Why are small dogs so difficult to house-train?
I've never been able to make our little Chihuahua mix reliable. I've read that's common.
M.A., via e-mail
Small dogs can indeed be difficult to house-train, for a couple different reasons. One of the major problems is inconsistency on the part of the owner. A lot of people with small dogs decide it's just as easy to clean up a little mess now and then instead of working on a big training problem.
But little dogs can be house-trained. Toy breed expert Darlene Arden says you have to start by looking at things from a little dog's point of view.
For example, you have to make sure your dog feels safe in the outdoor spot you've chosen for it.
"You need to find that one very safe spot for them," says Arden, adding that it's important to keep the grass short so the dog doesn't feel as if he's hacking through a jungle.
Once your dog has a safe spot, you can teach it to use the spot with the aid of a schedule, praise and a dedication to consistency.
"Feed on a schedule," says Arden. "You must take your dog out after he eats, after play, after any kind of stimulation. Take a special treat and your happiest voice to the special spot.
"The moment the puppy's feet hit the ground, get excited."
When the deed is done, says Arden, praise to the heavens and deliver the treat.
Limiting a dog's range in the house helps, too.
"I'm a firm believer in crate-training as a tool, not a punishment," says Arden. "A crate keeps a dog out of trouble when you can't watch him."
Mistakes are part of the learning process and should never be punished.
"If you see the dog starting to go in the house, pick him up and run him to that special spot," says Arden, and praise him when he finishes up outside.
Tabby stripes top all feline markings
"Tabby" is a general term for striped cats, and tabbies come in many colors and patterns more than 40 varieties in all.
Red tabbies seem to have a special following and mythology, perhaps because in male cats the red-orange gene is almost always connected with tabby markings, while in females, red-orange cats can be tabbies, tortoiseshells or calicoes. (About one calico in 3,000 is male, but he's not your usual male: He carries an extra "X" chromosome.) Red tabby males are often called "ginger toms" with great affection.
Tabbies can be further distinguished by differences in the pattern of their stripes. The most recognizable is probably the "mackerel" tabby, with parallel lines placed like the ribs of a fish. All tabby cats carry a special mark in common, an "M" on the top of their heads.
Mikkel Becker and
Dr. Marty Becker