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Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Tips on Creating a Dog-Friendly Workplace
Good for you, your dog and business

In 2010 a study, headed by Christopher Honts, at Central Michigan University, found that the mere presence of a canine in the office could help make people collaborate more effectively. The researchers also showed that the staff who worked with a dog gave all their teammates higher scores for trust and team cohesion than those who worked in dog-free groups. And now a new study confirms what The Daily Show people said in a recent interview with The Bark, dogs are the greatest destressors for both dog owners and the dogless employees in their office, as well as collaborative “assistants.” This study was conducted by an aptly named investigator, Randolph Barker, PhD, professor of the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business. The findings, published in March in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management, found that dogs do buffer the impact of stress during the workday for their owners and make the job more satisfying for those with whom they come into contact. “Dogs in the workplace can make a positive difference,” Barker said. He also concluded that “Pet presence may serve as a low-cost, wellness intervention readily available to many organizations and may enhance organizational satisfaction and perceptions of support. Of course, it is important to have policies in place to ensure only friendly, clean and well-behaved pets are present in the workplace.” (See the infographic on this topic created by the MBAPrograms.org)

The American Pet Products Association recently surveyed 50 companies that welcome pets and discovered: 1. Lower stress levels and less absenteeism than in pet-free offices; 2. Productivity and employee morale got a boost when canine companions joined the work force; 3. Employees were more willing to work overtime, thanks to the addition of pets in the workplace.

So if your company doesn’t have a dog-in-the-workplace policy and is, hopefully, considering developing one, the following tips can be used to help set up a successful dog-policy.

  • Start off with a dog-committee made up of dog owners and non-dog owners to draft a policy.
  • Dogs must be friendly to human and other dogs.
  • Make sure there are readily accessible outdoor areas for dog “breaks.”
  • Follow a dog “hire” policy where a new dog is interviewed for acceptability into the workplace.
  • Have a three strikes rule concerning behavioral breaches or human-non compliance (like not picking up after a dog), but if a dog displays aggressive behavior he/she must be removed from the office immediately.
  • Some dogs might not be “ready” for the workplace, make sure the office environment is amenable to your dog too. Fearful and shy dogs might not flourish in a busy office.
  • Basic training is a must and dogs should have a good social personality.
  • If dogs are permitted in meeting rooms, make sure your dog is well-mannered and does not cause distractions.
  • Curb barking and dogs should not be allowed to play with squeaky toys.
  • Dogs should be housebroken and receives frequent breaks.
  • Dogs should be clean, free of illness, and should be up on routine vaccinations and flea protection.
  • Introduce a dog slowly into the workplace, and introduce a new dog to the current office dogs in a neutral area, perhaps while out for a walk and not in the office itself.
  • Employees should sign a waiver and be responsible for any damage to equipment or other employees. Dogs should not chew on furniture, wiring, cords etc.
  • Checks for signs of stress in a dog, signs include excessive panting, drooling, pinned-back ears, etc.
  • Depending on the size and layout of the office, dogs can be leashed, and use of baby gates or crates can also be considered.
  • Consider a dog-free zone for employees who might have allergies or who are frightened of dogs.
  • Dog's Life: Work of Dogs
    Top Dog-Friendly Companies
    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)
    This was one of the first software companies who initiated this trend. Recognition of the benefits of dogs in their workplace is even written into their corporate bylaws. About 5 percent of the company’s nearly 7,000 employees take advantage of this benefit. Other perks include offering a dog insurance group plan and dog training classes scheduled during lunchtime. According to Michael Oldenburg, Autodesk spokesman, “Having a pet also encourages employees to take breaks during the day that they may not take if they didn’t have a pet.”

    Bissell (Grand Rapids, Michigan)
    This is a vacuum cleaning company that is seriously committed to animal causes with their Bissell Pet Foundation to promote pet adoption and animal welfare with the goal of awarding more than $250,000 in grants annually. CEO Mark Bissell and his wife, Cathy, have three Labs and fully 72 percent of their employees are pet owners. Not only are workers encouraged to bring their dogs to the office, but the company actually constructed an animal-friendly space called The Bissell Pet Spot, complete with indoor kennels, a bathing station and outdoor play area. 

    Ben & Jerry’s (South Burlington, Vermont)
    In 2000, a volunteer group of staff members created the official pet policy in a proactive, team effort. “It spelled out the need to respect people who are scared of dogs or are allergic,” says Lisa Wernhoff. “No dogs in any conference room, lunch room, or bathrooms; no dogs hanging outside your little cubicle, in the aisles, or public spaces. It spelled out where dogs could go potty. We didn’t want people complaining, and tried to head off any problems.” Public relations spokesman Sean Greenwood says that there are 110 human employees and approximately 15 to 20 dogs at the company’s corporate headquarters.

