Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Study finds dogs perform better after a full belly
At my training club, we always tell people to come with a hungry pup. particularly those in our beginner classes who haven’t developed a solid working relationship yet. The thinking is that a dog on an empty stomach will be more motivated to stay focused for a reward. But it turns out that the opposite may be true.
It's well known that humans perform better after we eat breakfast. So two scientists at the University of Kentucky set out to see if this holds true in dogs. Dr. Holly Miller and Charlotte Bender looked at canine test subjects and their ability to find hidden food. Some pups were given a morning meal first and others had to work on an empty stomach. You'd think that the hungriest ones would be the first to find the food, but the study found the dogs who ate breakfast were able to find the hidden food more accurately.
Dr. Miller believes that diet may explain why domesticated dogs experience this phenomenon, but wolves don’t. When animals eat a carbohydrate rich diet (such as most commercial dog food), their brains are more dependent on glucose and are more affected by fluctuations in glucose levels. But with a diet of hunted meat, where carbohydrate levels are low and fat content is high, the brain switches to a secondary fuel source of ketone bodies, meaning their neural processes don't fluctuate as much.
This research definitely changes how I think about training. Usually I work with my dogs before breakfast and after their morning walk, but this study is something to consider when I’m doing something that requires a lot of focus or self-control. And maybe we’ll reconsider telling people to show up to class with a super hungry dog!
News: Guest Posts
Something that dog lovers understand
The physical and emotional devastation of Hurricane Sandy hits too close to home. Seven years ago, Hurricane Katrina flooded our New Orleans neighborhood and changed my family’s life forever.
I can relate to the shock and the pain and the fear that Sandy’s victims are feeling right now. I can also tell you that a donation to the Red Cross or any other charity, while helpful, is not as powerful as making an individual, human connection. If you’re an animal lover, you already understand what I’m about to say.
When we were finally allowed to enter our house nearly one month after Katrina, part of me didn’t want to go. Maybe if we didn’t look with our own eyes, all those images on TV would remain abstract. Our pink and white raised bungalow would look exactly the way we left it – dry and safe. Our dogs would greet us at the door, tails wagging. The cats would blink sleepy hellos from their warm perches.
Instead, our beautiful home had been submerged in up to eight feet of brackish water for three weeks. Elderly neighbors were found drowned. Friends had evacuated to destinations unknown. Our four dogs and two cats were temporarily living with my parents in a Chicago suburb. Life had become strange and tenuous.
Upon realizing that our evacuation had changed into long-term refuge, my mother-in-law said, “ Good thing you don’t have any kids.” I knew what she meant. Being a practical person, she was thinking in terms of finding housing, transportation, schools and babysitters while juggling insurance and FEMA phone calls, not to mention work if you still had a job. What a nightmare for any parent.
Even so, my pets are family. They had basic needs, too, such as being fed, sheltered, feeling safe and loved. Family and friends had donated clothing and personal items to us, but dog lovers in particular understood that our animals’ needs outweighed our own. One incredibly generous woman insisted we meet her at PetsMart and she bought our pets $250 worth of food, treats, collars, leashes, bowls, and toys.
During our many salvage trips back to New Orleans, a team of volunteers I had met online helped walk and exercise the dogs since my parents were limited physically. Clean Run, an agility magazine, mailed us a care package filled with treats, toys, and training items, plus shirts and coats for the humans. Therapy Dogs International sent us a check in honor of our Therapy Dog Desoto’s service.
The animal lovers totally got it. Our pets’ well being affected our own mental health. Desoto, Shelby, Darby, Jolie, Cricket and Bruiser did not understand why their lives had changed in every possible way, but thanks to human kindness, they were well cared for and loved. The people who helped us most were the ones who recognized that it was the little things that mattered, like taking our dogs for a walk. Or the stranger who found me crying on the porch steps of my rotted house, feeling so alone, and gave me a strong hug.
Dog lovers, you of all people understand the value of physical touch and the power of connecting with another being. Please reach out to an individual Hurricane Sandy victim and give them something to hold onto.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Reflections on the storm and where to donate to help affected pets
In the 30 years I've lived in New York, I've never seen anything like the widespread destruction that Hurricane Sandy left behind. I was very fortunate that my family made it safely out of the storm. During the the hurricane I realized that us dog people are in a unique situation. While many of my friends stayed holed up in their homes, I had to venture outside, no matter what the weather, to walk the dogs--especially my puppy who has to go out several times a day.
During the peak of the storm, I was terrified that a tree would fall on us. Fortunately my puppy goes almost immediately, but there were several times where the wind was so noisy, I ran straight back inside before she even had a chance to potty. Trees claimed many lives in my area, including two people walking their dog. My pups and I were so, so lucky. I think next storm I might build an indoor potty area in my garage as an extra precaution.
Times have certainly changed from Hurricane Katrina. I was impressed that New York City made all evacuation shelters pet friendly and lifted animal restrictions on subways, taxis, and trains. However, not all made it through the storm unscathed. Local animal shelters were damaged and some still don't have electricity. Despite the pet friendly evacuation shelters, many animals were left behind, scared dogs ran away and are now missing, and still others are safe, but have no home to go back to.
