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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.

News: Karen B. London
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.

 

News: Karen B. London
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.)

 

News: JoAnna Lou
To Tug or Not to Tug?
Discovering the benefits of playing tug-o-war

A few weeks ago, I wrote about entertaining your canine crew with a variety of indoor activities, including a tugging game. One of our readers commented that they’d always heard playing tug-o-war can encourage biting, a common misconception about this game. 

I can see why tugging could be mistaken for encouraging aggressive behavior with all the pulling and growling, but the bad rap is unfortunate since this game has so many positive benefits when played properly. 

When I first got Nemo as a puppy, he naturally liked to tug, but it wasn't an activity that I fostered. It was through agility that I first saw the role of tugging as a training reward.  Since then, Nemo and I have discovered the many benefits of this interactive game while having lots of fun together.

Exercise
Tugging is great way for dogs to expend energy without needing a lot of space, like a fenced yard. It’s also perfect when you’re traveling since you can even play inside a hotel room, as long as your pup isn’t a loud tugger. And I can contest that it can be equally tiring for people as well! 

Training
Very popular in agility, tugging can be used a valuable reinforcer when teaching new behaviors or strengthening existing cues. Imagine how quickly your dog will come to you when he knows a fun game of tug is on the other end! Many dog sports enthusiasts like to use tugging as a reward, since food is not typically allowed in the competition ring, but anyone can enjoy the benefits of incorporating play into training.

Relationship-Building
Tugging is a great way to initiate your dog in play, strengthening the bond with your furry friend. Growling, when accompanied by soft, relaxed body language, is perfectly normal. Dogs often growl at each other during play, with no connection to dominance.

Self-Control
Contrary to the belief that tug-o-war can encourage dangerous behavior, tugging can actually help dogs learn self-control and give them an outlet to use their teeth appropriately. I use the following three rules when engaging my pups in the game of tug. Your dog’s personality will dictate how strict you have to be in enforcing these guidelines.

  • You control access to the toy and always initiate the game. Keep tug toys away until you want to play.
  • Start the game when your dog is sitting politely. Alternatively you can ask for another behavior or trick.
  • You decide when the game ends. Teaching your dog to drop the toy with lack of motion on your part or with a verbal cue, like the word “out” or “drop” is essential.

I like to practice pausing and re-starting several times throughout the game to teach the dogs impulse control. It’s also a great way to strengthen a “stay” cue with distracting toys.

If your pup isn’t a natural tugger, check out Susan Garrett’s tips for creating a motivating toy.

Do you tug with your dogs?

News: Guest Posts
The Fur Is Flying!
Some folks don't think mutts should mix with AKC

At agility class last week, I bumped into an old friend. While catching up, I mentioned how excited I was that my mixed breed, Ginger Peach, could soon compete in AKC agility.

I swear his head nearly spun completely around and he grew red in the face before blurting, "Allowing mixed breeds is an insult to the breeders who spend so much time, energy and money on their breeding programs!"

He then reminded me that a lot of AKC agility shows already fill and it’s hard to get into them now much less when mixed breeds will be allowed, too. I pointed out that clubs have the option to allow mixed breeds at their shows. If their shows already fill, then they likely would not invite the mutts. So far, my tally of 2010 Midwest agility trials allowing mixed breeds was a grand total of four. Not exactly a threat considering there’s an AKC agility trial nearly every weekend year round.

As smoke steamed out of his ears, I glanced around at my instructor and her students. All of the dogs here in class were purebred. Most were from breeders, although there were some rescues, like my two Dalmatians. No mixed breeds. Clearly, I had forgotten the company I was keeping. Did they all feel this way? I felt like a spy, a mixed breed secret agent.

Thankfully, we recognized that this was a hot topic that we were unlikely to agree upon and moved on to a less controversial subject. Even so, I felt uneasy. It was reminiscent of some AKC fanciers’ email list claims that AKC was “slumming” by allowing mixed breeds.  But I know of dogs purchased from pet stores that have AKC registration. How is allowing dogs from puppy mills any different from allowing mixed breeds? In my opinion, the former is morally wrong if you value humane care of animals.

As an AKC agility competitor, animal rescuer, Dalmatian Club of America member, and dedicated lover of rescues and mutts, I feel like I am straddling two very different worlds. Is it possible to reconcile them?

Read this spirited opinion by Heather Houlahan and let me know what you think. 
 

News: Karen B. London
Great Pet Rescue Rally
Online pet adoption fundraiser

The Great Pet Rescue Rally is a fundraising event that benefits ten organizations throughout Maricopa County in Arizona that rescue and adopt out pets. This collaboration of ten welfare organizations in the greater Metropolitan Phoenix area makes this group the second largest shelter system in the United States (after Los Angeles), representing 100,000 animals each year. The work by these groups is important for rescue, adoption, advocacy, and community outreach.