    Replacements, Ltd. (Greensboro, North Carolina)
    For more than 15 years, Replacements, Ltd., a service-retail tableware company, has maintained a dog friendly attitude even in spite the curious noses and wagging tails among fragile items like the crystal, china and other collectibles for which this company is known. But Vice-President of Human Resources Jeanine Falcon says that it’s allowed speaks to CEO’s Bob Page’s generous philosophy. Today, even customers may bring well-behaved dogs into the showroom.

    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)
    This company is the nation’s first commercial online printer. Almost from its start it allowed dogs, the first being Jessie, belonging to the founder, Andrew Field. Many more followed, with around 15% of their workers now taking advantage of this policy. Their headquarters was designed to be dog-friendly, with concrete floors and trails around the building, that includes a waterfalls and pond system that the dogs love to swim in. All dogs have to be “interviewed” and abide by their official dog policy including that they cannot be aggressive or disruptive, and need to be housebroken. People must sign a waiver of responsibility too. They have a three strikes and you’re out rule in effect. As Field has noted, when people come in for interviews and see all the dogs, they know it is a dog-friendly environment, so if they aren’t comfortable with that, they might consider working elsewhere.

    Clif Bar (Emeryville, California)
    This organic energy snack company and their staff are heavily focused on environmentalism and spending time outside, so many have dogs. Luckily, those pups can join their owners at work, a policy that sprang organically from the company’s culture. (They even negotiated a group vet insurance deal.) On a busy day, there might be as many as 20 dogs running around the 260-person office, which means lunch breaks are filled with walks to the nearby park and fetch sessions in the auditorium.

    The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (New York, New York)
    Could the secret behind this long-running television show’s success lie with it’s open-dog-door policy? Read Bark’s exclusive profile of the dogs of The Daily Show and learn why we deemed it the Best Place to Work … if you love dogs or are a dog!

    Culture: Reviews
    Good Reads
    Dog Years; Pack of Two; Dog Sense; Tell me Where it Hurts

    Now it is summer and its long, warm days have arrived, we hope to catch up on our reading. To encourage you to do the same, we’ve compiled a roster of some of our favorites from the classic shelves, as well as some newer ones.

    THE SCIENCE OF DOG
    The formal study of dogs has accelerated over the past few years, with the happy result that reliable, research-based information is now more easily available to the general reader.

    Man Meets Dog was first published fifty years ago, becoming a classic that every dog lover should read‹a slim, witty volume by the Nobel Prize-winning scientist, Konrad Lorenz. It was the first to delve into the canine mind and also launched the debate to what extend do its wolf ancestors affect modern dog behavior.

    The Hidden Life of Dogs is a book made famous for the number of miles that Elizabeth Marshall Thomas clocked while tracking a Husky on his daily forays in her anthropological quest to answer, “What do dogs really want?” It is an enthralling account that brings a fresh understanding to the emotional lives of dogs.

    Somewhere along the path of evolution two distinct animal species made the choice to “cooperate not to compete.” In The Animal Attraction Dr. Jonica Newby, an Australian veterinarian, poses the more fascinating question "If we didn¹t link up with dogs, where would we be today?" Her answers about our co-evolution are both surprising and wildly entertaining. 

    In Dog Sense, animal behaviorist John Bradshaw outlines what we can expect from our co-pilots as well as what they need to live harmoniously with us. Ultimately, this is what makes the book so appealing. He does more than simply lay out interesting theories; he uses science to advocate for a better life for companion dogs. 

    Inside of a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz is a fascinating journey into the dog’s rich sensory world, providing valuable insights into what it’s like to be a dog. If you think you know your dog, think again. Horowitz peels away the layers of pre-conceived notions and gets to the core of canine-ness to reveal that Canis familiaris is anything but familiar. 

    Dog’s Best Friend by Mark Derr who writes about the “culture of the dog” like no one else‹he goes well beyond the in’s and out’s of breeding and training examining all aspects about what makes our relationship to dogs tick.

    MEMOIRS & LITERATURE
    Let’s Take the Long Way Home, a memoir by Gail Caldwell about her friendship with the late Caroline Knapp (Pack of Two); their dogs brought these two writers together, and a devoted friendship followed.

    Scent of the Missing by Susannah Charleson. A fascinating memoir of the adventures of a Search and Rescue pup and how both she and her human partner mastered the course together.

    In Dog Years, poet Mark Doty recounts how two dogs rescued and supported him during a time of deep grief. A tender, amusing and insightful reflection on the bond with have with animals.

    The Proof is in the Poodle by Donna Kelleher, a holistic vet who has written a thoughtful and sensitive exploration of the ways we help out animals heal—physically, emotionally and spiritually. (2012,Two Harbors Press)

    Garth Stein’s novel, The Art of Racing in the Rain, is a beautifully crafted tale of the wonders and absurdities of human life as only a dog could describe them.

    Rick Bass’s Colter: The True Story of the Best Dog I Ever Had is a gorgeously written memoir about a remarkable “brown” dog who possessed a genius for the hunt. It is also a powerful contemplation about the natural world and how a dog can unveil its secrets to us, if only we are wise enough to watch and listen. 

