activities & sports
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
AKC titling program acknowledges pups in the community
This week, the American Kennel Club started a new program to acknowledge therapy dogs. Now pups and their handlers can earn their AKC Therapy Dog title by documenting 50 visits to facilities such as schools, hospitals and nursing homes. The recognition is open to all AKC registered dogs, both pure and mixed breed.
To be clear, the AKC program doesn't certify therapy dogs, teams must be certified through one of 46 AKC-recognized therapy dog organizations. If you're interested in getting involved with your pup, you can contact one of these groups to find out more information. These therapy organizations screen potential teams and provide liability insurance for facility visits.
I hope that this program will encourage more people to certify their dogs and volunteer. With the AKC's Junior Handler program, there's also the potential for more young people to get involved with therapy work as well. The AKC Therapy Dog title is a great compliment to the STAR Puppy and Canine Good Citizen programs.
When Nemo and I are visiting the hospital or the library, it's so rewarding to see the joy the dogs bring to people's faces. But therapy work is not only beneficial for the recipients. It's been a great way for me to further Nemo's training in different environments and to deepen our relationship as we work together.
Are you planning to work towards the AKC Therapy Dog title?
Good Dog: Activities & Sports
Perfect landing for toes & paws
I’m neither an early adopter nor an early adapter, but barefoot running is, after all, 200,000 years old — much older than the domestication of dogs. I don’t care for fads or trends, particularly fitness- related ones. I haven’t read Chris McDougall’s book, Born to Run, about Mexico’s Tarahumara Indians who run as much as 50 miles a day barefoot or in crude sandals. What snared me were the myriad magazine articles about the wonders of running sans sneakers (and the skeptical stories in magazines that have a vested interest in running-shoe sales), and the fact that if I didn’t try something different, I’d have to give up running altogether. Which would play hell on Daisy, my dog.
Running is Daisy’s favorite activity. That’s not much of a surprise to active dog owners, but she just turned 14 on Valentine’s Day — the day we chose to celebrate her birthday when we brought her home from the pound. She went through a Frisbee period, then a Chuckit stage, but running is something we’ve always had together. She’s a cow dog, a Kelpie some rancher had abandoned on the Wyoming/Utah border. She came pre-programmed to run and follow some basic voice commands while doing it. I’d start the day off with four miles of carless country roads. Daisy, of course, would put in closer to five or six miles by chasing squirrels and sprinting past me before shooting back and sprinting behind again. Her vet, Dr. Maria, claims she’s the fittest 14-year-old she’s ever seen. It’s the running, I told her. Though Daisy is slowly going blind, she’s farsighted; she routinely bumps into the coffee table, but can still target a squirrel at 100 yards.
Then the saddest thing that could happen to a running dog happened: I turned to cycling with a passion. Bicycles and dogs don’t mix very well; the speeds and distances are too taxing, and routes interface with dangerous traffic. I trained for and rode in a couple of mountain-bike races from Canada to Mexico. They kept me away for a month at a time, and the thousands of training miles were enough to burn me out on bicycling. I hankered for something different, something I could do with Daisy again besides downward dog poses in the living room and walks to the mailbox. Barefoot running seemed custom-fit.
Barefoot aficionados recommend that you start slowly — very slowly. I found out why. I’d run just five minutes and my calves would be sore the next day. After all, I was using muscles and tendons and ligaments that I hadn’t properly utilized since I was a toddler. Daisy didn’t understand why we’d turn back after barely getting warmed up. I added five or 10 minutes at a time and gradually, over some months, built up to five kilometers. My shoes had become vestigial, as useless as Daisy’s dewclaws.
I was a handler on a racing sled-dog team, and one of my jobs was to outfit the huskies with little red pack-cloth racing booties. The dogs hated them and kept kicking them off. The dogs craved the feeling of the trail and I did, too, though at first I felt the trail too much. The blisters on my soles wouldn’t heal. Daisy and I wanted to run longer, but my feet wouldn’t let us. While I was padding along, defying logic, the tarmac heated to egg-frying temps. I found myself on a firewalk with no choice but to hotfoot it back to the trailhead. “You need some shoes,” remarked an old lady with a Schnauzer. My feet, heat- and friction-blistered, resembled jerkied buffalo tongue for three days. Then, I bought a pair of Vibram FiveFingers, the glovelike minimalist footies with separate toe compartments that make human feet look like gorilla feet. I haven’t looked back.
