We have neighbors who got a puppy about a year ago. After realizing they were leaving her outside in the Vegas summer heat, I went to the door and, as kindly as possible, explained that it was too hot for her to be outside for extended periods. The resident stated that the puppy was getting into "trouble" inside.
What do they expect from a puppy? After my visit, I believe that they started keeping her in the garage, which is probably worse. Something at the house has now changed, and she is basically in the backyard 24/7. I did see a pet sitter feed her once. She generally only barks or howls when someone has come home, but there is rarely a response. Could you suggest something that I could share with the owner?
— Eileen, Las Vegas, Nevada
Even if you are good friends, a one-on-one conversation where you give advice might be a bit touchy at best because people can be defensive. The good news is your neighbor initially took your advice and moved the dog from the yard to the garage (yes, the garage needs to be air-conditioned). It signals her openness to learn about how to care for her dog.
People are also reading…
One way to help this dog is to give advice in the form of a gift rather than person-to-person advice. Whenever a neighbor gets a pet, I give them a kit with toys, supplies, pet food, and treats appropriate for that pet. I like to include brochures and printouts on pet care and dog training. For dogs, I usually include the book Clicking with Your Dog: Step-by-Step in Pictures by Karen Pryor along with a training clicker.
When people are bonded with their pets, they often take better care of them – and training is good for that. I know it’s been a year, but I think you can leave the book on her doorstep with some pet care materials. Be sure to include information on kennel training as this will enable her to keep her dog inside. Just tell her it’s an old copy of yours that you wanted to pass on to her.
If you think the puppy is being seriously neglected, however, call animal control. They can educate the family on basic pet care. There is no law that says the dog can’t be outside. But if the dog doesn’t have proper shelter from the elements, water, and access to shade, then an animal control officer can address these issues with the family.
A week ago I adopted a cat from a shelter. The cat was there for about eight months. I was told she was not a very friendly cat that was surrendered by her previous owners. She is about 11 years old.
When I brought her in and opened the carrier in the bathroom, she allowed me to pet her, and she purred. I provided a litter box, water, food, and a covered cat house for her. She eats and goes to the litter box but constantly growls at me when I try to move her plate, add more food, or clean the litter box.
A couple of times she swatted me with her paw. I use the pheromone spray there to quiet her down. I am not sure if the smell of other three male (all fixed) cats in the household makes her grouchy, but is there anything else I can do to help her without touching her? She stopped growling when I use the bathroom.
— Regina, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
At 11 years old, she may already have had a tough life and just needs time, patience, and your reliable love to adjust to a new home.
Right now, give her opportunities to see her surroundings. She doesn’t know what’s beyond the bathroom door yet and that may be causing her anxiety. Put the other cats in another room and give her a chance to wander about so they can learn about each other via scent. Make sure your home is equipped with tall cat trees and empty boxes or baskets where she can run and hide if she feels vulnerable. Use the pheromone plug-in in her bathroom and a room where your male cats mostly congregate.
Also, play with her for 10 minutes three times a day. Playtime builds trust, which will help her bond with you. Let her set the pace and give her whatever time she needs to feel safe. That’s all cats usually need to adjust and be happy in their homes.
(Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.)