Helping a shy dog socialize with other canines

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Dawn, a Boston terrier, center, and Tank, visit

Dawn, a Boston terrier, center, and Tank, visit a makeshift dog park at the Pennsylvania Hotel before the Westminster dog show on Feb. 13, 2010 in New York. Photo Credit: AP / Frank Franklin II

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Marc Morrone Newsday columnist Marc Morrone

Marc Morrone was born in 1960 in the Bronx and, when he was 2, his family moved to

Q: After more than 30 years of golden retrievers, I just adopted a 5-year-old Boston bull terrier from an organization called Northeast Boston Bull Terrier Rescue. I have gotten to know the foster mothers and I know some of my dog's background. Miss Lily Bean is a small Boston and friendly, loving, sweet, cuddly, fun, good, doesn't bark, loves people, children and visitors. I was informed that she did not like other dogs. I have only had one opportunity, when I introduced her to a Yorkie mix. She growled and attacked the other dog. I had her on a leash so I could pull her away or pick her up. I have friends with dogs and I would like to take her out to walk around where there might be other dogs. I have a fenced-in backyard so she can run there. --Judy Kunetth, Amagansett

A: The issue here is that you were given an older dog that has a very low opinion of other dogs and prefers not to be around them. Only she can change her ways if she is constantly exposed to many situations with other dogs where she and her companions are together with no conflict.

To do this requires a lot of time on your part as well as the cooperation of friends and family whose feelings will not be hurt if your dog shows any dislike of theirs. Taking her to a dog park to socialize with other dogs may sound like a good idea, but it really isn't, because those dogs all belong to strangers who will take offense at your dog's antisocial behavior.

The people who work with these rescued dogs really get to know them before they adopt them out, and it sounds to me like they knew of your dog's antisocial thinking and worked hard to find a home for her where she was the only dog.

I would contact them again and ask if they think it will be worth it to keep trying to socialize her, based on their experience with the dog.

Q: I have a 3-year-old female yellow canary that is a very gentle bird and is a quiet and easy pet to have in my small apartment. Every spring, she lays three infertile eggs in her food dish and I let her sit on them for a few days and then dispose of them when she is not looking. She does not do it again until the next year. While walking in the park a couple of weeks ago, I saw a little brown and white bird with a red beak huddled next to the path and took it home. Upon further research, I learned that it was not a wild bird but rather a male zebra finch that must have gotten out of somebody's house. I put him in the cage with my canary as soon as he was warmed up and fed. He bounced right back and is a cheery little fellow with a cute little song. He started to court the canary and preens the feathers on her head. She likes the attention, and they are the cutest couple. However, she just now laid her eggs for this spring and she is sitting on them and the zebra finch is very attentive. Is there a chance the eggs are fertile? Should I just leave them alone with her if there is a chance of hatching? --Mary Lakhani, Valley Stream

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A: Crosses between canaries and other passerine birds usually happen only when the species are closely related -- such as a canary with a green singing finch or a European goldfinch -- as they are taxonomically very close. Zebra finches are native to Australia and have been separated from other passerine birds for so many generations that their genes are totally different and it is highly unlikely those eggs could be fertile, no matter how passionate the love between the parent birds are. However, you never know what is going to happen in the natural world, so instead of discarding the eggs after a few days, this time leave them with the canary for three weeks and see what happens.

Q: We have a male lop-eared bunny that is now 5 months old. He was 8 weeks when we got him, and he is a very nice pet and uses a litter box. In the past few weeks, however, he started to run circles around our feet when we are barefoot. It looked very cute until he started to spray urine on them. He does not do it when we have shoes on. Our vet told us he needs to be neutered, but we are worried that if we do, he will then lose his personality. We also need to find a vet who neuters rabbits, as our vet does not. --Alice Smith, Orient

A: Hormones and house pets and humans are never a good mix, as your situation demonstrates. His marking of your feet with his urine is an instinct that is brought about by the rising testosterone levels in his body. It is just an instinct, and if you neuter him, the testosterone goes away and so does that particular behavior.

Neutering will only make him a better pet. Your experience with him will not change.

There are lots of vets around these days who treat bunnies as well as spay and neuter them. You can locate them at the House Rabbit Society at

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