Q. My son just got a white dove as a pet to use in his magic shows. It is a very gentle bird and we had no idea what nice pets they make. (We have had many different species of birds in the past and we have a very nice sun conure right now.) However, we noticed that when the dove drinks she will plunge her beak into the water and suck it up. All our other birds dip their beaks in the water and lift their heads. Why does the dove drink differently than other birds seem to? -- Sharon Harrison, Riverhead
A. I have kept pigeons and doves all my life and have noticed and wondered about this for the last half century. No ornithologist as yet has been able to answer the question for me. Doves, pigeons and sand grouse can all drink by sucking water up as you have described and all other birds drink by allowing the water to flow down their throats. That’s how it is. If there is a scientist or person of higher learning out there who can educate me on what it is about the anatomy of pigeons and doves that allows them to drink this way, then please educate me on this so I can pass on the information to other wondering minds.
Q. My 3-year-old golden retriever is a dream dog except when it is time for me to let him outside. As soon as I start to open the door to let him into our yard he squeezes past me at top speed and charges out the door. I can handle it but my wife is frail. He knocked her down the other day and she almost got hurt. If I hold his collar as I am opening the door, then he just pulls against it really hard and we have a rodeo on our hands. He will sit and stay if I tell him to, but loses all self-control when he sees us opening the door. Is there a way to teach him not to be so rude? -- Greg Hanson, Glen Head
A. “Wait” is a useful command for a dog like this and differs from “stay” in that “stay” means to sit still until you say not to. For “wait,” you are just asking the dog for a bit of self-control.
What you need to do is to face the dog and block his path, then say “wait” and reach behind you and open the door just a little bit. If the dog tries to crowd past you, then block him again and close the door. Do not repeat the command, just do not give the reward, which is to be able to go out the door. As soon as the dog hesitates and stops his forward motion then you say “OK” and open the door and stand aside. This way the reward for the action you want — for him to hesitate and “wait” — is instantaneous. With this kind of training, the dog figures out for himself what he needs to do to get what he wants. Holding his collar and trying to explain to the dog what you want him to do is a waste of your time and energy with a big dog like that.
Q. Our Yorkie ate everything that we put in her bowl when she was a puppy, but she is now 2 years old and she has become a very finicky eater. She will sometimes just eat a few mouthfuls of food and then walk away and will not come back until my wife gives her some turkey breast out of the refrigerator. If we do not give her the turkey breast, then she does not eat anything until we offer her the dog food again in the evening. The vet says that the dog is fine, but this feeding situation is creating drama in the house. -- Sam Cohen, Lawrence
A. When a dog is a puppy, it is fun to feed it, as it is in its greatest period of growth and it devours anything in front of it. Many new dog owners think that this voracious eating style is going to be normal for the rest of the dog’s life. Since petkeepers use feeding as a way of expressing love, then it is a win-win situation until the dog grows up and does not need to eat as much anymore.
Your 2-year-old Yorkie is a little dog that is not pulling sleds or chasing rats out of a barn or herding sheep and, realistically speaking, she does not need to eat as much as some other dogs or as much as she did when she was a puppy. She is telling you that when she walks away from her dish. The problem is that she is not eating as much food as your wife wants to feed her and this is causing the drama. However, coaxing her to eat more by giving her treats out of the fridge will just make her fat and teach her that the world is full of things to eat besides dog food. You really need to control the situation. Since the vet says she is OK and she is pooping every day, then she is eating as much as she needs. Save treats for times that she earns them, such as in a training session, and do your best to keep mealtimes as nondramatic as possible for the health of the dog.