activities & sports
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Surf’s Up
Canines ride the waves in San Diego for a good cause.

After writing last week about pet friendly cities, I started reading more about San Diego’s Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon. The annual event invites both humane and canine surfers to Del Mar’s dog beach to raise money for the Helen Woodward Animal Center and to promote responsible pet ownership.

The participants raise money for homeless animals based on the number of waves they catch in 30 minutes. The event isn’t until September 13, but organizers expect more than 100 pups to participate from as far away as Japan.  

Not sure if your dog has what it takes? Helen Woodward Animal Center has organized training clinics so your four legged beach bum can learn how to ride the waves. The next session will take place on August 16 and 22 from 9-11 am at Del Mar’s dog beach. Surf boards are provided, but instructor and dog trainer, Rob Kuty, recommends bringing a canine life jacket.

Do you think your pets would like surfing?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Agility Favorites
What obstacle does your dog prefer?

I had a dog whose favorite part of an agility course was the table. My theory is that it made the most sense to him. It was the first piece of equipment that he learned how to negotiate correctly, and it seemed as though he always knew what to do with it, unlike some other obstacles, which periodically confused him. I loved this dog, but he was, hmm, how best to say it—not the brightest dog I have known. He enjoyed the things in his life that were straightforward, and that’s why I think he liked the table.

Does your dog have a favorite agility obstacle, and if so, what do you think that tells you about your dog?


News: Guest Posts
Barking Buddha
Stretch and connect with your dog through yoga.

Last week, I attended a book signing for Barking Buddha: Simple Soul Stretches for Yogi and Dogi. I was thrilled to pick up my own copy of the hot-of-the-presses guidebook by home-town yogini and massage therapist Brenda Bryan (with photos by my friend Bev Sparks). I swear this was before I learned the book includes a little profile shot of my dog Lulu in one of Bryan’s classes. Just look for the black dog who exudes not an iota of the serene grace of the Afghan Hound on the neighboring mat. That’s Lulu. The photo is not a case of bad timing but a true reflection of our experience in the class—we were both of us woefully over-stimulated. But that was our problem.

I was impressed and inspired by Bryan with her dogis—Honey and Gus—and the other novices in the class. All around me dog-human pairs practicing “Floating Dog” and “Woofing Warrior” in a Seattle dog daycare, with lots of barking and romping only yards away, and yet calm pervaded the room. I think Bryan’s addition of massage to the regular regime of breathing, stretching and poses, encourages the dogs into the right frame of mind, at the same time it nurtures connection. The class helped me to appreciate that Doga, as it is sometimes called, provides a very real opportunity for enhancing your dog’s health, your understanding of how his or her body feels and moves, and, maybe most importantly, your bond with each other.

While a class with Bryan or a dog-centric yogi near you is probably the best introduction, Barking Buddha provides a smart, straightforward primer for home practice. If you don't believe me, watch the seriously blissed-out pups in Bryan’s video pitch for the book, below.

News: Guest Posts
Take Your Dog to Work Day Contests
Share tips, photos—win prizes, fame (sort of)

[UPDATE: We have a winner! Read about Stacy Dubuc and Ginger.]


We’re excited about Take Your Dog to Work Day on June 26—not just because it’s something we do nearly everyday but because we know under the right circumstances ice-breaking, comforting balls of fur at the office can be good for the dogs and for their people.

So, we’ve come up with two ways to share our enthusiasm for canines near the copier with two—yup, two—Take your Dog to Work contests.

Tell us your strategies for bringing your dog to work. Post your tried-and-true advice as a comment below, and we’ll select one lucky tipster from the entries to receive a Bark goodie bag. We also start the ball rolling with some of our own ideas with something we call “Office Petiquette” in a sec.

If you’re more the picture’s-worth-a-thousand-barks type, send us a photo of your office dog (your own or a colleagues’), and we’ll include our favorites in our Dogs @ Work slideshow. It’s easy.

Office Petiquette
Pet-friendly workplace policies vary, but they usually include several basic elements: The needs of people who have allergies or don’t want to work near animals must be accommodated, pets must be housebroken and kept on leash or under control, and employees must clean up after their pet outside. Here are other “petiquette” points and suggestions for pet-proofing your work zone:

•Your dog should respond to basic commands, such as “sit” and “stay.”

•Your dog should be socialized to people and other dogs.

•Your personal workspace should comfortably accommodate your dog.

