All About Marie

Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register from 1992-2016; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor/Co-host of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 19 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of two baby boys and one baby girl, and pet parent of two cats, one dog, many fish, and a cockatoo.

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Vaccinating your Dogs

Dear Marie:
My sister just got a new puppy and I am overly worried about him, I am sure, but I want to make certain he stays healthy.  He has had all his shots but I am scared that he might still get sick because I've heard about some vaccinated puppies getting the same sicknesses they've been vaccinated for.  How effective are the shots?  Should I be so worried?

Dear Worried:
Pet vaccinations are highly effective...however on extremely rare occasions, vaccines will fail.  I stress that these occurrences are EXTREMELY rare.  Furthermore, if your sister's pet gets all of his boosters on the recommended time schedule for puppies, the chance of their failing is almost non-existent. 

Nevertheless, as a puppy, his immune system is not fully developed. Generally, you should avoid taking him out and around other dogs until he is at least 4 months old.  This age is also coincidental with the time he should be receiving his first rabies vaccination. 

Of particular concern for young dogs is the potential for being exposed to a virus which causes the disease parvo.  This is a highly infectious disease that is often fatal for very young or very old dogs.  It is shed through the feces, therefore if you are out walking and come across the fecal remains of an infected dog, your pet may be infected. 

Most likely, your pet has already received several parvo vaccinations.  But, until the series of shots is completed, he is not fully protected.  This also holds true for other puppy shots that must be given in intervals.

I recommend that you refrain from taking your puppy to off leash dog parks, especially if you are concerned for his health and safety.  Though most dog owners that use these facilities are conscientious, there are a few that do not vaccinate their pets; hence there is a potential risk for contagious diseases to be spread.   Further, you should be sure to neuter your puppy before going into areas where other dogs are present.  This will prevent unexpected mating as well as a certain amount of offensive posturing which could lead to a fight.

Be sure and get your puppy an ID collar.  If he ever gets lost, this will be his voice to get back home.  Finally, don’t feel like you are worrying too much...between you and your sister, it sounds like this is one lucky puppy.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Puppy Problems

Dear Marie:
Well, we did it!  We got a puppy.  Frankly, I wanted an older dog that had gotten past that “puppy period”, but I was outnumbered in my family so we got a three month old shepherd mix two weeks ago, and now, I am at my wits’ end!  He is a sweetheart...but if you leave him alone for five minutes, he is a one dog wrecking crew.  Not to mention, I can’t stop him from play-biting.  The kids think he’s a lot of fun.  My husband says the pup will outgrow these problems.  But I say if one more shoe gets chewed, the puppy is going back to the animal shelter.  I feel like a big meanie for saying that, but what else can I do?  Please help.


Dear Fran,
Puppies are a lot of work.  They demand patience and time.  They also need a definite regimen of discipline.  I am not talking about physical punishment.  I am describing a strict routine that everyone in the family must follow.  Puppy training requires people training too, in equal measures.  Often the humans in a household are partially responsible for a puppy’s bad behavior.

First, I’d like to address the play biting problem.  You obviously want this to stop immediately.  A full grown Shepherd mix that is still play biting can actually cause some serious injuries so begin behavior training in this area now!

Everyone in your family needs to follow this procedure.  When playing with your puppy, encourage gentleness.  Anytime the pup mouths at your hands or ankles, give him an appropriate toy to bite instead and praise him if he does.  If he continues to go after hands, (or other body parts!), tell him “No!” in a loud and firm voice.  If your pet won't stop biting even when offered alternatives, he should be placed in a room by himself...preferably a room that has been puppy proofed so that he can do no damage and have a chance to calm down.  After five or ten minutes, bring him back out and pet him softly.  DO not resume play until you are sure he has calmed down.  Put toys all around the house that he can chew on and play tug of war with.  Praise him when he uses his toys or has a gentle game of tug with you. I say this again because praise for positive behavior is so very important.

Your puppy will not learn what you want immediately.  It may take a couple weeks, or more.  But you must be consistent.  The moment one of your family members encourages him to play rough, all the training you will have completed to that point will be for not.

Chewing shoes is associated with the mouthing behavior.  Puppies need to teethe for several months leading to maturity.  Give him actual chew toys that are suitable for teething.  It is recommended that you stay away from rawhide, as these traditional chew toys do cause serious veterinary problems in some dogs.  However, there are many great chew toys available at most pet supply stores.  Do not buy chew toys in the shape of shoes!  In fact, keep all of your shoes out of reach during your puppy’s developmental months. 

You did not describe the other “wrecking crew” behavior.  I assume they too are probably related to chewing and biting.  Again, keep all items that can fit in your dog’s mouth out of reach or off limits.  Closing doors to rooms with delicate items is always a smart idea during the puppy months.  If you have furniture that has been targeted, a product called “bitter apple”, which is available in a spray bottle, can be applied to many surfaces.  The taste is very unpleasant and most dogs will keep away from items that have been so treated.

Do not give up on your puppy.  He wants nothing more than to please you and receive your love...but you have to let him know what the rules are.  He’ll learn in time.