    Donald McCaig’s Eminent Dogs: Dangerous Men is a book about the fascinating world of sheepherding and Border Collies and how the history of these dogs is infused by character of the people who admire then and who “partner” with them. Part memoir, travelogue, and part investigation into one of the oldest alliances mankind has struck with canines.

    Dog Walks Man, a collection of humorous and absorbing essays by John Zeaman, conveys how the routine act of dog-walking can connect us to the joys of the nature. 

    Pack of Two: The Intricate Bond Between People and Dogs by Carolyn Knapp is the seminal book about, as its subtitle proclaims, the bond between people and dogs. A must read for all dog people—affirming that we aren’t alone in our dog-centricity. Knapp explored why dogs matter to us and concludes that we love them for themselves—for their very otherness and dogginess. 

    My Dog Tulip by J.R. Ackerley. This book is a lovely, unsentimental and very moving biography of a dog, an Alsatian female named Tulip. Ackerley is charmed and fascinated by her and his descriptions about her behavior and habits are among the more tender “love” stories ever.

    Lee Harrington’s Rex in the City is the modern day story about how a young couple learned about the challenges of adopting an abused, untrained dog and bringing him up in a small NYC apartment. The author shares both her pains and her joys of their life with a troubled dog. But readers will be reminded—in a delightful way—that love does indeed conquer all.

    HANDS ON
    When it comes to advice, we go to the experts.
    In Speaking for Spot, Nancy Kay, DVM, provides a road map to help us navigate the complicated terrain of canine health care most effectively.

    Patricia McConnell, PhD, CAAB, has written a shelf-load of books in which she decodes the mysteries of canine behavior. Two we particularly like are The Other End of the Leash, which focuses on why we behave as we do around our dogs and how it affects them, and (with Karen London, PhD), Love Has No Age Limit, a much-needed primer on adopting an adult dog.

    If you’ve wondered vets do day-to-day, read veterinary surgeon Nick Trout’s Tell Me Where It Hurts and Love Is the Best Medicine and get clued in.

    WHO DONE IT?
    Finally, in the belief that sometimes, more is better, we put our paws together for three don’t-miss, dog-flavored mystery series.

    David Rosenfelt’s Andy Carpenter is a reluctant attorney whose real passions are dog rescue and his Golden Retriever, Tara. One Dog Night is the most recent entry.

    In Spencer Quinn’s “Chet and Bernie” mysteries, narrated by Chet the dog, comments on the way dogs see the world ring true (and will make you smile). The fifth book, A Fist Full of Collars, is due out in September.

    Our long-time favorite, Susan Conant, released a new “Holly Winter” mystery earlier this year, thank goodness; Brute Strength is number 19 in the series featuring the Malamute-loving dog writer and, of course, her favorite dogs. 

     

    Wellness: Health Care
    Ten Commandments of Veterinary Office Visits
    Become an advocate for your dog

    How much easier it would be if vets had Dr. Dolittle’s ability to talk to the animals—when we took our pups in for a check-up, they could speak for themselves. Since that’s not the case, our dogs rely on us to act as their advocates in the exam room. In Dr. Nancy Kay’s ground-breaking book, Speaking for Spot, she provides us with the tools we need to do just that, relayed clearly and with gentle humor. We’re pleased to offer our readers a sample.

    Here are 10 tried-and-true secrets to making every visit to your dog’s veterinarian exceptional for you and the entire office staff. They also directly benefit your dog’s health—and nothing is more important than that.

    I: Thou shalt push thy veterinarian off her pedestal.
    Much to my supervisor’s chagrin, I adamantly refuse to wear a white lab coat. I agree that it would keep my clothing clean and help me stand out as a doctor, but I shun it because I believe it hinders relaxed, open conversation with my clients. (I don’t think dogs are crazy about white coats either.) I’m referring to what is known as the “white coat intimidation factor,” a phenomenon that gives the doctor an air of authority and superiority. When she is on such a “pedestal,” two-way communication flounders. Medical advocacy requires active client participation, and a client who is intimidated does not feel comfortable voicing an opinion.

    In most cases, the pedestal on which a veterinarian resides is a figment of the client’s imagination. I’m delighted that the profession is viewed favorably, but vets truly don’t deserve any extra helpings of adulation. So, before you arrive at the veterinary clinic, prepare yourself to “push” the vet off her pedestal. Remember, this is a simple mind-over-matter endeavor. And if your vet clings fast to her pedestal, consider choosing a different teammate!

    II: Thou shalt be present.
    A face-to-face conversation with your vet is invariably more valuable than connecting later via phone or email. Actually being there allows you to view X-rays and see how to administer medication. And don’t forget, given the choice, your dog would absolutely, positively want you to be by his side! So, do not ask your mother, your brother, your housekeeper, the kid next door or anyone else to pinch-hit for you. Unless you’ve had recent discussions with your veterinarian to arrange a procedure, if at all possible, avoid simply dropping your dog off at the veterinary hospital in the morning before you go to work or school. If this is truly necessary, consider arranging a discharge appointment, during which time you and your veterinarian can talk about your dog face-to-face.