•Keep a supply of chew toys on hand to occupy your dog when needed.

•Leave squeaky toys at home, and invest in dog tag “silencers.”

•No fleas at work! Keep your dog clean and well-groomed.

•Walk your dog in a designated area several times a day, and clean up afterward.

Above all, consider your dog’s temperament. If she’s extremely shy or uncomfortable around strangers, the workplace may be too overwhelming. And, of course, if she has a history of aggressive behavior, leave her at home and get help from a professional trainer or behaviorist.

Source: SF/SPCA

5 Tips for a Dog-Safe Office
•Keep small items (paper clips, loose change, staples, rubber bands) off the floor.

•Store ink cartridges, pens, markers and highlighters out of your dog’s reach.

•Put cleaning solutions in a safe place; they can be toxic and potentially deadly.

•Leave shredders unplugged to protect dangling ears and tails.

•Contain your dog if you can’t supervise him.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Strut Your Mutt
What’s the best dog event around?

Recently I was a judge at “Strut Your Mutt” in Flagstaff, Ariz. The annual event is the work of Paw Placement of Northern Arizona, a local group that does great work finding forever homes for dogs and cats.

On this particular Saturday, we three judges had to observe dog-people pairs entered into the official “Strut” competition and determine three winners. The categories were 1) Best Strut, which was won by a Bulldog who successfully walked the entire loop multiple times (though was too tuckered out to come claim her prize); 2) Person-Dog Look-Alike, which was won by a willowy strawberry blond young lady and her fawn colored greyhound, both of whom looked lovely in their hula skirts, and 3) Judges’ Choice, which went to a three-legged dog named Lucky who had been adopted out by Paw Placement of Northern Arizona, and is indeed one of their great success stories.

Besides enjoying the event with its demos of canine sports and assorted vendors, and being thrilled about the fundraising success, “Strut Your Mutt” made me realize that we can never get too much of mixing and mingling with other people and their dogs en masse. It’s such fun to celebrate and enjoy the unique human-canine bond, and the fact that such events lead to happiness all around—in both species.

What events happen in your area to inspire interspecies fun, and perhaps raise money to spread that joy around still further?

News: Guest Posts
Adopt-A-Pet’s “Social Petworking”
Inspired use of the Internet or peer-pressure with a downside?

On the Internet, good ideas (and I guess, lousy ideas, as well) spread like viruses. In the January issue of The Bark, we wrote about how Dogs Trust in the United Kingdom found a home for a shelter dog using only a brief message on Twitter, the social networking service. It was the first Twitter-assisted placement for Dogs Trust, and maybe a first-ever.

That was followed in February by a Tweet Blast masterminded by Animal Rescue Online—24 hours of  Twitter messaging (no more than 140 characters each) all aimed at finding homes for homeless companion animals.

But these were mere flashes in pans compared to Adopt-A-Pet.com’s new scheme, cleverly branded as “Social PETworking.” The idea is to encourage regular MySpace, Facebook and Twitter users and bloggers “to advertise adoptable pets to their friends as a way to help homeless pets get seen and adopted.”

The campaign kicked off at the beginning of June, with a goal of networking at least 30,000 homeless pets in the first 30 days. Essentially animal lovers find and share Adopt-A-Pet profiles of shelter animals (dogs, cats, rabbits, horses, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and more) with friends who might provide good homes or who know others who might.

When I checked the site on June 12, more than 35,000 links had been shared. That’s definitely something. Whether it leads to successful adoptions remains to be demonstrated. I hope it doesn’t increase impulse decisions. It’s one thing if someone who understands the responsibilities of adoption and is looking for a new friend learns about a wonderful animal in need of a home. But I know how hard it is to resist the sweet mug of a doleful puppy with a sad story. I worry that this sort of widespread friend-to-friend “advertising” inspires people to commit to animals when they aren’t ready.

Am I just being a buzzkill? 

News: Guest Posts
A Night With Friends
Friends For the Dearborn Animal Shelter enjoy a private screening of Hotel For Dogs.

“I don’t usually go to these kinds of movies,” Elaine Greene told us this morning, the day after a special screening of Hotel for Dogs in Dearborn, Mich. “I shed some tears but it really inspired me to break through roadblocks and get back to our important work.” As the executive director of Friends For the Dearborn Animal Shelter, Greene identified with the movie’s young protagonists, who defy challenges (lots of naysaying adults) to provide shelter to a lovable assortment of strays.

