life with dogs
A gathering of ideas
There is an astounding amount of research on dogs—academic studies, medical research, social and psychological testing, not to mention reams of data gathered from our everyday lives. Thoughtfully assimilated, all of this information can help us and our dogs live better lives together.
I was reminded of how fortunate dog enthusiasts are to share in this wealth of information upon my return last week from Purina’s Better with Pets Summit (November 3). The annual event, this year presented in Brooklyn, NY, was a gathering of pet experts sharing their latest findings with the media. The theme for the day was “exploring the best ideas for bringing people and pets closer together.” It was an apt description.
The day started out with an inspired presentation by Dr. Arleigh Reynolds, a veterinarian and research scientist who studies the impact of nutrition on performance on sled dogs. A champion musher himself, Reynolds’ talk focused not on a program he’s involved with in the Alaskan village of Huslia. This small coastal community was the home of George Attla, a famed champion musher and native Athabascan who ruled the sport for thirty years before retiring. In honor of his son Frank, who died at age 21 in 2010, Attla started the Frank Attla Youth and Sled Dog Care Mushing Program. The program serves many purposes—providing skills, lessons in cultural traditions, and a sense of belonging to the youth population while uniting all townspeople around a common activity, mushing. The program, as described warmly by Reynolds and in a short documentary film demonstrates the power that dogs can initiate in our lives.
Next up was a panel discussion titled “Are Millennials Changing Our Relationships with Cats?”—offering the interesting observation that a new generation of cat people have now formed a community on the internet—so as dog people connect at dog parks, cat lovers now interact online sharing their passion for felines. We met Christina Ha, the co-founder of Meow Parlour, New York’s first cat café. Can a canine café be in our future?
The most anticipated panel “Stress, Our Pets, and Us” featured animal behaviorist Ragen McGowan, PhD; architect Heather Lewis (Animal Arts) and Dr. Tony Buffington, professor of veterinary science. McGowan discussed the value of having dogs work for their food citing her studies with grizzlies, chickens and mice on the practice of contrafreeloading (working for food when food is freely available). Lewis’s architectural practice specializes in designing veterinary hospitals and animal care facilities around the country, meeting the unique needs of both workers and animals. It’s evident that good design can have an important impact on animal friendly environments—from soothing color palettes to calming lighting levels or the simple use of horizontal bars (less stress inducing) instead of traditional vertical bars. The key takeaway: Mental exercise for animals might be as important to their well-being as physical exercise.
“Raising Pets and Kids” featured Jayne Vitale of Mutt-i-grees Child Development Director; Ilana Resiner, veterinarian behaviorist; and Charley Bednarsh, Director of Children’s Services (Brooklyn). The Bark features an in-depth article in its Winter 2015 issue on Mutt-i-grees, a program developed by the North Shore Animal League that offers academic and emotional support to students from kindergarten through high school, teaching them how to be ambassadors for the humane treatment of animals. Bednarsh and her therapy dog Paz, team up to assist young witnesses of domestic violence navigate the judicial system (a similar program first reported in The Bark). We were reminded of the important contribution to the health and well-being of the children in these extraordinary programs, and also to common households. Note to self: Don’t humanize your dog—study, understand, embrace their dogness.
The afternoon offered a room full of experiential exhibits—interactive displays that provided lessons in healthy environments, cognition, reading your pet, nutrition and your pet’s purpose. Manned by teams of experts, the well designed displays presented an immersive course in Dog and Cat 101. I’d love to see the exhibits showcased to the general public, those most in need of education and guidance in the proper care of pet companions. The day was rich with ideas and notes that we’ll shape into future articles for The Bark.
Purina’s commitment to offering a forum of ideas is commendable. In a similar vein, the company hosted another notable event on November 7—a free live video cast of the Family Dog Project from Hungary—with over a dozen presentations by leading scientists and animal behaviorist exploring everything from canine cognition to sensory perception in dogs. Like the Pet Summit, it was a fascinating collection of concepts and dialogue, enriching to everybody who participated.
