life with dogs
Dog's Life: Work of Dogs
These working dogs calm harried travelers.
Traffic on the way to the airport makes you late. Rushing, fearing you’ll miss your flight, you anxiously stand in endless check-in and security lines, annoyed at the delay. Your stress level increases with every passing minute. Finally clearing security, sitting to put your shoes back on, you notice something unusual across the room: an enormous harlequin Great Dane wearing a vest that says, “Pet me!” A smile breaks across your face and your blood pressure immediately drops. You say a quick hello to the dog and rub his soft ears, and the tension of the past hours melts away.
We’re used to seeing security dogs at airports, but those dogs are working— no petting allowed. The “pet me” dogs are a different story altogether, reflecting the industry’s growing understanding that helping passengers destress, especially during busy holiday flying seasons, has value. These dogs are all about being touched!
So far, some 30 airports across the country have therapy dogs on duty, and luckily for travelers, the number is steadily growing. The idea started at California’s Mineta San Jose International Airport shortly after 9/11 as a way to ease traveler jitters. Videos of those dogs at work convinced other airports give it a go.
The distinctively outfitted dogs and their handlers position themselves throughout the airport, from checkin to boarding—wherever passengers can use some calming canine love. Recognizing that not everyone loves dogs, the teams typically remain stationary in an open area so those who wish to greet the dogs can do so while anyone not so fond of dogs can easily avoid them.
One of the most recent converts to the service, North Carolina’s Charlotte Douglas International Airport, began deploying professionally certified therapy dogs in March 2015. Currently, there are 15 dog/handler teams providing coverage daily between 10 am and 4 pm. Lauri Golden, the airport’s manager of customer engagement, supervises the all-volunteer CLT Canine Crew. “We wanted a way to create a sense of place,” she says. “Our airport is a hub for American Airlines; 70 percent of traffic is connections, so the passengers just see the facility, not the city.”
Initially, Golden worried about finding enough volunteer teams. However, the pilot program created to iron out the logistics was an instant success. “We expected that kids would like the dogs, but even more, it’s the adults benefiting from them,” she says. “They pull out photos of their own dogs; talk about ones recently lost; take selfies; ask the name, age and breed of the dog … lots of questions. The dogs create a gathering, an audience, which creates its own community as people talk to each other, sharing dog stories. They are our superstars.” The demand for teams is high, and Golden is constantly recruiting.
Max the Great Dane and his handler Fred McCraven make up one of the Charlotte teams. “When I asked Fred why he wanted to join, he was so honest: ‘I just want to show off my dog.’ Max is a complete sweetheart!” says Golden.
Fred thoroughly enjoys taking Max to the airport. “Some tourists just light up when they see Max, and take photos,” he says. “Some look at him funny, like, ‘Please don’t bring that big dog near me.’ I try to gauge peoples’ reactions. Even those who don’t come up to touch Max are smiling. I once met a woman who was traveling to her brother’s funeral. Her brother had a Great Dane as well and she took it as a sign her brother was okay.”
Los Angeles World Airports (LAX) was the third to create a therapy dog program, after San Jose and Miami. Heidi Heubner is director of Pets Unstressing Passengers (PUP) and volunteer programs for LAX. PUP, which launched in April 2013 with 30 teams, now has 52, allowing them to have dogs in most terminals every day of the week. Each PUP dog has his or her own baseball card–style ID, which is given to passengers as a keepsake.
Heubner enjoys observing the interactions between volunteer teams and passengers. “The dogs bring strangers together,” she says. “We’re often afraid to talk, or are on our devices, but with the dogs, people are sharing stories and photos of their own dogs, talking about where they’re going. I never get tired of watching them. Sometimes my face hurts from smiling so much, watching them in action and listening to what the passengers are saying.”
Therapy teams are also called upon to calm passengers when things don’t go as planned, Heubner notes. “One day, a f light was cancelled. A f light attendant asked if one of the dogs could visit with the passengers. The passengers loved it, were saying, ‘Who cares that we’re delayed! It was worth it to see the dogs.’”
Airport therapy dogs come in all sizes and breeds but the thing they have in common is that they’re all certified by one of the country’s therapy-dog organizations; for example, Charlotte and LAX use teams certified by the Alliance of Therapy Dogs. New teams do an initial walk-through at the facility to make sure the dog is comfortable with the noises, smells and crowds of strangers. If that goes well, they’ll go through a more thorough vetting, with the human half of the team undergoing background and security checks. Once approved, teams typically work one day a week.
