Home
JoAnna Lou

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

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Cast Your Vote in the Canis Film Festival
Karen Pryor hosts a video contest promoting positive dog training

2011 marks the third Canis Film Festival hosted by Karen Pryor Clickertraining. The contest is designed to showcase short videos promoting training using positive methods. 

The Canis Film Festival encourages entries to demonstrate not only the amazing end behavior, but also the process and methods used to achieve the final result. Other criteria include innovation (in the end behavior and the approach), entertainment value, use of positive training methods, and the general usefulness of the video. 

Now that the five finalists have been chosen, it’s up to you to vote. I won’t bias you by revealing my favorite video, but I’ll warn you that picking one will be hard! This year’s finalists represent a broad range of dog training areas—behavior modification, trick training, and essential life skills. 

I’ve already gotten some ideas on fun things to train my pups, like the “What is this?” match to sample trick. Challenging to teach, but very impressive!

The Canis Film Festival winners will be announced on March 20th at ClickerExpo Chicago.

Which video will you be voting for?

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dogs Sniff Poop for Environmental Studies
Biologists train rescue pups to help in wildlife surveys

Whether we like it or not, dogs seem to have an uncanny ability to seek out animal droppings. My Sheltie’s favorite is the goose waste left behind at the lakeside path we run on.

Believe it or not, this natural affinity for poop seeking is now being harnessed to help in scientific studies. Biologists at the University of California Berkley have trained dogs to detect animal droppings in order to conduct more accurate environmental surveys. 

Wildlife detection dogs have long been used in airports to detect smuggled exotics, but in recent years many of these working canines have been used to help scientists study endangered species and habitat loss.

While most people are trying to figure out how to get rid of animal waste, the information found in excrement is invaluable to scientists. Droppings are a non-invasive way to monitor an area and its animal population. The information in animal waste can be used to identify individuals and analyze hormone levels and diet.

The cool thing about the University of California’s program is that all of the dogs they use are rescues. The researchers say that the characteristics of a successful wildlife detection dog are often the very traits that cause their canines to be abandoned, like having a high energy level. 

The selection process is rigorous, as only one in every 200-300 dogs is considered a candidate. And only about 40 percent of those pups make the final cut. 

I also love that the training is done by positive reinforcement.  When the dogs locate the droppings of a target species, they are rewarded with a play session. The wildlife detection dog program certainly seems like a win-win for everyone!

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Would You Eat Your Dog’s Food for a Month?
Evermore Pet Food founders live on their canine cuisine during the month of March

Have you ever tried your dog’s food? Despite the human grade ingredients in my dogs’ kibble, it still doesn’t look very appetizing to me (though they go crazy for the stuff).  Two New Yorkers, Hanna Mandelbaum and Alison Wiener, were tired of feeding their dogs unappetizing kibble, so a year ago they founded Evermore Pet Food.

 

Hanna and Alison believe so much in their product that for the month of March they’ve pledged to live only on their dog food products and meals made from the same ingredients. The Evermore Me project includes eating a 1.5-pound container of Evermore’s chicken or beef food each day.

Evermore Pet Food is a cooked food that is sold frozen. Ingredients include USDA-inspected antibiotic- and hormone-free meats, fresh produce, and organic grains. Even more, all of their ingredients are locally sourced.

Evermore Me is a pretty cool project, even if it just gets people to think twice about the ingredients in their dog’s food. And I hope it inspires more pet food companies to think about if they would dare eat their own food for a month!

 

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Policy Brings Awareness to Overpopulation
NYC apartment building requires pets to be neutered

Many people are surprised to find that New York City, despite the miles of asphalt, is actually pretty dog friendly. Walk down any street and you’re bound to see someone out with their pup. Trendy pet stores seem to be a prerequisite for every neighborhood and there are almost 30 fenced dog runs on the 23 square mile island of Manhattan. Someitmes it seems as if everyone in New York is an animal lover.

Now one New York apartment building is taking their love of pets to the next level. The Ludlow on the Lower East Side has implemented a policy requiring that dogs and cats be spayed or neutered before moving in. This directive came straight from Chief Executive Archie Gottesman. Archie is a pet lover and chairwoman of Animal Haven, a shelter near the building.

Archie acknowledges that the Ludlow’s policy probably won’t make a huge impact, but she hopes that the requirement will bring attention to the pet overpopulation problem. 

Although the policy seems a little misguided (don’t get me wrong, I’m a big spay/neuter supporter, but I don't think a mandatory policy gets to the root of the overpopulation problem), but I love how this policy seems to have attracted a community of responsible pet lovers.

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Your Medicine Cabinet Could Be Deadly
A doctor learns the hard way not to mix human and canine drugs

 

A few weeks ago Dr. Randi Hutter Epstein wrote in the New York Times about almost killing her dog Dexter. Fortunately the German Shepherd is on the path to recovery now, but not before going through a harrowing ordeal. And one that could have been easily prevented.

In December, after a romp in Central Park, Dexter came home with a limp in his arthritic leg. In an effort to save money and a trip to the veterinarian, Dr. Epstein gave Dexter a dose of prescription ibuprofen left over from her son’s root canal.

After a day and a half of the medication, Dexter stopped eating and couldn’t control his bladder. Dr. Epstein soon found out that ibuprofen can be lethal to dogs (and many other animals, like cats). Poor Dexter ended up in at the veterinarian’s office for seven days. Over a month later, he’s still on antibiotics and needs to be walked every three hours.

