--Tips 'n' Tricks

A. You didn't say if the dog is a house dog or stays in a fenced yard, pen, or on a chain most of the time. It sounds as if half her problem might be excess energy. Catahoulas are very high-energy dogs, & need lots of daily running. Let her run as much as possible before you take her for a walk. If there is no park or nearby vacant field where she can run off-leash to exercise, get one of the new retractable leads at least 20 feet long, & take her somewhere she can explore to the length of the leash while you walk or jog with her. Always take her on the same route for her walks, so she will become accustomed to & familiar with everything along the route. Try carrying a pocket full of doggie treats when you walk her or work with her, & EVERY time she responds to ANY command, reward her. Set her up to succeed, not fail. Whenever she pulls or shies command her... "no, heel"... & reward her response profusely with pats, enthusiastic verbal praise & a treat EVERY time she responds. It is important to watch the dog closely & anticipate whenever you think she might bolt or pull & distract her... keep her attention more on you & being rewarded than on whatever is going on around her. If she's aloof with your family, she doesn't feel bonded. Too much discipline without praise for good behavior could also make her aloof & shy. Catahoulas are very sensitive & aware when people don't like them or are upset with them. Everyone needs to reassure this dog that they are all her "best buddies" and she will be more confident. She is still quite young, Catahoulas don't mature until about 2 years of age, & they are NOT sedate or calm without lots of exercise. Few Catahoulas will be indiscriminantly friendly to strangers until well socialized, which takes much time & patience. These dogs bond to their own families & will always be somewhat aloof & mistrustful when meeting new people.

Q. We are overrun with fleas. Help!

A. My kennels are sprayed regularly... all bedding is removed, dog houses wet down inside & out, including the ground or paving around & under them. Switching products from time to time is good, I think. Some are longer lasting than others. I keep flea collars on all the dogs (8 adults at present), & perhaps once a month use a hand-held flea bomb in the house which kills adults & larvae & prevents eggs from hatching. My dogs are all in and out of the lake daily, & this also helps keep things under control. There are other means available from your Veterinarian which can be given orally or directly on the dog's skin. I have too much acreage to use chemical treatment of the grass, but that option could be helpful if you live in town. Whatever technique you use, the key is consistent use, because fleas will always be everywhere.

Q. I think we will put in an electric fence at our new place, since no one will be around during the day. Any hints on how to introduce this to the puppies? Someone suggested we lead them up to it & let them touch their noses to it and get zapped. Or should I just turn it on, & let them find out for themselves?

A. Catahoulas have "forever" memories. Forcibly leading them up to the fence to get "zapped" might seriously damage their trust in you, long term. It's O.K. to put them in a situation to find the fence for themselves by walking near it so they'll follow & bump it on their own. Although I know people who quite successfully keep their Catahoulas behind the same electric fence used for cattle & horses, it would be safer to use the doggie version until your pups are past 6 months of age. I used the dog fence at a height of about 18" & 12" out from a wood fence to successfully break my 5 year old male of jumping 6 ft. stockade fences.

Q. We have started our puppies on some prescription flea pills called "Program". This is a once a month pill that is supposed to control fleas. Have you ever heard of it? Fleas are typically a problem here & we plan on allowing the dogs to travel in & out of the house so we want to try & keep the fleas to a minimum.

A. There have been a number of pills & topical formulas (placed on the skin between the shoulder blades) over the years. I used one called "Pro Spot" which turned out to be not too safe, so I'm a little leery of them. I mostly use a good flea collar or a cattle ear tag attached to the collar, supplemented with occasional Sevin dust & also dust &/or spray the kennels. My carpets here in the house are sprayed about once a month with a long-acting pyrethrin product which kills eggs, hatchlings, & adults. This year has been unusually wet during the month of August & I'm starting to have a problem with one dog who doesn't go in the lake much, so I'm trying a new topical called "Advantage" on him. Swimming seems to drown the pesky fleas, which helps with the control problem.

Q. Our puppies seem to have dandruff. They get bathed about every 10 days with a flea & tick shampoo. Is this normal or just a puppy thing, & what would you recommend for shampoo?

A. Too-frequent shampooing might cause dry skin/dandruff. If you must bathe them, once a month is plenty. Feeding puppies a high protein & high fat content food (24-27% & 10-14% respectively) will keep their skin & hair coat in good condition. I prefer to feed the hair coat, as I have little time to bathe dogs, & mine are always in & out of the lake anyway.

Q. We are feeding Eukanuba Puppy Large Bites. They seem to like it okay but are not overly thrilled about it. I keep food available at all times so maybe it's just that they aren't super hungry. What food would you recommend?

A. Puppies up to 6 months need a formula which gives them about 27% protein & 10-14% fat content, & it's best if they can have free choice access to their food. I also prefer to use a formula which lists a meat base as the primary ingredient instead of ground corn or rice, soy meal, etc. The contents tag will say "meat & bone meal, chicken parts, lamb", or whatever as the first item in the list of ingredients. That way, more of your money stays inside the puppy instead of going out the other end. After 6 months you can gradually switch (by mixing half & half for a couple weeks) to a 21% protein mix, & a cheaper mix which uses corn meal or another substitue as the primary ingredient. A dog 8 months or older which seems to have too much energy can be fed an 18% protein formula, & this will usually cut his energy level. I've used a local brand for years, which comes in several different formulas, is moderately priced, & my dogs stay healthy, fit, & have a gloss on their coats that will nearly blind you when you look at them in sunlight.The main thing is, read your contents & ingredients label.

Q. Are Catahoulas more prone to worms than other breeds?

A. No. All dogs have worms to some degree most all of the time, it's very difficult to keep them totally worm-free, especially puppies. Adults can become somewhat immune to them, but puppies & young dogs need to be on a vigorous worming program and carefully watched. One of the first obvious signs of puppy worms is a loose or mucous-covered stool.

Q. When we bought our puppies, they had a lot of early medical problems. Both had upper respiratory infections & severe worms. One spent three days in the vet hospital with vomiting/diarrhea/dehydration & the other spent one night with the same symptoms. These happened sequentially, so in the first five weeks we had them, one or both were at the vet every week. This was in addition to normal checkups, shots & worming. They went last week for their final round of shots & were free of worms after about the 5th worming. We have spent about $600 in vet bills so far, in addition to the $400 purchase price for the two puppies.

A. This is an all too common story, & often puppies will die from dehydration due to vomiting & diarrhea. Regular & frequent worming by the breeder, followed up by the new owner is the only prevention. Many hobby breeders don't know or don't bother to worm often enough. Many new owners don't realize the danger of neglecting to worm their new puppy often. Because I have kept dogs here on the same property for more than 30 years, I start worming my litters at 2 or 3 weeks, & continue weekly wormings with Pyrantel Pamoate (marketed under several brand names) until about 2 months of age, then worm every 2 weeks for another couple of months. I buy Pyrantel in paste form, measure it out on the end of my finger & wipe it onto the roof of the pup's mouth. My rule of thumb is, if a puppy's stool isn't well formed, or his gums are pale, or his flanks are hollow, as long as he seems to feel good & his vaccinations are up to date, worm him. But when a puppy is not eating, or he's vomiting, or has blood or lots of mucous in his stool, get him to the vet... & get him there quick!

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