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Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Find Your Dog A Date
Matchmaking for canines

I once introduced a friend of mine to my roommate because I felt so strongly that they would like each other. Now that they’ve been married for six years and have two kids, I still consider my matchmaking success with them to be among the biggest accomplishments of my life. Her dog even fell in love with him, so the happiness was complete all around. (This couple happens to be in a picture together that I took in the photo section of Patricia McConnell's book The Other End of the Leash. It shows them kissing to illustrate that this is a primate form of affection and very different from the ways that dogs express affection.)

The urge to make introductions runs strong in many people, but perhaps never more so than in the case of Mike D’Elena, who started the site FindMyDogADate.com. When his roommate moved out and took his own dog with him, Mike’s dog Mika was left missing her best canine friend. Rather than have her continue moping about the house, Mike tried to find her some new playmates by asking neighbors, making phone calls and using Craig’s list, but he had no luck. A few months later, his new website was born out of necessity.

The site, based in Phoenix, Ariz., already has hundreds of dogs registered. Using the free site, people can find companions for their dogs by searching for dog buddies based on size, breed, personality and what activities they are looking to share. Whether someone is seeking hiking or walking companions or another dog for vigorous romping, FindMyDogADate.com just may provide a link to that perfect partner.

So many human couples have met online in recent years. It’s about time dogs had that same opportunity.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Celebrating Responsible Pet Care
September ushers in the AKC's Responsible Dog Ownership Day nationwide.

September means it’s time for one of my favorite events, the American Kennel Club’s annual Responsible Dog Ownership Day. The festivities celebrate all facets of canine education from dog sports to health care. Rescue groups, obedience training clubs, therapy organizations, boutique stores and veterinarians all come together in the name of promoting proper pet care.  

At past events I’ve found myself doing everything from watching Frisbee dogs to playing trivia games to learning how drug-sniffing canines are trained. Activities vary by the host club, but the Responsible Dog Ownership Days always feature the Canine Good Citizen test, AKC’s benchmark of good doggy etiquette. Both of my Shelties earned their certification at the event in past years. 

The AKC normally hosts two separate events in close proximity to their offices in New York and North Carolina, in addition to supporting hundreds of clubs nationwide in holding their own Responsible Dog Ownership Days. 

This year the AKC will have their usual Raleigh, N.C., event at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds on Saturday, September 26. The event will feature “meet the breed” booths, low cost microchipping, Canine Good Citizen testing, and agility, obedience and rally demonstrations.

The New York event is being replaced by Meet the Breeds on October 17-18 at the Javits Convention Center, but Responsible Dog Ownership Day will return to the area in 2010. 

Visit the AKC website to find a Responsible Dog Ownership Day event near you.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Running with Dogs
Increase your fitness with your four-legged best friend.

Recently, I attempted to run the NYC Half Marathon. Unfortunately, my race ended shortly after mile seven with a ride to the hospital for fluids. My running demise was due partly to the ninety degree August weather and dehydration, but mostly to lack of proper training.

I had meant to train when I signed up for the event, but let’s face it, there are much more fun things to train for… like agility! Reading Lisa's recent blog entry on running with dogs got me thinking about training with my pups for my next long distance event. 

Dr. Dawn A. Marcus, author of Fit as Fido, recommends starting by walking on a flat road with a goal of thirty minutes, five days per week. You can get better health benefits by exercising in small segments versus one long daily session. On the Fit as Fido website, Dawn has a log were you can track your daily mini-walks. 

Keep in mind that humans are better suited for long distance running than dogs, so it’s important to slowly build up distance and be mindful of conditions.

Veterinarian, Dr. Marcia Smith, says in an interview for Runner’s World, that sore pads are an easy indicator that you’ve gone too far too fast. A gradual increase in miles will toughen up your dog’s pads, in addition to making them less susceptible to injury. She also advises against feeding a large meal before running.

Marcia stresses the importance of proper hydration and monitoring dogs for overheating even when the temperature doesn’t seem that hot. Because dogs don’t sweat, they are especially vulnerable. Watch out for slowing down, a lolling tounge, drooling, and glazed eyes. Check out the ASPCA’s Hot Weather Tips for more warning signs.

