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Dog's Life: Lifestyle
The Best Things About Dogs

In my job as an Animal Control Officer, I spend 10 hours a day working with dogs and then come home to a houseful of my own dogs. I love dogs and it’s such an honor to spend my life in their company. Anyone who has a close relationship with a dog would likely agree that dogs share many of our emotions, social needs and characteristics. Dogs are often our closest non-human companions. Horses, cats, birds and some other animals can bond very tightly to humans too but dogs most consistently choose to willingly follow us on almost any adventure or trial.

Studies have shown that dogs communicate better with humans and understand us better than any other animal on earth. In studies asking multiple species including dogs and non-human primates to interpret human body language to find a treat, only dogs understood human communications consistently.

People get very excited to think of dogs as little people in fur coats but I find the best thing about dogs is their very “dogness.” I have a lot of wonderful people in my life but sometimes no one can comfort or share a day with me in the way a dog can. My human family loves me but they don’t go into transports of delight ever every time I walk into the room. When I get home from work and my dogs greet me and then I take them for a run, I can feel the stresses of the day start to fade. They race and play with the same joy and abandon every single day.

Dogs live so fully in the moment. They never say, gee, I’m tired of this same walk, same ball chase, same Dog Park etc. It’s new, and fun, each time. Dogs find joy in the simplest of things. Just about anything I want to do, my dogs think is a blast. My wonderful friends and family are great to spend time with but they aren’t always available, or don’t always want to do the things I want to do. My dogs have never once said no thanks or I’m not in the mood, to a car ride, a hike, a cuddle or any other adventure. Not once.

Dogs are the perfect blend of similar enough to us enough to enjoy most of the things we do, and unique enough to be fascinating in their own right. Dogs are just perfect as they are.

Let us know what special “dog” things your furry companion does that make you glad he’s a dog.

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Matchmaking by Dogs
Succeeding where people have failed

Some friends of ours owe their marriage to their dogs. Their four-legged friends didn’t have anything to do with their original meeting, but without them, they never would have gotten together.

Before the dogs took matters into their own paws, Margaret had asked Nick out at least four times at the coffee shop where he worked. Nick claims Margaret was too subtle and he didn’t realize that comments like, “Oh, we should take the dogs out for a walk sometime,” were actual invitations. Margaret says what little she knew about Nick included that he had a new puppy. She also says, “Keeper has always been my comfort blanket, so I figured that if Keeper could come on the first date, that was enough encouragement to put myself out there and ask him.”

That’s all there would have been to the story if it had not been for Keeper and Zuma. Luckily, they had the power to bring these two people together, though it was a year or so after Margaret’s first attempt.

After their interactions at the coffee shop, Nick and Margaret next ran into each other while out walking their dogs. She was hiking with her dog Keeper, who ran way ahead on the trail. When Keeper returned, she had Zuma with her. Though Margaret had no idea whose dog it was, it was clear that Keeper was enthusiastic about her new canine friend.

Hoping to return this new unknown dog to her rightful guardian, Margaret continued hiking, now with two dogs. The three of them went on together for a little while until they joined up with Nick, who was searching for his dog Zuma. Naturally, Zuma has long been forgiven for running out of sight since her actions led Nick to his wife.

It was immediately obvious to the dogs and to Margaret that they were meant to be together. Nick didn’t realize it until after the dog walking encounter, but then he quickly got with the program. They started dating and about two weeks later they moved in together. Almost two years to the day after their dogs connected them, they were married. That was three years ago and their dogs remain best friends, too.

Margaret and Nick can thank their dogs for prompting them to date, become engaged, and to marry. What relationships in your life do you owe to your dogs?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Fall Adventures with Your Pup
Autumn is the perfect time to spend outdoors with your dogs

People often think of summer as the prime time to be outdoors with your dogs. The weather is warm and there's countless activities to do together, such as playing at the beach and walking around the many outdoor festivals that happen during that time of year. For those reasons I've been sad to say goodbye to summer, but the crisp cool air and colorful leaves remind me that autumn in the North East has it's own benefits.

