Dog's Life: Lifestyle
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New Leash on Life
Dog's Life: Home & Garden
From our readers
The entrants in a recent Bark contest had some incredible cleaning tips, and we want to share them with you. The reigning champion of reader cleaning solutions was vinegar, and we agree—it’s versatile, it’s green and it works. But take a look at a few other DIY tricks to kick your spring cleaning up a notch.
Throw a few feet of cheap nylon netting in the dryer with your clothes and bedding. It grabs all of the pet hair. Shake it out and reuse it.
A great way to recycle dog hair is composting— I put some in my worm box.
Add a few drops of organic essential oil (lavender, peppermint, vanilla) to a cotton ball and suck it up with the vacuum. The cotton ball will give the carpet and room a nice, soothing smell with each vacuum.
When my front-load washer gets stinky from retained moisture, I add one cup of baking soda with the next load of wash. It reduces that smell, helps brighten the wash and is more environmentally safe than the major detergent brands.
I recycle shredded newspaper and office paper by soaking it for a few days. Then I form bricks, let it dry and use it for our woodburning stove. Free heat!
I take all my old shirts and tear them into different size rags—some for windows, some for floors, some for dusting. I also save grease from the deep fryer, soak the rags and light my grill or fire.
Wear rubber gloves and run your hands over the furniture. The fur comes right up.
The best way to remove dog fur from many furniture fabrics is to wet your hands and rub them along the furniture. Continue re-wetting your hands as they dry and removing the accumulated fur. It’s a snap.
When your dog pulls the stuffing out of her toy, don’t throw it away. Put it out in the yard for nesting material for birds and small animals.
Place your silverware in a dish lined with aluminum foil, shiny side up. Add two tablespoons of baking soda and one teaspoon of salt. Pour hot water over and let soak for a minimum of 30 minutes. Wipe clean.
For cleaning “gunk” from the walls and mirrors of our rental, we found that diluted white vinegar works great. —Veronica Adrover, Modesto, Calif.
Dog's Life: Work of Dogs
Operation Stress Control
Forty-eight to 72 hours after a critical event occurs in a war zone — a soldier is killed in an explosion, for example — the U.S. Army’s Combat Operational Stress Control (COSC) unit offers what it calls traumatic event management to help the affected unit cope with the loss. “We debrief and talk about what they experienced,” says Capt. Cecilia Najera, an occupational therapist. “We reinforce [the fact] that the symptoms and feelings they are having are normal reactions to something that is abnormal.”
During one such gathering, in Tikrit, Iraq, the soldiers sat in a circle around Boe, a black Labrador and one of the first army dogs to be deployed specifically to provide troops with emotional support. Some of the men and women wanted to talk about the incident. Others, trying to get a handle on their feelings, just wanted to listen. A few found it easier to talk when they were petting the dog.
“It was somber,” Najera remembers. But then, in the middle of the circle, Boe broke the gloomy atmosphere with an abrupt movement. “She tried to catch a fly,” Najera says, “and everyone laughed. She definitely offered a bit of a distraction and helped lighten the mood.”
Sgt. 1st Class Boe was arguably one of the hardest-working and most popular soldiers at the base during her deployment. In a place where both the emotional and the physical climates are harsh, Boe became de facto family for many of the soldiers. She got them talking when they were inclined to shut down, and frolicking when they needed to relax. She allowed them to express themselves emotionally and demonstrate affection (which she reciprocated) in an environment where warmth and tenderness were in exceedingly short supply.
The program was launched in 2007, and Boe and another black Lab, Budge, became the army’s first COSC dogs, helping service members deal with combat anxieties, homefront issues and sleep disorders. They were donated to the army by America’s VetDogs, a sister organization of the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind. The foundation has a history of working with the military, back to post–World War II days, when they provided guide dogs for vision-impaired veterans.
There is nothing new about dogs working with soldiers — they are well established and valuable in areas of detection and security. But it wasn’t until folks from the army’s COSC unit approached VetDogs about sending therapy dogs to Iraq that the nonprofit organization began training its canines for a very different purpose.
