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Lisa Wogan

Lisa Wogan lives in Seattle and is the author of, most recently, Dog Park Wisdom.

News: Guest Posts
Meet the Trainer Behind the Amazing Jesse
Simple advice from a training wunderkind

If you’re a dog lover, you’ve probably seen “Useful Dog Tricks performed by Jesse.” The YouTube video has clocked more than 9-and-a-half million hits to date—so someone is watching the wirehaired Terrier with Cleopatra eyes chew the scenery (metaphorically, only).

With an always-wagging tail, the tri-colored Jack Russell merrily opens and closes drawers, turns a lamp off and on, cleans countertops and windows, pull off his booties, opens a wallet, closes a door, helps someone off with her sweatshirt, shoes and socks and retrieves her sandals, and on and on.   Who is the wise and seasoned pro behind the scenes? How many years of study and practice went into helping Jesse discover his inner superstar? Well, there’s no pro and not a lot of years either. The woman behind the clicker is 21-year-old Heather Brook of Litchfield Park, Ariz., who before Jesse came into her life had never trained a dog. Clearly, what she lacked in experience, she made up for with patience and love.   Heather got the 8-week-old puppy when she was 16, and discovered early on, he needed an outlet for his boundless energy. So she turned to trick books and Karen Pryor’s clicker-training website. Always relying on positive reinforcement, she helped Jesse master an impressive variety of tricks that she captured in videos that went viral and eventually landed the duo appearances on The Rachael Ray Show (“Amazing Animal Tricks”), The Late Show with David Letterman (“Stupid Pet Tricks”) and in several commercials. While the attention has been exciting, Heather says, “the time spent together is what made it worthwhile.”   What’s her advice to would-be trainers?
  • Bond with your dog. “We have a relationship first,” she says. “We’re best friends, so the training comes naturally.”
  • Dedicate time and be patient. Brook says she doesn’t set a specific time to train but works on tricks for about five or ten minutes, twice a day. She also mixes it up. “He’s better not always doing the same thing,” she says.
  • Find a reward your dog LOVES—whether it’s a toy, treats or praise from you.
  • Finally, and most important, Heather says, “Just do it. If you have a dream, you will succeed.
    News: Guest Posts
    Tell Us About Your Dog Park
    For our story on the state of the state of dog parks

    As many of you know, Bark was founded in 1997, as a newsletter to advocate for off-leash dog parks in Berkeley, Calif. Since then we’ve grown into a glossy magazine but we continue to follow the progress of off-leash areas across the country, from Provincetown to Seattle to Minneapolis and beyond.

      For our summer issue, we’re looking at the state of dog parks—and we need your input. Where are the wide-open spaces? The parks loaded with amenities? Fabulous water access? Meandering trails? Which are the small, smart parks that fill a community's needs perfectly? Which boast strong community engagement?   We want the whole story, so if you see problems at your park or face obstacles in starting or keeping one running, tell us about that too. What can we learn from these challenges?   If you’re involved in launching or maintaining a park, we’d love to hear what’s working and what’s not—from smart fencing options and erosion control to keeping volunteers motivated and neighbors happy.   We’re as excited about off-leash areas as we have ever been. But as we move into the third decade of these dedicated play zones, we want to expand our horizons and find ways to ensure that opportunities for leash-free play keep getting better.   Please tell us about your dog park experiences, comment here or email us at webeditor@thebark.com.

     

    News: Guest Posts
    Spring Showers Bring Flowers and Some Risks for Dogs
    Beware foxtails, slug bait, busy wildlife and more
    Harley leaping for joy.

    If it wasn’t for the stubborn little crocuses in my front yard, I’d be hard-pressed to believe spring has come to Seattle. But officially the season has sprung, and in most parts of the country, the change is happy news for dogs, who will be spending more time sniffing, romping and rolling in the outdoors. Hooray!

