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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Monday, June 6, 2016

Help! Adopted dog won't stop marking the house!

I saw your response to a person who wrote in about their dog that continues to mark. I'm hoping you can help. We adopted a 6 year old silky terrier about 9 months ago. He had spent his entire life before us outside chained to a dog house. He was malnourished and had flea dermatitis. He was also heart worm positive so we had to wait to have him neutered. He was neutered 3 1/2 months ago. He has marked in our house when given the opportunity since the day we got him 9 months ago. The only time he doesn't mark is in his kennel and when he's tethered on a 5 foot lead to our table or in our living room. 

We've had a trainer come to the house and her suggestion was that we have to catch him in the act to deter him from marking. She really didn't have much success with him at all the day she came to our house. She couldn't get him to sit or do any other more basic command. We spent a lot if time with the come command which she felt he wasn't responding to like he should have. It was a disappointing experience. The dog is nearly impossible to catch marking. I've followed him around the house for hours. He won't mark. The minute he can get out of sight he marks. As a result he spends his entire time out of his kennel tethered. I'm sad he has to exist this way but we've tried increasing the length of the lead and as soon as he can get out of sight and mark, he will. We have 4 children so having our eyes and attention on the dog all the time is unrealistic. Quite frankly this dog is requiring more attention and mind share than the kids. We do have 2 other dogs and it's not clear who is dominant, but it's likely the silky. 

I'm looking for suggestions and ideas. I'm also wondering if there are dogs out there that spend their life tethered in a home. He's always in the room with us. He gets lots of attention from the kids, dogs, and us. We walk him 30 min a day. He's well fed and loved. He just spends his time tethered since that's the only time he won't mark. He does wear a belly band but that's not fool proof and feeling wet seems to not phase him at all. I know it's a lot to try and change 6 years of learned bad behaviors. I'm just frustrated because we've been hard core with the house breaking since he was neutered and we've seen minimal improvement. We tried the house breaking before that too but he was crated a lot due to heartworm treatment and we had hoped the neutering would help so we weren't as vigilant as we've been the last 3 1/2 months. 

How long do we try to break him if this habit? Is this a process that will take years? At what point do we throw in the towel? We love him dearly and don't plan to give him up. We've committed to him. I just hate to think we've committed to having him tethered to our table the rest of his life. Your suggestions are appreciated. 
Hi there.
Thanks for adopting this little hard-case and thank you for not giving up on him.  You do not need to throw in the towel. We can fix this.

First - is there any possibility that this is a medical issue?  I.E., could he possible have a chronic bladder infection, or stones?  These types of conditions will make him feel as though he needs to urinate all the time.  If you haven't ruled out a veterinary problem - it might be worth looking into.

I assume you don't punish him for urinating in the house...right?  That never works.

Use a strong enzymatic cleaner on all areas where he has urinated.  Even if it smells clean to you, he may still detect that that was an area where he has peed before and he will want to "recharge" the spot.  Most pet supply stores and some veterinary clinics have excellent enzymatic urine eliminating products.  Ask the store manager or your veterinarian for their recommendations on the best product.

Also, if your pet sleeps in your bed with you, this will need to stop right away.  He'll need to sleep in a crate with a comfy bed at the foot of your bed.  The reason for this is he needs to know that you (and everyone else in your family) are the pack leaders.  A dog that understands he is not the alpha will not feel the need to mark.

BUT - while you are teaching him this lesson, I urge you to try this:
One of the absolute BEST products to use for dogs that mark are Belly Bands.  You can either purchase disposable or washable varieties and they come in all sizes.  They are like diapers and they wrap around your dog's abdomen, covering up his little fire hose!  Dogs HATE to feel wet, so if he urinates, it will go into the material of the belly band and not your furniture or flooring.  

You simply throw away the soiled belly bands, or wash them.  They come in many colors and are very comfortable for dogs to wear. Your dog will learn very quickly that when he "marks," he is only getting himself wet and nothing else.  It won't take long before he stops marking completely.  You can experiment a little after three or four weeks of using the product by letting him go without for a while.  Gradually increase the time he goes without and give him lots of toys and praise for behaving well.  Also, be sure to let him be "naked" when he's on walks or in the yard. But in the house, put them right back on until you feel confident that the habit has been broken.

