Just in time for Black Friday weekend shopping, we have lowered prices another 15% on The Bark store!! Be sure to check out our newest products—including customized Bark magazine cover prints and retro Tee shirts. You can also put your dog on the cover of our popular smiling dog book, DogJoy, and stock up on all our books, including the bestseller Dog Is My Co-Pilot. Just use the coupon code “Friends” when you check out, for these big savings. Sale ends midnight Monday. But be sure to check in during December for more sales, and special free giveaways.
News: Guest Posts
Oh, the weather outside is frightful! Winter weather is rapidly approaching and you’ve likely begun layering your clothing and weatherproofing your car. When organizing for winter, don’t forget to think about your pets. They too are deserving of special treatment this time of year. Here are ten tips for keeping your pets cozy, comfortable, and healthy this winter:
1. Just as arthritis can be more problematic for us when the temperature drops, so too does this apply to our animals. If your best buddy appears stiff first thing in the morning or is more tentative when navigating stairs or jumping up and down off the furniture, I encourage you to contact your veterinarian. These days, there are so many beneficial treatment options for soothing arthritis discomfort. For your pet’s sake, make the effort to learn more about them.
2. When the temperature drops, outdoor kitties like to snuggle up against car engines for extra warmth. Be sure to provide plenty of notice before you start up your engine lest a “kitty squatter” sustain serious injury as a result of moving auto parts. Vocalize and tap the hood a few times. Better yet, lift the hood to alert any slumbering guests of your intentions.
3. Antifreeze is terribly toxic for dogs and cats. Even a few licks of the stuff can cause kidney failure and severe neurological symptoms, usually resulting in death. Unfortunately, most antifreeze products have a sweet flavor making them appealing to dogs. Cats are too discriminating to voluntarily taste the stuff, but should they step in antifreeze, they will ingest enough to be toxic during their grooming process. Please prevent your pets from having any access to antifreeze by checking under your vehicles for leaks and storing antifreeze containers in a safe place.
4. Wintertime is definitely dress-up time for dogs, when the clothing is functional rather than just adorable. Just like us, many dogs are more comfortable outside when wearing an extra layer. Smaller dogs in particular have difficulty maintaining a normal body temperature when exposed to freezing conditions. If the love of your canine life happens to be an Arctic breed (Malamute, Husky, Samoyed), no need for canine clothing!
5. Regardless of season, all animals need access to water round-the-clock. If your pet is reliant on an outdoor water bowl, strategize a way to prevent the water from freezing. Water bowl heaters work well. Additionally moving water is more resistant to freezing- consider creating a little “drinking fountain” for your pets.
6. Sure the weather is cold, but your dogs still need plenty of exercise for their physical as well as their psychological well-being. Besides, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of relaxing by the fire with a content and tired dog at your side! If the weather is truly too inclement for both of you to be outdoors, look for an indoor dog park or consider doggie day care, assuming your dog enjoys such venues.
7. I’m all for hiking with dogs off leash, but in winter be extra cautious around ponds and lakes for fear of thin ice. Not only is falling through the ice life threatening for dogs, it creates a situation that often becomes life threatening for the humans involved in the rescue operation.
8. Salt on sidewalks and roads and even ice that adheres to all of that fuzzy hair between your dog’s toes can create irritation and sores. Inspect and rinse your dog’s tootsies as needed.
9. I strongly encourage having dogs and cats live indoors. If your living situation absolutely prevents this, and there are no other viable alternatives, please provide your pet with an enclosed shelter that is warmed by a heating device and contains plenty of clean, dry bedding. Also, remember that your pet needs just as much attention from you in frigid temperatures as during the warmer seasons.
10. ‘Tis the time of year when we humans tend to overindulge, eating all kinds of things we shouldn’t. Don’t allow your pets to become a victim of this holiday spirit. In addition to adding unwanted and unhealthy pounds, eating rich and fatty foods predisposes them to gastrointestinal upset and pancreatitis either of which could land your four-legged family member in the hospital for several days (not to mention create some significant rug-cleaning expenses for you).
What steps do you take to ensure your pets will be happy and healthy during the winter?