    When a dog is experiencing significant symptoms or is sick, it helps to have all the decision-makers present at the time of the office visit. If this is difficult to arrange, the person present should take notes, and even consider tape-recording the conversation with the vet. This is useful, since details inevitably get lost in translation—especially when traveling from spouse to spouse! Consider bringing the kids along (unless they will create a significant distraction), as they can be wonderfully uninhibited sources of information and keen observers of their dog’s habits.

    Lastly, turn your cell phone off before entering the exam room. A client who answers a call while I am discussing her dog’s health isn’t truly “there” with me.

    III: Thou shalt let the staff know if thy dog is aggressive.
    All dogs are capable of unpredictable behavior. A savvy veterinary staff can usually peg an aggressive pooch within seconds of meeting him. Occasionally, one surprises us and bites—either a member of the staff or the client. Everyone feels terrible, but it’s made far worse when we learn that the client knew it could happen, but failed to warn us.

    I clearly recall a nasty bite to my hand with no warning glare or growl to clue me in. As I stood by the sink washing my wound and muttering under my breath, the client had the audacity to inform me that the same thing had happened to the last veterinarian they had seen! I momentarily fantasized about biting her, but showed tremendous restraint.

    If your pup has previously growled or attempted to bite in a clinic setting, it is vital that you divulge this information. Trust me, withholding such important information is the quickest, most effective way to alienate yourself from an entire staff, and you will not be welcomed back. The flip side of this coin is that veterinarians have nothing but respect for the client who brings along a muzzle that’s just the right fit.

    A dog acts out of character in a hospital setting for a number of reasons. Pain, fear, a bad experience or the need to protect their human can all provoke aggression. Fortunately, there are many humane ways to work effectively with an aggressive dog: chemical sedation or muzzling is a reasonable option. Sometimes, simply separating a dog from his human subdues this aggressive tendency. Restraining with brute force (a.k.a. “brutacaine”) is never warranted.

    IV: Thou shalt provide information.
    The “history” of your dog’s health, past and present, is exceedingly important, more so than many people realize. This often provides more clues for a correct diagnosis than the actual physical examination. Your vet will want to know if you’ve seen any changes in behavior, appetite, thirst or energy. Report any vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, sneezing, decrease in stamina, or change in bladder or bowel habits. Do some sleuthing on the home front.

    Medication and Diet
    Bring your dog’s current medication to every visit, so drugs and dosages can be confirmed. Your veterinarian will want the name and strength of the drug, not just a description of the tablet. (Many medications come in the form of small, round, blue pills!) All too frequently, we come across a prescription that has been dispensed, or is being administered, incorrectly.

    And, know the brand name of the food your pup eats. The color of the bag and name of the store where it was purchased simply won’t give your veterinarian adequate information.

    Prior Medical Conditions
    First-time visitors to a vet clinic should have in hand their dog’s vaccination history as well as any medical records, laboratory test results and X-rays that pertain to prior problems. If your dog’s recent symptoms or medical history are somewhat complex, it helps to see a concise written summary of events. For example, when your dog has had a seizure disorder for the past nine months, providing a journal of the dates and duration of the seizures might be extremely helpful. By the same token, it is possible to provide too much information. I once received an inch-thick log of many months’ worth of a patient’s bowel movements—including weights and lengths (I couldn’t possibly make this stuff up).

    V: Thou shalt confess everything.
    If your dog has trained you to feed him nothing but table food; if you have been sharing your own prescription medication with your pooch; if he fell out of the back of a pickup truck because he was not properly tethered; even if he has just eaten a plate of marijuana-laden brownies—you must force yourself to rise above any embarrassment or awkwardness and be truthful with your veterinarian.

    I once had to confess to a large-animal vet that I’d fed rhododendron trimmings to my goats. Rhododendrons are toxic to goats, causing terrible abdominal distress—something every veterinarian learns in school, but I’d somehow managed to forget. Ingestion requires immediate and specific therapy, so my confession facilitated my goats’ complete recovery, thank goodness. I still feel a wee bit embarrassed when I cross paths with the vet who saved them. Ah, the things that keep us humble!

    VI: Thou shalt pause for confusion.
    It is just about impossible to do a reasonable advocacy job if you don’t understand what your vet says. As the saying goes, “What we don’t understand, we can make mean anything.”

    Most veterinarians, myself included, lapse into “medical speak” because we are so used to these terms running around in our heads. We might say to a client, “Ruffy is in renal failure and needs aggressive diuresis,” instead of, “Ruffy’s kidneys aren’t functioning properly, and we can help him by giving him intravenous fluids.” We need you to stop us in our tracks when we confuse you. If you are a “visual learner,” ask your vet to draw a picture or show you what she is talking about on your dog’s X-rays, lab report or ultrasound images. Remember, always “pause for confusion”—when you don’t understand, stop and get clarification.

