "lie down," and "stay." Also perhaps "Off." The "lie down" is critical because it is a calming position, in which the dog will not generally bark or fight...But I'm not into a lot of spit-spot heeling, etc..That's good for Discovery Channel Trainers, but I do not believe it fits the lives of most dog owners..
Oakland, Calif.: Mr. Katz, I love your books. I have a 6-year-old lab mix who is wonderful, she is sweet and very good tempered. I've had her 5.5 years. I have been thinking about getting another rescue dog and wanted some advice about that. We have a pretty calm household right now and I wonder if getting another dog would be a good idea. Is it better to get a younger dog, and does it matter if I get another female or should I get a male? My dog gets along really well with other dogs, but she may not have enough patience for a puppy. Any thoughts?
Jon Katz: Thank you. I almost always like the idea of getting another dog. In my book, I say there is a dog for everybody, but every dog isn't right for everybody...I'd look for a younger dog..I don't think gender really matters..Make sure the shelter or rescue people know what your dog is like (perhaps bring her) and make sure the group is experienced and has thoroughly temperamence tested and observed the dog..Dog like to be with other dogs, and as an obvious dog lover, I love the idea of your having more than one ..Good luck ):
Washington, D.C.: Hi.
I have a Beagle (4 months) that is very attached to me. How do I ease his separation anxiety.
Also, any quick easy tips for training him. I've thought about obedience school, but I'm reluctant to let someone else train him.
Jon Katz: I'm not sure I believe in separation anxiety as a dog issue..The term applies to human children separated from their mothers at young ages..I think dogs are more apt to be confused by freedom than they are to be suffering separation anxiety..I would crate or confine the dog, make him feel safer and give him fewer opportunities to get into trouble when you are not home..Dogs are very adaptable and they can be trained to handle periods of time alone..If they can't, they should be confined, for their safety and your peace of mind.
Lancaster, Pa.: What is the best way to get dogs ready for a baby? We have 17-mo-old Choc Lab that's still a little nuts and an Airdale/Shepard mix that is around 4. Thanks
Jon Katz: Hard to prepare them in advance unless you have friends with babies you can bring around..Make sure that the dogs get treats and praise when the babies are around and try and include the dogs in family time when the baby comes..You don't want the dog to sense it's lost something, but rather gained a new thing that brings attention, praise and food..Lots of people push dogs away from babies, but I would do the opposite toss treats, praise the dog, let him or her join in cuddles..once they sense it's part of the family, they usually come aboard..BE CAREFUL of crawling babies and food..the baby should not be near the dogs when the dog eats...too many bites reported each year around food issues..
Chevy Chase, Washington, D.C.: We have a Boykin Spaniel, supposedly a water dog, but she seems to be adverse to doing her eliminations out doors when the ground is wet or it is raining. We have a dog door which she happily uses when the weather is dry. It is all a little mystifying to us.
Jon Katz: Probably has to do with the smells she is picking up...
Foggy Bottom, Washington, D.C.: A family member's dog (who is not very friendly with other dogs...actually lunges at them unexpectedly and unprovoked) was just found outdoors with a dying cat dangling from it's mouth. He actually caught the cat somehow and killed it. Should the family be worried? Steps to combat this?
Jon Katz: I would be very worried..I would not live with a dog such as you describe..I would try to find it another home, and if such aggressive behavior continues, would consider putting the dog down..Dogs injured five million Americans each and seriously harm hundreds of thousands of children..The dog world doesn't take this issue seriously enough..I think the moral imperative is to put human life first...
Alexandria, Va.: I'm picking up my new Puggle puppy on the 29th of October. I've been doing lots of reading and some of these books are saying to keep the puppy away from dogs and dog areas until fully vaccinated. Living in Old Town Alexandria (a VERY dog friendly town) does this mean I shouldn't even take him out in public until he's four months old? I live in a high-ris so there is no back yard to keep him safe. What is your opinion on this? And I've heard a little about a very bad dog flu that will be going around this winter. Is this something new puppy owners should also be very concerned about? Thank you.
