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News: Guest Posts
Poop Power
Converting dog waste into light

If you’ve been reading Bark’s blog for any length of time, you know my pet peeve is dog waste. I hate wrapping it in plastic and adding it to the landfill almost as much as I resent people leaving it on the street and in the park. So I LOVE lemons-to-lemonade/sow’s-ear-to-silk-purse stories that start with this all too bountiful raw material.

  Therefore, howls of gratitude to Cambridge, Mass., artist Matthew Mazzotta who has created a dog-poop-to-methane converter that fuels a park light, known as the “Park Spark.” Mazzotta has succeeded where others, including the City of San Francisco, have failed.

 

News: Guest Posts
Bosom Buddies
The quest for the perfect dog-friendly roommate

 

A good roommate is hard to find, especially when you’ve got an always-around boyfriend, two dogs and a healthy imagination. I’d been apprehensive about renting out my spare room because it had been used as a very important space in the past: the dogs’ room. Renting it out meant not only would they lose their favorite space, but I’d be bringing a new person into their “pack.” Would the dogs understand the concept of renters? If the roommate was terrible, I couldn’t comfort Leo by explaining, “Don’t worry, she’s month-to-month,” or console Skipper with “Well, now with the extra cash we can buy more tennis balls for you to bury!”   Still I was getting ahead of myself. Before I could even consider the task of acclimating the dogs to someone new and potentially horrible, I have to find her first.   In the beginning, my search was abysmal. I’d received a few bites through friends of friends; but they only served to make me realize how hard finding the dream roommate might be. When I told one potential roommate I was looking for someone with a regular schedule (primarily, so the dogs don’t think she’s an attacker and scare me awake, which could end in a potential pepper-spraying), she told me it’s not a problem, she only goes out late on weekends, and sometimes Wednesdays, Thursdays, oh, and “Popscene” Mondays. When I asked another if she was a smoker, she said, “Well, I only smoke when I drink … which is probably about four to five times a week.” Another applicant asked if I was comfortable with cats. I said, “Not really, because my dogs aren’t cat-friendly.” She then asked, “So the dogs are there to stay?”   I realized I basically wanted a dog-whispering, 80-year-old spinster in the form of a twentysomething female, essentially my best friend Carrie. Since Carrie lives in New York, my search continued until I found Kristy. I had known her for a few years and we had met in passing at parties, but I had never had many interactions with her beyond that. Serendipitously, she approached me and asked if I knew of anyone renting out a room. After a few minutes of questioning, I knew it was a good fit: Kristy had grown up with four large dogs, and upon moving out of her parents’ house her mom told her she was going to adopt a fifth.   While the dogs have lost their room, they’ve gained a good friend and I have the peace of mind knowing another human is around when I’m not. Now, I have a new concern. What if my dogs fall in love with her? These types of arrangements don’t last forever (unless you’re Uncle Jesse on “Full House”). How would the dogs cope with that?

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Calling All Working Dogs
UPDATE! Dept. of Homeland Security looks to recruit 3,000 pups

Editor's update: JoAnna Lou gets her wish. The Department of Homeland Security has bowed to pressure and agreed to screen shelter dogs to work as canine federal agents. Many animal welfare advocates, including PETA, cried fowl when the department made the call for increased breeding to supply the “right” sort of dogs. It worked.

 

[Original post: 8/12/10] As the government gears up to protect the country against terrorists, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is looking to expand its canine workforce from 2,000 to 5,000 dogs in the next five years. These pups will also help other government groups such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Coast Guard and the Secret Service.

  This summer the Department alerted small breeders looking it’s looking for Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Dutch Shepherds and Belgian Malinois between the ages of 12 to 36 months that are “alert, active, outgoing, confident” and “extremely tolerant of people.”   The 150 percent increase may seem like a lot, but many believe that a dog’s skill can’t be replicated, even with modern technology. Although only four percent of the Border Patrol's agents were canine handlers, these teams were credited with 60 percent of drug arrests and 40 percent of all other apprehensions in 2007.   Clark Larson, who runs the Customs and Border Protections canine program, says “there is no technology that trumps the cold nose of a dog.” It’s amazing that in the computer-dependant world we live in, sometimes you just can’t beat nature.    It’s always good to see more working dogs. I only wish the department would consider shelter dogs for their canine program. In the past, almost all U.S. Customs dogs were originally from animal shelters. Imagine the impact the department could have on homeless pets if even a fraction of those 3,000 dogs were rescues.

