Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Boy or Girl?
Study finds that men and women differ on the perfect dog.

In the world of dog sports, I’ve often heard people say that men work better with female dogs and women work better with male dogs. That statement has yet to be proven, but a study by Monash University has begun to research how gender effects how we choose our furry friends. 

According to their study of 877 Australian dog lovers, women prefer male dogs and vice versa. Researchers also found that women tended to look for calm, obedient pups and men sought large, impressive dogs, more often opting for purebreds.  

While gender may predict how we choose our next furry friend, it may not influence how we interact with them. A study by Italian researchers showed that there is little difference in how men and women interact with their pets. Women tend to be more verbal, but both genders play similarly with their dogs. 

I do think there is some truth to gender’s effect on how we choose our dogs, but they’re pretty wide assumptions for which there are many exceptions. One only has to look at my old neighbor in Manhattan -- a 6 foot tall rocker guy with a tiny Chihuahua, though I have to admit chuckling to myself  anytime I saw them walk together on the street.

Have you noticed any gender differences in how we choose and interact with our pets?

For thoughts on gender’s effect on canine learning, check out Patricia McConnell’s article, The Gender Gap.

News: Guest Posts
If I Were A Philadelphia Eagles Fan…
Could I still support my home team?

Michael Vick’s reentry into professional football, the latest update in his life story, has me wondering how I would feel if I happened to be an ardent Philadelphia Eagle fan. Honestly, I’m not altogether sure. Would I believe that everyone is deserving of a second chance? Would I boycott the games, or choose to watch but cheer every time Michael Vick fumbled the ball or threw an interception? Would I hate Michael Vick for his heinous actions, or could I muster up compassion for a guy whose upbringing allowed him to think that treating living creatures in such a horrifying fashion was perfectly okay?
As a resident of California with no real interest in professional football, I’m thankful that I don’t have to decide how to support my home team. However, as someone who devotes a significant portion of her life to the wellbeing of animals, I certainly feel conflicted. Here is my strategy. I’m going to try to temper any outrage and anger with hope for the goodness that might arise from the Michael Vick saga. Yes, I do believe there is some potential for some sweetness in this sour situation. Dog fighting has made it to center stage in terms of media attention. This increased awareness will hopefully be accompanied by greater action to vilify and stop such ugly exploitation of animals. Vick now has phenomenal opportunities to utilize his celebrity stature for the benefit of animals. I hope he will become a sincere (I’ll settle simply for believable) high profile champion of organizations, activities, and legislation that support the welfare of animals. Michael Vick cannot undo what’s been done, but he certainly holds much positive potential in his hands, above and beyond merely a football. Michael Vick now has the opportunity to change his legacy.  For the sake of animals everywhere, I hope he does exactly that.

News: Guest Posts
His Name’s Not Reggie
How you can help a soldier's dog in need.

If you have an inbox, then you’ve probably heard about Reggie. The fictional tale reminds us that military dog owners face difficult choices when called to war. Unless they can find a temporary home for their dog, the shelter is the only option.

Military Pets Foster Project matches soldiers with people willing to foster their pets while they’re away on duty. It’s impossible to thank a soldier for his/her many sacrifices, but imagine giving the gift of their dog or cat upon their return home. Charitable donations are also welcome.

News: Guest Posts
Man’s Best (and Most Energy Efficient?) Friend
Dogs join the fight against global warming.

My cousin Mark is a pretty smart guy who reads widely. (All my cousins are above average.) Here is what Mark sent to me in an e-mail about dogs:

“Professor Temple Grandin says that dogs are genetic wolves that have co-evolved with humans for 100,000 years, maybe more. Hence dogs and humans have complementary advantages and deficits. Humans used to have a better sense of hearing and smell, now dogs are better than us at those. Humans walk upright and have better vision and organizational skills, so dogs depend on us to see things and try to find them. Both are social creatures. So the lesson is that Nature has bundled the hardware and software for these skills and abilities between the two species. Unbundling them carries certain risks, so you should try to live with a dog if you can.”

I agree that dogs and humans are a pretty good combination. We’ve had a dog for about a year now. Cooper is a medium-sized Labradoodle, which is a Labrador Retriever and Poodle mix. He’s a great dog and we love him a lot. He’s heartbreakingly cute and cuddly. He has a Lab’s great disposition and a Poodle’s smarts. We think he’s the best dog ever.

But, along with being a good partner, is Cooper an energy efficient addition to our household? Are pets, and dogs in particular, a step in the right direction in the battle against global warming and the fight for energy security? Is Underdog more than a cartoon?

I think “bundling” ourselves with animals is a good idea for lots of reasons, but here is why I think dogs are energy efficient:

1. Dogs add warmth in the winter and stay outside most of the time in the summer, so they don’t add much to a house’s cooling load.