For more check out #BetterWithPets
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Effects of feeding frequency and age
When and how much our dogs sleep matters to us because it affects our own sleep. Most people who have ever raised a puppy know the horror of sleep deprivation, and many people caring for elderly dogs or those who are unwell are facing the same problem. Even dogs who don’t need to be taken out in the middle of the night or in the wee hours of the morning often work against the goal of an uninterrupted stretch of eight hours of restorative sleep each night.
I once had a dog who slept in every morning, and I valued that quality in him immensely. Though I made many attempts to figure out how to transfer this quality to all dogs, I suspect he just came into the world that way. True, we did feed him healthy food and give him lots of exercise, but that surely hasn’t worked on a large number of other dogs. Still, I maintain a strong interest in learning about the variables that affect dogs’ sleep patterns, with the eventual hope that dog guardians everywhere can apply it to their own dogs for the benefit of all.
Because I am interested in canine sleep, I was interested in a study that investigated some basic aspects of dogs’ sleep patterns. The research looked into the effects of age and feeding frequency on dogs’ sleep patterns. Dogs were in one of three age ranges (1.5-4.5 years, 7-9 years, 11-14 years) and were fed either once or twice daily.
The researchers found that older and middle aged dogs slept more during the day than young adult dogs, but that was because they took more naps, and not because their naps were longer. Older and middle aged dogs also slept more at night than younger dogs because they had a longer total sleep interval at night (waking up later) and woke up fewer times during the night.
Dogs of all ages were affected in a similar manner by being fed twice daily as opposed to once a day. Dogs who were fed more frequently took fewer naps during the day, but the naps lasted longer. Dogs fed twice a day fell asleep earlier at night, but woke up earlier, too with a decreased total time sleeping at night. (The earlier waking time more than compensated for the earlier bedtime.)
>The take home message to me is that if you want more sleep, just wait until your young dog ages a little. That’s interesting when you compare dogs to humans, because we sleep considerably less as older adults than as young adults.
Have you noticed a change in your dog’s sleep pattern with age or with changes in feeding schedules?
News: Guest Posts
My dog and I both enjoy the arrival of autumn. I love the cascade of warm leaf colors, and she particularly loves rooting through the newly dropped leaves, as if there must be a treat hidden in there somewhere. We’re able to take much longer walks, no longer burdened by daytime heat spikes, scorching pavement, or the constant buzz of mosquitoes.
However, this time of year also brings another, less pleasant arrival: adult-stage blacklegged, or deer ticks. Wait a minute! Maybe you thought ticks were only a problem in the spring and summer? Well, they are active then. But blacklegged ticks are also a problem in the autumn. The tiny, poppy seed-sized nymphs that were nearly invisible all summer now have grown into the adult form and seem to be everywhere. These autumn days, when all other bloodsuckers are pretty much gone, adult blacklegged ticks can be found spending their days at the tops of tall grasses and low shrubs, legs outstretched, and waiting for a potential host to brush by.
The females are particularly dangerous to you as well as your pup. It’s currently estimated that around 50 percent of female blacklegged ticks are infected with the Lyme disease bacteria in the New England, mid-Atlantic and Upper Midwestern states, and the likelihood of transmission and infection increases the longer she’s attached and feeding. A lower proportion (about 15 percent) of these same ticks are infected in the southeastern and south-central states. And don’t be surprised if you see what looks like two types of tick on you or your pet. The all-black tick you may see is a male, usually just crawling around. He’s not interested in feeding (he’s only looking for the ladies). In addition to the Lyme disease bacteria, blacklegged ticks are also known carriers of the agent that causes canine anaplasmosis, another nasty pathogen that causes lethargy, lameness and fever in dogs.
While ticks pose a serious risk to you and your dog, they are no reason to hide indoors. A little TickSmart planning can help keep you TickSafe as you enjoy the beautiful fall weather.