      While longer, warmer days bring joy to our hearts, they bring some risks to our dogs. “Every seasonal change can bring dangers, but spring presents some specific risks that can be easy to address, as long as pet owners know what to look for,” says Dr. Peter Bowie, a veterinarian in Marin, Calif.    Among Dr. Bowie’s seasonal priorities is antifreeze. While the deadly chemical is most often associated with winter, he says, veterinarians at the Pet Emergency and Specialty Center of Marin see just as many antifreeze poisonings in the spring. Whether it’s due to shade tree mechanics cleaning their radiators, unidentified leaks, or portable basketball hoops, ethylene glycol–based antifreeze winds up in driveways and streets where it tastes sweet to dogs and, even in tiny amounts, may cause sudden kidney failure.  
   Foxtails are another not-so-fabulous right of spring. These grass awns, which sprout in abundance this time of year, have microscopic barbules along their surface. Once they catch on animals’ fur, they can become lodged in their skin (most often in the webbing between the toes), ear canal, or nose. Foxtails cause extreme discomfort and often lead to bleeding, infection, and, in the case of ear canal migration, ruptured ear drums. If swallowed, foxtails can lodge in the throat, causing swelling and infection. If accidentally inhaled, they can cause serious damage and infection in the airways or lungs. (Check out Protecting Your Dog Aganst Foxtails by Nancy Kay, DVM).   
    Activity in the garden can also be detrimental to our dogs, the use of slug and snail baits, in particular. These combine an attractant, usually apple meal or some other sweet-smelling base, with an active chemical compound such as metaldehyde to poison whatever swallows the bait. Unfortunately, this can include our pets. Increased rat activity also means increased use of rat poison this time of year, one of the deadliest things your pet can ingest. 
    Fertilizers, even organic or natural fertilizers, can harm pets. Blood and bone meal are common organic fertilizers, which makes it tasty for pets but can cause vomiting, diarrhea and pancreatic inflammation. Grass and flower fertilizers can also contain toxic chemicals that may be deadly if ingested.   If you’re planting, remember some plants are toxic for dogs, including azalea, chrysanthemum, daffodil, rhododendron, sago palm and tulip. Consumption of these plants can lead to kidney failure in animals. The ASPCA provides a complete list of toxic plants with images.   “I urge pet parents to get outdoors and enjoy the season, just remain aware of your pets’ surroundings,” says Dr. Bowie. “Changes in the environment can be stimulating to them, but new smells in the yard or garden can also be harmful. Simply take extra precautions: be sure all chemicals are completely out of your pets’ reach, keep small pets on a leash at all times when outdoors, and remove foxtails as soon as you see them.”    Wildlife Companion animals aren’t the only critters more active this time of year. Brian Adams of the Massachusetts Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) reminds us that spring is a time when wildlife is on the move. He suggests a few simple steps to minimize or prevent conflicts between us or our pets and wildlife.  
    • Never feed wild animals intentionally or they will view your yard as a food source. The includes cleaning up spilled birdseed from feeders, which may attract turkeys, rodents, and the animals that prey on them. If you have bears in your area, remove bird feeders.
    • Avoid unintentional feeding by keeping trash and compost secured and by feeding pets indoors. 
    • Drive carefully and watch for wildlife crossing roadways, especially in areas where road salt remains from winter storms; this attracts wildlife.
    Learn more from MSPCA about how to humanely live with wildlife, including advice on critter-proofing your home and what to do when you discover an orphaned animal.   If your dog spent a good chunk of the winter, cashed on the coach, eating a few too many sweet potato chews, you also want to be gradual about bounding into a spring exercise regime. “Often, pets get overly excited to go outside and strain themselves,” says Heidi Ganahl, CEO and founder of Camp Bow Wow. “Make sure you monitor your pet and start slow before engaging in strenuous physical activity.”   Still, there's no denying it’s a perfect season for launching a daily exercise regime. Dawn Marcus describes the health benefits and a plan for starting a successful walking plan.   Finally, another ritual of the season, spring cleaning poses risks for our pets. It’s important to think smart about your cleaning. Many cleaning products are irritating or even toxic for dogs. Invest in eco-friendly products, such as homemade cleaning solutions featuring vinegar or enzyme-based cleansers.

     

    News: Guest Posts
    A Few Legislators Cross the Aisle to Defeat Puppy Mills
    Track and support the PUPS bill

    While state legislators duke it out over efforts to regulate breeding, with the specific aim of shutting down puppy mills in states like Wisconsin, Missouri and Illinois, four U.S. Representatives are going after unregulated, large-scale commercial breeding operations on a national level. On February 28, two Democrats and two Republicans introduced H.R. 835, the Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety (PUPS) Act.

      The legislation closes a loophole in the Animal Welfare Act that currently allows large, commercial breeders, selling more than 50 puppies per year online or directly to the public to escape licensing and regulation.   “Dog breeders have taken advantage of this Internet loophole to increase their profits at the expense of the health of thousands of dogs,” said Congressman Sam Farr, D-Calif. “The result of breeders’ ability to bypass regulations has led to widespread abuses of dogs that are crammed into small cages with no exercise or social contact. We have a responsibility to close this loophole, because it is simply unconscionable to allow this abuse to continue.”   Track the bill. Take action to support the legislation at the Humane Society of the United States.