    VII: Thou shalt share thy concerns.
    Most veterinarians do what they do because they appreciate how much dogs mean to their humans. Who better, then, to empathize with you? To help you, your vet needs you to tell her your particular worries and concerns:

    • Are you feeling scared or angry? (Anger is a normal stage of the grief process—many people experience it in response to a dog’s illness.)

    • Are financial limitations creating a roadblock?

    • Are you convinced your dog has a terminal disease?

    • Are you terrified by the thought of anesthetizing your dog because a beloved pet once died unexpectedly while under anesthesia?

    • Are you receiving pressure from family or a co-worker to put your dog to sleep, but you don’t think it’s time yet?

    Your vet will be better able to understand your reasoning if she knows how you are feeling, and you will receive a much-needed dose of empathy.

    Financial Matters
    It’s never easy discussing financial worries—candor suffers because the subject is often awkward and much too personal. Clients feel guilty and worry about being judged when cost needs to be a factor in medical decisions. Be aware, though, you should discuss this matter up front. Be sure to get an estimate before services are provided so as to avoid any unpleasant surprises. Ask about payment plans or prioritization of services. Most veterinarians are willing and able to provide reasonable financial options.

    VIII: Thou shalt ask questions.
    Asking questions is the most resourceful way to be your dog’s medical advocate. In the heat of the moment, when you have received some disconcerting news, a child is tugging at your arm and your dog has just lifted his leg rather too near the veterinarian, it is easy to forget the important questions you were meaning to ask. It pays to write them down beforehand. No doubt you will do some homework and research when you get home, and you will invariably think of more questions you should have asked. No problem. Veterinarians expect clients to call with questions after they’ve had some time to process and ponder the information they’ve received.

    IX: Thou shall treat the entire staff well.
    I get really peeved when I learn that a client, who has been sweet as can be with me, has been abrupt, condescending or rude to one of my staff. Everyone deserves to be treated with equal respect, and, without a doubt, the entire staff will know if this has not been the case! Likewise, a client who has been respectful and gracious will have the “red carpet” rolled out the next time she visits.

    X: Thou shalt always come away with a plan.
    What do I mean by this? It is this simple: Every time you talk with your veterinarian, be sure you know exactly when and how you will next communicate. Consider the following examples:

    • Your six-year-old Norwegian Elkhound has just had his annual checkup, and, much to your delight, everything is completely normal. The “plan” is to bring him back in one year for his next “annual.”

    • Your three-year-old Chihuahua-Jack Russell Terrier mix has just been evaluated for coughing, and prescribed an antibiotic and cough suppressant. The “plan” is to call the hospital in one week to report whether or not the cough has fully resolved. If not, chest X-rays and a blood test will be scheduled.

    • Your Golden Retriever puppy has a heart murmur. Ultrasound reveals a problem with the mitral valve in his heart. Future prognosis is uncertain. The “plan” is to repeat the ultrasound in six months, or sooner if coughing or decreased stamina is observed.

    • Your Terrier mutt just had surgery to remove bladder stones. At the time he is discharged from the hospital, the “plan” is to feed him a special diet to prevent stone reformation, return in two weeks for removal of the stitches, and schedule a two-month follow-up to recheck a urine sample.

    Vets often fail to provide clear follow-up recommendations and well-intentioned clients often fail to comply with them. Do your best to solidify the “plan” and put it in writing. You’ll be glad you did.

     

    News: Guest Posts
    Reasons to Cheer, Reasons to Jeer in 2010
    The best and worst dog stories of the year

    We’re looking over our shoulders at the year that was—to celebrate the positives and, we hope, learn from the negatives. In that spirit, we (Julia, Karen, JoAnna and Lisa) have compiled what we consider to be some of the best and worst moments for dogs in 2010.

     

