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News: Guest Posts
People’s (and Pups’) Choice
Victoria Stilwell coming to Bark in 2010.

Has canine supernanny Victoria Stilwell steered her shiny black convertible into your heart yet? She’s the dog trainer who brings positive strategies to some gnarly behavior challenges with effective aplomb on Animal Planet’s It’s Me or the Dog. No television, you say? That’s not a problem anymore. Starting in February, Ms. Stilwell will write an exclusive column on training for every issue of Bark in 2010, beginning in February. In each column, she’ll answer a single question in depth.

In the meantime, already converted Stilwell fans can show their love by casting a vote for her brand of patient, peaceful intervention with a vote for It’s Me or the Dog, which has been nominated for a People’s Choice Award! (Last day of voting is December 8, 2009.)

News: Guest Posts
A Stroll Through the Dogosphere
What’s your favorite dog blog?

Do you check out blogrolls? For me, taking the time to explore blogger-recommended blogs is the Internet equivalent of wandering around a thriftshop—a time-destroying treasure hunt filled with loads of disappointments but enough surprises to make my trackpad-induced Carpel Tunnel Syndrome worth it. (Several hours at the Goodwill yesterday yielded a still-in-the-box Washington Mutual Teller Doll. I wonder what that’s worth on eBay?)

But I’m talking dog blogs here—and that's a pretty big bucket because many bloggers (the best, in my opinion) follow their dogs far afield. My favorites are mash-ups—dog-centric blogs that touch on behavior, nature, family, culture, politics and art. I like to learn something. I like being surprised and even shocked, and I love photos. Can someone at a behavior/science blog explain why I can spend so much time looking at photos of dogs?

As a result, I’ve added a few new entries to our list of blogs we love, including a couple by Bark regulars—Dogged by Christie Keith (author of Pet Food Confidential, The Bark, July 2009) and Dog Bytes by Mark Derr (author of Darwin’s Dogs, The Bark, February 2009).

Mark introduced us to a blog by Scottie Westfall called Retrieverman, which serves up a satisfying stew of politics, dogs and biology. Anyone who embeds a video of Sir David Attenborough and a sloth (pronounced soath by Sir David) earns an instant bookmark from me. For similar reasons, at least initially, I’ve bookmarked Smartdogs' Weblog (recommended on Retrieverman’s blogroll). The musings of a self-described “middle-aged dog trainer and gentleman farmer wannabe,” this blog is all about keeping your pup’s brain busy. It currently features a classic cartoon clip of Peabody adopting Sherman because “every dog should have a boy [or girl].” Another site I find myself stopping by is Coffee With A Canine, which offers up interviews with interesting people (mostly writers) centered around two of my favorite things.

During my recent ramble around the blogosphere, a few recent posts also caught my eye. Terrierman provided 10 tips for selecting a dog for his or her longevity, entitled “So You Want A Dog?” This is something I have never considered—adopting a particular dog because it has a chance of living longer. But the info is sound and makes you think.
 
Hidden cam photos of a gray fox posted on October 7 at Camera Trap Codger are definitely worth checking out. And this week's niche blog of the week? Dogs Don’t Look Both Ways, dedicated to stories, tips and information about dogs who have been hit by cars. Lots of casts and cones.

 

Well, now it's time to perambulate around the grass-and-hydrants universe. I’d love to hear about other sites to visit for by future cyber-wanderings.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dogs Doing Shakespeare?
It’s quite captivating!

Since Shakespeare’s time, a variety of actors have performed his plays, but dogs were usually relegated to the minor roles. Now, thanks to a new production, they finally play more than bit parts.

Professional human actors provide the voices for canines playing the starring roles in scenes from Shakespeare’s greatest works, and the result is an entertaining DVD. Shakespaws is beautifully done from the camera work and lighting to the costumes and sets. Both human and canine actors capture the emotions of pivotal scenes from Shakespeare’s greatest works. Othello and Desdemona were particularly well cast in my opinion, making their scene truly great, and brave director Seamus Mulcahy used what looks like an entire litter of Golden Retriever puppies for Sonnet 18, giving that scene incredible appeal.

