Answers from a Dog Expert

Following Elissa Gootman’s article on Sunday about what kinds of dogs are best for apartment living in New York City, readers submitted questions this week to our visiting expert, William Berloni, a theatrical animal trainer and the director of animal behavior for the Humane Society of New York.

Here is his first set of answers. The second will appear on City Room next Friday.

Some questions have been edited and condensed.

My 7-year-old niece has been longing for a dog and now that they have moved from Brooklyn to Connecticut and have a large yard her parents have agreed to letting her have a dog. And this is where I (the Auntie) come in as I will be giving my niece the dog as a present. … In my initial research I came up with a shortlist (really short!): labrapoodles and vizla. Would you be able to give some further guidance? Thanks!

PS: I don’t own a dog myself but am an avid fan and just know that I will fall in love with their family dog!pippi, brooklyn

Please, please please, please, please, please, please don’t buy your niece a dog! As well meaning as you are, you would no sooner adopt a child to give to your family or make an arranged marriage for them. The same goes for adding a four-legged living creature to their life style. The dog that is right for them is to be determined, researched, investigated by them. Getting a dog is a “Till death do we part” relationship and should not be gone into lightly.

If you want to be the loving aunt be a facilitator. Give you niece a gift certificate to help the family get their dream dog. Take her to the library, internet, shelter or responsible breeder and help them make the love match. Otherwise you will make a mistake that will leave the family heartbroken and a dog homeless.

How do I keep my 2 year old female Boston terrier from excessively licking everything in sight. She licks the floor, the furniture, me, my wife etc… John Hammer

Excessive licking is a stereotypical behavior that is repeated without variation or purpose. It can be cured by a vet who specializes in compulsive behaviors. The cause is either physiological or behavioral. Your dog may have a dietary deficiency or  nausea, or some other medical condition. Another major reason for this type of behavior is stress. I have a Boston named Pi and he dances with the New York City Ballet in a ballet called “Double Feature.” If he did not have a job in the city and a farm in the country, he would be a nervous wreck.

Keep detailed journals of the licking activity for a few days. There is a reason and a good vet will find it. And do it sooner before your dogs ingest some chemical or object that will cause them real harm.

My shelter dog never comes when called and often disappears for hours. what can i do to train him?Linda Borg, Providence RI

I have similar problem with my spaniel x from Arkansas and have used positive recall training for 2 years (which has worked, except in distraction), but unfortunately the last resort is a move to the ecollar for most people in this situation. jformichelli, Boston

Great to hear you both have shelter dogs. All dogs, though, will run away without training. We would not want our readers to equate shelter dogs with bad behaviors. Linda, go to a basic obedience class. First your dog has to learn to respect you and then you teach them complicated behaviors like coming.

As for our friend in Boston who has had training, the breed mix traits have wired her hunting dog to “go after the prey” when certain distractions arise. In all these cases, safety is the key. Providence should be trained; and never let Boston into a situation where she/he can get loose. We all have our limits.

As an owner of two cats in a New York apartment, what dog breeds would you recommend so that all four of us can live in relative peace and everyone can have some private space? tony

All dogs somewhere in their genes have a predator instinct. It can be overcome by raising a dog with cats. My suggestion is not necessarily a breed but a rescue. Go to any respectable shelter and ask for a dog that gets along with cats and then ask to witness the test.

At the Humane Society of New York, that is exactly what we do. You tell us the type of cats you have temperament wise and we test our dogs with similar cats. The breed will depend on what lifestyle you lead, active or calm and the size of your apartment. Go get suggestions from a rescue organization.

My partner and I are seriously considering a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. We have never had a dog, but believe this is a good breed for our activity level and lifestyle. We have stable work hours (9-6 pm) & plan on hiring a dog walker to be with the dog in the middle of the day. However, given CKCS’s need for companionship (a wonderful hallmark of the breed), will this human contact be enough for the hours we are not home?Pilpiloni, New York

First time dog owners are my favorite because if you have the right experience, you will be won over forever and enter the secret dog lovers society. If you have the wrong experience a lot of feelings get hurt and some animal ends up homeless. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels were on my list as good dogs for NYC if you have a social lifestyle.

