The Secret Lives of Dogs and Cats (Photos) PLUS Yorky Photos

Dog Grooming Basics
By Darcy Lockman, Studio One Networks -

When the employer of New York Marketing Executive Laurie Bromley began making budget cuts last year, her monthly business trips to Los Angeles became a thing of the past -- and so did her 4-year-old dachshund's overnight stays at the dog spa and hotel. "I always had them give Bams a bath at the end of his visit," she says, "but now that I'm not traveling anymore, I've stopped taking him altogether."

While professional groomers may offer convenience, expertise and a more finished look, your dog can benefit from do-it-yourself grooming, provided you follow some expert advice. Below, Debbie Felder, owner of California-based Bowser's Natural Pet Grooming and a product tester for grooming product company Bamboo Pet, offers tips on home care for your furry friend's coat, skin, nails and teeth.


Brushing your dog keeps its coat healthy and lush, stimulates circulation, gets rid of loose hair and keeps mats at bay. Dogs shed more as the seasons change, and brushing every few days may be a good idea at those times. Otherwise, every week or two is sufficient. If your dog is averse to brushing, Felder recommends carrying on a calm conversation with your canine companion as you work. "If you're tense, the dog can feel it," Felder explains. "Take it slow. Tell it to relax. Give your dog a massage while you brush."

She adds, "The best way to groom at home is to elevate your dog, putting it up high, such as on a table. This takes the dog's power away, letting them know you're in charge." The trick to getting rid of excess fuzz is to take off the loose coat first with a brush and then to follow that up with combing, which takes the mats out. A comb with rolling teeth is also a useful tool.


Bathe your dog every four to six weeks, and always after a good brushing. "A wet coat glues to the skin, so you want to get the loose hairs out first," advises Felder, who also suggests putting cotton in your dog's ears before bathing to keep the water out. "Dogs are afraid of cold water, so never just take them outside and hose them down. Always bathe them in warm water."

Lay out your bathing supplies in advance to streamline the process. These should include a showerhead or pitcher, a diluted commercial shampoo -- to make rinsing easier -- and a towel or blow-dryer for drying. "I recommend shampooing your dog two times per bath," says Felder. "They come out nicer." She also suggests a post-bath comb-out to really finish the look.


While dogs that spend a lot of time playing in yards and walking along sidewalks may not need regular nail trimming, less-active pooches should have their nails clipped about once a month to avoid overgrowth and even infection. You can buy special dog nail clippers, since human clippers are generally not sharp enough for canines. Felder also recommends using an electric, rotating stone, available at hardware stores. This grinds the animal's nails down so they're not as sharp.

Choose a time when your dog tends to be relaxed. If you do use a clipper, trim only nail tips to avoid cutting into the quick -- the vein that runs into your dog's nails. Avoiding the quick can be hard to do if your dog has black nails, which makes it all the more important to trim only the edge. If you do hit the vein, baking powder or cornstarch should stop the bleeding.

Tooth Cleaning

Dogs need their teeth professionally cleaned twice a year to prevent bacteria travelling from tooth tartar to their hearts. In between professional cleanings, you should also brush at home once or twice a week using a dog toothbrush and toothpaste formulated specially for dogs.

When your dog is sitting on an elevated surface like a table, hold its head firmly and open its mouth with one hand. Move the toothbrush in circular motions, starting in the back and making sure to brush at the gum line. Give your dog a crunchy and delicious treat when you finish, to reward for cooperation and to get that toothpaste taste out of its mouth.

Rules for Good Grooming

--Keep grooming fun Approach your dog when you are relaxed and in a good mood. Don't get frustrated. Talk sweetly to your dog throughout.

--Tread lightly Learn from the mistakes professional groomers have made. Be gentle with your hands, keep water at a comfortable temperature and don't force your dog to remain in an uncomfortable position for long.

--Stop sooner rather than later If your dog begins to resist you during a brushing or filing session, let it go. Finish another day.

--Ask for help If your dog is being uncooperative or has mats and tartar you can't tackle, consider visiting a local groomer. You might try paying for a certain number of visits and then taking care of the job at home during other times. "Most groomers will be happy to demonstrate good techniques for you if you're having trouble," says Felder. You and your best canine bud can then enjoy the togetherness of grooming time for years to come.

About the Author: Darcy Lockman is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times and Rolling Stone. She lives in Brooklyn, with the prettiest pug dog in the five boroughs.

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Pet Talk: Here's the Vets' Scoop on Cats' 'Litter Box Issues'
By Sharon L. Peters, Special for USA TODAY

In a cat's head, a litter box is way more than a toilet.

It's a means for stating things in the most potent way.

