Home
activities & sports
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Evaluating Canine Play
Are your dogs playing appropriately?

One of the most common questions asked of dog behaviorists is how to determine whether a group of dogs who are rolling around or chasing each other are playing appropriately. Without knowledge of dog behavior, it can be hard for many people to tell when play is getting out of hand until it’s too late and it’s obvious because somebody got hurt or traumatized. I recently wrote a column for my local paper called Play Should Be Fun, Not Tense that explains some of the basic ways to evaluate what is going on before it ever gets to that point. There is always a bit of subjectivity to assessing play in any species, including our own, because fun itself is subjective. However, there are some basic guidelines worth considering whenever you have to decide whether to let the dogs carry on, or whether they need to be separated to prevent real trouble from developing.

  In appropriate play, the number one rule is that everyone is a willing participant. If one dog is suffering based on what’s going on, it’s not appropriate, and that’s true even if what the other dogs are doing would be fine with most dogs. If everyone isn’t having a good time, it’s not okay to let it continue. Play should always be fun.   Generally, dogs who are playing are holding back a bit at least some of the time. They are bouncy and carefree in their motions, and there are frequent pauses in the action. Most play involves running, leaping, chasing, brief pounces and batting at one another. Dogs’ mouths are usually open and any vocalizations tend to be fairly consistent in pitch rather than suddenly deepening or turning into shrieks.   In play that could lead to trouble, dogs seem to be more serious and lack that light-hearted quality so essential in play. Dogs who tongue flick, drool excessively, cower, whine, pant when it’s not hot enough to warrant it, tremble, attempt to escape or to hide, whimper or shiver are showing signs of tension or anxiety that could indicate trouble. When dogs are uncomfortable, they are more likely to act in a way that is aggressive or that could prompt another dog to behave aggressively. One of the biggest warning signs in play is of one or more dogs suddenly go stiff. Going stiff with tension throughout the body often occurs before dogs bite or fight, so it’s a bad sign. Pausing in play with a relaxed body is a good sign and is very different than going stiff or still, which is a bad sign.   It can be very hard to evaluate play, but if you stop the play and all the dogs want to head back to it, that’s a promising sign that the play is okay. I always recommend interrupting the play if you are in any doubt. You can always let them continue in a minute, but if you let things go and a dog gets hurt, frightened or overwhelmed, you can’t take that back.  

 

News: Guest Posts
Slip Slidin’ Away
The joy of dog sledding

Dog sledding without the sled is more fun!


Dogs Body Sledding In The Snow - Watch more Funny Videos

News: Guest Posts
Adopt a Pile
In honor of Don’t Step in Poop Day

As national month/week/day designations go, Don’t Step in Poop Day (today, April 25) falls somewhere where between No Name Calling Week (Jan. 25-29) and Flossing Day (November 26)—literally and figuratively. Good ideas all—but do they really deserve special commemoration? Probably not, but at least Don’t Step in Poop Day provides me with an excuse for ranting about a behavior I just don’t understand: People abandoning stinky piles at the edge of manicured lawns, in tree wells, parks and parkways, streets and alleys?

  There are those who argue that pet waste is natural and therefore fine following a natural course where it—with its pathogens, round worms, etc.—can seep into soils and water systems. It might not be a problem if theirs was the only dog but there are, in fact, millions of al fresco waste-makers to consider. Also, what’s so flippin’ “natural” about how our dogs live these days—why is poop the big exception? If you don’t like the idea of dog waste wrapped in plastic in landfills, try bio bags pet-waste composting options.   More often, I think, folks are either too lazy to bend over or just grossed out (see Brian, below)—to which you can only ask, “why have a dog?” Effort and poop are part of the bargain.   But really I’m tired of complaining about how others make me and my dogs look bad. And so, I think those of us vigilant folks need to take it up a notch by compensating for our lame brethren. When we head out the door, we must arm ourselves with extra bags. When we discover a lesser man or woman’s leavings—which I don on every walk because my dogs’ noses are poop-seeking missiles—we should sweep them up and finish our walk with a smug, morally superior smile—realizing that we are helping to make everyday, Don’t Step in Poop Day!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Canine Bucket List
Calif. family says goodbye to their beloved Lab, Hudson

Saying goodbye is arguably the toughest part about sharing your life with a pet. For the Piper family, their Chocolate Labrador, Hudson, shared the joy of their first home and welcomed each of the three children into the world. So when Hudson was diagnosed with cancer and given just two to four weeks to live, the Pipers were devastated. 

