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Claudia Kawczynska

Claudia Kawczynska is The Bark's co-founder and Editor-in-Chief.

Culture: DogPatch
Talking Dog with Geraldine Brooks
A Q&A with one of our favorite writers

 

For Geraldine Brooks, the road from her native Sydney, Australia, to the fraught landscapes of the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans was littered with hair-raising experiences, moments of grace and prizes for the quality of her journalism. As a multipublished author, she continues her winning ways with a Pulitzer Prize for her novel March, as well as critical acclaim for People of the Book, Year of Wonders, Foreign Correspondence and Nine Parts of Desire. Imagine our joy when we discovered that she’s also a dog person! Brooks talks to us about art, her “extremely entitled” pups and more.   Bark: In People of the Book, you reference a painting by Francis Bacon—Man with Dog (1953)—that happens to be one we like, too. Why did you include it?   Geraldine Brooks: I have always loved that painting. I have had two Kelpies in my life—George, of blessed memory, the dog of my youth and the most remarkable animal ever and, currently, Milo—and though I know it’s unlikely that Bacon would ever have met this Aussie breed, the swirl of movement he captures just evokes their spirit and energetic grace so perfectly.   B: When you were reporting for the Wall Street Journal from international locations like Bosnia, did you encounter dogs? Did the memory or a story of any of these dogs stay with you?   GB: In the countries I covered, dogs had it tough. Most of the time I was in Muslim countries, where dogs are largely despised. The one notable exception was a Golden Retriever in Kurdistan, Iraq. When the family fled their home during Saddam’s brutal retaliation for the Kurdish uprising that followed the first Gulf war, they headed for the border and took their dog with them. The mother, father and two very young kids lived in their car in the freezing cold of the Iranian mountains for several weeks. The dog was with them the whole time. Everyone got sick from the dirty water, poor diet and so forth, including the dog. But they all made it, and eventually got home. The mother died, suddenly and tragically, soon after. When I met up with the father again, he said: “Thank god my kids still have their dog.”   B: Did you see cultural differences in attitudes toward dogs as you traveled in these areas?   GB: Yes indeed. In Islamic countries, saying you have a dog is as outlandish as saying you have a crocodile. But also in Africa and underdeveloped parts of Eastern Europe, dogs suffer immensely.   We see a cultural difference here in our own home. Last July, we brought our lovely adopted five-year-old son home from Ethiopia. There, dogs are either potentially rabid strays, foraging in the streets, or fierce guard dogs, barking on the end of chains. Our son was chagrined to discover our three extremely entitled dogs would be sharing not only his home, but attempting to share his bed, as they do with our older son. His reaction: “I thought I was coming to a clean house!”   B: Tell us about your dogs. How did they come into your family’s life? Do they have a role in your writing life—muse, exercise coach, comic relief?   GB: All of the above, and more. Our oldest, Shiloh, is 14 now, very old for a Border Collie, and she has become something of a life coach lately, showing us what it means to accept the necessary losses of aging while never really giving up on what makes living worthwhile for you. Just a day or so ago, we were walking in the woods, and she flung herself into the stream as if she were still the agile, swift dog of yore. I had to wade in and fish her out, as her back legs have no strength anymore. But I love her unwillingness to accept that. She came to us as a puppy and when our son was born the following year, she took him on as her life’s work. She’s a fantastically loyal and very stubborn dog. She was lucky enough to stay with Donald McCaig one year when we were in Australia. She proved to be a good lambing dog, he said, but he also described her as “a mule in a dog suit.”   While we were in Australia, we got Milo, the second Kelpie of my life. Milo had had a rough patch with his first owner, who must have been abusive and was certainly neglectful. When his breeder saw him at a yard trial in dreadful condition, he immediately bought him back from that owner and rehabbed him before looking for a second placement, which was us. He’s a lovely dog, with the tremendous intelligence of the breed, but even after nine years with us, still has fear/aggression issues with men of a certain build who evidently recall to him his previous owner.   Simba came into our family two years ago when my mom came to live with us. He’s a rescue dog—part Pomeranian, part Papillon, maybe. A strawberry-blond furball with limpid brown eyes and an unquenchable spirit. I was afraid the two bigger dogs might mistake him for a chew toy when he first arrived, but instead, he pranced in and more or less took over the joint. He and Milo have wonderful boyish wrestling matches together, the larger dog never, ever overstepping the bounds of safe play even when they’re going at it hammer and tongs.   B: In researching your books, did you run across any intriguing historical mentions of dogs?   GB: No. But I always try to sneak in mentions of dogs where I can, especially herding breeds.   B: Does living with dogs in any way inform your observations or sensibilities?   GB: They, like me, love nature. You see things differently when you walk with dogs, so they are my guides to the natural world. I don’t know how you do without them, really. When I lived abroad in Cairo and London and was constantly traveling as a foreign correspondent, I couldn’t have a dog. It was the worst thing about those years by far. I truly think it was one of the factors in giving up reporting. So you could say I have Shiloh to thank for my fiction career.   Read more about Geraldine Brooks here.

 

Dog's Life: Work of Dogs
Bloodhound at Work
Bloodhound fan and trainer Larry Allen reflects on the delicate bond between dog and handler.

We recently spoke with Larry Allen, dog trainer and working-dog handler extraordinaire. He took time out from his busy day as the emergency management director for a West Virginia county to have a phone chat with us about one of his favorite subjects, training working Bloodhounds. Allen and the rescue Bloodhound, Holly, were featured on “Underdogs,” an episode in the PBS Nature series. In 12 short weeks, Allen turned the “hyperactive” Holly into a working dog who is now a member of the Massachusetts State Police team.

Q. Holly didn’t seem like the typical pet dog. Do you often find “talented” dogs in shelters and rescue situations?
A. I can tell you that we had five come into rescue in the past week who ended up there because they either had too much energy, or the people who had them were having a minor challenge controlling them.

Q. Do Bloodhounds only work with a lead attached to a harness? Are there ever opportunities for them to run off-lead ahead of the handler?
A. I only know of two handlers in the US who have their dogs trained to work a scent trail off-lead. These dogs—at least, all of the Bloodhounds I have been acquainted with for 20-plus years—become totally oblivious to the rest of the world when they have been given the odor their human wants them to pursue. I’ve had my dogs walk off riverbanks—thank God I had the lead on them to prevent them from going over a 100-foot cliff. They get so focused on finding that odor that they will go until they literally drop or encounter a physical obstacle, be it a cliff or a vertical face or whatever. The lead just stops them.

Q. So being on a lead is for their own safety?
A. The lead is for the safety of the animal, and it is also one of the most effective superconnectors. The dog shows me, through the tension she maintains on the lead, whether or not she is sure [about the scent]. And likewise, the dog can tell if I’m upset or having a bad day. It is no different than anything else with the animal. If I’m having a bad day, best thing I can do is to put him up, pat her on the head and come back another day. Because that feeling will transmit right down to the animal and they are thinking “oh no, I’m not making mom or dad happy…”

Q. How are the signals transmitted? How can you sense, through the lead or other mechanisms, that the dog is actually getting close to the subject—what is that connection? And do you help her?
A. I will use Holly as an example—she was a challenge to keep up with. The putting the harness on is a visual and physical cue to the animal that she is going to work. The target, or scent of who it is that she is to find, is given to her—you see me in the film basically putting Holly’s head in a plastic bag to try to eliminate as many environmental odors as possible. I want to get her to focus just on the odor contained on the item in the bag.