No matter where you live, there are ways to help out. The ASPCA is rescuing pets, providing veterinary care, and bringing supplies to animal shelters and families in the hardest hit areas. Visit their web site to donate money to the rescue efforts.
Best Friends Animal Society is coordinating and delivering donations, transporting animals to non-affected areas, and manning the pet portion of the Sussex County, N.J. evacuation shelter. If you're local, contact the NYC Volunteer Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org to contribute supplies (everything from pet supplies to gas gift cards) or to help out. Shelters impacted by the storm can apply for a micro-grant through the Best Friends web site.
Also, a Facebook group was created to reunite lost pets with their families. Even if you're not in the North East, you can share alerts on your Facebook news feed to reach friends who may be in the area.
Pet lovers are a tight community and I've already seen people banding together to donate supplies, lend generators, and organize fundraisers. I know we will help each other through this difficult time.
News: Guest Posts
A six-week obedience class isn't enough
When I started teaching agility and obedience classes, it became clear early on whether someone was training their dog for life or not. Students who asked questions, practiced homework and came to every single class were hooked. If they’d had a tail, it would’ve been wagging!
The time they invested in their dog lead to quicker progress and more successes. Many of those "lifers" are still training with me today, five years later. They go to fun matches and shows together, and socialize outside of class.
At the other extreme (and yes, I do believe that those of us who compete in dog sports are extreme), the occasional student acted like he didn’t want to be there. Some were downright rude and disruptive, as if they thought they had signed up for a private lesson, not a group class.
One couple told me they preferred a different training philosophy, but I was the only one nearby who offered puppy classes. Despite my best efforts to engage them, they spent the six weeks ignoring my suggestions, and paying more attention to fellow students than their puppy. Sadly, it came as no surprise that I never saw them again.
Only once did I have to ask someone not to return; she was a family member of a student and argued with me so vehemently that I was concerned she might get physical. I rightly guessed her behavior had nothing to do with dog training and everything to do with a personal issue at home.
She called a few days later to apologize and explain. While I empathized with her, it was not fair to the other students and their dogs to share class time with someone who was not committed to making the most of it.
The people I couldn’t figure out were the ones who seemed to enjoy class with their dog. Perhaps they weren’t as passionate as the lifers, but they were good students. They might even complete a few sessions before dropping out.
In some cases, finances were an issue, and I would offer options to make classes more affordable. Some said work or family obligations made it impossible to attend regularly. Again, I would do my best to accommodate them, by offering a drop in option, private lessons or organizing the class of their choice on a day that best fit their schedule.
Others told me they accomplished their goals and were happy. Their dog no longer needed training. This answer floored me; how could you not want to continue? Your dog could do any number of activities or sports, from agility to nose work to rally. Would you and your dog really be more satisfied just going for walks and lounging on the couch?
This is when I would get “the look,” a reminder that I am extreme when it comes to dog training. For perspective, I asked my mom – who loves dogs, but doesn’t have one of her own - why people would successfully complete a six-week obedience course, thank me for being a good teacher, then never step foot in the classroom again.
She gave it a lot of thought and said that for her, once her dog successfully completed the class, she had done her part as a responsible dog owner.
I find this perspective so difficult to understand. Dog training is not a color by numbers exercise. It’s fluent, dynamic and creative. To me, a graduation diploma is a sign of what’s to come, not what’s done.
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Violations of trust by caregivers
Our dreams tend to show what’s on our mind. Case in point: Last week we were dog sitting for our good buddy Marley. Another big thing in our life was planning our son’s dragon-themed birthday party.
We had been joking that it would be easier if we could just have a REAL dragon at the party since we’d had such fun with real snakes at last year’s snake party. Clearly, I couldn’t let this thought go as I slept because in my dream, I used magic to turn Marley into a dragon for the party, which all the kids loved.
The dream continued with a little glitch. I was unable to turn Marley back into a dog completely. His face was a dragon-dog mix, though still very attractive. He had spikes on his back, a forked tail and was over twice his normal size. He was also burping fire, which I suspect would have been a hit with the kids at the party, though I will acknowledge that this trait has drawbacks.
His guardian came to pick him up and was distressed to find Marley in this state. (Go figure.) In real life, I am incredibly conscientious about keeping dogs in my care safe and well. However, in my dream, I failed to see why she was upset and felt as though she were being completely unreasonable. I kept telling her how cool he was now, and was totally flummoxed by her negative reaction to this turn of events. I explained the advantages of his new form and also tried to convince her that they were really inconsequential. I kept saying, “He’s still Marley, after all!” yet she continued to act as though this was a big deal for some reason. She was still trying to convince me that I needed to complete his transformation when I awoke.
Hopefully, it goes without saying that once I was fully conscious, I agreed with Marley’s guardian completely about this imaginary situation. Apparently, I am the one who is unreasonable in my dreams.
