News: Guest Posts
Halloween is so darned fun, for us humans, that is. Think about it from the perspective of your pets. The ridiculous costumes they are forced to wear, all those scary sights and sounds, the doorbell ringing over and over again. For our dogs and cats, Halloween can be downright ghoulish! Had they a say so in the matter, most of them would opt to ignore this holiday altogether! If celebration is a must in your household, consider the following tips to keep your pets safe and sane this Halloween season.
Your Pet’s Physical Well Being
If you welcome trick-or-treaters to your home, your front door will be opening and closing repeatedly. This translates into many opportunities for your dog or cat to escape into the dark of night when their familiar territory has become particularly spooky.
Getting lost or running out in front of a moving vehicle are potentially disastrous holiday outcomes. My advice- don’t include your pets as part of your Halloween welcoming committee. Far safer to confine them behind closed doors.
Your Pet’s Emotional Well Being
Halloween costumes for pets certainly make for some giggles and terrific photo opportunities. But how do our pets really feel about being dressed in those silly outfits? I once made the mistake of hosting a Halloween pet costume contest via my blog. Leave it to my wonderful readers to set me straight. They let me know in no uncertain terms that our pets prefer to dress in their “birthday suits” for Halloween!
There is likely nothing your dog enjoys more than accompanying you for a walk around your neighborhood. Doing so on Halloween, however, may be a downright spooky experience for your best buddy. My bottom line advice- Halloween is a holiday for humans. Let’s leave our pets out of it!
Wellness: Health Care
Allergy sufferers who still want to share their home with a canine companion have been known to drop big bucks on breeds that are being touted as “hypoallergenic dogs.” These are dogs who are reported to have lower household allergen levels compared to other pooches. But before you throw out your bottle of Visine and handkerchief, a new study suggests that this just may be fur fiction.
Prominent allergen researchers have found that there is no basis to the claim “that certain dog breeds are hypoallergenic” and have found that allergen levels vary among individual dogs, not individual breeds. The American Journal of Rhinology and Allergy published a study in 2011 that revealed the amount of dog allergens found in households does not vary depending on the breed, and families with “hypoallergenic” dogs are living with the same level of allergens in their homes as people who live with a, shall we say, “common” dog.
The researchers measured the level of the most common dog allergen, Canis familiaris 1, in the homes of 173 families who lived with one dog and found that 163 of them produced measurable levels of Can f 1. The numbers of dogs of each breed were not large enough to allow for analyses by individual breed, but the researchers compared quantities of allergens found in the samples using various categories of purebred and mixed-breed hypoallergenic and non-hypoallergenic dogs. No matter how they did the comparisons- even comparing dogs suggested as being “more hypoallergenic” by the AKC against all other dogs- they found no statistically significant differences in levels of Can f 1.
The AKC does not actually recommend or endorse any specific breed, nor does it claim that hypoallergenic breeds will not affect people with allergies, but they do suggest 11 canine candidates that have “consistent and predictable coats” that may benefit allergy sufferers. Basically, these are the breeds that have more of a non-shedding coat, which in turn produces less dander, and therefore less allergens in the environment.
How then, was the legend of the hypoallergenic dog born? Good question, as no one really knows where the whole concept got its start. But perform an internet search with the terms “hypoallergenic dog” and you will see endless links touting the perfect allergy-free pooch. I was most shocked when I read about Simon Brodie of Lifestyle Pets, a controversial U.S.-based company that breeds and sells cats and dogs as “hypoallergenic” at a price of $16,000 each! And, no, that was not a typo with an extra one or two “0’s” on the end!
So, if there are no “real” hypoallergenic dogs, what can you do to reduce the sniffling and sneezing? Here are some tips:
• Make sure your pet’s essential fatty acid requirements are met. By assuring your dog or kitty has optimal levels of EFAs in the diet, you can reduce shedding and dander associated with EFA deficiency. Adding coconut oil has also proven to help reduce dander and shedding.
• Bathe your pet often. Even kitties can be bathed regularly, but take special care to use only safe, non-drying herbal animal shampoos. Whatever you do, avoid using people shampoo on your dog or cat, and skip any shampoo containing oatmeal.
• Invest in a good-quality vacuum designed for households with pets.
