News: Guest Posts
A Belgian Malinois named Jagger plays the title role in the recently released movie, Max. As the story goes, the canine character Max has served in Afghanistan, and is returned to the United States after his Marine handler/partner is killed in action. Max, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, becomes part of a coming of age story for the killed Marine’s younger brother.
Max is pegged to be a summer blockbuster, although the reviews I’ve read have been mixed. Regardless of its popularity Max will undoubtedly create an, “I must have a Belgian Malinois phenomenon.” Any time Hollywood unleashes a new dog movie, a “breed du jour” is created. This phenomenon appears to be an ingrained cultural dynamic, no different than other fads gleaned from the movies such as clothing fashions, hairstyles and even baby names.
Three researchers from the University of Bristol, the City University of New York, and Western Carolina University recently conducted a study titled, “Dog Movie Stars and Dog Breed Popularity: A Case Study in Media Influence on Choice.” They looked at 87 movies released between 1927 and 2004, all of which featured dogs. By evaluating American Kennel Club (AKC) registration trends, the researchers confirmed that movies do indeed have a lasting impact on breed popularity, in some cases, for up to ten years.
The duration and intensity of the rise in breed popularity was shown to correlate with the movie’s success, particularly during its opening weekend. The researchers found that the top ten movies were associated with changes in AKC registration trends such that approximately 800,000 more dogs were registered in the ten years after movie release than would have been expected from pre-release trends. Lassie Come Home was associated with a 40 percent increase in Collie registrations during the two years following its release in 1943. The Shaggy Dog, released in 1959, produced a 100-fold increase in Old English Sheepdog registrations.
Concerns within the Belgian Malinois community
In response to the release of Max, Judy Hagen, President of the American Belgian Malinois Club (ABMC) stated, “We are very concerned that the public will see this movie and recognize the intelligence, athleticism and beauty of the Belgian Malinois, but not realize that the dogs currently being featured in movies and television are the result of years of intense training. Living with a Malinois requires a commitment to daily training and exercise. Without this they will find their own activities that will make your life a nightmare of dangerous and destructive behaviors.”
Another ABMC member, Melinda Wichmann stated, “Dedicated Malinois owners joke that Malinois are not just a dog, they’re a lifestyle. Unless you are ready to be a firm leader 24/7/365, Malinois will assume that you are an idiot and that they are in charge.”
The Belgian Malinois rescue community is already bracing for the predicted influx of dogs. Taylor Updike Haywood, Midwest Coordinator for American Belgian Malinois Rescue, reported, “It’s already starting here. People are calling and asking to adopt the Air Jordan of dogs.” It so happens that a movie trailer for Max uses the phrase “Air Jordan of dogs” to describe the breed.
The likely increase in the number of Malinois relinquished to rescue organizations is a valid concern. An impulse purchase of a Malinois without consideration of the breed’s temperament and all that is necessary to successfully train and care for one is bound to produce an unhappy ending. Additionally, unethical breeders taking advantage of the movie-generated demand for Malinois will produce pups without consideration paid to creating good health and temperaments. Yet one more ingredient in a recipe for disaster.
Max and me
I confess to having mixed feelings about seeing Max. I would love to watch it because three of the scenes in this movie were filmed in my very own backyard, DuPont State Recreational Forest. As tempting as this is, there will be no Max for me. I will resist for the following reasons:
Purchasing a particular breed of dog based on a reaction to a movie is ill advised. Such an impulse adoption foregoes the important research and preparation necessary to ensure that the dog breed will be a good fit. Think about it, how likely will a Belgian Malinois, the canine king of police and military work, be a suitable pet for the average family?
I encourage you to share this article with the Max moviegoers you know. Together, we can discourage as many of them as possible from thinking they need a Belgian Malinois of their very own.
Of all of the dog movies you’ve seen, which one is your favorite?
News: Guest Posts
Can be toxic to dogs
Often, dogs are the first alert. Their willingness to swim in and drink slimy water makes them sentinels for some of the most powerful natural poisons on earth.
A Labrador Retriever enjoying a family outing in June collapsed after swimming in a Minnesota lake. He died that day at the vet’s office. Tests are pending but the vet suspects the dog was poisoned by cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae (BGA).
While most algae are harmless, some species of BGA produce toxins that can kill a dog within minutes. Those that survive, or dogs who are often exposed to low levels of toxins may develop health problems such as chronic liver disease, and possibly tumors; damage that may go unnoticed until it’s severe. Humans can be sickened, too, though deaths are rare.
Dog deaths are another matter.
As health agencies weigh the human risks that lie in recreational and drinking water from harmful algal blooms, they’ve been looking closely at animal deaths.
In New Mexico, 100 elk died last August after drinking water tainted with BGA. When it comes to pets, researchers suspect many deaths are missed because people don’t even realize their dogs were exposed. Vets may not recognize the symptoms, and tests to detect the toxins can be costly and complex.