So when her head starts to come out of the bag, the starting command is given to her. That is the only time that word is given during the entire trail, whether it is 100 feet or 10 miles. And from that point, depending on the tension, on how hard she is pulling on the leash—because if she is not really sure, she will start slowing down—you will pick up slack in the leash. Sometimes it may be an environmental thing she has never encountered before, maybe it is a smell of a particular plant or flower. So then it is the human praise, the “Good girl, you can do it, come on, baby let’s go, let’s go to work,” that reminds the dog that I’m okay here …

So that is what we were doing on Holly’s evaluation trail up in Massachusetts. As she is getting close to the subject (I had no real idea where the guy was other than when we started, they said, “He is out that way.”), as she is coming up, literally from 10 feet away, I see this wiggle starting from the nose and going all the way back. She is trying to run at a full speed and trying to wiggle from one end to the other. She comes flying around this six-foot-high bush, and there is her “runner,” tucked up, sitting on the ground, against this bush. She kind of leans back and takes one of her big front paws and smacks him, jumps back, and goes Woof! Woof! I knew with the tension that she was pulling and her body language—with the Bloodhounds, body language is 90 percent of it—that she found him.

Learning how to read the dog’s language, interpret her clues, is critical. If she was going to make a turn to the left, you would see her head cast off to the left, and then back on the track. If you see her look the second time, you had better be prepared, because the third time she looks, she will be making a turn.

And the helping part—in the training trails, virtually every one of them, you know the solution to the problem before you run the dog on it. That way, you can help the dog rather than just wander aimlessly. But coming up to a decision point, whether it’s a turn or a T-intersection, you basically just start slowing your pace down a little so it allows the dog time to think about what she is doing rather that just charging through. Then, when she makes the correct turn, it is just that quick one or two words of praise, and boom! You’re off and going again.

Q. At the beginning of her training, Holly had a fear of thunder and loud noises. Have you heard about the recent study out of Penn State that measured cortisol levels (as a stress indicator) in dogs with thunderstorm phobia? They found that the dogs’ human had no affect on their stress level, while living with other dogs decreased the levels. Have you seen this effect with your dogs?
A. That makes sense, because as much as we humans like to think we are the be-all and end-all for canines, basically, they are a pack-order animal. I have an ancient Cattle Dog, who is 12; when I got her as a pup, she was the only dog in the house, and she developed such a phobia. We worked and worked to get her over it. But it started to affect my Border Collie, my disaster dog, and we then worked through that. Now the other Border Collie, our rescue, who we are training to find human remains—when a thunderstorm rolls in, she looks around and sees that the others aren’t freaking, and thinks, No big deal.

It is ironic we have three dogs who are each trained for a different type of work. When the pager goes off or the phone rings, they instantly cue in on my behavior. If they see me putting on a certain type of clothing, or pulling out certain types of equipment, they know which one will be working that day. For instance, if I start pulling out life jackets, my human remains dog goes nuts, because she knows that when she sees that PFD, we are going somewhere. The Bloodhound seems to be thinking, It’s her and not me. I jokingly tell people that with the working dogs, my job is to drive the car, carry the radio and have water. I am firmly convinced that if the dogs had opposable digits, they wouldn’t need me at all.

Q. Why did you start Holly with sight training before scent?
A. Because the first thing that I am trying to help the dog understand is that this looking-for-a-person activity is a game. When it quits being fun, the dog quits being interested. So we start off with the puppy run, the visual—simple Pavlovian conditioning. It is behavior, desired response, behavior, desired response, the harness goes on, it clicks in, she gets the command, and, Oh, I get to chase somebody. It’s quick, it’s fun, it’s easy, praise, praise, praise. That foundation training is where I see the disconnect with a lot of folks. They say, “Oh, they did it,” and jump from A to G. And at 2 AM, when they’re working an actual case and things fall apart, invariably 80 percent of the fault can be traced back to foundation training, or lack of it.

Q. Like clicker training, marking each and all of those little things adds up, and then needs to be reinforced. Training is needed throughout their life, isn’t it? Is Holly still being trained?
A. Every day, because a Bloodhound is like a piece of lab equipment that you have to maintain, to calibrate and keep dusted; otherwise you go to use it and it’s broken. There are always new fragrances, new techniques—if a person jumps out of a sports car, it’s different than if a person comes out of a semi. And day versus night, snow versus rain versus dry leaves. As I tell these operational folks—whether they are SAR or law enforcement—when you get that initial certification on your dog, she is a deployable asset, and congratulations, you just entered kindergarten. Now the training starts! Because up until that point, the dog and the human are building the team, developing basic skills and meeting a certain number of criteria. Then they go out in the field. There is nothing more humbling than to show up on an actual case and realize, “Oh, I’ve never trained for this.” I’ll guarantee you that within the next two weeks, you will be training for that.

Q. Some people say that a human can actually “break” a dog. In other words, the dog has to trust you, and if you give the dog the wrong cues, the wrong direction—and the dog invariably knows better—that confidence between the two of you can be broken. Have you seen this with Bloodhounds?
A. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen that. One of the dogs I placed and trained earlier—a rescue dog who came to me with some emotional baggage but did a great job getting trained—went into a situation in which she basically decided she wasn’t getting enough work. This dog was high maintenance, and needed lots and lots of work. She decided that she no longer felt like working for the human, and she shut down and was sent back to us. I tested her and found her to be happy, wiggly, dragging me around the field. Now she’s with another law enforcement agency and is doing fantastic because she is getting the work she needs. It is a very delicate bond, a very delicate balance. But Bloodhounds will go to their death to protect their human partners.
 

Culture: Reviews
The Daily Coyote
Simon & Schuster, 304 pp., 2008; $23

While in high school, Shreve Stockton was voted “most likely to wake up in a strange place.” It is to our delight that this roamer discovered a place that could satisfy her wanderlust and inspire this engaging and unusual story, which is based on her blog of the same name. The book is written in an easy conversational style and illustrated with Stockton’s photographs; she has a good eye, and one can see how a daily posting about an adorable coyote would find a receptive audience on the web. The main storyline traces Charlie’s first year with Stockton and her cat Eli, an equally amazing animal and one the coyote seems to idolize.

In 2005, Stockton—a talented, successful urbanite with pluck, resourcefulness and determination to spare—left San Francisco and headed for New York. Traveling solo on a Vespa scooter, she made a 6,000-mile, two-month-long meandering cross-country trip. As she passed through Wyoming, she says, her heart felt “magnetized” by the state’s grandeur and isolation, and when she finally reached her destination, she couldn’t get the state’s vastness out of her head. She turned to the web, and one of her searches came up with a house for rent in the small town of Ten Sleep, Wyo. (population 300), which turns out to be the perfect place for Stockton. All of this happens within the first five pages of this enthralling book!

At the heart of the story is Charlie, a coyote given to Stockton by her boyfriend Mike when the pup is only a few days old. Mike is a professional hunter hired by the USDA to cull coyotes, a job that owes its existence to the “it’s us or them” attitude ranchers have about local predators. The pup that Mike cannot bring himself to kill turns out to be the gift that transforms Stockton’s life. However, she recognizes from the start that there might come a time when she would need to return Charlie to the wild, but she also knows that domestication could make this return impossible —which indeed was the case.

At first, Stockton sent daily emails to friends and family chronicling her life with Charlie and Eli. Then, an astute friend suggested she start blogging the appealing story and charging readers a small monthly fee to supplement the meager income she scraped together by working as a graphic designer, substitute teacher, cattle feeder, irrigation pipe layer and teleconferencing/video English tutor for Korean students. (See what I meant by resourceful?)

Stockton clearly and frequently brings up important cautionary notes about making a coyote into a pet—as well she should, given the complexities and challenges with which Charlie presented her. It is hoped that others will not be tempted to do the same. Nonetheless, many dog-loving readers will see resemblances between some of Charlie’s behavioral traits and other personality “issues” and those of their own dogs. I know that I did, and found many of her closely noted observations fascinating, such as Charlie’s habit of hiding bits of food in the nooks and crannies in the walls of the small log cabin they shared.

