activities & sports
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Birthday party fun for pups and pet lovers alike.
This past weekend, I threw my dogs a birthday party attended by their canine and human friends. Apparently I’m not alone. According to the American Pet Association, 22 percent of dog owners celebrate their pet’s birthday.
Our party was rodeo-themed with the human guests wearing cowboy hats and the dogs sporting red bandanas with sheriff badges. Keeping in line with the festivities, I asked friends to send photos of their pups being bad and made personalized “Wanted” posters. Every year I try to send attendees home with a keepsake that serves both as a souvenir of the event and a memory of quality time spent with their pet over the years.
No birthday is complete without a cake. I baked the doggie version using the Peanut Butter Delight Dog Birthday Cake from the Dog Treat Recipe Exchange. I tripled the ingredients to fit PAWShop’s bone-shaped pan. Of course, the animals ate better than the humans, whose cake was made from a box mix!
There was much socializing done by all, but we did manage to squeeze in some games -- with a little training. We practiced sits by playing Musical Mats to country music and tested heeling in a Spoon Race with biscuits instead of eggs. I have to say, it was amazing how well everyone did with so many high-level distractions!
The dogs were generally well behaved, with the exception of a few trampled plants. Most of the pups were familiar with each other from training or trialing together, but it also helped to have responsible guests at the party. Everyone was good about leaving reactive or easily stressed pets at home.
By the time I was cleaning up after the party, my dogs were pooped from the day’s festivities. I’m sure they were wondering why every day doesn’t bring lots of visitors and cake!
How do you celebrate your pets’ birthday?
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Leap into the season on all fours.
The sun is out, the trees are blooming, the days are long. Suddenly, it’s a whole lot easier to get out and play. And while I’d like to believe you’ve been putting in long hours at the park, lake or on trails all winter long, based on my own example, I’m going to assume there is, well, room for improvement. So in the spirit of progress, here are a few suggestions for jump-starting a healthy, happy, active season—which we’ll hopefully continue during colder, darker months (but I don’t even want to think about that right now).
1. Be your pup’s personal trainer
Extra weight is the other big boondoggle here. Lots of dogs put on a few extra pounds watching you watch TV all winter, and that weight is tough on joints and conditioning. Talk with your veterinarian about strategies for helping your dog lose weight gradually—cutting back on treats and excess food is the obvious start.
On the subject of sunburn, remember that animals are vulnerable “on any area where fur is particularly thin or where there is no skin pigment, like dogs with pink noses,” says Dr. Mark Stickney, director of General Surgery Services at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “I would recommend a sunscreen that is specifically for pets. These are formulated to be safe if the pet licks them off and are available at any pet store.”
3. Test your gear in advance.
4. Learn about heat.
As daytime temperatures climb, schedule outings for mornings and evenings. When the going gets real hot, leave your pal at home, especially for high-intensity activities, such as mountain biking and trail running. Also, it’s not just the air temperature you need to monitor. Remember, hot pavement, sand and stone can burn a pup’s pads.
5. Practice how to have fun out there.
Also, train your dog to wait, sit, or stay at water sources, especially when thirsty. This protects her from slurping tainted waiter.
Finally, stop giving your dog a pass on pulling and sniffing during walks. “You’re walking the dog, the dog isn’t walking you!” says Brendan Fahey, veteran dog walker/jogger and owner of Jogs with Dogs in Seattle. Notice how people often jerk their dogs away from fire hydrants, other dogs, cats and squirrels? Everyone seems frustrated and progress is slow. “Keep your dog next to you and the leash short (less than 12 inches from your hand to the collar), and you’ll both have a much more productive walk. The second you see or feel your dog’s body language change, give him a gentle light correction (eventually you can just give a sound). A week of walking with your dog next to you (instead of in front!) will change your walks forever, and you’ll have a much more enjoyable walking partner.”
What have I missed? How do you prepare for the dogs days of summer?
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Mutt lovers question the new “separate but equal” designation.
After 125 years as an advocate for (select) purebred dogs, the American Kennel Club (AKC) announced its new mixed-breed program last week. For the past several years, rumors abounded that AKC was on the cusp of allowing mixed breeds to participate in activities, such as agility, obedience and rally. Some folks claimed AKC was growing enlightened, while others claimed it was simply trying to shore up its bottom line. (Obedience entries are down and other venues, such as USDAA and APDT, welcome mixed breeds in their agility and rally programs, respectively.)
Mixed breeds may be registered with AKC as of October 1, 2009, and be eligible for agility, obedience and rally competition on April 1, 2010. No doubt this is a step in the right direction, but I do have mixed feelings (no pun intended) about some conditions of the program. For example, mutts may participate in agility, obedience and rally competitions, however, they will be in a separate class and not allowed to compete head to head against purebred dogs. Are we mixed-breed lovers really expected to support a “separate but equal” class? Why this special designation?