A study published in 2013 found 368 cases of dogs that died or were sickened by BGA in the U.S. between the late 1920s and 2012. The authors say these “likely represent a small fraction of cases” in the U.S. each year. “The vast majority of BGA associated dog deaths remain unreported and often unrecognized by owners and veterinarians.”
And the cases have surged along with the number of toxic blooms fueled by nutrients such as phosphorous and nitrogen washed into waterways from agriculture, lawns and other sources—and by climate change.
Reports of canine poisonings were sporadic until the mid-1970s, when dog deaths attributed to BGA were reported “almost yearly,” the study notes.
In 2007, as drought plagued much of the country, the Minnesota lake region alone saw as many as 40 cases of canine algae poisoning, and at least four deaths. Since 2001, eleven dog deaths have been blamed on BGA in California’s Humboldt and Mendocino Counties.
The earliest known case in the U.S. was in the late 1920s when a dog swam in California’s Clear Lake during an algal bloom. The dog reportedly became ill after licking “a thick coating of algae” from its fur. In 2013, another dog sickened after playing in the lake was less fortunate... this dog did not survive.
Spotting Blue-Green Algae
There are plenty of clues for telling BGA— the most primitive group of algae—from harmless green, brown, and other kinds. But according to a fact sheet from the Humboldt County Health department, while most BGA blooms don’t produce toxins, only tests can tell. “All blooms should be considered potentially toxic.” Only “a few mouthfuls of algae-contaminated water may result in fatal poisoning.”
For one thing, its color isn’t always blue-green. It can also be reddish-purple or brown, and other hues. And not all blue-green species produce toxins, while the dozens that do are only toxic at certain times. Normally, algae are equally distributed throughout the water. But excess nutrients, heat and drought make for large blooms, followed by large die offs. As it decays, toxins are released. These can still taint the water after it looks clear. Blooms may last for a week; their toxins may last three weeks.
Even when BGA isn’t floating on the surface, it may lurk below, moving up and down with available light and nutrients. At night it often floats to the top, forming scum. So blooms can appear overnight.
Wind and waves can then concentrate toxic blooms in shallow areas or at the water’s edge—right where dogs like to splash, wade or drink. The water doesn’t taste bad, vets say, so dogs will lap it up. Some like to gobble down dried algae mats.
After the sudden death of a dog last July—hours after swimming in an Oregon reservoir—officials issued an alert, as they did in Minnesota. But toxic blooms and dog deaths were nothing new. According to Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, from 2004 through 2007, the state had reports of eight algae-related dog deaths, while toxic blooms are a familiar scourge at the Oregon reservoir.
At least 18 states have monitoring programs to detect harmful blooms. But sometimes, even advisories aren’t enough. After two dogs died within hours of drinking water from a private lake in Nebraska in 2004, state agencies acted quickly. Two weeks later, monitoring and notification networks were in place. But by the end of the recreation season there were reports of three more dog deaths, wildlife and livestock deaths, and more than 50 cases of human effects at Nebraska lakes.
The Environmental Protection Agency hasn’t set national standards for BGA toxins in recreational or drinking water, though scientists and some politicians are calling for them. This summer, the agency is promoting safety and public awareness to help protect dogs and kids.
While most algal blooms just make the water unappealing, an EPA information sheet says, “there are some real risks if dogs swim in, wade, or drink from water” with harmful algal blooms. The toxins “can sicken pets, causing everything from mild eye irritations and diarrhea to extreme health problems, including liver poisoning and even death.”
The EPA recommends that outings with pets to lakes, rivers and streams include an algae check. Dogs should not drink, swim or wade in water that is discolored, smells bad, or where there are mats of algae, foam or scum. If dogs do get into scummy water, rinse it off with tap water immediately, making sure they don’t lick algae from their fur. The toxins can also be absorbed through their skin. If a dog shows signs of poisoning, seek veterinary treatment right away. And report incidents to the Public Health Department. To avoid adding to the algae problem at home, the agency advises not over fertilizing.
According to the study of canine incidents, BGA toxins can be inhaled and ingested, and exposure can induce “acute, sub-acute or chronic poisoning” in animals and people.
Most reported dog deaths involved swimming in or drinking from lakes, rivers and other fresh waters where slime was visible. In California, BGA from freshwater tributaries drained into Monterey Bay, killing sea otters in 2010. Scientists were baffled by the deaths. They hadn’t known the toxins could reach the ocean. One major clue: suspicious dog deaths at a lake tainted with BGA that drains to the sea.
Other dog incidents may have involved beach outings. The study of canine cases says that between 2007 and 2010, at least 8 dogs developed serious or fatal liver disease after visiting Monterey-area beaches. Two of the dogs belonged to local veterinarians, but weren’t tested for the toxin that was killing sea otters.
Blue Green Algae Toxins & Treatment
Are water-loving breeds more at risk? Researchers warn that diagnosing algae poisoning is hard enough—such assumptions can lead to the wrong diagnosis. But the study did find that the most incidents involved Labrador Retrievers.