Last weekend I went on a beautiful waterfall hike to enjoy the fall foliage with my Border Collie, Scuttle. Afterwards we stopped at a dog friendly Oktoberfest event on the way home to enjoy bratwurst and beer (only bratwurst for Scuttle, although I saw a Miniature Poodle sneak a sip of an open beer!). The weekend activities made me think that autumn is one of the best times to spend time with outdoors with your pets. It's not too hot and not too cold, many beaches open up after Labor Day for off leash play, and hiking trails are less crowded.

I'm hoping that our next adventure will be apple and pumpkin picking at one of the many local orchards that welcome dogs. One of them even lets the pups on the hay rides! Not all farms allow pets, so if you're looking to do some apple picking, call ahead to verify that you can bring your dog.

Do you have any fall adventures planned with your canine crew?

News: Guest Posts
Pet Travel Safety Tips

For most, car trips are the preferred method of travel with our dogs, from running errands and trips to the dog park to longer excursions to visit family/friends or enjoying a dog-friendly destination—dogs are our co-pilots. The amount of time dog owners spend in the car with their dogs is growing—not really surprising considering how much dogs have become part of our daily lives. With the increase of outwardly mobile dogs comes the responsibility to keep them (and all passengers) safe. According to the AAA/Kurgo Pet Passenger Safety Study, many drivers practice a host of behaviors prompted by their dogs — from petting to restricting a dog’s movement — that expose potentially dangerous consequences. As much as we love our dogs, the excitement of a road trip and the visual and audio stimulation of a drive can produce a variety of behavior in them that is best dealt with when not behind the wheel. Distracted drivers are unsafe drivers, which can lead to accidents and serious injury.

In order to ensure the safety of yourself and your charges, these basic safety tips are recommended.

Leash Your Dog Before Opening the Car Door to Exit

Every year hundreds of pets are lost or injured as they dart out of cars uncontrolled. Be sure to collar, id tag, and leash your dog before opening the car door to let them out. When in a strange and busy environment, pets can be frightened and run off into traffic or to places that are difficult to find. Maintain control of your dog(s) at all times.

Keep Heads, Arms, & Legs Inside the Car

Many dogs love to put their head out of the window or ride in the back of a truck. But if it isn’t safe for children, then it isn’t safe for a pet. Not only are there risks of being hit by other traffic or roadside objects, the ASPCA reports that dogs can also get debris in their eyes and lungs leading to illness. Some dogs have been known to jump out of car windows while driving or stopped, running into traffic or getting lost.

Keep Pets Out of the Front Seat

Increasingly, accidents are being caused by distracted driving. 30% of people admit to being distracted by their dog while driving, according to the AAA/Kurgo Study.

Pets should not be in the front seat of the car while driving and never positioned on your lap. Dogs should be in the back seat or the cargo area. If you have a hard time keeping your dogs in the back seat, there are a number of products that can contain them—Backseat Barriers that fit between the two front seats are effective at keeping pets in the backseat. Innovative products, such as the Auto Grass, sit on a car console and deter Fido from taking a step forward and into the front seat.

Restrain Pets for Safety

Restricting your pet’s movement and access to the front seat can be achieved by utilizing a crate or harness to restrain them. Many people prefer to crate their pet in the backseat or in the cargo area. Be sure that the crate is secure by using a pet carrier restraint attached to the car’s seatbelt system.

If your pet requires a little more freedom, you can use a dog harness and seat belt tether to give them lead to sit or lay down but still protect them in case of a crash. If your dog insists on more movement, you can also connect a dog harness to a zipline that goes the width of the backseat allowing them to walk back and forth. This is not as safe as a seat belt tether, but it will keep them out of the front seat.

Hydration

Make sure your pets have plenty of water to drink in the car or stop frequently to re-hydrate. A dogs’ panting may increase significantly in the car making hydration even more essential. A dog travel bowl is essential gear for car trips of any length.

Never Leave Your Dog Alone

Hopefully, it goes without saying that dogs should never be left alone in a car regardless of the weather. The obvious danger is heat, even in moderate temperatures. On an 85-degree day, within 10 minutes the car inside temperature can rise to 120, even with the windows cracked open. The other danger is that your pet may attract thieves.