• Clean your home frequently and thoroughly, including any surfaces that trap pet hair and dander like couch covers, pillows and pet beds. This will also help control other allergens in your home that could be contributing to the allergic load of family members.
• Wash bedding frequently in hot water.
• If your pet rides in the car with you, consider using washable seat covers.
• Purchase a good quality air purifier for your home.
• If possible, remove carpeting, drapes and other fabric that traps animal dander. Tile or wood floors are much easier to clean of allergens.
By following these tips, you may be able to lessen the allergenic load in your environment and live more harmoniously with your canine companions.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Town & Country includes twelve shelter dogs in their fashion spread
Last week I wrote about the increasing popularity of pet adoption, with homeless dogs regularly featured on television and increasing numbers of celebrities promoting rescue. Now highbrow magazine Town & Country is joining the cause. Their November issue features models posing with twelve rescue dogs from the Humane Society of New York. The fashion spread, shot by famed photographer Elliott Erwitt in Manhattan’s Central Park, highlights a variety of dogs from a tiny Wirehaired Dachshund mix named Hope to a oversized Great Dane named Bellini.
Elliott was the perfect photographer for the job, having photographed many humans and dogs over the years. He's also supplied the pictures to fill four canine photography books.
I love that this fashion spread worked towards a positive outcome on multiple levels. Not only does Town & Country's November issue create widespread awareness for adoption, but all twelve featured pups have already found forever homes!
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Golden Retriever breaks free and leads the way to his brother
I've been fortunate that none of my pets have ever run away from home. I would be unbelievably panicked if one dog was lost, so I can only imagine the heart attack Penny Blackwell was having when both of her Golden Retrievers disappeared from her yard last month in Sandwich, Mass. Complicating matters, the two dogs were attached together by a double leash, making it harder to escape any danger they might encounter.
Penny plastered the neighborhood with fliers, organized group searches, and spread alerts on Facebook, but Bailey and Baxter were nowhere to be found. After two weeks, Penny was just about to give up hope when a friend found Bailey after seeing her Facebook post.
Once Baxter and Penny were reunited, Baxter led her into the woods and directly back to Bailey, who was tangled in the forest. Bailey was so excited to see Penny that she could barely get him free. It turns out that the double leash became intertwined in the brush, trapping the dogs for weeks. Thankfully Baxter was eventually able to break out to get help and is certainly a hero for going back to find Bailey. Miraculously both were in good condition despite losing nearly 10 pounds.
In the past I've been tempted to get something like a double leash that would make it easier to walk both of my dogs tangle free. But after hearing about Bailey and Baxter, I think I'll just stick with two regular leashes. It wasn't clear from the story whether the two Goldens were supervised when they escaped, but there's always the potential to drop a leash by accident. Any lead or collar can get stuck on something, but a double leash would definitely make it harder to navigate busy roads or outrun a predator.
What has been your experience with double leashes?
Wellness: Health Care
Part 4 in 4 part guide
Welcome back for the last installment of the DIY physical exam for your dog! We have reached “the tail end” of things so to speak, and will be finishing up our discussion with learning some “belly basics” as well as what to watch out for with the musculoskeletal system.
The exam is pretty straightforward: touch and feel the stomach, starting just behind the ribs and gently press your hands into the belly. Like all other parts of the body, you will be getting a feel for what is normal, and then continuing to monitor for any future changes. If your pet has just eaten, you may be able to feel an enlargement in the left part of the belly just under the ribs (where the stomach “lives”), which can be normal just after eating. Continue by proceeding toward the rear of the body, passing your hands gently over the entire area.
There are many conditions that can all look like “a basic lameness” in our pets. Below are a few of the more common presentations I see and their potential causes.
I hope this systems approach to an “at-home physical exam” helps you to become familiar and stay in tune with what is normal for your pet. Performing this exam in the comfort of your own home is the best way to learn what is normal and helps you to recognize any early changes in your pets behavior. Consult your veterinarian if an abnormal condition exists or you are concerned about any exam finding. Early recognition can save the life of your pet!
By no means is this list exhaustive, and this information is intended as a general reference; it is not intended to replace professional advice or an examination by a veterinarian.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
The Duchess of Cornwall adopts her second Jack Russell
I always knew that rescue dogs were special and, having recently added my first shelter pup to the family, I've become more aware of the joys of adopting. Rescuing animals has become more popular and mainstream in recent years, perhaps due in part to the many celebrities who've done a great job of promoting pet adoption.
