Marty Becker, DMV, grew up with a love of science and animals and knew from a young age that he wanted to be a veterinarian. Now, along with working as a practicing vet, he’s a pet-book author, a syndicated columnist for nationwide publications and a regular guest on the Dr. Oz Show and Good Morning America. Becker, who used to own practices in Taylorsville and Sandy, will visit the Salt Lake City PetCo (1165 E. Wilmington) on May 20 at 1 p.m. to sign his new book, Your Dog: The Owner’s Manual and answer questions about man’s best friend.
What should a potential dog owner know before adopting?
People spend more time figuring out what kind of car to buy than they do a dog. You have a car six or seven years, and you have a dog 20 years. There needs to be a thoughtful process. What kind of dog person am I? Am I someone elderly who wants a lap dog? Or am I 25 and training for the Iron Woman triathlon? Do I have the physical strength to pick up this dog? Do I have the kind of yard that this dog needs? What are my monetary limitations—can I afford to take a dog to the groomer all the time? Shedding is the No. 1 pet-owner complaint, and if you want the dog that sheds the least, you’ll get a small longhaired dog and keep it clipped. If you’re getting a second dog, don’t try to match up two dogs of the same size and the same breed—it’s like sibling rivalry. I have no bias against purebred dogs, but the best makes and models are the used models that you get at the shelter.
Are vets necessary? Can’t I diagnose my dog’s indigestion online?
It’s OK to go to the Internet, but you always need to go to the vet. It may just need to be a phone call. Twenty percent of the time, you’re going to put your pet at risk of unnecessary pain and expense or worse. [One family] waited five days to come in, and the dog got progressively worse. The dog had swallowed a piece of carpeting and had an intestinal obstruction and a perforated bowel. Despite our heroic measures, five hours later, the dog died. It was expensive, excruciatingly painful, and the family had so much remorse. If you’ve got a good relationship with your veterinarian, you can call up, and they’ll tell you, “If there’s no blood in this, and they don’t do this more than three times, just do this.”
Is it ever too late to train a dog who misbehaves?
The biggest source of behavior problems in dogs is being overfed and underexercised. It causes health risks, but there are also behavioral problems that happen. Dogs’ bodies are made for motion. You gotta get a dog panting tired every day. That’s your goal. That investment in them will not only keep them physically fit but mentally fit. Wild dogs spend 80 percent of their waking hours in pursuit of food, and [domesticated] dogs are able to eat in three minutes. “What do I do the rest of the day? I’m bored.” When they’re bored, they act out, and when they’re bored, they get obese. Use food puzzles, which are specially designed chambers that kibble goes in. The product has to be dropped, spun and manipulated before the food comes out. Or you can just spread the kibble out in the grass and let them forage for it.
With all the work and clean-up involved, why own a dog?
In today’s world, you can lose your job, you can lose your house, you can lose your 401k, but you’re not going to lose the unconditional love of a pet. You’re never going to come home and find your dog’s suitcases packed. Pets also lower blood pressure and increase your survivability after heart attack. If children have pets early in life, they’ll have less allergies, asthma and eczema their entire life. Pets elevate our mood and increase our serotonin. When you pet a dog, after three or four minutes, there’s this biochemical “spa treatment” that happens—a release of happy hormones. The dog gets exactly the reciprocal biochemical event. The only two species that have broken down our hearts and homes are dogs and cats. There’s a reason why we’ve drawn so close. We need them, and they need us.