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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.)

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
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. 
 

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