In the U.K., Queen Elizabeth is well known for her pedigreed Corgis, but I was delighted to learn about some of the royal pups with more humble beginnings.
Camilla Parker Bowles, the Duchess of Cornwall, just adopted her second Jack Russell Terrier earlier this month. 9-week old Bluebell joins 1-year old Beth, a dog that Camilla also rescued as a puppy from the Battersea Dogs and Cat Home in England.
Bluebell was found by the rescue group in a local park, scared and suffering from a severe skin condition. Now the puppy is healthy and happy in her new home at the Clarence House, also the former residence of Queen Elizabeth and her Corgis.
I love that Bluebell found a loving home and that Camilla chose to go the rescue route for a second time. I'm sure her choice will influence others in England to adopt!
As an avid Bark reader who frequently hikes with my dog, I was so excited to see that this issue prominently featured exploring nature with your dog. I see the opportunity to share wild spaces with other hikers and wildlife as a privilege, not an innate right. This means following leash laws and not allowing my dog to be a nuisance to other hikers and wildlife on the trail.
I was horrified as I read Lee Harrington’s description of hiking with Wallace in “Getting the Dog You Need.” I am simply astounded that she thought it was okay to ignore leash rules on the Breakneck Ridge trail and let her dog run out of control, chasing animals and “barking wildly in the distance.” Then on top of that, she went out and adopted another high-energy dog and tried to do the exact same thing with her.
This is incredibly selfish, and a perfect example of how irresponsible dog owners ruin it for the rest of us when park officials decide to ban dogs completely from a trail or park. By publishing Harrington’s story, Bark is implicitly condoning such behavior, and I’m afraid that other readers will think it’s acceptable to let their dogs run wildly on trails. These places are supposed to be refuges for wild animals, and allowing a dog to chase those animals over long distances is certainly very stressful for them. They have no way of knowing that the dog is (one hopes) just in it for the fun. They’re running in terror from a potential predator. Additionally, other hikers are understandably leery of being approached by strange dogs with no owners in view.
Owner of high-energy dogs are responsible for finding safe and appropriate ways to exercising their dogs: jogging, agility, playing fetch and so forth. I too share a tiny apartment with a huge, high-energy dog but would never use that as an excuse to unleash him on unsuspecting hikers and wildlife on the trail.
Lee Harrington hit the nail on the head with the recent chapter of the “Chloe Chronicles.” I would say that not only do we get the dog we need, we get the dog who needs us. Our dog Khan is an excellent example of that principle.
When he first came into our home, he was a terrified, aggressive and very reactive dog with a serious potential to cause harm. Our behaviorist’s prognosis was not promising. Khan arrived about a year after we had gone through a terrible ordeal attempting to rehabilitate another dog, Clay, which unfortunately did not work out. After losing Clay, I had a lot of self-doubt, and questioned the training methods I used with him, which included positive reinforcement and counter-conditioning techniques. For Clay, they were ineffective, and I had the bite marks to prove it.
Khan needed much the same type of rehab work as Clay, but my wife and I were willing to try again. After a year of individual consults and reviews, Khan and I were finally able to enroll in a class from which we were not immediately asked to leave because of his disruptive behavior. Five months after that, I found two agility trainers who graciously allowed Khan to join their classes in spite of his fearful nature. These classes helped Khan tremendously, allowing him to develop his own self-confidence; they also gave me continued opportunities to practice counter-conditioning and other positive-reinforcement training methods to combat his anxiety and fear. It was daily work. Like the mailman, neither rain nor fog nor fatigue kept us from working each night in one location or another. Our goal was to pass the CGC test.
After two more years of continuous work, Khan got his CGC! Considering his problems, this was something I thought he would never achieve. However, we didn’t rest on our laurels. Along with agility, we discovered the joys of lure coursing; you’d think he was part Whippet, the way he pursues the lure.
About two years after coursing on weekends and two more years of agility training, a friend observed that Khan seemed especially receptive to seniors and might make a good therapy dog. One of my other dogs does therapy work, and based on Khan’s history, it was the one thing I would never have believed he would enjoy doing. However, after watching him interact with a variety of seniors, I was amazed at just how far he had come. Three months later, he was a working therapy dog.
