Today, Newsday introduces a new pets columnist, Cathy M. Rosenthal, a longtime animal advocate, author, and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field.
Q I have three indoor cats. We provide them with scratching posts and other toys, but they are not interested in them. Instead, they are destroying our furniture with their claws. I don’t believe in declawing, so is there anything else I can do to stop them from scratching the furniture?
A If your cats are scratching the arm of the couch, cover the arm with a towel, blanket, piece of wood, books, aluminum foil — anything to keep them from getting access to their preferred scratching spot. I like a product called Sticky Paws®, a double-sided tape that doesn’t damage the furniture and feels sticky to their paws when they try to scratch it. Once the couch appears off-limits, put the scratching post near it, since your cats will head that way to scratch already. Rub catnip on the post or leave treats on its base to attract the cats. Praise them when they use it.
To create a scent barrier, look for “keep off” type products in pet stores that you can spray on the furniture. You will need to reapply these products every 24 hours until your cats learn to leave the couch alone.
Thanks for not declawing your kitties and for recognizing scratching is a natural cat behavior that needs a healthy outlet.
Q I adopted an adult dachshund and an adult dachshund/mix. Neither one is house-trained. I take them out frequently and reward them with treats when they pee outside, and they totally get that part. But when I bring them in one or the other is going to pee in the house within half an hour. It’s very frustrating, but they are the cutest, sweetest dogs ever, so I just clean up after them every day. Why are dachshunds so hard to train? Is there anything else I can do?
A Through the years, I have received many letters from dachshund owners asking the same question. The good news, they aren’t mythical creatures who can’t be trained, and they aren’t intentionally defiant toward training. Dogs are dogs, and just like any other breed, they love their routines, and when you know their routines as well as you do, you can use them in your training to turn things around.
When your dogs go outside, they are probably distracted by sights and scents, so they pee a little here and little there, never emptying their bladder entirely. When they go back in the house, they are no longer distracted. That’s when they suddenly need to pee again. Let’s get your dogs focused on doing their business by teaching them the words “go potty” as an actual command, like “sit” or “down.”
Go into the yard with them and tell them to “go potty,” pointing where you want them to go in the yard to relieve themselves. If they get distracted, walk up to them and tell them to “go potty,” again, pointing in a direction. Keep doing this until they relieve themselves. Say “go potty” again when they start to relieve themselves, so they make the connection with the command. Follow up immediately with a marker word — a special word for each dog, like saying “bingo” for one dog and “awesome” for the other dog — to let each dog know the exact moment they get it right. (You can use the marker word for all your training.) If they stay outside for more than 15 minutes, go through the “go potty” routine again before bringing them into the house.
Next, if you know one of them will always have an accident within 30 minutes of coming into the house, then take them both back outside 20 minutes after they come in, so they can relieve themselves outside and not in your house. Follow the same “go potty” routine again. If you are persistent with this repetitive training, they should learn to empty their bladders on command as quickly as they learned to “sit” for a treat, which I bet they do well.
Finally, dogs like to pee where they smell urine, so use a bio-enzymatic cleaner, which feeds on the ammonia residues and other organic materials in your pet’s urine, to remove the urine scent from your carpet or floors. Believe in them and be consistent with your training and you should see a change in their bathroom behaviors in about a month.
Send your pet questions, stories and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city, and state.