  Conducted completely online, the Great Pet Rescue Rally is eight months long, finishing May 31, 2010. There are 20 destinations in Arizona to “drive” to, with teams or individuals starting in Phoenix. Participants can go to the destinations in any order they choose and at any time of day or night. To “travel” you must raise money for gas. The more money you raise, the more places you can visit online.   Besides the opportunity to help dogs and cats who need homes, participants can win prizes, blog about their adventures on their own personal web page and see fantastic photos of the Grand Canyon State.  

 

News: JoAnna Lou
ASPCA Humane Awards
Submit your human, canine, and feline nominations.

Each year, the ASPCA celebrates the important human-animal bond by honoring ten inspiring animals and people who have demonstrated compassion and bravery.

The awards are given to dogs and cats that have demonstrated extraordinary behavior and to people who’ve made a significant impact in the lives of animals in the past year.

Do you know any two or four legged friends who fit the bill? The ASPCA is now taking nominations in the categories of Dog of the Year, Cat of the Year, Kid of the Year, Public Service Award (firefighters, law enforcement officers, etc…), and Other, for the 2010 ASPCA Humane Awards.

Submissions will be accepted until June 30th and the winners will be invited to the Humane Award Luncheon in New York City.

Last year’s winners:

  • Dog of the Year: Archie, an assistance dog and the first canine graduate of the Army Wounded Warriors Program.
  • Cat of the Year: Nora, a piano playing feline and viral You Tube sensation.
  • Kid of the Year: Monica Plumb, 11-year old behind PetMask.com, a web site that raises donations for animal oxygen masks
  • Firefighter of the Year: Chief Mark Duff and members of the Hingham Fire Department, who rescued a Labrador Retriever who fell through thin ice.
  • Law Enforcement Officers of the Year: Tim Rickey and Kyle Held of the Humane Society of Missouri and Terry Mills and Sergeant Jeffrey Heath of the Missouri Highway Patrol for their participation in the largest federal crackdown on dog fighting in U.S. history.
  • ASPCA Henry Bergh Award: Alayne Marker and Steve Smith, founders of Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary in Ovando, Montana.
  • ASPCA Lifetime Achievement Award: Richard O’Barry, founder of the Dolphin Project, who led a lifelong crusade to free dolphins and educate the world about the plight of dolphins in captivity.

Nominations for this year’s awards can be submitted online through the ASPCA’s web site.

 

News: Guest Posts
AKC’s Change of Heart
An early valentine for mixed breeds

As I wrote in an earlier post, the American Kennel Club will allow mixed breed dogs to participate in events such as agility, obedience and Rally starting April 1, 2010. (Hope the April’s Fool date is not a joke!) The organization--whose new core values embraces all dogs--just announced that mixed breed dogs will no longer compete in a separate class or earn separate titles from purebred dogs. Instead, mutts will now go paw to paw with the pedigrees.

I’m thrilled that my young mixed breed dog can compete at the same shows as my rescue Dalmatians, earn the same titles and be included with the rest of the pedigreed pack. There are a lot of AKC trials in my area, which make them convenient. That said, I will continue to support agility venues like USDAA and NADAC and Rally venues like APDT and C-WAGS because they embraced mixed breeds from day one. We'll also continue to show in disc dog events through UFO and Skyhoundz--the only competitions I’ve experienced where mixed breeds and rescues outnumber the pedigreed purebreds. Participants are always friendly and supportive; it is my hope that long-time AKC competitors will foster that same community spirit.

Can mixed breed dog owners and purebred dog owners literally come together and respect each other’s choice of dog? Please share your thoughts.

News: Guest Posts
Dog Walker Factoid
Guess how much a NYC dog walker can make

According to a weekend story on NPR, dog walkers in New York can gross as much as $200,000 a year--and while the profession is not recession-proof it's proving pretty resilient.

News: JoAnna Lou
Give A Day, Get A Day
Help animals and get a free ticket to Disney

For 2010, Disney is launching a program that celebrates the spirit of volunteerism by giving free theme park tickets to those who give a day of service in the United States or Canada. 

The goal is to inspire one million people to volunteer in their communities this year. Even better, there are lots of opportunities for dog lovers, including many pet therapy and rescue organizations. 

Disney’s program is a great way to encourage families to volunteer together, while benefiting so many deserving groups. Hopefully many of these partnerships will grow into longer term volunteer commitments. 

To participate, you must sign up through the Disney website and search for a participating organizations. 

When searching, you can specify the Animals & Environment category, although I found that there are some animal-related organizations that don’t come up with that tag. So if you don’t find the organization you’re looking for, search all categories in your area. 

The two opportunities that I’m looking at are Paw Pal Volunteers, a pet therapy group that visits the VITAS Innovative Hospice Care of Waterbury in Middlebury, Conn., and Green Chimneys, an organization that provides education and animal-assisted therapy to children with emotional, behavioral and learning challenges in Brewster, N.Y.

My family was already planning a trip to Orlando, Fla., this spring, so the Give a Day program will be a great way to help an organization in need while saving money on our vacation.

If you’re not planning on visiting Florida or California any time soon, you can donate your ticket to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern California and Central Florida or Dreams Take Flight Canada.

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