activities & sports
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dog Airlifted Out of Calif. Forest
A hike turned into an overnight excursion for a couple and their dog

A couple weeks ago, a friend of mine ended up carrying his 50 pound dog for two miles after the poor pup tore the pads on his paws during a trail run. I wondered what I would do in the same situation. Unfortunately, I'd probably be stuck because I don't usually carry first aid supplies and I definitely don't have as much upper body strength as my friend. The ordeal certainly got me thinking.

Even the most well-conditioned dog can become injured on a hike or run, so it's important to have a plan if something should go wrong. This is even more important if you're trekking in a remote area.

A couple in California learned this lesson the hard way while on an afternoon hike at Angeles National Forest last weekend. During the outing, their Labrador mix, Baxter, cut his pads and soon grew too tired to complete the hike. The couple couldn't carry the 80-pound dog, so they were forced to call the police and wait overnight for help to arrive. The next morning a rescue helicopter airlifted the couple and their dog to safety.

I don't run or hike in remote areas, so I usually rely on the fact someone can come get me if there's an emergency. But after hearing this story, and knowing what happened to my friend, I think I'm going to start carrying a few basic supplies with me. Torn pads are fairly common for active dogs, so bringing disinfectant and gauze on our next outing is probably not a bad idea.

What do you bring with you when you run or hike with your dogs?

News: Guest Posts
Boatyard Dog Trials—Ticket Giveaway
A little like dock dogs with more laughs and fewer rules

I have found a competition for which my dog is actually qualified. It involves clambering around objects and falling in the water. It’s all about “style and pizzaz,” there are practically no rules and cheating is encouraged. Was this contest created for us?

My only problem is that the unconventional World Championship Boatyard Dog Trials (on August 14) take place all the way across the country in Rockland, Maine, an awfully long way to travel to prove a point.  Plus, Bark magazine is a sponsor of the competition, which probably disqualifies us—but then again, cheating is encouraged.

Still, it’s going to be a lot of fun, and for folks who live in the Northeast, the Boatyard Dog Trials sound like a worthy adventure. So, even though we’re stuck far from the action on the West Coast, we want to send some Mainers, New Hampshirites, Vermonters or visitors to the area into the fray. (Feel free to report back!)

► We’re giving away 10 pairs of tickets in a random drawing. Enter here. The ticket giveaway runs through August 10; winners will pick up their tickets at will-call.

► Meanwhile, if you have a photo of your dog in/on/near the water that you think is championship material, submit it to our Water Dogs photo contest.

The trials will take place on Sunday, August 14, during the ninth annual Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors Show at Harbor and Buoy parks in Rockland. The winner will be featured in the Boatyard Dog column of Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors magazine, and has the honor of displaying the “Pup Cup” trophy until next year’s trials. Please note: the field of competitors has been pre-selected, and non-competing dogs are not invited.

Good Dog: Activities & Sports
Recipe for a Great Canine Running Partner
The ABCs for your first runs together

You like to run, your dog likes to run. It seems like a no-brainer: How about the two of you running together? While you might be concerned about your dog’s ability to run a reasonable distance, the most common hindrance to sharing this passion is your dog’s ability to stay at your side.

First steps
Because you’ll want your dog’s front feet even with or slightly behind yours during a run, the first mission is to teach him to walk nicely on-leash at your side. For the purpose of this article, we’re choosing the left side.

Start with a hands-free set-up such as the Buddy System, or with a regular four- to six-foot leash that you hold while keeping your bent arm at your side in normal running position. You can also use a head halter or a harness with a front connection to help guide your dog. Whatever approach you choose, the leash should be long enough to hang in a U when you’re standing next to him. Have some kibble or small treats and, with your dog sitting at your side, give him several treats in a row until he’s in a stable sit/stay. Then, move forward at a power-walking pace so it’s clear you want him to come with you.

When he’s walking next to you and looking at you, reward him. If his feet get ahead of yours, stop before he gets to the end of the leash. If you’re holding the leash in your hand, be sure to keep your arm glued to your side rather than extending it forward. When he reaches the end of the leash, he’ll likely pull and pull. Stand stock still and wait him out. When he turns to look at you, lure him back into a sit in front of you. Give several treats in a row until he’s focused just on sitting and looking at you. When you’re ready, move forward again at a brisk pace. Repeat this every time he charges ahead, until he understands that getting in front of you causes the walk to stop, and sitting and looking at you causes the walk to resume.