And Greene wasn’t alone. Dozens of Dearborn Animal Shelter friends, family, employees and animal welfare colleagues attended the screening at the Fairlane AMC in Dearborn Town Center. The shelter was chosen from among 78 organizations nominated by dedicated supporters around the country in a contest sponsored by Paramount Pictures and The Bark.


Attending the screening were a few special guests including Anne Enright, who takes some of the shelter’s needier doggie guests “into her five-star pooch bed and breakfast/charm school, otherwise known as the Enright family home, to give them the TLC and cultivation they need to successfully find their new home;” Sue Ringey, whe leads the shelter’s in-house training program, organizing and training volunteers “to socialize and teach manners to our doggie guests during their stay at our Hotel, which helps them find a permanent residence with their new family;” and Tracy, Kevin, Sara and Max Nosel, who demonstrated the most team spirit during Dearborn Shelter's recent Fourth Annual Mutt Strut.

The shelter is located in Dearborn, west of Detroit, the hometown of Henry Ford. Formerly city-run, the shelter has been stewarded by the private, nonprofit Friends since 1996. In little more than a decade, the shelter has instituted programs to find homes for 100 percent of adoptable animals and to vaccinate, spay/neuter and microchip every one. The shelter participates in dozens of community outreach programs every year including adoptions fairs, low-cost spay/neuter and a Recylc-a-Bullz program to help bully breed dogs.

While the shelter takes in far more cats than dogs, Greene says that since the downturn in the economy the numbers of dogs is increasing, with more puppies and small, purebred dogs showing up. “That’s a signal that people are struggling.” At the same time, there's reason for optimism, Greene reports that support for the shelter continues to grow.


We wish them all the best with their “hotel for dogs”--hoping all their guests check out soon and move into wonderful forever homes.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Putting Unused Airline Miles to Good Use
Donate frequent flyer miles to Guide Dogs of America.

I’m by no means a frequent flyer. As I mentioned previously, in a post about Pet Airways, I avoid traveling by plane since my dog would have to fly in cargo. Needless to say, I never rack up enough miles to qualify for a free flight.

Rather than let my miles expire, I recently discovered a way to put these points to good use. Northwest and United Airlines let you donate unused miles to the Guide Dogs of America. The contributions are used to transport dogs, trainers, and recipients to GDA’s training headquarters in Sylmar, Calif. Other airlines have programs that allow you to donate miles to charity, but Northwest and United Airlines are the only two I've found that benefit a dog-related organization. 

In a time when non-profit groups are facing decreased donations, this is a great way to help out a worthy cause without dipping into your bank account.  Visit the Guide Dogs of America web site for more information on how to donate your miles.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Celebrating My Dogs’ Special Day
Birthday party fun for pups and pet lovers alike.

This past weekend, I threw my dogs a birthday party attended by their canine and human friends. Apparently I’m not alone. According to the American Pet Association, 22 percent of dog owners celebrate their pet’s birthday.

Our party was rodeo-themed with the human guests wearing cowboy hats and the dogs sporting red bandanas with sheriff badges. Keeping in line with the festivities, I asked friends to send photos of their pups being bad and made personalized “Wanted” posters. Every year I try to send attendees home with a keepsake that serves both as a souvenir of the event and a memory of quality time spent with their pet over the years.

No birthday is complete without a cake. I baked the doggie version using the Peanut Butter Delight Dog Birthday Cake from the Dog Treat Recipe Exchange. I tripled the ingredients to fit PAWShop’s bone-shaped pan. Of course, the animals ate better than the humans, whose cake was made from a box mix!

There was much socializing done by all, but we did manage to squeeze in some games -- with a little training. We practiced sits by playing Musical Mats to country music and tested heeling in a Spoon Race with biscuits instead of eggs. I have to say, it was amazing how well everyone did with so many high-level distractions!

The dogs were generally well behaved, with the exception of a few trampled plants. Most of the pups were familiar with each other from training or trialing together, but it also helped to have responsible guests at the party. Everyone was good about leaving reactive or easily stressed pets at home.

By the time I was cleaning up after the party, my dogs were pooped from the day’s festivities. I’m sure they were wondering why every day doesn’t bring lots of visitors and cake!

How do you celebrate your pets’ birthday?

News: Guest Posts
Five Summertime Tips for You and Your Dog
Leap into the season on all fours.