“These dogs have to have impeccable behavior,” says Wells Jones, CEO of VetDogs and the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind. “We’re giving them that behavior, plus preparation for all kinds of people and circumstances.” He acknowledges that, seeking a similar emotional connection, military units have been known to adopt local dogs. But those dogs, few of whom have been inoculated, can bring disease onto a base. Most importantly, the army has a rule against it. General Order 1-A says that soldiers are forbidden to adopt, care for or even feed any domestic or wild animals in the war zone.
Trainers choose COSC dogs, whose jobs fall under the umbrella of animalassisted therapy, based on temperament. It’s critical that they do not react negatively to loud noises, and that they follow their handler’s commands despite distractions ranging from mortar rounds to a soldier bearing a tempting treat. Training includes exposure to groundrumbling noises (rifle ranges) and exotic transportation (helicopters).
With security in mind, VetDogs chose Boe and Budge in part for their color — black. “We were thinking that they’d be less visible at night,” Jones says. “But since then, our preference has changed and we’d prefer them on the lighter side because of the strong sunlight and the fur’s ability to reflect.”
Before a dog is sent overseas, army handlers spend time training at the VetDogs campus on Long Island, N.Y., and at army bases. Although one person becomes the dog’s primary handler, three others are also trained to ensure that 11th-hour staffing changes won’t affect the dog’s care. On top of that, 40 to 50 people in each unit receive one day of basic instruction in dog care — for instance, do not feed the dog MREs (the army’s infamous Meals Ready-to- Eat, which may, in some cases, be less palatable than kibble). When the dog is fully trained, he or she travels on official army orders to the war zone.
Opening Doors to Mental Health
“There’s still a mental-health stigma,” Najera says. “When you say, ‘Hi, I’m from Stress Control,’ people tend to run the other way. But I found that having a dog opened up doors. Instead of having to [make the] approach, people approached me.” She says it also gave soldiers something neutral to talk about, especially if they had pets at home. Before they knew it, they would be talking about personal aspects of their lives and even — on occasion — their feelings.
Najera found that she and Boe were always working. Not only were they available to men and women dealing with combat trauma or news of tragedy back home, but soldiers would also approach the pair at the dining facility or while they were running on the track (part of the old Iraqi Air Force base where they were staying). Najera created a program for a couple of overweight soldiers to run with Boe, and the dog even participated in a 5K on the base. The four-legged competitor still managed to boost morale, even after beating a few human racers. On Boe’s fourth birthday, the Army Dixie band played, and the dining facility staff made a cake and a piñata. “It was a party for her, but it was really for our community,” Najera says. “It just showed how much people really enjoyed having a dog.”
Boe wasn’t immune to the high-stress environment. After all, she was charged with comforting many of the 16,000 people living on a base that was active 24 hours a day. “I think the dogs experience compassion fatigue too,” Najera says. “When soldiers tell us what they’re going through, it becomes stressful for us, because we’re absorbing the stresses. I think it was the same for the dogs.” Eventually, a forced nap was scheduled into Boe’s day.
In Mosul, at Forward Operating Base Marez, Budge lived at a smaller facility but still had his work cut out for him: consoling troops at a trailer-based clinic and going for walkabouts to visit units. The base was mortared multiple time a day, and though Budge raised his ears at the sound, he didn’t panic. He even had a chance to save a life, donating blood to a military police dog who was injured along with his handler in a shooting.
Like Boe, Budge was a superstar and champion icebreaker, garnering invitations (to unit social gatherings, for instance) that a mental-health provider might never get otherwise. “We couldn’t go anywhere without someone calling his name,” recalls his handler, Staff Sgt. Syreeta Reid, an occupational therapy assistant. “They didn’t remember my name, but they always knew I was the one with Budge.” Sometimes Reid set up play dates between Budge and the soldiers: Frisbee or fetch on a field where an Iraqi soccer team once played.
In both countries, the weather is unforgiving and the physical conditions are challenging, and the dogs — just like other soldiers — are deployed with proper gear. They have booties to protect their paws from the hot ground and Doggles to protect their eyes from blowing sand. They have cooling jackets for daytime and, in Afghanistan, warm vests for night. Reid says she inspected Budge’s paws daily to make sure they weren’t cracked, and used cream to keep them hydrated. The mercury rose to 135 degrees some days, and those were indoor days for Budge.
