News: Guest Posts
Dog watching in NYC
Do city dogs have it better?

Dogs have been man’s best friend for thousands of years, adapting to nearly any living condition man throws their way. Whether living in a cave or on a snowy mountaintop, dogs and humans have weathered many different conditions and lifestyles together. And this weekend I witnessed perhaps one of the most interesting (and overwhelming!) environments dogs share with us: New York City.

  My best friend Carrie moved to New York earlier this year, and pretty much since the day she moved we had been planning my visit. Carrie gets me, and she gets dogs. For the past few years, she has willingly shared her birthday party with my Schipperke Leo, so she knew when I came to visit I would want to do something dog-oriented. We hung out in dog-friendly neighborhoods, sipping on tea in cafes and catcalling every dog that walked by, “Oh look at that Terrier, he’s got a good attitude!” “Work your thang, Puggle!” “Rock them dreads, Puli!”   While New Yorkers are famous for their no-nonsense, fast-paced approach toward life, they surprised me in how willing they were to stop and chat about their dogs. They’d offer up stories, discuss potty habits (“Lola always has to potty right in front of Club Monaco, it’s her thing.”), even show off their pup’s impressive tricks. (An Afghan Hound I met in Chelsea knew his right from left; I know humans that don’t know that.) Even more surprising was how dog-friendly the entire city was: Bowls of water were placed outside of storefronts, parks readily had Mutt-Mitts available, and one bakery had a tray-full of treats available.   Each neighborhood seemed to have it’s own canine attitude: Central Park West dogs hang in packs and bark a lot. SoHo dogs are laid back, watching the world go by, while their people drink coffee at cafes. Brooklyn dogs look like they have somewhere to be, with no time to stop and chat (unless sniffing for food around a taco truck).   It seemed like dogs were everywhere. Considering most New Yorkers don’t own a car and dogs aren’t allowed on the subway or in taxis, I found myself wondering if these dogs lived most of their lives within a 20-block radius of their homes walking the same sidewalks everyday, encountering the same dogs and smells, or if there were ways for them to get out of the city. Maybe take the Staten Island Ferry?   I don’t know what I expected, considering my previous notions had been informed by Disney’s Oliver & Company. Somehow street dogs singing Billy Joel tunes just didn’t seem realistic. No matter what the living situation, from lofts to brownstones, it was amazing to see how well dogs adapted. While I can’t imagine Skipper or Leo living without weekend trips to the beach or hiking trails, maybe there are benefits to city life I have never considered. Do you know a city dog who could set me right?


Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Relief While Traveling
D.C. airports unveil high-tech pet potty areas

If you’re headed by air to Washington D.C. with your crew, now your pups have a special place to stretch their legs and go to the bathroom. Dulles and Reagan National Airports have recently opened “pet relief areas” in accordance with a federal ruling requiring potty areas for service dogs (though these spaces are open to all dogs, regardless of service status). Dulles already made Jaunted’s Five Best Airports for Traveling with Pets.

Dulles airport has three outside areas and two indoor areas complete with ventilation and flushing systems to keep the space clean. All potty spots feature artificial grass, fake fire hydrants, and poop bags. Reagan National has four outside areas on natural grass.

Since Nemo is too big to fly in the cabin with me, I’ve never taken any of my pets to the airport. I have seen many potty areas at rest stops on the road, but found them unusable. I would love to let my pups run around a bit after a long car ride, but rest stop potty areas always looked like a health hazard to me. Apparently other road trippers don’t feel the same as I do about cleaning up after the dogs. 

With ventilation and flushing systems, I hope that Washington D.C.’s airport pet potty areas will set the standard for amenities for traveling pups! 

For a list of airports with pet potty areas, visit Pet Friendly Travel’s web site.



News: Guest Posts
Safety Belts and Sanity
A journey to find the perfect dog seat belt

It all started with a Golden Retriever. Well, a photo of one anyway, placidly enjoying a car ride, all from the comfort and safety of a seat belt designed for dogs. It’s amazing what good marketing can do to instill a dream in your mind: “Hey, that could be my life.” While my two dogs are usually fairly well behaved in the car (aside from that incident when Skip pooped in the backseat while I was driving ... seriously, what do you do in that situation?), I recently realized I need to do more to ensure their safety on our many summer outings, and recalling that idyllic Golden Retriever’s picture from a previous shopping trip, I decided I would stop by the pet store in my neighborhood and pick up seat belts for the dogs.


It’s not that I haven’t attempted to keep the dogs safe in the car before; Believe me, I’ve tried. First there were the car seats. They looked cute, and when I had one dog it worked great (although there was that aforementioned pooping incident). Eventually, the car seats had to go, after Leo chewed his way free of his car seat, which inspired Skipper to escape too. Major mess: lots of foam and polyester in the backseat. After the car seats came the kennels, which were one long, howling nightmare, in addition to the fact that it was nearly impossible to fit both cumbersome kennels in the back of my ultra-mini Honda Civic. Then there was the cargo net, which literally lasted about 15 seconds until Skipper busted through it like the Incredible Hulk. When I worked out the cost, it came to about $1 per second of use.


