life with dogs
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Dogs Love Walks For Many Reasons
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?

Editor’s note
We posed the question to our Twitter followers: what kind of walking style does your dog possess? The results are in:

9% Runner
56% Sniffer
11% Greeter
24% Mixed

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Little Luxuries
What non-essential dog items do you love?

As I get older I value my comfort just a little more. I appreciate cup holders, soft cozy blankets, and chairs whose designers were inspired by the human body rather than thoughts of fitting 100 chairs in a storage closet. When it comes to dogs, little luxuries mean more to me, too. Just today I walked dogs with leashes that have soft padding in the handle, and I realized that these are the leashes for me. It’s a little thing, that extra padding, but I just love the feel of it my hand. Even with dogs who have lovely leash manners (but especially if they are still working on them) that extra cushion protects my hands from any harshness, and I love it!

I felt the same way years ago when I first discovered the Chuck It. Okay, a little dog slobber never hurt anybody, but a quart of it on a tennis ball is not what I’m looking for in hand moisturizer, either. I’m also a big fan of the folding dog water bowl. To be able to hike with dogs and easily help them hydrate without having a big, clunky water bowl digging into my back through a backpack adds much joy to the outing.

While I am a huge fan of the stuffed Kong, sometimes it feels like a lot of work to stuff one. (I’m not proud of that, but it’s the truth.) When such an every day task seems hard, I’m grateful for Kong’s Marathon toys. They can keep a dog occupied for a long time but just take a moment for me to lock the compatible treat into the fitted slot.

Microfiber towels that absorb water and mud from a dog’s underbelly and paws are indispensable to me now. Sure, any basic towel works, but they don’t necessarily work as well as the microfiber ones. Even easier to use (and therefore better) are the microfiber mitts that dry dogs without slipping, which means that your hands don’t get wet and muddy.

There are so many items that I appreciate just because they make life a tiny bit easier and more convenient. Non-stick mats that go under food and water bowl keep bowls from sliding all over the floor are a huge plus—no scratches in the floor, easy clean-up of spills, and no racket from clanking bowls. Travel food bags that only take up as much room as the food you have left are a huge improvement over bulky plastic containers. Poop bag holders that attach to a belt loop or the leash free up my hands and pockets, and therefore belong on my list of non-essential dog items that make me happy.

What little luxuries in dog gear make your life just a little better?

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Dogs in the Road
Modern Dangers

An adrenaline rush at the movies or on a roller coaster is fun, but not when the cause is seeing a dog dodging traffic. Yesterday, a dog raced across a busy road, right in front of our car, and then perilously close to oncoming traffic. He was running in a zigzag pattern and was clearly not experienced at crossing the street. I honked a few times, hoping to put all other drivers on alert so they could take evasive action to avoid this dog.

Fortunately, the dog made it safely across many lanes of traffic to the other side, but unfortunately, he immediately headed back across the road. There was more honking and braking, some skilled swerving and another blast of adrenaline all around. The dog survived his second crossing with help from a lot of drivers and a bit of luck thrown in. He was then in the grocery store parking that was the scene of his escape, where a woman grabbed his collar and held onto him.

I pulled into this parking lot just in case a spare leash would be helpful.(I usually have one in my car.) I arrived just as the dog’s guardian did, looking incredibly relieved and full of gratitude for the woman who had caught her dog. Thanks to a modern convenience, the dog had been released from the guardian’s car when she accidentally hit the release button for the back hatch instead of the one to unlock the doors. She was just exiting the store when it happened, so she was close enough to the car to activate it, but too far away to stop her dog from leaping out and going on his brief, but dangerous, escapade.

With this technology so commonplace, precautions against the dangers it presents to our dogs are in order. Securing our dogs with crates or barriers is an obvious option for avoiding this kind of trouble. There are so many arguments in favor of having our dogs in crates when they are in the car, and this is just another one.

