Jan. 12, 1998 ITHACA, N.Y. -- As Buddy, the new First Pup in the White House, becomes more oval and Socks recoils in horror, Cornell University veterinarians have some unsolicited advice for the Clintons: Avoid overfeeding and overexercising Buddy, and give the First Cat a "dog-free zone."
"A Labrador retriever's bones are not mature until they reach 8 to 10 months of age, so you don't want to overexercise or overfeed a developmentally immature dog," said Rory Todhunter, assistant professor of surgery at Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine.
Noting that developmental orthopedic disease is not uncommon among medium and large dog breeds, Todhunter advised dietary restraint during the first year of Buddy's life. "Labrador puppies tend to be fat and they like to eat, so I would suggest keeping the animal trim through a restricted -- but balanced -- diet. That way you can reduce the physical expression of orthopedic diseases that affect the joints, like the hip, elbow and shoulder, and reduce the expression of secondary effects of diseases like arthritis."
Meanwhile, Katherine A. Houpt, the director of the Cornell Animal Behavior Clinic whose 1993 advice may have eased Socks' transition to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., has been watching the president's dog on television. "Buddy is already pulling on the leash. The owner should learn to gently but firmly control the dog," said Houpt, professor of physiology. "And the dog has to learn not to chase cats."
The young Buddy's interest in rapidly moving objects is understandable, said Houpt, a textbook author and expert in animal behavior. Early puppyhood is the best time, she said, to teach a young animal about inappropriate behavior.
"What is play for a puppy is torture to a cat, because a large puppy play-fights and enjoys rough-and-tumble games. If a dog gets in the habit of chasing cats, what began as play can become a serious problem," she said. "Many cats and dogs learn to get along fine and even play gentle games together. Others learn to coexist harmoniously but with little interaction."
And for Socks' sake, the Cornell animal-behavior expert recommends a little privacy. "Give the cat a 'dog-free zone,' preferably one with some vertical space where the cat can relax and feel secure," Houpt said, adding that finding room shouldn't be a problem. "It's a big house."
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