Next, work on about-turns and U-turns to train him to stay by your side. For the about-turn, walk forward in a straight line, turn 180 degrees to your right so your dog is on the outside, then head back on the same line. Do this randomly when he gets even one foot ahead of yours. Make the turns more fun by jogging a few steps and then rewarding him when he catches up and looks at you.
The U-turn is like the about-turn, but in the opposite direction. You turn to your left in order to head back in the direction from which you started, which places your dog on the inside of the turn. Get slightly ahead of him and then cut him off as you make the U-turn. This teaches him that he should stay by your side so that you don’t keep cutting him off. If you have problems getting around your dog, hold a treat in front of his nose; when he stops to eat it, complete the U-turn while he’s stationary, then head in the new direction.
As you walk, alternate these three ways of training him to stay at your side, and reward him for sticking near you. Make sure to do this until it becomes a habit.

First run
Now, apply these techniques to your run. Your first runs should actually just be your dog’s regular walks interspersed with periods of jogging. (Because it’s important to stick to the training, don’t initially try this on your regular run.) Start by jogging a half-block at a time, and be prepared to stop or do about-turns. When he gets better at staying at your side, you can run for longer periods, adding distance gradually. Avoid feeding large meals to your dog right before the run. Small treats or kibble during the run are fine.

Rules of the road
Keep your dog near you so the two of you aren’t hogging the entire track or trail and the leash isn’t creating a tripping hazard for others. If you’re running with a group, make sure he doesn’t run up on others, as clipping their heels could cause a fall. In fact, it’s often best to run between the dog and other people, since dogs sometimes veer off. If you’re on a road, run facing traffic with your dog on your left. Always leash your dog when running on a street or road.

Keeping your dog hydrated
If you’re only running a few miles, your dog does not have breathing issues and the weather is cool, you probably don’t need to carry water. Conversely, if you’d need water during a run, you definitely want to provide the same number of water breaks for your dog.

Knowing when to stop
Dogs are less tolerant of heat than humans, and their main mode of cooling off is by panting. If your dog looks alert and is panting quietly with his mouth open but his tongue is just peeking out of his mouth, then he’s probably okay in terms of heat. If his tongue is hanging out of his mouth, his mouth is open wide and the commissures are pulled back, then it’s time to slow down, or stop for a rest. If his breathing doesn’t go back to normal within a few minutes, end the run. If you’re running at a decent clip, you’ll have other signs that he’s tired: he’ll slow down and start hanging behind you instead of trying to be slightly ahead or right next to you. And if he has to lie down to rest when you stop, then you’ve pushed him too far. Finally, avoid coaxing him to go faster than he wants; endorphins can mask dogs’ pain just as they can our own.

So, that’s the recipe for creating a great canine running partner: Start with training, maintain good manners, follow the rules of the road, stay alert to your dog’s condition and, when in doubt, take a break. Now, get out there and run!

News: Guest Posts
Monument Dogs Photo Contest
Picture proof positive that Kilroy, Tank, Buster and Rex were here

Summer travel season is in full air-conditioned swing, and for many of us that means driving to monuments around this fine country, from Mount Rushmore in South Dakota to a 13-foot-tall, 9,000-pound Booming Prairie Chicken in Rothsay, Minnesota. We pack, we drive, we stop for ice cream, we keep driving, we arrive, we exclaim and we click. And that click is the all-important proof WE WERE HERE! Often in the frame, keeping it real, is the adorable mug of a dear four-footed co-pilot.

These are photos we want to see and share. Your dog in full canine tourist mode—looking patriotic at the base of the Washington Monument or perhaps performing druidic rites at Carhenge in Alliance, Arkansas (yes, a Stonehenge made of cars).

► We’re so excited to see the evidence of your journeys, we’ve made it a contest. Upload your photo and enter to win a Bark goodie bag full of delectable and co-pilot products. (Contest closes August 5.)

7/18/11 UPDATE: We’ve been asked if National Parks count for this contest. So let’s be clear. We’re pretty wide open about this. While we love a certifiable monument, like the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, we want to see pups at all manner of roadside attractions (giant teakettle, anyone?) and memorable spots.

News: Guest Posts
Hiking with a Dog in Oregon
Here’s a guide for you

I live in the Northwest, where we love to grouse about our rainy, gray weather. But as summer warms up (finally!), it’s satisfying to know it won’t heat up so much that I can’t take my dogs hiking—one of our favorite activities. There are only a few days a year along the coast of Oregon and Washington, when mornings and evenings, at least, aren’t cool enough for trekking.