Offering separate classes will create more work for the hosting club’s members and volunteers. Since the inclusion of a mixed-breed class is optional, clubs might simply choose not to offer it at their event. Another rule states that mixed breeds will not be allowed to participate if the agility, obedience or rally events are held in conjunction with a conformation show. So what good is a mixed-breed program and registering your mutt with the AKC if you can rarely participate in events?
What about people who have a rare purebred dog, such as a Catahoula Leopard Dog or McNab? They do not fit either class since they’re neither AKC-recognized breeds nor mixes. Not to mention, the mixed-breed program requires proof of spay/neuter and some rare purebred dogs might be part of a responsible breeding program with another registry, such as UKC.
Aside from the fact that the AKC misrepresented USDAA’s statistics in order to support the superiority of the purebred dog, I find it rather sad and disappointing that AKC even felt the need to reassure its members that their purebred dogs would remain top dog. Was this just a tactic in order to get all AKC members on board? Or will this attitude persist even after mixes are supposedly “welcomed” into the group?
Currently, I compete in AKC agility with two rescue Dalmatians and am training my youngest dog, a mixed breed, to compete in USDAA and NADAC agility. Despite its flaws, I think the AKC mixed-breed program is a step in the right direction and I will likely support it. But I am prepared to hear cries of protest from fellow mutt lovers who disagree with my decision.
This topic continues to be hotly debated between dog lovers both in person and in cyberspace. Some people think the program will only improve if mixed-breed owners support it right from the start and lend their voices to its evolution. Others find it insulting and want nothing to do it with it. What do you think about AKC’s new mixed-breed program? If you have a mutt, will you consider participating in AKC events? Why or why not?
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After two dogs freeze to death, is it time to rethink the Iditarod?
A few days before cancer-survivor Lance Mackey became the third person to win the Iditarod three years in a row, two dogs belonging to rookie racer Lou Packer died from exposure to high-winds and 50-below-zero temperatures. The story of Grasshopper and Dizzy’s demise is as harrowing as it is provocative. Already the questions are tumbling down. Was Packer a rookie who took unnecessary risks or is he to be admired for helping a fellow competitor earlier in the race and falling behind? Should race officials checked on him sooner?
Like a lot of people, I have mixed feelings about dogsled racing, and I generally don’t follow the big events. I know neglect and cruelty are often a byproduct of competitions involving animals. But I’ve also driven small recreational teams before—in Minnesota and Alaska—and it seemed clear the dogs relished the run. But I wonder is it right to celebrate competitions and provide cash incentives for events that can exact this price?
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I asked my dogs if they had any New Year's resolutions, and to my surprise, they did.
The thought of New Year's resolutions makes me want to eat ice cream ... preferably a pint of chocolate chocolate chip from Oberweis. There's just too much pressure and I have yet to reach any goal through resolution. So I asked my dogs if they had any plans for 2009 and, to my surprise, they did (see below). Have your dogs resolved to make some changes this year? I'd love to hear from them!
"Eat more peanut butter, herd more sheep, chomp more Kongs to bits, and continue teaching that sassy little whippersnapper Ginger Peach to respect her elders." - Desoto, 11 yrs., Catahoula
"Pass my Canine Good Citizen test, persuade more people to rub my belly and under my pits, and go lure coursing at least three times this summer. I also want to go on more summer skunk hunts, but Mama does not approve." - Shelby, 7 yrs., Pit Bull mix
"Earn an agility championship, bruise fewer shins with my whip tail, ignore those new freckles or 'age spots,' go running with Mom for conditioning, play ball more often with Dad, and remember to play nice with others." - Darby Lynn, 6 yrs., Dalmatian
"Seriously? Well, I resolve to be less shy around new people and in new situations, work hard to perfect those darn weave poles, and continue to be the best mouser in the house. Oh, and eat my weight in raw turkey necks." - Jolie, 5 yrs., Dalmatian
"Catch as many frisbees as possible, compete in more Disc Dog competitions with Daddy, practice agility with Mommy, be less of a nuisance to my elders, continue showing Bruiser Bear the cat that it's okay to play with dogs, learn to walk on a loose leash and not jump up on people, no matter how much I so badly really, really want to." - Ginger Peach, 18 mos., mixed breed
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Bring back New Year’s aspirations ... for our dog’s sake
New Year’s resolutions have gone out of fashion. Not one of my friends or family has admitted to using the fresh slate of 2009 as an opportunity to commit to change. I guess we’re so convinced we’ll fail that we don’t take aim. Well, in the spirit of Mad Men, the stock market crash and other recent blasts from the past, I’m resurrecting the resolution with an eye toward nurturing my dogs' wellbeing and our bond.
