Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Most are common for people, too
When I was deciding what to call my children, any name that seemed more like a dog’s name than a person’s name was immediately eliminated. That meant that I said, “No,” to Max, Sadie, Molly, Jack, Jake, Maggie, Lucy, Zoe, Charlie, Riley, Bailey and Sam, even though my grandfather was named Sam, and my dad’s grandparents were Max and Sadie. After years of training dogs in classes and in private consultations, those names seemed more canine than human to me. I was worried enough about treating my kids like puppies, and I didn’t want their names to make it even harder for me to learn how to be a parent to human children.
A generation ago, this would not have been a problem since the use of traditionally human names for our dogs is relatively new. It reflects the wonderful trend towards considering our dogs members of the family and our ever-closer relationship with them. So except for the fact that it added an extra challenge to choosing names for my children, I heartily embrace the changes in dog names.
The list of the top 10 dog names for 2011 according to Petfinder.com contains eight common human names (Max, Daisy, Bella, Lucy, Molly, Charlie, Jack, Sadie) and two names that sometimes belong to humans but are still more common for pets (Buddy and Rocky). This is a big contrast to years ago when Rusty, Rover, Fido, Spot, Chief and Patches were among the most popular names for dogs.
Does your dog have a name that is also popular with people?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Activities that kids and dogs can share
Every family with both kids and a canine companion is presented with opportunities—and obstacles—in providing for their needs. To be sure, both can be met, many in similar ways. Dogs and kids share so much: the need to decipher the confusing world of adults, learn the complexity of language and the consequences of their actions, figure out the seemingly arbitrary limits imposed on their pleasures and interests. They can also share many activities, including hiking, chasing, napping and divvying up a sandwich.
Kids can and should be integral to the dog’s training and care. A well-trained dog gets invited into more of the family’s life, both at home and away—more of the good life that is.
On their part, kids need to be encouraged to integrate themselves into, not separate from, the full spectrum of a dog’s daily activities. Setting down the food bowl or going for a perfunctory leash walk won’t reinforce the bond or afford much joy. Kids should be fascinated by their companions, thrilled with their willingness to join in almost anything, eager to share time massaging, photographing, inventing games, learning words they can share. Make your dog a fancy collar, homemade biscuits, a tug toy from worn-out jeans! Learn the parts of your dog’s body! Calculate his ROW (rate of wagging)! Create a snowy obstacle course, a plaster cast of his paw, shrink-art dog tags for his collar—and your backpack.
Here’s a sample of projects kids and dogs can share, addressed to the kids in your family. For a host of other recipes, games, cool projects, training tips and more, visit workman.com/mydog.
In cold weather, both dogs and people tend to spend more time indoors and, as a result, get less exercise. While ice skating and snowboarding aren’t sports your dog can share, with a little planning, you can create a veritable canine winter Olympics! Here’s a sampler of activities that can also be adapted to indoor fun—indeed, the whole idea here is to improvise. Each “event” reinforces the learning successes that your dog needs.
Leap over a pile of leaves, tunnel through a cardboard box, walk across a picnic-bench bridge, race up a leaning plank, leap into the sandbox, bound across a snowball-wall—invent a course with whatever safe options you find.
Remember to progress slowly. Make each challenge a success before adding another one. Set up the first course with only two or three objects, and build up to six or seven. An adult’s help is really worthwhile here.
Try going through the course together, leash-walking your dog over or under the obstacles. Use lots of encouragement, a few key commands, praise and some treats for good measure. You might find that UP, DOWN, COME and SIT are especially useful. Or invent new commands as needed; teach UNDER, for example, if you want your dog to crawl beneath an object. Use the same words every time, and stand just on the other side of the obstacle so that the dog is coming toward you.
Follow these guidelines to make your own fun, safe course:
• Use only sturdy, steady obstacles. Nothing should slide or wobble under the dog’s weight. Remember that when leaping, a dog’s legs push hard, and that could upset something that isn’t heavy or anchored well.
• Nothing on the course should be sharp, splintered or movable (like a swing).
• Every “landing pad” should be soft—grass, sand or snow.
• No dog should jump to or from a level that is higher than the top of his head. (Measure that distance so you can design your course accordingly.) Toy and long-backed breeds (think Dachshunds) shouldn’t jump from any height at all.