    Best: After more than 125 years as the purebred dog’s advocate, the American Kennel Club invites mixed breeds to participate in its new Canine Partners Program. Mixes now go paw-to-paw against purebreds in agility, obedience and Rally competitions nationwide.   Worst: Despite providing excellent animal control services for the city of New Orleans for many years, the Louisiana SPCA is forced to play hardball with a new mayoral administration and city councilmembers when the latter offers a paltry sum for its 2011 contract. On December 15, the LA/SPCA says, thanks but no thanks to the city, explaining that humane work cannot be fueled by blood, sweat and tears alone. Two weeks later, the politicians come to their senses and offer a more agreeable sum so that all of New Orleans’ companion animals will be better served.    Best: Couple in Oklahoma, after losing all six of their pets (two dogs, four cats) to poisoning from melamine-tainted pet food, donate five acres of land in Tulsa for a memorial garden to all the animals who lost their lives in this horrible way. They believe that all the pets need to be honored and that the people who suffered deserve to know that their pets matter.   Worst: The new kids book Smooch Your Pooch actually instructs kids to hug and kiss dogs—advice that greatly increases the likelihood of kids being bitten. This is exactly the sort of behavior that those of us who work with dogs in general, and aggressive dogs in particular, work so hard to discourage. Sigh.   Best: Ignoring the misinformation campaign of Tea Party activists, nearly 1 million Missouri voters approve the Puppy Mill Cruelty Protection Act, a statewide ballot initiative to establish basic standards of care for dogs in large-scale commercial breeding facilities, of which Missouri has the most in the country.   Worst: Missouri Sen. Bill Stouffer (R), who apparently doesn’t seem to think citizens should have a say, files a bill to repeal the puppy mill measure days after it passes. Also pretty lame are the other Missouri legislators working to gut the law.    Best: The U.S. Department of Defense announces that it is financing a $300,000, 12-month study that will look at the effects of service dogs on changes in PTSD symptoms and medication use in veteran soldiers. Even better, some of the dogs being trained for the study will be rescued from animal shelters.   Worst: Target the war hero dog is accidentally euthanized after escaping from his adopted family’s backyard. The Shepherd mix had been brought over to the United States after warning soldiers of a suicide bomber in Afghanistan, saving dozens of lives.   Best: In December, the Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act is signed into law, banning the creation and distribution of videos that show the torturing of puppies, kittens and other live animals for the titillation of viewers.   Worst: A plea bargain that requires 50 hours community service at the Maryland ASPCA for a man accused of beating his Miniature Pinscher to death.   Best: Always best—in this and every year—are the countless volunteers who give their all for dogs in need. This year we wrote about a few, including Gateway Pet Guardians, a small coterie of volunteers, who feed and find homes for the strays of East St. Louis and Laura Pople, who raided her savings and turned her farm into a sanctuary for pets who are casualties of the recession. Julia wrote about the invaluable work of breed-specific rescue organizations, which provide lifesaving support to overburdened shelters and city animal control departments. And during the year, we profiled a few animal transporters, like Operation Roger, C.A.R.E. and Pilots N Paws, which move dogs from regions where they can’t find a home to regions where the can. These volunteers make a difference for dogs every day and always inspire us at Bark.   What happenings in dogdom raised your ire or earned your praise in 2010?
    Good Dog: Behavior & Training
    Make Your Dog's Life Better
    10 ways for improvement.
    Dog and Human Relationship

    By just being their furry, adorable, lovable selves, dogs help us feel treasured and joyful. This not only boosts our quality of life, it raises the oh-so-important question: What have we done for them lately? Of course, we provide food, medical care, a home, grooming, toys and other amenities, but what exactly do we do to increase their happiness quotient? Here’s a short list of ways to improve the quality of our dogs’ lives.

    1. Turn up dial on the exercise meter. Dogs adore activity — hence, the crazy exuberance most display at the very whisper of a walk. An extra-long hike, joining you on a run, or taking a few short outings in addition to those daily walks will be well received. Look for a place your dog can enjoy a safe off-leash run, which will make the experience even more enjoyable for him.

    2. Fight boredom. Give your dog more mental exercise with mind-engaging activities such as enrichment puzzles, new toys, visits to new places, and learning new skills and tricks.

    3. Give them a hand. Most dogs learn visual signals faster than verbal ones. When training, communicate more clearly by using hand signals along with words. Your dog will heave a figurative sigh of relief at finally being able to understand you.

    4. Rub them the right way. Most dogs, like most people, adore a good massage. It not only promotes relaxation, healing and bonding, it feels sooooo good.

    5. Stop and smell the world. Dogs need to be dogs, and that means allowing them time to explore the world’s wonderful odors. Or, engage them in scent work. Using their noses comes naturally, so tracking or playing scent games is fun for dogs. (For more on these activities, see “Nose Work” in the June ’10 issue.)

    6. Free them from fashion. Consider removing your dog’s collar at night. Dogs will probably enjoy the freedom just as much as we do when we take off our belts, watches or earrings. Plus, the noise of jingling tags bothers many dogs; to reduce it, tape the tags together or stow them in a pouch designed for that purpose.

    7. Feed them well. While the debate about canine nutrition rages, most people agree that a variety of food, especially if it’s healthy and fresh, has many advantages. Carefully consider what you feed your dog, do some research and ask your veterinarian for help in making good choices.

    8. Keep them tidy. Good grooming is essential; dogs are most comfortable when their coats are orderly and free of any mats that tug uncomfortably at their skin. Abolishing tangles helps them eliminate more easily — I’ve seen dogs whose hindquarters were so full of mats that this was an issue! — and short toenails allow for easier movement comfortably. And no matter how darling your dog may look with fur hanging over the eyes, or how popular that style is for the breed, a haircut that allows for unobstructed vision is a better (and safer) choice.

    9. Play it up. Make play dates for your dog with other nice, well-socialized pups. Most dogs love to play with other dogs, and their exhilaration is palpable as they frolic together. (Does your dog have a BFF? Read more about “Pal Dogs” in the Summer ’10 issue.) Also, add more play to your own interactions with your dog.