The guardian of this dog was horrified about his near disaster, and will certainly have nightmares. (I probably will, too!) Even though her dog rides in the crate, she had let him out for a little more freedom while shopping, not considering the potential risk her new car posed.

Has an accidental hatch opening ever given your dog an unplanned adventure?

Culture: DogPatch
Letter to My Ex-Dog

Let me start by saying that I love you. No matter what else becomes true in the chaos surrounding my leaving, my feelings for you will remain. There is no force on or above this earth that could shake you from my heart.

The world of people is complicated. It’s not just about who smells nice or is easy to get along with. Even people with wonderful personalities and exceptional smells aren’t always made for one another. Things change. Souls evolve. Challenges emerge. People meet, connect, intertwine and separate.

Your person and I thought we had everything figured out. We didn’t. It’s nothing you did. We just ended up in over our heads, like an emotional version of the time you swam too far into the lake chasing geese. We believed we could love like dogs— pure, joyous, unconditional—but in the end we could only love like people. It is a flaw of all humankind.

I am sorry to have to leave. Know that it is difficult. Know that I would never “willfully” abandon you. Know that I will be there should your person ever need someone to care for you. Let me reiterate: I love you.

Other people will come. Please love them the way you loved me, without fear. This is your gift. Love your person, as well. She needs you most in moments like these. She is more your responsibility than you are hers.

I promise this is not the end. I will see you again. I will call your name and bury my face in your fur. We will dance together, your paws in my hands. To you it will seem like no time has passed at all.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Love, Loss and the Gift of Old Dogs
Dillon abandoned dog
Its been a rough few months around here with a great deal of loss. I remember in January and February sitting with the dogs one evening after work and knowing that 4 of them were likely not going to be around much longer. Three of the four were past ten with a variety of age related issues. Tyra was the youngest at only about 6 but Great Danes have one of the shortest lifespans of any breed and she suffered from wobblers disease and other serious issues common in the breed.    The first to go was our dear old German shepherd Dillon who we took in with another dog, Molly, when their home burned in the Valley fires. Dillon was old and frail when he came to us. He was in liver failure, heartworm positive and had advanced hip dysplasia. He had 5 good months with us before his issues took a toll and we had to say good bye.  Exactly one week later, 13 year old blind pit bull Patty had declined to the point we couldn’t keep her comfortable and our hearts broke again. Patty came to us at age eleven as part of a felony cruelty case and we had 2 ½ wonderful years with her. Patty was perfection in dog form. She had a gentleness, presence and wisdom I had rarely seen even with 30 plus years of working with dogs.       I was feeling incredibly fragile when Paul and I got home from the vet after letting Patty go. Two dogs in one week was heartbreaking and overwhelming. We walked in the door and our sweet Tyra was down and in distress. She had been failing for months and in fact several times it had seemed as if she would be the first to go. Tyra had wobblers disease, common in Great Danes and we had been having to help her up for months. She had nerve damage, intermittent incontinence, weakness and other ongoing  issues. I was usually able to help Tyra get up but at 120 pounds it wasn’t easy and that time I couldn’t get her up at all. After trying several times with no success I knelt beside her and took her big beautiful head in my hands.  I knew it wasn’t fair but I couldn’t help it. I’ve never been one to prolong the inevitable for my own needs but I was crushed with sadness and I struggled to breathe as I looked into her sweet brown eyes. “Sweetheart, I can’t do this. Please give me more time. You have to hold on a little longer for me. Just a week,” I begged her. ”Please, I just need a week to pull myself together”. We held each others gaze for a moment and then with Paul’s help we were able to get her up and moving.      Tyra actually rallied for several months and it was a daily struggle but she still had a lot of joy in that time. We monitored her quality of life on a daily and often hourly basis, constantly weighing her comfort and happiness against the inevitable. We kept in touch with her vet, tried acupuncture, pain meds, anti-inflammatorys and more. In the past week it finally came to the point that her bad days outweighed the good and we knew we had to let her go. The vet came to the house and she slipped away in her own bed surrounded by those who loved her.    The pain is still sharp and raw and the tears are quick to spill but that is the price of love. The greater the love, the greater the pain. And dogs are so worth it. So incredibly, amazingly worth it. I could have easily spared myself the agony of loss by just not taking them in. But how much richer my life was by knowing them. How sweet was the time I spent with them. And not only did they bring such precious love and joy to my life but what would have happened to them had I not taken them? Certainly there are worse things than a humane end in the arms of caring shelter staff, but how much better to be embraced by someone who loves you deeply and fully. Every dog deserves to take that last breath in the arms of someone who loves them so much that the tears flow but the sobs are held back until the last heartbeat to spare them the worry of seeing your grief.   
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Toddler Has a Canine Chauffeur
Modern fun for a boy and his dog

