By Arden Moore
Cars, flat-screen television sets and even irons come with owner’s manuals to explain how they operate and how to make them perform at their best. Alas, our pets do not.
But Marty Becker, D.V.M., best known as “America’s Veterinarian,” is on a mission to change that.
He just completed a six-week national bus tour called “Healthy Pets Visit Pets” that included three stops in Florida. He also just penned his 19th book — one that I regard as his best work —called Your Dog: The Owner’s Manual. It contains hundreds of tips, surprises and solutions for raising a happy, healthy dog.
During his stop at a Petco store near my home, I surprised my long-time veterinarian friend by showing up not only with my dog, Cleo, but also my very canine-savvy cat, Zeki. My harness-wearing Turkish Van-mix feline eyed the canine crowd, who stopped yapping and sat at attention — and in awe. She commands that type of dog respect.
“Only you, Arden, could pull off bringing a cat to a dog event,” he laughed. “Hey, Zeki is just ahead of the game. My next book, Your Cat: The Owner’s Manual, comes out later this year.”
I came to support Becker on his mission to educate the pet-loving public of the need to have the right tools to be responsible health allies for their pets. He has practiced veterinary medicine for more than 30 years and has been the veterinary correspondent to ABC-TV’s Good Morning America for 10 years and serves as the resident veterinarian on The Dr. Oz Show and the pet expert for AARP.
He stays current on advances in veterinary medicine while never turning down a doggy kiss or a friendly head-butt from a contented cat. Every day, he does his best to champion the people-pet bond.
Let me share with you some of his creative tips and strategies designed to bring out the best in dogs all over America:
• Ditch the food bowl — on occasion. Face it, our dogs aren’t grabbing our car keys and sneaking out to chow down on super-sized meals at a fast-food restaurant. Far too many dogs have more waddle than wiggle and struggle with being overweight. Becker’s solution: Bring out a dog’s natural hunting skills by replacing the food bowl a few times a week with food puzzles designed to dole out small amounts of food when the dog makes the puzzle move or open in some way. Becker recommends the Kong Wobbler, Busy Buddy line and Nina Ottosson’s Dog Pyramid.
• Fend off wolfing down food with stones. Some dogs seem to behave like furry vacuums, inhaling their meals so quickly that you wonder if their taste buds had time to engage. Counter this by placing two or three washed, smooth stones in their food dish at meal time. They are forced to slow down in order to eat around these heavy stones.
• Jazz up that game of fetch. For dogs who love to chase after balls, try tossing the ball up or down a hill or in the water for an extra fulfilling workout. For little, active dogs, select a right-sized stuffed animal that you can toss safely in the house without knocking over a lamp. Other fetch game variations: Hide the ball and then let your dog find it. Or play “monkey in the middle” by having family members toss, roll or kick the ball and reward your dog with a treat each time he intercepts it and gives it back.
• Keep yourself dry at doggy bath time. We’ve all experienced that “big shake” when our saturated dog unleashes a full-body wiggle and sprays us with water. Becker’s solution to staying dry: Hold your dog’s nose. He can’t shake. Towel him dry and then usher him to a “shaking-allowed zone” and your clothes won’t be drenched.
• Keep your dog healthy without taking a big bite out of your wallet. To accomplish this, Becker urges you to never skip your dog’s wellness exams. The reason? The majority of health problems that can be identified in their early stages are far cheaper and easier to treat than those that are left to fester and worsen before a veterinarian can intervene and take action. If your dog needs a medication, work with your veterinarian on how to shop around for the best price. Veterinarians can write prescriptions and you may find considerable savings at a pharmacy, especially for generic drugs.
Becker provides hundreds of more canine-care insights in his book, which caters to both the seasoned dog owner as well as those adopting a puppy for the first time.
You can learn more by tuning in to Dr. Becker’s guest appearance on my Oh Behave show on PetLifeRadio.com and by visiting www.drmartybecker.com.
And, to get your “paws” on an autographed copy of his book, Your Dog: The Owner’s Manual, be the 10th person to email me at Arden@fourleggedlife.com with the code words: America’s Veterinarian. Trust me, your dog will thank you for doing so.
Arden Moore, Founder of Four Legged Life.com, is an animal behavior consultant, editor, author, professional speaker and certified pet first aid instructor. She happily shares her home with two dogs, two cats and one overworked vacuum cleaner. Tune in to her Oh Behave! show on PetLifeRadio.com and learn more by visiting www.fourleggedlife.com.