activities & sports
Improving fitness plus being best friend
As dog lovers we know that our dogs are important to both our mental and physical health—our dogs with their daily “walkathon” needs induce us to be more active, for one. In 2009, researchers from the University of Missouri found that walking dogs makes people not only more consistent about regular exercise but those who walk with a dog showed greater overall improvement in fitness than those who simply walk with two-legged companions! Another study found that dog owners actually take 25 percent more steps per day than do those without dogs. Both studies looked at adults, excluding the younger family members.So recently, researchers in the UK set out to discover if dogs also increase the level of physical activity in children. They based their study on 9- to 10-year-olds, from 78 schools across the UK. The young participants wore activity monitors for a week (a small instrument that was worn over the left hip on an elasticized belt). Only 10 percent of the kids had a family dog—but they recorded the most “overall activity count, counts per minute, and steps compared with non-dog owners.” The authors of this study acknowledged the limitations of their study group, most from a less affluent urban population. Additionally, even though the dog-owning segment proved 4 percent more active, it’s far from the 25 percent recorded in the Canadian adult study. Nonetheless, their findings are important to our understanding of just how important dogs can be to all members of the family. How has having a dog affected your exercise patterns? And parents, can you really get your kids to walk or play with the dog?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Thank you canine family members!
When we moved to our first house in Wisconsin after years of being students and renting, we were very excited about our new life as homeowners. We couldn’t help feeling that life would be just a little easier, and just a little sweeter in this new place—820 square feet of “Well, at least we own it!” And it was true—life was good there. Of course, the reason wasn’t so much that we owned the place as that we met the most wonderful neighbors and the sense of community was so strong from our very first day in the house.And how did we get to know people so quickly that it made our lives better? Because we walked our dog a couple of times a day, and so did most of the people living near us. In my experience, there has never been a better way to meet your neighbors than walking your dog. As soon as we pulled up and before we unloaded the truck, we took Bugsy out for a walk, and immediately ran into a couple and their dog who I had met as my clients. Half a block later, we met another woman walking her two dogs—both black mutts like ours, and we walked together for a bit until we got to her house, all the while discussing the possible breeds that our dogs might have in them. Forty-five minutes later, we had met half a dozen more of our neighbors and their dogs, and felt incredibly welcome. By the end of the week, we had met a dozen more families that included dogs, and many of them had stopped by with wine, cookies, flowers, and from one kind neighbor who was clearly no stranger to moving, giant trash bags, some picture hangers and a magnet listing important local emergency numbers. That guy also brought over some dog treats—can you ever say you’ve met a more thoughtful person? Of course, many nice people who welcomed us into the neighborhood did not have dogs, but I’m convinced that having a dog was a key reason we met people quickly and that they were so good to us. I realize that dogs can often be a source of great tension between neighbors, such as when barking is an issue or dogs destroy a neighbor’s garden, or other property, or worst of all, if a dog is frightening another neighbor (especially children). But I still think more good than bad neighborhood relations result from having dogs. Has anyone else found that their dogs were excellent social facilitators when they moved to a new house?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Donate your old show ribbons to a good cause
My dog sport friends often tell me that they don’t take the ribbons they’ve won because they end up stuffed into old shoe boxes at home.
When I first started competing in agility and rally with my first dog, Nemo, I couldn’t believe that people had so many ribbons that they wouldn’t take them! Each of the prized ribbons Nemo and I earned meant so much to me, a representation of our hard work and a way to show family and friends why they hadn’t seen us for the last five weekends.
Now Nemo and I have been competing for three years and a good run means so much more than whether we qualify or place. I still display some of our ribbons, but most end up in a shoe box.
I’ve started repurposing ribbons, giving them out to children when we do therapy work at the local library. The flat qualifying ribbons actually make great bookmarks. I know other therapy teams who bring old ribbons with them to leave behind with patients they visit hospitals.
Recently a friend told me about Ribbon Recycling, which donates old ribbons to therapeutic horseback riding facilities. These organizations can’t afford to purchase ribbons for their patients, so funneling donations from dog and horse show people is a perfect match.
What do you do with your old show ribbons?
News: Guest Posts
Aerial fabric artist spins for dogs
Ever feel like your unique talents couldn’t possibly translate into helping animals? Well, Kyla Duffy could change your mind.
The first time I saw Duffy, who co-founded Happy Tails Books (which publishes collections of breed-specific adoption stories), was a few days ago at the opening reception for BlogPaws West 2010. (Over the next week, I’ll be writing about several of the dedicated and talented folks I met at the pet-centric blogging conference in Denver.)When I saw Duffy, she was wearing a pair of artistically torn leggings and dangling upside down from a few pieces of fabric. (See video below.) Seeing and hearing Duffy twist and turn a few yards away, I got a much more visceral appreciation for her talent than I did watching the distant, polished Cirque de Soliel aerialists years ago. Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, the audience didn’t see the slideshow promoting puppy mill awareness that accompanies her performance—and explained what she was doing there. While aerial acrobatics and rescue stories don’t exactly go together like peanut butter and jelly, I’m intrigued by the concept. Calling it “creative volunteerism,” sort of like volunteer vacations, Duffy is trying to do good through her creativity. And, I think it’s possible her performances could allow her to reach beyond the choir (i.e., folks like you reading this blog) to people who don’t yet know the challenges of pet overpopulation.