I’m not old enough to remember when the only toy a boy and his dog had was a stick, but I’m sure old enough to be impressed by a remote control car that carries both of them around! In this video of a toddler and a dog in a car, it appears as though the dog is fully in control of the vehicle. At first viewing, I found that a bit unsettling, even with a trustworthy dog. I realized later that the mom (offscreen) controls the acceleration and braking as well as the right turns. The dog is turning the car to the left, though, with some remarkable paw control.

Besides being entertaining, this video has some nice qualities to it. I like how calm the dog is throughout the video and the sweet, gentle way that the boy pets his dog at about 20 seconds. I couldn’t help but smile at the way the dog looks around like he is watching the road. Responsible drivers of any species deserve a pat on the back, or in this case, a belly rub! I also like the way the mom responds instantly when the boy wants to stop. The moment he requests it, the car comes to a halt. She’s wise to avoid a situation in which either the dog or the child is unhappy.

Not every dog has the ability to be comfortable or calm enough to keep this activity safe and fun. Would your dog be able to handle it?

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
A Dog in the Lap
Feel the weight, feel the love

Sometimes people acquire a lap dog on purpose, choosing with great care a dog who is small, cuddly and loves to sit with people. Other times, an unintended lap dog, particularly a large one, brings to mind that famous comment referring to software: “It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.” That is, you can consider it a problem or you can accept that it is just part of the system.

There are a lot of perks of living with a lap dog. You always feel loved, you certainly feel warm, and there is no possibility of being lonely. Many dogs love lap sitting, happily taking advantage of any opportunity to sit on people as they enjoy a cup of coffee, do a little yoga or attempt to watch a movie. There are many reasons why dogs choose to be so physically close to us that they are literally on top of us.

Some are social and friendly without boundaries, while others are a bit clingy because they are insecure. Some are fearful and seek comfort in physical contact but others simply don’t want to miss out and seem to be in a constant state of asking, “What’s up guys? What are we going to do now?” I believe there are dogs who are heat-seeking missiles and love to share body heat regardless of the weather. We could argue that all lap sitting stems from loving us and feeling comfortable and happy when they are with us. Whatever the reason, it’s a very cozy feeling to have a dog in your lap, especially when the dog is clearly so content to be there.

On the other hand, having a dog in your lap can be problematic, especially if the dog is bigger than your lap. It can be hard to work at your computer, eat your breakfast, repair your glasses or perform any number of tasks when the movement of your arms is impaired and all you see is fur. It may also mean that you remain in place when you really should get up. I have personally continued to sit with a dog in my lap because it made me so happy even though both legs had fallen asleep or I had to use the bathroom so urgently that I was really pressing my luck.

The term “lap dog” may imply that a dog is small, but I’ve had dogs ranging from six pounds to well over 100 pounds consider my lap the perfect seat. Size has less to do with being a lap dog than a dog’s inclination to be snuggly and affectionate in this particular way. A small gentle lap dog can make me happy because it’s so endearing to have one settle in with me. The humorous joy of having a dog who is nearly my size choose my lap as a resting place can make me just as happy. There is something vaguely ridiculous, but no less loving, about such a large dog considering my lap to be the best spot in the house, even when there is clearly not enough room for their entire body.