Finding hikes that are good for dogs isn’t always as easy as it sounds so when I break into new terrain, I regularly rely on Mountaineers Books’ Best Hikes with Dogs. (Full disclosure: I’ve written two books for Mountaineers, so I may be a little biased. I’ve seen their dog-passion from the inside, which includes several pups flopping around their Seattle office).

That said, the books in this series do an excellent job of selecting from among many hikes, routes that are a particularly good match for dogs, and that’s what I’m after. What’s a good hike for a dog? It should have ample shade on the trail; streams, rivers or lakes for cooling off; no livestock, packhorses or off-road vehicles; minimal or no poison oak or ivy; trails that are easy on dog paws; few or no treacherous cliffs; few crowds; and, finally, where possible, no leash requirement. I’m happy there are dog-loving hikers who will face the disappointment of a hike gone awry to find trails that meet these criteria.

In the case of Mountaineers’ recent guide, Best Hikes with Dogs: Oregon, 2nd edition, Ellen Morris Bishop enlisted three canine trail testers to vet 76 hikes around the state. I’ve sampled a few in the book—Sandy River Delta, Forest Park Wildwood Trail, Wahclella Falls and Elk Meadows Trail on Mount Hood—and can attest that they deserve to be included. Bishop is concise and thorough with her directions and advice (there are maps and black and white photos as well) but I love how she manages to see the trail from the dog’s perspective, pointing out where a pup might be bewitched by scat or an ant nest and warning about zippy mountain bikes or children. I have dog-eared (what a perfect word) several pages for hikes we want to tackle next time we’re in the state. I can’t wait.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
New Recognition for Therapy Dogs
AKC titling program acknowledges pups in the community

This week, the American Kennel Club started a new program to acknowledge therapy dogs. Now pups and their handlers can earn their AKC Therapy Dog title by documenting 50 visits to facilities such as schools, hospitals and nursing homes. The recognition is open to all AKC registered dogs, both pure and mixed breed.

To be clear, the AKC program doesn't certify therapy dogs, teams must be certified through one of 46 AKC-recognized therapy dog organizations. If you're interested in getting involved with your pup, you can contact one of these groups to find out more information. These therapy organizations screen potential teams and provide liability insurance for facility visits.

I hope that this program will encourage more people to certify their dogs and volunteer. With the AKC's Junior Handler program, there's also the potential for more young people to get involved with therapy work as well. The AKC Therapy Dog title is a great compliment to the STAR Puppy and Canine Good Citizen programs.

When Nemo and I are visiting the hospital or the library, it's so rewarding to see the joy the dogs bring to people's faces. But therapy work is not only beneficial for the recipients. It's been a great way for me to further Nemo's training in different environments and to deepen our relationship as we work together.

Are you planning to work towards the AKC Therapy Dog title?

Good Dog: Activities & Sports
How to Run Barefoot with Your Dog
Perfect landing for toes & paws

I’m neither an early adopter nor an early adapter, but barefoot running is, after all, 200,000 years old — much older than the domestication of dogs. I don’t care for fads or trends, particularly fitness- related ones. I haven’t read Chris McDougall’s book, Born to Run, about Mexico’s Tarahumara Indians who run as much as 50 miles a day barefoot or in crude sandals. What snared me were the myriad magazine articles about the wonders of running sans sneakers (and the skeptical stories in magazines that have a vested interest in running-shoe sales), and the fact that if I didn’t try something different, I’d have to give up running altogether. Which would play hell on Daisy, my dog.

Running is Daisy’s favorite activity. That’s not much of a surprise to active dog owners, but she just turned 14 on Valentine’s Day — the day we chose to celebrate her birthday when we brought her home from the pound. She went through a Frisbee period, then a Chuckit stage, but running is something we’ve always had together. She’s a cow dog, a Kelpie some rancher had abandoned on the Wyoming/Utah border. She came pre-programmed to run and follow some basic voice commands while doing it. I’d start the day off with four miles of carless country roads. Daisy, of course, would put in closer to five or six miles by chasing squirrels and sprinting past me before shooting back and sprinting behind again. Her vet, Dr. Maria, claims she’s the fittest 14-year-old she’s ever seen. It’s the running, I told her. Though Daisy is slowly going blind, she’s farsighted; she routinely bumps into the coffee table, but can still target a squirrel at 100 yards.

Then the saddest thing that could happen to a running dog happened: I turned to cycling with a passion. Bicycles and dogs don’t mix very well; the speeds and distances are too taxing, and routes interface with dangerous traffic. I trained for and rode in a couple of mountain-bike races from Canada to Mexico. They kept me away for a month at a time, and the thousands of training miles were enough to burn me out on bicycling. I hankered for something different, something I could do with Daisy again besides downward dog poses in the living room and walks to the mailbox. Barefoot running seemed custom-fit.