Dog-loving passengers rave about the programs. A letter sent to the Charlotte program expresses an often-repeated sentiment: It was like having my pups with me though they are miles away. The stress that is lifted when you see and touch a dog, it’s indescribable and it was the best part of my trip today. I cannot thank you, the staff that implemented the program, the handlers and the dogs enough for this remarkable program.
Clearly, these programs are positive for passengers and airport staff, but they’re also proving beneficial for the handlers. “Max has made me a better person,” says Fred. “I’m not a very social person, sort of a lone wolf, but taking Max to the airport has gotten me out and around people, improved my social skills. And it puts me in a good mood. Last week I had a bad day at work. I took Max to the airport and came home in a totally different mood.”
News: Guest Posts
Pups as a Work Perk
For dog lovers, being able to bring our pups to work is a huge perk. Most companies don't allow pets in the office, but that is slowly changing. According to the Society of Human Resource Management, seven percent of employers now allow pets to come to work—up from five percent five years ago.
Many companies see this as a way to help with retention and work-life balance at no extra cost. It's often people's favorite perk.
At North Carolina based Replacements Ltd, there are about 30 animals that join their 400 workers on a regular basis. Their policy is probably one of the most liberal—the office has even been visited by a duck, potbellied pig, and possum. Public Relations manager, Lisa Conklin, even hopes to bring in her horse, Azim, one day.
The pets have always been on their best behavior. Although on a number of occasions the human employees have broken the fine dining dishes that Replacements sells, no one can remember an animal ever being responsible for an incident before.
Bringing our pets to work is a fun perk, but it has tangible benefits as well.
In 2012, Virginia Commonwealth University professor Randolph Barker led research that measured levels of cortisol in workers' systems. His team found that people whose animals came to work saw a decrease in stress throughout the day, while those who didn't have a pet saw their cortisol increase. Randolph says that pet friendly companies typically report more coworker cooperation and interaction as well.
But there are some challenges with having a liberal pet policy. Not all animals like being in an office environment and it's up to the individual employee to make the best decision for their pet. There are also other considerations for organizations, such as allergies and finding a building that is pet friendly.
However, provided that a company can make it work logistically, the benefits seem immeasurable!
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Reading is a year-round pleasure but summer is particular seems to invite us to kick back, chill out and dive into the printed—or digital—page. Here are our candidates for your reading list, books we feel offer intriguing perspectives and tell good tales.Non-Fiction
The Underdogs: Children, Dogs, and the Power of Unconditional Love
Behind the scenes with a remarkable organization that trains dogs—some from shelters—for highly specialized work for young children with disabilities. Inspirational and absorbing.
By Melissa Fay Greene (Ecco)
Pit Bull: The Battle over an American Icon
This is a thoughtfully-researched book examining the history, stereotypes, fictional and societal worries surrounding a breed that was once considered an American icon.
By Bronwen Dickey (Alfred A. Knopf)
The Dog Merchants: Inside the Big Business of Breeders, Pet Stores, and Rescuers
This is a compelling investigation of the many ways that dogs come into our lives—keeping in mind how the financial transactions involved affect all dogs.
By Kim Kavin (Pegasus Books)
Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?
Noted ethologist shows us that animals are not only smarter but also engaged in different ways of thought we have only begun to understand. The importance of looking at other species through their own world-views.
By Frans de Waal (W.W. Norton & Company)
Heal: The Vital Role of Dogs in the Search for Cancer Cures
Looking at the correlation between human and animal healing and how finding a cure is important to both species.
Arlene Weintraub (ECW Press)
Dog Gone: A Lost Pet’s Extraordinary Journey and the Family Who Brought Him Home
A thoroughly engaging book about a lost dog’s journey and a family’s furious search to find him before it’s too late.
Pauls Toutonghi (Alfred A. Knopf)
Pets on the Couch: Neurotic Dogs Compulsive Cats, Anxious Birds, and the New Science of Animal Psychiatry
Noted veterinarian behaviorist breaks new ground with the practice of One Medicine, the recognition that humans and other animals share the same neurochemistry, and that our minds and emotions work in similar ways.
By Nicholas Dodman, DVM (Atria Books)
Free Days with George: Learning Life’s Little Lessons from One Very Big Dog
An inspirational story about the healing power of animals, and about leaving the past behind to embrace love, hope and happiness.