To ensure that Hudson made the most of his time left, the family decided to make a canine bucket list. 

The 10-year old dog enjoyed activities that he normally wasn't allowed to do, like ride in the car with his head out the window and eat heaping pancake breakfasts. But most importantly, the list made sure that the family got to spend plenty of quality time with Hudson. They took extra walks and had dog-themed movie nights, complete with Hudson's own sleeping bag.

While the Pipers were busy preparing the bucket list, Hudson surprised them by fighting the cancer for three more months, giving the family time to complete everything on the list.

Of course, the bucket list doesn't make it any easier to say goodbye, but I know it would be therapeutic to see my pups enjoy their last days engaged in their favorite activities.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
BlogPaws 2010
More than 250 pet bloggers unite to learn and network

Who doesn’t regularly read blogs these days? Last week, more than 250 people traveled to Columbus, Ohio to attend BlogPaws 2010, a conference for pet bloggers and a testament that this online tool is here to stay. 

BlogPaws was created last year to foster a community of learning and networking among pet bloggers. Besides the annual conference, the organization plans to expand its web site to provide resources for budding online writers on topics such as leveraging social media, increasing web traffic and strategies for content development. 

Maintaining a blog isn’t easy, but it’s a great way to share your perspective, connect with people who share similar interests and exchange timely information. I’ve been able to use blogs to find reviews on a new dog toy, stay on top of the latest results from agility nationals, keep up to date with the latest canine behavior research, read dog training journals and learn new training techniques. 

My favorite blog is agility trainer Susan Garrett’s, which blends personal reflection and training tips. I’ve learned a lot, not just about agility training, but about canine motivation and behavior. And for fun, I like reading Good Boy Bo, Bo Obama's blog. 

What are your favorite dog-related blogs (besides this one, of course!)?

News: Guest Posts
Get Your Puppy Fix
And learn about Best Friends’ new care center

Best Friends Animal Society in southern Utah celebrated the grand opening of Val’s Puppy Care Center on March 25, 2010. Congratulations Best Friends and all you lucky puppies! (Oh, also check out the "cute puppy pile-up"--so sweet, your teeth will hurt.)

News: Guest Posts
In the Crowd at Westminster
Walking into a childhood dream

I dreamed about Westminster the way other children do Disneyland. As a dog-obsessed child, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show was the ultimate fantasy somewhere glamorous and far away from the abusive place I called home. Although I watched Westminster on TV every February, I’m not sure I really connected it with a real event. It seemed too good to be true.

Growing up, dogs were my salvation. My first dog Peepers, a shy Lhasa Apso, was the only real friend I had for most of elementary school. Together we’d sit in the family room and watch the dog show long after I was supposed to be in bed. It’s been many years since my February has been defined by dog shows, and yet I jumped at the opportunity to attend Westminster.

As a teenager, I trained and competed in obedience, tracking and the sport I loved above all else agility. I dove into the dog world, spending weekends at trials and evenings training. At seventeen, the situation with my family deteriorated and I was forced to leave home. With no job and nowhere to live, I had no choice but to rehome my dogs—Snickers (a Miniature Schnauzer) and Flash (a Sheltie). Losing my dogs, and in turn loosing the dog world was more devastating than losing my parents. This week, walking into Madison Square Garden was the first time I’ve been able to bring myself to attend a dog show since.

After arriving, I stood in the middle of Westminster and looked at the hundreds of dogs in the bench area bored, and stressed and awaiting their turn in the ring. I was struck with the question of why I wanted to be there and contribute to an industry and event that goes against so many of my political and ethical beliefs. These are dogs who rarely, if ever, are given the chance to actually be dogs. Owners spend hundreds of thousands of dollars campaigning dogs who barely know them since they spend years on the road with handlers. I saw dogs who look like they’ve never been given the chance to run and play in a muddy dog park, and even dogs with personal bodyguards.

Yet, despite my skepticism I couldn’t deny there was something magical about being surrounded by dogs, in arguably one of the most prestigious venues NYC has to offer. 

I wanted to attend Westminster because it’s full of history, like a museum, a living and breathing monument to dogs. In that way, I was not disappointed. Westminster was a bit like a very grand museum, except that the “artifacts” were dogs, many with health problems, unable to do the jobs they were breed to do. But I can only criticize so much because it’s clear the organizers, handlers, judges and spectators love those dogs just as much as I love my own, and who am I to argue with love?  I can’t deny there was something deeply satisfying about being surrounded by thousands of other people as obsessed with dogs as I’ve been my entire life.