However, the “wide range” of affected dogs included Poodles, Dachshunds and toy breeds, which also encountered BGA in urban and residential water bodies. These waters, often shallow and stagnant in warmer months, can have high levels of nutrients escaped from nearby yards and gardens, “providing ideal conditions for toxic blooms.”
The belief that small dogs or urban-dwelling dogs don’t encounter algae may influence the diagnoses considered. Also adding to the problem of detection and treatment, the study claims: the tests are expensive and can take weeks, access to testing may be limited, and diagnosis may not be a priority for the owner after the dog has died.
According to an algae fact sheet from Humboldt County health department, the toxins of concern are nervous system poisons (neurotoxins) and liver poisons (hepatotoxins). The neurotoxins can kill animals within minutes by paralyzing respiratory muscles, while hepatotoxins can cause death within hours by causing blood to pool in the liver.
The canine study mentions the many reports of animals drinking algae-tainted water “and dying within hours from neurotoxicity or hepatotoxicity, or developing sublethal chronic liver disease.”
Another less dangerous compound causes allergic responses. But initial, low-level exposure to any of these toxins may cause skin irritation and stomach upset, the study says. So those symptoms alone may not help identify the toxin.
Both nervous system toxins and liver toxins can be fatal. Liver toxins cause weakness, vomiting, pale mucous membranes and diarrhea. Common signs of neurotoxins are muscle tremors, seizures, labored breathing and difficulty moving.
Often implicated in poisonings are anatoxins (neurotoxins) and microcystins (liver toxins, considered more common and possibly carcinogenic, research suggests). Dogs are especially susceptible to anatoxins, according to the North Carolina Department of Health’s website; these poisons can be fatal within minutes – or hours. Quick veterinary care with anti-seizure medication and oxygen may help.
The consensus is that there is no antidote for BGA toxins. But the review of dog poisonings says that most exposed animals aren’t given specific treatment, even though “simple, cost-effective treatments may improve their chances.” In the case of microcystin exposure, since many believe that no therapies exist, owners and vets “might euthanize suspect cases or provide limited supportive care.”
After several days of veterinary treatment, a Miniature Australian shepherd sickened by algae at a Montana lake was only getting worse. On the fifth day, her vets tried a new therapy not readily available. Last year, a report described what happened next as possibly the “first successful treatment of microcystin poisoning.”
Over the next few days the little Aussie made a surprising comeback.
After eight long days, that dog went home.
Step aside dominance, hello to loving and caring
The much over-used construct of “alpha” got a good roll over recently on the opinion pages of The New York Times. Carl Safina, the founder of The Safina Center at Stony Brook University, writes in his insightful op-ed, “Tapping Your Inner Wolf,” about how the alpha notion is rather misguided and demonstrates a misunderstanding of what it really means to be a leader. Instead of the aggressive, snarling, chest beating male alpha posture that many see as being “top” wolf—or dog for that matter—he points out that true alpha wolves don’t need to be aggressive at all, and actually have a quiet self-confidence that is “not domineering and nor aggressive to those on his team.” Making them, in fact, an exemplary role model for our species.
Debunking of what it means to be “alpha” and how this plays out with our relationship to dogs, has often been the subject of Bark articles. Sadly there are still some trainers (especially ones with large TV followings), who still don’t get it and claim that dogs are trying to “dominate” us and it is up to us to show them who’s “alpha.” How often have you heard something along the lines of, “my dog is trying to dominate me by pulling on her leash,” or “he’s trying to be alpha by blowing me off when I call to him,” sadly the list of misapplied notions of dominance and what it means to be alpha, goes on.
As to why people still cling to this false alpha meme, even though leading experts have demonstrated that positive reinforcement is far more effective and humane, is anyone’s guess. A few years back Patricia McConnell, PhD offers a “simple” suggestion in her Bark column “Down with Dominance.”
“Perhaps another reason we are so susceptible to the fallacy of “getting dominance” over our dogs is that it makes dog training seem simple. One-step shopping — just get your dog to accept you as “alpha,” and voilà! Your dog will stop jumping up on visitors and will quietly walk through the neighborhood at your side, ignoring all the interesting stuff, like squirrels and information left by other dogs as they passed by. No training required, either for your dog or, as importantly, for you.” She goes on to note that, “although there are questions and quibbles about some of the finer points, experts almost universally agree that the concept of “getting dominance” over our dogs is, at best, not useful, and more often is harmful to our relationships with our best friends.”
And Bark’s behavior columnist, Karen London, PhD thinks that it might feed into our desire for control, which sadly can have far reaching consequences, as she observes, “far worse, it can lead, at best, to a dog who performs because he is intimidated, and at worst, to a dog who is abused. The fact is, dogs will respect us only if we are consistent, clear and fair. They will love and trust us only if we are loving and patient and are able to communicate to them in ways that they understand.” This is very much the same well-oiled family/pack dynamic that Safina describes about wolves.