By Colin Campbell (Doubleday)Fiction
A touching and dramatic story about saving animals in a no-kill shelter from a virulent virus. Some claim that dogs are the source but the veterinarian in charge of the shelter needs to prove this isn’t the case to save the animals.
By Neil Abramson (Center Street)
Stalking Ground: A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery
The second in a new mystery series about a small town policewoman and her K-9 partner. Realistic portrayal of how the two work together; plus good character development that includes a sympathetic veterinarian and his two young daughters.
Margaret Mizushima (Crooked Lane Books)
No Better Friend: A Man, a Dog, and Their Incredible True Story of Friendship and Survival in World War II
A young readers’ version of one of our 2015 picks. This is a compelling and well-researched book that does justice to the remarkable dog Judy and the men whose stories are told so effectively and poignantly. Theirs is truly one of the great sagas of WWII.
By Robert Weintraub (Little, Brown and Company)
Miss Moon: Wise Words from a Dog Governess
Elegant, charming and whimsical a story of a governess teaching 67 dogs and how she imparts 20 important lessons to her furry brood.
By Janet Hill (Tundra Books)
Picture Book (Ages 4 to 8)
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Canines take their share of the spotlight
Watching the US Olympic Trials in track and field is filling much of my recreational time this week, but my thoughts are never far from the world of dogs. More and more often, announcers comment on competitors’ dogs, as do the athletes themselves. When discussing that Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix has had a rough year, the broadcast team spoke of two issues. One problem was an injured ankle that leads to pain with every step and the other was the death of her beloved Yorkshire Terrier, Chloe. Chloe is well known to fans of Felix, who often tweeted about Chloe. Felix has said that Skyping with Chloe when she traveled to races helped her to settle her mind and to feel in touch with home. The two even appeared in a commercial together.
The importance of dogs also came up in an interview with Brenda Martinez. Martinez was expected to qualify for the Olympics in the 800 m event, but that dream slipped away when she was tripped up by another runner near the end of the race. When asked how she put that disappointment behind her in order to focus on her upcoming 1500 m race, she emphasized the role her dogs played. She said that she and her husband had brought all four of their dogs with them and that being with them made her happy and helped her move on emotionally. She visibly relaxed when she spoke of her dogs despite the high pressure situation she is in.
Few of us face pressure as intense as what these athletes are dealing with this week, but many of us still rely on our dogs for relief from the stresses of life. Do you?
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Friends Across Species
Dogs and people are truly the best of friends, but that doesn’t mean that dogs can’t be buddies with other animals, too. Though dogs and cats are often considered natural enemies, countless households have a dog and a cat who very close. They play together, sleep together and generally prefer to be near one another.
Less common, but still far from rare, are the dogs who have strong social connections to other species. I have one client whose dog loves to head upstairs in their apartment complex to hang out with the neighbor’s rabbit. A friend of mine has a ferret who plays daily with her dog until they are both exhausted.
Dogs and pot-bellied pigs can be great chums, and countless canines love spending time with their horse pals. There are plenty of dogs whose friends include sheep and goats.
I know of a couple of parrots and parakeets who socialize with dogs, and one pair of these vocalize together with great regularity. I’m not going to lie—the howling dog and the screaming bird don’t sound pleasant to me, but they seem quite happy with their symphony, and that’s what matters.
If your dog has a friend outside the dog or human species, how do they interact?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Seven ways to carpe the summer diem.
Sure, you could sit around inside with your dog, sweating and complaining about the heat. But why do that when there are so many ways to take advantage of the season’s longer days and warmer weather?
Make your dog a warm-weather flop spot. Look for a shady area in your yard, dig a shallow pit sized to fit your pup, line it with a thin layer of concrete and before the concrete dries, poke holes in it for drainage. Once the concrete has set, fill the pit with playground sand, dampen it and let the fun begin.
Plan a toxin-free and dog-friendly landscape. No snail bait, no cocoa mulch, no lethal plants (check out the ASPCA site for a list of ones to avoid), no chemical fertilizers, no fungicides, no herbicides, no pesticides. Ideal landscaping/hardscaping material doesn’t get too hot, is easy on the paws and— in a perfect world—doesn’t track into the house on fuzzy feet; pea gravel and pavers fill the bill.
Have some good, wet fun—summer’s prime time for water play. A caveat, however: keep an eye on your dog for signs of hyponatremia, aka water intoxication, which can come on fast and is life-threatening. Bone up on the symptoms and make sure your dog takes breaks.