Jon Katz: Four months seems a little extreme, but in a dog friendly town I would be careful about letting him with other dogs until he has his lst round of shots...If you can make sure the dogs he's around are thoroughly vaccinated, that would help..But I would be careful..Puppies have weak immune systems, and can pick things up..My vet has always told me 12 weeks, not 16, but there may be something going around here that I don't know about...
Playing with other dogs: We adopted a lovely dalmatian from a rescue group. He was abused and had plenty of behavioral issues that we have pretty much worked out of him. The remaining issue, that I don't know how to crack, is his dislike of other dogs. If we pass dogs on our walk, he will bark and pull. Is this just the way that it is going to be? I don't think he would harm another dog, as he had foster brothers when he was first rescued, but I don't want to use a friend's dog as a guinea pig to see if he play well with others. He is a castrated male.
Jon Katz: Some dogs are just not friendly..This is their right, it seems to me, so long as he doesn't harm other dogs..But sounds like we don't really know as you haven't given him a a chance yet..Barking isn't necessarily aggressive..Under supervision, I'd want to see what he does..But Dalmations can be grumpy dogs, and I would be careful..This may well be his nature..
Washington, D.C.: I hope you still have time to get to this. Do you have any tips on cutting our dogs nails? One of our dogs just resists it (pulling away, etc.), but the other will growl and snap.
Jon Katz: If you have anxiety, I'd go to a groomer or ask the vet to do this..lots of people have trouble with this but groomers usually know how to handle it..some dogs need to be muzzled...
Re: Separation Anxiety: How can you say you don't believe in it? My dog is not at all happy being crated. She barks (only time she ever does), chews inappropriately (destroys the crate tray) and is very anxious. We have tried everything. She gets many chew toys, treats, blankets, we've tried hormone diffusers, anti-bark sonic devices, herbal anxiety medication and every other thing, but she still hates it. And she is only in there for about 4 hours max, ever. Suggestions?
Jon Katz: She may be confused about the rules when left alone..We do not know what is in a dog's mind..They are not humans..They don't have language or narrative reasoning powers..The dog could be anxious for a hundred reasons, the most likely one being that he or she just doesn't know what do..I have four dogs at home who love me dearly, and they have no problems when I go out..I am uncomfortable with the idea of projecting human neurotic concerns onto dogs..We just often don't know what is making them nervous...Hundreds of thousands of dogs in America are being medicated for separation anxiety, and yet I know many behaviorists who do not believe it is a dog problem..We just disagree..
Upper Marlboro, Md.: I have 18-month-old boxer who I give bones. My question is can too many bones be bad for him?
Jon Katz: Depends on the bones..They should be hard and impossible to splinter..
How long can dogs be alone?: I notice that some chatters are talking about leaving dogs alone for pretty long periods--8-10 hours/day every day.
Is there an upper limit on how much time dogs can be alone? I know that puppies can't be alone long, because they have to go out to pee, and, of course, there'll be some variation. But, on average, is it reasonable to leave a healthy adult dog alone for 10 hours?
Jon Katz: Thanks for the question..It varies...I like to cap it on four or five hours..they can be left alone longer, but it makes me uncomfortable..If I'm going to be away for nine or 10 hours I get a dog walker or friend to come to the house and let me dogs eliminate and run around..
Dupont Circle, Washington DC: I am considering a second career working with animals. I have a BA in psychology, and have been enjoying clicker training my cats. I am looking at vet tech programs, as well as CCPDT (certified pet dog training). Any thoughts on the best way to get started?
Jon Katz: Sounds like you are off to a good start..Working with a vet makes sense..
Washington, D.C.: Hello Mr. Katz,
I adopted a rescue dog about a year and a half ago. "Spot" has become a very loved member of the family. However, she has one problem - she whines at all hours of the night, even when she does not appear to need anything (e.g., a walk, water, etc). This is obviously very disruptive to our sleep. Any suggestions on how to keep Spot quiet? Thanks.