So it’s great when someone with respected science chops like Safina takes on alphaness and it gets even better that he also points out that biologists are now suggesting that the wolf family/pack structure work with having shared leadership, with the females doing “most of the decision making.” This can includes “where to travel, when to rest and when to hunt.” As wolf researcher, Rick McIntyre, told him, “It’s the alpha female who really runs the show.” Which leads Safina to conclude that human males can definitely learn something from real wolves, and that includes a “respect for females and sharing responsibility” in their families. Proving once again, that we have a whole lot to learn from the ancestors of the species that we share our lives with.
Drones are coming to the rescue for stray dog operations in Houston. This innovative program is spearheaded by Tom McPhee, executive director of World Animal Awareness Society (WA2S), he’s the pilot behind the drone controls too. WA2S is filming a new television show called “Operation Houston: Stray Dog City,” to examine the stray dog problem in that city and profile the community people trying to save the animals. What better way to get a true count of the scope of the problem by marrying technology, i.e. drones and GPS, with on-the-ground volunteers who provide invaluable help to the dogs? Drones, to many, are annoying, invasive buzzing “toys,” but in the able hands of McPhee and other animal lovers, they can be the perfect “search and rescue” tool giving a synoptic, eye-in-the-sky view of stray dogs. See this story of how Bobby, a stray who hangs around a local park, is helped by Martha Vasquez and her Clark Park Forgotten Barks and Friends. Many of the dogs they care for are victims of dog fighting. But the stray dog problem in Houston is so enormous that is has earned the reputation as being, “Stray Dog City 2015,” maybe even outpacing Detroit for that infamous “honor.”
Drone might turn out to be good tool for local shelter or rescue groups. Have you heard of similar operations using drones to maybe locate lost dogs, or to track strays?
The dog-human bond stars
This has got to be one of the most touching PSAs of all times—speaking volumes for the enduring connection between dogs and people. The video, “The Man & The Dog,” was developed by the agency DDB Argentina for FATH (Fundación Argentina de Trasplante Hepático) an organ donation program in that country, and in only 90-seconds itells the moving story of the bond that all dog people can readily understand. See what you think, and be ready to shed a tear or two at the emotional, uplifting ending. Understandably it has become a viral sensation.
This week marks the centennial (April 7, 1915) of one of America’s greatest and most individualist artists, Billie Holiday. Considered the greatest jazz vocalist of all time, Holiday’s distinctive vocal style made her musicianship equal to the titans of the golden era—Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Artie Shaw, Lester Young—all musical collaborators with the great “Lady Day.” Her troubled life, drug addiction and arrests, could not overshadow one of the most creative legacies of the 20th century. Holiday’s influence still reverberates today. A constant presence in her later years were her dogs—Mister, a Boxer and Pepi, a Chihuahua. They no doubt provided comfort during uncertain times, and the love that echoes throughout many of her songs.
Mister and Billie Holiday, 1946. William P. Gottlieb/Libray of Congress
What does technology hold for the future of dogs? It’s an interesting question that was posed by the FOUND Dog Tech Conference held at San Francisco’s Digital Garage last Thursday, March 19. The inaugural FOUND event was created by Pack, a social network for dogs and their owners. One of the new breed of tech companies designed to serve next generation dog owners and their canine companions, Pack brought together tech movers and shakers to rally around common causes—to elevate the conversation around dog focused technology businesses, share new ideas and opportunities, and ponder their collective future. The leaders of Pack, Rover, Petcube, PrideBites and Whistle took to the stage to showcase their particular vision on dog business. Part product showcase, part tent revival—each presenter worked hard to convince the audience that the “pet space” was being reinvented and that the market opportunity ($80 billion annually) is huge and growing. The big message: dogs, and thus these start-ups, were to be taken seriously.
Dog tech today is based more on emulation then innovation, so one is more apt to meet the Fitbit for dogs or Uber for dogwalkers then fresh, radical ideas. The most successful business models are service oriented—helping dog owners (or pet parents as marketers like to say) hook up with care, products and social groups. But the financial investment appears to be real, and early success is helping people forget the failures of the past. Pets.com and its talking sock puppet is often cited as the poster child for misguided failure from tech’s big bust in the late ’90s. Today’s entrepreneurs are working hard to connect to the burgeoning pet market and find success.
What does tech have in store for dogs and their people? Here are a few takeaways from FOUND:
Dogs are not frivolous—they help us be healthier and happier, and thus should be considered part of the health and wellness industry. This shift in perspective reflects a line of thinking that may find traction with investors, and in turn foster more innovation.
Dogs make us social—Pack’s goal is to connect dog owners … to each other, to their cities, to their dogs. Think of Facebook for dogs, a canine social network. Pack Co-founder/CEO Megan Casey emphasized the relationship between dogs and their owners’ well-being. She also noted that more than half of all U.S. smartphone users have dogs.
Responding to underserved markets—Rover connects owners to a nationwide network of qualified dog boarders. Founder/CEO Aaron Easterly feels he has identified a large underserved market, one that operates in what he termed “the shadow economy”—casual transactions between family and friends that operates under the radar of standard business analysis. The early returns of his venture are promising enough to secure a new round of $25M investment, raising Rover’s total funding to over $50M.
