The Animal Doctor

DEAR DR. FOX: My sister has a typical Parson Russell terrier that barks at everything, is high-energy and excitable, and, worst of all, cannot tolerate any dog in the house and is overly protective of my sister. If anyone goes near her, the dog growls and tries to bite.

A potential problem: Her adult son and his Jack Russell terrier are moving in with her. His dog is sweet, friendly, and doesn't mind other dogs or people.

What can be done to allow the two dogs to cohabit the house, without one dog killing the other one? -- J.S. Arlington, Virginia

DEAR J.S.: The most successful way for two dogs to get along well is to have them meet on neutral territory, as though they were going on separate walks.

Have both dogs leashed and let them investigate each other, going through the canine rituals of sniffing and making eye contact for just as long as there are no signs of dominance-aggression, and then walk away in separate directions. Dogs restrained by a leash can be more aggressive, so the next step is to meet up again, ideally later that day, on neutral territory where the dogs have never been before, such as a neighbor's enclosed yard, a fenced-in dog park or a tennis court. Let go of the leashes but keep them on in case the dogs need to be pulled apart.

Sweet-talk the dogs. Because they are terriers, get them to chase some balls or other toys, which should help set a playful mood while they are together. Then pick up their leashes and give them treats, standing or sitting close together. Employing the services of a dog handler whom your local animal shelter or veterinarian recommends might help the process go more smoothly.

After playtime, walk them together for a while, repeatedly switching dogs. Then walk home together, or drive home in separate vehicles. Let the unfamiliar dog into the home first to get oriented, making sure separate feeding and drinking areas have been set up beforehand. Then bring in the resident dog, keeping the leash on in case he needs to be pulled away from the other one. It is essential that all people involved remain calm and have lots of treats to give to the dogs. Playing soft music may also help them feel relaxed.


Children who have pet cats or dogs when they are 6 months to 12 months old have a lower risk of developing asthma, eczema and allergic rhinoconjunctivitis later on, compared with their pet-less peers, researchers reported in PLOS One.

Researchers in Sweden found that allergy risk was inversely related to the number of pets that children had. Researcher Bill Hesselmar said the findings support the hygiene hypothesis that exposure to allergens builds immunity. (From The New York Times, Dec. 19.)


British residents who want a puppy or kitten will need to work through a breeder or adoption center after a ban on third-party sales through puppy mills and pet stores goes into effect. (From the Associated Press, Dec. 24.)

While this is good news for the United Kingdom, the business-first ethos that precedes ethics and humane concerns is a hard nut to crack in the United States. In my opinion, this stops America from being "great," especially with regard to puppy and kitten mills, and pet store marketeers.

(Send all mail to or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.

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