Choosing a Puppy or Dog


Are there any non allergy causing dogs? Question: Dr. Richards, Please provide names of breeds (other than poodles) that people with allergies may do well owning? Is it true that allergic reactions to dogs is NOT from their hair, but their saliva? Answer: Vox I do not believe that there are any hypoallergenic breeds, including poodles. People are usually allergic to either the dander or saliva (or both) from dogs, rather than their hair. There are probably individual dogs within many breeds who produce less saliva or less dander and are therefore less likely to induce allergies. Since I do believe that there are some breeds that are more likely to induce allergies (like Shar peis), I guess that it is possible that there is a breed I am unaware of that is less likely than others to induce allergies, too. Mike Richards, DVM 12/12/2000 Adopting abused pup Question: Hello! I have recently adopted a puppy from our vet and he has obviously had much mistreatment. He's approx. 5 months old, is neutered and has all of his shots. He look to be a mix of terrier and black lab...but who really knows? When I met him two weeks ago, he had just been brought in and was a mess. He cowered in the back of the run, was submissivley urinating and deficating and wouldn't let anyone touch him. I spent time alone with him that day and then for the next two days. I decided to take him home to "foster" and, well, the rest is history. We named him Sydney. It turns out that he is pretty much housebroken and has really started to come out of his shell with me. He's still VERY skittish around other people, including my husband who is very gentle and kind to animals. It seems Sydney has figured out he's a puppy and is playing like there's no tomorrow. He follows our 10 year old black lab, Axl, around and mimics his behavior, which is wonderful. I'm encouraged by his progress. He does nip me a lot when he gets wound up...almost like he's over-stimulated and is quite territorial (growling at noises outside or when my husband enters the bedroom...although he snuggles in bed with us at night, so must not be all that uncomfortable with him.) Do you have any non-violent training suggestions? He needs disipline, but I don't want to frighten him. We live in a pretty rural area and I haven't found any obedience classes around, so will probably have to do this training myself. Thanks for your ideas! Casey Answer: Casey- It sounds like Sydney is adjusting to your house and that it would be a good time to start to set some rules for behavior and to work towards some training goals. Dogs that are easily frightened do need to be reassured, but you do not want to encourage the behavior by rewarding them for fearful behavior. This is a tricky balance to achieve. It is good to talk to him briefly and say something in a soothing tone like, "It's OK boy, there is no one there", but if you go to him and hold him or if you sound anxious and say something in an irritated tone, you might actually encourage him to be more fearful. Sometimes, just calling him to you and getting him to sit or lie down is the best approach. It takes his mind off what he is worrying over and lets him know that you are in control, so things will be OK. It is good to figure out one or two commands (more is OK, too) that you can work on with Sydney. You want to be able to have something that he is expected to know how to do that you can use to show him gently that you are the boss and that will help in times of stress to give him something to concentrate on. Most dogs will learn to sit pretty rapidly if you simply reward them with praise or a small food treat and say "sit" when you notice that they are getting ready to sit on their own. This can work to teach a dog "down", too but it is a little harder to figure out when they are actually going to lay down and you do have to time the word "down" and the reward with the action. If this doesn't work, there are some good books on teaching puppies basic obedience. The book "How to Raise a Puppy You Can Live With" is good and Brian Kilcommon's book is good, too. There are probably others. Just skim them on the book store and pick one that has advice that actually sounds like something you could or would do. The issue of growling at the bedroom door is a little worrisome. This may just be an adjustment thing and you might find that Sydney stops doing this soon. However, if he continues to growl at your husband it may be necessary to take steps to let him know that the order in the family is such that he is below you and your husband in the pecking order. To do this it is usually necessary to make him work for each thing that you do for him. Making him sit prior to giving him his meals, making him sit before opening the door so that he can go out, not allowing him to sleep on the bed with you and things like this that reinforce his status as being below yours and your husband's can be helpful. It isn't as much fun to own a pet when you have to constantly think of this sort of thing but it can help avert problems. If you find more serious problems occur with aggressive behaviors it would be best to seek the help of a behaviorist, even