Customization—PrideBites is pursuing the megatrend of personalization, the desire of consumers to design their own product. In this case, it’s placing your dog’s name or likeness on to toys and apparel made in China but the greater potential lies in customized dog food, pharmaceutical products and data systems.
Digitizing dogs—Whistle is one of a handful of new “smart” collars or wearable devices that monitor a dog’s activity with the capacity to connect data to health providers. “Our goal with Whistle,” said Jacobs, “is to give dogs a voice.” As the technology expands, expect more complex data monitoring and analysis.
What was missing? For all the talk of unconditional love and dogs making us better people, we didn’t hear talk of a deeper understanding of dog people and their needs. Nor was there acknowledgement of the wide diversity of the canine community. But that may have to wait for Dog Tech 2.0—for now, companies are targeting the low hanging fruit. Speaking of community, scant mention was made of efforts to contribute to our most pressing issues … animal rescue/adoption, humane causes or education. I hope that changes.
For now, it was refreshing to see a serious gathering of energetic, smart business people committed to dogs, or at least, the dog market. Some good things will take hold, others will fail, but in the end, there will be new services and products to make your life and your dogs’ a little better. One of the most insightful comments of the evening came from panelist Jon Lax, director of product design at Facebook … “the goal for any dog app or website should be to make us better caretakers. If we are spending more time with our apps than we are with our dogs … then something is amiss.”
Compiled from Bark’s Best Places to Work
The following businesses understand the value of working in the company of dogs— whether it’s writing code, blowing glass or saving the environment … work is just better with a dog by your side. We’ve gathered together the most comprehensive list of dog- friendly workplaces in America, both large and small, covering 30 states. We salute these companies for working and playing hard, and valuing a belly-rub and as much as a balance sheet. (If you know a dog-friendly company we’ve missed, please add it in the comments)
Company: 3five, Inc.
Company: Advent Software
Company: archer>malmo, inc.
Company: Assembly of Dog
Company: Average Joes Entertainment
Company: Ben & Jerry's
Company: Big Communications
Company: Big Foot Media
Company: Big Spaceship
Company: BISSELL Homecare, Inc.
Company: Boa Technology
Company: Bomber Industries
Company: Bravo! Vail
Company: Bulkley West
Company: Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners
Company: Camp Bow Wow of Bridgewater
Company: Canine Detection and Inspection Services
Company: Cape Art Tiles
Company: Carnation Corners
Company: CattleDog Publishing
Company: Century Box
Company: Certified Wildlife Friendly
Company: Chehalem Wines
Company: Chuck Latham Associates
Company: Clif Bar & Company
Company: Country Walkers
Company: Cram Crew
Company: Culver Brand Design
Company: Dean Insurance Agency
Company: Delphic Digital
Company: Diamond Creek Pet Retreat & The Canine Sports Center
Company: Dogster/SAY Media
Company: Flathead Spay & Neuter Task Force
Company: Fluent City
Company: Found Animals
Company: Frenchie Winery
Company: Giraffe Marketing
Company: Glassy Baby
Company: Grassroots solutions, inc
Company: Harbors Home Health & Hospice
Company: Healthy Paws Pet Insurance
Company: Helen's Salon
Company: Humane Society of the United States
Company: Hydro Flask
Company: Integrated Benefit Consultants
Company: Intent Media
Company: Jaime Ellsworth Studio
Company: Jersey Printing Associates
Company: Joliet Slammers
Company: Jones Soda
Company: JVST USA LLC.
Company: K9 Country Club & Training Academy
Company: Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Inc.
Company: Kiosked Ltd
Company: Larson Family Winery
Company: Law Offices of Daniel F. Brookman
Company: Le Chateau Pet Resort
Company: LeashLocket, Ltd./AEI
Company: Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards
Company: Madison House Assisted Living Residence
Company: Marcus Thomas LLC
Company: Martinez Animal Hospital
Company: Midland School
Company: Milton M. Muraski DDS Inc.
Company: Ministry of Supply
Company: Momofuku Milk Bar
Company: Morristown Deli
Company: Mrs. Grossman's Sticker Factory
Company: Natural Habitat Adventures
Company: Nebo Agency
Company: Neff Associates
Company: Now What
Company: O.H.S.O. Eatery & nanoBrewery
Company: ODEL PLC
Company: Ogden Contract Interiors, Inc.
Company: Onestop Internet
Company: OverGo Studio
Company: Page One Web Solutions
Company: Palantir Technologies
Company: Paula's Choice
Company: Peskind Law Firm
Company: Pet Sitters International (PSI)
Company: Peterson Milla Hooks Advertising
Company: Procter & Gamble
Company: Qualey Granite & Quartz
Company: Radio Systems Corporation
Company: RE/MAX Results So Co
Company: Replacements, Ltd.
Company: Road Rebel Entertainment Touring Logistics
Company: RSA FILMS
Company: Sam Simon Foundation
Company: Service Dog Project
Company: Scream Agency
Company: Small Dog Electronics
Company: Small Girls PR
Company: Sports Basement
Company: Springbox Digital Partners
Company: StackMob, Inc.