On days with multiple soldier visits, Budge would inevitably receive too many treats. Reid says one of the hardest things was dispelling the myth that food equals love. The fact was, Budge was getting a little, well, pudgy. Reid pled with his fans to limit the treats, but eventually resorted to serving him smaller meals to control his weight.
Studies are currently underway at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence, next to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, to help understand exactly how the dogs are helping soldiers. Anecdotal evidence shows that the presence of an animal helps soldiers sleep and lowers their anxiety.
But just like any other area of military medicine, it’s critical to have research to show the effectiveness of the therapy dog program, which — with training, transportation, gear and care — isn’t cheap. In the meantime, the deployments continue, even though the dogs haven’t yet been formally added to the COSC unit’s personnel roster.
Today, three dogs are serving in Afghanistan (Apollo, Timmy and Zeke). Two dogs (Butch and Zack) returned from Iraq in December and are temporarily back at VetDogs before they are redeployed to Afghanistan. After retraining, Boe and Budge were sent to Ft. Gordon’s Eisenhower Army Medical Center in Georgia. Budge died in 2010 from lymphoma, and Boe is now working at Georgia’s Ft. Benning, lending a paw to the healing of wounded soldiers. It’s hard to know if Boe is happy to be back in her home country because she takes such pleasure in working and helping people, regardless of who owns the turf. Being deployed might not be such a bad life for a dog. “These dogs are doing something they love to do,” Jones says. “They love to be with people. So it’s not the same circumstance as soldiers, who are away from their families. The dogs are with their family.”
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Three companies to watch
Pet Check Technology
“Our hope is, of course, that customers will begin to request this service, so they can have peace of mind that their dog is being properly walked and/or exercised,” says Doug Simon, founder of Pet Check Technology. The Pet Check Technology software is also designed to function as a business- management tool for professional dog walkers, and includes scheduling and billing applications. Membership starts at $29.99 per month.
Jogs for Dogs
After a few years, Fahey got out of the time-intensive business of managing a small army of bonded, insured runners—mostly University of Washington students—and, last May, launched JogsForDogs.com, a matchmaking website that brings dog-loving runners together with dogs who need runs.
In the new paradigm, a dog is most likely to be paired with an avid runner and dog-lover who works in an unrelated field. “It’s about connecting people with dogs and people who love dogs,” Fahey says. “It’s more like hiring a babysitter than a nanny.” Joggers set their own prices and dog owners do their own interviewing and reference-checking. Currently, Jogs for Dogs has runners in 22 states and eight other countries, including Canada, the UK, Sweden, Italy, France, Spain, Slovenia and New Zealand.
Home Works: Best picks of domestic design
“They live in their hometown”
This eyecatching and inventive clock by Korean designer, Dongjin Byeon, does not employ numbers and hands to show time, instead, the figures of an elderly woman, her granddaughter and a fast-moving, dog represent hours, minutes and seconds respectively.
The figures move through the scenes of daily life that are arranged around the circumference to indicate hours. For example, when the grandmother sits on a bench, it is about 7:00 am/pm with the assumption that she would take a rest on a bench looking at the sunrise/sunset. According to Byeon, his clock also “suggests the daily patterns of our lives but it also implies our aspiration for a simple life."
Wellness: Healthy Living
A growing number of pet professionals are making house calls
Most of us are accustomed to taking our dogs for services, or handling routine maintenance tasks ourselves. But increasingly, daunting medical needs, complicated schedules and plain old compassion-based issues are creating a demand for a more retro approach: house calls.
Pat and Bob Engeman of Long Island, N.Y., doted on Riley, their small Shih Tzu/Maltese mix. When Riley was diagnosed with incurable transitional cell carcinoma (TCC), or bladder cancer, in 2009, they were determined to give him the best quality of life they could provide during the time he had left. However, the realities of what Riley needed on a daily basis were overwhelming.
“We had to give so many injections,” says Pat Engeman. “It was too emotional for us. We were afraid to do it wrong. He needed three a day when he first got home from the hospital. My husband was running home at lunchtime, then I would wait for him to come home after work. I thought, ‘This is crazy — someone should be able to come to the house.’”
After checking out options, Pat connected with Pet Home Health Agency, based in New York City. Owner Charlene Overcash had created the unique service when she realized that she could combine her love of pets with her long-time experience as a home-healthcare nurse. Today, her clients range from busy young professionals who can’t stay home to care for their convalescent pets to the elderly who are physically unable to tend to their pets’ medical needs. Further, Overcash provides veterinarians with a full report of each visit as well as assurance that their patients are receiving appropriate post-surgical treatment and/or rehabilitation.
