News and insights from special guests—from experts to enthusiasts.


Keeping Dogs Safe and Happy This Fourth of July

With the Fourth of July right around the corner, I wanted to share some important tips to help dog owners keep their furry friends happy and healthy during this patriotic (yet loud) holiday!

Fireworks are fun. Scared dogs are not. Here are some tips so both you and your pup will have a sparkling and safe July Fourth:

Shelter Loud Noises: While fireworks may be entertaining and dazzling to us, for most dogs, the loud noises generated from large-scale firework displays to home lit bottle rockets can create anxiety and fear. Some common reactions to look for in your dog include: shaking, stress panting, putting their tail between their legs, bolting, hiding, and howling. To help relieve this anxiousness, owners can try to:

  • Use a sound machine to block the noise from outside.
  • Put your dog in a Thundershirt. They are proven to reduce anxiety and stress in dogs. The shirt provides a gentle, constant pressure on your dog, similar to swaddling an infant. It’s a safe way to make them feel secure and can be reused in many different situations.
  • Place your dog in a room with the windows closed to block outside noise.
  • Also, it should go without saying that you should never fire up fireworks around your dog. If you have kids (or adults) who like playing with fireworks at home, make sure your dog is far away from the action and noise.

Mind the Exits: When hosting parties, or even when taking your dog with you to a party, always make sure exits and entrances are closed (doors, gates, fences, etc.). Dogs may wander out or if they are spooked, will bolt out any available exits. Some dogs have been known to even jump through windows when they are frightened. As always, make sure your dog is tagged in the event he or she finds a way to escape.

Comfort in the Chaos: Provide your dog with a favorite “spot” for them to go to at any time. Dogs like to be in the mix, but sometimes they don’t know where to be or know how to participate if a party gets too crowded. It’s nice to have a cozy spot for your dog to retreat to when they are over stimulated or tired, but can still see what’s going on so that they feel like they are part of the action. Dogs generally don’t like being locked up in a backroom, but for those that are more sensitive, placing them in a quiet room alone may be the best or only option.

Food Control: Make sure you have a no human food policy. Your dog will likely linger around and beg for scraps while you are cooking or while your guests are enjoying their meals. Most BBQ and other summertime favorites have too much sugar and fat and are made with ingredients that are harmful to dogs (like garlic, onions, grapes and chocolate). It’s best to tell guests not to feed the dog, and try to follow the rule yourself - no matter how big they make those puppy eyes!

Follow these tips to keep your pup safe during the summer festivities.

Beagle: Free to Good Home
Man posts Craigslist ad rehoming his girlfriend

Several days ago a man posted a Craigslist ad that seemed to be offering a free Beagle to a good home. In the post he explains that his girlfriend wants to get rid of the dog. He proceeds to describe his Beagle pup saying "I have had her 4 years. She likes to play games. Not totally trained. Has long hair so she's a little high maintenance, especially the nails, but she loves having them done." However, by the end of the post we learn that he is in fact rehoming his girlfriend and keeping his dog!

As the ad went viral he updated the post saying it was all a joke and that in reality he's a pitbull owner and his girlfriend loves his dog. He ended his post encouraging one simple message—that adoption is a life long commitment, not just while convienent. It's great that he is using his viral fame to continue to push his message and promote pet adoption.

Way to go, dude!

The Imaginary Dog Awards
Take a bow, or a bone, whatever works

You won’t find the Imaginary Dog Awards among your television listings. You won’t find them in the plethora of awards shows that grace every channel, celebrating the sensibilities of shallowness like salt in the cracks of an evaporated pond. (Do I sound bitter?) The Imaginary Dog Awards are a fiction created by my dogs, or so I’ve come to believe. I’d include myself as a co-creator if I didn’t accept their uncanny canine power over me. My dogs have saved me from bitterness, and in return, they’ve acquired a guy who can open a can of dog food with the best of them.

I do know a little something about real awards shows. For the last 40 years or so, I’ve been one of the four members of a reputedly avant-garde comedy group called The Firesign Theatre. We’ve made a whole lot of records and CDs and a few video and film projects, and have done stage shows as well. In the process, we’ve been nominated three times for a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album. And we’ve lost each and every time. It’s pathetic. We’ve rented limos and been to cocktail parties. (We even appeared on TV one memorable year—Jerry Seinfeld was nominated with us, and so the powers-that-be thought it worthwhile to put our award on the tube.) But each time, we’ve lost. We’ve lost to Weird Al. We’ve lost to Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks and George Carlin. Lost like goats.