Company: Summit Contractors Group
Company: SUP ATX
Company: Swift Collective
Company: Synapse Product Development
Company: Tassel Depot
Company: The Clymb
Company: The Glenn Group
Company: The Golden Paw
Company: The Honest Kitchen
Company: The Nerdery
Company: The Squires Group, Inc.
Company: The Watering Bowl
Company: Tito's Handmade Vodka
Company: Tomlinson's Feed & Pets
Company: Treats Unleashed
Company: Vaughn building
Company: Vision 360 Design
Company: WAKA Kickball & Social Sports
Company: Wasabi Rabbit
Company: Wild Goose Chase, Inc.
Company: Winchester House
Company: Wolf Conservation Center
Company: Working Dogs for Conservation
Company: Wyatt Technology Corporation
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
In some workplaces, lucky employees are offered a range of enticing benefits—juice bars, daycare, climbing gyms—but for us, those that top the charts open their doors and cubes to dogs. And for the firms who submitted entries to the second annual Bark’s Best Places to Work contest, having dogs on-site is also a matter of pride.
Across the country, companies large and small are proudly flying the dog flag, and that’s a good thing. Dogs in the workplace mean reduced employee stress, increased employee satisfaction and a positive work environment. Not to mention an option to lighten up with a little puppy love when things get harried.
Our sponsoring partner, Zuke’s, is pretty darned dog friendly itself. As Chris Meiering, director of innovation, says, “Our canine companions have an immeasurable impact on the culture of our company and the quality of our workplace. Without dogs under our desks, Zuke’s wouldn’t be the same.” The fine folks at Zuke’s will be sending each of the three winning firms a year’s supply of its wholesome treats. We can already hear the dogs cheering!WINNERS
Trupanion, Seattle, Wash.
No surprise here: Trupanion, a pet-insurance company, is owned and operated by people who love animals. Of the 227 dogs and cats who are approved to spend time on-site, about 150 show up each day—most of them of the canine persuasion. (When Darryl Rawlings founded Trupanion in 1999, he was the only employee, and his dog, Charlie, kept him company.)
The firm provides its employees with a plethora of pet-related benefits, including one free pet insurance policy with an enhancement that covers alternative therapies, a dog-walking service, baby gates and tethers at every cubicle, and a dedicated Pet Team made up of employees with veterinary, training and behavior expertise who provide guidance and review pet incidents. From intern to executive, everyone is expected to know and observe in-house protocols involving pet health and safety (and the prohibition on squeaky toys!).
And you know those emergency drills that require everyone to get out of the building and assemble in, say, the parking lot in an orderly way? Now, imagine that with the addition of dogs, cats, leashes and carriers. Trupanion took its commitment to its on-site companion animals into account when designing its fire safety plan, which was developed with the help of the local fire warden and experts in pet space.
On a business-review site, a Trupanion employee volunteered, “Never in my life have I ever loved a job as much.” It’s easy to understand why.
Etsy, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Connecting the crafty with their customers, Etsy prides itself on its casual and creative work environment. Some of that good vibe can be traced to the company’s canine operations team, manned—umm, dogged—by Sadie, Pierre, Hoover, Milo, Teddy, Starbuck, Tyson and Fish, to name just a few. (Employee experience manager Sarah Starpoli says even email looks rosy when Hoover comes over to say “hey.”)
Etsy’s dog-friendly policy, which has been in place from the e-commerce site’s beginning in 2005, allows employees’ dogs to wander at will through the company’s headquarters in Brooklyn’s Dumbo neighborhood, and their fans get email updates—“poop911s.”
Etsy gives employees time off to volunteer, which many use to lend a hand to humane and rescue groups; it also supports local adoption events. In fact, a number of the Etsy dogs are rescues—for example, Fish, whose full name is “Fish Dogg Hunt,” got his second chance from Etsy creative designer Randy Hunt.
Having dogs at work reinforces the company’s mission, which includes being a “mindful, transparent and humane business,” and making fun part of everything they do. (The “fun” was on display last Halloween, when the office swarmed with costumed kids and dogs enjoying a family-friendly party.)
As the company notes, “Through our dog-friendly policies, we’re living our values by crafting a happy, healthy workplace for our employees. … helping them better integrate their personal and professional lives, reduce stress and generally have more fun at work.”
archer>malmo, Memphis, Tenn.
Headquartered in Memphis’s historic Cotton Exchange Building, this advertising and marketing agency has been welcoming dogs to the office for the last 15 of its 60-plus years. The firm’s open (dog) door policy began in the late 1990s as part of “Bring Your Dog to Work” day; before long, dogs at work were the rule rather than the exception.
As CEO Russ Williams says, “Dogs bring joy to our hearts and lives at home, so why wouldn’t they do the same thing for us at work? There is no question in my mind that dogs in the office are accretive to the value of our work.” (Williams’ two dogs occasionally join him at the office.)
