Dear Doodlebug, back with another week’s advices column! Boy did we get many many most excellent questions this week! I am trying to answer them as quickly as I can, but my typist is very lazy and only lets me address a few per week . . . so those of you who have sent them in recently, please be patient with my lazy secretary. She and I will get with you soon!
Here we go:
Hi Doodle! I was wondering if you have any advice on how to put together an active routine for a dog (when it’s not too super hot or too freezing cold out of course). I’m getting into distance running and I was wondering, without a backyard, what’s a good way to determine a good distance/pace for a dog? What should I look for to know whether my dog is too tired or stressed to continue a run and we should pack up and go home? I know every dog is different, but if you have any insight into matching up a new runner to a potential new dog, I’d much appreciate it! Love, Nevie (Cats Can’t Go For Runs)
Dear Lazy Cat Lover,
I must disagree with you off the bat — my brother and I have chased a cat or two, and let me tell you: they sure can go for runs. They can go for sprints, in fact! But I’ve also seen them go for jogs. So before you toss aside the possibility, why not get your feline companion some nice Brooks running shoes and a visor, and test it out?
Now, on to your question about dogs and exercise. Just like people, dogs need to build up their endurance before they can be asked to run any great distances. And just like people, just because we are able to go for a long run off the bat, doesn’t mean it’s good for us. We can get all kinds of injuries, and you don’t want to deal with that. So whatever dog you end up with (and I hope it’s one that looks exactly like me, obviously), start slow and short. Maybe go a mile at a leisurely pace. If that goes well, next time add a quarter mile, then add some more. There isn’t much of a limit to a sturdy, healthy dog’s athletic ability – my brother the Chick helped train my mama up for a marathon back in 2005 — they went on all of their short and long runs together up to 18 miles!
I am not an expert, but from what I have heard, there are some dogs who do NOT make good running companions. Those are ones with super-squatty noses (like pugs and bulldogs), ones with super-short legs (like doxies), and giant breeds with a predisposition to joint issues (like some Mastiffs). Oh, and puppies should not go running — their joints and bones are still growing, and the impact from running can be bad for them. It’s a good idea to check with a vet before starting a running program with a puppy, to make sure the puppy is ready. But otherwise, any medium-to-large dog with at least a moderate energy level should make you a good running companion.
Oh, and learn the signs of heat exhaustion before you start exercising your dog! Some of the early signs of “I’m too tired” include dragging behind on your run, thick, sticky saliva, and a scoop/spoon-shaped tongue that hangs way out.
You go girl, ‘Bug
Dear Doodlebug, My mama is a veggie-tarian and she heard that your mama and dad are veggie-tarians also. She knows that us dogs like to eat a well rounded diet of meats, vegetables, fruits and healthy grains, but sometimes she feels conflicted about the meats part. (I love the meats very much!) Do you know if your mama and dad have the same conflictions? I don’t want my mama to feel bad about my food. Do you have any advices? Thanks for your times, Bug. Sir Reginald Von Dog.
Dear Vegemite sandwich,
There was about a minute in my mama’s past (a dark, dark minute, if you ask me) when she thought about switching my brother to a veggie-tarian diet. Since she and dad were veggie-tarian, why shouldn’t Chick be too? But here’s the thing. Mama never did find a vegetarian dog food that satisfied her. Most of the ones she ran across were full of fillers that didn’t seem right. And talking to a number of different vets, mama never found one who thought that a meat-free diet was optimal — or even healthy — for us dogs.
So as dedicated as our mama and dad are to being veggie-tarians, they are even more committed to us being the healthiest dogs we can be, and lucky for us, that means meat. And lots of it.
Your omnivorous friend, the ‘Bug
Dear Doodlebug, My sleeping arrangements have gotten, well, complicated. My older pup has navigated north, sleeping by my head. My bigger pup likes to crush my legs. You would never know I have a king-sized bed, considering I’m on the verge of falling at night. To top it all off, my pups presence does not allow me to snuggle with my boyfriend! The older pup would never choose not to sleep on the bed and I don’t have the heart to crate her all night. Is my current sleeping dilemma my permanent future? Sincerely, Concerned, boyfriend-snuggle deprived Dogma.
