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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?

 

News: Guest Posts
Barking Buddha
Stretch and connect with your dog through yoga.

Last week, I attended a book signing for Barking Buddha: Simple Soul Stretches for Yogi and Dogi. I was thrilled to pick up my own copy of the hot-of-the-presses guidebook by home-town yogini and massage therapist Brenda Bryan (with photos by my friend Bev Sparks). I swear this was before I learned the book includes a little profile shot of my dog Lulu in one of Bryan’s classes. Just look for the black dog who exudes not an iota of the serene grace of the Afghan Hound on the neighboring mat. That’s Lulu. The photo is not a case of bad timing but a true reflection of our experience in the class—we were both of us woefully over-stimulated. But that was our problem.

I was impressed and inspired by Bryan with her dogis—Honey and Gus—and the other novices in the class. All around me dog-human pairs practicing “Floating Dog” and “Woofing Warrior” in a Seattle dog daycare, with lots of barking and romping only yards away, and yet calm pervaded the room. I think Bryan’s addition of massage to the regular regime of breathing, stretching and poses, encourages the dogs into the right frame of mind, at the same time it nurtures connection. The class helped me to appreciate that Doga, as it is sometimes called, provides a very real opportunity for enhancing your dog’s health, your understanding of how his or her body feels and moves, and, maybe most importantly, your bond with each other.

While a class with Bryan or a dog-centric yogi near you is probably the best introduction, Barking Buddha provides a smart, straightforward primer for home practice. If you don't believe me, watch the seriously blissed-out pups in Bryan’s video pitch for the book, below.

News: Guest Posts
Take Your Dog to Work Day Contests
Share tips, photos—win prizes, fame (sort of)

[UPDATE: We have a winner! Read about Stacy Dubuc and Ginger.]

 

We’re excited about Take Your Dog to Work Day on June 26—not just because it’s something we do nearly everyday but because we know under the right circumstances ice-breaking, comforting balls of fur at the office can be good for the dogs and for their people.

So, we’ve come up with two ways to share our enthusiasm for canines near the copier with two—yup, two—Take your Dog to Work contests.

Tell us your strategies for bringing your dog to work. Post your tried-and-true advice as a comment below, and we’ll select one lucky tipster from the entries to receive a Bark goodie bag. We also start the ball rolling with some of our own ideas with something we call “Office Petiquette” in a sec.

If you’re more the picture’s-worth-a-thousand-barks type, send us a photo of your office dog (your own or a colleagues’), and we’ll include our favorites in our Dogs @ Work slideshow. It’s easy.

Office Petiquette
Pet-friendly workplace policies vary, but they usually include several basic elements: The needs of people who have allergies or don’t want to work near animals must be accommodated, pets must be housebroken and kept on leash or under control, and employees must clean up after their pet outside. Here are other “petiquette” points and suggestions for pet-proofing your work zone:

•Your dog should respond to basic commands, such as “sit” and “stay.”

•Your dog should be socialized to people and other dogs.

•Your personal workspace should comfortably accommodate your dog.

•Keep a supply of chew toys on hand to occupy your dog when needed.

•Leave squeaky toys at home, and invest in dog tag “silencers.”

•No fleas at work! Keep your dog clean and well-groomed.

•Walk your dog in a designated area several times a day, and clean up afterward.

Above all, consider your dog’s temperament. If she’s extremely shy or uncomfortable around strangers, the workplace may be too overwhelming. And, of course, if she has a history of aggressive behavior, leave her at home and get help from a professional trainer or behaviorist.

Source: SF/SPCA

5 Tips for a Dog-Safe Office
•Keep small items (paper clips, loose change, staples, rubber bands) off the floor.

•Store ink cartridges, pens, markers and highlighters out of your dog’s reach.

•Put cleaning solutions in a safe place; they can be toxic and potentially deadly.

•Leave shredders unplugged to protect dangling ears and tails.

•Contain your dog if you can’t supervise him.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Strut Your Mutt
What’s the best dog event around?

Recently I was a judge at “Strut Your Mutt” in Flagstaff, Ariz. The annual event is the work of Paw Placement of Northern Arizona, a local group that does great work finding forever homes for dogs and cats.

On this particular Saturday, we three judges had to observe dog-people pairs entered into the official “Strut” competition and determine three winners. The categories were 1) Best Strut, which was won by a Bulldog who successfully walked the entire loop multiple times (though was too tuckered out to come claim her prize); 2) Person-Dog Look-Alike, which was won by a willowy strawberry blond young lady and her fawn colored greyhound, both of whom looked lovely in their hula skirts, and 3) Judges’ Choice, which went to a three-legged dog named Lucky who had been adopted out by Paw Placement of Northern Arizona, and is indeed one of their great success stories.

Besides enjoying the event with its demos of canine sports and assorted vendors, and being thrilled about the fundraising success, “Strut Your Mutt” made me realize that we can never get too much of mixing and mingling with other people and their dogs en masse. It’s such fun to celebrate and enjoy the unique human-canine bond, and the fact that such events lead to happiness all around—in both species.