2. Dogs add fur in the winter and cool themselves using their tongues. Try that, humans!

3. When he has nothing to do, Cooper lays down flat as a pancake and barely moves, thereby conserving energy.

4. Dogs are great alarm systems and don’t even need batteries.

5. Dogs eat stuff that humans throw away. They will clean your plates if you let them, saving water and energy.

6. Because dogs need to be walked, they cause their owners to exercise, reducing their owners’ appetite and therefore their food intake (that’s how it’s supposed to work).

7. Dogs give you unconditional love and so you don’t have to drive your car to visit family and friends.

What’s your dog’s energy pawprint?

News: Guest Posts
The “D” Word
Don’t miss your chance to howl with Lily Tomlin.

Actress, comedian, dog lover and animal welfare do-gooder Lily Tomlin headlines in Provincetown, Mass., on August 29 in a one-night-only show to benefit Pilgrim Bark Park, a new, nonprofit, off-leash dog park and animal welfare resource. Did you think Tomlin's Edith Ann and Buster the dog routine was pure shtick? Think again, and read about  Tomlin’s passion for animals in The Bark interview.)


The fundraiser will help park organizers pay off a $30,000 loan, which was taken out to make the park wheelchair accessible, and also to fund much-needed shade pavilions.

Opened in 2009, Pilgrim Bark Park was established to reflect the town’s love of dogs and provide animal welfare resources to the community. Reflecting Provincetown’s history as an artist colony, the park is dotted with benches and doghouses designed and painted by local artists. The park is supported exclusively by volunteers and private donations.
DETAILS: Saturday, August 29, MacMillan Pier on Provincetown Harbor. Look for Ernestine, who will be wandering along the pier during the silent and live auction, which begins at 5 pm. Tomlin’s show, “The ‘D’ Word,” hosted by Kate Clinton, begins at 8 pm. Tickets are $75-$250 and available online at www.onlyatthecrown.com.


For those of us too far away to make the Tomlin show, here’s the classic clip of Edith Ann describing the go-for-broke sandwich she made for her dog, Buster:

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Top Cities for Dogs
MSNBC publishes their list of pet-friendly destinations.

I’m always on the hunt for dog-friendly destinations. This week MSNBC published their Top 10 Pet Friendly Cities of 2009, giving me many new trip ideas. I was excited to see that my own hometown of New York made the list, mandating a staycation perhaps! New York was joined by San Diego, Chicago, Seattle, Alexandria, Portland, San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, Los Angeles and Boston.

These cities were picked based on the variety of pet-friendly lodging, restaurants, tourist amenities and pet events. MSNBC’s list represents a variety of canine friendly activities, from San Diego’s three off-leash beaches to Alexandria’s Yappy Hours at Hotel Monaco.

I’m already scheming to take trips to kayak with my dogs in San Diego, enjoy the beachside view of the Golden Gate Bridge together in San Francisco, party with my pooches at SkyBark in Los Angeles and take the pet friendly ferry ride from Boston to Cape Cod.  

The author, Sandy Robins, is dead on when describing New York and our surprising number of dog parks among the sea of skyscrapers and high rise apartments. The Shake Shack stand she mentions is indeed delicious and the menu even features the Pooch-Ini, a doggie custard sundae. Madison Square Park is also the location of past American Kennel Club Responsible Dog Owners Day events.

What are your favorite pet friendly cities?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Excessive Jingling of Dog Tags
A pet peeve worth stopping

Large numbers of dog tags jingling on a dog’s collar drive me crazy and probably bother most dogs even more. For sound-sensitive dogs in particular, noisy tags may negatively affect their quality of life. Seeing dogs suffer the constant clanging and additional weight of wearing all that metal activates my pet peeve sensors like few other avoidable irritations. I even had a little rant about it recently on another blog.

We can minimize the number of tags by pitching expired ones and by getting a flat ID tag that is directly attached to the collar. That leaves just a city license and a rabies tag for most dogs, which cuts out a lot of the sound. Or, the jingling can be eliminated completely with The Quiet Spot’s Pet Tag Silencer that holds all the tags in one pouch. Less chic than the Pet Tag Silencer but effective and inexpensive is using some electrical tape to secure the tags into a single silent mass.

Dogs make our lives better in a thousand small ways each day. Lessening the irritation of heavy, loud tags on our dogs’ collars is one small way we can repay the favor.

Is your pet peeve quite different from mine? Do you have a remedy that will make all our dogs’ lives better?

News: Guest Posts
Taxi Cab Confessions
Exploring cultural biases against dogs—in Iraq and at home.

An NPR story this week reported that U.S. soldiers are teaching Iraqi security forces how to use bomb-sniffer dogs—with one particular challenge. “Sniffer dogs are universally recognized as the most effective means of detecting explosives," the reporter explains. "But in Iraq, as in much of the Arab world, dogs are considered unclean.” That's a challenge.