     

    News: Guest Posts
    What’s the Best Way to Find a Lost Dog?
    Tech help includes a smartphone-scannable pet ID tag

    Last week, my friend John’s dog slipped her collar during a walk and sprinted off. It was two long, miserable days and sleepless nights before Lily was discovered, dirty and shivering not so far from where she had made her ill-advised dash. The man who discovered her wrapped her in his coat, created a little leash from string in his bag (à la McGyver) and took a cell phone photo that he sent to his girlfriend. She checked Craig’s List and made the connection. When John got the call, he was in a van with a professional dog-sniffing dog about to search the scene. Cue happy music.

      Anyone whose dog has disappeared knows the horrible, sinking feeling and the response. Search the area. Call shelters. Place ads. Put up flyers. Even, hire a pet detective. In the last decade, technology has taken a growing role in the search. Craig’s List for one. Lost dogs are also posted on Facebook. And there are websites exclusively for posting lost pets, such as pets911.com. Community Leash is an iPhone app that sends out lost/found pet announcements. Several companies have created amber alert–type services, such as FindToto.com, that robocall all the phones in the area where your dog went missing.   A recent entry into the business of keeping track of your dog comes from a company in my neck of the woods. PetHub, Inc., of Issaquah, Wash., has created the Link ID tag that is laser-etched with a 2D barcode that can be scanned and read by a smartphone. The selling point on the PetHub tag is that owners can create a profile that can more easily be kept up-to-date and provide more detailed information than old-fashioned printed tags or even microchips.   At any time, the pet parent can modify the pet’s online profile and control what’s shown when that tag is scanned. PetHub claims that only about 5 percent of dogs in the U.S. have microchips and that 58 percent of those contain outdated information. The Pet Hub profile can also include timely information, such as the pet’s medications, vaccinations and medical history. There’s also a simple “Contact Pet Owner” button that won’t reveal the owner’s number but facilitates direct notification.   Here’s the thing: The idea sounds good, especially if you’re all about your smartphone, but it wouldn’t have helped Lily. She slipped her collar. All that technology would have just dangled at the end of the leash in John’s hand. (Now, she walks on a harness.) She was chipped, so if she’d ended up in a shelter or vet’s office, there’s a good chance a scan would have reunited the pair.   I like the old fashioned tag (although my dogs are also chipped): You’re not required to subscribe to an ongoing service, nor does the person who finds your dog need a smartphone to access all your pup’s data.   Of all the options out there, other than not losing our dogs in the first place, I wonder what is the most effective strategy for getting them back. And, is technology really making it easier. What’s your story?

     

    News: Guest Posts
    Outfoxing Foxtails
    New hood aims to provide protection for field dogs

    Foxtails are nasty—pure and simple. If you have a meadow-loving dog and live in a region with these barbed grasses, you know what I’m talking about.

    Known by different names in different parts of the country, these plants have hard seed-bearing structures with sharp points at one end and microscopic barbs. When they become embedded in a dog’s fur, paws, ears, nostrils or eyes, they work their way one direction—in. Foxtails can wind up virtually anywhere in the body, wreaking havoc. (Check out Protecting Your Dog Against Foxtails by Nancy Kay, DVM.) I’ve heard of dogs enduring repeat surgeries to remove foxtails traced as far as 10 inches, and still not tracking them down. It’s the sort of thing that could drive a person to keep their dog inside or invent a solution, i.e., the OutFox Field Guard. This sort of a spooky-looking—at least, at first—loose-fitting hood, made of lightweight vinyl mesh, protects those areas that are particularly vulnerable to foxtails. The Field Guard (starting at $38) is attached to a dog’s collar with breakaway straps. According to the manufacturers, dogs can breath easily, still drink water, and grab sticks and balls in their mouths. My pups haven’t field-tested it, but it sounds pretty ingenious. What do you think?
    News: Guest Posts
    Rescued Pit Bull Loves Bunnies
    A St. Louis stray recovers among chicks, lambs, rabbits and more.

    As you can imagine, we get loads of fabulous dog images from Bark readers—handsome, adorable, funny and inspiring dogs of every stripe. But when Parfait arrived over the transom, we stopped in our tracks: Who is this recovering beauty with a harem of rabbits?