Really, I should have known better than to think that I could just breeze in to my local pet store and buy the perfect dog seat belt. But I was clouded by the lie of that well-behaved Golden Retriever, and the employees at the pet store were so sure they had the right safety option for my dogs. They allowed me to test (i.e., they looked the other way while I tore open every package on display) all of their seat belt options. They even patiently assisted me in squeezing Leo, whose body is shaped like an Old Tyme strongman, into a seat belt clearly designed for cats. After thoroughly dismantling the well-organized Car Safety section of the pet store, I purchased two padded seat belt harnesses, with that dreamy looking well-behaved Golden Retriever on the package. 


Excited about my new purchase and the promise of increased safety for the dogs, I wanted to use the new seat belts immediately. Getting the harnesses onto the dogs was surprisingly easy, making me confident that these seat belts would work. Then came the task of actually securing the harnesses to the car seat belts. Not as easy. Once Leo heard the snap close, he realized the only thing he wanted in this world was freedom and he was going to fight to the end to get it. He twisted and contorted his body, while I stood nearby with a treat trying to coax him into just sitting still. He calmed down for a minute (probably out of exhaustion), and I sprinted to the other side of the car to strap in Skipper. By the time I had secured Skipper, Leo was free. I zipped back to the opposite side of the car to reconnect Leo, and by the time I got there, Skipper was loose. So here were my options: Get the dogs strapped into their seat belts so tight it will take them about 10 minutes to escape (giving me the chance to drive safely for a few miles before pulling over and re-securing the dogs), or give up and return the seat belts. Wiping my brow free of sweat, I walked back into the pet store with my dreams crushed, my tail between my legs, and I asked the clerk, “What’s your return policy for opened merchandise?”


While finding the best car safety options for my dogs has been difficult, it has now become an obsession. I’ve resorted to purchasing increasingly creative (and slightly outrageous) options on the Internet, and I’m praying something works soon, or else I will have to throw down some serious cash to purchase a car big enough to comfortably fit the dog crates. Maybe I’ll just go whole-hog with one of those $1,000+ police K9 enclosures. Safety first!



News: Guest Posts
Travel Tips
Rachel Ray asks where to stay

When celebrity chef/magazine mogul/ubiquitous TV presence Rachel Ray needs tips on traveling with a pup—who’s she gonna call? Well, Bark magazine, of course. Check out editor-in-chief Claudia Kawczynska’s suggestions on pet-friendly accommodations.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Car Theft
Heat isn’t the only danger for dogs in the car

People travelling to conformation shows and dog sport trials spend a lot of time on the road, stopping at hotels and restaurants. When weather permits, “dog show people,“ myself included, will sometimes leave the dogs in the car for a short period of time to pack luggage or to eat a meal. Care is taken to make sure the dogs are cool, windows are open, fans are on and shade cloth covers the car, but the heat may not be the only danger in these situations.

Earlier this month a couple was on their way with their three dogs to the Swedish Vallhund National Specialty. While packing their van at the hotel, someone stole the vehicle with the dogs inside. Fortunately the dogs were found safe and sound two days later.

This is certainly not a common occurrence, but I do hear about similar stories from time to time. While it’s best to avoid leaving your dogs in the car unattended, it’s not always possible for those who spend so much time on the road. As a general rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to lock the doors when you walk away from the car, even if it’s just for a minute.

When eating out with the dogs in tow, I always choose a restaurant with outdoor seating or a parking lot with ample parking near the entrance. Picking a spot that’s visible from the inside is even better.

Leaving the windows open can make your vehicle a target for theft, so if it’s too hot to close the windows, you may want to consider getting take out and eating it in the car.

Many of us feel safe when traveling to shows, surrounded by fellow dog lovers, but it’s important to not let your guard down.

Do you have any travel safety tips to share?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Canine Car Safety
How to protect your dog while driving

I recently saw a dog tossed around the back of a vehicle when the driver had to stop suddenly to avoid an accident. Luckily the dog was okay, but many dogs who are not so fortunate are injured in car accidents. The saddest thing to me is that it can be avoided.

  The best ways to protect dogs while they are in cars is with the use of crates, seat belts, or barriers that keep the dogs in the rear part of the vehicle. Even without these specific safety features, keeping dogs in the back seat rather than the front seat and not having them ride around in the back of trucks are ways to protect them from harm.   How do you travel in the car with your dogs? Have you had the misfortune to find out if they are safe in the event of a crash?


Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Big Dogs Deserve Vacations, Too
Do hotel size restrictions make sense?

Many hotels have size restrictions on the dogs they allow to stay with them. Typically, in hotels with such restrictions, dogs must be under a certain weight, such as 20, 25, 30 or 35 pounds. There is a new campaign to allow dogs of all sizes to stay in hotels so that they, too, can travel with their families. This campaign is called “Give Big Dogs A Break” and was launched by two groups. Go Pet Friendly and And A Small Dog joined forces to help give big dogs the same opportunities as little dogs to go on vacation. They are asking people to sign a petition in support of big dogs being allowed to stay at hotels.


