I thought it was time for another question-and-answer article. If you have questions that you are either too shy or afraid to ask someone, email me, and I will try to get you an answer.
Q. How tight should I make my dog's collar?
A. The collar should fit snuggly enough that it cannot slide over your dog's head. You should only be able to slide two fingers underneath of the collar.
Q. What is the best type of collar for my dog?
A. That really depends on the breed of dog, and then also on the individual dog itself. The best thing is to go to one of the two local pet stores (House Pets and Millville Pet Stop) with your dog and talk to the staff. They can discuss your particular dog's needs and make recommendations. There are too many variables to consider for me to give all of the examples.
Q. My 5-year-old son really wants a pet, and we have decided to get him one but don't know which would be the best.
A. There are several things to consider first: Do you want a bird, a mammal, fish, a reptile, etc.? If you decide a bird, I would recommend a parakeet or a parrotlet. Both are OK living alone. Both can be tamed relatively easily. Both are pretty easy to care for.
If you decide on a mammal, I would recommend either a female rat or a guinea pig. (Male rats are sometimes quite smelly.) Rats are very intelligent and can learn numerous tricks. Both are pretty sturdy and can tolerate minor rough handling by a child. (Not recommended, but likely to happen with small children.) Both are pretty easy to care for. Both are not very likely to bite. Rats are more interactive, but many people have an adverse reaction to thinking of having them for a pet. Either one is a great pet for children.
Fish — I would probably go with tropicals. They are a little more work than goldfish, but there are many more varieties to choose from and you can put more of them in one tank than you can with goldfish. Definitely do not do saltwater fish for children, unless you are going to do most of the work. (And if you are going to do the work, it's really not your child's pet.)
Reptiles — To be honest, for a 5-year-old child, I would not recommend a reptile. Too much care is required and too much hygiene for a small child. All animals can carry diseases. However, reptiles are much more likely to carry diseases, and more care is required. If you insist on a reptile, the bearded dragon is probably the best. However, realize you — the parent — will need to help a lot more with this type of pet. There is also a large initial investment in any reptile. There are specific and expensive heating and lighting requirements.
Q. Is it better to get one or two kittens?
A. There are various opinions on this. My personal opinion is, if your work outside the home, and the kitten/kittens are going to be home alone for several hours most days, then I say two are better than one. They can play with each other and keep each other company.
Now, you will need to make sure that, while they are young, you spend a lot of individual time with each of them. This will help to keep them from just bonding with each other. If you notice that they don't want to play with you and only want to play with each other, try separating them occasionally. For example, close one in your bedroom and play with the other, then switch them around. Especially while they are young, make sure you spend some time playing with them every day.
Q. My mother has a scarlet macaw, and she said that it will probably outlive her. She's 43. I don't like birds and don't want to inherit it. Is she right?
Q. Yes, most likely the bird will outlive her and possibly even you, too. They can live for 50 to 100 years. If/when you inherit the bird, if you are not going to keep it, get in touch with a reputable bird rescue agency to rehome the bird, unless you personally know someone to give it to. Unfortunately, too many of these large birds are rehomed over and over again, because most people don't really understand what they are getting into.
Q. My son has a hamster, and he wants to get another one so they can keep each other company. Someone once told me that they should be kept alone. Is that true?
A. Yes, they are solitary creatures. They should only be placed together for mating purposes. Hamsters live alone in nature and should be kept alone as pets. If placed together, they will often fight, sometimes to their death.
Q. We just got a pet guinea pig. I had heard not to give it any fresh food, just the pelleted food, but then someone said that's not true. Which is right?
A. Guinea pigs do need fresh food. They should be fed all the fresh hay they can eat, pelleted food, fresh veggies and a small amount of fresh fruit. Rabbits and birds also need fresh fruits and veggies.
Q. I overheard someone talking about a green-bean diet for dogs. What exactly is that?
A. For overweight dogs, replace part of their normal meal with green beans. (Fresh is best, frozen the second choice, canned after that. Canned beans should be rinsed to remove some of the sodium.) Green beans help to fill them up not out. Most dogs also love the beans. Do not cut out more than half of the dog's regular food allowance without consulting with your veterinarian.
Q. My dog is overweight, but I still like to give it treats. What can I use for treats?
A. If your dog eats kibble, measure out its daily allotment, and then use pieces of its kibble from the daily allotment as treats. You can also use pieces of carrots as treats. If you feel you have to use “real” treats, then I would use something like a fish, chicken or turkey jerky cut into very small pieces. Or use real chicken or turkey in very small pieces. Remember, when adding treats to a dog's diet, reduce their food intake by the amount of treats you are using.
Q. What type of leash should I buy for my new puppy?
A. They are several things to consider first. If the dog is a small-breed dog, I would recommend a 6 foot leash. If you use a 4-foot leash, most of the 4 feet is used up just going from your hand to the dog. For larger dogs, you can use either a 4- or 6-foot leash. If you are having trouble controlling the dog, I would recommend the 4-foot leash.
If you are going to use a flexi lead, please use it correctly. Flexi leads were designed to be able to allow you to let the dog have a longer leash and shorter leash, all in one. When using a flexi, it should only be extended when you are outside, in large open areas, like fields and such. When walking down sidewalks or in congested areas, the flexi should be locked in a short position. Never allow the flexi to be extended when in a store or a congested area.
Cheryl Loveland is a dog groomer, pet-sitter, dog trainer and fosterer for many unwanted animals. She does rescue work for all types of animals and has owned or fostered most types of domestic animals and many wild ones. She currently resides with two bloodhounds, which she has shown in conformation and is currently training her male bloodhound for search-and-rescue work. Also residing with her are a bichon frisée, two cats and two birds. She welcomes comments, questions and suggestions for future articles at firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember, she is not an expert: she offers her opinions and suggestions from her experience and research.