Dr. Nichol: Duke follows the letter of the law. He connects that one location in your yard with elimination — end of story. The trick will be to teach him to associate urination and defecation with a verbal command regardless of where he is.
The next time Duke makes it clear that he needs to see a man about a horse, equip yourself with a bag of special treats and lead him on-leash to his special place. As soon as he hikes his leg or squats say the magic word, hand him one outrageously good treat, and then take him for a brief walk off property — the natural reward that’s hard-wired into all canine brains. Repeat every time nature calls for several days, using the same command and reward ritual.
For Duke’s next restroom adventure, instead of heading for the yard, take that good dog for a walking tour of neighborhood trees, bushes and fire hydrants. Show him a tasty morsel and say the secret word. If he produces, give him the treat and nominate him for president. On the other hand, if he looks confused and forlorn, take him home in silence. Failure to produce gets no treat and no place on the ballot.
At some point the light will dawn. You and Duke can then reach for the stars as you expand his horizons to include canine restrooms all over our state as he learns to connect the command and reward with eliminating anywhere in the great outdoors. Have faith. Even if it takes him four years, there’s always vice president or governor.
Q: I have 3 cats that I want to know what kind of flea and tick control you would recommend for me to use on them. I am reluctant to use the chemicals that you get at pet supply stores.
Dr. Nichol: Unless you have outrageously acute eyesight, and the patience to hunt down every little parasite one by one, chemicals are your only hope. We don’t see a lot of fleas in New Mexico, but this will be a haven for ticks if we ever get enough rain to reinvigorate the larvae lurking in those tall weeds your cats enjoy so much.
There is a handful of products; the safest and easiest to apply are spot-on treatments like Advantage (effective against fleas only) or Frontline (fleas and ticks). Frontline spray will add more efficacy if rubbed onto the skin. A dab of the Top Spot for the dome of your cats’ heads should help prevent ticks from attaching to their faces and the insides of their ear canals. Tick killing is important for your cats. Be sure it has a healthy place in their defense budget.
Dr. Jeff Nichol provides medical care for pets at the Petroglyph Animal Hospital in Albuquerque (898-8874). He treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and in Santa Fe (505-792-5131). Contact Dr. Nichol on his website www.drjeffnichol.com (click Submit a Question?) or 6633 Caminito Coors NW, Albuquerque, NM 87120. Find me on Facebook.