Pet expert Marc Morrone answers questions about kid-friendly dogs, dewclaws, and barking issues.
What breed of dog will get along best with my kids?
All dogs can interact well with children, especially if they're introduced as puppies to a home where children are already underfoot. A dog should be socialized and raised in a structured environment that reminds the animal of its subservience to the rest of the household. Problems usually arise when dogs are mentally unbalanced, or if they have never been socialized or trained correctly. When a new dog does come into your home, be sure to monitor the first interactions between your children and the pet.
One of my dogs has a small claw on the inside of each front paw, but my other dogs don't have it. Why does this occur on some dogs and not on others?
All dogs have five digits on each of their front feet and four on each of their back feet; the fifth digit, or dewclaw, corresponds with the human thumb. Some dog breeders will have the dewclaws removed when puppies are born so trimming isn't a worry as they grow older.
Our co-op board is about to evict us because our dog never stops barking. My husband wants to put a shock collar on our dog, but I hate the idea of hurting it. Is there anything else we can do?
The best cure for dog barking is intense behavior modification. Most people work and don't have the time to spend training their dogs not to bark, so a shock collar is often considered a quick-and-easy solution. A more humane idea is to use a citronella collar. You put the collar on when you leave for work, and if the dog barks excessively, the collar releases a puff of citronella. This is not harmful to the dog in any way, and it usually distracts the animal and keeps it from barking. The collars are very expensive, but they are worth the cost if they keep the peace. If that fails, you should find an experienced dog trainer or animal behaviorist in your area.
Many letters come in describing pet owners' difficulties in getting their pets to sit still while their teeth are brushed or claws trimmed. The best way to overcome this problem is to get the dog used to it early. While it's still a puppy, play with its toes, squeezing the pads of its feet. You can also put your finger in its mouth so its teeth can be cared for later on. This way, it'll be accustomed to the handling and won't struggle or act aggressively while you maintain its hygiene