Peter Larson, of Runblogger, trains on a regular basis with his Black Labrador, Jack. The duo runs as much as 7 miles at a time. Peter recommends holding off on running long distances with a puppy until their skeleton matures and the growth plates close (usually at around 10-14 months), a milestone commonly used in agility for determining when to start full sized equipment.

I’ve already started the Fit as Fido walking routine with one of my dogs and, unlike some of my former human exercise buddies, he’s always enthusiastic--no excuses!

For more walking tips, check out Dawn A. Marcus' web article on the topic.

News: Guest Posts
Runners and Dogs
Do you run with your dog … on leash?

I run with my dog—in my neighborhood, a nearby bike path and mountain trails. It is an essential ingredient in our lives. So I read with interest an old column from Runner’s World, forwarded to me by my editor. In “Unleashed Emotions,” John Bingham writes about reader reaction to his advice on what runners should do if they are greeted/charged by an unleashed dog. It’s a good question. Unless you are fluent in doglish, it’s not always obvious if a barking dog wants to nip your Achilles or slather your face with kisses.

Bingham’s answer, stop and yell at the dog (what I call the mountain lion strategy), earned him a healthy pile of email. Not so much for his advice but on the general subject of dogs and runners, especially the leash question. It’s probably no surprise to Bark regulars that the subject of leashes—pro and con—would provoke a big reaction. His follow-up column about that response engendered similarly passionate comments—as interesting as the column itself. From the sound of it, for many runners, dogs are a menace pure and simple, and that’s too bad.

I get why some runners don’t like to see an off-leash dog on a trail but I’m usually cheered by the sight whether I’m alone or with my own running buddy, and the only dogs ever to run after me were hanging out in a front yard not running on a trail. I use a leash attached to my waist most of the time, except on steep downhill trails where I worry about my dog getting too much momentum or leaping over a rock or tree and pulling me down. Then he’s paw-loose and fancy-free, and I have to say in those moments he bounds with a little extra joie de vivre.

What's your experience running with or meeting dogs while you run?

News: Guest Posts
Call for Help in St. Louis
More volunteers needed for dogs rescued in huge raid.

The Humane Society of Missouri has been relying heavily on volunteers from animal welfare organizations over the past two months as it cares for nearly 500 animals rescued in an enormous federal dog-fighting raid on July 8. But more help is needed.
 
Hearings regarding the disposition of the dogs have not yet been schedule and the Humane Society expects to be caring for animals at least through the end of the month. According to volunteer manager Laura B. Renner, groups of volunteers are scheduled to assist at the temporary shelter through September 19, but are help is needed from September 20 through October 3. Specifically, volunteers will be asked to help with cleaning, feeding, watering and some socialization. The Humane Society of Missouri is able to reimburse for travel expenses as well as arrange and cover the cost of lodging.
 
Qualification Required to Volunteer: Volunteers must be currently employed by or volunteering with a rescue group or animal welfare agency, be at least 18-years-old, have animal-handling experience in a shelter/disaster situation, be able to perform tasks that can be physically demanding, and be available for 5 to 7 day deployments in St. Louis. Because this is a pending federal investigation, each volunteer will be issued an ID badge as well as be required to sign a confidentiality agreement.
 
Anyone who has these qualifications and is willing to help can contact Laura at lrenner@hsmo.org.
 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
He Walked His Dogs All the Time
That’s enough for me to like my neighbor

Years ago, when I lived in New Hampshire, I had an unpopular neighbor. Most of the people who lived near this man disliked him, and my own husband said that he made him uncomfortable. True, he wasn’t the friendliest man and was more likely to grunt at greetings than reply kindly. He was by no means the quietest one in the area, seeming to feel that 6 AM on a Saturday was a perfectly reasonable time to mow his lawn or use his chainsaw to cut wood. He parked his cars in places that inconvenienced us all, and was quick to file an official complaint if anyone hadn’t shoveled their walk after a snowfall. Generally speaking, he was a bad neighbor by most measures.