What events happen in your area to inspire interspecies fun, and perhaps raise money to spread that joy around still further?

News: Guest Posts
Adopt-A-Pet’s “Social Petworking”
Inspired use of the Internet or peer-pressure with a downside?

On the Internet, good ideas (and I guess, lousy ideas, as well) spread like viruses. In the January issue of The Bark, we wrote about how Dogs Trust in the United Kingdom found a home for a shelter dog using only a brief message on Twitter, the social networking service. It was the first Twitter-assisted placement for Dogs Trust, and maybe a first-ever.

That was followed in February by a Tweet Blast masterminded by Animal Rescue Online—24 hours of  Twitter messaging (no more than 140 characters each) all aimed at finding homes for homeless companion animals.

But these were mere flashes in pans compared to Adopt-A-Pet.com’s new scheme, cleverly branded as “Social PETworking.” The idea is to encourage regular MySpace, Facebook and Twitter users and bloggers “to advertise adoptable pets to their friends as a way to help homeless pets get seen and adopted.”

The campaign kicked off at the beginning of June, with a goal of networking at least 30,000 homeless pets in the first 30 days. Essentially animal lovers find and share Adopt-A-Pet profiles of shelter animals (dogs, cats, rabbits, horses, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and more) with friends who might provide good homes or who know others who might.

When I checked the site on June 12, more than 35,000 links had been shared. That’s definitely something. Whether it leads to successful adoptions remains to be demonstrated. I hope it doesn’t increase impulse decisions. It’s one thing if someone who understands the responsibilities of adoption and is looking for a new friend learns about a wonderful animal in need of a home. But I know how hard it is to resist the sweet mug of a doleful puppy with a sad story. I worry that this sort of widespread friend-to-friend “advertising” inspires people to commit to animals when they aren’t ready.

Am I just being a buzzkill? 

News: Guest Posts
A Night With Friends
Friends For the Dearborn Animal Shelter enjoy a private screening of Hotel For Dogs.

“I don’t usually go to these kinds of movies,” Elaine Greene told us this morning, the day after a special screening of Hotel for Dogs in Dearborn, Mich. “I shed some tears but it really inspired me to break through roadblocks and get back to our important work.” As the executive director of Friends For the Dearborn Animal Shelter, Greene identified with the movie’s young protagonists, who defy challenges (lots of naysaying adults) to provide shelter to a lovable assortment of strays.

And Greene wasn’t alone. Dozens of Dearborn Animal Shelter friends, family, employees and animal welfare colleagues attended the screening at the Fairlane AMC in Dearborn Town Center. The shelter was chosen from among 78 organizations nominated by dedicated supporters around the country in a contest sponsored by Paramount Pictures and The Bark.

 

Attending the screening were a few special guests including Anne Enright, who takes some of the shelter’s needier doggie guests “into her five-star pooch bed and breakfast/charm school, otherwise known as the Enright family home, to give them the TLC and cultivation they need to successfully find their new home;” Sue Ringey, whe leads the shelter’s in-house training program, organizing and training volunteers “to socialize and teach manners to our doggie guests during their stay at our Hotel, which helps them find a permanent residence with their new family;” and Tracy, Kevin, Sara and Max Nosel, who demonstrated the most team spirit during Dearborn Shelter's recent Fourth Annual Mutt Strut.

The shelter is located in Dearborn, west of Detroit, the hometown of Henry Ford. Formerly city-run, the shelter has been stewarded by the private, nonprofit Friends since 1996. In little more than a decade, the shelter has instituted programs to find homes for 100 percent of adoptable animals and to vaccinate, spay/neuter and microchip every one. The shelter participates in dozens of community outreach programs every year including adoptions fairs, low-cost spay/neuter and a Recylc-a-Bullz program to help bully breed dogs.

While the shelter takes in far more cats than dogs, Greene says that since the downturn in the economy the numbers of dogs is increasing, with more puppies and small, purebred dogs showing up. “That’s a signal that people are struggling.” At the same time, there's reason for optimism, Greene reports that support for the shelter continues to grow.

 

We wish them all the best with their “hotel for dogs”--hoping all their guests check out soon and move into wonderful forever homes.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Putting Unused Airline Miles to Good Use
Donate frequent flyer miles to Guide Dogs of America.

I’m by no means a frequent flyer. As I mentioned previously, in a post about Pet Airways, I avoid traveling by plane since my dog would have to fly in cargo. Needless to say, I never rack up enough miles to qualify for a free flight.

Rather than let my miles expire, I recently discovered a way to put these points to good use. Northwest and United Airlines let you donate unused miles to the Guide Dogs of America. The contributions are used to transport dogs, trainers, and recipients to GDA’s training headquarters in Sylmar, Calif. Other airlines have programs that allow you to donate miles to charity, but Northwest and United Airlines are the only two I've found that benefit a dog-related organization. 

In a time when non-profit groups are facing decreased donations, this is a great way to help out a worthy cause without dipping into your bank account.  Visit the Guide Dogs of America web site for more information on how to donate your miles.

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