I’ve driven that lonely limo called “Just-Glad-to-Be-Nominated,” and believe me, the little shreds of my stillborn acceptance speeches still rattle around my pitiful brain. It’s positively embarrassing. I’d love to have risen from my seat, fist punching the air as the TV cameras rolled, loved to have kissed the Blonde Bombshell and trotted up on stage with my partners to babble and be cut short by an orchestra eager to go home, but it didn’t happen and—because of dogs—I’m not bitter, or so it turns out.

Over the years, the Bombshell (her actual name is Oona) and I have adjusted to the inevitable. If we are not to be award-winners, we can at the very least become award–givers. The awards we give out are called the Imaginary Dog Awards. Our life is all about dogs, after all. And our imaginations. And the dogs’ eerie control over our imaginations. Let me explain.

It’s been said by responsible scientific types that dogs just might be entirely responsible for human civilization, that our complex web of social life would have been impossible were it not for the domestication of wolves, that without wolves raising the alarm and protecting humans and helping them hunt, humans wouldn’t have had the time to construct civilization. This is a perfectly plausible theory, but it’s large-scale and long-term, like evolution. My theory is short-term, but weirdly logical.

I have come to believe (I hope I’m not imagining this) that dogs are somehow able to control human imagination in order to get us to give them more dog food. (My dogs love dog food more than anything in life, and I’ll bet yours aren’t far behind.) The fact that I make up stories about them, ascribe to them human-like characteristics, have names for them, talk to them constantly, write about them ... it’s all their doing. They’re controlling me, not the other way around. Ostensibly, it’s human imagination at work, but I’m suspicious—it creates a fantasy that results in dogs getting more dog food, at least in the case of our awards.

Whatever their origin, the Imaginary Dog Awards are fun. Oona and I have been campers for all our life together. Years ago, we thought we’d cleverly instituted a family tradition: On the last night of any camping trip, we’d have an awards ceremony and present our many dogs with some awards. Over the past 35 years, we’ve had usually five or six dogs at a time, so you can imagine the number of awards that have been given out. Plus, we usually manage two or three major camping trips a year—most often in the Eastern Sierra or the Sonoran Desert of Arizona or, more recently, the Pacific Northwest, particularly on the beaches thereof.

At this point, your intelligence begins to kick in. Face the facts, Your Intelligence says, even though dogs don’t actually care about the Dog Awards; don’t understand that you give them names; only care about dog food, other dogs and sleep, in that order—still, you and Oona are people who enjoy talking to your dogs, and about them, as though they’re both human and care what you’re saying.

You’re right, I say, it’s really just us two humans entertaining one another, of course. But the more we do it, the more the whole fabric of our imaginary dog conversations takes on the spooky feel of reality. Ignoring the obvious is a big part of dog ownership, to be sure.

Your Intelligence then points out that, since dogs have a unique ability to make humans feel better about anything and everything, why not give them awards for this, if nothing else? Well, yeah, I say, and Your Intelligence quickly and politely mentions that Oona and I could easily have thought up the awards all by ourselves.

We’re certainly a big part of things. Indeed, if you watch enough TV, you’ll notice that many shows feature a certain amount of carousing, and we do try to fit that in. No matter where we are, no matter how unshaven (me), how peaceful (her), how uneager to return to what passes for Life, we manage to squirrel away a bottle of Champagne to crack open around the campfire on the last night in camp. We drink out of those big plastic container-cups with covered tops. Big Gulp Champagne, we call it, and it’s become an Imaginary Dog Awards favorite.

We’ll save something special—french fries, in the most recent instance—and watch the stars pick up where they left off the night before, she and I in our camp chairs, the dogs lying underfoot. Oona will have her current journal open in her lap and we’ll look up at the night and contemplate Orion or Cassiopeia or Arcturus rising and think about the weeks of camping. Then comes the drinking of Champagne and the handing out of awards. She’ll write down the winners and make watercolor sketches of the event. Our policy is that no dog goes without an award, even the (semi-coveted) Worst Camper Award.

Over the years, amid the humdrum acceptance speeches for the more pedestrian awards (Best Camper, Best Sleeper, etc.) some great moments stand out: That memorable night in the desert, beneath the dead-black saguaros, under a crescent moon, when Bodie, our biggest and best Australian Cattle Dog, pulled down the one-time I Bit the Ranger award, after a playful nip to the sleeve of Ranger Steve (who’s since become a friend, even dropping by our camp at the end of his shifts to see his dear friend Bodie).