Jon Katz: I'd consider crates or a change in environment..some dogs get nervous when they have too much freedom...
Rockville, Md.: Hi Jon! Our friends have a Great Dane that they adopted from a rescue league. Her "exercise" consists of going out into their tiny townhouse "yard" to pee and poop, after which she immediately comes back inside to lay on the couch. They say that she doesn't need the exercise because she's a Great Dane, very lazy, and doesn't really want to. I don't get it -- don't ALL dogs need exercise?!
Jon Katz: Dogs do need exercise,but the bigger dogs are often the least energetic, as it takes a lot of energy for them to move...Sounds like she could use a bit more than she's getting.
Fairfax, Va.: I recently brought a second dog into my home. After an initial shaky start between her and my older dog, they seemed to get along fine. The new dog does something that has puzzled us ... She will go into my older dogs crate and go to the bathroom, or go on his bed. We know it's her because we've seen it. Why is she doing that? How can we stop her?
Jon Katz: She's marking territory to be dominant..I'd change to bedding frequently and try to keepher out of the other crate if that's possible..
San Luis Obispo, Calif.: Jon, thanks for taking our questions. We have a 4-year-old male Tibetan terrier. He is the world's most lovable dog. He has the personality of a fun-loving jock--very happy, full of energy, extremely affectionate. He is a natural at playing hide and seek and any other games we can think of. His only fault is his insistence on marking territory in the house. If my daughter leaves her backpack by the front door, he will lift his leg on it. Ditto a stack of towels left on the bathroom floor. I have been cleaning up his urine spots with Nature's Miracle. What can I do to stop this behavior?
Jon Katz: Is this dog neutered? If not, should be..Might have to consider crates for awhile or confining him in a different part of the house..once this behavior begins, it's hard to break it without changing environment or confining him...
Please wait!: You advised the person with the dog who killed a cat to consider putting the dog down. I think you misunderstood and thought he was referring to the dog hurting a person. Some dogs have very strong prey drives but would never hurt a human being (malamutes come to mind). Did you really mean that a dog who kills a cat is THAT dangerous?
Jon Katz: He also said the dog was menacing people and acting in a particularly aggressive way..I definitely stand by my advice..Dog violence to humans is a massive problem and should be taken seriously..Just my opinion..You are quite welcome to yours..I did not recommend putting the dog down for the cat attack, but if the aggressive behavior toward animals and people continues.>I would recommend that again..
Washington, D.C.: Do you encourage clicker training? I think a verbal response (good dog) or a pat is a better reward for good behavior than clicking.
Jon Katz: Clicker training is a good and effective method, but not for me..I don't want to carry the clicker around,and last time I tried my Lab ate it..Then it was - 20 and I didn't want to get my fingers cold..Some people love it, but I don't really find it effective..The timing has to be precise..But you could certainly give it a try...
Washington, D.C.: Hi Jon,
Thanks for doing this discussion. I hate to be the negative one here, but I've seen a few postings and some of them say something like 'we're rarely home, we have no place for the dog to run, etc.' I just want to remind people that when you put a dog in this circumstance, you generally make the dog a nuisance to neighbors. A bored dog will bark....and bark and bark. Just leaving him/her outside all day while you work a 12-hour shift doesn't solve it either. I bring this up because we had a nasty fight with our next door neighbor who had a dog and honestly, didn't take care of it. He paid no attention to it and just left it outside all day long. Needless to say, all the dog did was bark, non-stop, to the point the police were involved. Please, those of you thinking of buying a dog, understand your spacial limits and your dogs needs.
Jon Katz: Very good caution, and much needed. I do think there is a dog for everybody, but it is important to consider when getting a dog what the needs and concerns of others are as well. there are many dogs who would benefit from being in your homes, but sometimes, people just aren't ready to have a dog, or just don't have space..
Jon Katz: I'm afraid my time is up. Thank you for the thoughtful and intelligent questions. I'm heading off on tour for "Katz on Dogs" and look forward to continuing this conversation all over the country...I much appreciate this opportunity.
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