Overcash herself made the hour-long drive to the Engemans’ Long Island home to demonstrate proper techniques and to give the couple an emotional boost. After a few visits, a vet technician who also lived on Long Island was entrusted with Riley’s care. Slowly, as the Engemans grew more confident about caring for him, the professionals were able to reduce the number of visits, which also saved the Engemans money. Thanks to his in-home care, Riley made it to his 10th birthday in January 2010 (he was peacefully put to sleep in April 2010).
The Engemans were touched that Overcash and Rose, Riley’s main vet tech, stopped by with cookies and flowers after Riley’s passing. “People probably scratched their heads over why we put so much money into this dog even though we knew he wouldn’t survive. Overcash and Rose just take that extra step and personalize everything. They know he’s not just a dog. He had a good extra nine months.”
Heeding the Need
As part of a traditional veterinary practice, she recognized that it was a struggle for many pet owners to come to the office. Elderly clients could not drive, parents of small children found it difficult to get everyone in the car for a trip to the vet, and people who owned multiple pets had to make multiple visits. Also, when it came to euthanasia, many people balked at bringing their beloved companion into a sterile office and sharing such a personal event with a lobby full of strangers.
“Now, when I do euthanasia, they just feel so much more comfortable because they’re home with their pet,” says Foster. “Many times their pet will be on a blanket in front of the fireplace with the whole family gathered around. They share pictures and say goodbye. Then I do the euthanasia. We talk afterward and they get to a point of feeling better about making that decision. It’s very peaceful to be allowed the dignity of saying goodbye to a pet at home.”
Foster has also noticed that some people are more comfortable talking to her in their home than in an exam room. They share stories, and sometimes the details clue her in to things that are affecting the animal.
“Seeing puppies in their new homes is a perfect example of being able to really help a client get a good start,” says Foster. “For example, people tend to over- or underestimate the size of the crate they need for their dog. Usually, it’s too big to be a good housebreaking tool or too small for an adult dog to be comfortable in for any length of time. With their dog right there, I can show them how to better size the crate. I can also see the placement of the crate and help them learn how to use it as a positive place by making it the dog’s ‘den,’ a happy and secure place to go, and not a punishment.”
She also demonstrates a variety of training techniques — among them, how to teach a puppy to give up chewing on that slipper in exchange for a more appropriate toy. “Typically, I sit right on the floor, which makes dogs more comfortable and lets puppies act like themselves,” says Foster. “The client can watch me, and I think that helps reinforce the recommendations better than just talking about them in an office.”
Healthy pets and people were also on Mary Glenn-Rhodes’ mind when she founded Mary’s House Cleaning Service in Tucson, Ariz., 20 years ago. After she survived cancer and a stroke, her doctor advised her to find a low-stress career. A neighbor suggested that she clean houses, but she didn’t take it seriously until she realized that there was a customer base who desperately needed her: those who lived with companion animals. Not only could they use help keeping up with the fur, dirt and accidents, they needed someone who loved animals, too.
Before her staff comes in with cleaning equipment, Glenn-Rhodes makes it a point to meet the pets, talk to them and give them treats. She feels it’s very important not to barge in on animals, but rather, to give them a chance to adjust to the change in routine and new people in their home. After a few visits, she says, dogs typically get excited as soon as her truck pulls up.
She has also created her own natural, pet-safe cleaning products using essential oils, which she feels are calming for both companion animals and their people. “I bring longevity to my clients’ pets because of what I use,” says Glenn- Rhodes. When a client loses a beloved pet, Glenn-Rhodes admits that she cries. She understands that pets are members of the family and is often asked to care for them when the client needs to be out of town.
Saraceno opened Wagging Tails, a food, treat and toy delivery service, more than a year ago after being laid off from her job of 30 years. She first became interested in canine diet and its role in behavior and overall health when her late Golden Retriever, Casper, was plagued with mysterious gastrointestinal (GI) ailments. Searching for ways to help him motivated her to learn more about good canine nutrition.