My other reservation is that, true to its blog origins, the book is a bit too revelatory about the personal lives of others, especially her boyfriend Mike, who seems to be a private and reserved person. I felt uneasy about this; I also felt that some of that narrative intruded on Charlie’s story—perhaps I was just eager for all I could get about the coyote. Ultimately, though, I came away with a deep appreciation for what the author has accomplished, and am pleased she decided to share her story with us.

Culture: Tributes
Callie’s Papers
A gift of love.

Callie the Magnifica, our 14-year-old Shepherd/Husky Mix, has been living with us for the past seven years, but lived with another family for her first seven. When we met her, she was called Kali, and led a nomadic-urban life with a poor couple and their two children; the family lived in a small trailer parked at the end of our street. Kali was never tied up and was allowed to roam as she wished. Displaying a keen but gentle watchfulness that spoke volumes about her relationship with her people, she became a neighborhood favorite and even accompanied the mailman on his rounds. She would stop by our house—for a pat or a drink of water or just a quick neighborly social call—and then she would leave. Often she was spotted winding her solitary way through Berkeley with a wolflike head-down, resolute stride—coming from People’s Park (one of her humans’ favorite haunts) back to our neighborhood, a distance of almost three miles. Her people said that they would tell her “home,” and off she would go. Her directional skills were, and still are, remarkable.

A couple of years passed, and we adopted a dog of our own. When we came home with the new pup, Kali was waiting at our front gate to greet us. It was love at first sight for both dogs. Nellie, six months old, found both a new home and a surrogate mother dog. As for Kali, she was as gentle with our pup as she was with her human babies, correcting the younger dog only when she got too rambunctious. Her training skills were impeccable and invaluable.

Then Kali’s family went through a series of downturns and they were forced to leave our neighborhood. But yet she would appear at our door—mostly, we thought, because of her attachment to Nellie. We made an agreement with her people—if they were unable to have Kali with them, such as when they stayed at a homeless shelter, she would always be welcome to stay with us. These spontaneous “stay-overs” lasted anywhere from a few days to months at a time. She became an integral part of our family, coming with us to the dog park or to our offices, and even on vacations with us. But then her people would come to get her, and our Nellie would go into a horrible funk, refusing to eat or play. What was even more heartbreaking was encountering Kali, as we sometimes did, standing beside her family as they panhandled outside of banks or local stores. Breaking her stoic stance and jumping with delight, she would try to follow us, but would be held back. I dropped off food and other provisions for the children and Kali, but I knew this did little good. Drugs and life on the streets were taking their toll on all of them. Finally, the woman made a courageous decision. She found a job, moved away from her husband and took their children, leaving Kali behind with him.

Kali then became one of the many dogs who lived in a large homeless encampment on the other side of the freeway. This seemingly impenetrable barrier didn’t hinder her from finding her way back to us. It still amazes me that she was able to do this! We went through four or five more “retrievals” with her owner during this period. Each time, her resistance to going with him became stronger. Still, I didn’t feel that I had the right to intervene; she was his sole companion and his only link to his family. But the final meeting I had with him altered my attitude. He became verbally abusive, shouting at me and accusing me of stealing his dog. He pushed his way into our house (a first for him) and dragged Kali, cowering and whimpering, out by her collar, Nellie barking loudly in the background. I tried to reason with him, explaining that by running off so many times, his dog was trying to tell him that she had made her choice, if only he could respect it! But he took her away. We feared that was the last time we would see her.

Early the next morning, around 2, we were awakened by Kali’s low-pitched “woof woof” outside our bedroom window—she had come back! Later that morning, I found a letter tucked under the windshield wiper of our car. At first I was afraid to read it, anticipating that he would once again be staking his claim to Kali. But the five-page-long note, written on fine linen stationery in a sure and clear script, didn’t appear to be threatening. In it, the letter-writer told me about Kali’s life—his wife had adopted her from a shelter in Davis—and how times were hard for them; how difficult it was to be an unemployed Vietnam veteran; how they often didn’t have money for food for themselves and their dog, but they had never once abused or harmed Kali; how they trusted her to watch over their babies; how gentle and wise a dog she was; and how much he loved her. But because he loved her, he was giving her to us. He ended his letter with, “Take care of my dog and kiss my big brown girl for me.”

I have never been given a more generous gift. What it must have taken for him to part with her is something that I can only imagine. Dogs give so much to us. This charitable act, coming from a man who had so little and had lost so much, shows that they can also inspire a humane and noble spirit.

Fast-forward to the present: Callie is doing great, pushing 15 but slowing down only a little. We changed her name to Callie and have kept the letter, or “Callie’s papers” as we call it, as a reminder that we were entrusted with the care of a very beloved dog. Every night we do as we were charged and kiss his big brown girl for him.
 

Culture: DogPatch
The Talk of ’Toon Town
New Yorker cartoons reflect our changing society

If art is a mirror that reflects our world, then the art of the cartoon is a funhouse mirror—a distorted and comic image of ourselves, taking the smallest seed of truth and twisting it into a hilarious meditation. Cartoons speak simply and directly about the ironies and foolishness of the human dilemma. The comic arts are a kind of pop psychology—delving into a collective id, the cultural funny-bone of society. It is this meshing of comedy and psychology that inspired Anne Alden, a San Francisco cartoonist, dog aficionado and aspiring psychologist, to consider how these three passions might intertwine as she was casting about for a PhD dissertation topic.

This idea of tracing human-dog relationships through cartoons began one day while Alden was thumbing through back issues of The New Yorker. She noticed a trend—dog cartoons appeared regularly and seemed to take particular delight in satirizing popular social mores. Intrigued, she visited her local library and spent the day reviewing The New Yorker magazines from the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, fascinated by the evolution of the genre. Fifties cartoons showed suburban hounds, those from the ’60s poked fun at counter-cultural canines, and upwardly mobile dogs appeared in the ’80s and ’90s. A light bulb went on in Alden’s head and she began her research project in earnest, parlaying it into a fascinating clinical-psychology thesis.

“I’ve had a ridiculous number of dissertation topics over the years, but this was the first one I really felt passionate about. It also happened to involve data that would be fun to collect and analyze,” Alden admits.

The combination of cartoons and The New Yorker has always been an interesting pairing—the most popular and democratic of art forms and one of America’s most culturally elite periodicals. “The New Yorker is ahead of the curve on social criticism and cultural trends,” says Alden. “And their cartoons and cover art have always been superb—more than a few have taken on a kind of cultural significance or iconic status. Just think of Steinberg’s infamous map of New York City from the ’70s to last year’s “New Yorkistan” map by Maira Kalman and Rick Meyerowitz or the popular cartoon of a dog surfing the ’net ... at their best, these cartoons come to represent a generation, a certain collective consciousness of our times.”

Alden has taken her show on the road: speaking engagements at academic symposiums, drawing big laughs and curtain calls. “It’s lots of fun to be sure, but in the end, I’m mining a very serious idea here. Animals, and dogs in particular, are an integral part of our society-as our society changes, so does our relationship with the animal world, best expressed through the way we live with our pets and in the study of animal behavior,” Alden insists. Her conclusion—that there may be a very thin line between animal and human cognition and consciousness—won’t surprise Bark readers.

The ’20s and ’30s
From The New Yorker’s first publication in 1925, its cartoons have chronicled scenes of everyday life, focusing more on cultural and social issues than on political or world events. In these first two decades, Alden found, cartoons under Harold Ross’s tutelage barely acknowledged the impact of major events, such as the stock market crash and the hardships of the Depression. Instead, the cartoons of this era reflected wild party times, with many stylized portraits of flappers. Dogs were pictured as fashionable ornaments for the wealthy. People were typically shown fussing over dogs—predominantly diminutive breeds like Pekinese and toy Poodles. True to a cultural fascination popularized in the ‘20s, dog shows and dog grooming scenes proliferated. Dogs being pampered by glamorized women typified the sophisticated style of the era.

