JoAnna Lou

JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dangerous Fur Styling
Viral trend #DogBun is potentially harmful to canine ears.
I've seen people use non-toxic coloring to dye their dogs' tails and paint their pups' nails, however the latest canine styling trend is not only slightly bizarre, but also harmful (albeit unintentionally). The dog bun involves styling fur and ears together on the top of a pup's head, typically using an elastic hair tie. The fur style has been growing in popularity with over 2,000 pictures on Instagram bearing the hashtag #DogBun so far, with more photos are being added each day.

While the style looks cute, Dr. Ann Hohenhaus at New York City's Animal Medical Center says that bands or clips should never be used to pull back dog ears. They could interrupt blood flow and cause serious damage, potentially leading to ear flap amputation. Additionally, I can't imagine that having your ears bunched up is comfortable or conducive to hearing.

People set on styling their pup should stick to ear-less buns, using elastic bands to gather only fur, while those with short haired dogs should skip the bun all together.

Do you style your dog's fur?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Care Packages for Military Dogs
Non-profit sends goodies and supplies to war pups and their handlers.
According to the United States War Dog Association, over 1,000 military working dogs are on duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. When these pups are in action, explosive detection rate jumps to as high as 80 percent. General David H. Petraeus once said that military working dogs outperform any other asset in the Army's inventory. These brave and courageous pups are valued members of our country's military.

Recently I found out that you can support these dogs by sending care packages to war canines and their handlers via the United States War Dog Association. This non-profit organization has been sending goodies to military pups all over the world since 2003. There's a full list of needed items on their web site, but here are a few examples of commonly requested items:

  • Canine cooling mats and coats
  • Canine nail clippers, brushes and combs
  • Canine salves for paws/noses
  • Canine toothpaste and toothbrushes
  • Kongs and heavy duty chew toys
  • Doggles
  • Collapsible nylon dog water bowls
  • Dog shampoo
  • Dog treats made in the USA
And don't forget the handlers! Some of the suggested items or the humans include chapstick, sun block, chewing gum, and beef jerky.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Fighting Those Who Don't Scoop Poop
NYC apartment complex resorts to DNA testing.
I'm always mystified as to why people refuse to clean up after their pets. We fight hard for dog friendly places, but in order to keep these privileges, we have to be courteous and respectful.

One Brooklyn Bridge Park, an apartment complex in New York City, is one of the most dog friendly buildings in the area. 175 dogs of different breeds and sizes live among the 440 units, and the ground floor is home to Wag Club, a canine grooming and training service.

You'd think this would foster a sense of community and responsibility among the residents, but for some time the building has been having a problem with people not picking up after their pets. In the winter, the issue was even worse, with residents letting their dogs relieve themselves in the stairwells and hallways during bad weather. In the month of December alone, they found 52 messes on almost every floor of the building, including all five elevators and three lobbies. Not only was it rude and unsanitary, but it was costing the building a lot of money to increase maintenance.

After trying to nudge behavior change with messages and signs, the board resorted to a new tactic. They decided that all dogs in the building must be registered and have their DNA tested so the offenders could be identified.

The new program was met with resistance, as some residents worried that DNA testing could open the gates to a whole host of other problems. One concern was around the potential for being framed. For instance, someone looking for revenge could easily take a poop bag out of the trash and plant faulty evidence.

Others thought the testing might be a precursor to a breed ban. While that wasn't the building's intention, it was a valid concern coming a few months after another New York City apartment building started DNA testing dogs to kick out certain breeds. And still others were opposed because they felt it was a violation of canine privacy since dogs are not capable of consent. But the program went on, with the board only agreeing to lower the registration fee from $75 to $35.

Since One Brooklyn started its DNA testing in May, seven matches have been made with fines of $250. Even better, it's acted as a good deterrent, significantly lowering the number of accidents left behind.

DNA testing may seem extreme, but it's a growing solution to this persistent problem. The company behind the DNA testing product that One Brooklyn is using, Poo Prints, is now being used by more than 1,000 apartment and condominium buildings around the country. And the problem isn't limited to the United States. Last year the city of Naples, Italy also started a genetic testing program to deal with dog waste.

What do you think about DNA testing?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Quanto's Law
Canada institutes new penalties for killing a police dog or service animal.
Last year a Canadian police dog named Quanto was killed while trying to apprehend a suspect fleeing from police. As a result, Joseph Vukmanich, who stabbed the German Shepherd multiple times, was sentenced to 26 months in prison for animal cruelty, among other charges.

In response to the tragedy, a new federal law called Quanto's Law was created to institute a maximum jail sentence of five years for anyone convicted of intentionally killing a police dog or service animal.