We’ll never forget Porter the Pup winning the Avoiding the Cat on a Leash award. Then there was the weeping, star-struck night when Noodle, our Unknown Breed, was given the It’s Only a Fatty Tumor award after a trip to the vet to examine some mysterious lumps. Waddel the Red Heeler got big laughs as he accepted the Open Pit Mine award for his fine work under the picnic table, and there was Wigeon, the sainted matriarch of Cattle Dogs, winning the Take Me to a Motel award (also known as the I Hate the Desert award).

But the really outstanding moment was a double award nailed down by General Douglas McBugeye, who, while in the High Sierra, won not only the Most Improved Camper award, but followed up almost immediately with the Worst Camper award. The applause was deafening. Fries flew over the heads of the crowd, spinning in the klieg lights. (I handle the kliegs—those little waterproof flashlights work really well—and toss the carbs.)

Here’s to all the nominees. They reach high and grab their fried trophies, and they roll over and sleep, on their backs, four feet straight up, under the stars. Much better than me and the Bombshell—losing at the Grammys, riding home in the back seat of our limo … but—wait a minute—having spent the rest of the evening four feet away from the best Bluegrass musicians in the world playing just for us at one of the many wonderful intimate post-Grammy parties you get to attend whether you win or lose, finishing off the Champagne as the city lights spread below us like ... yeah, wait a minute indeed, let me rethink this. It doesn’t sound bad at all. In fact, we’ve always had a very good time once the Bad News was announced.

Comedy is nothing if not about imagination, and if the Grammys—or even the Dog Awards—were to give out an award for Best Imaginer, I’d probably have a chance at it. And if my theories are correct, I’d trot up on stage after getting on tiptoes to kiss the Bombshell (she’s very beautiful, but considerably taller than I am) and elbow whoever’s up there out of the spotlight to grab the microphone and thank all my dogs, past and present. They got me there, I’d be nothing without them, etc., etc. And I’d be right. The current crop would be waiting out in the limo, asleep and dreaming, presumably, about dog food and how you’d imagine something called the Imaginary Grammy Awards in order to get more. Oona and I would wave goodbye to Ricky Skaggs and Alison Krauss and collapse into the limo clutching our statuette, and pull out the Big Gulps and pop the Champagne and tell the nice driver to go slow and get up into the hills so we could hold hands and watch the city lights spread out below.

Ah, imagination. Ah, dog food.

Making Animal Shelters Better
Fostering can be the key

I’ve been working in animal shelters for more than 25 years and I fall in love almost every day.  I get my heart broke just about every day too but it’s worth it to get to spend time with and help so many amazing dogs and other animals. I started as a shelter volunteer, then a kennel cleaner and have worked in just about every capacity since then. I’ve done temperament testing, adoption counseling, vet tech, management and now animal control officer. I’ve seen a lot of improvements in sheltering over the years and I’ve seen a lot of shelter bashing.

I recently saw a comment on social media where the person stated that “all shelters suck.” That was painful to read and certainly not true. Often shelters are the first place an animal hears a kind word or gets the medical care they need. It can be a place to recover from abuse or find a forever home, to learn to trust or learn social skills that will help them get adopted. I have seen so many dogs come into our shelter as miserable, broken shells and prance out the door, shiny and healthy and full of life, ready to take on the world with their adopters. I’ve also seen dogs returned to frantic owners after the shelter took them in and kept them safe. Lots of happy reunions happen in shelters.

All shelters need community involvement to reach their full potential though and it’s true that many shelters aren’t performing at their best whether it’s due to lack of resources, overwhelming populations, poor management or other issues. It’s so easy to criticize but so hard to roll up our sleeves and make a difference. Even a small donation or just an hour a week can make life sweeter for shelter dogs. There are so many ways that a little time can make a big difference. Walking dogs, doing some training, working at adoption events and photographing adoptable dogs can all help a dog find a new home. Some of our local groomers even come in and donate grooming. There’s nothing like seeing some dirty, matted, neglected dog transformed into a sweet smelling beauty.