Alden found that cartoons of the ’30s continued to feature a society at leisure—regardless of the different reality being experienced by a Depression-era nation. People were also shown with many dogs—exuberant consumption perhaps exemplified by Presidents Coolidge and Hoover, each of whom owned packs of dogs. (Coolidge’s wife reportedly dressed one of their dogs in an Easter bonnet for parties.) One cartoon showed a man with 10 dogs on leashes, with the caption: “Well, she has her books and I have my dogs.”

Competitive dog shows and an interest in “pure” breeding were also themes in the ’30s. James Thurber especially was the master at poking fun at this trend.

The ’40s and ’50s
Dogs go to war! Gone are the pampered hounds, enter the hero canines. Alden found that over a dozen cartoons—a third of all dog cartoons published in the ’40s—featured a hero St. Bernard rescuing people in the snow. Another cartoon showed a woman volunteering her Dachshund at a recruiting office, saying:”1 thought perhaps he’d be good for crawling under things.” But true to dogs’ more comedic nature, several cartoons pictured scenes of them chasing a military truck, or of MPs looking for a miscreant dog.

The ’50s found that a move to the suburbs and the post-war baby boom coincided with a dramatic increase in pet ownership. Animal rights groups began efforts to protect domestic animals, a concern that actually made its way into the magazine. Several cartoons showed the ASPCA rounding up stray dogs. Interestingly, Alden notes, many cartoons started to depict dogs exhibiting bad behavior: One pictured a dog charging at a postman. And jealousy brewed in Levittown: “Sure, why not, how about a third TV set for the damned dog!”

The ’60s and ’70s
While flower children and leashless dogs frolicked in the streets in the ’60s, the regulation of pets, especially dogs, became stricter. This was particularly true in cities that enacted “pooper scooper” and leash laws.

Alden found that many cartoons, perhaps reflecting society’s inability to rein in its freedom-loving youth, portrayed dogs fighting back: “So, you’ve finally bitten a lawyer.” And mirroring the nascent women’s movement, a theme deconstructing “master” also emerged. One cartoon showed a woman speaking to her dog: “Guess what, Mr. Corbett is going to be our lord and master.”

The ’70s found a resurgent interest in dog cartoons. This was partly influenced by the popularity of the work of George Booth. Beginning in 1969, he started to bring his ineffable stamp to the magazine and has since become one of its most recognizable cartoonists. Booth cartoons often captured the essential character of dogs just acting like dogs. In addition to being known for his psychotic-looking dogs, Booth is also renowned for his portraits of chaotic households with eccentric people with many dogs. “He records their adventures in a very touching way,” says Alden, who once met the cartoonist, “with affection, never ridicule, and always with exacting detail.”

In a humorous parallel to civil rights legislation of the ‘70s, Alden notes, the cartoons showed a similar assertion of rights by dogs—a major change from previous decades. Dogs were most often portrayed talking and behaving like humans. A disgruntled dog painted his own sign: “Beware of Me.” Cartoons also showed dogs having meetings in boardrooms, playing chess with cats and, in one strip, thrusting out a paw and saying to a human: “Shake hands.”

The ’80s and ’90s
Enter the era of upward mobility and intense self-actualization—cartoon dogs were depicted possessing the whole panoply of human emotions (and their foibles), not merely speaking but assuming very human-like roles and conversation. “I’m your pet, but you don’t own me,” reads one caption, while another cartoon shows a dog speaking to a man: “I just want you to know, Ted, that I think you’re a good boy, too.” Dogs wore suits and ties, hammered out business deals and palled around with attorneys—reflecting the era’s obsession with the material world. Cartoonists took particular delight in examining society’s conflicted values and ethics, placing them against traditional canine characteristics—loyalty, trust and faithfulness. “Bad” dog took on new meaning, as dogs practiced a host of human vices-smoking, drinking and corporate crime.

Alden notes that the concept of family changed significantly in the ’80s, a decade with high divorce rates and an increasing number of single-parent families. Pets began to be viewed as important members of the family, given equal or greater status than children. The indulgences of the time were also grist for the “new” family member-a dog nudges his water dish and asks: “This isn’t tap water, is it?” The lifestyle of dogs became a subject of satire itself: Dog walkers, dog runs and high-end dog products first began to appear—“Hey, I’ll let you know when I’m ready to switch to Cycle Four,” a dog holding a food bowl complains to his master.

Alden found that in the ’90s the number of dog cartoons increased significantly, as did many popular bestsellers about the intellectual and emotional lives of dogs. Cartoons showed dogs exhibiting subtleties of complex thinking—ever moving up on the evolutionary ladder. Dogs were frequently depicted having human-like angst. A two-panel cartoon pictured a drowning person yelling, “Lassie, get help!” with the second panel featuring Lassie on a psychiatrist’s couch. Another showed a dog walking alongside his owner, thinking: “It’s always good dog, never great dog.”

Four Legs and a Tail
Is it any wonder that dogs are the cartoonist’s best friend, offering up limitless comedic possibilities? Has there ever been a better straight man than a dog? From pampered pet to loyal companion, our cartoon canines have followed us through the Great Depression, world wars, suburbia and technology—and along the way, learned to walk upright and speed dial. Their evolution is our own. The cartoon archives of The New Yorker show us that social history is often best written simply, with pen and ink, in the form of four legs and a tail.
 

Culture: DogPatch
The Talk of ’Toon Town
New Yorker cartoons reflect our changing society

If art is a mirror that reflects our world, then the art of the cartoon is a funhouse mirror—a distorted and comic image of ourselves, taking the smallest seed of truth and twisting it into a hilarious meditation. Cartoons speak simply and directly about the ironies and foolishness of the human dilemma. The comic arts are a kind of pop psychology—delving into a collective id, the cultural funny-bone of society. It is this meshing of comedy and psychology that inspired Anne Alden, a San Francisco cartoonist, dog aficionado and aspiring psychologist, to consider how these three passions might intertwine as she was casting about for a PhD dissertation topic.

This idea of tracing human-dog relationships through cartoons began one day while Alden was thumbing through back issues of The New Yorker. She noticed a trend—dog cartoons appeared regularly and seemed to take particular delight in satirizing popular social mores. Intrigued, she visited her local library and spent the day reviewing The New Yorker magazines from the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, fascinated by the evolution of the genre. Fifties cartoons showed suburban hounds, those from the ’60s poked fun at counter-cultural canines, and upwardly mobile dogs appeared in the ’80s and ’90s. A light bulb went on in Alden’s head and she began her research project in earnest, parlaying it into a fascinating clinical-psychology thesis.

“I’ve had a ridiculous number of dissertation topics over the years, but this was the first one I really felt passionate about. It also happened to involve data that would be fun to collect and analyze,” Alden admits.

The combination of cartoons and The New Yorker has always been an interesting pairing—the most popular and democratic of art forms and one of America’s most culturally elite periodicals. “The New Yorker is ahead of the curve on social criticism and cultural trends,” says Alden. “And their cartoons and cover art have always been superb—more than a few have taken on a kind of cultural significance or iconic status. Just think of Steinberg’s infamous map of New York City from the ’70s to last year’s “New Yorkistan” map by Maira Kalman and Rick Meyerowitz or the popular cartoon of a dog surfing the ’net ... at their best, these cartoons come to represent a generation, a certain collective consciousness of our times.”