 

News: Guest Posts
White Knuckles
OK Go's alt-dog video goes viral

Just so Bark readers don’t think I live under a rock. I have seen—and thoroughly enjoyed OK Go’s video, “White Knuckles” with its talented pups hopping, skipping and jumping all over white Modernist furniture. In fact, I watched it when it had clocked only about 600 hits. Today, it’s has more than a million. But even better, the band members know not to look a gift dog in the mouth: A portion of sales from the video will be donated to animal rescue and on their website, OK Go has a link for donations to the ASPCA.

  See for yourself what all the fuss is about:

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Relief While Traveling
D.C. airports unveil high-tech pet potty areas

If you’re headed by air to Washington D.C. with your crew, now your pups have a special place to stretch their legs and go to the bathroom. Dulles and Reagan National Airports have recently opened “pet relief areas” in accordance with a federal ruling requiring potty areas for service dogs (though these spaces are open to all dogs, regardless of service status). Dulles already made Jaunted’s Five Best Airports for Traveling with Pets.

Dulles airport has three outside areas and two indoor areas complete with ventilation and flushing systems to keep the space clean. All potty spots feature artificial grass, fake fire hydrants, and poop bags. Reagan National has four outside areas on natural grass.

Since Nemo is too big to fly in the cabin with me, I’ve never taken any of my pets to the airport. I have seen many potty areas at rest stops on the road, but found them unusable. I would love to let my pups run around a bit after a long car ride, but rest stop potty areas always looked like a health hazard to me. Apparently other road trippers don’t feel the same as I do about cleaning up after the dogs. 

With ventilation and flushing systems, I hope that Washington D.C.’s airport pet potty areas will set the standard for amenities for traveling pups! 

For a list of airports with pet potty areas, visit Pet Friendly Travel’s web site.

 

 

News: Guest Posts
Adopt Less Adoptable Pets
Make a special difference this week

I adopted what qualified as “less adoptable pets”—middle-aged, black mutts. They’ve been, no surprise to most Bark readers, amazing companions. So I was thrilled to hear about PetFinder’s initiative—Adopt A Less Adoptable Pet Week (which started yesterday)—to bring dogs like mine together with loving, responsible families. The idea is that Petfinder member shelters and rescues nominate a special, hard-to-place companion animal for a little high-profile push. Meanwhile, we all make the effort to spread the word about these future star pals.

  I went to peruse the gallery of specially designated pets and discovered Nicholas in the Ozarks, a dog who’d been dumped on the street and suffered intestinal trauma but managed to live a fairly normal, fairly pain-free life thanks to a special diet and a foster home. I clicked through the links to his profile, planning to do my part to get him the home he richly deserved, and discovered he “crossed the Rainbow Bridge” on September 15.   Adopt A Less Adoptable Pet Week came too late for Nicholas. But there are other dogs (and cats)—old, sick, injured, shy, reactive, or just breeds with bad reputations—who need special attention, patience. This is their week. Rest in peace, Nicholas.

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Best Family Dogs
Which breed? It’s a common question

I am frequently asked which breeds of dogs make the best family dogs. It’s a fair question because different breeds represent different genetic stocks of dogs, and it’s well known that genetics can have a strong influence on behavior. In a recent article, What Are The 5 Best Dogs For Your Family?, Sarah McCurdy tackles this subject.