One visit in particular stands out in my memory. We were at a facility that specializes in the care of those who suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s. One of the patients we visited was in bed, curled up and facing the wall. Normally, I don’t allow Khan to jump in bed with patients, but our usual means of being accessible to those with limited mobility were not effective. Khan very gently and gracefully hoisted himself onto the bed, inched over and lay down where the patient could pet him. I never would have believed that a frightened ball of fur could turn into an animal with such sensitivity to human need.
Khan restored my faith in my ability to help him overcome his fears, and found the family he needed to help him become the very special dog that he is. Here’s to our special dogs, who give us what we need and allow us to give them what they need.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Husky travels over two miles to find his person at the hospital
When John Dolan was admitted to New York's Good Samaritan Medical Center earlier this month, his Husky, Zander, started whining and moping around the house. After a few days, the 7-year old dog went missing. It wasn't unusual for the furry escape artist to slip out the back door unnoticed, but John's family was shocked to find Zander at the hospital.
Incredibly, the Husky traveled over two miles, under a major road and across a four-lane highway to find John, in an area of town the dog had never visited. A hospital employee found Zander across the street from the hospital and informed a very surprised John. The dog has been like a child to John ever since he adopted the pup five years ago from a local shelter. This adventure clearly shows the special relationship that they have.
Every now and then I hear about these amazing dogs who find their families, miles away from home. We may never know how these brave pups do it, but it's certainly a testament to the human canine bond.
I'm also glad that Zander wasn't hurt making such a dangerous journey. Back in July I wrote about hospitals that allow patients' pets to visit. If the Good Samaritan Medical Center added a similar program, Zander wouldn't have had to escape in order to see John. It would certainly make many happy canines and humans!
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
The trainer behind the viral videos opens a school in Texas
In 2010, two videos featuring a group of Hungarian dogs decorating a Christmas tree and setting up a beach scene took the internet by storm. These impressive pups not only wowed us with their abilities, but they also introduced the world to the Mirror Method.
The idea behind this approach is that our pets are a reflection of us—our training abilities and the relationship we have with them. So often the dogs get blamed for behavioral problems when it’s our job to us to teach them.
There are three parts of the Mirror Method—leadership (being a “parent” figure and setting rules), training (using reinforcement based methods), and lifestyle (providing enough physical and mental exercise). None of it is necessarily groundbreaking on its own, but put together the Mirror Method is a powerful way of looking at training—not just solving a single behavior problem, but looking at the whole picture.
After the videos made the internet rounds, many people wondered how they could train their dogs using the same techniques.
Fortunately (or at least for some lucky pups in Texas), the lead trainer behind the videos is bringing the training philosophy to the United States. Nora Vamosi-Nagy just opened the Mirror Method’s first school in Athens, Texas, which will begin classes later this month.
One of the most interesting things about Mirror Method classes is that they’re all conducted off leash. Nora believes that the dog’s behavior, without restrictions, provides immediate feedback on the relationship and respect between the dogs and people in the room.
Should be an unique experience for the first U.S. Mirror Method graduates… if only I lives a little closer to Texas!
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Increase in animal lovers creating social media accounts for their pets
Although a lot of people complain about Facebook, I don’t know what I’d do without the infamous social networking web site. It lets me connect with busy friends, keep up with family across the world, and stay up-to-date on my dog sport pals’ latest accomplishments. Both of my pups even have their own Facebook profiles, which I use to tag them in photos and post tongue-in-cheek updates about eating Kongs and traveling to agility class.
While pet profiles aren’t technically allowed, I figure, if my friends’ babies can have profiles, why can’t my dogs. After all, they are my children! However, my pups’ online jaunts may soon come to an end. Now that Facebook is publicly traded, the company is cracking down on millions of non-human accounts.
Nonetheless, a study by pet insurer Petplan found that seven percent of British dog people set up a Facebook page for their pups, a 36 percent increase from last year.
The ban doesn’t mean that Facebook is not animal friendly. People can set up pet pages in the form of a fan page, which is what Mark Zuckerberg set up for his Puli, Beast, who is “liked” by over one million Facebook users.
If you want to be proactive about your pets’ profiles, Facebook has instructions on how to convert them to a fan page.
Does your pup have a social media account?
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