Barefoot running, like wine, is all about terroir. You feel the earth, even when it’s paved, in a different way. Like a dog’s, your feet and legs are your highly advanced suspension system, and with each step, the ground sends signals through your limbs to your brain for processing. You, in turn, finetune your footfalls to meet the ground; there is no padded, canted running shoe between you and the experience.
Ankle-deep mud. My family and I were visiting my parents in rural southeastern Iowa over Christmas vacation. There’s a 1,600-acre refuge nearby, Geode State Park, that is seldom visited, especially in bad weather — we had all seven miles of muddy trail to ourselves. A mile down the trail and the dry creek bed that we usually cross in two strides was running five feet deep with snowmelt. A hard rain pelted down on us.
Daisy had tangled with a wild turkey hen the last time we were here (the turkey, protecting her nest, won) and dog paddled across the creek to seek a rematch, allowing for current and playing the angle like a Labrador Retriever — I’d catch up to her when I got across. I began bushwhacking upstream through multif lora rose to find a way to cross without subjecting myself to a hypothermic ford. I found an 18-inch oak log stripped of bark but coated with fine moss, slick as snot on a doorknob. The oak bridged the ad hoc river five feet above its surface — if I fell, there were limbs to hit before I found myself in the drink. I inched gangplank-style to test the log, adjusting my trim with arms outstretched like wings. My feet contoured to the tree like an ape’s. But it was taking longer than I expected. Halfway through the tightrope act, I remembered Daisy, and called to remind her that we were out here together and not to get too attached to tracking the turkey.
Nothing. Just the “whoosh” sound of the swift creek.
I crept out a little farther and tried not to look at the coffee-colored torrent below. “Daisy!” No dog. Then I felt something, a different kind of wet, on the back of my calf. Daisy’s nose. My half-blind running buddy had circled back, recrossed the creek, followed my scent upstream and followed me onto the slick log. Now I worried more about her — if she fell, her 69-in-human-years body would hit a lot of wood before landing in the fast water, and there was a possibility she’d get tangled in the brush being carried along by the current.
She couldn’t turn around. At least, I didn’t think she should. But her claws gave her the advantage of all-paw-drive. Could she trace the log without close-range eyesight? She had to — I couldn’t step over her. We were both committed to the log walk. I don’t like these situations, am not fond of sketchy heights. But there was nothing to do but inch onward. Daisy followed, and we made it to the muddy bank.
We went back the next day and did it again. Then the day after that. The water had receded, but that didn’t matter. What did matter was that I’d found serious joy in running again. With my favorite running partner. And Daisy’s hardly missed a step in her old age, or maybe it just seems she hasn’t since I’ve gone barefoot.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Get some exercise with your pup in tow
As gas prices continue to rise, many more people are discovering the joys of riding a bike. It's a green form of transportation and great exercise. So it's only natural that people would want to include their dogs on rides.
This Sunday, New York City's Direct Action Environmental Organization Time's Up! is hosting their fourth annual Doggie Pedal Parade in Manhattan's Washington Square Park. The ride will highlight bicycles adapted to transport pets. There will be music, refreshments, and dogs for adoption.
On Thursday, they'll holding a free Pup Your Ride Workshop and Bike Decorating where Time's Up! volunteer mechanics will be on-hand to assist participants in attaching baskets and carriers.
I always feel guilty when I go for a bike ride and leave my dogs at home. Now that it's getting warmer, I'm planning on training Nemo to come along with me on short rides.
The ASPCA recommends that you train your dog not to pull when you're on the bike and to use a Springer, a coil spring designed to absorb and reduce the force of sudden tugs. Be sure to keep a close eye on your dog since it's easy for them to get over-exerted since they're running and you're on wheels.
