Q. My dachshund thinks she is a rabbit. We have two rabbits that live uncaged in our home, use a litter box and are part of our family. Our dog has bonded with them very nicely. When we give fresh greens and vegetables to our rabbits, the dog partakes in the feast. She does not eat the rabbits' pelleted food or hay -- just the vegetables. She will eat a whole carrot at one sitting. Will eating all these vegetables hurt her at all?
--Tina Silver, East Meadow
A. While the dog's ancestor -- the wolf -- is an obligate carnivore, the process of domestication has turned dogs into omnivores, much like a bear is. Dogs can digest meat as well as grains, fruits and vegetables. There is nothing at all wrong with your dog eating vegetables and fruits as long as they're not more than a third of the dog's daily consumption of food.
Just keep her away from eating grapes and onions. Although a single grape here and there or a random onion ring will not hurt a dog, they can be an issue if consumed in large amounts, particularly in a toy or small breeds. Overindulgence of grapes and raisins can cause kidney issues in dogs. Onions can cause a type of anemia. However these are not things normally fed to pet bunnies, anyway, so your dog sharing in their salads is not an issue.
Q. I just got a harness and lead for my cat. I am trying to train her to walk in it so I can let her enjoy the nice weather in my yard without worrying about her wandering off or getting run over by a car. As soon as I put it on her, however, she just lays down flat against the floor and refuses to move. I spoke to a trainer who told me to just leave the harness on her and let her walk around the house with it on until she gets used to it and then start training her with the lead attached. When I do this, she just struggles until she gets her legs all stuck in it and is all in a tizzy. Is there any way to get her to accept it and walk nicely with it?
--Angela Romano, Howard Beach
A. Positive reinforcement works best in these cases. She has to think that when she is wearing the harness something nice will happen to her.
First, get the cat used to eating bits of deli chicken off a plastic fork. When she is doing this eagerly, tape the fork to a long dowel, jab the chicken on the end of the fork, hold it down on the ground in front of you and allow her to grab the chicken that way.
Gradually, you hold the fork away from her and persuade her to follow it around the house as you are walking with her. She will actually be walking at heel with you as a dog does -- only indoors and without the harness. Just keep putting bits of chicken at the end of the fork and holding it down and she will follow it anywhere. (Trainers call this a target stick.)
Now you put the harness on her and show her the baited target stick the moment it is on her. If she is hungry enough, she will forget about the harness and follow the target for the treats.
Keep the sessions very short at first -- you must end them before she starts to fight the harness. Only give her the chicken treats now when she is wearing the harness, and in no time she will accept it just fine.
Then do the whole process while she is wearing the lead attached, and you will have her walking on the lead in the house. Now you will have no problem when you take her outdoors -- just be sure to use the target stick at first to remind her that all this is a good thing. In time, she will be so happy to go outdoors that you will no longer need to use the target stick to motivate her.
This sounds like a lot of work, but it really isn't. When you train an animal this way, it is fascinating to watch it learn and get the idea of what you are expecting. It is all about finding a way to properly communicate with the animal.