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News: Guest Posts
Every Dog Has His Day
A birthday bash for Leo

It’s August, and that means one thing around here: Leo’s birthday is coming up. Maybe it’s because I like to throw parties or I’m obsessed with my dogs (or both), but it’s a priority for me to acknowledge my dogs’ birthdays. Leo’s big day is the day before my best friend Carrie’s, which means a dual birthday party to ensure a better turnout. (For some reason, Carrie is more popular than Leo; she always draws a crowd.) Last year’s celebration combined their interests: Carrie’s abiding love of Elton John and my dog’s passion for dancing. We picked a perfect party playlist, invited all of our friends (both human and canine), and baked two cakes, one for dogs and one for humans.

  I should mention to those of you who are rolling your eyes at me as you’re reading this, I know throwing a birthday party for your dog is borderline ridiculous. But here’s my rationale:
  • I love parties: I’m not talking about the kind of parties where someone brings an plastic jug of Montezuma Gold tequila and you end up with 10 people passed out in your living room, or awkwardly poking your friend awake and asking them to remove their head from the kennel so you can hose it out before putting the dogs to bed. That kind of fun isn’t fair to the dogs or to my post-party cleanup efforts.
  • Parties at home mean I don’t get home late for the dogs. As a dog parent, I can tell you that every party is less enjoyable on some level if I’m sitting in a corner looking at my watch, wondering how much longer I can afford to stay without the dogs wondering if I’ll ever come home. A party at home means I can see that my friends and my dogs are all having a great time: Everyone wins.
  • The dogs can be where they’re comfortable—in the spotlight. If you were to use one word to describe my dogs and me, it would be gregarious. Two words: attention hounds. My dogs’ favorite thing about parties is the abundance of laps to sit in and pant legs to sniff. We appreciate a captive audience for our hilarious party tricks (guests who come over all know about the incredible Hula-hoop of Fire….don’t worry, it’s actually just a Hula-hoop with orange streamers attached!). Best of all, the dogs can let me know when they’ve had enough fun and want to be put to bed, even if the party is still going (although Leo usually manages to stay awake longer than even me).
  • Using a dog’s birthday as an excuse to throw a party might be seen as ridiculous to some, but to me it’s a great for our social life. Plus dog poop is easier to clean up than vomit.   What about you, thinking of throwing a dog party?  

     

    Dog's Life: Lifestyle
    Too Much of a Good Thing
    Water intoxication strikes active dogs in the summer

    During the summer months, a big concern is placed on preventing dogs from overheating. I’ve been doing a lot of running with my pups lately, so I’ve been very careful about keeping them hydrated. 

    When I ran the race earlier this month, I made sure that we took plenty of water breaks. I even used a flavored canine sports drink to encourage Nemo to drink liquids. Having previously suffered from heat exhaustion and dehydration myself, I’m careful to not let anything happen to my dogs.

    So you can imagine my shock when I recently learned that excessive amounts of water can actually be deadly. When too much water is consumed in a short period of time (especially if the dog isn’t urinating or throwing up any of the water), the balance of electrolytes in the body is disrupted, which can cause a disturbance in brain function. Water intoxication can lead to brain damage, heart failure, and death.

    Fortunately water poisoning isn’t common, but it’s important to be aware of the danger. The most frequent cases involve swimming dogs that ingest too much water or exercising or playing dogs that drink too many fluids. 

    Symptoms include lethargy, nausea, a bloated appearance, vomiting, dilated pupils, glazed eyes, lack of coordination, light gum color, and excessive salivation. Symptoms can progress quickly to difficulty breathing, collapsing, loss of consciousness, and seizures.

    Because water intoxication can progress so quickly, time is critical. If your dog exhibits these symptoms, get to a vet immediately to run blood work. A low level of electrolytes will confirm the condition. Treatment includes fluids, to put electrolytes back in the system, and sometimes a diuretic.

     

    Dog's Life: Lifestyle
    Getting a Bad Rap
    Loose dogs clash with cyclists

    Loose neighborhood dogs remain one of the biggest concerns for cyclists on the road. Aggressive dogs are at the top of the list, but even friendly dogs can cause a cyclist to come crashing to the ground. These clashes can result in serious injuries for both the human and dog involved. 

    Many bike clubs around the country have guidelines about how to deal with dogs en route, which shows that these crashes may be more common than we realize.

    Canine crashes are even a problem for the professionals. Earlier this month, a stray dog crossed the road right in front of the Tour de France riders, taking down several cyclists. Apparently dog crashes are a regular occurrence during the prestigious event.

    So where are these dogs coming from? The wayward hound in the Tour de France was reportedly a stray, but most of the dogs encountered by everyday cyclists are not homeless. 