Culture: Stories & Lit
We were on our daily walk, and my dog became startled by a cow in someone’s nativity scene. Christmas decorations in general freak him out, so during the holidays, we approach many reindeer from behind, so he can sniff them and see that they aren’t real and aren’t going to chase us down the street. I don’t want him afraid of things in his environment, so I always make the effort to let him work through his fears.
Anyway, we’re walking along, and all of a sudden he stops and stares. I look ahead, and realize that the cow is staring directly at my dog. Or so he thinks. I smile, because his child-like discovery of new things is always refreshing to me. I walk him around to the rear of the cow, I touch it and let him sniff my hand, then he approaches the cow nonchalantly and stands in the middle of the nativity scene. He starts sniffing Baby Jesus, which I think is very touching. Of all the statues surrounding him, the baby lying on straw is the one that draws his attention. Then he starts to lift his leg. “No! Oh no!” I sputter, as I hurriedly pull on his leash and get him away from there. I’m not sure if any pee landed on its intended target — I was too ashamed to look closely and wanted to leave the scene in case anyone had witnessed our “crime” and wanted to give me an earful about how disrespectful it was.
I am a Christian, and I think my dog is too. I wouldn’t let him pee on anyone’s religious icon, because I believe that my dog should learn to respect all faiths. I can understand him not knowing the significance of icons from religions he’s not familiar with. But why on earth would he pee on Baby Jesus? When I talk about Jesus, my dog settles down and gives me a sage look — “Oh yes, Jesus. It’s not well promoted, but he was very good to the animals.” Christmas hymns are one of his favorite kinds of music and put him in a very relaxed state. And when we set up our Christmas tree, he alternates between lying where he can gaze at it with admiration and lying underneath its sheltering boughs, looking like he is getting the best rest he gets all year. For these reasons, I’m pretty sure my dog is Christian. So, his peeing on Baby Jesus must have some amazing, profound explanation.
Has God sent my dog to warn us of worshipping false idols? The Old Testament commands us not to worship any “graven image.” The companies that sell these religious figures assure us that as long as we put God first and realize that the figurine is just a figurine, then our money is well spent on inspiring others by our faith. But is that why we display a nativity scene these days? Lately there have been so many legal arguments over displaying nativity scenes on public property. It seems that as the arguments build, more and more people are buying nativity scenes and displaying them on their front lawns. Do they buy the nativity scene because they are divinely inspired to demonstrate their faith, or do they buy the nativity scene out of anger, daring a neighbor to say something about it? Dogs have a wonderful sense of smell. Perhaps my dog smelled the anger hormones left behind by the homeowner as he thrust his nativity scene on his lawn, laughing a cynical laugh and planning what he would do to the person who dared to challenge his display of faith.
Then again, perhaps it was the quality of the figurine that my dog took issue with. This was a cheap-looking, plastic nativity scene. It was fairly new, but if you’re going to have a representation of the Baby Jesus, shouldn’t it be the best quality that money can buy? Perhaps my dog knew that this was a cheap imitation that didn’t stand up to the life that Jesus led and the lives that he is still touching today. Could it be that my dog decided to let someone know exactly what he thought of that piss-poor representation of our Lord and Savior? Or maybe my dog smelled the cynical hormones left behind by the worker in the Jesus factory. Maybe the factory owners laugh as they count their money, knowing that they can charge whatever they want and cut costs wherever they want, because no one would dare say that Baby Jesus is too expensive. Or perhaps they get irritated with the frustrations of their job, forgetting about the magic they create. “How in the heck did we end up with 30 Marys and only 15 Josephs? Jeez, the guys running the assembly line are idiots!” Maybe my dog was smelling the hormones left behind by workers who handled the Baby Jesus.
Or perhaps it was the timing of the episode. This happened around January 8. For some reason, people in my neighborhood left their Christmas decorations out longer than usual this year. I don’t know if it’s because of the depressing news about the economy — maybe people are trying to hold onto the Christmas spirit a little longer. Or maybe it’s because we had a lot of dreary, cold days around the first of the year, and people just procrastinated going outside and taking down their Christmas decorations. At any rate, perhaps my dog is sage enough to know that if we drag out the Christmas season, it will become just another set of dreary days to get through and will lose its magic. People need to put their Christmas decorations away so that when they pull them out again next Thanksgiving, the decorations will have the needed effect of pulling on our emotions and making us present to the love of mankind that we neglect the rest of the year.