After they lost Casper to bloat when he was five, she and her husband got another Golden Retriever, Timber, who also developed GI issues. “We took what we learned for Casper and applied it to Timber, but it wasn’t enough,” Saraceno recalls. “We kept learning, researching, adding holistic doctors to my list of remedies, and got him on the road to good health.
“A lot of dogs have GI issues and people don’t even recognize that they have them. Some think it’s okay for their dog’s stool to look like soft-serve all the time,” says Saraceno. “I educate people, give them the info they need to make good decisions, give them choices based on their circumstances and budget. Education is the key.”
Dogs suffering from age-related issues make up the largest part of her client base. As part of her service, she takes time to find products that will help improve the dogs’ quality of life and keep them free of pain. Others like the convenience factor of home delivery for everything from flea/tick preventatives and quality food and treats to toys and other must-have canine accessories. She says customers keep coming back because she cares about what happens to their dogs after they receive their home orders.
“When you go into a bigbox store to pick up dog food, no one ever questions what you do,” says Saraceno. “Someone at the counter will ask if you found everything you were looking for, but no one asks, ‘Does your dog like this food? Is he shedding excessively? How do his stools look?’ I talk about that all day long with my clients. I don’t want to just sell them food, I want to know how their dogs are doing.”
Animal behaviorist Kay Weber, who owns Kay-9 Petiquette, was also inspired by her dogs to make a career change. The former mechanical engineer was devastated when a friend decided to euthanize her three-yearold Labrador Retriever, Chelsea, after harsh training techniques used in the world of competitive obedience caused her to be dog-aggressive. Weber contacted renowned animal behaviorist and author (and Bark columnist) Patricia McConnell, PhD, for hwelp with Chelsea, but her friend declined to follow through.
When Weber’s Lab, Baker, presented with some ADD-like behavior, she again sought McConnell’s counsel, and with her help, Baker was transformed into a well-adjusted adult dog. Impressed, Weber went back to school and earned a master’s degree in psychology with a specialization in learning theory/animal behavior.
When Weber first goes to her client’s home, she observes and evaluates both the dog and the people. Ideally, all family members are present so they can share as much information about the problem behavior(s) as possible and learn how to be consistent in making changes.
“The dog is the easy part,” says Weber. “Trying to get the people to understand what’s going on, why it’s happening and how we can make it better is the hard part. Behavior modification is often common sense, but you need someone to guide you.”
Though some are looking for a “magic-wand” fix — wave the wand and make it better — she finds that most clients are sincerely concerned, and turn to her because their pet’s problem behavior and affects family life. Another thing she wants to know is how committed the family is to the dog. “When we make a plan, I ask them, ‘Is this realistic? What’s going to work for you and your family?’” says Weber. “I want the family to be happy with the dog, and I want the dog to be happy in the home.”
Only the Finest
Nail trimming or buffing is just one of the popular services offered by Beverly Hills groomer Steve Ogden, who owns The Spa Dog. He says that people who are stressed about cutting their dog’s nails inadvertently create stress in the dog, too, making for an unpleasant experience all around. Assisted by his Chihuahua, Golly Gee, he helps the client’s dog relax in the grooming truck, then methodically trims one nail at a time, offering a treat in exchange for each successful trim.
“I’m more about the relationship with the dog and the relationship with the client,” says Ogden, “Your energy has to be centered — LA is stressful. If you’re calm and centered and focused on what you’re doing, the dog will calm down.”
Typically “Hollywood,” some dogs put on an Oscar-quality performance when their people are present, but as soon as they get into the grooming truck, they’re ready for hair and makeup, so to speak. And if they’re still acting like little divas, Golly Gee sets them straight. “She barks if they hesitate to get into the van or the bath,” says Ogden. “Every dog needs a job, and she makes my job so much more fun. Clients love her.”
His client roster reads like a page out of People magazine: Christina Aguilera, Nicole Richie, Candice Bergen and Jaclyn Smith, among others. But Ogden says you don’t have to be a celebrity to use his services. He believes groomers are the first line of defense in preventative health care. Many times, people are not aware of their dog’s hot spot or a foxtail between their pads until Ogden points it out. He says clients appreciate having help in watching out for their pet.