Duffy says she hopes to take her show and the road, and we’ll keep an eye out for her. Meanwhile, I’m wondering about what other surprising skills and talents are or could be put to good use for shelter dogs.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dogs herd balls in a new sport from Germany
I've always wanted to try herding with my Shelties, but it’s not easy to find sheep in the New York City area! Nemo is also a little impulsive, so his interaction with a sheep or duck seems like a big wild card to me. I guess I’m a little worried he’d pounce on a duck or get run over by a sheep, though admittedly I know nothing about herding.
This week, I discovered a sport that could let us try herding without having to drive out to a farm. In Treibball, German for driving ball, dogs are directed by their human handlers to herd eight balls (which sort of look like exercise balls) into a net.
The sport originated in Germany in 2003 and competitions have been held since 2008. Even if you have no interest in ever getting that serious, Treibball looks like a lot of fun.
Treibball has only recently come over to the United States. Some training schools have Treibball classes, but if you don’t have any in your area, there’s a Treibball book available so you can train at home. You can also join the American Treibball Association Facebook group to meet other enthusiasts.
I know a lot of people who are always looking for activities to do with working breeds, but access to sheep is limiting. Treibball is a fun sport that is accessible to all families with dogs. With the winter coming up, I’m thinking it would be fun to set up a modified version of this game indoors with smaller playground balls.
Check out this video to see what Treibball is all about.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
How many is too many?
There are so many ways to get people who care about dogs to voice strong opinions, and one hot topic lately relates to dog walkers who walk many dogs all at once. Many people have questions and concerns about this, and I am no exception.It worries me when I see a person walking more than four or so dogs, which is a very challenging thing to do. Many people who walk dogs are very knowledgeable about canine behavior and do what it takes to keep it safe and fun for all the dogs under their care. That includes walking dogs who are compatible with each other, keeping the number of dogs walked simultaneously at no more than four, and preferably even fewer most of the time, and constantly monitoring the dogs for any behavior that could lead to trouble between the dogs, including signs of stress. It takes a lot of education and experience to be able to handle this, and that’s why the best dog walkers are more than worth their fees. Regrettably, not everyone who walks dogs is up to this standard of care. Many people seem to feel that just loving dogs is enough of a qualification to take large numbers of them on a walk, whether the dogs are familiar with each other or not. Still other dog walkers may be putting profits over safety. Obviously with more dogs being walked at once, more money can be made. This raises many questions, especially in situations where a single person is walking many dogs on leashes at the same time. Can one person watch so many dogs at once in order to monitor their behavior? What if the dogs react to each other or to another dog? How could one person manage such a situation? Are these dog walkers picking up all the poop from so many dogs? Many other dogs are uncomfortable around such large groups of dogs and become intimidated. This is especially relevant at dog parks, and many people worry about taking their dogs to places where such large groups of dogs are present. Some places limit dog walkers to four dogs, though it is common in other places to see dog walkers with 8, 10, or even more dogs all at once. Should there be limits on the number of dogs that can be walked by a single person simultaneously in places such as dog parks and other public areas? I think that these kind of limits could help prevent problems, and help keep the dog walkers who truly are responsible from being outcompeted by people who are charging less but perhaps putting dogs at risk. What do you think? How many dogs is too many?
News: Guest Posts
Sunshine, Frisbee and a few surprises
With Labor Day barely in the rearview mirror, it’s time to say goodbye to white pants and sunshine. For me and my dogs, it means packing as much outdoor fun as humanly possible into the few weeks we have left before the rainy season. And what better place to spend the waning days of summer than at the beach?There is no place on earth my dogs love more than the beach. It is the place they can truly be themselves: Skipper becomes braver and more adventurous and Leo becomes … well, more of a creepster. I say this about Leo because, frankly, if he were a human, you wouldn’t want to hang out with him. He follows me to the bathroom. He steals “personal garments” from the laundry. He stares at you for longer than I’ve ever seen a dog (or human!) stare. He’s just a little different than other dogs I’ve known. It shouldn’t have surprised me when Leo immediately drifted towards a very special (and previously unknown to me) stretch of sand—a nude beach. Initially, I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary because I was too busy trying to keep Skipper from being pinched by a crab he had been following. It wasn’t until I spied Leo poking his nose into a picnic basket that ran over and stop him. Leo then moved to “greet” the owner of the picnic basket: A reclining gentleman in his 50s who was entirely nude, save for sunglasses and a hat. I yelled, “LEO, NO!” Luckily, he came running (thank god, we’ve been practicing his recall abilities), weaving through a number of nude sunbathers (adult agility?), as I held my breath waiting to see if he accidentally stepped on anyone. He didn’t. As soon as he returned, I put him back on leash: I didn’t want to think about what else Leo could discover. Meanwhile, Skipper is generally well behaved at the beach, but for some reason it is the only place he’ll play fetch. He won’t play it at home or the dog park, only at the beach. He even showed off his incredible beach-fetching abilities by joining in (aka, “ruining”) some strangers’ game of Frisbee. By the time the sun was setting, the dogs and I (lightly sunburned) were ready to go home. As we drove away, I glanced at my sound-asleep companions and realized that even with unexpected nudity and ruined Frisbee, our day at the beach was a perfect way to end the summer. Did you do anything special to celebrate the end of summer?