It’s important to know that people medicine should not be given to your pet unless directed by a veterinarian. Even if you are a people doctor! Dr. Epstein learned the hard way that although some human medicines are prescribed to dogs, you can’t assume that for all drugs.

I know many people will jump to criticize Dr. Epstein, but despite what an embarrassing and dangerous mistake it was (even her 14-year old son made fun of her), I’m glad that she decided to share her story. Hopefully the millions of readers who read the New York Times will learn from her potentially deadly situation.

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dog Sports Increasing in Popularity
AKC entries are at a record high

 

Recently an accomplished dog trainer told me that the future of dog sports will evolve through increased accessibility. As pets become a greater part of the family, more people are bringing their dogs to training classes and exploring activities that they can do together. 

Organizations like the American Kennel Club have realized this trend and have made changes to make their activities more inclusive. Last year AKC agility invited mixed breeds to begin competing with the purebreds. Last year entries into their dog sports, including conformation, obedience, agility, and field trials, crossed the three million mark. Entries in agility increased by nine percent.

I'm thrilled to hear that participation in dog sports is growing. It's a great way to set training goals and it ensures that you and your pet will be spending a lot of quality time together.

Do you participate in dog sports with your pup?

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Comforting Kids in the Courtroom
Working canines help children called to testify

The courtroom is a stressful environment for all people, especially children. Testifying against a scary adult can be terrifying, causing many kids to shut down. 

In an effort to help, programs across the country have started using dogs to provide comfort and support to people in court. The Canine Advocacy Program (CAP) in Michigan is the latest program to join others in Washington, California, and Florida, and specializes in helping children. 

CAP was founded last year by Dan Cojanu, former supervisor of the Victim Services Unit for the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office.

Dan says that kids take to his dog, Amos, instantly causing their anxiety to melt away.  Amos, came from Leader Dogs for the Blind who left the program because he pulled too much on his leash. However, the Chocolate Labrador's friendly and calm demeanor was perfect for the Canine Advocacy Program. 

Amos is called into cases by child advocates, law enforcement, and judges. He's trained to sit near children while they wait to testify or even when they're on the stand. Amos’ latest job was to accompany two children into an Oakland courtroom to testify against a defendant charged with criminal sexual conduct.

While it's easy to see the calming effect that courtroom dogs have on kids, not everyone has welcomed Amos just yet. Some prosecutors don't want to risk having their case reversed or having the child to testify again. Potential allergies and phobias further complicate the matter. 

Currently there is no established case law concerning dogs as witness companions in courtrooms. Hopefully this is something that can be explored as a next step to standardizing pets in the courtroom.

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Persistent Pup Comes Home Five Years Later
Shih Tzu found his way home after his family moved four times

From time to time you hear about a loyal dog--lost on vacation or during a move--who walks hundreds of miles to find their family.

Last week, Myrna Carillo’s Shih Tzu, Prince, showed up on her doorstep five years after she lost him.   While Prince may not have traveled as far as some of those other dogs, the little Shih Tzu tirelessly looked for Myrna after several major life changes. In the five years Prince was lost, Myrna got married, had two children, and moved four times.

I guess we’ll never know what Price has been doing for the past five years and how he ever found Myrna, but now Prince is finally home and is getting along perfectly with Myrna’s kids.  

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Hip Replacements on the Rise
More dogs are getting surgery so they can run and jump again

Earlier this week I was reading the New York Times and was surprised to see a friend’s Pug, Lily, featured in an article about canine hip-replacement surgery. I’ve seen Lily run in agility many times and had no idea--clearly a testament to the success of hip-replacement surgery in dogs.

Hip-replacement surgery has been performed on large dogs for decades, but in 2005, micro-hip replacements were licensed, for dogs weighing below 30 pounds. Lily, who weighs 18 pounds, is one of only 200 dogs in the world who have had a micro-hip replacement.  

As you can imagine, many of the first dogs to get micro-hip replacements were service animals or competition dogs, like Zydeco the champion Frisbee dog and Jere the Finnish moose hunting champion. But as the average pet lover is spending more money on their animals, hip replacements are growing in popularity. 

The surgery costs about $5,000, not including post-operation physical therapy. Some people may think that hip-replacement is excessive for a dog, but for active pets, not being able to run and jump can be devastating to both physical and mental health. 

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Healing Power of Dogs
More health care professionals are bringing their pets to work

Any dog lover knows the unique ability our pets have to cheer us up when we’re not feeling well. As a pet therapy team, Nemo and I have seen firsthand the power of pets to cheer people up at the hospital, often a very depressing place.

And it seems that health care professionals are catching on. The Wall Street Journal reports that a growing number of psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and other therapists are bringing their dogs to work to calm patients.

Research shows that a few minutes spent petting a dog decreases levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, in both the human and the dog. It also increases prolactin and oxytocin, the hormones that control nurturing and security, as well as serotonin and norepinephrine, neurotransmitters that boost mood. One study found that five minutes with a dog was as relaxing as a 20-minute break for hospital workers.

Even medical schools have acknowledged the importance of pet therapy. Many schools, like Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Medicine, offer a human-animal interaction class for medical and psychiatry students. As more studies are done on this topic, I hope that more health care professionals will be encouraged to listen to the research and bring their pets to work.

 

 

Pages