Pet Advice – Straight From The Horse’s Mouth


by Charles “Horse” Tsence


Dear Readers:


This column is dedicated to the love and care of animals.  Contrary to what some readers thought, 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 will appear in this publication.  Thank you; Charles “Horse” Tsence



Dear Charles:


Why is it that everyone I talk with about the care and training of my golden retriever and yellow lab mix emphasizes the importance of giving treats to Cal Cucumber, CC to friends and family, to reinforce training and reward him for good deeds?  Shouldn’t he behave without a cookie bribe?  What is this preoccupation with cookies and dogs?  Like Dr. Spock who advised mothers on child care, did Charlie Brown and his dog Snoopy start a fad about how important a cookie is to a dog?  Please help me?  Signed, Cookied-out Smith


Dear Cookied-out:


Obviously, the conventional training techniques using reward instead of punishment have stressed you out.  Before I dispense some advice, take a deep breath and settle back into your chair.  It’s simple once you understand what’s happening. 


First and foremost, everyone in the dog kingdom to whom I’ve spoken rewards for good behavior rather than punishes for bad behavior.  Verbal and physical dog abuse leads nowhere.  The secret of training with cookies is to gradually wean the dog from the reward so your command becomes a conditioned response, similar to when you jingle the car keys in front of CC; doesn’t he recognize that you’re going to take him somewhere?  You don’t need to give him a cookie then, do you?  If you do, that’s wrong because he clearly understands his reward.  Secondly, you can start this “weaning” by giving him a cookie every other time he does something well, gradually cutting down the dosage so that a cookie becomes a single, then a tiny bite.


Since dogs don’t read books, view TV or even surf the internet like humans do for fun and fulfillment, cookies play an important part in a dog’s daily life.  Cookies can also be offered during the day to energize CC, express affection and simply be an unannounced fun event!


Remember, training is just that.  There comes a time when training should cease and the lessons learned become part of CC’s daily routine.  My best to CC. - Charles “Horse” Tsence



Dear Charles: 


I talk to my dog a lot, perhaps too much.  My wife thinks that I am becoming really weird because I prefer to talk to Sam and our cats, Mathilda and Sylvester, more than her.  I overhead a conversation between my wife and one of her friends in which she is considering going to a lawyer to draw up papers to commit me to either a mental institution or a pet clinic.  I simply enjoy expressing my viewpoints to animals. They don’t give me any guff and just wag their tails or purr at my words.  Am I in mental trouble for talking to my animals?  By the way, I’m beginning to understand their languages, too.  That really scares my wife.  Signed, Marriage-Could-Be-in-Trouble Harper.


Dear Marriage-Could-Be-in-Trouble:


What is it with spouses and humankind in general?  I have received mail from husbands, wives and partners who complain about the same things that you do.  Also, you may wish to read the editor’s essay, “The Man Who Talks Dog, Horse and Cat and the Dogs, Horses and Cats Who Ignore Him,” in this issue. 


First, I need to tell you that I also talk with my pets.  Although animals respond first to body language and then to the spoken word, I am convinced that they do understand what we say.  Okay, maybe not the words, but at least the tone and the delivery.  If we view pets as a part of our family — and that’s a very healthy attitude, providing it is not done to extremes – then speaking with them is reasonable human behavior.  In fact, there are subjects that I only discuss with my animals.


Discussions with my pets don’t adversely affect them and provide a reasonable outlet for me.  In other words, these conversations assist my mental health.  For goodness sakes, why are cats and dogs a favored method by many hospices and care centers to help patients cope with their illnesses and speed recovery? 


I applaud you for speaking with your animals.  Perhaps you ought to consider forming an organization to promote conversations with animals.  People with such similar likes and tastes could make for a fun group.


Lastly, some of us just naturally talk to ourselves.  Walking on the street talking to ourselves without an animal raises eyebrows and real suspicion among passersby as well as patrolling police officers.  But, if you’re talking to yourself while walking your dog, it’s naturally assumed that you’re speaking to your pet; and, if you ever go “bananas” mentally, people will probably not discover your malady for some time if it appears you’re talking to a pet. 


Speak to your animals; discuss mundane topics as well as world events.  It’s healthy and relieves frustration.


I also strongly suggest that you talk with your spouse.  If she doesn’t respond to your conversation, perhaps offering her a treat might help.  My Best, Charlie “Horse” Tsence.



Signing off for now.  Until next time, enjoy your pets and remember that not only are they members of your family, they are part of your personality.