Do you bike with your pups?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Learn new skills in the coming months
Next month, my puppy, Remy, and I are headed up to Susan Garrett's Say Yes! Dog Training for two camps, Advances in Dog Training and Critical Elements for Sport and Life (formerly know as Puppy Camp). I can't wait to spend four full days dedicated to honing my dog training skills and working with Remy.
This summer, use some of your vacation days to learn more about dog-related topics, sharpen your training skills, meet fellow pet lovers, and spend quality time with your furry crew. There are many upcoming opportunities to develop existing skills and learn new ones.
Activities For You and Your Pup
Dog Scouts Camp in St. Helen, Mich. - June 20-25 and July 11-16
Splash for Joy in Trumbull, Conn. - July 1-3
Canine Country Camp at Glen Highland Farm in Morris, N.Y. - July 16-21
K9 Nose Work Training Camp in Poyntelle, Penn. - September 2-6
Activities For You
Taking Action for Animals Conference in Wash, D.C. - July 15-18
Chicken Camp in Sequim, Wash. - various dates
Are you planning on attending any dog-related camps or workshops this summer? If you're stuck at home, Julia Kamysz Lane will be blogging about online canine courses in the coming weeks.
News: Guest Posts
Be a part of our summer guide, and win a Dog Is My Co-Pilot bumper sticker
It may be hard for some of us in colder, wetter parts of the country to really believe that summer is coming. But as sure as a treat follows a click!, the clouds will part, the temperatures will rise, and school breaks will commence. Before we know it, our dogs will be waiting at the front door with a Frisbee in their mouths, bags packed with treats and fresh water, wagging their tails, the eager smiles on their faces asking: “What fun have you planned for me?” We don’t want to disappoint.So, what’s your idea of a perfect summer adventure with your pup. Do you have a favorite urban stroll that ends at a canine ice cream truck? A mountain hike with boundable meadows and splashable streams? How about a dive-ready waterhole or smooth, sandy beach? Do you join your buddy at a dog camp or bring her along to seriously pup-friendly festivals or farmer’s markets? Have you've discovered a divine dog-loving cafe or al fresco yappy hour? And because we're all about positive reinforcement, we plan to reward your great ideas. If your suggestion is included in our summer magazine guide, we will give you full credit (as long as we know how to contact you), plus you'll receive a Dog Is My Co-Pilot bumper sticker, so you can trick out your dogmobile for future travels. Be sure to tell us the name and location of your special place. Help us make this the best summer ever for all Bark pups!
News: Guest Posts
Like our first goodie bag winner
Last week, we launched Off Leash, our first-ever open thread. We weren’t sure what to expect when we decided to create a space for real-time conversations with no rules (other than common courtesy), so we were thrilled when so many of you showed up to speak your mind. Your helpful advice, informed opinions, experiences and passion remind us why we do the work we do. So we’re making it a regular Wednesday feature, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., PST.
As an added incentive, we’ll also be selecting one participant at random each week to win a Bark goodie bag. (When you comment be sure to include your email address, so we can contact you if you’re selected. We don’t publish it.) It’s our chance to learn a little more about our Bark readers—and share their stories with you. Our debut open thread winner was Laurelin Sitterly of Providence, R.I. When we contacted her, we learned she is the proud adopter of a one-and-a-half year old Beagle/Dachshund mix named Sadie. Laurelin has worked at the Rhode Island SPCA for the past five years as an educator and the manager of the exotics department. In her “spare time,” she has fostered a variety of animals who needed extra help prior to adoption, including Sadie, who had been relinquished five times, starting at the age of five months.