Last week Tim Uppal, the federal minister for multiculturalism, met with Edmonton police officers to officially mark the enactment of the new legislation. They hope the law will send a strong message to anyone that injures an animal in the line of duty. Tim put it succinctly when he said, "They're there to protect us and we should be protecting them."

In the United States we have the Federal Law Enforcement Animal Protection Act, which was introduced in 1999. It states that a conviction of assaulting, maiming, or killing a federal law enforcement animal will result in a fine of at least $1,000 and a maximum of ten years in prison. Since then many states have passed or are considering passing harsher protections. For example, in Georgia, legislation is being considered to make injuring a police canine punishable with ten to twenty years in prison.

What's cool about the Canadian law is that it protects service dogs as well. I hope that other countries and states will take note and expand their laws to include all working pups!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Obesity at Crufts
Research finds that one in four dogs at the prestigious show are overweight.
Obesity is a growing epidemic in pets, a condition that can lead to a myriad of health problems. Often when I talk to people about their dogs, they simply don't know how to gauge ideal weight.

Many people assume that show dogs are the healthiest and best representation of their breeds, but recent research found that one in four dogs competing in the prestigious Crufts is overweight. As the U.K.'s national canine show and the world's largest, these pups get a lot of visibility.

The study looked at over 1,000 images of dogs from a span of twelve years at Crufts. The canines were drawn from a pool of pups that placed between first and fifth in their class. After coding and anonymizing the images, a researcher graded the body condition of each dog.

Some breeds were far more likely than others to be assessed as overweight--80 percent of the Pug images, 68 percent of Basset Hounds, and 63 percent of Labradors. Standard Poodles, Border Terriers, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Hungarian Vizlas, and Dobermanns were the least likely breeds to be assessed as overweight.

Researchers acknowledged that the rate of obesity in the show dogs was still less than the general pet population, but the fact that a quarter were above the ideal weight is still a concern.

They hope that their work will draw attention to the obesity issue and encourage education of owners, breeders, and show judges on how to recognize ideal weight in dogs.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Party Puppies for Hire
Renting out dogs is a growing business.
Who wouldn't want a group of cute puppies at their next party? Apparently renting dogs for soirees has become a growing business in the last few years. The companies behind this new trend have reported bringing the furry entertainers to birthdays, office events, and even bachelorette parties. But is hiring dogs for parties sending the wrong message?

One such company in Los Angeles, Calif., which has been selling dogs for decades (already a red flag for the welfare of these animals), started offering puppy parties in the 1990s. Business has picked up recently and they expect to do 800 parties this year. The company has around 70 dogs and puppies at any given time, which are rented at $200 an hour for up to ten puppies.

Most of their business is in children's parties, where the puppies and kids sit in a playpen after being taught proper petting technique. I'm glad they have workers supervising and advising on handling, but the scale of this business makes me nervous that the dogs' best interest is not the first priority.

In a different set-up, Provo, Utah's Puppies for Rent has the ultimate goal of getting customers to adopt puppies. Jenna Miller founded the company three years ago after missing her dog while studying at Bringham Young University. Now with three locations near college campuses, Jenna takes unwanted pups (from rescue organizations and owner surrenders), puts them in foster homes, and then rents them out to students by the hour. Afterwards, renters can apply for permanent adoption. Most puppies have gone to forever homes within two months. This model seems better since the interaction is one-on-one and encourages long term adoption.

I'm a bit conflicted on the whole puppy party idea. It can certainly be a way to socialize young pets, while teaching kids how to to safely interact with dogs, but I worry that turning this into a business model can lead to overworked and overwhelmed puppies. Allowing people to rent dogs can also support the idea that caring for a pet isn't a long term commitment.

This concept would be cool if it could be adapted for animal shelters and rescue organizations. Instead of renting a playpen of puppies, parents could have someone from the local shelter come with a dog or two in exchange for a donation. It would be a great opportunity to not only teach kids about the proper way to approach dogs, but to also educate on homeless pets and canine behavior.

What do you think about puppies for hire?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Fitness App Raises Money for Rescue
ResQWalk allows users to track their exercise while benefiting homeless pets.
When I started training for a half marathon last year, I used a fitness app to track my runs. It was encouraging to see the progress I made, increasing my mileage from one to ten miles over a few months. But what if I could keep tabs on my exercise and benefit rescue pets, with minimal additional effort on my part? Seems like a no brainer!

ResQWalk, launched last year by Bailey Schroeder, combines the popularity of fitness apps with the opportunity to help animals, even for those who might not have a lot of time or money to donate. The app is a fun way to tap into what people are already doing.

Inspired by her rescue pup, Charlie, Bailey wanted to create an easy way for people to donate to the animal welfare organizations of their choice. Other apps link donations to walking, but ResQWalk has a lot of additional functionality that make the app more interactive.