Alden has taken her show on the road: speaking engagements at academic symposiums, drawing big laughs and curtain calls. “It’s lots of fun to be sure, but in the end, I’m mining a very serious idea here. Animals, and dogs in particular, are an integral part of our society-as our society changes, so does our relationship with the animal world, best expressed through the way we live with our pets and in the study of animal behavior,” Alden insists. Her conclusion—that there may be a very thin line between animal and human cognition and consciousness—won’t surprise Bark readers.

The ’20s and ’30s
From The New Yorker’s first publication in 1925, its cartoons have chronicled scenes of everyday life, focusing more on cultural and social issues than on political or world events. In these first two decades, Alden found, cartoons under Harold Ross’s tutelage barely acknowledged the impact of major events, such as the stock market crash and the hardships of the Depression. Instead, the cartoons of this era reflected wild party times, with many stylized portraits of flappers. Dogs were pictured as fashionable ornaments for the wealthy. People were typically shown fussing over dogs—predominantly diminutive breeds like Pekinese and toy Poodles. True to a cultural fascination popularized in the ‘20s, dog shows and dog grooming scenes proliferated. Dogs being pampered by glamorized women typified the sophisticated style of the era.

Alden found that cartoons of the ’30s continued to feature a society at leisure—regardless of the different reality being experienced by a Depression-era nation. People were also shown with many dogs—exuberant consumption perhaps exemplified by Presidents Coolidge and Hoover, each of whom owned packs of dogs. (Coolidge’s wife reportedly dressed one of their dogs in an Easter bonnet for parties.) One cartoon showed a man with 10 dogs on leashes, with the caption: “Well, she has her books and I have my dogs.”

Competitive dog shows and an interest in “pure” breeding were also themes in the ’30s. James Thurber especially was the master at poking fun at this trend.

The ’40s and ’50s
Dogs go to war! Gone are the pampered hounds, enter the hero canines. Alden found that over a dozen cartoons—a third of all dog cartoons published in the ’40s—featured a hero St. Bernard rescuing people in the snow. Another cartoon showed a woman volunteering her Dachshund at a recruiting office, saying:”1 thought perhaps he’d be good for crawling under things.” But true to dogs’ more comedic nature, several cartoons pictured scenes of them chasing a military truck, or of MPs looking for a miscreant dog.

The ’50s found that a move to the suburbs and the post-war baby boom coincided with a dramatic increase in pet ownership. Animal rights groups began efforts to protect domestic animals, a concern that actually made its way into the magazine. Several cartoons showed the ASPCA rounding up stray dogs. Interestingly, Alden notes, many cartoons started to depict dogs exhibiting bad behavior: One pictured a dog charging at a postman. And jealousy brewed in Levittown: “Sure, why not, how about a third TV set for the damned dog!”

The ’60s and ’70s
While flower children and leashless dogs frolicked in the streets in the ’60s, the regulation of pets, especially dogs, became stricter. This was particularly true in cities that enacted “pooper scooper” and leash laws.

Alden found that many cartoons, perhaps reflecting society’s inability to rein in its freedom-loving youth, portrayed dogs fighting back: “So, you’ve finally bitten a lawyer.” And mirroring the nascent women’s movement, a theme deconstructing “master” also emerged. One cartoon showed a woman speaking to her dog: “Guess what, Mr. Corbett is going to be our lord and master.”

The ’70s found a resurgent interest in dog cartoons. This was partly influenced by the popularity of the work of George Booth. Beginning in 1969, he started to bring his ineffable stamp to the magazine and has since become one of its most recognizable cartoonists. Booth cartoons often captured the essential character of dogs just acting like dogs. In addition to being known for his psychotic-looking dogs, Booth is also renowned for his portraits of chaotic households with eccentric people with many dogs. “He records their adventures in a very touching way,” says Alden, who once met the cartoonist, “with affection, never ridicule, and always with exacting detail.”

In a humorous parallel to civil rights legislation of the ‘70s, Alden notes, the cartoons showed a similar assertion of rights by dogs—a major change from previous decades. Dogs were most often portrayed talking and behaving like humans. A disgruntled dog painted his own sign: “Beware of Me.” Cartoons also showed dogs having meetings in boardrooms, playing chess with cats and, in one strip, thrusting out a paw and saying to a human: “Shake hands.”

The ’80s and ’90s
Enter the era of upward mobility and intense self-actualization—cartoon dogs were depicted possessing the whole panoply of human emotions (and their foibles), not merely speaking but assuming very human-like roles and conversation. “I’m your pet, but you don’t own me,” reads one caption, while another cartoon shows a dog speaking to a man: “I just want you to know, Ted, that I think you’re a good boy, too.” Dogs wore suits and ties, hammered out business deals and palled around with attorneys—reflecting the era’s obsession with the material world. Cartoonists took particular delight in examining society’s conflicted values and ethics, placing them against traditional canine characteristics—loyalty, trust and faithfulness. “Bad” dog took on new meaning, as dogs practiced a host of human vices-smoking, drinking and corporate crime.

Alden notes that the concept of family changed significantly in the ’80s, a decade with high divorce rates and an increasing number of single-parent families. Pets began to be viewed as important members of the family, given equal or greater status than children. The indulgences of the time were also grist for the “new” family member-a dog nudges his water dish and asks: “This isn’t tap water, is it?” The lifestyle of dogs became a subject of satire itself: Dog walkers, dog runs and high-end dog products first began to appear—“Hey, I’ll let you know when I’m ready to switch to Cycle Four,” a dog holding a food bowl complains to his master.

Alden found that in the ’90s the number of dog cartoons increased significantly, as did many popular bestsellers about the intellectual and emotional lives of dogs. Cartoons showed dogs exhibiting subtleties of complex thinking—ever moving up on the evolutionary ladder. Dogs were frequently depicted having human-like angst. A two-panel cartoon pictured a drowning person yelling, “Lassie, get help!” with the second panel featuring Lassie on a psychiatrist’s couch. Another showed a dog walking alongside his owner, thinking: “It’s always good dog, never great dog.”

Four Legs and a Tail
Is it any wonder that dogs are the cartoonist’s best friend, offering up limitless comedic possibilities? Has there ever been a better straight man than a dog? From pampered pet to loyal companion, our cartoon canines have followed us through the Great Depression, world wars, suburbia and technology—and along the way, learned to walk upright and speed dial. Their evolution is our own. The cartoon archives of The New Yorker show us that social history is often best written simply, with pen and ink, in the form of four legs and a tail.
 

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Dr. Nicholas Dodman on Dog Behavior and New Training Techniques
What does it take to be the leader of the pack?

The rules of dog training and care are changing, which means your role is changing. Leading animal behaviorist Dr. Nicholas Dodman discusses new training techniques and dog behavior with fellow veterinarian, Dr. Sophia Yin and Bark’s Claudia Kawczynska.

Bark: What is an animal behaviorist? What qualifies someone to be called a behaviorist?

Dodman: There are only two qualified types of behaviorists; one who is endorsed and certified by the Animal Behavior Society (ABS), the so-called certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (AB). And the veterinary ones, who are the diplomats of the American College of Veterinary Behavior. For the ABS the minimum starting point is a master’s degree, but a lot of certified animal behaviorists have a PhD. That’s the non-veterinary variety. In order to become a veterinary behaviorist, you have to do a vet degree first, taking four years after college, then one year internship and then the residency program that is normally three years long. In other words, it’s another four years after the DVM that you become eligible to sit for the specialty examination in behavior. So after leaving high school, the ABS is a minimum of twelve years of study. And then you have to sit a pretty hard exam. These are the two types of people who are qualified animal behaviorists.

Having said that, the fact is, if you happen to have a dog that you trained yourself at home and you think you are pretty good at it, and you believe you have a gift, as some people do; there is nothing to stop you from proclaiming yourself to be a pet therapist, trainer or behaviorist. So the qualifications range from a non-professional-schooled person right the way up to a Ph.D. or DVM-board certified, so there is a tremendous range of people who call themselves behaviorists. I know some dog trainers who go out of their way to avoid being termed behaviorist, so if you ask, “Are you a behaviorist?” they say “no I am not a behaviorist, I am a trainer.”

