Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Training Goals on the Web
Using social media for a push

As someone who works in professional development, I always tell people that in order to reach your goals, you have to hold yourself accountable. This looks different for every person and committing can be as simple as writing your goal down on paper.

Goal setting is also important when it comes to our dogs because it motivates us to carve out time to train and develop our relationships with our pups.  While dog sport people may have lofty goals, like to qualify for nationals, a goal can be anything from improving your recall to making more time for walks.

In today’s age of social networking, a great way to share goals is to post them on Facebook or a blog, as well as share pictures, videos and get advice from dog lovers around the world. 

One of my agility friends is working on heeling with her new puppy, Griff. She’s been documenting their progress on her blog, Dog Nerd 101, and has decided to inspire others to work on heeling by holding a contest for Most Improved Heeler through her blog.

Many people think heeling is just for obedience, but it’s an invaluable tool for other dog sports and for everyday life. Navigating a crowded street becomes a piece of cake if you’ve trained a heel behavior. Dog Nerd 101’s contest is a great way to encourage others to practice this important skill.

How do you commit to your dog related goals?

News: Guest Posts
One man’s plan to stop stray sex

I thought a woman hanging upside-down to raise awareness about puppy mill cruelty was edgy—until I met Joey Henry. With his plan to stage elaborate raids on fornicating cats and dogs, he’s my new gold standard for the wacky frontier of animal welfare activism.

  His strategy is simple to describe and probably a lot more challenging to execute: Stake out strays, wait and watch from a hidden location, and when the unwanted animals set about creating more unwanted animals, leap out and make a heck of a lot of noise, convincing the parties involved to knock it off.   Of course, Joey Henry knows one serious scare does not a celibate canine make. That’s why his cameraman will be nearby. The videos will be posted at HelpJoey.com, which launched last week. The aim is to use humor to spread the important spay/neuter message—and all the better for cats and dogs if that message goes viral.


Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Tear Jerkers
Quotes that require tissues

The other day I was browsing through a catalog of dog-related products and there were so many beautiful sayings in it that I found myself a little teary. Surely I’m not alone in finding that quotes about dogs can be very moving. Here are some of the ones that really pulled on the heartstrings.

  Now and forever, my dog is my heart.   Home is where my dog is.   I prefer to be in the company of dogs.   If tears could build a stairway, and memories a lane, I’d walk right up to heaven and bring you home again.   True friends leave paw prints on your heart.   Life is short, play with your dog.   No matter how little money or how few possessions you own, having a dog makes you rich.   What sentiments about dogs do you find inspiring?


Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Ribbon Recycling
Donate your old show ribbons to a good cause

My dog sport friends often tell me that they don’t take the ribbons they’ve won because they end up stuffed into old shoe boxes at home. 

When I first started competing in agility and rally with my first dog, Nemo, I couldn’t believe that people had so many ribbons that they wouldn’t take them! Each of the prized ribbons Nemo and I earned meant so much to me, a representation of our hard work and a way to show family and friends why they hadn’t seen us for the last five weekends. 

Now Nemo and I have been competing for three years and a good run means so much more than whether we qualify or place. I still display some of our ribbons, but most end up in a shoe box. 

I’ve started repurposing ribbons, giving them out to children when we do therapy work at the local library. The flat qualifying ribbons actually make great bookmarks. I know other therapy teams who bring old ribbons with them to leave behind with patients they visit hospitals.  

Recently a friend told me about Ribbon Recycling, which donates old ribbons to therapeutic horseback riding facilities. These organizations can’t afford to purchase ribbons for their patients, so funneling donations from dog and horse show people is a perfect match.

What do you do with your old show ribbons?   


News: Guest Posts
Cirque de Puppy
Aerial fabric artist spins for dogs

Ever feel like your unique talents couldn’t possibly translate into helping animals? Well, Kyla Duffy could change your mind.


The first time I saw Duffy, who co-founded Happy Tails Books (which publishes collections of breed-specific adoption stories), was a few days ago at the opening reception for BlogPaws West 2010. (Over the next week, I’ll be writing about several of the dedicated and talented folks I met at the pet-centric blogging conference in Denver.)

  When I saw Duffy, she was wearing a pair of artistically torn leggings and dangling upside down from a few pieces of fabric. (See video below.) Seeing and hearing Duffy twist and turn a few yards away, I got a much more visceral appreciation for her talent than I did watching the distant, polished Cirque de Soliel aerialists years ago.   Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, the audience didn’t see the slideshow promoting puppy mill awareness that accompanies her performance—and explained what she was doing there. While aerial acrobatics and rescue stories don’t exactly go together like peanut butter and jelly, I’m intrigued by the concept. Calling it “creative volunteerism,” sort of like volunteer vacations, Duffy is trying to do good through her creativity. And, I think it’s possible her performances could allow her to reach beyond the choir (i.e., folks like you reading this blog) to people who don’t yet know the challenges of pet overpopulation.
Duffy says she hopes to take her show and the road, and we’ll keep an eye out for her. Meanwhile, I’m wondering about what other surprising skills and talents are or could be put to good use for shelter dogs.

News: Guest Posts
9/11 Memorial Video
Honoring the dogs who searched and comforted

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Microchipping Success Story
Lost dog found after 7 years

Jake was a 6-month old puppy in 2003 when he disappeared from his yard the day after Thanksgiving. That was in Michigan. He was apparently dropped off at a kennel in Kentucky this week where a staff member found him in an after-hours kennel wearing a shock collar and nothing else to give any information about him. The scanner picked up the microchip, which prompted a call to Brad Davis, who still lives in Michigan. He thought it was a wrong number until they said they located him because of his dog’s microchip. Davis is headed to Kentucky to pick up Jake.