Recently some of our shelter volunteers have seen an area of huge need and addressed it. Our shelter, like so many others, has been inundated with large, energetic, untrained dogs, many of them bully breeds. The public isn’t always eager to adopt these rowdy pups and they were being overlooked in our kennel. One volunteer, Christine, saw the issue and started fostering these dogs one by one in her home. She teaches them some manners, learns what their strong and weak points are and posts the heck out of them on social media. Dogs that had been in the shelter system for many months sometimes get adopted within days of going into foster care. Christine even started a Facebook page called The Tiny Pit Bull to promote these dogs. She works together with some of our photographers and they, along with the rest of the staff and volunteers, are making a huge difference in improving life for our shelter dogs. Christine’s involvement has encouraged others to help and its changing our shelter for the better.

Fostering can have life changing and even life saving benefit for shelter dogs. Some dogs are too sensitive to thrive or show their best in a shelter environment. They may be shut down, huddled in the back, growling in terror or refusing to interact. Many of these dogs blossom almost immediately once in a home, others take longer, but all can improve in the right situation. Yes it’s hard to part with them when they leave for their new homes. Yes we choke back tears when we say good-bye, but it’s not about us, it’s about the dog getting a great home. And if heaven forbid, you just can’t part with the foster, then an animal still gets a great home and the foster gets a loving companion.

It’s time to be the change we want to see in our local shelters. The animals need us. What do you do to make a difference?

Beware of Algae
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.


Now You Can Have Fit and Fun Dogs With Very Little Effort

Author Jordan Walker adores all animals most especially his pet dog. He never forgets to impart his knowledge about dogs and other animals on Coops And Cages. In this article he discusses how dog owners can help improve fitness and fun to their pet’s life.

It is not surprising that most dog owners these days treat their pets much like their own children – way too pampered and spoiled. In fact, it has come to a point where pets, especially dogs, turn much like how their owners behave.

And in as much as owners would pride themselves of being responsible toward caring for their dog, there is still a big percent who have failed on keeping their pet’s life fit and fun. Fortunately it is never too late to deal with this ordeal as long as you focus on following some of these quick and easy to follow tricks.

Observe Your Dog’s Behavior

It is crucial to be fully aware of how things are with your pet – are they bored most of the time, do they like to eat too much or are they wondering off in search of things to chew on without reason. Being able to know where to improve on will surely help you understand how to deal with your pet better.

See if you can easily sway your pet to come and join you for a stroll in the park or if it refuses and needs to dragged along to go with you. Taking note of all your observations will give you a better idea on what solutions to work on.




Small Steps at a Time

You may not have noticed but your fluffy friend does have feelings too and pushing them to do something they do not want to do may give you a lot of stress and headache. With this in mind ensure that you take things one step at a time in order for your pet to slowly but surely learn what they must do.

Say they find it terrible to have to go outside and move around, then you have to start activities indoors as an introduction. Teach your dog simple tricks like crawling, backing up or even just spinning around and surely after a given period it will find that doing physical activities is enjoyable and fun.




Use the Reward System When Needed

Although it seems that you are meddling with your pet’s behavior, but ensuring that they practice a fit and fun lifestyle is still a priority. In those special times when it just seems impossible to get it started out, you could look into providing your pet a reward.

As you start to teach it to fetch or play catch, give it a treat just so it gets to reinforce and repeat the behavior. By the time they get used to what to do and what not to do then you can exchange the treat giving with another kind of activity to make the efforts pile onto several helpful and fun experiences for your pet.

Look for a Play Date

If your pet is solo, it can be encouraged to move around and be on fit and fun mode when surrounded with others, so why not arrange a play date with other pet owners. This is a great way for your pet to bond with other dogs and for you to socialize with your own friends too.

You can also go to a local park and let your pet mingle with the neighborhood dogs. This can help your dog learn to be off the leash, improves interaction with other dogs plus adds onto the fact that it gets enough physical activity and enjoyment all in one activity.

Keep It Busy

Being at work for most of the day, you will not really be able to monitor your pet if it continues to keep an active and fun lifestyle even without you there. To ensure that it continues to physically challenge itself to move about and not mope around when you are not around, you can leave a few toys that will help it keep the motivation.

Introduce these toys to your pet and play with it together first, as this will let your pet know how the toy is handled. You can also opt for those versions of toys that can be filled with treats to make the task double the effort and fun for your pet.

Put In Effort Too

Remember that you are your pet’s constant companion and it looks to you for guidance and assurance all the time. Make enough effort too to keep your pet much more fit and have a fun and enjoyable day to day life.