Bark: What do you feel is the place for punishment or negative re-enforcement in treating behavioral problems?

Dodman: I think that the direct punishment-based techniques are outmoded, a thing of the past, and should be avoided. Nobel Prize winners Lorenz, Tinbergen and Von Frisch might have disagreed on some points, but the three of them were all in agreement that punishment teaches a dog nothing. All it does is to teach a dog how to avoid the punishment. Which is not the same as teaching the dog what to do. There is no learning, other than learning avoidance of certain actions. You don’t need punishment to teach either dogs or children. I don’t believe in the concept of “sparing the rod and spoiling the child,” or sparing the chain-jerking and spoiling the dog. All the techniques that we use in the clinic are 100 percent motivational—we do not use any coercive techniques. I work on the theory that if you can train a killer whale to launch itself out of a swimming pool, roll on its side and urinate into a small plastic cup, given only a whistle and a bucket of fish, without a choke chain, then you don’t need those confrontational techniques with dogs.

As for those prong collars … I sometimes say to clients what John Lennon rudely said about Paul McCarthy—the only thing he did was “Yesterday.” Prong collars are yesterday. There are some trainers, not all trainers, who just seem to know only one thing, and that is how to escalate punishment to reach the desired effect. So they start off with puppies the right way with food motivation. But as soon as the dog reaches a certain age, they go into a slip collar, then a metal choke collar, and if these aren’t having the desired aversive effects, they escalate up to a prong collar; some even graduate higher, to electricity. What you have is a gradation of pain. And the pain is designed with the theory “you teach them to do something, and if they don’t do it, you hurt them.” Konrad Lorenz said that science and know-how aren’t enough in dog training; patience is the vital stuff. I find that non-confrontational techniques are more appreciated by owners who often aren’t of the disposition to want to hurt their animals to make them do anything.

Bark: I know that one of the big problems in training comes up in animal shelters, where some training is given to the dogs to make them more adoptable. Patience and non-aversive training are wonderful, but what can shelters workers do to make the animals adoptable, quickly?

Dodman: You could train fairly fast with clickers. In my office I use a clicker and food treats. I can have a dog at the beginning of a one-hour session without the faintest idea of what a clicker is, but at the end of the hour I do a click and he’ll immediately come and sit for a food treat. They can learn what the clicker means fairly quickly. But in terms of rehabilitation of a dog in a shelter, I don’t think that taking a dog that has gone through the kinds of unfortunate experiences that cause it to arrive in a shelter and then putting a choke chain and popping it a couple of times is going to sort it out. With a lot of the dogs I have seen in the behavior clinic, the relationship with the owner has broken down. Many of these dogs have been to training. They are top of the class. They are very smart. But they are willful or dysfunctional. They have problems that way, and these are the kinds of things that bring animals to shelters. You have dogs that are either relatively normal but untrained, or they are fearful, needing more confidence building. If you put a choke chain on a dog like that, you are going to drive it back in the middle of last week.

It all has to do with communication, too, it’s not about having your dog respond like a little soldier to commands. It is just clear communication. I tell people to just imagine if they were in downtown Shanghai: everyone speaks Chinese and they don’t have the faintest idea of what is going on. That’s a pretty stressful situation to be in. But if someone comes up with just a few basic words—like restaurant, bathroom, transportation—just a few words sprinkled in, that could really mean something and could help with de-stressing the situation. I see communication as being one of the three Rs of rehabilitation for a dog that has gone off the rails. The other two Rs are exercise and appropriate diet. I call that the Reading, ’riting and ’rithmetic of dog rehabilitation. If you are dog, you pronounce that with a rrruhrrr.

Bark: What do you think is the single most important preventative measure people can take to help avoid behavior problems in their pets?

Dodman: That’s a difficult question, because there are several factors, such as exercise, diet, communication, suitable restraints and fenced-in yards and perhaps providing a crate, even if you don’t ever shut the door. Put as the one single thing? Probably it would be to provide leadership. The dog is a territorial animal and when he moves into your territory, he’ll try to take it over; if you feed him, he might keep you on because you are feeding him. So it is very important to provide clear leadership in a non-confrontational way.

I think that dogs and children are a very similar. For example, there was a study done by a master’s degree graduate student at Tufts. She took dogs on the basis of puppy temperament testing who were likely to become a bit extroverted, a little dominant. And she said three simple things to their owners—she had two groups so she did it all scientifically—one group of owners were told, “Have a nice day,” and the other group was told, “Number one, make your puppy sit in order to get fed; number two, make your little puppy sit to get food treats; and, number three, provide the puppy with a crate. (You don’t have to put the dog in there twenty-three hours a day, you can even leave the door open. Make it a safe place for the dog to go to.)” With these three measures none of the dogs in the second group became dominant or gave the owners any trouble. Nearly all the dogs in the first group turned out to be dominant and got into the territorial mode of guarding their property and possessions within their territory.

So I think that leadership is very important because of the pack mentality of dogs. If you are the leader, I don’t think that the dog is unhappy about having you as the leader. And when the owner takes clear control through a non-confrontational dominance program, you can almost hear the dog sigh with relief. It’s as if they are saying, “My god, for a minute I thought it was me who was in charge here.” It’s a relief. They don’t feel miserable. They are not like humans who have to be number one. They don’t care about being at the top of the hierarchy, they just need to know where they are in it. Clearly know .

Bark: In your books you talk about the importance of aerobic exercise for the health of a dog. How can dog owners provide that kind of exercise for their dogs at the end of leash?

Dodman: The vast majority of dogs do benefit greatly from having exercise periods. And walking dogs on a leash is not sufficient exercise. It’s not that they die if they walk on a leash, just as it’s not that a human being dies in solitary confinement either. It is just that it is not optimal for their physiological and psychological well-being. Exercise is good for us and it is good for a dog. People say to me, “I give my dog a lot of exercise, I take him for a walk around the block every day and it is about a mile or a mile and a half.” I say, “Well, I take my 84-year-old mother for a mile walk around the block, but that doesn’t constitute exercise.” We really need to get heart rate to a certain level, and this is done by running off-lead.

Then again, there is another side to the dogs-in-parks issue, and this is where you find people coming out stacked high on both sides. There’s responsible pet ownership. But it is the irresponsible behavior of the few that has made society make rules that are punitive for the many responsible owners. So it is not appropriate to walk along Fifth Avenue with your dog off leash—even if you happen to have a dog trained to heel, all it takes is a rollerblader coming down the street and the dog might run after him or the dog might decide to cross the road because there is a bitch in heat. On crowded streets you need to keep a dog on lead, and people need to be responsible for picking up their dog’s waste; and if you know that your dog has a weakness for, say, attacking small dogs, that is another thing that you should control. The only way you can control it is physically. But that doesn’t mean that you have to forego aerobic exercise. It is the owner’s duty to find a place where they can let their dog off leash to run, safely.

I know how difficult it is when you live inside a huge sprawling urban complex, such as a city like Boston. Tufts is north of Boston in Medford and they have the same issues. All the dog people from the north shore of Boston were using the university playing fields to exercise their dogs. They were all congregating on the only green area. The football players were running around and skidding in dog muck. So they put a little fence around a little area in the corner, so now all the dog people are condensed into that small area. This is a difficult situation—the dog owners have nowhere else to go, but the players shouldn’t have to roll around in the dog doo either. I think there should be certain areas where dogs are permitted to do whatever they want to do, to run. I sometimes tell people if they are in a really difficult situation, though this is somewhat illicit, if worse comes to worst, take their dogs to a tennis court—wing a ball to them and they’ll run backwards and forwards.

