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JoAnna Lou

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

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
McQueen Leaves Large Sum to Dogs
The late fashion designer left money to his dogs and pet charities

Leaving money to pets and animal related charities is nothing new, however the topic was catapulted to popular discussion four years ago after Leona Helmsley left millions to her pup. Although I fully intend to set aside money for my pets, I imagine that the modest sum will hardly be controversial.

Last week it was revealed that Alexander McQueen also left a less contentious sum to his dogs and two animal related charities. His pets were so important to him that his suicide note specifically asked his family to look after his dogs.

The late fashion designer left £50,000 ($82,000 USD) to ensure that his canine family, Minter, Juice and Callum, would be well cared for after his death. McQueen also made a generous donation of £100,000 ($164,000 USD) to the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home and the Blue Cross, organizations that help homeless animals in the United Kingdom.

Rich celebrities aren't the only ones including their pets in their will. According to Petriarch, 25 percent of pet owners have provided for their pets in a legal document, such as a pet protection agreement, pet trust or will.

In a survey by More Than Pet Insurance in the United Kingdom, 35 percent of respondents planned to leave their pets more than £10,000 ($16,400 USD) in their will, with some 37 percent admitting they intend to leave more to their pet than to a close relative or friend.

With the cost of quality pet care increasing every day, it's becoming even more important to set aside money for your furry family members.

Are your pets included in a will or pet trust?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Man’s New Best Friend
Do we rely on PCs more than our pups?

Has the computer replaced dog as “mans best friend?” Computeractive magazine and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) surveyed over 2,000 people in Britain to find out.

A whopping 67 percent of respondents believe that most people rely more on their computer than their dog. The number is lower for people who actually have a dog, but higher if the respondent was between the ages of 18–24 years old. Interestingly, men are almost twice as likely as females to rely more on their computers.

I depend on my computer for almost everything I do—editing spreadsheets at work, buying clothes and books online, mapping directions and watching movies, just to name a few. And of course, I use my computer to do lots of dog-related activities—researching dog food, buying pet supplies and entering agility trials. Lets face it, we’ve come to rely on computers for almost every aspect of our lives.

But there are many things that my computer will never be able to do. My dogs make me laugh when I’m down, get me outside to exercise when I’m feeling lazy, and help me meet new friends when we’re walking in the park.

A dog is always happy to see you and has so much love to give. As useful as my computer is, it can’t come close to the relationship I have with my dogs. So it’s safe to say that no technology will be replacing my pup as my best friend!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Pet-Friendly Apartments Are Lucrative
There are many benefits for landlords that welcome pets

When I rented my last apartment, pet-friendly buildings were, on average, more expensive than the ones that didn't welcome pets.

It's unfortunate that a few irresponsible people seem to have given pets a bad name. In my search, I even found that many landlords stopped allowing animals because of property damage or complaints about barking. I've seen this with hotels too.

However, in these hard economic times, some real estate experts are recommending that non-pet-friendly landlords consider reversing their policy. According to the National Association of Residential Property Managers, upwards of 70 percent of tenants have some kind of pet. So clearly non-pet-friendly landlords are losing out on a large market.

A 2003 study by the Foundation for Interdisciplinary Research and Education Promoting Animal Welfare (FIREPAW) found that pet friendly apartments actually gained an average of nearly $3,000 per apartment, per year. Additionally, welcoming pets allows landlords to be more selective, since they're picking from a wider pool of prospective tenants.

While the study is a bit outdated, the statistics are compelling and makes a good case for landlords to become pet friendly.

  • Vacancy rates for pet-friendly apartments was 10 percent versus 14 percent for non-pet friendly units
  • Pet friendly apartments rented in an average of 19 days versus 29 days for non-pet friendly places
  • Tenants in pet friendly rentals stayed an average of 46 months compared with 18 months for non-pet friendly apartments
  • Pet friendly apartments were able to charge 20 to 30 percent more in rent than non-pet-friendly units
  • When controlling for children, apartments with pets cost landlords less in damage than rentals without pets

I understand that there are other factors to consider, like insurance issues, but I hope that more landlords will see both the economic incentives for changing policy and the many responsible pet lovers out there.