• Make the course short and easy so your dog can complete it without frustration.
• Change the course every so often. You’re improving your dog’s physical agility as well as his ability to work with you. This is rewarding work!
Search and Rescue
This is a version of the “Find It” game, in which your dog “rescues” biscuits trapped under a backyard “avalanche.” Have your dog sit. Place a bit of biscuit a few feet away and give the command FIND IT! Praise the dog the instant he snatches the treat. Say GOOD in a high, cheerful voice. After a few successes, move the treat a bit farther away. Eventually, poke it just under the snow or hide it behind a bush or tree. (Let your dog watch you hide it.) In each case, say, FIND IT!, and praise your dog the instant he does.
Gradually, bury the treat deeper and farther—when your dog isn’t watching. Always use the same command, and praise your dog when he finds it.
You can also play this game with tennis balls or toys. Or play it in the house, hiding rather than burying the objects.
Forget the uneven bars and the pommel horse—the balance beam is ideal for dogs! Find a plank that’s about one foot wide and as long as you’d like. Place it right on the ground or raise it a few inches above with packed snow, bricks or anything that provides stable support. To start, leash-walk your dog across the beam; you walk alongside. Use coaxing words such as, “Here we go,” or invent a command, such as FORWARD. Once your dog is comfortable with the plank, walk faster. Eventually, as long as you’re in a fenced-in area, your dog can walk the beam off-leash.
Make a circular racecourse in the snow by stomping a path with your boots, using a snow shovel or dragging a sled weighed down with a couple of friends. Invent a race where you make laps around your track. Pretend you’re trekking across the Arctic; each lap is one mile toward a goal of, say, 100 miles. Or use a real map and say that each lap equals a certain distance that you can chart on the map with a marker.
Your dog won’t know that you made these treats yourself, but you will, and that makes the connection between the two of you all the more significant. Each treat tidbit you offer, especially during training time, rewards the dog’s brain as well as his stomach. Here’s a simple recipe, and no baking is required.
Photographing the canine family member is fun, but often tricky—check out a how-to video on taking great pictures at thebark.com/kids. These suggestions will help you snap fantastic photos that you can incorporate in greeting cards, calendars or online galleries.
No-bake Dog Treats
Mix up these quick, chewy biscuits in a big bowl or zip-lock bag. A small ice-cream scoop is handy for making ball-shaped treats (you can also use your hands), and you’ll want a rolling pin and cookie cutters for shaped cookies. (Dogs care about the taste—pedigreed deliciousness!—not the bone or fire-hydrant shapes.) Create a work surface with a sheet of waxed paper or foil; save it to wrap the finished treats.
6 cups rolled oats
2 cups peanut butter (sugar-free, ideally)
1 cup liquid (milk, soy milk, water or broth)
1. Assemble the ingredients in a large bowl. Using a sturdy utensil, mix until smooth. Add more liquid if the mixture feels too crumbly. As the treats dry, they become drier and harder.
2. Wet your hands to shape the treats: roll out logs and slice them into coins, or scoop out small balls and flatten them. For cut-out cookies, roll the slab 1/4- or 1/2-inch thick; match the treat size to your dog’s size. Dunk the cookie cutter in water between cuts to help the dough release.
3. Store the treats in the refrigerator or, for an even crunchier treat, in the freezer.
Plus, Share Your Photos!
Join us in a holiday celebration of kids and their dogs. Visit Bark’s online kids center—and learn fun and easy craft projects. Submit your art projects and photographs for a chance to win great prizes and to be a part of our online gallery. thebark.com/kids
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Hunch.com uses member data to learn about dog and cat people
Social media companies hold a lot of data about people and are privy to a lot of correlations and insights that could be really interesting. Recently I was wondering if anyone had put together data related to animals.
It turns out that Hunch.com has published two pet-related reports that draw on responses from its 700,000 users. The first looks at dog people versus non-dog people and the second looks at the differences between dog and cat people.
Some of the findings are not surprising. The report found that dog people are more likely to be extroverts, have a greater affinity for sports and the outdoors, and are more likely to live in a suburban or rural area.
Hunch.com also found that females tend to favor dogs with long hair and smaller breeds and males tend to favor hounds and retrievers.