Mobile animal masseuse Kerran Ascoli also addresses dogs’ physical and mental quality of life. Owner of Spirit Animal Massage in Rhode Island, she often travels to southern Massachusetts and eastern Connecticut for her clients. When she began studying massage and Reiki energy healing, she practiced on her Katrina rescue, a Shepherd/Chow mix named Cocoa. After Cocoa succumbed to cancer earlier this year, Ascoli rescued another dog, a three-legged Shepherd/ Corgi mix she named Sammie. Massage and Reiki have been especially helpful in keeping Sammie in balance.
Ascoli started her mobile massage service because she finds that animals are more comfortable in their own surroundings. Instead of using a massage table, she encourages the dog to relax on the floor. If the dog prefers to stand rather than lie down, she will accommodate that.
Scooby, a 13-year-old Golden Retriever with hip dysplasia and arthritis, is one of her regular clients. Unlike those who think canine massage is frivolous, Scooby’s owner recognizes that Ascoli’s work has all the benefits of human massage.
“I see him once a week. Now he can walk better, he’s less stiff and it’s a better quality of life for him,” said Ascoli.
While most people think of a pooperscooper service as a convenience, Dirty Work owner Cara Brown of Atlanta says she and her staff have also alerted clients to their dog’s need for medical attention.
“A few years ago, we found fresh blood in a dog’s stool,” says Brown. “Blood is one of those things you don’t mess around with. The client took the dog to the vet right away. Luckily, it was just some sort of tear in the lining of the intestines. But they may not have known about it if we hadn’t come over.”
On other visits, Brown and her staff have been told that the dog has swallowed something — anything from a diamond ring to money — and asked to keep an eye out to make sure it passes. “One dog swallowed a stuffed toy and when it came out, it looked like a face on the poop,” says Brown with a chuckle.
As one who lives with three rescued mixed-breeds, Brown understands that her employees bond with her clients and their dogs. In order to facilitate that relationship, each scooper has a regular client roster. Dirty Work attends to residential and commercial properties, including assisted-living facilities where elderly owners can’t pick up after their dogs. Most clients receive weekly visits, although occasionally, young mothers whose toddlers who have developed a fascination with poop request more frequent service.
There When You Need Them
“It is about trust,” says Ogden. “People and their dogs have a very intimate relationship, and I’m right in the middle of it.”
Perhaps that trust is most needed toward the end of a beloved pet’s life, when those who don’t understand that bond often underestimate the pain involved in caring for a sick or dying pet.
The complications of modern life help us appreciate the simplicity of canine companionship. Our dogs are always there for us, whether we come home late from work or are distracted by other responsibilities. An in-home pet professional can afford us more quality time with our cherished pets and in some cases, provide that extra care and attention that our dogs so generously share with us.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Plus, readers write about their multi-dog households
At the end of last year, Cameron, Lola and I drove north to visit Shana Laursen of Greyhound Friends for Life at her remarkable, 1,000-acre facility in Auburn, Calif., where she cares for both Greyhound and mixed-breed rescues. We had been looking for small, male Terrier to “complete” our family of three female dogs, and saw a photo of a little brindled stray, a Jack Russell Terrier mix, being fostered by Shana, and we were admittedly smitten. We wondered as we made the trip to see our prospective new dog: would he disrupt the delicate balance among our three dogs? What a pleasant surprise when this small, oh-so-sweet, plucky boy pranced center-stage with confidence, like he’d been among us all his life, completing our family so perfectly. All was definitely right in their world—they were once again a pack of four.
Have you noticed that we’re not alone in this scenario? Your friends at the dog park now have two, three or perhaps more dogs, often in a variety of types and sizes. These modern-day packs share a home, people and time together.
Historically, multi-dog households are nothing new. Working dogs have long helped with chores (herding, hunting, hauling, guarding), while “pet” dogs pulled indoor duty, cuddling with younger humans and keeping the pantry varmint-free. For the most part, harmony prevailed. Recently, our four-dog family suffered a loss, and we were down to three, all females. Then we adopted Charlie. As the youngest, and a latecomer with a relatively unknown provenance, he could easily have been a boat-rocker.
Imagine our relief when we discovered that it was quite the reverse. Everything got calmer, tension was defused, the two sibling sisters stopped bickering. There were no fights over bones or other prized trophies, such as everyone’s favorite plush turtle; they even made room on the couch for the new boy. What gives? All our fears of jealousy, rivalry and snarling mayhem gave way to a “go team” attitude. The pack was back!