 

These tips were provided by Kurgo, which is the leading manufacturer of pet travel safety products. With over 10 years of experience developing innovative products, Kurgo’s mission is to help pets and their owners get out and enjoy the world together, safely.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Train Your Dog Month Approaches
Events include webinars and contests

The focus of the fourth annual Train Your Dog Month in January 2014 is on training the family dog with the manners necessary to improve the daily life of both people and dogs. The basic skills are those in the Canine Life and Social Skills (C.L.A.S.S.) program of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT).

In honor of Train Your Dog Month, APDT will offer free webinars to anyone who is interested in learning more about teaching basic skills to dogs. The behaviors that will be covered include sit, down, stay, coming when called, loose-leash walking, and wait. Additionally, there will be Facebook events promoting the value of taking dogs to training classes and the quality-of-life advantages enjoyed when dogs know basic behaviors and can perform them when asked.

In addition to webinars and chats on Facebook, there are contests to celebrate and support this event. Two of them involve the creation of videos, so get ready to find your inner filmmaker! The Training Testimonials contest is open to anyone, so whether your credentials consist of being a dog guardian or being an experienced professional dog trainer, you can enter. Awards and $25 VISA gift cards will be given to the three people who create the best one-minute or shorter videos of testimonials about the improved relationship and quality of life due to training your dog. Winning videos will be those that best illustrate the benefits of training a dog to the general public.

One contest that is only open to APDT members involves making a C.L.A.S.S. “Viral” Video. The object is to show the everyday dog guardian the basic principles of the Canine Life and Social Skills (C.L.A.S.S.) program in two minutes or less. The winner will be given free registration to the 2014 APDT Conference.

Having trained dogs personally and professionally for many years, I’m a huge believer in the value of having dogs who are trained well. It’s a lot of work, but also a labor of love to train your dog and teach good manners. It’s also a great kindness since it really can make your dog’s life better. It’s easier to give trained dogs freedom, to take them all kinds of places, and to allow them to be a greater part of your life. Also, the ability to communicate what you’d like your dog to do minimizes the frustration, misunderstandings and danger that can damage quality of life and put a strain on the relationship.

Train Your Dog Month is a great way to begin a whole new year of training your dog!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Study on Canine "Seat Belts"
CPS finds only one car restraint system that passes their tests

Keeping dogs safe in the car has long been a concern of mine. Previously I wrote about the crumple zone in the back of the car, which made me consider moving my pups to the safer back seat area using harnesses since I can't fit my crate in the passenger area. However, I was not impressed testing or lack of standards on car restraints, so I stuck with my crate (To be fair, crates don't have much testing either. There is only brand one on the market, Variocages, that is crash tested and designed with the crumple zone in mind, but they come with a hefty $1,000+ price tag!). 

The results of a new study on canine car restraints doesn't exactly boost my confidence in these "doggy seat belts." A study by the Center for Pet Safety (CPS) and Subaru found that only one of the eleven systems they tested provided adequate protection to the dog and passengers of the vehicle. 

CPS designed their crash test on the standard that is currently used to certify child safety seats. The testing occurred in two phases. First, each harness was subjected to a preliminary strength test. Only seven passed and continued to the crash test portion. The systems were tested using specially designed crash test dummy dogs in three sizes: a 25 pound Terrier mix, a 45 pound Border Collie, and a 75 pound Golden Retriever.  

Only one system passed all of the tests, the Sleepypod Clickit Utility, meaning the dog remained restrained during every test and offered protection to the passengers.

Klein Metal AllSafe, Cover Craft RuffRider Roadie, RC Pet Canine Friendly Crash Tested, Bergan Dog Auto Harness, Kurgo Tru-Fit Enhanced Strength, and IMMI PetBuckle did not have optimal performance.  Some allowed dogs to launch off of the seat or did not control the pet's rotation (something I wouldn't have even though about). The worst products, IMMI Pet Buckle, Kurgo, and Bergan, allowed the dog to become a full projectile or to be released from the restraint.