Some correlations were more bizarre and random. Apparently dog people are more likely than cat people to be iPhone users or to enjoy slapstick humor and impressions. And on the more specific side, Chihuahua fans tend to be frequent doodlers and German Shepherd lovers tend to rely more on intuition than common sense.
Of course you can't extrapolate the reports' findings to all people, but it's fun to read about the correlations that Hunch.com discovered.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Survey finds that pets could hurt a person’s dating prospects
In New York City, there are more than eight million people concentrated in 300 square miles, so you’d think it would be easy to meet potential dates. But with everyone in the typical New York hurry, it’s hard to make a genuine connection with new people.
My dogs are the one thing I’ve found that gets people to stop and talk. When I lived in Manhattan, I met new people at the dog run and while jogging with Nemo in Central Park. Dogs make a good excuse to strike up a conversation. And, maybe because all of my friends are pet lovers, every woman I know gives extra bonus points to a man with a dog.
So I was surprised to see that a survey conducted by the UK Craigslist found that dogs were the pet most likely to hurt your dating prospects. They found that 23 percent of people would be less likely to date someone with a dog. That percentage dropped to 21 percent for cat lovers and 11 percent for hamster or guinea pig lovers, so I think this might have to do with how “intrusive” the pet is in a person’s life.
I take offense to Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster’s statement that “single folks who want to own a pet, but deter the fewest potential dates, should opt for a hamster or guinea pig.” Pets are a part of our family, not an accessory to attract dates. Plus, the survey results still show that 77 percent of people would not back out of a date with a dog lover, so I wouldn't exactly call it a detriment.
Sure I may have to run home and walk my dogs before I go out at night or limit my vacations to pay for vet bills, but I don’t care if my dogs hurt my prospects. I’ve been on a date with a guy who couldn’t understand why I would want a second dog and a guy who thought it was silly that I ran in the agility ring. As you can imagine, there were no second dates. So much about dating is filled with uncertainty, but if a guy doesn’t love my dogs, I know for sure we’re not compatible!
News: Guest Posts
Of course, they wake me up in the morning, they teach me patience, and they make me laugh. But there are other, less obvious ways in which being Bonham and Violet’s indentured hound-slave has enhanced my life.
1. They’ve introduced me to the whole village. My friends think I bought my house, an old Georgian farmhouse in Herefordshire, because it looks like Mr. Darcy might pop out of the front door, but the truth is I chose it because it’s on a footpath that leads round a three-mile nature trail of apple orchards, woods and fields—perfect for walking my two Basset Hounds.
Writing can be a lonely occupation, but no matter what time I take my dogs out for a stroll, we always meet someone, and they always stop for a chat. I’d only been in the village for a week before people would say, “Ah, you’re Bonham and Violet’s owner!” and now I know nearly everyone—and they know me!
2. They keep me warm in winter. There’s nothing warmer than a 70-pound Basset Hound in full slumber mode. They’re like giant versions of those beanbags you heat up in the microwave. Imagine two of those draped over your knee—who needs central heating? I just have to make sure all books, remote controls, tea and chocolate are within reach because when the dogs settle in, they don’t like moving. Their dream is for the temperature to fall below a certain level at which point we can all sleep in one basket to save heat.
3. They make me do more housework. I’ll put my hands up; I am not one of nature’s domestic goddesses. For years, my idea of spring-cleaning was opening all the windows and running around squirting Mr. Sheen into the air. However, when you have two enormous hounds shedding more than you’d think possible, and emitting their own delightful houndy aroma, you learn to love your vacuum cleaner. My household routine has never been more rigorously attended to.
4. I don’t need a doorbell. My dogs can detect a deliveryman at 500 meters. Also postmen, visitors, builders, window cleaners, gardeners and carol singers. I’ve also saved on burglar alarms, as any burglar within a hundred-mile radius has probably heard them barking and assumed I keep a pack of feral Great Danes, not two sleepy Basset hounds.
5. They save my agent, editor and friends from “I’m stuck with my novel!” meltdown. When you live with a dog, you’ve always got someone to talk to. Dogs listen to your rants and woes, never piping up with “helpful” reminders, always looking at you with the same adoration at the end of whatever peevish grumble you’ve got off your chest.