if you have to drive a long way for the first visit. Usually, after evaluating the situation the behaviorists are willing to continue helping by telephone rather than making you come back repeatedly for visits, although there are obviously going to be times when repeat visits are necessary. I don't think you will get to this point but this is a good option if you find you are struggling with bad behaviors in the future. Lastly, don't forget that dogs have short attention spans. It is a lot better to try to teach Sydney by making many small efforts during the day than to try to set aside an hour as "study time" and expect him to pay attention for that long at one time. Mike Richards, DVM 3/18/2000 Will an Akita be ok with my cat and small children? Q: I was just wondering if an alaskian akita is a good dog to have around a 19 month old and a 7 yr old? The akita is a 4-6 month old puppy. I also have a cat that has been with us for 3 years. I have a big fenced in yard and live in a good size house. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you and have a nice day! A: I would worry about the Akita and the cat. Just based on the experience we have had in our practice, Akitas are not always good with small animals and other dogs. They seem to be pretty good with family members most of the time but some dogs do not do well with babies and young children. If you already have this dog and it is doing fine, it will probably continue to do well with your children. If you are contemplating getting the dog and are not sure it is a good idea, then you need to try to judge its reaction to children prior to acquiring it. There are probably a number of possible problems but there are two big ones that I can think of --- the first one is that the puppy may be aggressive towards the children --- the second one is that it may be friendly but so excitable that it is dangerous in its exuberance rather than aggressive tendencies. A really active large breed puppy can be pretty tough for a toddler to live with because of the potential to be knocked down and injured. If possible, it would be best to schedule a meeting between the puppy and your youngest child. Both the puppy and your child will need to be restrained enough to prevent a free-for-all interaction until everyone's ability to handle the situation is well established. Usually you can get a pretty good idea of the puppy's temperament quickly. If you know a good dog trainer or behaviorist it would be good to pay them to come with you. Once it is clear whether or not the younger child can handle the puppy and visa versa, then it would be a good idea to introduce your older child. This will avoid a situation in which the older child is strongly attracted to the puppy but it is obvious that adoption of the puppy is impossible due to problems with the younger child. One very good thing about adopting a puppy this age is that you pretty much know what you are getting --- which might be better than getting a younger puppy. If you know anyone else who may be able to advise you in this matter, it would be a good idea to ask their opinion as well. This sort of decision is a good one for collecting and thinking about several opinions. Take your time, don't get rushed and you'll make a good choice, I'm sure. Mike Richards, DVM Picking a puppy Q: Thank you for the help! I was just wondering what type of dog is good with small children and cats? I am really looking for a small dog! I would like to rescue one from the local shelter but right now they don't have any I can adopt. I feel they know the dogs they get and know which dog is good for us! I will take your advice on the akita don't know if I want any possible chances of injuries to my daughter or cat.. the cat acts just like a dog but he is a very great animal! Your opinion would sure aid in my search thank you and have a great day! A: It is better to evaluate individual dogs for suitability with children than to search for the right breed. There is a lot of disagreement about which breeds are best with children and my opinion of a good small breed may be very different from your vet's. These types of evaluations depend more on who is raising a particular breed in a particular vet's area than on the breed as a whole across the U.S. There are some books on this topic. "The Perfect Puppy: How to Choose Your Dog by its Behavior", by Benjamin and Lynette Hart is a good book. While I have not read the following book, I have heard good reviews of it: "The Right Dog for You: Choosing a Breed That Matches Your Personality, Family and Lifestyle", by Daniel F. Tortora, Ph.D. Even at shelters, it is important to maintain a small amount of suspicion - they really want to avoid euthanasia if possible, which is very understandable. It is still a good idea to make sure you get a chance to evaluate the puppy's response to children. Mike Richards, DVM


Michael Richards, D.V.M. co-owns a small animal general veterinary practice in rural tidewater Virginia. Dr. Richards graduated from Iowa State University's College of Veterinary Medicine in 1979, and has been in private practice ever since. Dr. Richards has been the director of the PetCare Forum...