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. We just got a boxer puppy, and my wife has really gotten interested in the dog's diet. She is reading websites and goes on chat rooms. Everybody recommends a different food for the dog. What is your opinion? --Alexander Smith, Massapequa

A. I have fed many different diets to my dogs in the last 45 years, with differing results. When I was a kid, we fed our dogs a processed "soft moist" food, a mixture of cornstarch, chicken fat and red food dye that was made to resemble raw hamburger patties. Even on this horrible food, my dogs did just fine. I have been going to the Westminster dog show every year for the past two decades or so, and every year I ask the breeders there what they feed their dogs. The answer is different each time, yet no matter what diet the dogs are fed, they are all there because they are prizewinners. So the best I can do here is to offer two points of advice:

1. The less processed a dog's food is, the less the dog seems to shed, and the smaller the dog's stool is. So a dog on dry food will certainly have larger stools than a dog eating canned or frozen food, as the dry food is a more processed.

2. When you are choosing a brand of food for your dog -- no matter what form it is -- read the ingredients. Do not feed the dog anything that you would not eat yourself. If the food has any artificial colors in it, then pass on it. As a petkeeper, you have to explore what is out there and settle on what seems to work best for your dog and your lifestyle.

Q. My daughter is now 8, and she wants a small furry kind of pet to call her own. I am not a fan of rodents, but she really wants something. I was wondering what species you would recommend to be the best one? --Sharon Jennings, Holtsville

A. What is a great pet to one person is not a great pet for another. Realistically, all the rodent pets that are offered for sale here are all domesticated and selectively bred to be gentle and trusting of humans. They were originally bred to be laboratory rodents, and the labs only wanted gentle animals. Thus, any that showed aggression or extreme fear were not bred to ensure that this trait would not pass on to the next generation.

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That said, the only difference in the pocket pets that we keep is the amount of work that is needed to keep them. With this in mind, I would advise a pair of same-sex gerbils to be the best. They are diurnal animals that are awake and active during the daylight and are desert animals that have evolved to drink very little water. Thus they urinate very little, so the cage will stay cleaner for a longer period of time than it would with some other pocket pets, such as guinea pigs. I have owned and bred gerbils for the last 43 years, and I still find them interesting and easy to keep.

Q. We last applied Frontline to our dog two weeks ago. Now, with fall here, we were wondering if we need to buy another pack for another application to fight ticks and fleas. The product is expensive and, if you think that we do not need to use it again for the rest of the season, we can save a bit of money. --Nathan Clark, Manorville

A. Twenty-five years ago, I would have said that you no longer have to bother worrying about fleas and ticks after Halloween, but it seems either that the parasites are hardier or the winters are warmer. I pulled two ticks off one of my dogs last year on Thanksgiving Day, so I would advise that you continue the treatment until the real cold weather sets in.