I’ve talked through endless plot problems while tramping through the fields with my dogs, practicing dialogue aloud till it sounds right—my long-suffering agent is very grateful for this service the dogs offer, as otherwise she’d have to listen to it. I find once I start walking, my brain starts working its way through the knotty problems, so I really have the dogs to thank for dragging me out and making that happen.
And finally, they watch my figure for me. If I make a cake, Bonham particularly likes to make sure I don’t pile on the pounds by helping himself to as much as he can snaffle off the counter. We’re still working on that one.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
A dog is added to a NYC nativity this year
My pets are my family, so I can't imagine Christmas without them. They have stockings hung up on the fireplace, ornaments on the tree and presents waiting for them on Christmas morning. The way we include dogs in our traditions is a reflection of the important role they play in our life.
This year at St. Patrick's Cathedral, a dog figure will make an appearance in the Christmas crèche, thanks to Monsignor Robert Ritchie. Two of Ritchie's previous parishes included dogs in the crèches and after visiting two churches in Rome that had dogs, he decided St. Patrick's had to add one to their nativity scene.
Ritchie has always been a dog lover and the inspiration for the canine addition comes from his Labrador, Lexington. Fifteen years ago, Ritchie was mourning the loss of his dog when his best friend dragged him to a pet store. Ritchie swore he wouldn't get another dog, but ended up falling in love with a Labrador puppy who he named Lexington, the street the store was on. Today, Lexington is a loyal companion and beloved member of St. Patrick's congregation.
Lexington officially welcomed his crèche figure by licking it on the nose. Lexington II, as the figure is called, was carved at the same studio in Italy where the other nativity figures were created.
Of course, I'm not crazy that Lexington is from a pet store, but I loved this story about being inspired by our dogs and including them in our most important traditions.
The air is crisp, the leaves are changing and the days are shorter—fall is here, and winter is right around the corner. This means two things: first, my dog Wally gets to bundle up in one of his many dapper sweaters; second, the sun sets well before we head out on our evening walk.
Walking after dark in my town is an adventure. The streets are dark and filled with drivers who cannot be bothered to watch out for a dark brown dog and his person. Needless to say, I was intrigued when the Glowdoggie™ LED lighted collar landed on my desk. Wally and I tried it out that very night.
Once I figured out how to turn it on (note: batteries down = on, batteries up = off), the Glowdoggie collar exceeded all of my expectations. The design is clean, the construction is top-notch and the LED lights are very bright. I feel infinitely safer during our evening walks now that Wally and I are highly visible to the drivers careening down the road. Plus, the collar is bright enough to double as a flashlight, making nighttime poop-scooping so much easier. Also worth noting: the collar is 100 percent waterproof, so it can be used in the wettest of weather or even on a midnight swim. The Glowdoggie LED collar is a must-have piece of winter dog-walking gear.
To purchase or to learn more about this great product, visit the Glowdoggie website at www.glowdoggie.com.
The Glowdoggie lighted collars are meant to be used in addition to your dog’s walking collar or harness. The collar is not designed to withstand any pulling force.
News: Guest Posts
Dogs and deer don't mix
When friends and family complain about pesky wildlife, I can’t resist reminding them that we've invaded their habitat. Even when skunks burrowed beneath our chicken coop or chipmunks squatted in our garage, my biggest concern was saving their poor furry souls from our prey-driven pack. That summer rabbits raided our vegetable garden? I didn’t mind eating cookies instead of salad for dinner. (And the dogs appreciated the extra piles of protein they left behind.)
At one time, I would’ve naively asserted that deer are the gentlest of woodland creatures. My dogs and I have come across them many times while taking long walks along the river. Typically, my Pit Bull mix, Shelby, air scents them, and as I follow her gaze, a doe will gracefully dart away, her white tail flickering like candlelight.
A few days ago, I was walking my Dalmatian, Jolie, and Dutch Shepherd, Ginger Peach, in our semi-rural neighborhood. It was dusk, and I was eager to finish our route before it got dark since there are few street lights. The dogs suddenly dove into a ditch, their noses hot on the trail of something. About 40 yards away, I heard a loud crash and saw a white tail disappear into the woods. I chuckled, glad the dogs missed seeing the actual deer because they were so busy following its trail.