Make sure to take time off to play with your pet even for just a few minutes each day as this will help increase your pet’s fitness. Head out and go for a quick run or teach it how to catch a Frisbee and for sure your pet will really feel the fun in everything you do together.


Can Your Home be Beautiful and Dog-Friendly?
Sponsored by Hardwoof Flooring

We love talking about our dogs, showing off what they can do and introducing them to all of our friends. But that doesn't mean we want traces of them all over our homes. From slipping and scratching to chewing and slobbering, our furry friends can wreak havoc on our furniture, walls, throw pillows and accent pieces. So, many dog owners sacrifice form for function when it comes to design and decor. And the biggest sacrifice? Gorgeous floors.

Hardwoods are ruling design trends in residential, corporate, retail and restaurant settings. From the reclaimed craftsman look to clean and classic, hardwood flooring lays a foundation that any design can build on. When decorating a house that’s full of four-legged friends, you no longer have to choose between the design-driven look you want and letting your pets run wild and free.

Here are four things to look for when selecting a hardwood floor that is both beautiful and fido-friendly.

A design to fit your style.

Hardwood flooring comes in most any color, stain and plank variety a homeowner can dream of designing around these days. Distressed, wide planks can offer a rustic feel or traditional oak provides a subdued touch for a modern, traditional or formal setting. Selecting a stain and style that matches the look you are going for is easiest when you can choose from a variety of woods and stains. Hardwoof Flooring, a new pet-friendly hardwood flooring line, offers that variety with the natural warmth, beauty and sound of real wood in 12 styles on Maple, Hickory or Ash.

Wood that meets your durability needs.

Different types of wood have varying degrees of hardness but the beauty of engineered hardwood flooring, especially one that is engineered with acrylic infusion, is that no matter which wood is used, it is guaranteed to be stronger than natural wood. Hardwoof’s signature acrylic-infusion technology makes it 300 percent more durable. Because the stain is infused into the wear layer, the color will sustain high-traffic — whether it’s two- or four-legged.

A finish that stands up to paws, claws, skids and bone chewing.

The most important factor when it comes to a quality hardwood flooring lasting beneath your dogs’ gymnastics, sliding, eating and clomping is scratch resistance. Traditional hardwood floors need refinishing every five years, and that’s expedited with the wear and tear from dogs. Hardwoof’s new dog-friendly finish features unsurpassed dent and scratch resistance, and it guarantees a 50-year finish and lifetime structural warranty.

Certifications that Ensure Health

Words like sustainability and green are thrown around casually by organizations in every industry. When it comes to the health of your family, don’t settle for anything less than flooring that has third-party certifications of its safety and compliance with health codes. Hardwoof is a low-emitting material that is FloorScore certified. The marine-grade, Baltic birch plywood platform is CARB phase 2 compliant, and the laminating glue contains no added formaldehyde.

You can get rid of the paws-off policy on your beautiful hardwoods. Learn more about Hardwoof Flooring and how you can earn a percentage from referral sales through its affiliate program at hardwoof.com.

Is Your Dog Fat?

Unlike humans, it’s not always easy to tell if your dog is overweight. The variety of dog breeds, variations within each breed, and mixed breed dogs make it difficult to establish an ‘ideal weight’ for your dog. There are certainly some dogs who are obviously pudgy, but there are also many who are just a tad chubby, and often the owner may not even realize it.

So, how can you tell if your dog is fat?

Even though there may not be an exact ideal weight, you should still regularly weigh your dog, as it provides good insight into your dog’s health. For instance, if your dog keeps increasing in weight even though he has already reached adulthood, then perhaps it is time to evaluate your feeding and exercise habits with your dog. Unexplained weight loss is generally a sign of illness, so you'll want to follow-up with your veterinarian if that happens. You can also easily find information from the AKC on ideal weight ranges by breed, which can give you a general idea of whether your dog is overweight or underweight.

Body Condition Score
Body condition score is an assessment made by eye and touch. It measures the amount of fat covering the body, particularly around the ribs and abdomen. Ribs should not be visible, yet should be easily felt. The abdomen should be slightly raised when the dog is standing. You should be able to see a visible waistline if you look at your dog from above. There are 2 types of scoring systems, between 1 to 9 and between 1-5. For either scoring system, the middle numbers are ideal, while the lower numbers indicate that the dog is underweight and the higher numbers indicate that the dog is overweight.

