Q A vet in our town offers a "puppy play school," and my husband thinks it would be a good idea for our Labrador puppy to get involved in it. It is rather expensive, though, and before I sign him up for it, I just want to know your opinion on the subject.

- Marie Johnson, Long Beach

A Dr. Ian Dunbar first developed the idea of puppy socialization classes 30 years ago, and the concept proved so successful that today these puppy play school groups exist wherever there are large concentrations of dogs.

The goal of play school is to allow the type of social activity that existed within the pups' litter to continue, under human control and supervision, after a pup enters its new home. Your dog will continue to learn about its natural body language and have fun with other pups at the same time. So if the play school is within your budget, I highly recommend it.

Q My corn snake is crawling with little tiny black insects - each just about half the size of a pinhead. They do not seem to bother him at all, but the situation sure does bother me. I read on the Internet that they are mites and if I rub the snake with mineral oil, that will smother them. So I did that and ended up with a greasy snake that still has the mites. Can you offer any other suggestions?

- Jim Danforth, Massapequa

A There are lots of remedies for reptile mites, but none work 100 percent. These mites seem to just pop up out of nowhere, but they will not bother you or any mammal pets in your home. However, they do bother the snake, and you have to take care of the situation. Lots of vets in this area know about reptiles and have an arsenal of prescription medications that will kill the mites on the snake safely. So get the snake to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Before you put the treated snake back in the vivarium, empty it and completely wash the tank and all cage fixtures with soap and water. On the bottom of the vivarium, lay a piece of clean newspaper down so if any live mites fall off the snake, you can see them on the paper. After a couple of weeks, if you no longer see the mites, you can go back to whatever type of regular cage bedding you were using.

Q My African gray parrot dumps everything in his water dish, turning it into a disgusting brown soup. I cannot imagine that drinking this could be good for him. Can I teach him to drink out of a water bottle like my ferret and bunny drink out of?

- Susan Little, Greenlawn

A I have taught many animals to drink from water bottles, even iguanas and other lizards. Birds are very easy. Buy a heavy glass bottle that locks into a stainless-steel mounting bracket that is bolted onto the outside of the bird's cage. Position it so the tip of the bottle enters the inside of the cage right above the bird's current water dish. Birds are curious and they will usually discover that when they play with the protruding tip, water comes out. Leave the water in the dish for a week or so until the bird figures out how the bottle works. Then you can dispense with the water dish. Take the bottle off the cage every day, wash it out with soap and change the water to prevent harmful bacteria from growing inside.

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