It sounds like you’re on the verge of losing that boyfriend person. So tell Doodlebug: is he worth it? Studies have shown that you humans sleep better without a dog in the bed, let alone two — though for us dogs, we sleep just fine whether we’re on a human bed or a dog bed. If you like that boyfriend of yours — and your sleepings — you may want to think about asking your dogs to sleep on their very own beds, not on yours. Let them sleep in the room, by all means. You can even set up their beds right beside yours so you can comfort
yourself them by giving them pettings as you fall asleep. As for me, I am so perfect that I prefer to sleep in my own bed than with my people, though I do enjoy joining mama in bed during occasional nappings and sometimes for a first-thing-in-the-morning snuggle. But mama says that some of her former foster dogs were human-bed-sleepers, and she and dad had to teach them how to be dog-bed-sleepers. So she got an extra comfy dog bed for the fosters and every night, she would offer a really yummy kong for a bedtime snack, putting it in the dog bed right before everybody goes to sleep. For many dogs, this was enough — by the time they were done with their kong, they were plumb tuckered out and ready to snooze. For other fosters, it took added steps — a baby gate strategically placed, or a leash tied to a railing or piece of furniture to tether the dog to the spot so she couldn’t sneak onto the bed at night. Occasionally, there would be some protesting and crying the first few nights, but very quickly, it was gone. Everybody was sleeping much, much better, and mama and dad are still together!
Best of luck, Your Bedbug (who can sleep happily anywhere)
Dear Doodlebug, I heard that some ground hog said Spring is coming early. I would like Spring to come early because I am sick of cold and snow. Trouble is, I neither like nor trust ground hogs. They get in my tomato patch during the summer and eat all my tasty tomatoes that I like to sample right from the vine. Mama asks me to leave her some, but they are soooooo tasty. How can I trust the predictions of a creature that steals my tastiest of treats? You are smart and seem trustworthy (what are your thoughts on tomatoes?). Will Spring come early? –Desperately Seeking Spring and tomatoes
Well, you are definitely right about one thing: you should never trust a groundhog. Do you think that groundhogs decide whether to make spring come early or not based solely on whether they are hungry for our tomatoes yet or would rather wait another month or two? Those greedy bastards. Not to mention, they are most definitely in cahoots with those evil bushy-tailed squirrels, aren’t they? We don’t really see any groundhogs around these parts, but we sure do see some squirrels. Every day, they try to death me and my brother, and it doesn’t look like we’re the only ones:
Hi Dude, Our mom calls us the poop hunters of the Serengeti, becuz we are always on the lookout for some cat poo to eat. Is there a 12-step program for k-9 cat poo addicts? Mom won’t kiss us after we eat it. Can you help? Sincerely, Well, lets just say S&S, since CPAA is anony-mouse. (cat poo addicts anony-mouse)
Oh, you poor S&Sers, you have discovered the golden nugget. For the record, I’ll tell you that my brother says that this golden nugget is not quite as good as the diamond nugget, which is live cicadas. A few years ago when Chick lived in DC and they had the every-17-year-Cicada-invasion, our uncle Tex actually had to wear a basket muzzle when going outside, or else he would eat so many platinum nuggets that he’d make himself sick. He said they tasted like flying chicken nuggets!
Anyhow, our life was so simple before we discovered cat dumplings, but now that we know they exist — in the cat box at work, in the neighbor’s mulch — we are constantly overtaken by the irresistible urge to hunt it out and scarf it down . . . and then french-kiss our mama. You see, hunting and eating cat poo is a self-reinforcing behavior, so it is very hard to teach a dog not to want to do it. So I can’t help you to not crave this finest of delicacies, but I can tell your mama to teach you a really good “leave it” type phrase that gets you to stop hunting. Our mama can always tell when we’re on the poop patrol, and reminding us to stop is often all it takes to get us to move on by. And if that still fails . . . maybe some breath mints?
Forever on the prowl, Doodlebug