Dear Dr. Fox:

I have two Nova Scotia duck tolling retrievers, each from different breeders.

My first dog, Penny, is a pleasant "queen." The second, Lucky, is just the opposite. She loves to run in the mud, back and forth, chasing anything and everything.

We have a dog pen, and tried everything you suggested in your column.

The mud was just not to be believed! I thought I'd had it, but then we found the solution: After sand, woodchips, hay, cement, etc., we broke down and installed artificial turf from a man who was installing a putting green on our property. He said he could change my life by doing this.

I must admit that I thought he was nuts, but then so was I by this point and decided to try it. And I'm pleased to say that it's the best solution of all -- no maintenance, and no problem cleaning up after the dogs.

It even solves the problem of them not wanting to "go" when there is no grass.

N.A., Potomac

Thanks for the advice that many readers will appreciate. Artificial turf is indeed a practical, long-lasting solution to providing a clean and durable surface for a dog pen or enclosed run. It is also easy to clean with a water hose.

Dear Dr. Fox:

We have an 11-month-old male poodle. He is playful, funny and very happy. For the last month or so, he has developed what seems to me to be mean streak. If I try to move him from my chair he shows his teeth and growls at me. We have never been anything but gentle and loving toward him.

I'm becoming concerned for my 4-year-old grandson, although it seems I'm the only one the dog growls at. Please advise.

C.P.H., Fort Myers, Fla.

Your dog is at the age where he is asserting his dominance; he's out to be top dog in the family pack, and is testing the waters.

Try enticing him off the chair with a favorite toy or occasional treat, being sure to say "down" or "off" first and then "good boy" when he obeys. This is re-motivation training, and a way of avoiding confrontation or provoking him.

Overindulged dogs in particular go through this dominance-aggression phase. Go with him to obedience school so you can learn how to better communicate with and control him. Establish yourself as the leader of the pack.

Dear Dr. Fox:

I have an 8-month-old kitten who easily turns aggressive toward me in an instant.

This kitten must be touching me when sleeping in bed, sometimes curls up in my lap while taking a nap and constantly follows me around the house when I'm home.

He does not, however, like to be held when awake.

Without warning (except for a glazed look in his eyes and his tail swishing) he will turn from loving kitten to attacker. He might start by licking my fingers, then suddenly starts biting with full strength. My ankles are another prime target.

I use a water spray-bottle, but sometimes I forget to carry it with me. He momentarily responds to "No" and the wag of my finger, but the other day he literally jumped up and attacked my arm while I was bent over scolding him.

He will sometimes get carried away with chewing on my husband's hand, but the minute my husband says "No" he quits. He has never attacked his ankles or shown any other aggressive signs toward him. Can you tell me if there's anything we can do to help him overcome this obsession?

J.H., Salisbury, Md.

Your adolescent cat has all kinds of instincts and drives bubbling up, and they're seeking an outlet/release in your quiet domestic environment. Parts of him want to fight (rivals), kill (prey) and play wildly (as with another kitten). In fact, another kitten would serve as a surrogate rival or prey for your kitten, and provide the quality of companionship and stimulation that only another cat -- not you and your husband -- can provide.

Before you get another cat, take time out in the evening to play with your kitten and defuse and remotivate his seemingly psychotic behavior. There is nothing better than a fluffy toy on the end of a string (rather than your hands and ankles) to animate and encourage your cat to chase and "kill."

Michael Fox, author of many books on animal care, welfare and rights, is a veterinarian with doctoral degrees in medicine and animal behavior. Write to him in care of United Feature Syndicate, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.

(c) 2004, United Feature Syndicate Inc.