Top 5 TickSmart™ Actions to Protect your Dog from Deer Ticks
•Avoid edges where ticks lie in wait.
•Perform daily tick checks on your dog.
•Protect your dog with a quick tick-knockdown product.
•Make sure your dog’s Lyme vaccine is up-to-date.
•Create a tick-free yard.
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Canine abilities that are inconvenient for humans
By the time he was six months old, my husband’s childhood dog could leap their six-foot fence. He was part Whippet, so it should come as no surprise that once he was out of the yard, it was pretty easy for him to cruise the neighborhood at speeds that made it impossible to catch him on foot or on a bike, and even a challenge by car. His physical capabilities were wondrous to behold, but also highly problematic.
I once fostered a puppy who was an excellent jumper and extremely fit. She had a lovely temperament, but like most active young dogs, she could be a bit tiresome to other dogs. Since we also had a five-year old dog at the time, we knew that giving our adult dog some breaks from the puppy would be wise. The first afternoon that the two were together, we put a baby gate across a doorway to separate the two dogs. We figured our adult Lab mix could jump over the gate if he wanted to be with the puppy, and jump away if he needed a break.
Regrettably, the puppy hopped over that fence with more than a foot of clearance under her, while our adult dog did not attempt it. It had surprised us that our adult dog was hesitant to jump because he had a history of leaping obstacles we thought were high enough to contain him, so we took him to see his veterinarian. That’s how we learned he had a slight tear in his AC. (So, on the bright side, we probably saved him from more pain by treating that injury earlier than we would otherwise have done.)
Some dogs show tremendous prowess at track and field events—running and jumping in a variety of ways—but others excel with their fine motor skills, and that can be just as challenging. It’s easy to marvel at a dog who can open doors, is undeterred by childproof latches or can open every secure trash can on the market, but it’s far harder to live with such a dog. If you have a dog who turns on faucets or opens the refrigerator, I would bet good money that you envy people whose dogs lack the skills to do so.
What physical ability of your dog has been a colossal inconvenience for you?
Dog's Life: Travel
Travel: Dog Friendly Bozeman, Montana.
Bozeman, MT is the place for the serious outdoorsperson. The town proper is rumored to have over 67 miles of trails and 42 dog bag stations in its parks. The pride of Bozeman’s canine community is a 37-acre off leash dog area at Snowfill Recreation Area. If that weren’t enough, ground was recently broken at Gallatin Regional Park for a new 13-acre dog park with amenities like ponds, diving docks, a dog sports area. The OLA advocacy group, Run Dog Run, is also responsible for developing a series of smaller dog parks throughout the whole area. Gotta hand it to them, they know how to get the job done. Bozeman is also a gateway to every day-trip imaginable with majestic mountains, rivers and lakes in the neighborhood. Much of the world-class trout fishing and clear waterways benefit from Montana’s egalitarian stream access laws, allowing for full public use. Canoeing, kayaking, white water rafting—for water-loving dogs, big sky country is paradise. All that outdoor activity tends to work up a thirst, so a number of breweries (Montana Ale Works, Bozeman Brewing Co.) help satisfy the town’s favorite indoor sport— drinkin’. Most either welcome dogs or hold special pupfriendly promotions. Montanans like their food fresh and wild, so look for some jerky treats made with local game, it will help fuel you and your pup on your adventures. Plus Bozeman is home to West Paw Design, maker of eco-friendly dog beds and toys, and one of the greenest companies anywhere. The new West Paw Dog Park recently opened to the public (WPD helped secure the space and funded improvements) with the support of Run Dog Run. For an insider’s viewpoint on Bozeman’s dog-friendly attitude—go online for tips from the canine-loving staff at West Paw Design: thebark.com/bozeman
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Included as cherished family members
It’s been a long time since the majority of people with dogs considered them property, but the inclusion of them in the celebrations and events of life associated with family continues to grow. Birthday parties and gifts for dogs have become increasingly common in recent years, and the number of dogs included in family photos or in signatures on greeting cards is bigger than ever. It’s really old news to say that many people consider dogs to be family members, but interesting studies of the ways in which that’s true continue to be published.