Measurements may also be taken and tracked. The measurements should be done around the groin area near the hind legs and in the area around the chest just behind the front legs.

As the methods may be somewhat subjective, using a combination of the 3 methods will help you to be able to better monitor your dog’s body and health.

Fat to Fit
The same principles apply for dogs as for humans. If you want your dog to lose some weight, start by adjusting his meal portions and increasing exercise. Cut down or eliminate treats. A lot of dog owners forget that treats also add to the daily caloric intake. You might be feeding your dog his meals according to the recommended guidelines on the packaging, but if you are also feeding him treats, he might be getting more than he needs. Carrots and other fruits or vegetables are a great lower calorie alternative to conventional dog treats.

Exercise does not have to mean long runs or agility training. Simply walking faster, walking for a few minutes longer each day, and increasing playtime could all be beneficial for your dog. Small steps go a long way.

“Is My Dog Fat” app is available for download from the iTunes store. The app will help you to assess your dog’s body condition score, monitor weight trends, and now comes with an Apple Watch app to keep track of your daily activity with your dogs. Track up to 5 dogs.

Midwest Canine Influenza Outbreak
A New Virus Hits Canines in the United States

If you keep tabs on dog-related news, you’re probably already aware of the recent outbreak of canine influenza in the Midwest. Chicago appears to be at the epicenter of the epidemic.

The first dogs affected by this virus were observed in mid-March of this year. Since then, more than 1,000 known cases have been reported in and around Chicago, and there have even been a few deaths.

New virus within the United States

Until a week ago, the virus responsible for this canine influenza outbreak was thought to be H398, a strain of Influenza A that has been present in the United States for some time. Cornell University (thumbs up to my alma mater) recently reported that scientists there have isolated a brand new influenza virus from affected dogs in the Midwest. This virus, referred to as H3N2, is closely related to strains of influenza affecting dog populations in South Korea and China. H3N2 is now making its debut appearance within the United States. How the virus was introduced here is anyone’s guess.

Dogs living within the United States have no natural protection against H3N2 because their immune systems have never been exposed to it before. For this reason, it will remain highly contagious until canine populations develop immunity, either through natural infection or vaccination.

The contagious stage of canine influenza begins a few days before symptoms arise. In other words, the healthy-appearing pup at the dog park or doggie daycare center may be on the verge of developing viral symptoms. Spread of the disease occurs via respiratory secretions (discharge from nose, mouth, and eyes). Both dogs and cats are susceptible to the H3N2 virus. It is not transmissible to humans.


The symptoms most commonly associated with influenza virus include: high fever, loss of appetite, coughing, nasal discharge, and lethargy. In the best-case scenario, an infected dog may show only mild symptoms or none at all. Worst-case scenario, pneumonia may develop. Pneumonia was the likely cause of death in five dogs who have reportedly succumbed to this disease.


Many infectious bacterial and viral diseases are capable of producing the symptoms described above. Knowing that H3N2 is the culprit requires specialized testing performed on a mouth or nose swab. Cornell reports that the development of a blood test capable of diagnosing this disease is in the works.


Treatment of influenza ideally involves supportive and symptomatic care until the dog’s immune system wins the battle against the virus (requires approximately two weeks for most dogs). Therapy may include supplemental fluids, special diets to entice appetite, anti-inflammatory medications, and cough suppressants. Antibiotics may be prescribed to prevent secondary bacterial infection.

If evidence of pneumonia is present, much more intensive therapy is indicated and may include hospitalization for intravenous fluids and antibiotics, supplemental oxygen, and 24-hour monitoring by a veterinarian.


At this time, it is not known if the vaccine currently available to prevent H3N8 is also protective against the newer H3N2 strain. There may be some cross over protection, but just how much is uncertain. I suspect that updated information about the effectiveness of the current vaccine and/or development of a new vaccine will be forthcoming in the near future. For now, I recommend discussing use of the current influenza vaccine with your veterinarian.

If you live in or around Chicago, or if you learn that influenza cases are beginning to pop up in your neck of the woods, know that the very best protection involves keeping your dog away from popular, public, canine venues such as dog parks, boarding kennels, grooming parlors, pet stores, and doggie daycare facilities.

Please know that there is no cause for panic. The vast majority of dogs affected by this new strain of influenza fully recover. Talk with your veterinarian about the incidence of canine influenza in your locale to help determine the level of concern for your dogs.