  Her top picks for best family dogs are the Newfoundland, Pug, Keeshond, Golden Retriever, and Labrador Retriever. I have no objections to her picks and have seen all of these breeds on many similar lists. It is true that all of these breeds have many qualities to recommend them and that many members of these breeds are great with children, easy to train, and generally a joy to have around.   Still, I think that as useful as these sorts of lists can be, I caution people not to choose a dog simply because members of that breed are supposed to make good family dogs. There is a lot more that goes into choosing the right dog for your family than picking a breed that’s a “good family dog.” It’s important to consider what you are looking for in a dog and also to evaluate an individual dog based on more than just its breed.   Dogs from the same breed vary a lot in their behavior. For example, some friends of my parents had a sweet, Jack Russell Terrier who was calm, cuddly, and very biddable. This is not typical of the breed by any stretch of the imagination, yet many people that met this dog subsequently wanted to get a Jack Russell. I was always worried about these elderly people in my parents’ social circle acquiring a dog that was not right for them as a result.   It might surprise many people to know that I saw more Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers when I was working with aggressive dogs full time than any other breeds. Do they tend to be aggressive? Not necessarily—it’s just that they are such common breeds that I was bound to see a lot of them because every breed has dogs with behavior problems, including aggression. The point is not to assume that a dog will be social and kind, good with kids, playful, or any other trait, based simply on their breed.   A dog must match your lifestyle, so even if, for example, the Newfoundland appeals to you, it’s not the right dog for you if you are not interested in regular grooming, or if the thought of dog hair on your carpet is a deal breaker. Similarly, an American Eskimo may not be a good bet if you live in an apartment building where barking is not tolerated, even if the breed suits you in every other way.   And when choosing a puppy, my best advice is to meet the parents if possible and only get a pup from a litter if you like the behavior of the parents. The parents’ behavior is one of the best predictors of a puppy’s behavior because so much of behavior has a genetic basis. If the dad is locked behind a fence because “he’s not good with strangers” then I wouldn’t bet on the puppies being good with strangers. And no matter what breed you are considering, I recommend avoiding the puppy that is off on its own (indicating a high likelihood that the puppy is overly shy and not very social) or the puppy that goes crazy, leaping and slamming into walls to get to you (indicating that impulse control may be a challenge for that individual.)   One of the advantages of adopting an adult rather than a puppy is that the dog is already developed and you have a better idea of what you are getting. If you adopt your dog from a shelter or a rescue (both of which are wonderful ways to acquire a fantastic dog and that I support wholeheartedly!), an adult dog is less likely to surprise you by developing into an individual very different than what you anticipated. Of course, millions of people have adopted puppies from shelters or rescues without knowing the parents, only to end up with the greatest dog they’ve ever known. And the same phenomenon applies to people with crosses of more than one breed. In fact, many people swear that the best dogs are so mixed in terms of breed composition that their parentage is truly “anybody’s guess.”   Part of acquiring a new dog is a commitment to accepting life’s little surprises. Even with the best research and planning, you may not get exactly what you bargained for so and there’s no way to guarantee that your expectations will be met. That’s why another key part of ending up with the right dog is an understanding that “right” can cover a broad range of possibilities.   Exceptions are very common to all the generalizations I’ve mentioned, but when getting a puppy, I believe in maximizing your chances of happiness by using any information available to you based on breed, family history, or observations of the puppy, by choosing the right puppy and by socializing that puppy well. The breed can be an important part of choosing a compatible puppy, but choosing a particular breed that you think is right for you is no guarantee of what that puppy will be like now or as an adult.  

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Meeting the Neighbors
Thank you canine family members!

When we moved to our first house in Wisconsin after years of being students and renting, we were very excited about our new life as homeowners. We couldn’t help feeling that life would be just a little easier, and just a little sweeter in this new place—820 square feet of “Well, at least we own it!” And it was true—life was good there. Of course, the reason wasn’t so much that we owned the place as that we met the most wonderful neighbors and the sense of community was so strong from our very first day in the house.

  And how did we get to know people so quickly that it made our lives better? Because we walked our dog a couple of times a day, and so did most of the people living near us. In my experience, there has never been a better way to meet your neighbors than walking your dog. As soon as we pulled up and before we unloaded the truck, we took Bugsy out for a walk, and immediately ran into a couple and their dog who I had met as my clients. Half a block later, we met another woman walking her two dogs—both black mutts like ours, and we walked together for a bit until we got to her house, all the while discussing the possible breeds that our dogs might have in them. Forty-five minutes later, we had met half a dozen more of our neighbors and their dogs, and felt incredibly welcome.   By the end of the week, we had met a dozen more families that included dogs, and many of them had stopped by with wine, cookies, flowers, and from one kind neighbor who was clearly no stranger to moving, giant trash bags, some picture hangers and a magnet listing important local emergency numbers. That guy also brought over some dog treats—can you ever say you’ve met a more thoughtful person?   Of course, many nice people who welcomed us into the neighborhood did not have dogs, but I’m convinced that having a dog was a key reason we met people quickly and that they were so good to us. I realize that dogs can often be a source of great tension between neighbors, such as when barking is an issue or dogs destroy a neighbor’s garden, or other property, or worst of all, if a dog is frightening another neighbor (especially children). But I still think more good than bad neighborhood relations result from having dogs. Has anyone else found that their dogs were excellent social facilitators when they moved to a new house?
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
HelpJoey.com
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.

 

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