Curious, I questioned Bark behaviorists to see if this blissful state of multi-dog living had been studied. Could it be that four (or more) really is better than one, two or three?
Karen London noted that even though she wasn’t aware of any research on “the number of dogs and decreased tensions/difficulties,” she has observed that “in households with big groups (five, six, seven), there is sometimes less competition over resources and some increased social flow compared with households of two or three dogs.”
Patricia McConnell, seconded that, and added, “Sometimes more is good. There does indeed seem to be a kind of social inhibition once you get a certain number of dogs together ... but, again, what that number is depends on many things, including the personalities of the dogs.” Both cautioned that it doesn’t always work out so smoothly. McConnell says, “I have had clients who had two or three dogs who got along great until they got ‘that new dog,’ and then everything went south.” As London pointed out, “It’s all different if even one dog in the group is seriously aggressive toward other dogs.”
Barbara Smuts observed that “there seem to be at least three different ways in which a particular dog can enhance multi-dog dynamics: with a calm but very strong and firm leadership; a gentle but decisive intervention when tensions mount; or a ‘good energy,’ cheering everyone up.” She also noted that what I might want to pay attention to in my pack are tendencies to “reconcile” or “console” after a tense episode.
“In recent studies of one captive wolf pack and a group of dogs, individuals showed strong tendencies to make-up after a conflict, and I’ve noticed this in my pack, even when the conflict is very minor and occurs during play,” Smuts explained. “One of the two contestants will approach and nudge the muzzle of the other or lick the mouth. It can be very quick and subtle, but if you watch for it, you may see it happening. In addition, in the dog study, if the two animals involved in the conflict did not reconcile quickly, a third party not involved in the conflict frequently approached the ‘victim’ or ‘loser’ in a friendly way soon afterwards, as if trying to console. Both reconciliation and consolation are well-documented in nonhuman primates, and it’s not surprising that they occur in canines as well. In primates it’s been shown that reconciliation reduces anxiety.”
As for my team, I think that young, frisky Charlie added just the right combination of playfulness and silliness, cheering up everyone, acting as consoling peacemaker and soothing family dynamics.
I would love to hear about your multi-dog household, and what you’ve observed. Share your experiences with me at email@example.com or simply add your comments. We have already heard from many of you, would love to hear your stories too.
Dog's Life: Work of Dogs
Happy workers, smiling dogs
With approximately 20% of US companies now having a dog-friendly policy and more studies showing the benefits of these policies, there are many worthy and innovative businesses that deserve recognition for welcoming dogs. In recognition of Bring Your Dog to Work Day (June 22) The Bark editors have compiled some notable, dog-friendly businesses.
Autodesk (San Rafael, California)
Bissell (Grand Rapids, Michigan)
Ben & Jerry’s (South Burlington, Vermont)
Replacements, Ltd. (Greensboro, North Carolina)
Their formal pet policy requires each dog to be current on vaccinations, on a six-foot leash at all times, and polite to people and other dogs. They emphasize that “your pet’s behavior is your responsibility,” they also stress good training.
Printing for Less (Livingston, Montana)
Clif Bar (Emeryville, California)
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (New York, New York)
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Ten things to look for when selecting your dog’s daycare facility
1. Cleanliness. There should be minimal offensive odor and immediate clean-up of accidents, and the other dogs should be healthy-looking.
2. Playtime provided for the majority of the day. While a two-hour “naptime” is common, during the rest of the day, your dog should have time to play with staff members and other dogs.
3. Proof of current vaccinations. Distemper, parvo, rabies and bordatella vaccinations and/or titers should be required.
4. Adequate supervision. Staff members should be physically in the rooms with the dogs at all times; supervising through a window or a gate is not enough.
5. Safe staffing levels. A good daycare facility maintains an approximate staffing goal of one person for every 10 to 15 dogs.
6. Assessment of a dog’s suitability for the daycare environment. An incoming dog should be tested to ensure that she enjoys the company of other dogs, and should be acclimated to the group slowly and safely. She should be placed in a group of dogs with play styles and energy levels similar to her own.
7. Safety arrangements. Small dogs and large dogs should be segregated.
8. Size of the facility appropriate for the number of dogs. Ideally, each dog needs approximately 70 to 100 square feet of space for safe off-leash play.