CPS plans to use the data from their study to help develop standards for performance and test protocols of restraint systems since there are currently no industry guidelines.

Founded in 2011, CPS is a registrered non-profit research and advocacy organization dedicated to companion animal safety. They are not affiliated with the pet product industry and do not endorse products. I can't wait to see what they have in store next!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Afghan Shelter Serves Animals and People
Dogs and soldiers reunited

During wars, many soldiers informally adopt dogs or cats, and these new relationships can be life-saving both literally and emotionally. Yet when the soldiers return home, they must say good-bye to these friends. When they leave their pets behind, soldiers have great fear for their animals’ safety.

Former British soldier Louise Hastie and the Afghans with whom she works are reuniting soldiers with the animals that befriended them during the war. Hastie is in charge of the Nowzad Animal Shelter in Kabul.

The shelter began as a result of the efforts of Royal Marine Sergeant Pen Farthing who became the friend and guardian of a dog he named Nowzad. The dog’s name comes from the town of Now Zad in Helmand Province, and he was originally a fighting dog. When Farthing broke up an organized dogfight near his compound, he met the dog and just couldn’t resist caring for him. Soon others became his friends, too, and he cared for them all. Farthing tells his story in the book One Dog at a Time: Saving the Strays of Afghanistan.

Due to the war and high poverty levels, the needs of animals in this country have understandably not been met, and Hastie hopes to change that. Sending animals to former soldiers is one option, but the costs are a challenge. Transporting a single animal to the United States costs $4000, and though the soldiers often contribute, charitable donations are also a big part of the process.

Farthing was able to bring just three of the many dogs he loved to Great Britain to be with him. So far, the shelter has transported 400 dogs and cats abroad to be with the soldiers who became their guardians, and has taken in and cared for thousands more. The shelter provides medical treatment of various kinds, including vaccinations and spay/neuter surgeries in an effort to fight the problem of animal overpopulation long term.

It’s an uphill battle to save animals in a country where financial limitations are so extreme and cultural views of dogs are not uniformly positive. Every dog saved is one who would have suffered otherwise, and every soldier who is reunited with a best friend is far better off as well.

News: Editors
Making a Case for Dogs’ Personhood

In a recent  New York Times, Gregory Berns, a neuroscientist and the author of the excellent new book, How Dogs Love Us, writes an intriguing and engrossing editorial, “Dogs Are People, Too” (which was the top “emailed” article in the NYT the day it came out!).  Berns and his team at Emory University have been testing dogs, the first of which was Berns’ own rescue dog, Callie, using functional MRIs to measure their brain activity, hoping to decode the canine brain. Unlike other researchers at other universities, the Emory Dog Project was the first to do this and the only ones who perform their research with not only volunteer dogs, but also by following a humane protocol that included  “only positive training methods. No sedation. No restraints. If the dogs didn’t want to be in the M.R.I. scanner, they could leave. Same as any human volunteer.”  Other researchers also use “purpose-bred” Beagles, an abhorrent practice.

What they discovered was rather amazing. As I noted in the book review in Bark’s Winter issue, “Initial findings showed evidence that dogs empathize with humans and have a theory of mind, and by extension, that the idea that you must be a dog’s pack leader is a mistake.”

In his commentary Berns notes, “Although we are just beginning to answer basic questions about the canine brain, we cannot ignore the striking similarity between dogs and humans in both the structure and function of a key brain region: the caudate nucleus.”

In making his case for the “personhood” of dogs Berns explains that, “The ability to experience positive emotions, like love and attachment, would mean that dogs have a level of sentience comparable to that of a human child. And this ability suggests a rethinking of how we treat dogs.” And that we can’t hide from the evidence shown in the MRIs, dogs, and other animals (like primates) do have emotional lives, just like us. In his book he describes that the defining traits of dogs is their interspecies social intelligence, “an ability to intuit what humans and other animal are thinking,” and furthermore that, “ Dogs’ great social intelligence means that they probably also have a high capacity for empathy. More than intuiting what we think, dogs may also feel what we feel.”