All of these things run through my mind as we make our way back home. What is the message my dog was trying to send to that homeowner? I have learned some amazing things by watching my dog, and what was I meant to learn this time? When we get settled back at the house, I sit on the couch and stare at my dog, trying to figure out what he was communicating. Then all of a sudden the realization dawns on me. I know exactly why my dog tried to pee on Baby Jesus. It’s because another dog peed on Baby Jesus first!
Holiday treats for the co-pilots
Just in time for holiday cookie making, a delightful new book by Janine Adams—You Bake ’Em Dog Biscuits Cookbook—is filled with tantalizing dog biscuit recipes. Whip up a batch of the Red and Green Christmas Cookies to share with all your doggy friends.
Preheat oven to 325° F
Rinse out the processor bowl. Return it to the base and add spinach. Process to chop the spinach. Add water while the blade is going and continue to process until the spinach is finely chopped. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and remaining 2 cups of the flour mixture. Process to form green dough.
On a lightly floured surface, roll red and green dough out, separately, into 1/4-inch-thick ovals. Try to make the ovals the same size and shape. Stack the green oval atop the red oval and roll again. Use cookie cutters to cut into Christmas shapes. Place on a baking sheet covered with greased or nonstick foil. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until just starting to brown on top. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Excerpted from You Bake ’Em Dog Biscuits by Janine Adams. Copyright © 2005 Running Press. All rights reserved.
Wellness: Health Care
Make 2012 happier and healthier for you and your pup
Veterinarians love putting together a plan of care for their patients—so why should New Year’s be an exception? Here are my suggestions for ten (I think fairly reasonable) resolutions that can make a big improvement for your dogs and you. For those who’ve already embraced many of these good habits, this list can serve as a chance to pat yourself on the back.
A few habits to encourage your dog to consider
Do you make New Year’s resolutions? What new behaviors are on your list?
News: Guest Posts
While I rewrite A Christmas Carol
I recently watched A Christmas Carol—the überschmaltzy George C. Scott version with weirdly campy ghosts of Christmas Past and Present. It got me thinking that someone needs to make a dog-centric version of this holiday classic—not in least part to erase this one from my memory banks.
Scrooge would be a lonely old man, running a huge puppy mill. His visit to Christmases Past would flash on young Scrooge playing with a beloved family pup (his only friend) and then 20-something Scrooge dumping his best buddy at a shelter to take his first big job in another city.
For Christmas Present, he’d be forced to witness the destitute breeder moms in their cages and visit a home where children are surprised with the gift of one of his mill dogs, blissfully unaware of the incipient signs of temperament and health issues Scrooge can’t ignore.
Christmas future? Well, that’s a puppy mill raid on Christmas Day, which means rotting away in prison for Mr. Scrooge (this is a future where cruelty laws have real teeth). But, of course, he is redeemed when he wakes. The old black-hearted villain converts his acreage into a cage-free animal sanctuary, pours his ill-gotten gains into lobbying against puppy mills, and surrounds himself with healthy, happy rescue pups. Sigh.
Write your own Christmas miracle script this year through PetFinder.com’s “Foster A Lonely Pet for the Holidays” Program. Now in its third year, the program aims to “empty out animal shelters from Christmas Eve through New Year’s Day.”
The goal of the program is to spread awareness about fostering and find temporary homes for adoptable pets while giving shelter workers and volunteers a much-needed break. A list of participating shelters and rescue groups can be found at www.petfinder.com/fosteralonelypet.
A short-term foster is a wonderful way to capture the spirit of the season, learn how fostering works and maybe discover you like it and want to continue, which could lead to a very happy new year for a pup or two.
Wellness: Health Care
Tips for keeping your pet merry this season
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree! You are beautiful, but you can hurt me!
As the holiday season gears up, have you noticed that with the increase in fun and festivities comes a simultaneous increase in the level pet mischief? There just seems to be no way for our curious pups to resist the allure of all that holiday paraphernalia.