Have you found that landlords are more pet friendly these days?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Light by Poop
Arizona city considers a street lamp powered by dog waste

Last year, Lisa Wogan blogged about a Cambridge, Mass., artist who created a dog poop-to-methane converter used to fuel a local park lamp. Visitors pick up after their dogs and stick the biodegradable waste bags in the converter to power the light. I happen to think this is an ingenious idea. It puts dog waste to good use, while encouraging people to pick up after their dogs.

Although the idea of poop-powered lights hasn't caught on yet with other cities, Gilbert, Ariz., is the latest town to consider the alternative energy source for street lamps.

The town is currently debating whether to approve a project that would use dog waste collected from the local dog park to power a street lamp, with the option of expanding to other uses later.

Students from Arizona State University are hoping to design and create the converter necessary to power the street lamp. Although a similar machine has already been created, there will be unique challenges in designing one suited to Arizona's climate.

I would love to see more cities embrace this alternative energy source and it's a great way to get students involved in green initiatives with a “real world” project.

I also hope that one day this technology will be accessible for home use. Imagine having a poop-powered porch light!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Not-So Hypoallergenic Dogs
New study finds certain breeds don’t have fewer allergens

For so long, allergies prevented many of my friends from having a dog. But in recent years, the popularity of “hypoallergenic” breeds brought some hope of finally adding a canine member to the family. But those who’ve gotten one of the “hypoallergenic” dogs have had mixed results depending on the breed, the severity of their allergies, and, interestingly enough, the individual dog.

Until now there hasn't been much research about the so called “hypoallergenic” breeds. But according to a recent study published in the American Journal of Rhinology and Allergy, there’s no scientific basis to claim that hypoallergenic dogs have less allergens.

Researchers at Henry Ford Hospital collected dust samples from 173 homes that represented 60 different dog breeds and tested them for one of the major allergens found in canine saliva. There was no statistical difference between the dust samples from the homes with “hypoallergenic” breeds and the samples from homes with “non-hypoallergenic” breeds.

The reason some breeds, like Poodles, have been called hypoallergenic is because they shed less, and therefore produce less dander. However, as the study showed, not all allergens are connected to dander.

This study only looked at one type of allergen, but the research shows that “hypoallergenic” breeds are not a universal solution.

Do you have experience with a “hypoallergenic” breed?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
NY Stores Ban Drunk Puppy Buying
Manhattan pet stores are challenged by drunk patrons

New York City is home to many trendy neighborhoods, including Greenwich Village, which is inhabited by countless celebrities and New York University students. With the area's vibrant social scene, it's not unusual for a typical weekend to start with an all-you-can-drink mimosa brunch and to end with late night tequila shots.

Given the potential for alcohol induced debauchery, two Village pet stores have started banning intoxicated customers from buying or touching puppies. As you can imagine, nearby bars can be a bad combination for drunk impulse buys.

Unfortunately, the problem isn't limited to the Village. In Manhattan, anything you need to buy, whether it be eggs, wine, or even a new puppy, is usually only a short walk away. Last week The New York Times found that six of the seven pet stores they interviewed had explicit guidelines for dealing with intoxicated visitors.

While it's good that pet stores won't sell animals to people under the influence (at least visibly), being intoxicated is just one of the qualities that would prevent me from selling a dog to someone. Lack of proper screening is one of the reasons that makes pet stores so problematic in my mind (in addition to the whole puppy mill issue, of course). Adding a pet to the family is a big decision that does not always get the necessary thought and planning that is so critical. As a business, pet stores rely on the impulse buys that contribute to irresponsible pet ownership.

Unlike responsible breeders or shelters, pet stores don't protect pets from people who may not understand the true responsibility of a dog. Making sure that puppy buyers are sober is only one small part of the equation.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Famous Namesakes for Canines
Celebrities serve as an inspiration for naming our pets

Lately, New York is in a bit of a Derek Jeter fever since he became the first Yankee in the team’s history to reach the 3,000-hit plateau. The shortstop has always been popular, and I know several people who’ve named their pets after him.

According to the New York Times, there are 33 dogs in New York City registered under the name Jeter, but I’m guessing there are many more Jeters who are not officially accounted for (I've heard that as little as 20 percent of dogs in the Big Apple are registered).

It’s always been popular to name pets after celebrities or athletes.  My cat, Izzy, is named after former New York Islanders left winger, Brad Isbister, and my Sheltie’s registered name is Ya Gotta Believe, a nod to the New York Mets’ rally call, so you can imagine that Jeter didn’t cross my mind!