  Microchipping has led to many successful reunions between people and their dogs, though most of them are not seven years later. Of course, Jake can hardly be the same dog that he was as a puppy back in 2003. Still, it’s wonderful for Davis and his family to know that Jake is alive and well, even if they’ll never know what happened the day he disappeared or in all the days since.   Have you or anyone you know been reunited with a dog because that dog was microchipped?


Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dogs herd balls in a new sport from Germany

I've always wanted to try herding with my Shelties, but it’s not easy to find sheep in the New York City area! Nemo is also a little impulsive, so his interaction with a sheep or duck seems like a big wild card to me. I guess I’m a little worried he’d pounce on a duck or get run over by a sheep, though admittedly I know nothing about herding.

This week, I discovered a sport that could let us try herding without having to drive out to a farm. In Treibball, German for driving ball, dogs are directed by their human handlers to herd eight balls (which sort of look like exercise balls) into a net.

The sport originated in Germany in 2003 and competitions have been held since 2008.  Even if you have no interest in ever getting that serious, Treibball looks like a lot of fun.

Treibball has only recently come over to the United States. Some training schools have Treibball classes, but if you don’t have any in your area, there’s a Treibball book available so you can train at home.  You can also join the American Treibball Association Facebook group to meet other enthusiasts.

I know a lot of people who are always looking for activities to do with working breeds, but access to sheep is limiting. Treibball is a fun sport that is accessible to all families with dogs. With the winter coming up, I’m thinking it would be fun to set up a modified version of this game indoors with smaller playground balls.

Check out this video to see what Treibball is all about.


Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dog Walkers With Multiple Dogs
How many is too many?

There are so many ways to get people who care about dogs to voice strong opinions, and one hot topic lately relates to dog walkers who walk many dogs all at once. Many people have questions and concerns about this, and I am no exception.

  It worries me when I see a person walking more than four or so dogs, which is a very challenging thing to do. Many people who walk dogs are very knowledgeable about canine behavior and do what it takes to keep it safe and fun for all the dogs under their care. That includes walking dogs who are compatible with each other, keeping the number of dogs walked simultaneously at no more than four, and preferably even fewer most of the time, and constantly monitoring the dogs for any behavior that could lead to trouble between the dogs, including signs of stress. It takes a lot of education and experience to be able to handle this, and that’s why the best dog walkers are more than worth their fees.   Regrettably, not everyone who walks dogs is up to this standard of care. Many people seem to feel that just loving dogs is enough of a qualification to take large numbers of them on a walk, whether the dogs are familiar with each other or not. Still other dog walkers may be putting profits over safety. Obviously with more dogs being walked at once, more money can be made.   This raises many questions, especially in situations where a single person is walking many dogs on leashes at the same time. Can one person watch so many dogs at once in order to monitor their behavior? What if the dogs react to each other or to another dog? How could one person manage such a situation? Are these dog walkers picking up all the poop from so many dogs?   Many other dogs are uncomfortable around such large groups of dogs and become intimidated. This is especially relevant at dog parks, and many people worry about taking their dogs to places where such large groups of dogs are present.   Some places limit dog walkers to four dogs, though it is common in other places to see dog walkers with 8, 10, or even more dogs all at once. Should there be limits on the number of dogs that can be walked by a single person simultaneously in places such as dog parks and other public areas? I think that these kind of limits could help prevent problems, and help keep the dog walkers who truly are responsible from being outcompeted by people who are charging less but perhaps putting dogs at risk. What do you think? How many dogs is too many?


News: Guest Posts
A Day at the Beach
Sunshine, Frisbee and a few surprises

With Labor Day barely in the rearview mirror, it’s time to say goodbye to white pants and sunshine. For me and my dogs, it means packing as much outdoor fun as humanly possible into the few weeks we have left before the rainy season. And what better place to spend the waning days of summer than at the beach?

  There is no place on earth my dogs love more than the beach. It is the place they can truly be themselves: Skipper becomes braver and more adventurous and Leo becomes … well, more of a creepster. I say this about Leo because, frankly, if he were a human, you wouldn’t want to hang out with him. He follows me to the bathroom. He steals “personal garments” from the laundry. He stares at you for longer than I’ve ever seen a dog (or human!) stare. He’s just a little different than other dogs I’ve known. It shouldn’t have surprised me when Leo immediately drifted towards a very special (and previously unknown to me) stretch of sand—a nude beach.   Initially, I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary because I was too busy trying to keep Skipper from being pinched by a crab he had been following. It wasn’t until I spied Leo poking his nose into a picnic basket that ran over and stop him. Leo then moved to “greet” the owner of the picnic basket: A reclining gentleman in his 50s who was entirely nude, save for sunglasses and a hat. I yelled, “LEO, NO!” Luckily, he came running (thank god, we’ve been practicing his recall abilities), weaving through a number of nude sunbathers (adult agility?), as I held my breath waiting to see if he accidentally stepped on anyone. He didn’t. As soon as he returned, I put him back on leash: I didn’t want to think about what else Leo could discover.   Meanwhile, Skipper is generally well behaved at the beach, but for some reason it is the only place he’ll play fetch. He won’t play it at home or the dog park, only at the beach. He even showed off his incredible beach-fetching abilities by joining in (aka, “ruining”) some strangers’ game of Frisbee. By the time the sun was setting, the dogs and I (lightly sunburned) were ready to go home. As we drove away, I glanced at my sound-asleep companions and realized that even with unexpected nudity and ruined Frisbee, our day at the beach was a perfect way to end the summer.   Did you do anything special to celebrate the end of summer?