Have you had any experience with canine influenza? If you live in the Midwest, are you taking specific measures to protect your dog?

Dogs Don't Remember Yesterday, Claims Psychologist
Ample data show dogs and other animals remember the past and plan for the future

A few days ago a colleague asked me if I'd seen an essay called "Dogs Don't Remember," published by Dr. Ira Hyman. I hadn't, and then, as I was doing an interview, a similar question about mental time travel by animals came up so I decided to pen a few comments about Dr. Hyman's claims that "Dogs don't remember what happened yesterday and don't plan for tomorrow" and "Even if they can't describe their memories,chimps may engage in mental time travel. My dogs, however, are stuck in an eternal present."

In his essay, Dr. Hyman also writes, "If I walk into the backyard, the dogs are overjoyed to see me and act like they haven't seen me for days. If I stay in the backyard, they quickly become bored with me. If I go inside and return after 10-15 minutes, my dogs are overjoyed to see me and act like they haven't seen me in days. They don't remember that I was in the backyard just a few minutes ago."

I don't see that dogs or other nonhuman animals (animals) greeting a friend(s) after a short absence says much about whether or not they remember that an individual(s) had just been there. Many animals engage in repeated and effusive greeting ceremonies when first seeing a friend and shortly thereafter. So too do humans.

What about future planning?

Given his interests in mental time travel, Dr. Hyman also writes, "Dogs don't plan for particular future events although they have a general expectation of when dinner will appear." He may be correct here. I don't know of any studies that show that dogs "plan for particular future events" but, for example, I have seen dogs and wild coyotes very cautiously approach an area where unfriendly individuals live and often have felt they were planning for possible combat. Nonetheless, I'll grant for now that it is difficult to differentiate planning for a particular event and having a general expectation that something might occur. However, I wouldn't be so sure that dogs don't do both until the proper studies are conducted.

Studies on nonhuman primates, birds, and other animals show, in fact, that they do remember the past and plan for the future. In an essay I wrote called "What Makes Us Uniquely Human?" that was concerned with mental time travel, I noted that the prominent primatologists Christophe and Hedwige Boesch-Ackerman wrote in their book The Chimpanzees of the Tai Forest that "A hunting chimpanzee 'not only has to anticipate the direction in which the prey will flee (recorded as a half anticipation), but also the speed of the prey so as to synchronize his movements to reach the correct height in the tree before the prey enters it (recorded as a full anticipation) . ... We also recorded a double anticipation when a hunter not only anticipates the actions of the prey, but also the effect the action of other chimpanzees will have on the future movements of the colobus, that is he does not anticipate what he sees (the escaping colobus), but how a future chimpanzee tactic will further influence the escaping monkeys." And, even birds remember the past and plan for the future (see, for example, "Can animals recall the past and plan for the future?" and for numerous examples of more recent research on a wide variety of animals please see). 

There's no evidence that dogs are stuck in "an eternal present"

So, all in all, unless others and I are missing something, dogs do remember yesterday. If Dr. Hyman literally means by "yesterday" the preceding day—24 hours ago—perhaps he's correct. To the best of my knowledge, no animals other than humans look at or wear watches or use calendars. However, it doesn't seem that Dr. Hyman literally means yesterday, but rather, more generally, "the past," given the example he uses about dogs greeting him repeatedly even if he's only been absent for a short while.

There are many examples of dogs and other animals "remembering yesterday." Think of dogs and other animals who have been severely abused and who suffer from severe fear or depression for years on end, and also, for example, think of dogs who remember where they and others peed and pooped, dogs who remember where their friends and foes live, dogs who change their behavior based on what they learned in various sorts of learning experiments, and dogs who remember where they're fed and where they've cached food and other objects. The list goes on and on.

From an evolutionary point of view it would be somewhat odd and exceptional if mammals such as dogs and many other animals didn't remember yesterday and plan accordingly. Mental time travel truly is a very exciting field of research and I look forward to more studies that speak to the questions of how past experiences inform future behavior. And, as I mentioned above, there already are many detailed studies that show that mental time travel back to the past and ahead toward the future is not uniquely human.

Marc Bekoff's latest books are Jasper's story: Saving moon bears (with Jill Robinson), Ignoring nature no more: The case for compassionate conservationWhy dogs hump and bees get depressed, and Rewilding our hearts: Building pathways of compassion and coexistence

This story was originally published by psychologytoday.com. Reprinted with permission.

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