It is then perfectly understandable that he makes the case for granting dogs personhood, as he wrote in the Times piece, “ If we … granted dogs rights of personhood, they would be afforded additional protection against exploitation. Puppy mills, laboratory dogs and dog racing would be banned for violating the basic right of self-determination of a person.”

Read the whole article here, and watch this video and we would love to know your thoughts too. Gregory Berns’ post on Psychology Today,  is also of interest.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
A Very Special Blessing of the Animals
NYC Church has their 29th celebration of the Feast of St. Francis the Assisi

Last Sunday I attended the 29th annual Feast of Saint Francis the Assisi (also known as the Blessing of the Animals) at the esteemed Saint John the Devine Church in New York City. The Mass was like none other that I've attended previously, interspersed with modern music and dance performances, experienced by hundreds of people with their pets. And dogs weren't the only non-humans in the audience. There were cats, parrots, lizards, and even a hermit crab. See more photos here.

In the sermon, Reverend Dr. James A. Kowalski talked about blessing animals as one of the things that showed the possibility of harmony on the planet. I've been to a lot of different Blessing of the Animas and have seen these events bring together people of different religions and even those who do not consider themselves religious at all. Saint John the Devine has obviously been doing this for a long time and provided detailed programs with the words to each song and ritual. I think it certainly made people feel welcome. 

Paul Winter, a Grammy winning musician, composed and performed songs centered around recordings of humpback whales, harp seals, wolves, birds, and elephants. Modern dancers added movement to the music with colorful costumes and flags that made me feel like I was at a Broadway play.  

After the Communion came the part everyone was waiting for, the procession of the animals. The menagerie included the exotic--a camel, llama, tortoise, and fennic fox, among many others; and the more familiar—a service dog named Janus and a therapy pup named Tony.

Josephine Cascio has been attending St. Francis’ Blessing of the Animals for the last five years. This year she was excited to participate in the procession with Tony, who she adopted eight years ago. Josephine and Tony volunteer at Park Place Nursing Home in Monmouth Junction, N.J. and at Princeton University during finals time. Tony shamelessly solicited a pat on the head from a member of the congregation as he paraded down the aisle.  

During the program, when a dog barked in response to the animal noises in one of Paul Winter's songs, Rev. Kowalski remarked that the dog’s enthusiasm was contagious. Indeed it was. And it made me think that out pets should be allowed at Mass every week!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Egyptian Dog Mummy Had Parasites
Those little pests are nothing new!

Mummified dogs are not a new archaeological discovery, but finding bloodsucking parasites on them is. Over 400 dog mummies unearthed from the El Deir excavation site in Egypt have been found, and one young dog among them was infested with a number of parasites that have been preserved.

There were over 60 ticks found on this poor dog and there was one louse, too. The scientists who found this dog suspect that a tick-born disease that kills red blood cells was probably responsible for the death of this dog at such a young age. Besides the ticks and the louse, remains of two types of fly larvae were found on it, suggesting that the dog’s body had time to attract carrion flies prior to being mummified.

Mummifying animals was common in ancient Egypt. It was done to provide food and companionship for people in the afterlife and to make sacrifices to the gods, yet nobody is sure of the reasons for the dog mummies at El Deir. It is unclear if they had specific human guardians or how they died. Perhaps they were purposely bred to be sacrificed as cats commonly were, but we just don’t know.

Scientists involved with this excavating project are exploring questions about the source of the dogs. They are also hoping to find more parasites on the dog mummies in order to investigate the origin and spread of diseases and to deepen our understanding of the role of parasites in the history of the species.

Evidence that ancient dogs suffered from ticks, lice and other ectoparasites is prevalent in ancient writings such as those of Aristotle, Homer and Pliny the Elder, but this is the first archaeological evidence that corroborates those texts. It’s certainly no surprise that dogs living a couple of thousand years ago faced the danger and nuisance of ticks and lice. It would be astounding if it were a recent development in the lives of canids, but it’s still interesting to have such concrete evidence.

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