“Sadie first came to our shelter social and easygoing, but by her final surrender was anxious and highly fearful, which is what prompted us to take her home,” Laurelin wrote to us. “We have worked around the clock to combat her severe separation anxiety and grab bag of situational phobias, and have made excellent progress in the last five months. Through training, behavioral modification, environmental management and medication, she can now be left safely alone during the day and enjoys frequent play-time with her canine neighbor/best friend (we still have plenty of work to go in other areas, but she's worth it). After all of that work, we buckled and decided to make her the first permanent dog in our household.” Laurelin has been reading Bark for many years—longer than she has been working at the shelter and certainly longer than she has had a dog. “Many of the writers, behaviorists, tools and techniques that I have discovered in your publication have been instrumental in improving Sadie’s life with us,” she writes. “I have recommended your magazine to adopters, we receive a subscription at the shelter and, when a photo of one of our shelter dogs was selected for print in your Smilers section, we donated the subscription to his adopter.” Laurelin is typical of the experienced, humane, animal-loving folks you’ll meet on the open thread, we hope to see you there.
News: Guest Posts
Canine mascots rule NCAA basketball this year
We were so focused on the all-dog men’s final in NCAA basketball (UConn Huskies versus Butler Bulldogs), we overlooked a canine presence in the women’s final on Tuesday night. The 2011 Women’s Champion Texas A&M University Aggies are represented by a seemingly counterintuitive canine mascot, a Rough Collie named Reveille.
The tradition dates back to 1931, when a group of A&M cadets accidentally hit a small black and white stray. They brought her back to school to care for her. The next morning, when a bugler performed the morning wakeup call of “Reveille,” she started barking and earned her name. She recovered from her injuries, and the next season she became the school mascot, leading the band onto the field for its half-time performance during football games. She served for more than a decade, and after her death in 1944, was given a formal military funeral on the gridiron, according to Texas A&M’s website.
The most current Reveille is Reveille VIII, and she was officially introduced on August 30, 2008. She is revered. Cadets are expected to address her as “Miss Rev, m’am.” If she is in class and barks while the professor is teaching, the class is to be immediately dismissed, also according to A&M tradition.
A love of dogs seems to run deep for the team. Here’s how the coach, Gary Blair, framed the victory, according to The New York Times: “He talked about how much this championship meant to his family, to the families of his assistant coaches, to the pets of another assistant who has no family but does have dogs.” I wish I read that sort of thing all the time.
Go Aggies! Go Reveille!
News: Guest Posts
Research shows that dog owners lead more active lifestyles.
I'll admit it: If it wasn't for my four dogs, I’d likely live a sedentary hermit life and dine exclusively on PBJ sandwiches. Thanks to my pack, I spend at least 10 hours a week out and about in an effort to keep us all conditioned. I also pay more attention to what I eat as I've learned more about how my dogs' diets affect their performance in canine sports.Studies now show that dog owners tend to get more exercise compared to someone sans canine. This must explain why I even started taking a Doga class with my mix, Ginger Peach. Traditional yoga seemed vaguely interesting but I didn't invest in a yoga mat and find out how to pronounce "namaste" until I found out I could bring my dog to class, too. What's funny is that I know humans need exercise, too, but when I didn't have dogs, that wasn't enough to motivate me to get out there and run around the neighborhood. Why is it that we'll do things with our dogs that we wouldn’t do without them? Would you be as active if you didn’t have a dog?
News: Guest Posts
First-ever meeting this April in Washington D.C.
Ever since the BBC documentary "Pedigree Dogs Exposed" tore the lid off the practice of breeding show dogs in Great Britain, breeders, handlers, dog lovers and more have been forced to answer the question: What's the cost of perfection? In April, the Purebred Paradox conference will offer a high-profile exploration of issues that can no longer be ignored.
What can be done to enhance the health and well-being of purebred dogs? What are the welfare and ethical issues arising from selective breeding practices? These are the urgent questions at the heart of the inaugural conference of the Humane Society Institute for Science and Policy. On April, 28-29 at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC, leading ethologists, veterinarians, animal welfare activists and more will consider what the attempt to create “perfect” dogs has wrought from scientific, historic, cultural and policy perspectives.
News: Guest Posts
Louie lobbies for spot on canine team
Louie the pot-bellied pig was special when he would race to the agility field to watch her dogs train. His own aptitude for the sport became clear when she attempted to teach a dog to run through a tunnel and Louis zipped through it instead. Now nine months old, he is campaigning for a spot on the canine display team, which competes at the prestigious Crufts dog show. Do you think a pig should be allowed to compete in agility competitions?
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