Earlier this year, a study called Companion Animals in Obituaries: An Exploratory Study was published in the journal Anthrozoös. The study illuminated the importance of companion animals, including dogs, based on the frequency and manner in which they were mentioned in obituaries.
Authors of the above study read nearly 12,000 obituaries in their local papers for three months, recording how often companion animals were mentioned and also how often donations to animal-related charities were requested in lieu of flowers. The newspapers studied were the Washington Post in Washington, D.C., the Richmond Times Dispatch in Richmond, Virginia and the TagesAnzeiger in Zurich, Switzerland.
They found that 148 obituaries mentioned a pet survivor (over 70 percent of them dogs!), and 130 requested that donations go to an animal-related charity. Many of the pets were described as faithful, loving or loyal, a lot were mentioned by name, and it was often written that they missed the deceased. Sometimes even the pets who predeceased the person were mentioned as in, “Wayne was an avid fisherman and enjoyed time with his beloved dogs, the late Bubba and Boomer, as well as Bear.”
In the United States newspapers, the likelihood of mentioning a surviving pet and requesting donations to animal-related charities were roughly equal. However, in Switzerland, only one pet survivor (a cat) was mentioned, but fifteen obituaries requested donations to animal-related charities. Though it is unusual to mention pets in obituaries, long-term studies may be able to determine if it is a growing trend.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Have you experienced the fear?
We were pet sitting a distinctive-looking mixed breed dog named Peanut when my husband (riding his bike home from work) called and left a message. He said that he had just seen a dog he thought was Peanut running down the street and he wanted to check on the situation.
The situation was that Peanut was safely at home enjoying a snooze and I was on the phone with a client. Even though I was actually looking at Peanut when I listened to my husband’s voice mail, I felt vaguely panicky in response to his words.
We are fortunate that we have never had a dog truly run away, but like most guardians, we have had a couple of whoopsie moments. House guests opening the door without paying attention to the dog, a broken leash, a slipped collar, and a screen door blowing open in the wind are just a few of the “life happens” events that could have meant a dog at risk from traffic and other dangers of the open road. Our dogs have always had good responses to “Wait” and solid recalls, so those little oops moments have never had tragic consequences. They’ve usually just been an opportunity to give our dog a cue and reinforce them for responding in a real-life situation. They were stressful but not terrifying.
If a dog bolts out the door and takes off, it can be a daunting task to get that dog safely back home. It’s a heart-dropping feeling to see a dog head out if you know that he may not come back if called. Even dogs who are very well trained can be in this situation if they bolt out of fear, such as during a thunderstorm that has made them panic or when fireworks are filling the sky.
Have you had a dog take off on you? Were you able to get the dog back and if so, how?
For years, I kept a supply of phenobarbital on hand, prescribed by my vet for my mixed-breed dog's seizure. It turned out to be a one-time thing, and eventually, I disposed of the drug. But I can testify that watching her in the grip of it was both scary and confusing.
As dog-lovers, most of us hope we're never faced with a number of canine health conditions. Seizures fall into that category. When they happen, however, it's helpful to understand what we're looking at and what we need to do next.
Seizures, which are caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain, can indicate a variety of conditions, some transitory, some longer-lasting. Our old friend "idiopathic" --or, of unknown origin--also comes into play more than either we or our vets would like.
As explained on the Texas A&M newswire, "For some dogs, a seizure is a one-time experience, but in most cases seizures reoccur. An underlying problem in the brain could be responsible for reoccurring seizures, often resulting in a diagnosis of epilepsy. Between the many causes of seizures in dogs and the often normal lab results, idiopathic epilepsy proves to be a frequent diagnosis." Other causes include toxin ingestion, tumors, stroke, or another of several related neurological disorders.