For his “call name,” I stayed away from sports all together and went with the title character from the movie Finding Nemo. Keeping with the Pixar theme, my newest puppy, Remy, is named after the main character from Ratatouille.

Are your pets named after a celebrity or famous character?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Facial Recognition Helps Homeless Pups
NZ Doggleganger campaign brings awareness to adoption

It’s often said that people look like their dogs. Studies have shown that strangers can match dogs and their humans, proving a definite correlation. Apparently, there’s something in our subconscious at work when we pick our canine companions.

A New Zealand SPCA seeks to speed up that matching process by launching Doggleganger, a new adoption initiative.

Facial recognition is usually used for anti-terrorism purposes, but the Auckland SPCA is using the technology to match people to homeless dogs in shelters. The program was made possible by a partnership with the Pedigree Adoption Drive.

Doggleganger only searches dogs available in New Zealand, but it’s a great way to bring awareness to adoption all over the world. Anyone can go to the website and submit a photo (using an existing digital photo or a web camera) to find their “doggleganger.”

My doggleganger is a Greyhound Mastiff mix named Doc, a 57 perent match. Doc is far away in New Zealand, but it would be cool if you could click a link to a Petfinder search that would show Greyhound Mastiff mixes for adoption in my area.

Who is your doggleganger?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Evolution of Barking
Study finds humans responsible for barking

Since I share a home with two Shetland Sheepdogs, barking is a part of my everyday life. While I enjoy hearing all the funny noises my pets make, barking can have serious consequences: It is one of the behavior problems that lands dogs in shelters. Ironically, humans may be responsible for the very barking we complain about.

Csaba Molnar, a former ethologist at Eotvos Lorand University, has been studying how barking evolved in the dogs we love. Barking is common in domesticated dogs, but not wild dogs.

Since barking is common in domesticated dogs, but not wild dogs, Molnar believes that the behavior is linked to selective breeding by humans. Molnar's studies have uncovered some interesting findings.

  • In terms of pitch, repetition, and harmonics, canine barks are fairly universal. In other words, one dog's alarm bark fundamentally resembled another dogs' alarm bark. Molnar found that even sheepherders, people who are certain in their ability to recognize their own dogs' vocalizations, couldn't distinguish their dogs' barks from others.
  • The most variation in barking is made by dogs at play. According to Molnar, this shows human influence. While warning barks are important for people to be able to identify, play noises are relatively unimportant.
  • People can reliably identify the context in which barks are made, by hearing audio clips of dogs in different situations (e.g., confronting a stranger, playing). In short, we have some ability to understand the canine language even without any visual clues.

Molnar is currently seeking funding to explore why humans might have selected for barking abilities, although another theory believes that it wasn't intentional. Eugene Morton, a zoologist and animal communication expert at the National Zoo, believes that in selecting for “friendly traits” in wolves, barking was a unintended byproduct. Barks are used by juvenile wolves, which also share many other traits with domesticated dogs, such as playfulness.

No matter how barking evolved, it's pretty cool that Molnar's study showed that we can understand dogs' vocalizations to some extent. We are closer to our pets than we think!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
New Recognition for Therapy Dogs
AKC titling program acknowledges pups in the community

This week, the American Kennel Club started a new program to acknowledge therapy dogs. Now pups and their handlers can earn their AKC Therapy Dog title by documenting 50 visits to facilities such as schools, hospitals and nursing homes. The recognition is open to all AKC registered dogs, both pure and mixed breed.

To be clear, the AKC program doesn't certify therapy dogs, teams must be certified through one of 46 AKC-recognized therapy dog organizations. If you're interested in getting involved with your pup, you can contact one of these groups to find out more information. These therapy organizations screen potential teams and provide liability insurance for facility visits.

I hope that this program will encourage more people to certify their dogs and volunteer. With the AKC's Junior Handler program, there's also the potential for more young people to get involved with therapy work as well. The AKC Therapy Dog title is a great compliment to the STAR Puppy and Canine Good Citizen programs.

When Nemo and I are visiting the hospital or the library, it's so rewarding to see the joy the dogs bring to people's faces. But therapy work is not only beneficial for the recipients. It's been a great way for me to further Nemo's training in different environments and to deepen our relationship as we work together.

Are you planning to work towards the AKC Therapy Dog title?

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