Experiment with a new way to cruise. Rent a dog-friendly camper trailer or houseboat and see the world from a whole new perspective. Some camper rental companies will handle delivery, setup and hauling away; do an online search for a company in your preferred vacation spot. For on-the-water accommodations, check out Houseboating.org.
Take in a drive-in. Remember the al fresco movie experience of yesteryear? Some communities revive this lovely summer tradition, and some even allow you to skip the car and loll on a blanket under the stars. Search for summer + drive-in and see what comes up in your area.
Sign up for summer school and learn new skills or master old ones. Training, agility, herding and freestyle are all on the agenda. Then, there are dog camps—the summer camps of your childhood, but way better. For maximum relaxation, match the activity type and level to your and your dog’s temperaments.
Mark your calendar with “dog days” concerts and sporting events. Special offerings tend to pop up this time of the year, perfect for enjoyment with the pooch.
We know we don’t have to tell you this, but while you’re having fun with the pup, keep safety in mind. Stay out of the sun during the warmest hours, have plenty of water available, dab sunscreen on both yourself and your dog (yes, there are sunscreens for dogs), take lots of well-shaded rest breaks and never, never, never leave your dog in the car. If you’re out walking, listen to what your dog’s telling you; let him rest if he wants to and don’t coax him to go faster. Finally, do your best to avoid areas with foxtails, those sticky, diabolical grass awns (seeds) that burrow into fur and skin and, once well in, don’t come out without surgery. If these wild grasses show up in your yard—which they’re prone to do—pull them out while they’re still green.
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Carrying dogs no easy task
I saw Lucy at the running store that her guardians own, bandaged up and limping a bit. She was also enjoying the sympathy of customers and friends, especially if that sympathy came with a side of treats. While chasing a squirrel, Lucy had run into a piece of old barbed wire that had sliced her leg pretty badly.
Following a visit to the emergency veterinarian, treatment involving stitches, bandages, antibiotics and painkillers, and a substantial transfer of funds from the guardians to the vet, Lucy is on the mend. She won’t be running for the next little while, but will instead be on a strict regimen of rest and sleep. She certainly will not be left home alone with the other two dogs in the household to play and damage her bandages or healing leg, which is why she was at work.
Luckily, Lucy will be fine, but there is one piece of the story that really stresses me out, and that’s how far Lucy’s guardian had to carry her from the spot where she was injured to get back to the car. I had asked about this specifically because so many people here in Flagstaff, Ariz. love running on remote trails, especially with their dogs. It was alarming to learn that Lucy had to be carried a mile and a half. This was quite a physical endeavor with a dog weighing over 60 pounds—even for her guardian, who is strong and fit. Some adrenaline from concern about her injury probably gave him a little boost, but it was still a challenge.
Even with internal chemical changes that help us out in emergencies, I shudder to think how hard it would be for most people to carry their injured dogs. Depending on the size of the dog, and the strength of the person, it could range from no big deal to actually impossible. If anyone is ever out stranded with a full grown English Mastiff or a Saint Bernard, the situation could become serious quite quickly, but many of us could run close to full speed with a small terrier.
How far have you had to carry your dog because of an injury? How far could you do that if you had to?
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Adjustments because of the heat
A client just called me to request that we change our appointment this week to early in the morning to beat the record heat expected over the next few days. We have to be mindful of preventing this dog from overheating because one piece of our behavior modification work each week involves having him play fetch with strangers. The goal is to teach him to feel happy when he sees a stranger by associating strangers with the opportunity to play his favorite game. Right now, he still finds unfamiliar people scary, but thanks to many fetch games, his circle of familiar people has grown. There are now quite a few of us who he greets with happy anticipation, knowing that our presence means that a fetch game is in his immediate future.
Every summer, people make adjustments based on the heat, and this is especially true for those who live in hot climates. Sometimes the schedule changes are as simple as walking the dog a little earlier in the morning or a bit later in the evening. In other cases, physical activities are shortened by running or playing fetch for 20 minutes instead of for 45 minutes. There are dogs who have a seasonal rotation of activities based on the weather, so they may swim or walk in the hottest months, even though they go running alongside a bicycle for exercise during the rest of the year.
The most basic ways to modify activities to accommodate the stress of hot weather are to do less vigorous activity, to exercise for shorter periods of time and to be active during the coolest parts of the day. What changes are you making in your schedule so your dog is not exposed to the excessive heat?