I’m assuming that nobody has ever turned your dog into a dragon, but have you ever left your dog in someone’s care and had them do something that you objected to such as cutting nails, trimming hair, feeding them food you object to etc.?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
AKC supports domestic violence services that welcome dogs
Nearly 50 percent of female domestic violence victims delay entering a women’s shelter because of concerns for leaving a pet behind. Not only does this prevent people from getting help, it also means animals remain in danger as well. 85 percent of women entering shelters talk about pet abuse in their family. Some shelters allow animals, making it easier for women to make the emotional decision to leave home, but many do not.
The AKC aims to support women’s shelters that welcome pets and encourage those who don’t to reconsider. In honor of October’s National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the AKC Humane Fund awarded grants to eleven different pet friendly women’s shelters across the country in Safford, Arizona; Cabot, Arkansas; Crescent City and Susanville, California; Fort Collins, Colorado; Alpharetta, Georgia; Aurora, Indiana; Spruce Pine and Whiteville, North Carolina; Spearfish, South Dakota and Spokane, Washington.
These women’s shelters allow victims to bring pets with them to a safe space. Not only does this encourage people to leave dangerous living situations, but it also means that the women can have their pets by their side during a difficult time.
To donate or apply for a grant, visit the AKC Humane Fund web site.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Kid and dog help each other through their special bond
When Will Howkins adopted Haatchi, a three-legged dog, he had no idea the impact the Anatolian Shepherd would have on his family. Will's son Owen has Schwartz-Jampel syndrome, a rare genetic condition that causes his muscles to be constantly tense. When it was time for Owen to start school, he quickly realized that he was different from the other kids and became scared to leave the house and afraid to talk to other people.
Haatchi also had a rough start to life. The poor pup had his leg and tail amputated after being tied to a railway line and hit by a train. The RSPCA and UK German Shepherd Rescue struggled to find the handicapped dog a new home, but Will came to the rescue after reading about Haatchi's plight on Facebook.
As soon as Haatchi came home, Owen and the dog were inseparable. Even more, Owen went from being scared of strangers to wanting to talk to everyone about Haatchi. He even wanted to leave the house all the time to attend pet shows. Owen also feels differently about his syndrome after seeing Haatchi take his “medicine,” a mix of honey, salmon oil, and supplements.
Haatchi's positive influence on Owen earned him the Animal of the Year award from the International Fund for Animal Welfare. Now the Anatolian Shepherd will be sharing his gift with others. Haatchi just completed his therapy dog certification and the family plans to bring him to visit amputee soldiers and terminally-ill children.
It's such an amazing story that Owen's father was willing to adopt a three-legged dog and is now sharing Haatchi's gift with others in need.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Lost Dogs Illinois comes up with a creative way to get the word out
When a dog is lost, there are only so many places where you can post fliers to get the word out. That conundrum is exactly what makes Lost Dogs Illinois' latest idea particularly brilliant. Some of the organization's members have been "tagging" their cars by using paint pens to write lost pet information on the windows, similar to what students do to celebrate graduation or homecoming events.
It's the perfect way to reach a wide audience to help get a lot dog home. The paint pens can be purchased at most big box stores, like Walmart, or craft stores.
Instead of car tagging, you can also post a flier on the inside of the back windows or affix a sign to the car itself using tape or magnets. Whichever method you choose, be sure to check with your local police department because writing on car windows or hanging signs is illegal in some areas.
Do you have any creative ideas for getting the word out about lost pets?
News: Guest Posts
Daylight is quickly disappearing as we head into the long months of winter. When you live in the northern part of the country, the days eventually become so short that exercising our dogs in the dark is impossible to avoid. Add rain to the darkness, and something as simple as a stroll with our dogs becomes downright dangerous along city and rural streets, drivers barely able to see the road let alone you and your dog on the shoulder.
Lights—for your dog and you—make you more visible. There are several lights that attach to collars and harnesses on the market. Some flash, some strobe. There are entire collars that light up as well.
If you have a northern breed dog, or any dog with a very thick and long coat, you know that lights don’t work well for you. They get lost in all that fur. And drivers are often confused by small lights (if they notice them at all), not sure if they’re coming from a bicycle, a walker, or something else.
My solution? A reflective vest for my dogs, much like vests worn by joggers. I discovered VizVest Dog Safety Vest a few years ago, and love them. I’ve never found a better vest for dogs, and I’ve tried a few. VizVests are easy to put on your dog. Their broad overlapping Velcro closures across the back make them easily adjustable. They actually fit and are comfortable for your dog to wear—walking, or running. The vest covers the entire torso, so that, from the side, your dog literally lights up like a holiday tree in a car’s headlights or another walker’s flashlight. The vest also covers the chest, so that there’s a better chance of light reflecting on the vest from the head-on position.
Added bonus: the bright yellow color works well in daylight, for situations where you want your dog to be visible to you or others from a distance (like when I take my Alaskan Malamutes into Idaho forests, where I don’t want them mistaken for wolves).
The vest comes in small, medium and large. Each has lots of adjustment designed into it. The large size is perfect for my Malamutes. The medium size fits my 45 lb Aussie.
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!
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