9. A staff with experience and knowledge in animal group behavior. Look for staff members who attend seminars, belong to daycare groups such as the American Boarding Kennel Association daycare division, or have experience working with dogs in groups.
10. Appropriate control measures. Avoid daycares where the staff controls the dogs by routinely punishing or physically manipulating them. These control measures include interrupting the dogs by calling them away from a potential conflict, giving short (2-3 minute) time out periods, or redirecting the dogs to more appropriate behaviors.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Eyes in the Sky can help find your dogs
Does your dog suffer from wanderlust? Or during those long summertime hikes, do you worry that she might follow her nose just a little too far and turn up missing? Or would you like additional peace of mind while exploring the backcountry with your dog? A Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking device could help allay those concerns. There are now at least five products on the market that can help you track down your pooch. Three require monthly service charges beyond the initial purchase (Globalpetfinder, Pocketfinder and Zoombak), while two employ handheld tracking devices and have no monthly charges (RoamEO and Garmin’s Astro Dog Tracking System).
All of the units, with the exception of the Astro, work by having you set a virtual fence by either walking around the desired perimeter or, in the case of Zoombak and Globalpetfinder, logging the zone size into their system; you are then alerted if your dog, who is wearing the GPS unit on her collar, breaches those limits. (Note: these units do not function as electronic or “invisible” fences.) The units vary as to how the alert is sent and received as well as how the live action of your departing dog can be followed and charted.
Pocketfinder’s PetFinder, the newest ($130, $15/month), uses the nifty Microsoft Virtual Earth platform for its mapping interface. When your dog moves beyond the allowable zone, you receive an alert via a text message or e-mail—meaning you have to have your cell phone or be near a computer to receive it. A prototype was recently tested by a Los Angeles Times writer, who noted that the alert came minutes after his dog had left the zone, and that the map had a slow refresh rate (five minutes).
Zoombak ($200, $15/month) works in a similar manner, but you set the boundary by logging it into their system on a computer. Its mapping interface might not be as refined as Pocketfinder’s, but the device can be refreshed manually, so the wanderer’s location can be established in a matter of seconds. Globalpetfinder ($290, up to $19.98/month) also uses cell phones, PDAs and computers for the alert. You can create a virtual fence of any size through their online command center, and up to five fence locations can be stored. The easiest way to use this device is in its “Basic Mode,” which does not entail setting up a zone; all you do is dial F-O-U-N-D from an account-activated cell phone, and you will be told your dog’s location.
Two cautionary notes: Since many areas have unreliable, or nonexistent, cell phone coverage or less-than-ideal Internet connectivity, be sure your area can be serviced by these systems. Also, almost all of these devices are for medium to large dogs, as the size and weight of the units are likely to overwhelm the small guys.
The two products that use hand-held receiver devices and do not rely on cell phone coverage to track the dog should be more popular with outdoors enthusiasts. The Astro (about $642) by Garmin, one of the first manufacturers of GPS devices, has a range of five miles, and claims to even be able to tell whether a dog is on point (or perhaps sniffing a gopher hole!) or running. The wireless receiving transponder is worn either on a collar or on a harness that holds the antenna upright. The dog’s location is radioed to a handheld unit, which has a compass showing the precise distance and direction your dog is moving.
For those who are less than adept at compass reading, it also has a map page showing nearby roads and other landmarks; the location alerts update every five seconds. With the RoamEO GPS Pet Location System ($400), the radio unit is mounted on its own rechargeable collar and your dog can be detected at a distance of up to one mile; plus, it allows you to set up a virtual fence (making it adaptable to home use). Like the Astro, you can also clock the speed of your dog; up to three dogs can be monitored by one unit.
One of the most attractive features of any of these systems (except for the Astro, which mainly functions as a tracking device) is the alert you receive if your dog strays out of her allowable space. Nothing is better than having a well-trained dog with spot-on recall skills. But for some, knowing that those “eyes in the sky” are watching their wandering pup could provide that extra bit of comfort.
A. Garmin’s Astro Dog Tracking System
D. Pocketfinder PetFinder (Location Based Technologies)
RoamEO GPS Pet Location System
C. Zoombak Advanced GPS Dog Locator
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