Q: Our dog, Molson, likes beer, especially the foam. I don't see a thing wrong with that. He'll sit in my lap and share a cold one. My wife thinks I'm sick. What do you think? -- S.H., Cyberspace
A: As a guy, I'm in your camp. We share beers with our best buddies, at least according to TV beer commercials. Keep in mind, though, that two or three slurps is enough for most dogs, even less for a small dog. Not that you're encouraging canine alcoholism, but truly a weekly tasting, or a couple of samples a month, is plenty. Better yet, check this out: Chicago veterinarian Dr. Sheldon Rubin told me about the Branding Villa Pub in the U.K. serving "Fido-friendly beer," a non-alcoholic beverage made of malt, hops and meat extract. Yum.
Q: Our Boxer, Brewski, quickly goes through his toys, chewing them up and even swallowing some of the pieces. What toys would you suggest for him? He's always chewing, and especially likes having objects in his mouth when he gets excited. -- C.P, Cyberspace
A: Chicago dog trainer Laura Monaco Torelli says to first visit your veterinarian. "Rule out the possibility that your dog isn't chewing excessively in an effort to relieve some sort of oral discomfort," she says.
Having a Rhodesian Ridgeback at home with a similar problem, Monaco Torelli can relate. She's found that elk antlers (available at some specialty pet stores and online) take time for her dog to chew through. You might also try the co-called Super Kong toys (which are made of a harder rubber and might be seen on an X-ray should Brewski swallow any pieces). A simple, inexpensive sterilized bone (available at most pet stores and online) might be a good choice. Also, you could stuff low-fat peanut butter or another treat inside these bones, so the focus isn't on chewing as much as getting the yummy out.
Many more heavy duty toys are available at specialty pet stores and online. In any case, whenever you offer Brewski a new toy, please supervise.
One goal might be to curb your dog's chewing habit, since dogs can break their teeth when they overdo it.
Monaco Torelli, a certified Karen Pryor Academy instructor, says young Boxers can be busy dogs, always in need of something to do. Try hiding treats around the house with Brewski on a "sit/stay" many rooms away. When you release him, teach him to find the treats, or a hidden toy. Games which focus on thinking as well as physical activity tend to tire dogs. If Brewski is sleeping, he's not chewing.
Monaco Torreli even suggests keeping a diary. Maybe on certain days Brewski gets less exercise, and with less to do, he chews more. Perhaps, over time, you can discern a pattern.
As for Brewski walking around with a toy when he's excited, that's a common trait among many sporting breeds and individual 'mouthy' dogs like yours. When people come to visit, teach Brewski to retrieve his favorite plush toy (only if he doesn't chew it up), or a Kong, so he can have something in his mouth (aside from beer) when he gets excited.
Q: My two 2-year-old cats are littermates. The male bullies the other cat; he'll bite her on the scruff of her neck, which makes her hiss. He's acting out to show he's dominant. He also bullies us into feeding him between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. every day, forcing us out of bed. If we don't get up, he bites at our heads or pulls our hair. This is very frustrating. Any ideas? Would speaking with a behaviorist help? -- K.S., Canton, MA
A: "I don't blame your cat for hissing. I would, too, if someone bit me on the scruff of the neck," says Darlene Arden, of Framingham, MA, a certified dog and cat behavior consultant and author of "The Complete Cat's Meow" (Wiley Publishing, New York NY, 2011; $19.99). If the cats are not spay/neutered, that should be your first order of business.
"You can use a clicker to reinforce the kind of behavior you do want, when they are being friendly side-by-side," Arden explains.
First, teach the cats to associate the sound of a clicker with a treat, by clicking repeatedly and offering treats simultaneously. Soon, you can use the clicker to shape behavior - even by rewarding friendly responses between the cats. With each act of friendship (lying together in the sun, grooming one another, etc.) comes a click and a treat for both cats.
As for the male cat waking you up at dawn, at least you don't need an alarm! Arden suggests playing with both cats (using an interactive toy with feathers or fabric), followed by a pre-bedtime snack. (Note: Don't add to their total food intake; instead, decrease the size of other meals.).
It might be that the cat who awakens you isn't tired enough to sleep through the night, and/or he may really be hungry. In any case, gradually move to a later, more reasonable feeding time each morning. At first, ignore the cat until 5:45 a.m., then 6 a.m., etc., until you get to whatever time you believe is fair for all.
By ignoring him, he may, at first, escalate his efforts to wake you, such as knocking objects off dressers (remove them), or screaming (pull pillows over your heads). If you ignore him long enough, things will get better.
Another option, if you and your cats will tolerate it, is to keep the bedroom door closed.
Q: One of our two cats urinates in the bathroom sink. We keep the litter box clean. I've tried lining the sink with plastic or filling it with water, but the male cat still goes there. Any advice? -- R.I.H., Chambersburg, PA
A: Cats who relieve themselves on counters, tabletops, stoves, in sinks or similar elevated places may be ill. Before assuming we're dealing solely with a behavior issue, see your veterinarian.
Often, cats who are insecure about using the litter box without being ambushed by another cat (or disturbed by the family dog or nearby kids causing commotion) prefer a bathroom with a view. I do wonder if one cat is intimidating the other. Sometimes, cats' intimidation techniques are so subtle that's it's hard for mere humans to discern what's going on.
Add at least one more litter box, and preferably two (without covers). Place one box in the bathroom, near where the male is now relieving himself. Place the second box wherever you like, just so it's at least six feet from the other box.
There's much more about inappropriate elimination in my ebook, "Good Cat!" (available wherever ebooks are sold, $2.99).
(Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't answer all of them individually, he'll answer those of general interest in his column Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is http://www.stevedalepetworld.com; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.)