I stayed for a few hours, watched Dalmatians, Border Collies and Keeshonds in the ring. I made my rounds of the venders (alas all the freebies were things my highly allergic pup couldn’t have), swooned over my favorite breeds in the benched area, and celebrated the number of rescue and therapy organizations with booths.

Leaving Westminster, I thought about how Mercury, my funny little mutt, would never win best in breed because he doesn’t have one. He wouldn’t win Best in Show because he’d never make it through the door. Attending Westminster I was able to see both sides: the fun and glamour of being surrounded by such incredible creatures and the ethical implications of breeding. Being at Westminster meant saying goodbye to a childhood dream. The dream ended not simply because of a shift in politics, but because I don’t need it anymore. 

News: Guest Posts
Republicats and Dogocrats
Running for mayor in Divide, Colo.

Ever think: My dog or cat could run this town/state/country better than the mayor/governor/president? Well, folks in Teller County, Colo., will have a chance to do more than think it (sort of) because twenty-five cats and dogs are running for mayor. And that’s not all. In this election, money talks because you pay to vote. And you can vote as many times as you dang well please. And you don’t have to live in the county even. It’s not an Old West-style politics but rather a fund-raising gambit by the small, poorly funded Teller County Regional Animal Shelter. The $1 per vote is actually a donation (and the unincorporated city doesn’t even have a mayoral post). The only rule: Candidates must live or go to work with their people in Teller County. Vote online or at one of 40 local polling locations in Divide and Woodland Park, Colo., through April 6.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Frisbee Inventor Dies
His product gave joy to millions

Fred Morrison died earlier this week at the age of 90. Best known as the inventor of the Frisbee, he was also a World War II pilot, husband and father, and an entrepreneur. The first discs he threw were the lids of popcorn tins, which he and his wife threw back and forth at a family picnic in 1937. These dented too easily so he moved to cake tins, and then began to manufacture his own discs, which he sold for a quarter at the beach in southern California. People loved them, and they sold well, attracting enough interest for Wham-O to buy the rights to his flying discs. In 2007, the Frisbee in its current form turned 50.

  Morrison called them Pluto Platters in recognition of the UFO craze sweeping the nation decades ago. The name Frisbee comes from the Frisbee Pie Company, whose platters were thrown like Frisbees before any were manufactured out of plastic. The name Pluto Platters is quite suitable considering the canine character named Pluto. Dogs and Frisbees hit the spotlight together in the 1970s, starting with a man and his whippet who jumped on the field during a televised baseball game at Dodger Stadium and wowed the crowd with a display 35 mph throws and nine-foot high jumps to catch the Frisbee.   For anyone who has a Frisbee-loving canine in the family, it’s hard to imagine life without them. (It can actually be hard to imagine an outing without them. I occasionally hear someone in agony at the dog park exclaiming, “Oh, no! There’s no Frisbee in my bag!” Invariably, a crestfallen dog is nearby wondering why the fun has not started yet.) Many dogs exhibit a level of athleticism and defiance of gravity when playing with a Frisbee that is beautiful to watch. Their level of joy soars as high as they leap.   If your dog considers a day without a game of Frisbee to be a day wasted, I want to hear from you. How does your dog amaze you, and when did you first discover that your dog was a Frisbee dog?   And thanks, Fred. Your invention has given endless joy to so many.

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Have a Heart for Chained Dogs Week
Because dogs deserve better

The organization Dogs Deserve Better is a national group that advocates for and rescues chained dogs. Their goal is to stop the constant chaining of dogs. While they work towards this end all year long, the week around Valentine’s Day is one of their most prominent periods of activity.

  During this season, they send Valentines to continuously chained dogs. Each Valentine includes a brochure that explains why keeping a dog chained up all the time is a form of abuse and also a coupon for dog food or dog treats. Their goal is to educate people (rather than to accuse them of wrongdoing) so that they will either consider bringing their dog into the house or finding a better home for the dog. Their goal this year is to send Valentines to 15,000 chained dogs. There are many ways to participate in this program.   Some communities have legislation that prohibits chaining dogs constantly by setting limits on the amount of time or the situations in which dogs can be tethered. (For more information about such anti-tethering legislation, check out Alyce Miller’s article, Breaking the Chain, which appeared in The Bark.)

 

Pages