Early Training OK for Pups; Keep It Simple

Ericson, a practicing Orange County veterinarian, is immediate past president of the Southern California Veterinary Medical Assn.

Q: Is an 18-week-old puppy too young to start obedience training? I have a black lab pup that seems very bright, and I would like to start her on her training. Every class that I have contacted says to wait until she is 6 months old. Is there something else that I can do?

Brenda Belshaw,


A: You can start to train your pup at any age as long as you keep the tasks very simple, use one-word commands and realize that a young puppy has a very short attention span and will lose interest in any type of training after about 15 or 20 minutes. If you start off by teaching her name and basic commands, such as come , stay , and no , you will be ahead of the game when she enters obedience classes. Be patient, use a gentle voice and keep it simple.


Q: I recently took my two children, 6- and 8-year-old boys, to our doctor because they had some bald, red spots on their skin. The doctor said it was ringworm and, during his background check on the boys, asked if we had any pets. We have two cats, both females, which go in and out of doors. We were told to have our cats checked, since they were probably the source of the skin infection of our boys. Our vet checked the cats with ultraviolet light and found no ringworm. Where could the boys have gotten ringworm? Is there another way to check the cats? If they do have ringworm, do we have to get rid of the cats? The boys are being treated and are doing well. What do you suggest?

M.L.D., Villa Park

A: Ringworm is a common name for any fungal infection of the skin that causes a circular lesion with hair loss. These infections are caused by types of fungal organisms, more than 20 of which infect man and 10 to 12 of which infect animals. Of all these different fungi, only about four affect both man and animals. The most common fungus is called Microsporum canis , which affects cats and dogs as well as man. These fungi are all soil-borne that can be highly contagious to susceptible people, such as children. It is not uncommon for cats or dogs to spread the fungus to children or for children to spread it to their pets or members of the family. When examining a cat for ringworm, the coat is checked for any loss of hair or for thin, crusty lesions that generally do not itch. Ultraviolet light is routinely used to find the spores of the fungus. The spores will appear lime-green on the hair shafts. However, not all of these spores will show up. It may be wise to remove some hair from a suspected area and place it on a dermatophyte culture to see if the fungus will grow. The hair shafts can also be treated with an agent and checked under a microscope for spores. If your cats do have ringworm, they can be treated by medicated baths, topical medication, oral medication--if the infection is widespread--and clipping the affected areas. If the cats are infected, it would not be necessary to get rid of them, although it might be necessary to confine them and restrict their contact with family members until their condition is cleared.

Got a question about your pet? Write to: Dr. Glenn Ericson, Ask the Vet, Orange County Life, The Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, Calif. 92626.