    At first I was shocked when I learned about this problem, but then I thought about my own experience around my neighborhood. When walking or running with my pups, I always see many unsupervised, unleashed dogs sitting on their front lawn. Most stay on their property, sometimes with a menacing bark, but others have run after us down the street. Not only is it scary for me and my dogs, but it’s not safe for the dog coming after us because he could easily be hit by a car or tangle with the wrong animal.

    As well behaved as my dogs might be, I would never trust them to be unattended in an unfenced yard. You never know what distractions may lead them to dart into the street. 

    Are loose dogs common in your neighborhood?

    Dog's Life: Lifestyle
    Race Day
    16 loyal dogs join the NYC Triathletes in Central Park

    On Sunday, race day was finally here. Sixteen human-canine teams came from all over the country to run in the Iams Doggy Dash, which took place in conjunction with the New York City Triathlon. 

    Nemo and I have been training for the Iams Doggy Dash since we signed up last year. Between running agility courses and romping around with his sister, Ella, Nemo is in pretty good shape. Even so, five miles is a considerable distance to run, especially on a hot July day.

    My plan was to pull out if it was too hot, but fortunately we were running at 8 a.m. and I was impressed by the steps taken by race organizers to ensure that the dogs were safe.

    Each pup had access to their own personalized water station before and after the race. Veterinarians from Animal Medical Center checked the dogs pre-, mid-, and post-race to make sure the canine participants were in good health. Some of the symptoms they looked out for were irregular heartbeat, blisters on the foot pads and high body temperature.

    There were also plenty of stations throughout the course for rehydrating and a mandatory 5-minute break at the mid-point where dogs were given a sponge bath with cool water.

    Nemo and I got lots of cheers and encouragement from the triathletes running alongside us and from the many spectators. In the end, the Rembrandt Cup (a big shiny red fire hydrant) was taken home by a Standard Poodle Eli and his teammate Anthony, but I was really proud of Nemo. I noticed a huge improvement in his fitness and endurance from when we started training. 

    I know Nemo loves running, he always spins around and barks when he sees me reach for his running harness, but I also know he could care less if we participate in a race. Events like the Iams Doggy Dash really go to show the loyalty of our pups. I know Nemo will always be by my side, no matter what crazy activities I get myself into!

    News: Editors
    Therapeutic Trees
    Another health bonus from walking your dog

    The New York Times had an interesting article about studies examining the health benefits of nature. Researchers have found that spending time in places with trees aplenty, such as parks and forests, is good for us and has a positive affect on our immune functions. Seems as if stress reduction is one factor that the scientists attribute to phytnocides, the “airborne chemicals that plants emit to protect them from rotting insects.”  The Japanese have taken this to heart and even partake in a practice called “forest bathing.” 

     

    As The Times notes, “the scientists found that being among plants produced lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, and lower blood pressure, among other things.” So for all of you who walk your dogs in the woods, not only are you doing the right thing by providing sensory stimulation and exercise for them but you too get a healthy boost from the trees!

     

    Dog's Life: Lifestyle
    Getting a Leg Up
    Three-legged dogs inform robot design

    Many three-legged dogs walk and run quite well, and people who build robots want to know how. They want to model robots on dogs who are missing limbs so that in the event of damage, these robots will still be capable of moving. It makes sense to be prepared for the unexpected, and studying the way dogs move may make it possible.

      By comparing the gaits of dogs with three legs to those of the typical four-legged dogs, these researchers are analyzing the adjustments of dogs who are missing a limb. Interestingly, dogs who are missing a hind leg show very little change in the way they move each foreleg. In contrast, those individuals who lost a front leg showed quite a big change in how the remaining limbs moved. It seems that losing a forelimb requires much more compensation by the other legs to coordinate movement with each other.   I remember a client from many years ago who had several happy, active three-legged Rottweilers and only one with the normal number of legs. As he liked to say, “I’ve got four dogs, 13 legs, and a whole mess of trouble.” Have you known a three-legged dog that could still walk, run and play?   Check out this story on three-legged dogs that originally appeared in The Bark Issue 37, July/August 2006.

     

    News: Guest Posts
    The Name Game
    The unpredictable art of pet naming

    My first dog was named Cricket. A number of explanations were offered as to why she had that name, though none of them seemed very good. My mother told me, “As a puppy, her bark sounded like a cricket!” Well, as an adult she sounded like a woman wailing whenever she barked. My dad told me, “We named her that because she’s good luck, like a cricket!” Not great luck, considering this dog had kidney stones by age two. I came to accept that there might not be a rhyme or reason for every dog’s name, which was all right with me as long as it suited the dog.