      A little more than a month ago, Parfait was a feral, starving dog living on the streets of North St. Louis, a neighborhood known for dog fighting. She was found trying to keep her newborn pups warm in the cold and snow; they had already frozen to death. She was also near death, due to an infection from an embedded collar that was strangling her.   “She was originally saved by Randy Grim of Stray Rescue of St. Louis. Randy has spent many years going out daily to feed and save the suffering street dogs in his city. I admire him greatly,” says Janice Wolf of Rocky Ridge Refuge in North Central Arkansas. “I named her Parfait because she needed a sweet name to reflect her nature, especially being a Pit Bull off the streets.”   Wolf continues, “I specialize in helping animals with special needs and medical [issues], and at the holidays I always try to take on a special case for another rescue to help them out. When I learned of Parfait … I offered to bring her to my refuge.” A friend volunteered to drive her the five hours to Rocky Ridge.   “She was initially quite shy, but soon came around with the help of my other dogs,” Wolf says. “She is a young girl, no more than 18 months old. She will have no handicaps really. She does have a severe neck wound with a lot of scar tissue there, and will never be able to wear a collar. Her voice is a little funny because of it too. If I can figure a way to get the funds, I am going to see about having the vet reduce and modify the excess scar tissue to make a smoother and less restricted skin area there. Otherwise a healthy, smart girl that will be up for adoption.”   For now, Parfait is keeping company with a menagerie. She met the bunnies a few days before Wolf took the photo she sent to us. She has also cuddled with lambs and chicks. Check out more of the multi-species healing at Rocky Ridge in our slideshow.   “I don't know that there is an 'advantage' per say in having all the species together, it just kinda has to be this way here due to lack of space to do it differently!,” Wolf told us when we asked about her crazy-mixed-up soup of a refuge. “I love that the many different species do form a family and look out for each other though. For the most part it works amazingly well and some odd relationships have developed.”   She is careful to respect individual boundaries and tolerances, and she doesn't expect every animal to automatically love every other critter. Some of her rescued dogs will not safely live with fawns or lambs or chicks, due to their breed prey drive or past experiences.   Wolf, who is writing a children's book about Parfait to raise money for her refuge, told us she’s been rescuing animals since she was a child. She says, “There’s nothing better!”   Visit Rocky Ridge Refuge’s Facebook Fanpage to learn more about the refuge and to follow Parfait. Also, check out Bark’s story about Gateway Pet Guardians, a grassroots rescue group caring for the strays of East St. Louis, across the Mississippi River from where Parfait was discovered.

     

    News: Guest Posts
    Time to Kick the Dog Out of Your Bed?
    C.D.C. study: Pets can be dangerous bedfellows.

    Why does someone always want to rain on the parade? Here are countless people and pets—my household very much included—enjoying perfectly wonderful and healthy nights together, when some buzzkill at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention starts throwing around zoonoses and pathogens, even bubonic plague!

      I read about the C.D.C study warning about the risks of pets in your bed in The New York Times and wondered, don’t these researchers have anything better to do? I can’t believe that the “risks” outweigh the emotional and physiological benefits of keeping our pets close. I’m all for precautions, as much for my dogs as for me. No fleas or ticks allowed. No licking wounds. No biting. No open-mouth kissing.   If anything worries me, it’s the sleep I lose on nights when the dogs are stealing the covers or inching too far into my real estate. For that, they get kicked to the curb.

     

    News: Guest Posts
    Let’s Go for Walk
    The singing-songwriting groomer strikes the right note, again

    Last year, we posted the video for “Dog Hair in Everything I Do,” written and performed by Randi Breese, as well as a Q&A with the singing-songwriting dog groomer from Lodi, Ohio. She’s back with another tune, “Let’s Go for a Walk.” This time she captures the simple joy of this daily ritual, which put a little bounce in my Monday. Enjoy, below, and then grab a leash.

    News: Guest Posts
    Our Dogs Make Poets of Us
    Declare your love in rhyme, and maybe win a prize

    I’ve been really enjoying the sweet odes des chiens on our Facebook page. In the run-up to Valentine’s Day, Bark has been greasing the wheels of heartfelt expression by inviting readers to convey your love for your dogs in verse on our Facebook page. The results so far convince me that our dogs make poets of us.

     

    Here are two early entries that capture the spirit of the thing.

     

    From Lisa Litz-Neavear: For Rocky and Sweetie: Roses are red
    Violets are blue.
    Having one dog's so great
    That now we have two!   And from Tammy Robertson: Roses are red
    Violets are blue
    Tanner came into my life
    Now we're stuck like glue.   Of course, I know contest prizes for Bark favorites (such as a Sweet Heart Collar Art from Beantown Handmade, a Doodle Dog Tote from Crypton or Valentine's cards from RiverDog Prints) isn’t the reason readers are posting comments in an A-B-C-B rhyming scheme, it’s just that you can’t pass up a chance to declare your devotion to your canine pals.   Sample the entries and create your own on our Facebook page through February 14 at 11:59 p.m. PST—maybe you'll win a prize or simply enjoy the warm glow of telling a loved one what they mean to you.

     

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