So whether it’s continued petitioning to provide parks for dog owners, these things are necessary, considering how many dogs there are in the country. There are something like half as many dogs as there are cars. If you told car owners they could not park on the streets, what would they do? So there is this massive problem. One in five people owns a dog, something like 40 percent of all American households have a pet. And to make a rule that people can’t exercise their dogs off leash might even be one of the reasons that we are seeing an increase in problems these days. The demographics of the human population is such that people are moving into the inner cities, we are becoming a nation of city dwellers, and in the city it is a concrete jungle, as Desmond Morris would say.

Life is very bizarre for dogs who live in Manhattan. It is not at all like the natural life. A dog needs to be provided with natural outlets—being able to run and exercise and chase things and do what dogs were bred to do. Say you have an apartment-dwelling dog who has little or no exercise and is fed one of these high-energy foods. Then add to that that there isn’t much communication because the owner took the dog to obedience training as a puppy and doesn’t do it anymore. So now you have a dog that neither is communicated with properly, nor has appropriate outlets or diet. This situation, which is all too common, is an accident looking for a place to happen.
 

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Dr. Nicholas Dodman on Dog Behavior and New Training Techniques
What does it take to be the leader of the pack?

The rules of dog training and care are changing, which means your role is changing. Leading animal behaviorist Dr. Nicholas Dodman discusses new training techniques and dog behavior with fellow veterinarian, Dr. Sophia Yin and Bark’s Claudia Kawczynska.

Bark: What is an animal behaviorist? What qualifies someone to be called a behaviorist?

Dodman: There are only two qualified types of behaviorists; one who is endorsed and certified by the Animal Behavior Society (ABS), the so-called certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (AB). And the veterinary ones, who are the diplomats of the American College of Veterinary Behavior. For the ABS the minimum starting point is a master’s degree, but a lot of certified animal behaviorists have a PhD. That’s the non-veterinary variety. In order to become a veterinary behaviorist, you have to do a vet degree first, taking four years after college, then one year internship and then the residency program that is normally three years long. In other words, it’s another four years after the DVM that you become eligible to sit for the specialty examination in behavior. So after leaving high school, the ABS is a minimum of twelve years of study. And then you have to sit a pretty hard exam. These are the two types of people who are qualified animal behaviorists.

Having said that, the fact is, if you happen to have a dog that you trained yourself at home and you think you are pretty good at it, and you believe you have a gift, as some people do; there is nothing to stop you from proclaiming yourself to be a pet therapist, trainer or behaviorist. So the qualifications range from a non-professional-schooled person right the way up to a Ph.D. or DVM-board certified, so there is a tremendous range of people who call themselves behaviorists. I know some dog trainers who go out of their way to avoid being termed behaviorist, so if you ask, “Are you a behaviorist?” they say “no I am not a behaviorist, I am a trainer.”

Bark: What do you feel is the place for punishment or negative re-enforcement in treating behavioral problems?

Dodman: I think that the direct punishment-based techniques are outmoded, a thing of the past, and should be avoided. Nobel Prize winners Lorenz, Tinbergen and Von Frisch might have disagreed on some points, but the three of them were all in agreement that punishment teaches a dog nothing. All it does is to teach a dog how to avoid the punishment. Which is not the same as teaching the dog what to do. There is no learning, other than learning avoidance of certain actions. You don’t need punishment to teach either dogs or children. I don’t believe in the concept of “sparing the rod and spoiling the child,” or sparing the chain-jerking and spoiling the dog. All the techniques that we use in the clinic are 100 percent motivational—we do not use any coercive techniques. I work on the theory that if you can train a killer whale to launch itself out of a swimming pool, roll on its side and urinate into a small plastic cup, given only a whistle and a bucket of fish, without a choke chain, then you don’t need those confrontational techniques with dogs.

As for those prong collars … I sometimes say to clients what John Lennon rudely said about Paul McCarthy—the only thing he did was “Yesterday.” Prong collars are yesterday. There are some trainers, not all trainers, who just seem to know only one thing, and that is how to escalate punishment to reach the desired effect. So they start off with puppies the right way with food motivation. But as soon as the dog reaches a certain age, they go into a slip collar, then a metal choke collar, and if these aren’t having the desired aversive effects, they escalate up to a prong collar; some even graduate higher, to electricity. What you have is a gradation of pain. And the pain is designed with the theory “you teach them to do something, and if they don’t do it, you hurt them.” Konrad Lorenz said that science and know-how aren’t enough in dog training; patience is the vital stuff. I find that non-confrontational techniques are more appreciated by owners who often aren’t of the disposition to want to hurt their animals to make them do anything.

Bark: I know that one of the big problems in training comes up in animal shelters, where some training is given to the dogs to make them more adoptable. Patience and non-aversive training are wonderful, but what can shelters workers do to make the animals adoptable, quickly?

Dodman: You could train fairly fast with clickers. In my office I use a clicker and food treats. I can have a dog at the beginning of a one-hour session without the faintest idea of what a clicker is, but at the end of the hour I do a click and he’ll immediately come and sit for a food treat. They can learn what the clicker means fairly quickly. But in terms of rehabilitation of a dog in a shelter, I don’t think that taking a dog that has gone through the kinds of unfortunate experiences that cause it to arrive in a shelter and then putting a choke chain and popping it a couple of times is going to sort it out. With a lot of the dogs I have seen in the behavior clinic, the relationship with the owner has broken down. Many of these dogs have been to training. They are top of the class. They are very smart. But they are willful or dysfunctional. They have problems that way, and these are the kinds of things that bring animals to shelters. You have dogs that are either relatively normal but untrained, or they are fearful, needing more confidence building. If you put a choke chain on a dog like that, you are going to drive it back in the middle of last week.

It all has to do with communication, too, it’s not about having your dog respond like a little soldier to commands. It is just clear communication. I tell people to just imagine if they were in downtown Shanghai: everyone speaks Chinese and they don’t have the faintest idea of what is going on. That’s a pretty stressful situation to be in. But if someone comes up with just a few basic words—like restaurant, bathroom, transportation—just a few words sprinkled in, that could really mean something and could help with de-stressing the situation. I see communication as being one of the three Rs of rehabilitation for a dog that has gone off the rails. The other two Rs are exercise and appropriate diet. I call that the Reading, ’riting and ’rithmetic of dog rehabilitation. If you are dog, you pronounce that with a rrruhrrr.

Bark: What do you think is the single most important preventative measure people can take to help avoid behavior problems in their pets?

Dodman: That’s a difficult question, because there are several factors, such as exercise, diet, communication, suitable restraints and fenced-in yards and perhaps providing a crate, even if you don’t ever shut the door. Put as the one single thing? Probably it would be to provide leadership. The dog is a territorial animal and when he moves into your territory, he’ll try to take it over; if you feed him, he might keep you on because you are feeding him. So it is very important to provide clear leadership in a non-confrontational way.

I think that dogs and children are a very similar. For example, there was a study done by a master’s degree graduate student at Tufts. She took dogs on the basis of puppy temperament testing who were likely to become a bit extroverted, a little dominant. And she said three simple things to their owners—she had two groups so she did it all scientifically—one group of owners were told, “Have a nice day,” and the other group was told, “Number one, make your puppy sit in order to get fed; number two, make your little puppy sit to get food treats; and, number three, provide the puppy with a crate. (You don’t have to put the dog in there twenty-three hours a day, you can even leave the door open. Make it a safe place for the dog to go to.)” With these three measures none of the dogs in the second group became dominant or gave the owners any trouble. Nearly all the dogs in the first group turned out to be dominant and got into the territorial mode of guarding their property and possessions within their territory.