I figured out a small part of the feline-elimination-practices-as-communication-tool truth 15 years ago. My now-ex-husband's cat EdnaEarle, a singularly possessive (of him) black manx, had strong notions about the way things should be (and that didn't include having me around). She ignored me. She hissed when I tried to pat her. She left rooms when I entered them.

And just in case I didn't have the brainpower to interpret those messages, she pooped in my luggage whenever I returned from a business trip. That's something even a dullard can figure out.

Now that I'm a bona fide, if still novice, owner of a couple of felines that seem to have no real issues with sharing their world with me, I see subtle (though not unnerving) differences in their elimination habits, and I'm getting a handle on how to read the lines in the sand. But I know, from readers who contact me and from the amount of guidance/tip sheets/pamphlets available that litter box problems are widespread.

"It's the No. 1 reason cats present to behaviorists," says Karen Sueda, a veterinarian/animal behaviorist who's appearing on Animal Planet's Housecat Housecall this summer.

She says "soiling issues" — or "litter box issues," as they're known — are very often as uncomplicated as the cat not liking the location of the litter box; too-infrequent cleaning by the owners; a recent shift to a different litter with a different scent or texture; or the fact that some cats dislike those covered litter boxes that trap odors (nice touch for the humans, but a dome of stinkiness for the cat expected to enter and use it). And when they're made unhappy about any of those, some cats make their own decisions about other locales.

But there are many other reasons cats will quit using the litter box, says Richard Goldstein, another veterinarian/expert on Housecat Housecall. "Sometimes it can mean there is a medical problem, such as a urinary tract infection or other internal issue," and sometimes it can indicate such things as "feeling intimidated by another cat" or "some sort of emotional stress," he said in an e-mail.

I've yet to figure out why creatures that can seem so disinterested, almost disdainful, of happenings not directly related to their feeding, lounging and playing schedule can, conversely, be launched into high anxiety by some little matter you'd think they'd never notice. But, indeed, that happens.

Previously fastidious cats can become litter box rogues not only when a new cat is adopted, but when a strange cat roams around outside, when there's a stressful relationship (human or animal) in the household, or when there's a quiet press for supremacy by another family cat, Sueda says. On that last matter, for example, cats bully each other in subtle ways that can be missed by many people, it turns out. "One cat may stand watch near the litter box, just staring. Prolonged staring is a pretty strong message." And many's the cat that will simply throw in the towel and find another place to do its business.

There's also a distinction between normal soiling and "vertical soiling" (against a wall, side of a sofa, propped-up pillows on a bed or whatever), the latter serving as a sign of stress — emotional or physical.

Yeow. Sanskrit, anyone?

Still, it's important to tackle problem soiling quickly, both experts say, not merely for the obvious sanitary reasons (we all know how fast cats form habits), but also to establish if there's a medical condition requiring treatment or a stressor to minimize.

So the advice is: Tarry not; get thee to the vet fast.

On another matter: Since I had the vets' attention, I asked them to address a position often stated by people who comment at the end of Pet Talk columns. That position, more or less, is that cats are so pre-wired to hunt, stalk and roam, that to force them into an indoors-only life is cruel.

I asked the vets: Do indoors-only cats live a miserable existence?

Here's what Goldstein had to say: "If you live on a busy street … or in an area with lots of wild animals, safety becomes a big concern for outdoor cats. But just because a cat may live indoors doesn't mean he or she has to become a couch potato. By providing lots of toys and physically and mentally challenging activities for your cat, you can keep your cat quite content and safe."

Sueda agrees, pointing out that indoors-only cats have a much longer life expectancy, since they're not done in or injured by cars, dogs or other cats, or dragged off by foxes, hawks, coyotes or other prey creatures.

It's easy to create "an enriched indoor environment," she says, by scheduling play time, finding stimulating toys and making perches or creating spaces where they can watch the outdoors. Many cats even enjoy watching videos of the outdoors.

Some folks regard all that enrichment stuff as a poor replication of the ideal, free-roaming life. Others say the born-free approach is nice in theory, but once you've seen a hawk carry off a beloved cat, or had the vet say he can't save your road-mangled feline, you change your tune.

It's one of the most emotional and determined positions a cat person takes.

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Told He Can’t Have Dog, He Kills the Landlord

A Chicago man is accused of killing the landlord who told him he couldn’t have a dog, using garden tools, an ice scraper, a BB gun and a pipe to allegedly beat him before setting his body on fire.

Martin Vega, 27, is charged with first-degree murder and could face the death penalty, Cook County prosecutors said.

A judge denied bail for Vega, who was renting an apartment from William Hallin, 67, in the two-story home Hallin owned in Chicago’s Gage Park community, according to the Chicago Tribune.

On Friday, Hallin went to collect rent and saw Vega had a dog in his apartment. When Hallin told Vega he would have to move out, a bloody fight ensued, officials said.

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