    10. Sharpen your focus. Dogs value the time we spend focused completely on them, and that’s easiest to do without anyone else present. This quality time is especially valuable and important in multi-dog households. Improving your dog’s quality of life is a gift that keeps on giving: the more wonderful we make life for our dogs, the more ways they enhance our own.

    Good Dog: Behavior & Training
    Canine Behaviorists’ Top 10 Issues
    By the Numbers

    Applied animal behaviorists are constantly developing new techniques, exploring new ideas, considering controversial theories and conducting research. So what is on the minds of the people in this dynamic field? What are behaviorists talking about right now?

    1. The prevention of problem behaviors. As behaviorists, we generally deal with serious problems that have been going on for a long time by the time we become involved. For example, when someone whose dog has bitten a child for the sixth time contacts us, we are both glad that they’re looking for help and often saddened as well, since we know that early intervention might have prevented— or at least ameliorated—this problem.Prevention can take many forms, including responsible breeding, good matches between dog and household, proper socialization, effective training, and quick responses to warning signs.

    2. An increasing focus on ethology. Ethology is the study of the behavior of animals in their natural habitat. A trained ethologist working in applied canine behavior has an ability to read a dog’s body language, understanding signs that indicate the dog is stressed, anxious or afraid. Additionally, a skilled ethologist working with dogs is able to interpret the displays and cues dogs use to communicate, and has a deep knowledge of the sensory world, or umwelt (also defined as the “subjective universe”) in which dogs live. An understanding of dogs’ natural history and behavior deserves as much attention as canine learning theory, which has been focused on so much of late.

    3. The need for more research. Basic questions such as what information dog scent marks contain, how best to treat dog–dog aggression within a household and the purpose of canine play remain at least partially unanswered.Despite the obvious need, standard funding sources —the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH)—support precious little research in applied animal behavior.

    4. Genetic studies that further our understanding of dogs. Findings of the latest research into dog evolution are exciting, and new discoveries are being made all the time. For example, a recent study identified a gene responsible for the tremendous variation in size among dogs. Advances in technology have facilitated a new wave of genetic research into the time and place of dog domestication and the development of breeds.

    5. Breeding pet dogs. Regrettably, few breeders focus on breeding companion animals. Many purebred dogs sold as “pet quality”are somehow non-standard: They may be the wrong size, color or general structure to show; they may not have the drive necessary to compete, as in agility; or they may be afraid of the sheep they are supposed to be herding. There is a need for dogs with the behavioral traits required to be the best pets.

    6. The need for interdisciplinary collaboration. When people have behavioral problems, psychologists, doctors, clergy, coaches and teachers often collaborate. Similarly, in an ideal scenario within applied animal behavior,we would have regular collaborations between ethologists, psychologists, veterinarians and trainers. When professionals from different disciplines work together, we are all more effective at helping clients with their dogs’ behavioral problems.

    7. Reconsidering temperament tests. Some tests are designed to predict the potential for aggression in shelter dogs and to help shelter staff decide which dogs are adoptable. Others are designed to predict the personalities of puppies in order to determine which are best suited to performance homes, companion homes or working homes, and even which specific puppy would be most compatible with which specific household. These are admirable goals, but the problem is that no temperament test has been shown to be reliably predictive of future behavior or personality. Behaviorists talk a lot about the shortcomings of the existing temperament tests, whether or not more predictive tests can be designed, or whether these tests have intrinsic limitations.

    8. Upgrading certification programs. Unfortunately, anybody can hang out a sign and call him- or herself a behaviorist, and there are certification programs with alarmingly low standards. The most stringent certification program is the one that leads to the Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB) designation. To become a CAAB, a person must have substantial coursework in both ethology and psychology, five years of experience in applied animal behavior practice, and either a PhD in a field related to behavior (such as biology, zoology or psychology), or a DVM, in addition to two years in a university-approved residency program in animal behavior.

    9. The demand for more qualified behaviorists. There are very few truly qualified behaviorists, so it is hard for people whose dogs have behavioral issues to get the help they need. Training new behaviorists is a big challenge because the two kinds of experience needed—academic and practical—are not linked by any structured program that helps interested people transition from one to the other. Few opportunities exist in academia to pursue research in applied animal behavior, because most people with expertise in this area are working as applied animal behaviorists, not as professors. Therefore, despite there being many people with advanced degrees in ethology or psychology, few have significant practical experience in applied animal behavior, including the actual experience of working with dogs.

    10. The importance of using humane, positive training and treatment methods for dogs.No matter how popular abusive and aversive techniques may be in the media, or how they are marketed to the public as the quick fix everyone wants, they are not the best choice for us or for our dogs. Better, safer options are out there, and behaviorists take very seriously their responsibility to educate the public about the difference between techniques that help dogs and techniques that harm dogs. This list includes some of the hot topics of concern and controversy that we discuss (sometimes heatedly, but always cordially) when we get together at conferences, seminars and workshops. But truth be told, there is a good chance that, at this very moment, your local behaviorist is doing what we all enjoy doing more than anything, which is talking about our own dogs. After all, as dog behaviorists, we are not just experts on canine behavior, but dog lovers of the highest order.