So I think that leadership is very important because of the pack mentality of dogs. If you are the leader, I don’t think that the dog is unhappy about having you as the leader. And when the owner takes clear control through a non-confrontational dominance program, you can almost hear the dog sigh with relief. It’s as if they are saying, “My god, for a minute I thought it was me who was in charge here.” It’s a relief. They don’t feel miserable. They are not like humans who have to be number one. They don’t care about being at the top of the hierarchy, they just need to know where they are in it. Clearly know .

Bark: In your books you talk about the importance of aerobic exercise for the health of a dog. How can dog owners provide that kind of exercise for their dogs at the end of leash?

Dodman: The vast majority of dogs do benefit greatly from having exercise periods. And walking dogs on a leash is not sufficient exercise. It’s not that they die if they walk on a leash, just as it’s not that a human being dies in solitary confinement either. It is just that it is not optimal for their physiological and psychological well-being. Exercise is good for us and it is good for a dog. People say to me, “I give my dog a lot of exercise, I take him for a walk around the block every day and it is about a mile or a mile and a half.” I say, “Well, I take my 84-year-old mother for a mile walk around the block, but that doesn’t constitute exercise.” We really need to get heart rate to a certain level, and this is done by running off-lead.

Then again, there is another side to the dogs-in-parks issue, and this is where you find people coming out stacked high on both sides. There’s responsible pet ownership. But it is the irresponsible behavior of the few that has made society make rules that are punitive for the many responsible owners. So it is not appropriate to walk along Fifth Avenue with your dog off leash—even if you happen to have a dog trained to heel, all it takes is a rollerblader coming down the street and the dog might run after him or the dog might decide to cross the road because there is a bitch in heat. On crowded streets you need to keep a dog on lead, and people need to be responsible for picking up their dog’s waste; and if you know that your dog has a weakness for, say, attacking small dogs, that is another thing that you should control. The only way you can control it is physically. But that doesn’t mean that you have to forego aerobic exercise. It is the owner’s duty to find a place where they can let their dog off leash to run, safely.

I know how difficult it is when you live inside a huge sprawling urban complex, such as a city like Boston. Tufts is north of Boston in Medford and they have the same issues. All the dog people from the north shore of Boston were using the university playing fields to exercise their dogs. They were all congregating on the only green area. The football players were running around and skidding in dog muck. So they put a little fence around a little area in the corner, so now all the dog people are condensed into that small area. This is a difficult situation—the dog owners have nowhere else to go, but the players shouldn’t have to roll around in the dog doo either. I think there should be certain areas where dogs are permitted to do whatever they want to do, to run. I sometimes tell people if they are in a really difficult situation, though this is somewhat illicit, if worse comes to worst, take their dogs to a tennis court—wing a ball to them and they’ll run backwards and forwards.

So whether it’s continued petitioning to provide parks for dog owners, these things are necessary, considering how many dogs there are in the country. There are something like half as many dogs as there are cars. If you told car owners they could not park on the streets, what would they do? So there is this massive problem. One in five people owns a dog, something like 40 percent of all American households have a pet. And to make a rule that people can’t exercise their dogs off leash might even be one of the reasons that we are seeing an increase in problems these days. The demographics of the human population is such that people are moving into the inner cities, we are becoming a nation of city dwellers, and in the city it is a concrete jungle, as Desmond Morris would say.

Life is very bizarre for dogs who live in Manhattan. It is not at all like the natural life. A dog needs to be provided with natural outlets—being able to run and exercise and chase things and do what dogs were bred to do. Say you have an apartment-dwelling dog who has little or no exercise and is fed one of these high-energy foods. Then add to that that there isn’t much communication because the owner took the dog to obedience training as a puppy and doesn’t do it anymore. So now you have a dog that neither is communicated with properly, nor has appropriate outlets or diet. This situation, which is all too common, is an accident looking for a place to happen.
 

Culture: DogPatch
10 Years of Modern Dog Culture
The evolution of an era

Ten years ago, The Bark set out to chronicle a growing societal movement, one we came to call the modern dog culture. Though we started the magazine as part of our advocacy for off-leash dog parks, we didn’t limit ourselves to that topic. And, as we tackled other dog-related subjects we noticed the emergence of a new way of living with dogs that enthralled and fascinated us. Taking “Dog Is My Co-Pilot” as our motto because it said so perfectly what we felt to be true, we began our exploration of this phenomenon.

From the start, we filled the pages of The Bark with smart writing, insightful commentary, great fiction and personal essays, expert advice, humor, poetry, art, and much more. In short, we created a magazine that had everything we wanted to read, and its canine-centricity inspired the best from our contributors, and attracted thousands of like-minded readers. We have long taken pride in creating a publication that not only reflects the voice of its time but that also showcases the esteem we feel for dogs—its a payment of sorts on the debt we feel is owed them.

Dogs have been our best friends for millennia, but this relationship has undergone a remarkable transformation during the past few years as their role in our lives is redefined and expanded. Long our helpmates and trusted companions—valued for their “worthiness” by hunters, shepherds and herdsmen as well as by the aristocracy with its pampered pups—dogs nonetheless occupied a place that was distinct and separate from that claimed by humans. The relationship was primarily viewed in terms of the degree of utility and value that dogs had to us.

Today, dogs are more fully integrated into the fabric of our daily lives. Though their capacity to help us is perhaps even more relevant now as we discover the full range of their abilities, there is something else in play, a different kind of co-species togetherness that goes beyond the functional. It is almost a re-enactment of the dawn of our two species, when proto-human and proto-dog helped one other along their evolutionary pathways.

Dog lovers are tending to the emotional needs of their dogs, enriching their minds, exercising their bodies, providing them with social stimulation, feeding them nutritious foods—in short, they are nurturing and caring for their dogs as true and equal family members. Even though we recognize and celebrate the “otherness” of dogs, we are also gratified to see that the distance between our two species is being reduced. This, in turn, makes us better able to treat dogs (and all animals) with compassion and respect.

So, we thought, what better way to showcase what we mean by dog culture—and to celebrate our 10th anniversary—than by presenting an array of our “Editors’ Picks,” articles and stories that reflect the best examples from our vast collection. Check here for weekly updates, and stay tuned—we’ll be telling you the stories behind the stories and providing other flavorful and tantalizing insights.

Good Dog: Activities & Sports
Walk Your Dog in Washington, DC's Congressional Cemetary
Good works, good walks

For 200 years, Washington, DC’s, 32-acre Congressional Cemetery—privately owned by the Episcopal church—has provided a resting place for many Americans, from notables such as Civil War photographer Matthew Brady, John Philip Sousa and J. Edgar Hoover to the laborers who helped construct the nearby Capitol, as well as lawmakers who served there.

By the early 20th century, Congressional’s popularity was eclipsed by that of the national cemetery at Arlington (built on the grounds of Robert E. Lee’s estate in 1883). Sadly, “Congressional was forgotten,” according to John Philip Sousa Pugh, great-grandnephew of the composer, and it suffered from neglect and vandalism. Then, about 20 years ago, dogs (and their people) “rescued” it. What makes this cemetery and its arrangement with an OLA group so unique and worthy of our highest praise is how well this partnership works. A third of the cemetery’s annual operating income is generated by the fees that the off-leash recreationists pay for access privileges: $125 a year, plus $40 per dog.

Appropriately, this covers the costs for all the lawn maintenance! Besides the annual dues, members of this K-9 Corps must agree to follow simple rules, which include use restrictions during burials and funerals. The dog people also help with conservation and preservation efforts, and have proven to be not only great fundraisers, but effective vandalism deterrents too. Recently, 100 dogs dressed as historic characters helped celebrate the cemetery’s bicentennial, and their people carried signs with slogans such as “Abraham Lincoln Liked Mutts.” We salute them!
CemeteryDogs.org 

 

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