Given your work schedule, though, I think a CKCS would be very lonely, as would many other breeds. My suggestion is go to a reputable shelter and adopt a young adult dog who has low energy and will be grateful for a new home. With that much time alone you need a couch potato and that can come in many different breeds and even mixed breeds.

It is great you are thinking ahead to have a dog walker come in and give the dog a bathroom break. Now go to a shelter and find your match!

Do you have any breeds that you feel are ideal for a person living in a studio apartment in the city who will be at work most of the day and returning in the early evening? I’ve been interested in Havanese, but many say this breed does not do well if left alone for a period of time. Also, the Coton de Tulear? Aside from two nights a week, I’m home relatively regularly to spend time with a dog (weekends/evenings).

I would also plan to have a walker come during the day as well. I have a significant other who will care for the pup on the two nights I am not able to come home after work and he can sometimes come home at lunch. It seems a puppy may not be best for our situation, but would it be ok for a dog that is say 6 months to a year old? Some say to get two dogs in this situation, but I’d be a new dog owner and that seems a bit much at first.Jenn Hains, Brooklyn, NY

You say you have five evenings a week plus weekends to be with a new dog. I am sure in that free time you will want to have a social life, shop, do laundry and other activities which would cut into the time left for a new pet. It doesn’t sound like an ideal life for a social creature.

The advice you received about getting two dogs is sound, but you are correct in thinking that it would be a lot for a first time dog owner. There are dogs in shelters that do like to sleep all day, be fed and petted, but they are far and few between.

My advice for now would be get a cat that acts like a dog. No walker necessary during the day but the wonderful companionship of a four-legged furry creature that is more independent than a dog.

Hi Bill, greetings from Max, the big golden/shepherd mix from the Humane Society of New York. Here’s my question: no matter how many types of chew toys we try, Max prefers bike pedals, wicker baskets, Rollerblades, and chair legs. Meaty bones that are supposed to last for weeks get destroyed in a day. Stuffed Kongs don’t hold much interest. What do you suggest to satisfy his urge to chew something really hard?Susan, NYC

For dogs with real urges to chew I recommend the Nylabone products. I have Irish wolfhounds, deer hounds, larger terrier mixes and bulldogs. They have nylon non-edible chew products that look like big bones. My dogs work at those and the sterilized marrow bones. But all chew toys require supervision. As they start breaking pieces off, you must replace them. I thought my guys would not go for the nylon bones, but the shape makes them fun to chew.

My Akita mix is 14 years old! She’s still very happy but can’t walk well. Often her back leg gives out. She’s recently started barking at 4:30am and then continues to bark until I walk her and feed her. She often then keeps barking after that. I’m losing so much sleep! Any advice?Tara, Brooklyn

This condition is common in many geriatric dogs. There can be many reasons the sleep cycle is off. Call your vet for an appointment. There are both prescription and holistic drugs that can help. Your dog will need blood work and an exam for the vet to make the right choice. I have had success in the past with my older dogs and you need to be well rested for them.

How about border terriers or Boston terriers?bernwall, Laurel, NY

I have five cairn terriers and a Boston on my farm. They are great if you are a type A personality with a lot of time to spend occupying them. They will go stir crazy in an apartment left alone for hours. Otherwise lovely, intelligent active dogs.

How do I keep my 2 year old Chihuahua mix (female) from being aggressive to bigger dogs when we are out walking?Alex Justman, Foster City CA

I have three Chihuahuas and they are fine with dogs their own size but will try and kill my Irish wolfhound if left alone with him. Your two year old girl is only trying to protect herself by trying to scare off the larger dogs. She believes you are useless in protecting her so she is taking matters in her own paws.

To reassure her, you must teach her you are in control of her. You need to take her to a basic obedience class and teach her how to sit and stay with 100 percent results. Once you have done that, she can trust you will protect her from other dogs. A lot of people think small dogs don’t need training because they are so small. But it leaves them to think for themselves and leaves the owner a bystander. Get to class and show her you are in control.

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