The Bark
Culture: Reviews
A Dog’s History of the World
Book Review

A Dog’s History of the World: Canines and the Domestication of Humans (Baylor University Press) by Laura Hobgood-Oster is a small book packed with interesting insights into the canine-human bond. She rightfully posits that our own species would not have succeeded without our oldest friends, and gleans support for her position from a variety of fields, including archaeology, history and literature. The only quibble we have is with the inclusion of the oft-cited theory about the evolution of the “first” dog; this is a fluid field of study, and some of the research in the book has already been successfully challenged. However, that doesn’t detract from the overall impact and delight this book brings to the field of canine studies.

Weekly Smiler 6-16-14
Smiling Dogs

Our featured smilers of the week. See more in our Smiling Dogs Gallery.

This week: Dixie, Oliver, Rossi, Yoko and Zelda.

Weekly Smiler 6-9-14
Smiling Dogs

Our featured smilers of the week. See more in our Smiling Dogs Gallery.

This week: Boo, Lieutenant, Louie, Sadie Mae and Tulip.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dogfroyo: All-Natural Frozen Yogurt Treats

This summer, Laura Diaz, Yappy Treats Cart founder, CEO and maître d’cart, can again be found under her colorful cart’s big umbrella selling Dogfroyo, her all-natural frozen yogurt treats, to New York City’s dogs at Riverside and Central Parks. These much-in-demand delights— inspired by her ice-cream-loving dog Sisu—are handcrafted in small batches using human-grade ingredients and Greek yogurt. Dogs happily lap them up (they’re great for pup parties too). See where to find Laura and her cart, or a local retail outlet at yappytreatscart.com.

Dog's Life: Travel
Hike with your dog in New England
Happy Trails

Tower Hill Botanic Garden, in Boylston, Mass., has launched their 2014 Tails ’n Trails program, which encourages dog lovers to hike with their leashed dogs on Tower Hill’s splendid woodland trails. Their theme this year is health and wellness and, as Kathy Abbott, executive director, observes, “What better way to experience the outdoors than a walk with your dog?” Their dog-walking trail includes a beautiful one-mile loop past the Wildlife Refuge Pond and Inner Park that features hundreds of species of trees and plants and a variety of birds. For times and dates, see towerhillbg.org.

News: Editors
Ken Ramirez Joins Karen Pryor Clicker Training
Sponsored Article
Ken Ramirez, Karen Pryor Clicker Training

The Bark had a chance to speak with Ken Ramirez about his experience with clicker training and what the future holds for him in his new role as Executive Vice President and Chief Training Officer for KPCT. 


The Bark: Why is it important that people successfully train their companion dogs?

Ken Ramirez: There are so many reasons that training is important. It is a critical part of good animal care, just like veterinary care, nutrition and a safe environment. You cannot give animals all they need unless it includes a training program. Good training helps teach animals how to live successfully in our world, and helps to build a strong lasting relationship between people and their pets.

Bark: Tell us about your professional experience with operant conditioning or clicker training.

Ramirez: I began my training career working with guide dogs in a very traditional training environment. However, right out of college I had the opportunity to work with a variety of marine mammals, birds, and big cats in several zoological facilities. That is where I was introduced to the world of positive reinforcement and marker-based training. That experience changed my life as I experienced how powerful this type of training is. Not only is it force-free and fun for the animals, but it assists in developing strong relationships with each animal partner. I went back and re-read all my animal behavior text books, made contact with my professors, and began trying to understand why this type of training was not more wide-spread, except perhaps in the world of marine mammal training. My quest for knowledge exposed me to Karen Pryor and some of her early works. I read every positive reinforcement training article I could find, sought out conferences and training organizations that could forward my knowledge and understanding of effective positive reinforcement training. I had the good fortune to travel to many corners of the world and work with a wide variety of species of animals, and discovered just how universal this technology really is. In 1989 I was hired by the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago to oversee the development of their animal training program. Since joining Shedd, I have had the good fortune to oversee the care and training of more than 32,000 animals representing over 1500 species. I continued to consult with many zoo and aquarium programs worldwide. Then, in 1997, Western Illinois University asked me to develop a graduate course on animal training, which I still teach today. In 1998, I returned to dog training as a consultant to several search and rescue dog teams, which led to my involvement in many other working dog programs including service dogs, law enforcement, and a return to guide dog work. When Karen Pryor decided to start ClickerExpo, she chose Chicago as her inaugural location. She invited me to that Expo as a guest speaker, which led to an invitation to join the faculty the following year, and I have been on the faculty ever since.  

Bark: What has been the biggest revelation about this method of training animals?

Ramirez: The biggest revelation for me every time I train an animal is how much they enjoy the process and how it assists in relationship building. Additionally, as someone who began my career more than 35 years ago using more traditional training methods, I always marvel at how well positive reinforcement works and how much stronger and precise behavior is trained in a fun force-free environment.   

Bark: Is it your experience that most animals enjoy learning and training exercises?

Ramirez: Absolutely. That’s what makes positive reinforcement so effective—the animal is a willing partner in the process and it is so much fun for them. 

Bark: What has you most excited about working with Karen Pryor's clicker training programs?

Ramirez: I am excited about everything that Karen Pryor Clicker Training represents. Karen was an inspiration to me personally as I was seeking good information about the use of positive reinforcement training during the early stages of my career. I am passionate about educating people about the power of positive reinforcement and the beneficial impacts it has on the welfare of the animals in our lives. Each program, whether it be the ClickerExpos, the Karen Pryor Academy, or the production of positive reinforcement books and training tools furthers the education of the public about marker-based positive reinforcement training.  I am excited about helping to continue and further the amazing body of work that Karen has produced over the years.