The company does pro bono projects for local humane and health charities, and individual employees do their bit for the rescue community as well. For example, one of the account managers is a long-time volunteer with Tails of Hope, assisting with adoption days and fundraisers, and fostering as needed.
Archer>malmo also makes pet insurance available to its employees, underwriting 10 percent of the premium. Until about a year ago, when a formal pet policy was put in place, company dogs roamed at will; there were, of course, occasional etiquette faux pas (who can forget the case of the purloined Pop Tarts?).
The firm counts companion-animal health businesses among its client base, so—in addition to adding to its feel-good quotient—archer>malmo’s dogs have been known to provide creative inspiration as well.
But Wait! There’s More!
Judging from the entries to this year’s Bark’s Best Places to Work contest, there’s no end to the ways dogs are incorporated into and provided for in the modern dog-friendly workplace. For example . . .
SUP ATX in Austin welcomes dogs to its company outings and socials, and office dogs take part in the company’s stand-up paddleboard classes.
Seattle-based Paula’s Choice considered canine requirements when choosing new office space, and in those offices, doggie gates and tethers are provided (plus, an unlimited supply of pickup bags); the company also offers subsidized pet insurance.
Ad agency Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners in Sausalito, Calif., includes office dogs in its emergency-response planning, and mid-morning group dog walks are a regular thing.
At Average Joes Entertainment, a Nashville alt-country record label, employees’ dogs are greeted with open arms and pockets full of dog biscuits.
NYC ad firm McGarryBowen offers comprehensive pet insurance as part of their benefit package.
Employees’ dogs at Eddie’s Wheels in Shelburne, Mass., help out with the company’s mobility-product R&D, and at Bomber Online in Silverthorne, Colo., they meet and greet visitors to the snowboard-binding operation.
In Seattle, online pet-sitter service Rover.com employees have a truly splendid pet-related benefit package, which includes a new-dog bonus, foster-home bonus, pet-bereavement time off, and sitter coverage when they take a well-earned vacation.
Portland, Ore., ad agency North, a small company with a big charitable footprint, supports its local dog-related organizations, including Dove Lewis Emergency Animal Hospital and the Oregon Humane Society. Dogs are everywhere in the agency offices: “on laps, under desks, in meetings.” And how sweet is this? They describe themselves as patient with all types of workplace dogs: “old dogs, rescue dogs, nervous dogs, dogs who have to wear gym shorts and cones after surgery …”
In addition to clean floors, Bissell Homecare, Inc., of Grand Rapids, Mich., is also seriously devoted to animal welfare. The Bissell Pet Foundation, founded by Cathy Bissell, focuses on adoption, spay/neuter, microchipping and foster care to reduce the number of animals in shelters.
Employees of Now What, a Brooklyn-based strategy and research firm, volunteer time and donate money to Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue. And when they adopt a dog, they get a day of paid time off to help the newcomer settle in.
At distiller Tito’s Handmade Vodka in Austin, rescue dogs live on the premises, and the company actively supports several animal charities.
Pet retailer Kriser’s of Santa Monica, Calif., gives employees time off to volunteer with local humane groups.
Watering Bowl, a St. Louis, Mo., dog daycare and boarding business, reimburses its employees up to $125 for annual vet checks and covers new-dog adoption fees.
In Portland, Maine, web developer Page One Web Solutions gives employees who’ve lost a pet time off to grieve.
A small community of dogs (35, actually) lightens the 60-hour workweeks at security software firm Palantir, headquartered in Palo Alto, Calif.
At tech giant Google’s Mountain View, Calif., offices, freedom to bring their dogs to work is one of many enviable employee perks. The company provides a fenced play area and strategically placed treat stations.
In the Malibu, Calif., office of the Sam Simon Foundation, there are more dogs than people. The foundation, which trains assistance dogs, has a roster of 12 dogs and 8 employees.
Among other things, the 40 or so dogs who come to work with their people at the Radio Systems Corporation (DBA PetSafe), a pet product manufacturer based in Knoxville, Tenn., have their own dedicated dog park to frolic in, complete with agility equipment (lucky local dogs are also welcome to join the fun).
Bitly, a NYC-based digital marketing firm, has a casual but enthusiastic policy: “We love dogs!”
On the big-picture front, in Sri Lanka, Odel PLC, a clothing manufacturer, commits resources to programs that support rescue and adoption of its country’s street dogs.
And let us not forget the pioneers. The dogs-at-work protocol developed by San Francisco Bay Area design software firm Autodesk is quite possibly the granddaddy of them all. Dogs have been coming to work with their people here since 1982.
And in Greensboro, N.C., crystal, china, and silver retailer Replacements, Ltd., was chosen as the site of the first quantitative study on the benefits of dogs in the workplace, which was conducted in 2012 by researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University. It was a perfect match-up: Replacements has been dog friendly for 18 years (and counting).
Truth is, every company that entered makes winners of its employees and their dogs every single day. We congratulate and celebrate all of them.