We continued forward until I saw a loose dog up ahead. One of the farmers allows his Jack Russell free reign, and I just didn’t feel like heeling both dogs past him. We turned around. As we approached the spot where the dogs flushed out the deer, a magnificent eight-point buck trotted across our path. He stopped a mere 20 yards away as we passed.
Having never seen a buck up close before, I was mesmerized by his size and beauty. I stopped. The dogs and I stared at him, studying him. He broke our gaze and trotted through a row of bushes. Slowly, he positioned himself behind us. He stood tall. Jolie and Ginger Peach became absolutely still. Everything around us was quiet. Looking into the buck’s dark brown eyes, I finally realized what the dogs had likely known the moment I stopped. He did not appreciate our company.
We quickly moved away. Ginger Peach let out a little yips in protest, but Jolie was all too happy to get out of there. As we rounded a corner, I glanced back to see the buck cross the street again, no doubt returning to the doe we had scared off earlier.
After sharing this story with friends, I heard terrifying accounts of deer hurting people or dogs during breeding season. (There are hundreds of videos on YouTube demonstrating their strength in graphic detail.) I was grateful that my naiveté did not inadvertently cause harm to my dogs. Has your dog ever encountered deer? What did you do?
News: Guest Posts
Daisy is finally the queen of her castle
Daisy is curled up next to me on the couch as I type this, enjoying an early afternoon nap. The first snowfall of the season is coming down outside. She’s extra sleepy for this time of day—she spent about a half an hour this morning romping in the fresh snow in her brand-new backyard.
At long last, it’s happened: After four years of apartment living, Daisy finally has a backyard to call her own.
My husband and I discovered Daisy’s love of the outdoors the very first time we met her at the Denver Dumb Friends League. The adoption counselor let us take Daisy outside to a spacious dog run for a game of fetch. She had no idea what to do with the ball, but spent a good five minutes sprinting back and forth in the run with my husband, John, encouraging her. She was pure joy.
We’ve talked about “Daisy’s yard” ever since we brought her from the shelter to our small apartment, reassuring her that someday she’d have a big space in which to race around. Walks are fun, but leashes are not. Her aggression issues mean dog parks are a risky proposition. She got tastes of the good life at the homes of friends and family over the last few years, but only for a short time.
In mid-October, we finally made the move from a one-bedroom apartment on Denver’s urban Capitol Hill to a slightly larger house in a residential neighborhood in northeast Denver. The house might not be huge, but the yard is a perfect size for crazed running and snuffly investigations.
John made a video of Daisy entering the yard for the first time. She’s a take-charge kind of gal, so her initial action was to squat and take an authoritative pee. She mostly wanted to sniff, but soon got in the spirit and was darting around like a happy maniac—when she wasn’t getting distracted by a new scent.
There’s been lot of excitement for her in the last few weeks: Squirrels everywhere. Unwary alley cats wandering into the yard. Human neighbors going about their business. When the weather was nice, I opened the front door so Daisy could lay in the entryway and watch the neighborhood action through the screen door. She’s finally discovered what house dogs figured out in puppyhood: You can stand on the couch and see out the front window! (The old place had a view of a brick wall.) And now there’s snow, glorious snow.
It’s fun to watch Daisy adjust to her new lifestyle, but it does come with some worries. We discovered tons of discarded chicken bones in the backyard—after we caught Daisy, ever the scavenger, crunching on them. One of the back gates doesn’t close all the way, prompting an argument about the best way to keep it closed until we fix it. (I said cinder block, John said bungee cord; John won.) Daisy loves to chase the occasional stray cat, but I fear the day she corners one and it fights back.
There are new training concerns, too. At the apartment, Daisy was on a regular schedule of walks. Now we can open the backdoor for her to dash outside and do her business, and then let her run around and play for as long as she wants. She doesn’t yet know how to “ask” to be let in or out, however. With cold weather bearing down on us, I’m trying to get her on a schedule of sorts, with lots of outdoor fun every day.
The move’s been hard on me, I confess. Leaving the apartment represented a major change in our lives, a transition from younger, more carefree days to greater responsibility and future family-raising. It means we’re becoming Real Grown-Ups. I’m ready to begin this new phase, but it’s bittersweet. Seeing Daisy so happy is making the process much easier.