News: Guest Posts
At the drive-in
My boyfriend Jason often accuses me of trying to shoehorn the dogs into activities he feels aren’t an ideal fit: birthday parties, beach trips, Saturday morning brunches. Now, we have one more activity we can add to the list: Friday date nights.When Friday rolls around, I’m ready for fun with Jason but feel terrible if it means leaving the dogs home. What makes it worse are the hopeful looks on the dogs’ faces. Oh hey, you’re home! Yeah, change out of those work clothes... Hmm, those don’t look like hiking shoes... You’re going to be a little cold in that dress... Hey wait, where are you going? You forgot our leashes … and us! It’s enough guilt to ruin a date. Recently, thanks to Bark’s articles about summer fun with your dog (see “Outward Hound” in Summer 2010 issue), I discovered the perfect dog + date night solution: the drive-in theater! The only question: Is my local drive-in dog-friendly? While I lived the majority of my teen years by the adage, it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission, I’ve grown less adventurous with age, particularly in this case because I didn’t want to drive 40 minutes only to be turned away. I tried contacting the theater with no luck. When I asked friends and family if they had brought their dogs to the drive-in before, a few had, but they snuck them in under blankets. Others said they remembered seeing a “NO DOGS” sign a few years back. Jason said he didn’t want to smuggle the dogs into the theater because he’d be too stressed out about the whole ordeal, plus the dogs wouldn’t likely cooperate. It seemed like I only had one option: Lie to Jason and just go for it. As we approached the drive-in, I pulled over for a second and told Jason I had forgotten something. Then I pulled out a large blanket from the backseat and threw it on his lap. “What’s this for?” he asked. “So it turns out they might not be dog-friendly here, and I just didn’t want to tell you because I really wanted to go!” “What? This is insane.” “I know, but just put this blanket over Skipper on your lap, and they won’t notice Leo because he’s asleep and since he’s black and he’ll blend in.” Jason rolled his eyes and begrudgingly accepted the blanket. We pulled up to the ticket-booth and I calmly addressed the teenage cashier, “Two for The Other Guys at 10:15?” So far so good. I handed the cashier a twenty. He returned my change. “Thank you, turn your radio to 93.6 FM.” Suddenly, both dogs leaped up and barked. Skipper practically jumped out the window. I smiled nervously as the teenager looked at me and said, “Enjoy your show.” I honestly don’t know if the drive-in had a dog-friendly policy, or if the teenagers running the joint just didn’t care. Either way, Jason and I had a great date with the dogs. We can’t wait to go back.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Can you beat running on the beach?
I took this photo of Caity running with her dog Maggie while I was vacationing with my extended family in Cannon Beach, Ore. I had never met either one of them until that day, but when they zoomed by together, I just had to capture the moment.I am an obsessive beach and ocean lover, running is my favorite sport, and I hope it goes without saying that I’m a dog person, so for me, all of them together are about as good as it gets. Of course, if I could eat chocolate at the same time without choking, that would probably increase my enjoyment of the experience slightly, but that’s only theoretical since I’ve never tried it. What I want to know from you is what experiences with your dog give you the greatest happiness? What are la crème de la crème of all the joyful, fulfilling moments you spend with your dog?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Petco Park event bans German Shepherds and other breeds
As a dog lover and a baseball fan, I always look forward to the New York Mets’ Bark in the Park every summer. At the annual event, canine fans are invited to CitiField to watch the game alongside their humans. “Dog days” have become popular promotions at baseball stadiums around the country and, as you can imagine, the Padres’ Petco Park is one of them.
Unfortunately, not everyone will be able to enjoy this Friday’s event in San Diego. Padres fan, Ted Lew, couldn’t wait to attend the Dog Days of Summer event with his German Shepherd, Joey, so he signed up as soon as tickets were made available earlier this year. However, just weeks before the game, Lew received a letter stating that the event had sold out.
After many inquiring phone calls, Lew found out that the real reason he couldn’t attend the event with Joey was because of a breed ban that included German Shepherds. According to the Padres, the breed ban is in effect for safety reasons but they are unable to disclose the exact breeds that are banned, only that the number is between 10 and 15.
I’m guessing insurance may have a part in the Padres’ decision, though many other ballparks offer this promotion without a breed ban. However, the Padres have made this situation even worse by not making the ban explicit, seemingly turning dogs away at random.
If the Padres must have the breed ban, couldn’t they work with their insurance company to allow exceptions for dogs with therapy or Canine Good Citizen certifications? And at the very least, they should make their decision public instead of hiding behind the excuse of having “limited space” at the event.
How do you think the Padres should’ve handled this situation?
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