Below is a list (all naughty, no nice!) of the common problems I treat on an emergency basis:
Decorative lights on the tree can pose a serious electrocution hazard when chewed. Signs of electric shock range from a dazed and confused behavior to difficulty breathing, burn injuries in the mouth, seizures and potentially sudden death. Immediate evaluation by a veterinarian is recommended if you suspect electrocution. Take appropriate precautions to ensure lights are hung out of reach and the cord is adequately protected. Use grounded three-prong extension cords and strictly follow manufacturer's guidelines for light usage.
Tinsel and ribbon can potentially cause an obstruction in the intestines when ingested. In medical terms, we refer to these items as “linear foreign bodies,” and they have significant potential to get bound up within the intestinal tract causing a blockage, and in some cases, cutting through the intestines.
Most often, these linear foreign bodies get “hung up” in the intestines, causing deadly “bunching” and can only be removed by surgical means. If you notice a bit of ribbon, tinsel or string, whether from the mouth or the other end (see photo), it is important to remember never cut the ribbon or attempt to remove it yourself! Seek veterinary care immediately.
Vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite and depression will be the most common abnormalities seen when an intestinal obstruction is developing, and early surgical care is essential. Exercise extreme caution and never leave pets unattended around string, tinsel and ribbon.
Ornaments may be ingested and have potential to cause an obstruction leading to the need for surgery. Ornaments made of glass can fall and break, leading to cuts and other injuries. Adequately secure ornaments and place them above the reach of wandering paws and curious noses.
Tree-stand water contains preservatives and sap that may cause vomiting and diarrhea.
Festive plants are often displayed during the holidays and precautions should be taken to avoid ingestion of any plant. Even “nontoxic” plant material, such as pine needles, may cause stomach upset.
Common holiday plants to take particular note of include:
Potpourri is often used around the house to put us in the holiday mood. The plant material and some additives are very irritating to the skin, mouth and intestinal tract. If skin exposure is suspected, then bathing with a mild soap is recommended and medical care may be needed to treat irritation and pain that follow exposure. Ingestion often results in signs that may include drooling, loss of appetite, vomiting, and in some cases, disorientation.
Treats are a common source of holiday emergencies. While it can be hard to resist your pleading pet’s eyes, it is important to recognize the dangers of particular foods and treats:
“People foods” that we take for granted as being safe for us are not always safe for our pets. Raisins and grapes have been implicated in causing kidney failure in dogs. Onion ingestion can cause blood cell damage in both dogs and cats. Chocolate contains caffeine and a caffeine-like substance (theobromine) that dogs and cats are highly sensitive to causing stomach upset, tremors, seizures and irregular heartbeat. Macadamia nuts cause dogs to show a variety of strange neurological signs that can include weakness, apparent pain, disorientation and tremors.
I hope this information helps you and your four-legged family members avoid any “bah-humbugs” this holiday season!
Share your photos and cards with us and enjoy some seasonal cheer.
70 percent of people sign their pets’ names on greeting cards and 58 percent include pets in family and holiday portraits, according to a survey by the American Animal Hospital Association. That’s no surprise to us — just more evidence of how dogs are part of the family. We’re gathering together an album of canine-inclusive holiday portraits, and featuring them in the slideshow above. Hairstyles and fashions may have changed through the years, but the spirit of joy shines through them all. Share your photos and cards with us and enjoy some seasonal cheer.
One of the trainers behind Hungary’s viral dog videos, explains how they did it
In the video, “A Doggy Christmas Surprise,” half-a-dozen dogs left alone in a Budapest flat trim a tree with great skill and holiday spirit. They roll up carpets, hang ornaments and lights, climb ladders, stack packages and swirl in garland. In a sequel, titled “A Doggy Summer,” many of the same talented canines crash a beach, where they set up an umbrella and sunning mats, float on boogie boards, play tug of war with towels, dig holes, catch Frisbees, play catch and generally redefine Beach Blanket Bingo. With nearly 9 million views, the videos are certifiable YouTube hits.