Barefoot aficionados recommend that you start slowly — very slowly. I found out why. I’d run just five minutes and my calves would be sore the next day. After all, I was using muscles and tendons and ligaments that I hadn’t properly utilized since I was a toddler. Daisy didn’t understand why we’d turn back after barely getting warmed up. I added five or 10 minutes at a time and gradually, over some months, built up to five kilometers. My shoes had become vestigial, as useless as Daisy’s dewclaws.

I was a handler on a racing sled-dog team, and one of my jobs was to outfit the huskies with little red pack-cloth racing booties. The dogs hated them and kept kicking them off. The dogs craved the feeling of the trail and I did, too, though at first I felt the trail too much. The blisters on my soles wouldn’t heal. Daisy and I wanted to run longer, but my feet wouldn’t let us. While I was padding along, defying logic, the tarmac heated to egg-frying temps. I found myself on a firewalk with no choice but to hotfoot it back to the trailhead. “You need some shoes,” remarked an old lady with a Schnauzer. My feet, heat- and friction-blistered, resembled jerkied buffalo tongue for three days. Then, I bought a pair of Vibram FiveFingers, the glovelike minimalist footies with separate toe compartments that make human feet look like gorilla feet. I haven’t looked back.

Barefoot running, like wine, is all about terroir. You feel the earth, even when it’s paved, in a different way. Like a dog’s, your feet and legs are your highly advanced suspension system, and with each step, the ground sends signals through your limbs to your brain for processing. You, in turn, finetune your footfalls to meet the ground; there is no padded, canted running shoe between you and the experience.

Ankle-deep mud. My family and I were visiting my parents in rural southeastern Iowa over Christmas vacation. There’s a 1,600-acre refuge nearby, Geode State Park, that is seldom visited, especially in bad weather — we had all seven miles of muddy trail to ourselves. A mile down the trail and the dry creek bed that we usually cross in two strides was running five feet deep with snowmelt. A hard rain pelted down on us.

Daisy had tangled with a wild turkey hen the last time we were here (the turkey, protecting her nest, won) and dog paddled across the creek to seek a rematch, allowing for current and playing the angle like a Labrador Retriever — I’d catch up to her when I got across. I began bushwhacking upstream through multif lora rose to find a way to cross without subjecting myself to a hypothermic ford. I found an 18-inch oak log stripped of bark but coated with fine moss, slick as snot on a doorknob. The oak bridged the ad hoc river five feet above its surface — if I fell, there were limbs to hit before I found myself in the drink. I inched gangplank-style to test the log, adjusting my trim with arms outstretched like wings. My feet contoured to the tree like an ape’s. But it was taking longer than I expected. Halfway through the tightrope act, I remembered Daisy, and called to remind her that we were out here together and not to get too attached to tracking the turkey.

Nothing. Just the “whoosh” sound of the swift creek.

I crept out a little farther and tried not to look at the coffee-colored torrent below. “Daisy!” No dog. Then I felt something, a different kind of wet, on the back of my calf. Daisy’s nose. My half-blind running buddy had circled back, recrossed the creek, followed my scent upstream and followed me onto the slick log. Now I worried more about her — if she fell, her 69-in-human-years body would hit a lot of wood before landing in the fast water, and there was a possibility she’d get tangled in the brush being carried along by the current.

She couldn’t turn around. At least, I didn’t think she should. But her claws gave her the advantage of all-paw-drive. Could she trace the log without close-range eyesight? She had to — I couldn’t step over her. We were both committed to the log walk. I don’t like these situations, am not fond of sketchy heights. But there was nothing to do but inch onward. Daisy followed, and we made it to the muddy bank.

We went back the next day and did it again. Then the day after that. The water had receded, but that didn’t matter. What did matter was that I’d found serious joy in running again. With my favorite running partner. And Daisy’s hardly missed a step in her old age, or maybe it just seems she hasn’t since I’ve gone barefoot.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Biking with Dogs
Get some exercise with your pup in tow

As gas prices continue to rise, many more people are discovering the joys of riding a bike. It's a green form of transportation and great exercise. So it's only natural that people would want to include their dogs on rides.

This Sunday, New York City's Direct Action Environmental Organization Time's Up! is hosting their fourth annual Doggie Pedal Parade in Manhattan's Washington Square Park. The ride will highlight bicycles adapted to transport pets. There will be music, refreshments, and dogs for adoption.