Bark: Do you currently have a dog, cat or other pet? 

Ramirez: I have had dogs my entire life. Sadly, my 12-year-old Spaniel that I adopted from a shelter after my first Clicker Expo 11 years ago, recently passed away. I will probably look for my next dog at one of the local Chicago shelters sometime later in the year. However, I established a dog training program with dogs adopted from local shelters at the Shedd Aquarium several years ago, and I consider the four dogs in that program close companions and training partners. These four dogs include a Pit Bull, an Airedale, a Shepherd, and a Lab. 


Ken Ramirez is a regular consultant for zoos, oceanariums, and parks around the world. He has held top leadership positions in most of the profession’s associations, including as past president of IMATA (International Marine Animal Trainer’s Association). As part of his leadership, Ken has been involved in the creation of a certification process for animal trainers in zoological settings. He has been featured on television and in the media numerous times, including as host of a popular Australian television series Talk to the Animals. Ken has been on the faculty of KPCT’s ClickerExpo conference since 2005; he also teaches graduate-level courses at Western Illinois University.

Ken began his training career working with guide dogs for the visually impaired and has maintained a close connection to dog training ever since. At the Shedd Aquarium, Ken spearheaded the development of a program to rescue dogs from animal shelters and to train and care for them in order to show the public the transformative power of marker-based positive-reinforcement training. Outside of Shedd, Ken’s canine work includes training for search and rescue, guide and service work, scent detection, animal husbandry, and more.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
New Products: Canine Covers to Viva Coco
Fun, functional and fruity characterize our product round-up

A. Viva Coco is a nutrientrich coconut water powder that can boost your dog’s health and hydration. Mix with water and offer after a period of high activity or simply as a liquid treat. 100% all-natural and GMO-free with no artificial preservatives or flavors. Viva-coco.com

B. Fruitables Chewy Skinny Minis are an allnatural, low-cal treat for your pup. Their small size and soft texture make them perfect for training! Available in five yummy flavors. Free of gluten, wheat, corn, soy, artificial flavors and colors; sourced and made in the USA. Fruitablespetfood.com

C. Fetchbee means no more slobbery, tired hands, no more stooping. The plastic arm clips easily onto the special disc, helping you play a little longer with your disc-obsessed dog. Fetchbee.com

D. Keep your dog safe in the backseat with Canine Covers Canine Travel Seatback Barrier. The US-made mesh barrier fits most vehicles with two bucket front seats. Easy to remove and fold up for storage. Caninecovers.com

E. Handmade Pet Company’s Slip-Thru Collar Bandanas stay put, which means they won’t come off during a romp on the beach. A readyto- wear line is available, or request a custom design that perfectly fits your dog’s unique sense of style. Handmadepet.com

F. Turn mealtime into a challenging “stimulation” game with The Company of Animals Green Slow Feeder. Scatter food in between its grass-like blades. Finding the food can slow down intake, which can reduce vomiting, gas and the risk of bloat. There is a Green Mini too for smaller pups. Companyofanimals.us

Weekly Smiler 6-2-14
Smiling Dogs

Our featured smilers of the week. See more in our Smiling Dogs Gallery.

This week: Belle, Chloe, Dash, Ralph and Rose.

Dog's Life: Home & Garden
Tips on Dog-Safe Gardening
Garden organically, for the sake of both the planet and your dogs.
Dogs on Grass

Raised beds protect plantings from scampering paws and swinging tails. Dogs can be taught where they’re permitted and where they are not.

Digging pit, preferably in shaded locations, give dogs places to practice their excavation skills without disrupting your garden beds. You might entice them to use it by lightly burying (as they watch you) a treat-filled Kong.

Leave a plant-free “patrolling” area around the perimeter of your yard; dogs instinctively (and repeatedly) cruise boundaries and fence lines.

Construct a barrier around plants of the nightshade family, including eggplant, tomato and potato; their foliage and stems contain dangerous alkaloids that can kill a dog. Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea), Deadly Nightshade (Atropa belladonna), Larkspur (Delphinium ajacis) have toxic effects on the heart and circulation. When dogs eat large amounts of onions, they may suffer red blood cell destruction. Rhubarb leaves (Rheum rhabarbaram) contain oxalic acid. In quantity, it damages kidneys.

Avoid cocoa bean mulches; their chocolaty smell makes them pup catnip, but they contain theobromine, which is toxic for dogs.

Cross almond or walnut trees off your list for areas used by dogs; tannin is a canine toxin, and almond and walnut hulls contain it; moldy walnuts are also a problem. Avoid trees with toxic bark, such as cherry (contains cyanide-like components). And, some stone fruit trees (apricots, plums) can provide raw material for obstruction by indigestible pits.

Do not use snail bait containing metaldehyde, which is highly poisonous to dogs and cats. Copper barrier tape is a good alternative; slugs and snails are deterred from crossing it by the tape’s tiny positive electric charge.

Protect young trees, especially if you have a male dog. Be sure to frequently rinse the trunk and soil with fresh water. Or, secure a copper or galvanized splash guard of appropriate height and circumference around the developing tree the first couple of years to divert unwelcome attention from your pup.

Weekly Smiler 5-26-14
Smiling Dogs

Our featured smilers of the week. See more in our Smiling Dogs Gallery.

This week: Amber, Bailey, Bruce, Daisy and Sage.