The original idea for Shakespaws grew out of Mulcahy’s experience as a dog sitter in New York City. So many of the people requested that he leave the television on when he left that he decided to create something that dogs and people alike could enjoy.

Besides being a fun treat for dog lovers, this DVD would be great in an educational setting. Any teacher who shows a clip from the DVD to introduce students to famous passages by Shakespeare is bound to get more interest than in any other way. My six-year old son watched it with me, and I’m thrilled with how immensely he enjoyed his first exposure to the works of Shakespeare.

News: Guest Posts
Strokes for The Bark
Like canine pals, we respond to praise.

The Bark received a couple media treats recently and, well, we wagged our tails.  In the “Magazine Rack” column on MediaPost.com, William G. McGee found lots to love in our July/August 2009 issue. He writes, “…even those without a love for furry friends could find something compelling in these pages. Really.”

And it’s with a certain amount of pride we realized we made Asylum UK magazine’s list of The 15 Weirdest Magazines Still in Print as “the choice for hip young canines everywhere.”

News: Guest Posts
Must See (Dog) TV
Two adoptable dogs keep it real!

There's something to be said for truth in advertising! A volunteer with the SPCA in Canada appeared on a local news program to increase awareness of the shelter's adoptable dogs. She brought along two beautiful adoptable dogs, a male Shepherd mix and a female Pit Bull. They started out on their best behavior but grew a little impatient with the all-talk, no-action format! You gotta love it. Maybe there would be fewer returns of adopted pets if people really saw them act like well, dogs!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Have a Fearful Dog?
Check out fearfuldogs.com

Whether you call them shy, cautious or just plain scared, there are a lot of dogs struggling to deal with this issue, and just as many people trying to help their dogs deal with and overcome their fears. A great website called fearfuldogs.com offers great information and lots of links to direct you to the help you need.

The site was started by a woman whose dog Sunny, pictured here, survived a hoarding situation before arriving at her loving home in 2005. It was developed to prevent others from struggling with the many frustrations of rehabilitating a fearful dog who was not blessed with the best start in life. Good information is your best tool for helping dogs who are afraid, and this site refers to only the best, most reputable and effective products and services that relate to helping our fearful canine pals.

Check it out and let us know what information and advice you found there has been most helpful to you and your dog!

News: Guest Posts
The Greatest Pet Rescue Ever
New Katrina film documents Herculean animal rescue efforts.

Today marks the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Those of us who lost so much on that day find it difficult to put our feelings into words. Filmmaker Tom McPhee gives voice to our turbulent thoughts and emotions with his moving documentary, "An American Opera: The Greatest Pet Rescue Ever." He estimates that half of the flood's victims chose to stay because of their pets. As someone who had the means to evacuate her four dogs and two cats, I can understand why many people risked their lives rather than leave their furry family members behind. You can see this film as part of the nationwide Rescue Party Tour (each screening benefits local animal charities) or purchase the DVD once the tour is over. It's an educational and inspiring look at the good that can come out of tragedy when people work together for animals.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
The Dog Who Sparked an Animal Rights Movement
Slate.com explores the history of protecting animals in medical research.

Today, Slate.com begins a five-part history of animal rights in regards to laboratory testing. The series begins with the heartbreaking story of Pepper, a Dalmation who forever changed the way American science obtains and uses research animals. Pepper sparked a national movement in 1965, when she was stolen from her loving home in Pennsylvania and sold to a New York hospital for cardiology research.

It was extremely difficult to read the article’s descriptions of gruesome animal testing (the opening part in particular made my stomach turn). However, it’s amazing to learn about the humble Pennsylvania farm dog's impact. Many of the politicians and lobbyists involved in Pepper’s story went on to introduce and support the nation’s first animal welfare laws.

Slate.com will publish a new chapter in its series each day through the end of the week. The online magazine is also hosting discussions on their Facebook and Twitter pages that will be periodically visited by the author, Daniel Engber, who will respond to readers.