But the talents of the canine stars have been a bit of a mystery. Because the videos have Hungarian titles and captions and link to Hungarian websites, the question “how’d they do it?” has been hard to answer. We tracked down the lead trainer for the videos, Nora Vamosi-Nagy, who explained in her more-than-passable English (since we were woefully unprepared to conduct the interview in Hungarian) the story behind these fantasztikus videos.
The dogs in the videos were trained using the “Mirror Method”—what’s that?
The Mirror Method has three parts. The first part is being the leader in the group or the pack. We don’t like to use the term ‘pack leader’ anymore because ethologists say that dogs are more like children; they look to us more as parents than leaders. But still if you are a parent to your child, you have to have some sort of leadership. You have to have respect in order for the dog to do what you say.
The second part is teaching, and we believe the best way today is clicker training. In the school, we teach in groups of 12 and the dogs are off-leash. By clicker training, I mean shaping. We teach every owner to shape something with the dog. They don’t have to use shaping in every teaching but they have to learn to shape. Because once you can shape something to the dog you start to look at the dog a different way, you start to see things that you didn’t see before, and start to use your hand and your movements consciously.
The third part of the method is lifestyle, which is very, very important. It’s not just taking the dog for a walk or physical activity but also you have to make the dog’s brain work and, most important, is to let the instincts work. If the dog is not mentally engaged, it can get sick and ill.
How did you learn the Mirror Method?
We work together but the Mirror Method is coming from Gabor. He has this idea that when you have a dog and you work with a dog it’s not only because you like the dog and it’s not all about the dog, it’s something about yourself. You can learn a lot about yourself if you have a dog.
Gabor was a Schutzhund competitor before, and he had good results. He was in the world championships. But he wanted to compete so bad that actually he made his dog sick, and no one could say why. So he quit the competition world, he started to examine the human-canine relationship. He started to listen, look at things and then to work on these ideas.
When I got in the picture, I was a really typical beginner-owner. But I had so many questions, he started to work on how to explain it so everyone could understand it. Today we work together with the leaders of the other dog schools. There are many, many people who put effort into making the method, always with new ideas.
We try to make owners conscious of what they are doing. For example, when I say, come here and I start to walk toward the dog, the information I’m giving is, you can go because I’m coming to you. It’s not what I want to communicate. And then I’m angry that the dog is not coming. Why should he come he understands that I’m coming up to him? There are these communication mistakes, so people have to learn some things mean different things in dog language.
Why did you make “A Doggy Christmas Surprise”?
The eight dogs are members of the promotion group [which included 15 human/dog pairs. A second group started this summer with 12 teams. They meet two or three times a week to choreograph Mirror Method presentations for public events.] The hardest part was to find a flat where someone would let in a bunch of dogs.
We didn’t practice at all for the video shooting. But the dogs knew everything. They understood all the words; they understood to go forward, to bring this, to put that there. It wasn’t difficult at all. In six hours, we shot all the material.
We don’t want to make the dogs look like children, like in American movies. I really hate that. They do human stuff but still we try to find a balance where it’s still OK, it’s funny but it’s still dogs doing the whole thing.
Right now we are planning a third video. It will tell more about the method and show more of Hungary/Budapest as home of the method. It will come out next spring.
I noticed none of them are wearing collars. Is that normally the case when you’re training?
Were you surprised by the huge response?
Dog's Life: DIY
The countdown to the holidays begins—celebrate the season (and astonish your friends!) by creating your own limited editions. With an assortment of paper and pictures and a couple of tools, you can make an instant book—or a dozen instant books, since they’re one-sided and, thanks to copy machines, easy to duplicate. This version, with its Advent calendar–like windows, lends itself to all sorts of surprises. Feature pictures of your favorite dogs, dog-park friends or whatever strikes your fancy—these little books can be personalized any way you like. Once you let your imagination off-leash, there’s no telling what you’ll come up with. Illustrator Laura Carmelita Belmont and I designed the pattern you see here.
For the basic folding pattern, please see the November/December 2008 issue of Bark, pp. 64-65, or How to Make Books.
More projects and patterns can be found in How to Make Books by Esther K. Smith. Copyright © 2007. Published by Potter Craft, a division of Random House, Inc.
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