Dog's Life: Home & Garden
These stylish and durable flooring materials and fabrics let you give Fido the run of the house
World, meet Chewie. Chewie is my favorite chow chow–German shepherd mix in the world. But as much as I love my rescued best friend, having him around typically means constant shedding, some drooling and more than a few lost pillows. Sound familiar?
Having Chewie has forced me to consider how to make coexisting under the same roof more of a pleasant experience than a dreadful chore. And all it took was picking some clever materials for our townhome. Below is some advice I wish I’d had before committing to my long-term relationship with my dog. Let’s dig in.
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Let's start at the bottom: the floors. Our townhome has hardwood floors, and I've wished on more than one occasion that they were concrete instead. This is especially true for homeowners who are considering a puppy, because lots of messes come along with potty training.
Photo by Cornerstone Architects - Look for contemporary living room design inspiration
Another great floor material for puppy training? Natural stone — though be aware that porous materials, such as marble, can stain. So choose wisely what kind of stone you install.
Porcelain tile is a fantastic alternative to natural stone. To accomplish this sophisticated and clean look, make sure the grout lines are minimal. Also, it's good to note that dogs, seniors and puppies in particular, could have a tough time gaining traction on these floors so watch out for injuries. See our tips on caring for senior dogs.
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Of course, hardwood floors can work well too. Just know that when your pet reaches maturity, you may have to refinish those lovely boards. Thankfully, with hardwood floors, you can always count on intact wood beneath the scratched surface.
Laminate is a practical way to get out of the extensive care of hardwood. It maintains the look while offering a virtually indestructible play surface for your best friend.
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For a softer option, you can always choose carpet. Just be prepared — it will take some vacuuming to keep that freshly installed look.
If you want a more practical option for carpeting, you could choose carpet tiles. Minor accidents (bound to happen) can be remedied by replacing individual tiles instead of an entire floor of carpeting. I speak from experience.
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I would have thought a cowhide would be one of the last choices for floor treatments in a house with pets. To my surprise, the cowhide in my house is one of the most practical decisions I have ever made. Its texture naturally repels dog and cat hair. This interior takes full advantage of the cowhide's beauty and durability.
Photo by Josina Bergsøe - Discover contemporary living room design ideas
When it comes to furniture, my advice is to go for a low-maintenance fabric. I have not found a successful way of keeping my dogs off the couch (have you?), and every day I am thankful for my lucky decision to purchase a microfiber sofa. Microfiber is one of the most forgiving upholstery fabrics; it cleans up with great ease.
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Perhaps an even better option for furniture is leather, especially for dogs. You can simply wipe it clean and be done.
Tell us: What materials have you used in your home to help you with your pet-related chores? How does owning pets affect your choice of furniture and decor? Please share below!
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Do you have a runner, a sniffer or a greeter?
Being overjoyed about going for a walk is almost universal among the canine set. If you reach for that leash, lace up your shoes or do anything that suggests even the remote possibility that you are going for a walk, your dog is probably thrilled.
However, dogs are making use of the sacred walk time for different purposes. Though many dogs like everything about a walk, there are at least three categories of dogs, based on what they most love about their outings.
Some dogs are runners. What they want out of the walk is exercise, so they want to be moving, preferably as fast as possible. These are the dogs who need their daily (or twice daily or all day) activity. They often pull on the leash at first, but once they get into a rhythm, burned off some energy and released some endorphins, they settle down a bit. They still want to run or trot, but they are more flexible about whatever pace you choose.
It’s rare to find a dog who has no interest in sniffing on their walks, but for many of them, it is their top priority from start to finish. They have their nose to the ground much of the walk, suddenly getting incredibly interested in stretches of grass that look to us, the olfactory challenged humans, exactly like every other stretch of grass. These dogs seek mental stimulation on walks, and their minds are stimulated by the smells that are here! And there! And everywhere!
Even the most social of dogs are often distracted by their own desire to be active or to sniff all over the place. However, there are some dogs whose main purpose on walks is to meet-and-greet. These are the social butterfly, table-hopper types who simply want to say hello to other dogs, to people or even to the occasional cat. These greeters love to connect with others, and may even be slightly disappointed if there are few others out and about during walks. Related to the social dogs are the dogs whose purpose is marking their territory and patrolling the area. These dogs, like other social dogs, are highly interested in who is (and has been)out and about.
Many dogs are a combination of these traits. The love to run, sniff and say hello, but as a guardian, you probably know your dog well enough to understand which activity is most important.
Do you have a runner, a sniffer, a greeter or a dog with an entirely different priority?
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