It’s not always convenient or completely comfortable, but the warm, cozy weight of a loving dog in your lap is one of life’s great joys. Do you have a lap dog?

Wellness: Healthy Living
Six Tips on Caring for Older Dogs
We look at ways to make their lives easier.

In your eyes, your dog will alway s be a puppy, even if she’s getting up there in canine (and human) years, or her muzzle is beginning to gray. However, eventually the day will come when you notice that your pup is panting a little bit harder after a long walk and struggling to climb onto your bed. It’s time to start adjusting to the lifestyle needs of an older dog.

When a dog is considered a senior largely depends on breed. Smaller dogs (such as Chihuahuas or Terriers) don’t reach their golden years until they’re 10 or 12, while a Great Dane may attain senior status at the age of five or six. Beyond size and breed, genetics, diet and environment all have an impact on a dog’s life expectancy.

Just as modern medicine has extended the lives of people, with the right combination of attention and preventive care, it can also extend the lives of dogs. If you want your older dog to have a long and happy life, consider incorporating these strategies into your pet care routine.

Remember your dog’s teeth. Dental hygiene is particularly crucial as your dog ages. Regular brushing and professional cleaning can prevent painful dental disease and decay (and help your dog avoid the chewing problems mentioned earlier). If your dog doesn’t enjoy having his/her teeth brushed, consider dental treats and toys instead.

Watch your dog’s diet. Mature dogs often have food issues, including problems chewing, lack of appetite, obesity and digestive difficulties. Consult with your vet on the best diet and exercise plan for your aging dog. Dietary changes may include adding more fiber to aid with digestion or decreasing carbohydrates to maintain optimal weight. Supplements such as fish oil or glucosamine can be added to alleviate joint pain.

Exercise your dog’s body and mind. Like people, aging dogs experience pain and have difficulty performing physical activities they used to enjoy. However, exercise continues to be imperative to their health and well being. Take your dog on short, gentle walks and monitor his/her breathing and gait to make sure nothing is amiss. Your dog’s brain needs plenty of exercise as well. Stimulating toys such as food puzzles help keep your dog sharp.

See the vet more often. Take your dog in for a vet checkup at least twice a year. Just as elderly people need to be aware of health issues and visit their doctors more often, aging pets benefit from more frequent visits. Older pets may need additional blood tests, dental care and examinations. Additionally, many breeds have predispositions toward certain ailments, including arthritis, hip dysplasia, cancer and diabetes. Early detection can help catch these before they become major problems.

“Seniorize” your house. Just as you once puppy-proofed your home, you now need to provide your older dog with special accommodations. For dogs with hip dysplasia or joint issues, consider a special ramp or stairs so they can still get in the car or join you on the bed. Keep food and water in areas they can easily reach, especially if they are vision-impaired. Heated beds can soothe achy joints, particularly if you live in a colder climate. Finally, non-slip surfaces will prevent falls and help your older pet maintain traction when rising.

Pay attention. Monitor changes in behavior; appetite; weight loss or gain; dental issues; and any lumps, bumps or lesions and bring them to your vet’s attention. (A journal is a great memory aid.)

Taking care of an older dog may involve a little more work than you’re used to doing, but caring for a lifetime companion is a deeply rewarding experience. Your dog has been good to you (and for you) for years—now’s the time to return the favor!

Wellness: Healthy Living
Fighting Valley Fever
Chocolate lab sits on the dried grass. Discussions of Valley Fever in Arizona's research group.

Arizona genetics researchers are taking the unusual step of asking for dog lovers’ help in fighting a mysterious, potentially lethal infection that plagues both dog and man.

They are looking for dogs to be registered and potentially to have their DNA collected to help combat valley fever, a fungus-based disease once confined to the Southwest desert but is now spreading across the country.