“The greatest tool you have in your inventory when working with dogs is love. A lot of dogs, that's what they work for, just your affection,” says Army Staff Sgt. Aaron Meier, an American adviser to the Iraqi National Canine Program. “Some of the people who have shown up are willing to play with the dog but they are not willing to go to the next step and really love the dog up. We’ve shown them that when they do that, they get better response from the dog.”

I know what Sgt. Meier means. I’ve seen—okay, felt—how affection motivates dogs to do a good job. With all Hanni does for me on a typical walk, can you imagine the bag of treats I’d be lugging around if I rewarded her with food?! Not to mention the pounds she’d put on—she wouldn’t be able to carry her own weight, much less pull me behind her.

Seeing Eye dogs, like bomb-sniffer dogs, work for love. I talk lovingly to Hanni as she guides me through traffic. “Atta girl, Hanni!”  She leads me around a pothole, and I tell her she’s sweet. I laugh as she glides me past garbage cans, lampposts and countless other obstructions. “You’re good, Hanni!” Every time Hanni stops at a curb, and every time she sits at the top of a set of stairs to let me know where we’re at, I crouch down to give her some love. “Good girl, Hanni!” She wags her tail in appreciation, and we carry on.

Except when someone impedes our progress. Cab drivers, for example.

Many of the cab drivers here in Chicago come from the Middle East, and just like the security forces in Iraq, they see dogs as unclean. I understand their cultural taboo, but hey, if these drivers are working in the U.S., they have to abide by American laws. Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act, service dogs helping a person who has a disability are allowed in cabs.

I have taken two drivers to court for refusing to let Hanni and me into their cab. Both were found guilty. Each was fined $500 and each had his license suspended for 29 days. I do not dance with joy about winning these cases. Thing is, I really like cab drivers. They’re hard workers. I like chatting with them. I tip them well. I feel a sort of bond with cab drivers—many of them are minorities, like me. Many of them are qualified for other jobs, but they’ve had to settle for something else. Like me. I know driving a cab is their livelihood. I don’t like the idea of their licenses being suspended.

But I don’t like being refused a ride, either. I have a feeling that city cab drivers talk to each other a lot. I’m hoping word gets out that drivers are getting their licenses suspended for refusing a service dog. That way, maybe I won’t have to file complaints anymore.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Neutering Dogs with Shoes
ZAPP sells footwear on eBay to help strays in Mexico.

I’m never one to miss a shoe sale and recently I discovered footwear bargains that help out a great cause.

In San Felipe, Mexico, 92 percent of the area’s animals live on the street. For years, euthanasia by electrocution has been the method of choice to control the overwhelming population of 15,000-20,000 stray dogs.

Realizing that euthanasia would not solve the root of the overpopulation problem, Steven Forman founded the Zero Additional Pup-ulation Project (ZAPP) to help control strays humanely through spaying and neutering. It’s an ambitious program in an area where animal welfare is in its infancy. Forman estimates that 1,200 animals have to be spayed and neutered each month just to stop San Felipe’s stray population from growing. 

ZAPP, which relies exclusively on private donations, started Shoes for Spays to take advantage of pet loving shoe addicts hunting for bargains – a win-win situation. The program takes donations of new or gently worn shoes and resells them on eBay, which has raised enough money to spay and neuter an amazing 5,500 animals to date. 

Shoes for Spays has given me a new way to rationalize footwear purchases, but it also has me wondering about the potential of the many unworn shoes in my closet. Surely a great excuse to make room for new pairs!

Visit the Shoes for Spays website for more information on donating or buying shoes.

News: Guest Posts
Howl Contributor Heads to U.S. Senate. UPDATE.
Minnesota Supreme Court declares Al Franken the winner.

[UPDATE: At the risk of really upsetting the anti-Franken faction out there, we had to point out that our hopes that Sen. Al Franken's personal passion for dogs would translate into action are already being realized. He announced his first legislative goal --funding to train service dogs to assist veterans. Good for dogs and veterans.


According to a column in Star Tribune, Franken was inspired by a wounded Iraq war veteran he met at the innauguration. Franken writes: "Service dogs … can be of immense benefit to vets suffering from physical and emotional wounds. Yes, they provide companionship. But they can also detect changes in a person's breathing, perspiration or scent to anticipate and ward off an impending panic attack with some well-timed nuzzling. They are trained to let their masters know when it's time to take their medication and to wake them from terrifying nightmares."]


In a unanimous ruling, Minnesota's highest court upheld a lower court decision that Democrat Al Franken defeated Republican Norm Coleman in one squeaker of a race last fall. A mere 312 votes put Franken in the United States Senate, where we hope the freshman will proudly display a copy of Howl: A Collection of the Best Contemporary Dog Wit (from the editors of The Bark), which features his story, “Kirby.”


We figure it has to be good news for dogs that a guy who penned the line—“I have to be careful when I get home to kiss my wife before I kiss my eight-year-old black Lab”—is headed for Congress.