Good luck and let me know how it works out!
I am going to feature this on my radioshow at
Thanks for writing in.
All the best,

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Flea "Season"

Fleas.  Dogs and cats are really struggling with these nasty blood-suckers, and based on what I’ve been hearing from  pet parents everywhere, it’s been a bad “season.”

I use the word “season” loosely because we didn’t really get our normal winter break from these pests.  Temperatures in our area never dropped low enough to put a damper on flea activity for any impactful period of time.  Consequently, these pests kept right on reproducing and causing our four-legged family members a whole lot of grief.  What’s worse is that because there was never a break in the flea reproduction cycle, there are more fleas than ever and THEY are all reproducing.  Sadly, we still have several more months of warm weather here in lovely Southern California, so things are only going to get worse before they get better.

If you have been using monthly, topical flea treatments, you have probably been noticing that they do not seem to be as effective as they used to be.  Fleas appear to have become somewhat resistant to these miracle products of the past decade and a half.  There are some new oral flea medications, but several of the side effects associated with this treatment (vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, loss of appetite, etc.) make a lot of folks a little nervous about using these prescription-only products.  Additionally, some pet parents are reporting that the effectiveness of these drugs has already decreased since they were first introduced a couple years ago.

Does that mean we all just have to wait until Old Man Winter comes to work his magic on the fleas?  No!

There are a number of things you can do that will help reduce fleas in your environment.  First, vacuum daily!  By giving your house a quick once over each day, you’ll eliminate fleas and their eggs that are in carpet, furniture, cracks between tiles, etc.  My little Pomeranian loves being vacuumed (with the brush hand tool attached), so he gets that “once over” also!  Not all animals enjoy, or even tolerate vacuums, so don’t put your pet through any trauma, and skip the body vacuum if it’s not appropriate in your case.  Empty and clean your vacuum’s waste receptacle after every use.  (Or if you use bags, replace the bags.)

Next, wash your pets’ bedding weekly.  If they are not washable, vacuum pet beds to the best of your ability.  Follow this up by bathing your companion animals with a species appropriate, gentle shampoo at least once a month during periods of warm weather.  The shampoo does not need to be pesticidal.  I would recommend a shampoo that is designed to soothe skin.  Lathering up and rinsing is enough to eliminate most fleas.   Use a flea comb after the bath to snag any straggler fleas that did not rinse away.

Sprinkle human-grade Diatomaceous earth all over your carpet, flooring, pet beds, or anywhere else that fleas seem to be hiding.  You can also sprinkle a little on your pets’ fur and brush it in.  Diatomaceous earth desiccates fleas but is harmless to pets and people.  However, it is important not to breathe in the dust as it could cause some respiratory irritation.  In other words, don’t apply it if you have fans that are operating, or there is a lot of wind coming in from the windows.  I would even recommend wearing a mask as you shake it around your house just to be extra careful.  Many pet parents have also reported good results by giving the perimeter of their yards a dose of diatomaceous earth.
Do not leave your pets outside because they have fleas.  Their situation will only worsen and they will suffer enormously.  The more time they spend indoors—where you can control fleas more effectively—the less of a problem they will have with fleas.  This is especially true for cats, all of whom should be indoors-only anyway!

A word of warning, you may find online recipes for flea-control that call for garlic.  Though it is true that garlic and fleas don’t mix, it is also true that garlic and pets don’t mix.  In fact, garlic is potentially very dangerous to cats and dogs so please do not use it.  In addition to garlic, steer clear of essential oils that are touted to be safe and natural. If consumed or absorbed, many can cause problems.

Finally, if your pet develops more concerning problems due to fleas, such as skin irritation, inflammation, oozing hot spots, anemia, intestinal worms, etc., please visit your veterinarian immediately. Fleas can be far more than just a nuisance and may pose serious health risks to our furry family members.

Hopefully, we will have a nice cool winter this year, but in the meantime, be diligent to keep fleas under control and your pets comfortable.