The sun is out, the trees are blooming, the days are long. Suddenly, it’s a whole lot easier to get out and play. And while I’d like to believe you’ve been putting in long hours at the park, lake or on trails all winter long, based on my own example, I’m going to assume there is, well, room for improvement. So in the spirit of progress, here are a few suggestions for jump-starting a healthy, happy, active season—which we’ll hopefully continue during colder, darker months (but I don’t even want to think about that right now).

1. Be your pup’s personal trainer
We sometimes think of dogs as canine Lance Armstrongs who can leap off the couch after basically hibernating all winter to tackle the Tour de Whatever. But despite their can-do tail-wagging, out-of-shape quadrupeds get cramps, develop sore muscles and even become exhausted without proper conditioning. It’s important to build up strength and endurance with a variety of activities, i.e., cross-training. Add spice to walking with jogging, sprinting and trail hiking, retrieving games, hide-and-seek, pack-play with other dogs and organized workouts, such as Agility (in the living room on rainy days) and lure coursing (The Bark, October 2007). If you’re lucky enough to have a water dog, swimming is an excellent, low-impact workout.

Extra weight is the other big boondoggle here. Lots of dogs put on a few extra pounds watching you watch TV all winter, and that weight is tough on joints and conditioning. Talk with your veterinarian about strategies for helping your dog lose weight gradually—cutting back on treats and excess food is the obvious start.
2. Trim more than fat.
Keep your dog’s nails short. This is important year-round but in the summer, claws can become snagged, broken or painful on long walks or trail hikes. Also, some full-coated dogs cope better with the heat if their fur is clipped. However, you shouldn’t shave your dog completely, as this removes his sunburn protection.

On the subject of sunburn, remember that animals are vulnerable “on any area where fur is particularly thin or where there is no skin pigment, like dogs with pink noses,” says Dr. Mark Stickney, director of General Surgery Services at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “I would recommend a sunscreen that is specifically for pets. These are formulated to be safe if the pet licks them off and are available at any pet store.”

3. Test your gear in advance.
Before you expect your dog to willingly drink from a squirt bottle, or trot along happily wearing a loaded pack, or cooperatively don booties in the backcountry, practice with your gear at home. Our dog unexpectedly hated our tent the first time we went backpacking. She barked if we left her outside but wouldn’t crawl into the weird cave with us. We all ended up sleeping out in the open with her. Good thing it wasn’t raining.

4. Learn about heat.
Heat is tough on dogs—who don’t perspire and cool down as efficiently we do. Learn to read the signs of overheating (hyperthermia), which can be fatal. Is your dog falling behind and dropping his head? Is he panting excessively, having difficulty breathing, weaving, or vomiting? Dogs who have overheated need to be cooled down—with a hose, in a cool stream—and immediately taken to a veterinarian. Be even more prepared for heat and other dangers by taking a pet first aid/CPR class.

As daytime temperatures climb, schedule outings for mornings and evenings. When the going gets real hot, leave your pal at home, especially for high-intensity activities, such as mountain biking and trail running. Also, it’s not just the air temperature you need to monitor. Remember, hot pavement, sand and stone can burn a pup’s pads.

5. Practice how to have fun out there.
A little training goes a long way for summer adventures. Train your trail pooch not to chase wildlife. Some hikers practice this in a yard or park with birds and squirrels. When a dog spies a bushy brown tail, a flickering feather, or the whiskers of a neighbor’s cat, tell her to sit or stay and provide rewards for proper restraint. There are plenty of moments on a trail—log bridges or narrow ledges—or even along a busy street, when a dog suddenly pulling on a leash can be treacherous.

Also, train your dog to wait, sit, or stay at water sources, especially when thirsty. This protects her from slurping tainted waiter.

Finally, stop giving your dog a pass on pulling and sniffing during walks. “You’re walking the dog, the dog isn’t walking you!” says Brendan Fahey, veteran dog walker/jogger and owner of Jogs with Dogs in Seattle. Notice how people often jerk their dogs away from fire hydrants, other dogs, cats and squirrels? Everyone seems frustrated and progress is slow. “Keep your dog next to you and the leash short (less than 12 inches from your hand to the collar), and you’ll both have a much more productive walk. The second you see or feel your dog’s body language change, give him a gentle light correction (eventually you can just give a sound). A week of walking with your dog next to you (instead of in front!) will change your walks forever, and you’ll have a much more enjoyable walking partner.”

What have I missed? How do you prepare for the dogs days of summer?