Each week ResQWalk announces a donation pool, typically around $2,500, which is funded from an Indiegogo campaign. Users choose a rescue or shelter to walk for before they head out. The distance is recorded in user profiles and is added to each organization's weekly sum. At the end of the week donations are paid out to the rescue and shelters proportionally to the total distance walked.

Similar to fitness apps, users can view their walk history, including time and distance traveled, and the rescues they've supported. The app also has a leaderboard to see which rescues and shelters are racking up the most miles over each week. I hope that they include some runner-specific functions in the future, like recording your average pace. There are a lot of aspiring marathoners that would love to use this app!

Bailey and her team vet each organization that apply to be sure that their mission aligns with theirs. Bailey's next step for ResQWalk is to enlist corporate sponsors to pick up when the Indiegogo funds are done.

This is such a cool way to raise money for shelters!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Advocating for Dogs Left in Cars
NFL player sits in a hot vehicle to raise awareness.
There's been a lot of news lately about dogs being left to suffer or die in hot cars. Recently Arizona Cardinals defensive back Tyrann Mathieu took a challenge to sit in a hot car in 90-degree weather to see how long he could handle it. As a dog lover, Tyrann wanted to participate in the test to raise awareness for not leaving pets in cars, no matter how quick the stop.

In the video it's obvious that Tyrann was distressed as the car's temperature reached 120 degrees. He only lasted eight minutes, saying "I couldn't imagine leaving my dog in a car like this."

Tyrann urges people to be responsible when taking pets on trips where they'll have to stay behind in the car--even if the windows are rolled down or if it's a cloudy day.

I hope that this video makes people think twice about leaving dogs in the car, but also wish Tyrann highlighted the danger of hot vehicles even when the temperature isn't excessively high. Many people won't leave pets in the car when it's 90 degrees and sunny, but it's not as obvious that a 70 degree day can heat a vehicle to over 100 degrees in 30 minutes. However, I'm still happy to see Tyrann create some awareness around this topic!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Portraits of Failed Shelter Pups
Florida artist is raising awareness for the thousands of rescue pets killed each day.
When Florida artist Mark Barone was looking to adopt a rescue pup, he learned just how overwhelming the situation is at animal shelters across the country. Inspired to raise awareness, he decided to take action through his art. Mark started painting portraits of pets who never made it out of the shelter system alive. He set a goal to paint 5,500 pieces to represent the approximate number of dogs killed at shelters on a daily basis.

The project, called An Act of Dog, wasn't without its challenges. Mark's partner, Marina Dervan, says it was deeply saddening to choose which dogs to pick. She would look at their eyes and connect with their souls, making sure to use a variety of pups--including senior, injured, deaf, and blind dogs.

After completing 4,995 portraits, Mark experienced a major setback when a storm damaged nearly 1,000 paintings. But the massive task finally completed this spring, four years after starting. In the meantime, Act of Dog has become so much more than just an artistic marathon.

There are now two more planned phases of the project. The second is underway, selling prints of the artwork to raise money for shelters and rescue organizations. And they're currently fundraising for the third phase, an exciting showcase of the 5,500 portraits and eleven additional larger paintings which will represent other important issues, such as dog fighting, puppy mills, and animal testing.

The Museum of Compassion is planned as a poignant exhibit and educational platform. The 5,500 individual portraits will come together to make up the Wall of Compassion, collectively making a bold statement about the dogs we lose each day. There will also be a space for conferences and talks on compassion and humane solutions, as well as a learning spot for kids.

Check out their web site for more information on this exciting project!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Bucket List for Dying Shelter Dog
Senior pup with cancer spends his last days loved and appreciated.
Senior dogs are hard enough to adopt out when they're healthy, so the Animal Ark Rescue in Georgia knew it would be no easy task to find someone to care for Chester, a 14-year old pup suffering from terminal cancer. The elderly dog had a huge tumor on his head and was rescued in April from a high kill shelter to live out his final days in peace.

Fortunately Nicole Elliot happened to be browsing the rescue's Facebook page when she came upon Chester's photo and story. Seeing his sad face, Nicole was determined to make the most of the pup's remaining days. Before Nicole picked up Chester from the rescue, she came up with a handful of little adventures to guide his remaining time on earth.

Chester and Nicole spent almost two weeks together before he passed away. In that short time, they played in the river at Flatrock Park, ate a hot dog at a Nathan's restaurant, went on a shopping spree at a local pet store, and had a professional photo shoot. Their adventures are documented on Facebook.

Their story also raised thousands of dollars for Animal Ark Rescue's hospice program, highlighted how special older dogs are, and showed what a big difference we can make in just a couple of days. I hope Chester inspires others to take a second look at senior pups!