In spite of his faults, I never felt ill feelings towards him because he walked his dog several times a day, every day, no matter what the weather. For those of you who have not braved a New England winter, the weather can be foul for many months. (When it’s 20 below, my thoughts run more along the lines of “If it were 50 degrees warmer, it would STILL be freezing” than in the direction of “Let’s go walk the dog.”) But this man never missed a walk, and his happy, polite dog was the beneficiary of that wonderful habit. I was completely unable to dislike a person who was so good to his dog.

Have you noticed someone who is so good in some aspect of dog guardianship that you can look past all other transgressions? What does it take to earn a forgiveness pass from you?

News: Guest Posts
My Dog IS Smarter Than Your Honor Roll Student
A dog's mind is a terrible thing to waste.

Okay, I might be exaggerating a little bit. But a new study has shown that the "average dog can count, reason and recognize words and gestures on par with a human two-year-old." I think the increasing popularity of dog sports and interactive games, such as the Tug-A-Jug and Nina Ottosson's puzzles demonstrate that we're doing a better job of exercising our dogs' minds as well as their bodies.

 

Back in the day, dogs were bred for a certain job and that kept them physically and mentally fit. Now most family pets live a life of luxury - eating the best food, sleeping on the softest bed - but don't use their brains after completing Obedience 101. I keep my dogs mentally active by participating in dog sports and teaching them tricks using the clicker. If you want some ideas, check out these great trick-training videos of Rounder the rescue Rhodesian Ridgeback. 

 

How do you encourage your dog to use his brain?

News: Guest Posts
The “D” Word
Don’t miss your chance to howl with Lily Tomlin.

Actress, comedian, dog lover and animal welfare do-gooder Lily Tomlin headlines in Provincetown, Mass., on August 29 in a one-night-only show to benefit Pilgrim Bark Park, a new, nonprofit, off-leash dog park and animal welfare resource. Did you think Tomlin's Edith Ann and Buster the dog routine was pure shtick? Think again, and read about  Tomlin’s passion for animals in The Bark interview.)

 

The fundraiser will help park organizers pay off a $30,000 loan, which was taken out to make the park wheelchair accessible, and also to fund much-needed shade pavilions.

Opened in 2009, Pilgrim Bark Park was established to reflect the town’s love of dogs and provide animal welfare resources to the community. Reflecting Provincetown’s history as an artist colony, the park is dotted with benches and doghouses designed and painted by local artists. The park is supported exclusively by volunteers and private donations.
 
DETAILS: Saturday, August 29, MacMillan Pier on Provincetown Harbor. Look for Ernestine, who will be wandering along the pier during the silent and live auction, which begins at 5 pm. Tomlin’s show, “The ‘D’ Word,” hosted by Kate Clinton, begins at 8 pm. Tickets are $75-$250 and available online at www.onlyatthecrown.com.

 

For those of us too far away to make the Tomlin show, here’s the classic clip of Edith Ann describing the go-for-broke sandwich she made for her dog, Buster:

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Surf’s Up
Canines ride the waves in San Diego for a good cause.

After writing last week about pet friendly cities, I started reading more about San Diego’s Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon. The annual event invites both humane and canine surfers to Del Mar’s dog beach to raise money for the Helen Woodward Animal Center and to promote responsible pet ownership.

The participants raise money for homeless animals based on the number of waves they catch in 30 minutes. The event isn’t until September 13, but organizers expect more than 100 pups to participate from as far away as Japan.  

Not sure if your dog has what it takes? Helen Woodward Animal Center has organized training clinics so your four legged beach bum can learn how to ride the waves. The next session will take place on August 16 and 22 from 9-11 am at Del Mar’s dog beach. Surf boards are provided, but instructor and dog trainer, Rob Kuty, recommends bringing a canine life jacket.

Do you think your pets would like surfing?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Agility Favorites
What obstacle does your dog prefer?

I had a dog whose favorite part of an agility course was the table. My theory is that it made the most sense to him. It was the first piece of equipment that he learned how to negotiate correctly, and it seemed as though he always knew what to do with it, unlike some other obstacles, which periodically confused him. I loved this dog, but he was, hmm, how best to say it—not the brightest dog I have known. He enjoyed the things in his life that were straightforward, and that’s why I think he liked the table.

Does your dog have a favorite agility obstacle, and if so, what do you think that tells you about your dog?

 

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