She sleeps more deeply. Our old building was filled with other dogs whose comings and goings drove Daisy nuts; now she’s the lone ruler of this castle. Maybe I’m crazy, but I think her eyes are brighter and her demeanor more lively. The other day Daisy jauntily danced around me as I boringly put on a pair of socks, apparently out of simple happiness. She even gave my big toe a playful nibble. She never did that in the apartment.
Daisy’s outside now, sunning herself drowsily on the large step into the garage. Her outsized bat-ears twitch slightly as she listens to the sounds of the neighborhood. A few birds fly overhead and she watches them, calmly. She raises her head, closes her eyes and sniffs the breeze.
I can’t stop smiling.
New York's East Village tradition
On October 22, New York’s best-dressed dogs came to the 21st Annual Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade, held in the park’s dog run.
Ubaldo came wearing the neon green “mankini” thong made famous in the movie Borat. He debuted this outfit earlier in the year at the New York City Dachshund Meetup Group pageant. That event requires each dog have three changes of costume. This was his swimwear entry. “His coloring is just so perfect for Borat,” said Alyson Nehran, the international flight attendant who sewed the outfit herself. “Last year, he was a Coney Island bather. This year, I wanted to do something really design intensive so that I could play with the concept.”
Amazing Grace, a Chihuahua, won a prize for her hat—a dog-sized replica of the one warn by Princess Beatrice at the Royal Wedding. It was designed by Anthony Rubio, a school teacher in the Bronx who moonlights as a costume designer. Said Grace’s owner, physical trainer Summer Strand: “He’s the Alexander McQueen of dog fashion.”
Bailey is a five-year-old Puggle-cum-panda. He wasn’t sure how he felt about this fact—his jacket-costume looked a little like the bear was eating him. “But I think he likes it—I mean, all his friends are doing it,” said his owner, Jon Zanoff. In previous years, Zanoff has dressed his dog as a hot dog and as a piglet. His friend said the panda was appropriate because it is the logo of an app Zanoff developed that lets people review bars. “You can rate how hot people are,” she said. Dogs don’t get rated.
Rosie, a 9-month-old Pit Bull, wore a pink child’s dress and a belt of spikes around her middle. Her 6-year-old owner, Isa, said she was supposed to be a punk rock princess. “It’s because she is a princess. She sleeps on the couch!” she said. Isa’s mom, Masha Schmidt, said that Rosie indeed has a punk side, too: “She likes to eat my makeup.”
Liz Mulgrew's Bella, a Cairn Terrier, also came as a punk rocker. She wore a pale blue shirt emblazoned with a skull and crossbones. It’s part of Martha Stewart’s dog clothing line. Her face hair was spiked all around, like a starfruit. Mulgrew didn't use any product. "Her hair is pretty moldable,” she said. “It's easy to get it to go like that. But she usually wears it down.”
Holly, a Pomeranian, was the Hamburglar, a McDonaldland character. “She has this little mask around her eyes naturally, so she just needed the striped suit,” said Holly’s companion, Stephanie Radvan. Radvan got the convict dog outfit online. "But I wanted her to be a prisoner with some kind of flair,” so she pinned McDonald’s burger wrappers on Holly’s sides. “I went out and bought four burgers this morning. They're still at home.”
“It’s his name, so he always wears this costume,” said Kendra Shea, of her dog Yoda, who was Yoda. His sister, also a Pug, came as Leia. She wore an impressive homemade headband glued with yarn to look like two buns. She sat in a stroller that was decorated with cardboard to look like Princess Leia’s Speeder Bike. The whole project was conceived and executed in under 48 hours, said Shea.
“It was on sale,” said Anna DePalma's of the costume worn by her Havanese, Louis. Louis was a ram.
“He’s an Occupy Wall Street dog, and I’m a cop,” said Christine Chiu, there with her Bichon, Oscar. She wore a blue police cap and had handcuffs clipped to her belt. Chiu was dismayed to learn hers was not the only dog to arrive with protester placards on both sides. “I always like to do something current,” she said. Last year, she is rather sure she had the only dog that came as an iPad. “I thought of turning that costume into an iPhone 4S. But Occupy Wall Street is more what people are talking about.”
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