Pet Advice – Straight From the Horse’s Mouth
by Charles “Horse” Tsence
This column is dedicated to the love and care of animals. Contrary to what some readers think, animals do not include spouses. Yes, I know that spouses and partners call each other “Pet,” “Poochie” and even “My Cuddly Fur-Ball” (mostly directed to men), but this column is dedicated to our friends with four legs, feathers, fins, prehensile tails and the like. For questions regarding male-female relationships, I refer you to columnist Hortense “Poochie” McGoldstein, who appears in this week’s Mediocre Housekeeper™.
My beagle, Rasputin, while on one of our favorite jaunts through the woods, became tangled up with underbrush and berry vines. By the time I cut him loose, he had received several deep cuts which required stitches. The veterinarian suggested that I buy one of those white, stiff cone collars. The cone is tied around your pet’s neck to prevent him from licking and biting the sutured area. Rasputin not only didn’t like the collar, it immobilized him. Unless I vigorously pulled on his leash to move him, he just stood immobile, like a zombie. I modified the collar somewhat, cutting it down a bit, while still allowing the collar to do its job, but that didn’t help much. I know I wouldn’t like to have such a collar on me. Can you give me your advice on why animals, particularly Rasputin, hate it so, and what possible other methods I could use to keep him from interfering with the healing process? Signed, My Dog’s-In-Stitches Collier.
Dear My Dog’s-In-Stitches:
Not only do I empathize with you and Rasputin, but my pets have gone through the same routine. There is, of course, an underlying reason why animals can be immobilized by the collar, and it has to do with their natural navigation aid. Cats navigate to a great extent by using their whiskers. If you notice, these whiskers’ length establish the space through which the cat can safely pass. Dogs also have these whiskers and use them likewise, albeit to a lesser extent. The collar also limits their sight field. This reduction of their natural navigation aides can stop a pet in its tracks.
I suppose a reasonable analogy would be that, if a person’s vision was taken away without sufficient warning, he would experience helplessness in attempting to find his way. I have a couple of suggestions. There are other collars that, as I understand, are softer, more pliable and less onerous for a pet to wear. Many veterinarians don’t stock them, but I am sure they can be found. However, I have purchased a product called “Chew Guard” from my veterinarian that also works well. You merely spray it on the stitched area, and it deters your pet from scratching, biting and licking. The directions called for its usage outside and downwind. You can also remove the collar and watch him closely to prevent his licking, scratching and biting the recovering skin area. Give Rasputin my best regards.
I recently took my German shepherd/Labrador retriever mix Hildy to an obedience school. Although I was told she was a bit young – 7 months – I felt that her size required some obedience training sooner rather than later. The instructor was a very kindly person, who explained what basic commands were to be taught – sit, stay, lie down, heel, and count to 10; I’m just kidding on that last one! Hildy learned quite rapidly, except for the “lie down” command. It made an improvement in our relationship and allowed me to accomplish many more tasks around the house without constant canine interference. I recently came across an animal article that discussed the alpha male and female. Can you explain why this alpha concept is so important in obedience and animal commands? Signed, Need-To-Know Adams.
It is amazing that your obedience trainer did not explain the alpha animal concept to you because it is fundamental to the entire training process. In fact, it is fundamental to the lives of most animals that live or have originated from a communal or family environment.
I have read that the ancestors of all dogs are wolves. It is difficult for me to accept that, but the people who say that are far more wiser than I am, and accept it, I do. To maintain the structured society necessary for the wolves’ continued existence and procreation, there has to be a dominate animal in the pack that rules and lays down the law. It may be either a male or female, and in some cases, it may be both. In your case, you must be the alpha animal. You, and you alone, must establish the rules and lay down the law with regard to what behavior is acceptable. If I had know about this theory while raising my two boys, it may have been an easier task, although they turned out to be fine, upstanding men.
Whatever rules you initiate and require must be firmly and uniformly followed. There is no substitute for a well-disciplined pet.
The alpha concept is prevalent in all levels of civilized and uncivilized society, including business, government and religion. I hope you have a lot of fun with Hildy because that is a wonderful mix combination.
Signing off for now. Until next time, enjoy your pets and remember that not only are they a part of your family, they are part of your personality.