News: Guest Posts
One of the most shared recent articles in the New York Times was one about a “wrong dog” and how the op-ed blogger felt she was wronged by agreeing to adopt a young dog from a rescue group. I was going to write about this but then our good friend, and former Bark science editor, Mark Derr, wrote a great post for Psychology Today that brought up all the points, and then some, that I had wanted to make. He kindly allowed us to cross post his article:
The New York Times ran a opinion piece on Saturday, December 13, by Erica-Lynn Huberty on the trauma caused when a well-meaning young couple bring a sweet young rescue dog into their home who turns into a cat-killing maniac. The essay, “The Wrong Dog,” serves as a sobering reminder that not all found dogs fit as seamlessly into their new homes as Arthur, the Ecuadoran stray who joined a team of Swedish adventure racers and traveled several hundred arduous kilometers with them last month. The team captain then sought and won permission to take him home to Sweden, and their story went viral.
Arthur’s story raised several questions in my mind: How frequently can dogs be said to choose their human companions, what criteria do they use, and what is their success rate? I have several friends who literally rescued dogs off the street, in one case the Brooklyn Bridge, and took them home to discover they had a friend for life.
Is it merely random chance that a dog and man or woman should meet and become instant friends? I think that both are choosing—the human to save a fellow creature in distress; the dog to find a loyal companion. Any dog dumped in the road would want that but be suspicious, too, I should think.
People I know with multiple dogs often have dogs dumped near them by neighbors who assume they will take the dog in. They do and if it doesn’t fit into their existing “pack,” they will find the dog a home. The private placements I know of have worked well—on occasion spectacularly. But dogs who go that route are the lucky exception among the abandoned millions.
The apparent ease with which human and dog share affection and respect casts light on why wolves and humans teamed up initially. Though the reasons remain mysterious, they clearly, I have long suspected, have to do with the ability of individuals from both species to form lasting bonds of friendship with someone other than their own kind and to do so voluntarily, as adults, as well as children and puppies.
Whatever mutations governing sociability occurred to make dogs, at least one must have involved fixing them as dominate in the dog genome—or so it appears.
But there are times human and dog don’t match up well, and unless something is done, the results can be tragic. Many of the failures in that relationship seem to arise from a lack of forethought on the part of the human, a fundamental failure to think through and find ways to meet the animal’s need for exercise, social contacts with people and dogs, consistent treatment and mental stimulation.
The central problem with Huberty’s essay lies in her argument that nothing short of ditching the dog when she first started acting oddly would have prevented the catastrophe that occurred. They would have done that had they known that some dogs are unfit for adoption, and no amount of training, discipline, or coddling will change that.
“We let ourselves believe that beneath our rescued puppy’s strange, erratic behavior was a good, loving pet,” Huberty writes. The truth was the opposite.
The back story is common enough. Having become smitten with a five-month old Lab mix, Huberty and her husband, decide to have her share their home with their three cats, a female dog, and two children.
From her arrival, the new dog, Nina, showed a defensive/possessive aggression that led Huberty to seek more information from the group who rescued her.
Huberty says that she and her husband followed the advice of Cesar Millan, “the Dog Whisperer” to create a “loving but disciplined environment.” Nina responded by attacking a cat and biting Huberty when she intervened.
In response, Huberty called the woman who gave them Nina. She agreed to pay for a trainer, who proved to be the anti-Millan. She advocated a rewards-based approach rather than “discipline.” The essay takes an odd turn here as Huberty calls the rewards-based method ‘coddling” while appearing to indicate that it was working up to a point.
Nina would go along being a normal, playful puppy. But at times, out of nowhere it seemed, she would snap at me or Alex and, once, at our son,” Huberty says, “She would suddenly cower and growl. It was like a switch flipped, yet we couldn’t figure out what had done it.”
Nor do they try to find out. Dogs do not usually change their behavior that rapidly and dramatically without reason. That could very well be an underlying pathology that a thorough examination by a veterinarian might reveal. Indeed, Huberty gives no indication that she ever took the dog to a veterinarian—the first stop a new dog or cat companion should make.
If no physical reason for the behavior can be found, the next stop is to consult a board-certified veterinary behaviorist. There are not many in the country but your veterinarian should help arrange a consultation.
Huberty blames the dog, the woman who gave her the dog, the trainer—everyone but herself and her husband—and Nina herself for her failure to fit seamlessly into Huberty’s home. From this experience, she draws the conclusion that some dogs are just unsuitable for living with humans. That might be the case but there is no proof of it here.
Maybe we should seek ways to allow more dogs to choose their human companions. I have a notion they would do a better job of it. “And when they don’t fit in they may be saying ‘wrong family,’” said my fellow Psychology Today blogger Marc Bekoff after reading “The Wrong Dog.” “Living with a dog is a two-way street and assigning unilateral blame gets us nowhere and once again leaves the dog out in the cold. This sort of ‘musical dogs’ is bad for the dog, as much research and common sense tell us.”
Nina might pay with her life for human miscalculations and failure to seek professional help.
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