Q: I opened the sliding glass door to go outside, and standing right there was a coyote. In a few seconds, he disappeared. Now, I'm worried. What can we do to protect our pets? -- T.K., Newport Beach, CA
A: There are some people who want to do harm to the coyotes, to tax our already overburdened and underfunded animal control departments with a directive to trap and euthanize these animals. Not only do I believe that directive is misplaced, but it would also be unsuccessful.
It's true that cats are attacked by coyotes, but that doesn't happen if cats are kept indoors. End of story.
Dogs walked on a leash are only attacked by the most brazen (possibly sick and starving) coyotes. These attacks nearly always occur when people aren't around to supervise their pets. Coyotes are very smart. They sometimes scope out back yards, lurking in the shadows for days, getting a sense of the time of day owners let a dog out unsupervised.
If you do see a coyote coming toward you while you're walking a dog, the more intimidating you can be, the more quickly the coyote will run off. Make lots of noise, make yourself seem as large as possible, jump up and down, but never turn your back to make a run for it without your dog in your arms. Even then, it's not the best idea. Where you know coyotes are bold take a bicycle horn or whistle on dog walks.
Q: Our 3-year-old Jack Russell/Beagle loves to tear around with toilet paper, and he destroys any female underwear he finds on the floor. This happens when we're home or away. Any advice? -- R.J., Louisville, KY
A: Well, you do, after all, have a Jack Russell Terrier and Beagle mix. Partially, my response is "of course."
Offer alternative behaviors for your dog to seek and find things. Stuff cookies inside Kongs and other toys, then randomly hide the toys around the house for your pup to find. That's far more interesting and time consuming (for a dog anyway) than snatching ladies' undergarments.
Consider purchasing a Nina Ottosson game. These are pet activity puzzles and games. Most involve solving a puzzle for a food reward; they're available at pet specialty stores and http://www.nina-ottosson.com/
Should your dog steal toilet paper or women's undergarments in the future, don't give chase. Calmly, call your dog to you. Ask him dog to sit, and "trade" the unmentionables for a little piece of cold cut (low salt). By the way, you're rewarding your dog for the "come" and "sit" -- not the theft.
You likely have a dog who needs a good deal of exercise. He also might be a candidate for a prescription diet from Royal Canin, appropriately called CALM (with L-tryptophan, vitamin B3 and other supplements to support a more relaxed attitude). Your veterinarian can tell you more.
Q: My miniature pinscher is about 6 years old and knows it's wrong to wet the floor, but for about six months, he's been getting up at night and going on the floor. Sometimes he leaves big puddles, sometimes just spots. I get up three times a night to take him out. If I ever caught him in the act, I'd whip him, but he's sneaky. I've started to mop up with ammonia, but this hasn't discouraged him. What should I do? -- B.J., Pearland, TX
A: If you're even considering whipping your pet, I have one request: Find another home for this dog. Whipping any dog is inhumane, and won't help a bit with house training issues. All it will do is teach your dog not to mistrust you -- and hopefully get you arrested for animal abuse. Besides, your dog may have a urinary tract infection, bladder stones, or some other physical problem, from diabetes to kidney disease, and he can't help piddling. See your veterinarian to rule out these possibilities.
Your dog is sneaking off because he fears harsh repercussions from you, or simply knows it's wrong to go indoors. Using ammonia actually serves to attract your dog back to the same spots, the opposite of the desired effect. Instead, clean up with an odor neutralizer.
I assume your Mini-Pin was once house trained. He may need a refresher course. Take him out to the same place nightly, as late you possibly can before bedtime. Reward him for doing his business with a treat and praise. It's important to accompany your dog on-leash to make sure he goes and so you can deliver the praise and treats immediately after he relieves himself. After he goes out for the last time, limit the amount of available water.
If these steps don't solve the problem, consider crate training your dog; he's not likely to urinate in a crate. However, it's important to crate-train him properly, so he actually learns to like the crate. A dog trainer or certified dog behavior consultant can help show how to crate train.
Q: My cat recently began sleeping in the litter box. Why? -- T.J., Peoria, IL
A: Anytime there's a noticeable change in a pet's behavior, see your veterinarian. Sometimes, cats who sleep in the litter box have a medical problem. If your cat isn't eating as well as usual, seems lethargic, or is any other way acting different, run, don't walk, to your vet's office.
If you kitty checks out physically, the pet may feel threatened. Whether it's a matter of other cats in the home, young children, or even animals outdoors - something is prompting the pet to hunker down for security. It's even possible this cat has decided to defend the litter box as his territory -- preventing other cats from using it.
(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.)