Here are my three (as in strikes) resolutions. I’d love to hear yours.
Leave my iPod at home. No more tuning out on walks. I resolve to take advantage of these regular outings to engage more with my dogs and curb a few of the bad habits—lunging at cats—into which we’ve slipped to my soundtrack.
Channel Hermey (the dentistry-loving elf from “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”). I admit to taking a free pass on dental care every time my vet says my dogs’ chompers look great. It’s nothing I’ve done, and I know the consequences of poor dental hygiene (bad breath, tooth loss, and gum disease, which can cause much more serious health problems). So, I promise to don my funny little finger toothbrushes ASAP.
Tackle a new skill together, in my case, skijoring. This is a holdover from last year, and I’m going to blame my lack of success in 2008 on global warming. But the mustachioed meteorologists in these parts are currently measuring snowfall in feet these days, so I have no excuse. Mush!
The great thing with these resolutions is I can’t really fail. My dogs won’t grade me. Even if I fall down in my best efforts, they’ll remain my loyal, true companions.
My friends over at the Seattle Humane Society offered up some worthwhile resolutions too. Check them out. My favorite: Make sure your pet is cared for in the event of your death. It's not something we like to think about, but it's something we owe our pals.
News: Guest Posts
What is it that happens to dogs in the snow? From most reports, they become maniacs in the white stuff. So despite all the hassles and dangers of our recent winter weather, I'm thrilled by the idea of dogs all over the country romping in muzzle-deep snow this holiday. As always, our pups are a reminder to get out and have fun, to smell the tree trunks or just careen around in snow. If you're one of the unlucky folk who live below the snow-belt, check out the video below to get your snow-dog fix. Have a fabulous, frolic-filled holiday with your buddies.
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Does the world need a doggie soap opera? In the abstract, the answer is probably, sure. Why the heck not? Could it be worse than the human-centered variety? Well, based on previews for PETelenovela (pups in cowboy hats, ties and boas doing not much to campy voice-overs), I'd say, I'm not willing to spend the $10.99 to find out for sure. Also, don't our furry housemates supply enough comedy and drama?
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Lisa's post about treadmills reminded me of a story I heard a few years ago--in New York City--concerning two pit bulls who dropped dead from heart attacks (or heat exhaustion? I can't remember) because they were being forced to run on treadmills. These were fighting-ring dogs, of course. They were tethered (chained!) to treadmills and forced to run in order to make them 'tough." Ack!
One of the "owners" of the dogs was actually quoted as saying something to the effect of: "Well, if he died, that means he wouldn't have been a good fighter."
This is an extreme example, of course, of why it might be better to exercise your dog in the great outdoors rather than on a treadmill. But, my humble opinion is that these treadmill manufacturers are trying to convince dog guardians that it’s okay--even desirable--to substitute a treadmill session for an honest to goodness walk. (I might go so far as to say, "...to cut corners, and be lazy.") Next, they’ll be equipping their machines with built-in iPod docks and televisions, and selling us videos of squirrels, and iTune tracks of birds chirping or perhaps the theme from Rocky. "Your dog will be inspired to run for miles!"
Here’s what the people at www.jogadog.com promise use of their product will achieve:
They conclude their sales pitch with: Designed with the input of veterinarians, physical therapists and engineers, JOG A DOG is truly the best exercise system available for the most discriminating consumer.
Hmmm......if you were sitting on your butt late at night watching television, and this commerical came on, and you were too tired to get up and turn it off, and you knew nothing about the needs of dogs, would you be tempted? I wonder...
I am lucky that I live near the ocean, and that my dog gets to gallop along its shores every day. But even when I lived in the city, and it was 800 degrees below zero, my dog went outside for his exercise: off-leash, free, fluid, and blissful. That, to me, is 'truly the best exercise' a dog (or a human) can enjoy. Does that mean I am not a 'discriminating owner'?
Okay, I'll get off the bandwagon now. And I’m not trying to say that the people who exercise their Basset Hounds on treadmills are wrong or evil. "To each his own" is the motto I try to live by. But maybe our treadmill users are just a bit, well, misinformed. It’s likely they were informed by advertisers.
It’s our job, as dog lovers and Bark readers, to inform them otherwise. :)
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Lately, I see dogs on treadmills, and I don't mean in my dreams or metaphorically. Folks are seriously opting for machines, particularly, it seems, for basset hounds. The word is that since exercise is good for dogs, this can’t be bad. Better than nothing, maybe, but you have to think that Clementine, Skully and Hank (below), would be much happier wandering at their own varied pace out where squirrels chirp on branches and honest-to-goodness urine wafts from every hydrant, mailbox and tree. Even the Jetsons’ treadmill was out on the space-deck and included a thrilling cat chase.
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