    27_1653
    Web Exclusives: Sept/Oct 2010
    Vinny

    Welcome to our web exclusives. This is where you’ll find new and topical articles, instructions, links for taking action, multimedia bonuses and expanded versions of material in the print magazine. Enjoy!

    • Meet Bentley - Our Sept/Oct Cover Dog! [Video]
    • Vinny - Bark Rescue Wonder Dog. [Video]
    • Margaret Cho  - Exclusive free download for one of the album’s songs, “Hey Big Dog.” [Audio]
    • DIY Dog Caves - Another great home design idea from Bark readers.
    • A Stray in Haiti - Winning over the men and women of Operation United Response.
    • Molly - See extended photos of Molly today (A Stray in Haiti).
    • Gateway Guardians - Q&A with documentary’s director Rebecca Ormond.
    • Photobooth Dogs - A one-of-a-kind collection celebrating the age-old bond between dogs and their people.
    • Q&A with Shawn Kobb - Unpublished writer sees ink as a finalist in Bark’s 1st Fiction Contest.

     

    27_1653
    Web Exclusives: Jun/Jul/Aug 2010
    Expand your horizons here.

    Welcome to our web exclusives. This is where you’ll find new and topical articles, instructions, links for taking action, multimedia bonuses and expanded versions of material in the print magazine. Enjoy!

     

    • Nose Work Video
    • My Dog Tulip J.R. Ackerley’s classic memoir adapted masterfully to film by Cameron Woo
    • Dogs in the Courtroom A comforting canine presence provides victims with a safe harbor by Rebecca Wallick
    • Courthouse Dogs Expand to Chile Cesar's prize-winning video
    • Q&A with Don Katnik Author of “The Stepping-Off Place” talks about his furry muses
    • Starting with Stockdogs by Donald McCaig

     

    Culture: DogPatch
    8 Reasons It’s Better to Be a Dog Now than 25 Years Ago
    By the Numbers

    Congratulate the canines in your household for showing up on earth at just the right time, because, compared to those who lived 25 years ago, today’s dogs have many advantages.

    1. Coercion training has been largely replaced by kinder, gentler positive methods. While not everyone is training with modern techniques, the trend continues to gain momentum. It is more effective and better for the relationship between dogs and people to teach dogs what to do and then reinforce them for being right—with toys, treats, play or affection—than to issue commands and deliver a leash pop or a shock in response to an incorrect response.

    2. Behaviorists abound to help people with their dogs’ issues. Twenty-five years ago, it was more common to euthanize dogs for problems such as aggression, destructive chewing or repetitive behaviors than it is today. Now, many of these concerns can be resolved by working with a qualified behaviorist.

    3. Options are plentiful for dogs who suffer pain due to injuries, arthritis or other causes. Acupuncture, while an ancient art, is relatively new on the scene for canine pain management, and the multitude of massage techniques, including TTouch, means that many dogs are relieved of pain rather than living with it or suffering from the side effects of medications.

    4. It’s easier to travel with dogs now. More hotels accept them, and riding in the car is safer due to the use of crates and canine seat belts. Fewer dogs are left at home during family vacations and outings, and fewer are sliding around in the backs of vehicles.

    5. Walking on-leash is a part of life for most dogs, and compared with 25 years ago, there are more relatively humane and effective options. It’s hard to imagine a dog who wouldn’t prefer a Gentle Leader, Snoot Loop, Halti or SENSEation harness to the choke chains that once were common.

    6. Canine play is considered important in ways that were unheard of years ago. Play is widely viewed as critical for developing and maintaining good relationships between people and dogs, and as a result, more than ever, dogs are having fun with their people on a regular basis, and playing with better toys. The toy options are dizzying; from Kongs and Chewbers to Dogzillas and Nina Ottosson’s puzzle toys—the world of dog toys has moved well beyond balls and sticks!

    7. Dog-centered activities are more numerous now. Agility, flyball, herding, tracking, lure coursing, rally-O and training classes as diverse as basic obedience and even tricks and games are common, as are “dog camps,” places where people and their dogs can enjoy such activities in the company of the like-minded.

    8. Compared with 25 years ago, dogs are welcome in more places. Many people take their dogs to work, and more shops and businesses are allowing dogs as guests. On a more fundamental level, more dogs are now living inside our homes rather than outside as before. This greater hospitality may stem from the biggest change of all over the last 25 years, which is that more than ever, dogs are now considered members of the family. The wholehearted inclusion of dogs in our families—a perspective once voiced only by the very brave or slightly quirky—has become a mainstream idea over the past quarter-century.

    Then or now, perhaps one of the greatest things about being a dog is that the tendency to sit around with friends and bark about “the good old days” doesn’t exist. I like to think that for dogs, the “good old days” are happening right now.

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