I wonder what the reasoning is behind this size restriction? What are hotel companies worried about? If it’s noise or destruction, I hate to break it to them, but little dogs are not guaranteed to be saints in these areas. Perhaps they are worried about excess cleaning troubles related to dog hair, but if that’s the case, why not make the restriction against long-haired or heavily shedding dogs? Maybe the issue is a concern about alienating other customers, who might be afraid of big dogs, or liability issues should a big dog jump up on someone and knock them over.


We used to travel a lot with our 60-pound dog, and sometimes we did have trouble finding a place to stay because of the size restrictions. Other times, it was clear that the restrictions were loosely followed. I always asked if dogs were allowed, and when they asked the weight of my dog, I’d say, “60 pounds.” On more than one occasion, a hotel clerk answered, “Did you say 25 pounds?” to which I would reply, “No, 60 pounds.” At this point, I variously had clerks reply, “I’m just going to write 25 pounds here,” or “I think he looks to be about 25 pounds,” and book us into a room. Other times, the question was bypassed completely when the person helping us looked at our dog, winked, and said, “He’s about 25 pounds, right?” It probably helped that I always brought my dog into the lobby to demonstrate his good behavior. I’d ask for him to do a “wait” at the door, put him on “heel” as I came over to the desk, and then on a “down stay” when I spoke to the hotel employee.


What have your experiences been with trying to find hotels for larger dogs? Have you been denied a room or have you been allowed to stay places with your big dog despite the official rules?


News: Guest Posts
Large, Fragile and Valuable
Should dogs get their own seats on airplanes?

Reader comments to TheBark.com are almost always onpoint, insightful, informative and polite--even about issues that makes us want to tear our hair out. We saw a pretty heated but information-loaded string of feedback to a post by JoAnna Lou last fall. She wrote about people who falsely claim their dog is a service animal in order to qualify for privileges not ordinary extended to companion dogs. There was a lot of passion in the reader replies--but also some solid education, perspective and attempts at consensus building. Take this comment from Carolyn:

I think it is great that service dogs are allowed with their person on flights. I think that others wishing to pay for a seat for their dog should be able to. People traveling with cellos or other large, fragile and valuable instruments can buy a seat for it. “Large, fragile and valuable” can pertain to dogs too (and I mean valuable in the sense of having worth beyond monetary). I sympathize with people who need to travel and would like to bring their dog but understandably balk at relegating [the dog] to freight.

What do you think? Will big dogs ever get a seat on regular flights? Should they?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Traveling Without Dogs
Who cares for them in your absence?

I recently returned from nearly two weeks in Nicaragua. The trip was the field component of Northern Arizona University’s course “Tropical Forest Insect Ecology” for which I am one of the instructors. With a thousand things to do before departure--including taking exams, writing papers, packing, arranging for mail to be held and newspapers to be stopped, attending to vaccinations and anti-malarial medications, and all the other tasks required before a trip out of the country--I was sure that the students would be pretty overwhelmed by the time we began our 30-hour journey to the remote field station on an island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua.

As we talked about what the final 24 hours before departure had been like for each of us, a single theme of angst came up: The most stressful thing for many in the group was having to leave their dogs behind. Nearly half of them have dogs. I was very impressed with the lengths that the students went in arranging the best care for their dogs while they were gone. All had friends or family who were stepping up to care for the dogs during the students’ absence. In one case, a student’s long distance boyfriend had flown in from the East Coast to watch her dog while she was away. That is clearly responsible dedication from all parties, since the time he spent away from home was not time that this couple could be together. I hear a lot about how college students are not responsible with their pets, and I found that at least with this group, that is not true at all. Most of these students travel with their pets most of the time, but that is not possible (nor would it be safe for the dogs) when traveling to Nicaragua.

Like the very best dog guardians, students or not, these people made sure that their dogs were well cared for during their absence. If you must travel without your pets, what do you do to arrange for their care?

News: Guest Posts
Guests Behaving Badly
Hotel horror stories from dog-friendly hotels

If you enjoy road-trippin’ with your dog and hope the universe of hotels opening their doors to pooches will continue to expand, you don’t want a high profile travel writer to nearly step in a pile of poop in a dog-friendly hotel. It’s not good for the cause. Unfortunately, that’s what happened. MSNBC.com travel maven Harriet Baskas, who recently updated Bark readers about pet relief stations at airports, discovered an odiferous surprise just outside the elevator of a Portland hotel. After her trip, she emailed me and asked if I’d heard about this dark side of doggie guests. I haven’t but honestly this is not the sort of thing violators are going to admit to me. Meanwhile, Harriet uncovered plenty of examples of owners behaving badly. Like so many aspects of living with dogs, a few bad apples can quickly spoil the general good will and tolerance out there.