Valley fever can be triggered by inhalation of just a handful of spores of a particular fungus. People, dogs and cats are susceptible to the illness that was once believed to occur only in Arizona and California. The disease is not contagious and is not spread from species to species.

The risk for valley fever increases as climates get drier, say California State University, Bakersfield researchers. Warmer temperatures and less rain basically kill off the fungus’ competitors for nutrients and thereby creating an ideal growing environment for the infection-causing fungus.

Valley fever is now being reported in states such as Michigan, Ohio and Minnesota, which never used to see the condition. And the states that typically see the condition are reporting more and more cases: The number of Valley Fever reports is increasing in more than a third of California’s  counties, putting more dogs at risk for a disease that can lead to lameness, extreme weight loss and coma.

When Charlie, a 75-pound Chocolate Lab, started coughing, it didn’t set off any alarms. But then he developed a fever and was diagnosed as having kennel cough, which can be easily treated by antibiotics and steroids. Then the symptoms returned and again it was misdiagnosed as pneumonia. More than two months passed before Charlie was given the correct medication; the delay in a correct diagnosis lessens his chances for a full recovery.

Charlie now spends most of his time sleeping off the effects of valley fever, instead of being his normal playful self.

There is no cure for valley fever. Currently treatments focus on helping dogs beat the symptoms. Vet bills can mount up since a dog may have to get medication for up to eighteen months; in some severe cases, a dog may be on medicine for the rest of his life.  It is estimated that Arizona dog lovers spend $60 million per year in caring for dogs with valley fever.

Seeing the increase in valley fever cases across the U.S., Phoenix-based Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) researchers are now asking for dog people to take a brief online survey about their pet’s breed, health history and lifestyle. After the survey, the dog may be selected to give a saliva sample.

Then after the swabbing is done, researchers will look for differences in the genes of dogs who are sick compared to dogs who show signs of exposure to valley fever but who aren’t sick.

“In certain dogs, a minor infection can progress to severe disease, and the reasons for this are unknown,” said Dr. Bridget Barker, assistant professor and head of TGen’s Northern Arizona Center for Valley Fever Research in Flagstaff, Ariz.

This information would be used to help develop new therapies for both dogs and people, she said.

For more information about TGen’s Valley Fever PAWS (Prevention, Awareness, Working for Solutions), visit us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/vfpaws, and on Twitter at @ValleyFeverPAWS.

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Not-So-Picky Drinkers
Is your dog bothered by foul water?

Dogs are famous for drinking out of the toilet. Though that does make me wrinkle my nose, it is far from the most disgusting water that I have seen dogs drink. I’m not talking about dogs who are lost in the desert taking in fluid from any source to stay alive. Even from my human perspective, that seems like an extremely rational choice.

I’m talking about healthy, well-cared for pets who think that a nearly dried up scum-covered pond that is more muck than water looks extremely appetizing. I’m thinking of dogs who pass up a freshly filled, clean water bowl to lick the muddy spots that melted off my snow boots and onto the kitchen floor. And I’m calling to mind those individuals who are drawn to the water that has run through the pot containing a houseplant and into the saucer below. Yes, I’m referring to the one that is coated with algae and has probably never been cleaned.

Amazingly, dogs tend to drink from the most unlikely sources without incident the vast majority of the time. Some weird water choices are usually harmless. If your dog licks the water off your legs after a shower, it’s unlikely to be a problem, especially if you rinsed well. However, their interest in fluids that we don’t want them to drink can be disastrous. There’s the obvious risk of exposure to serious water-borne diseases such as leptospirosis and giardia. Even more alarming is the risk to dogs who are attracted to antifreeze or windshield de-icing fluid because the ethylene glycol they contain can cause kidney failure and even death.

By comparison, the toilet seems like a reasonable place for the average canine to quench his thirst!

Does your dog have a favorite watering hole other than his bowl?