More than 40 years later, it’s horrifying that dogs continue to be stolen for medical research. While it’s technically illegal for stolen animals to be sold or used in research, it is legal for Class B Dealers to take stray animals from the street. HBO’s Dealing Dogs documents the modern illegal dog trade.

I’m not a proponent of animal testing, but it’s hard to deny that many of today’s medical advances are due in part to thousands of canine martyrs. Pepper herself was a part of a crucial development in cardiology research.

How do you feel about this controversial ethical debate?

News: Guest Posts
King of the Dogs
Must-watch Iggy Pop "dog" video!

If Iggy Pop had a dog, what would it be? As a fan of the shirtless punkster this is not a question I have ever asked myself—despite my passion for his rocking anthem, “I Want To Be Your Dog.” And so, I was surprised, not only to discover that he has a dog, but that—not unlike fellow lapdog-loving, tough-guy Mickey Rourke—he’s head-over-heels for a small fry, more precisely, a 12-pound Maltese named Lucky.

“He’s all dog,” Iggy Pop told Terry Gross in an interview earlier today. “He’s got a butch attitude. He’s fearless and very strong for his size, but he’s still 12 pounds.”

The revelation of his lil’ canine co-pilot came as part of the promotional tour for a new album, Préliminaires, which features a knock-it-out-of-the-dog-park original called, “King of the Dogs.” Before you read on, you have to watch the delightful Patrick Boivin-directed video.


This jazzy tune was inspired by the character of a little white dog named Fox in The Possibility of an Island, a novel by Michel Houellebecq. Iggy Pop is a fan of the novel and wrote the music for a documentary about Houellebecq’s effort to translate the book to film. “King of the Dogs” describes “how cool it is to be a dog and how much it beats human life.” When Gross asked the 62-year-old rocker what it is about dog life that captivates him, he answered:

“I enjoy watching all the things animals do that are just like the things I like to do, such as, I don’t like to wear shoes, I hate wearing clothes. I didn’t even take a shower before I came over to do this interview, why should I? … Sometimes I see animals and I wish I was them … because they are free and because they can be satisfied and happy. That’s not possible for a human…it’s fleeting, hard to achieve.”

It’s a delightful moment in the interview when Gross sort of lets the comment hang out there—I suspect she’s not a capital-D dog person—she doesn’t offer her quick, encouraging “uh-huh” of recognition. But I totally get what Iggy is saying. And I’m guessing most of you reading this do too.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Pack Mentality?
New reality show features a family on a search for the perfect dog.

I don’t usually watch reality television, but when I heard about HGTV’s Leader of the Pack, I felt compelled to check it out. The show features the Reckseit family on a quest to find the perfect dog. They start out with eight rescues and vote off one per episode until they’re left with their new family member. The eliminated dogs are shown getting adopted by other people at the end of each episode.

Leader of the Pack has all antics you’d expect -- a family new to dogs suddenly living with eight of them, a clueless first night with overfeeding and accidents, and silly games to win immunity for favorite dogs. HGTV’s show isn’t perfect, and I do worry about pets being seen as disposible, but overall the show isn’t as bad as I expected, given the track record of reality television. 

Positive training and general care tips are dispersed throughout each episode, although I do think that they miss many potential learning opportunities. For instance, I wish that they flashed up a tip about crate training or ignoring bad behavior when the dogs were running amok around the house. They do have advice posted on the show’s website, but I would’ve liked to see more information built into the show.

So far my favorite part was the challenge for the kids to puppy-proof their bedrooms in order to earn a “puppy sleepover.” It was great to see the family turn a chore into a fun activity they could do together.

Leader of the Pack shows the importance of making the puppy picking process a family activity, as the Reckseits decide on criteria, reflect on which dog would be best for their situation and activity level, and learn about dog care. Although it would’ve been much better if they had done this preparation before letting the puppies into their home, I think that this reality show brings attention to important issues, such as the responsibility of pet ownership and the benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

Leader of the Pack airs on HGTV on Sundays, 8/7c.

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