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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?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Take Your Dog To Work Day
Live the dream on June 25, 2010

A very rare percentage of people feel that their job is so fantastic that there is little that could be done to make it better. For most of the rest of the world, one simple perk could make their work so much more enjoyable—if they could just bring their dog with them. Being allowed to bring dogs to work has so many advantages both for employees and for the businesses that allow it.

  Julia Kamysz Lane profiled four of the companies that welcome dogs. There are many other companies that allow their employees to bring their dogs to work every day.   Among the benefits of allowing dogs at the office are increased face-to-face interactions between co-workers. It is a real morale booster to have dogs around, and any employer smart enough to want the people who work at the company to be happy deserves the resulting increases in productivity, esprit de corps, loyalty, and general sense of well being. Then, there’s the fact that employees are not in a rush to get out the door to let their dogs out.   Of course, whether you do it every day or just once a year, there is certain “petiquette” and advice worth following to ensure a positive experience for all.   Since 1999, Bring Your Dog To Work Day has been a wonderful event for anyone who must leave a dog behind to go to work on all the other days of the year. This year, the event is Friday, June 25, 2010. The original purpose of this day is to celebrate what great companions dogs make and to encourage their adoption from shelters, rescue groups and humane societies.   Are you allowed to bring your dog to work, and if so, how much does that add to your job satisfaction? Do you plan to bring your dog to work on June 25?

 

News: Guest Posts
Walk a Mile in Their Booties
Puppy Up! in Boston, Saturday, 6/19/10

Luke Robinson’s epic trek is almost over—and friends and supporters can join him and his dogs for their final mile into Boston. When you think about it, 5,280 feet is the least you can do if you’re nearby, after all, Robinson and his two Great Pyrenees, Hudson and Murphy, have logged 2,400 miles to get this far. The journey began two years ago, when Robinson left Austin with his two, big white furballs on a march to raise awareness about and money for research to eradicate metastatic bone cancer, to which his beloved dog Malcolm (also a Great Pyrenees) succumbed in 2006. A memorial service to honor loved ones touched by cancer will precede the walk (9:30 a.m., Kelleher Rose Garden Back Bay Fens) and a Puppy Up! Festival and Gala will follow in the afternoon and evening. Find complete Saturday details here. And read the blog.

 

Watch the Today Show interview with Luke, Hudson and Murphy. Man, those are big, beautiful dogs!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Channeling Instinct
Taking house pets to the field

Earlier this year I took my Sheltie, Nemo, to a K9 nose work seminar to try out the growing sport. I had a blast watching Nemo hunt for a hidden food pouch and I could tell from his enthusiasm that he was having just as much fun as I was.

The best part was that we could dive right in. Any dog can participate because there is no training required for the beginning stages. For dogs, using their powerful noses comes naturally and it’s a great form of exercise, both mentally and physically.

Dog sport enthusiasts who participate in field, tracking, and herding trials have long known about the benefits of tapping into their pets’ instincts. Now many dog clubs are starting to extend field trials, a test of a pup’s hunting skills, to amateurs to encourage people to get their dogs off of the couch.

Last month the Susquehanna and Berkshire Valley Basset Hound Clubs hosted the Fun Field Trial, which pairs newbie dogs with prizewinning field dogs. Walking together, the two people and dogs walk the trial grounds in search of rabbits. When one is spotted, the dogs are unleashed to see what they will do. The trained dog usually sniffs and runs after the rabbit, but the open question is if the inexperienced dog will join in.

According to the Fun Field Trial founder, Kenneth Engle, the dogs relearn the skills quickly since this is what they were bred to do. 

It’s good to see more canine sport clubs create more opportunities for people and their pups to participate in activities like nose work and field trials. Doing agility and rally with my dogs has strengthen our relationship and given us an excuse to be active together.

To find a field trial or other dog sport event in your area, search the events calendar on the American Kennel Club website.

News: Guest Posts
Ick, Ugh, Eeek!
Is it really fun to celebrate ugly dogs?

The World’s Ugliest Dog Contest (Dog Lover’s Festival, Sonoma-Marin Fair, Petaluma, Calif., June 25) brings out the buzz kill in me. Sweet, unsuspecting pups “celebrated” for tufted hair, bucked or missing teeth, disproportionate bodies, wrinkles and bumps, baldness and protruding tongues—many of these exaggerations introduced by breeders in the first place and sometimes creating very real health challenges. It just feels like stories of “pig parties” (where frat members compete to bring the ugliest date to a party) or the flipside of beauty contests, which I don’t much like either.

  This is not to say that many of the other events at the Dog Lover’s Festival—such as tips for adopting a dog from the Sonoma Humane Society, Paws for Reading’s kids reading to dogs, and a Nose Work demonstration (see our story on K9 Nose Work)—aren’t worthy offerings.

 

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