Dr. Joseph Mankin, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, describes a typical seizure. “The dog may become agitated or disoriented, and then may collapse on its side. It may exhibit signs of paddling, vocalization, and may lose bladder control. The seizure may last for a few seconds up to a few minutes, and often the dog will be disoriented or anxious afterward. Occasionally, a dog may be blind for a short period of time.”
When a dog is in the grip of a seizure, there's little we can do, other than to keep our hands away from his or her mouth. Afterward, the most important thing we can do is take the pup to the vet for investigation into the cause. Fortunately, a number of treatments, ranging from allopathic (Western medicine) to complementary (including acupunture) exist.
Like most things, especially those related to health, knowing what we're dealing with is half the battle.
For more on this topic, read Dr. Sophia Yin's excellent overview.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Just like a baby (and maybe cuter)
Years ago, my husband brought our seven-month old son to an all-day seminar I was giving on dog aggression so that I could feed him during the breaks. In many situations, a man carrying a baby would attract a lot of attention from women, but not in this case. There were about 200 people at the seminar, and approximately 180 of them were women. During the course of the day, only a handful of them approached my husband, and all but two of them came over to share puppy photos with him. (“Look! You have a young animal in your life. I have a young animal in my life, too!”)
I’ve noticed over the years that in the world of dogs, there are many people who are just not that into kids. It’s especially true for people whose professional lives revolve around dogs. I’m fond of saying that as a group, we dog people are not very “breedy.” Of course there are tons of exceptions (I myself have two human children), but many dog people are not as child-oriented as the rest of the population.
Any couple who does not have children has probably faced questions and criticisms about that, which is obviously rude. It’s thoughtless, narrow-minded, and potentially hurtful (not to sound judgmental or anything) to ask people personal questions about when they are going to have kids or why they don’t have kids. It’s nobody’s business, and it’s impossible to know if a couple has decided not to have children or if perhaps they have been unable to have children even though they want them very much. Either situation may involve a couple who is very focused on their canine companions, and that is a beautiful thing.
One couple took an unusual approach to letting their families know that they should not expect a human grandchild. They had a photo shoot with their puppy that mimicked the popular “new baby” photo sessions. The result was a gorgeous set of photos by Elisha Minnette Photography. It looks like they enjoyed themselves and judging by the response, many people share their sense of humor.
>Are you tempted to do a “new dog” photo shoot with your best friend?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
A mess that made us laugh
I’m in favor of keeping dogs safe when they are in moving vehicles, and that includes not allowing any part of their bodies to be outside the car. There are many dangers to dogs when they ride with their heads hanging out the window, yet seeing dogs enjoy themselves in this way nearly always makes me smile. Recently, I saw one particular dog riding with his face out in the wind looking thrilled with the experience, and it did more than make me smile.
In fact, it did two more things. One, I laughed out loud, as did my sons who were both with me in the car. Two, it made me aware of yet another danger of having dogs stick their heads out of the window. Namely, they could cause an accident by making a nearby driver (me!) laugh too hard for too long.
If I had to guess, I’d say the dog was a St. Bernard crossed with an English Mastiff, and I’m sure he weighed one-and-a-half times what I do. His lips were blowing in the breeze in that delightful way that only happens to dogs with big flews.
What really made us laugh was the enormous amount of slobber on the outside of the dark blue car in which he was riding. The door underneath him was covered with layers and layers of drool lines, some of which went down to the bottom edge of the car. Most of the lines were at an angle towards the lower back end of the car, suggesting that the wind had blown the slobber. It looked like a frozen waterfall except that it wasn’t nearly as shiny.
If you have a drooling dog, has that dog decorated either the inside or the outside of your car?
Copyright © 1997-2016 The Bark, Inc. Dog Is My Co-Pilot® is a registered trademark of The Bark, Inc