      When I was old enough to consider getting my own dogs, I was determined to give them fantastic names. These names would have purpose and dignity, and make other people say, “Oh, my goodness, what a fantastic dog name!” I began to keep a small notebook on me at all times, with a few pages reserved in the back for jotting down dog names. I met a dog named Loretta once, I thought this was a phenomenal name. I also considered Greek gods as inspiration—Apollo, Hermes, Zeus. Or there were those classic names, which had gone out of fashion, but now were ironic and clever: Rocket, Fido, Sparky, Rex.   Eventually, I became convinced that all of my dogs from now until perpetuity would be named after U.S. Presidents. I’ve always thought the concept of dogs with human names was wildly funny, yet I wanted to be sure that my dogs had names that commanded the utmost respect. Presidents’ names seemed to be a good compromise, funny in a tongue in cheek sort of way, yet commanding that same gravitas I wanted. Skipper was absolutely going to be named Truman. Then I met him and he already knew his name, and he was just so happy when you said it. It seemed cruel to change it, he looked like he had already been through a lot in his life and a name change was added stress he didn’t deserve. So with dog number one, my naming scheme was already thwarted.   Leo, who was called “King Skip,” absolutely needed a name change. I couldn’t have two Skips, and calling him King just seemed like outright favoritism. I wanted to try to stick to my Presidential theme, so I considered calling him Ulysses, or perhaps Lincoln. Then I met “King Skip” and he was just so downright silly and rambunctious that giving him a name with such clout was impossible. So I did what most people probably do. I buckled and gave him a name on the spot that I thought suited him. Forget the list in my notebook.   I should tell you that in my family, when we’re not giving dogs completely inexplicable insect names, we have this odd habit of naming pets after relatives and relatives after pets. For example, my great grandmother was named Zoey. We had a dog named Zoey. My parents had an Irish Setter named Lucy. Then they named my sister Lucy. My name was supposed to be Samantha, but ended up being Kate. Soon after I was born, our nameless cat became Samantha. I named Leo after my father, who’s middle name is Leon (coincidentally after King Leopold II of Belgium, who owned several Schipperkes in his life).   Whenever a new name is introduced into the family, like Toby, the name is usually voted on by all of us and taken with the utmost seriousness. This is most likely because we subconsciously acknowledge that this new name is going to get recycled at some point, so we’d better really love it. Though none of my plans for naming have worked out to date, one thing is certain: Whomever I name in this life, whether dog or human, is inevitably going to be called Lucy, Leo or Toby.

     

    Dog's Life: Lifestyle
    Kong Love
    Dog toys make me happy

    Maybe it was when I started using the Kong keychain, but at some point I realized that I was a bit over the top with my enthusiasm for Kong toys. I get excited about new ones that come out, and maintain a breathless enthusiasm for the original, too.

      I love that dogs have such fun with them, and that Kongs can truly enrich their daily lives. Dogs often consider them a higher quality fetch toy than regular balls, perhaps because of their erratic bouncing. It’s cool that many dogs who chew everything else to pieces can enjoy the same Kong toy for years. (I am aware, of course, that a small percentage of dogs do chew them up, though the Extreme Kongs work for many of these heavy chewers.)   Kong toys can alleviate boredom for dogs by giving them mental exercise, and they are great for independent play as well as play between people and dogs. I use Kong toys to treat many behavioral issues from high arousal and destructive chewing to separation anxiety and aggression.   Are Kongs in your life? What do you and your dogs love about them?  

     

    News: Guest Posts
    Celebrate Canine Roommates
    Help a dedicated dog person win $10,000+

    Two wonderful pups—the delightfully verbal Charlie and a trick-happy rescue named Abby—have made it into the group of ten finalists in Apartments.com’s Roommate of the Year Contest. I blogged about this video competition in May because, well, I was impressed by the more-than-decent prize—your rent paid for one year plus $10,000. You could raise a lot of dog-centric fun with that kind of dough. And I figured since dogs really do make fabu roommates, who wouldn’t want to tell the world about it?

      What I love about the submissions by Kathryn McGonigle (with Charlie) and Suzanne Marshall (with Abby) is how well cared for and engaged their dogs appear to be.   Check out all the finalists—there are pitches for two-legged roommates as well, whatever—and vote once daily for your favorite through July 30.

     

    Dog's Life: Lifestyle
    Extreme Primping
    Is competitive grooming embarrassing for the pups?

    Last month I read about dogs in China dyed to resemble wild animals. It seemed so outrageous that I didn’t think it could possibly be true. After checking web sites like Snopes, It looked like it was indeed real.

    As crazy as it sounds, the desire to transform dogs into wild animals is not limited to China. A new show called Extreme Poodles on TLC follows four groomers and their adventures in the world of competitive dog grooming. The pups are cut and styled to look like all sorts of things from a lion to a basket of flowers. The winner will get $5,000 and a cover story in Groomer to Groomer magazine.

    I suppose the dogs aren’t being harmed, and if anything, they’re getting a lot of attention and are well taken care of, but it seems a little embarrassing for the dogs. None of the dogs that I saw looked particularly stressed out, although it was hard to see their faces under all of that primping, but I can’t imagine that they enjoy standing on the grooming table for that long!

    What do you think? Are you a fan of competitive grooming?

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