On Thursday, they'll holding a free Pup Your Ride Workshop and Bike Decorating where Time's Up! volunteer mechanics will be on-hand to assist participants in attaching baskets and carriers.

I always feel guilty when I go for a bike ride and leave my dogs at home. Now that it's getting warmer, I'm planning on training Nemo to come along with me on short rides.

The ASPCA recommends that you train your dog not to pull when you're on the bike and to use a Springer, a coil spring designed to absorb and reduce the force of sudden tugs. Be sure to keep a close eye on your dog since it's easy for them to get over-exerted since they're running and you're on wheels.

Do you bike with your pups?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Summer School Gone to the Dogs
Learn new skills in the coming months

Next month, my puppy, Remy, and I are headed up to Susan Garrett's Say Yes! Dog Training for two camps, Advances in Dog Training and Critical Elements for Sport and Life (formerly know as Puppy Camp). I can't wait to spend four full days dedicated to honing my dog training skills and working with Remy.

This summer, use some of your vacation days to learn more about dog-related topics, sharpen your training skills, meet fellow pet lovers, and spend quality time with your furry crew. There are many upcoming opportunities to develop existing skills and learn new ones.

Activities For You and Your Pup

Dog Scouts Camp in St. Helen, Mich. - June 20-25 and July 11-16
Earn Dog Scout badges while introducing your pup to agility, dock diving, hiking, clicker training, freestyle and boating, just to name a few of the activities. There's even a class to teach your dog how to paint! Proceeds from the camp support the Dog Scouts of America's educational and charitable endeavors.

Splash for Joy in Trumbull, Conn. - July 1-3
If your dog loves water, they'll love this weekend dedicated to watersports. Your pups' confidence and focus will increase as they learn various skills and games. Plus you'll both get a great workout!

Canine Country Camp at Glen Highland Farm in Morris, N.Y. - July 16-21
Enjoy 175 acres of trails, meadows and swimming, while partaking in a multitude of activities including agility, tracking, water sports, herding, flyball and treibball. When the dogs are napping, you can attend lectures on animal communication, Tellington touch and canine massage. Proceeds from the camp benefit the work of Glen Highland Farm and Sweet Border Collie Rescue.

K9 Nose Work Training Camp in Poyntelle, Penn. - September 2-6
Learn more about this new sport at a 3.5 day sleepover camp taught by the K9 Nose Work founders. Dogs of all levels are welcome and will be introduced to box work, odor, and exterior and vehicle searches.

Activities For You

Taking Action for Animals Conference in Wash, D.C. - July 15-18
Discuss ideas and solutions to creating a better world for animals at this annual conference. Topics include protecting puppy mill dogs, building advocacy campaigns, addressing legal issues and developing grassroots campaigns. The conference also includes a Student Summit on Sunday for teens and young adults.

Chicken Camp in Sequim, Wash. - various dates
Sharpen your clicker skills by training a chicken at one of these camps, the brainchild of legendary animal trainers, Bob and Marian Bailey. The chicken's fast speed and low tolerance for bad training will challenge you to improve your coordination and timing.

Are you planning on attending any dog-related camps or workshops this summer? If you're stuck at home, Julia Kamysz Lane will be blogging about online canine courses in the coming weeks.

News: Guest Posts
What’s your Best Bet for Summer Dog Fun?
Be a part of our summer guide, and win a Dog Is My Co-Pilot bumper sticker

It may be hard for some of us in colder, wetter parts of the country to really believe that summer is coming. But as sure as a treat follows ­ a click!, the clouds will part, the temperatures will rise, and school breaks will commence. Before we know it, our dogs will be waiting at the front door with a Frisbee in their mouths, bags packed with treats and fresh water, wagging their tails, the eager smiles on their faces asking: “What fun have you planned for me?” We don’t want to disappoint.

  So, what’s your idea of a perfect summer adventure with your pup. Do you have a favorite urban stroll that ends at a canine ice cream truck? A mountain hike with boundable meadows and splashable streams? How about a dive-ready waterhole or smooth, sandy beach? Do you join your buddy at a dog camp or bring her along to seriously pup-friendly festivals or farmer’s markets? Have you've discovered a divine dog-loving  cafe or al fresco yappy hour?   And because we're all about positive reinforcement, we plan to reward your great ideas. If your suggestion is included in our summer magazine guide, we will give you full credit (as long as we know how to contact you), plus you'll receive a Dog Is My Co-Pilot bumper sticker, so you can trick out your dogmobile for future travels. Be sure to tell us the name and location of your special place.   Help us make this the best summer ever for all Bark pups!