Dog's Life: Lifestyle
A Meant-To-Be Dog
I was destined to meet Radar

The kids and I came home from a long Friday afternoon following a long week and ready for some R & R, and found that we had company, which was good news. We were all enthusiastic in our hellos to our friend Nick, who we had not seen since before leaving for Costa Rica over 5 months ago. He had come over to see my husband, and us, too. Then, we embarrassed ourselves with bad manners by doubling our enthusiasm for his new dog, who was visiting as well. To exaggerate, it was something like, “Hi, Nick, great to see you!” followed by, “Ooh! Wow! Yay! A dog! He’s so cute! Can we pet him? Oh, he’s adorable!” Pretty typical for our family, I’m sorry to say.

My kids, honestly, are delighted about any canine visitor, and I’m pretty much the same. Still, this time, even I was over the top, and I think that’s a sign that this dog was meant to wander into my life and make me happy, even though he’s not actually my dog. First of all, this dog is a Havanese, which is my favorite breed of dog after the mixed breed. I’m not sure why Havanese always delight me, but I’ve never met one that I didn’t love. This little guy was no exception. (I’ve always thought it was fitting that I fell in love with a breed from Latin America—the Havanese is named after Havana, Cuba—since I am so interested in and comfortable in that culture.)

Second of all, when I asked Nick about the dog’s name, the answer was a pleasant surprise. The dog’s name is Radar. This literally made me squeal with delight because my mentor in the field of dog behavior, Patricia McConnell, Ph.D. used to joke that I was like Radar from the TV show MASH. Her reasoning was that I had a tendency to anticipate what was needed when I was her teaching assistant for her class at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I loved the show, I loved the character, and I loved being compared to him.

Regrettably, Radar is not my dog, but I can’t help but feel a strong connection to him anyway. I just love the little guy! Have you ever met a dog that wasn’t yours and was never going to be yours, but you still felt like the dog was supposed to come into your life?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Rescue Effort for Sochi Canines
Volunteers mobilize for a last ditch effort to save strays

While the Sochi government ruthlessly kills stray dogs in preparation for the Olympic Games, animal rescuers have mobilized to save as many pups as possible. On Monday the volunteers were told that they had until Thursday to remove dogs from the Olympic Village or the animals would be shot.

Russian billionaire and Sochi Games investor Oleg V. Deripaska has backed the rescue effort by funding PovoDog, a makeshift shelter on the outskirts of the city. The name is a play on the Russian word povodok, which means leash. Some have called the outdoor kennels a "doghouse shantytown," but there was no time to build an indoor structure.

All week volunteers have been rounding up dogs with a golf cart and bringing them to PovoDog. They've saved about 80 pups so far, but sometimes it feels like a losing battle. Animal rights advocate Tatyana Leshchenko estimates that over 1,000 dogs have been killed since October. Responding to public outcry, the International Olympic Committee told reporters that no healthy dogs were being killed, but that's hard to believe.

Some say that these strays were abandoned by families whose spacious homes were demolished to make way for the Olympic buildings. They were compensated with new apartments but not everyone brought their dogs along. Compounding the problem is the lack of neutering in Russian culture.

Rehoming these pups will be difficult. Shelter volunteer Nadezhda Mayboroda says that everyone in Russia wants a shepherd or pit bull, so the mixed breeds will be the hardest to place—a trend they hope to reverse with a new outreach campaign. In the meantime, volunteers are urging Olympic visitors to think about adopting one of the dogs in need. Check out their Facebook page to meet some of the available pups.

There have also been individual efforts to help out as well. Moscow resident Igor Airapetyan was so upset over the dog culling that he drove the 20 hours to Sochi to rescue as many dogs as he could fit in his car. Now he's back in Moscow trying to find homes for the 11 pups he rescued. Igor is disappointed in the Olympics, which he has always considered to be a symbol of peace. He's hoping that this canine crisis will unite animal protection groups in Russia so that conditions will improve, long after international news crews leave Sochi.

Check out a video of the lucky pups in Igor's car!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Clickety Clips
Collection of online dog training videos

If you’re looking for extra frustration in your life, may I suggest trying to locate dog helpful dog training videos on the web? They are the proverbial needle in the haystack, and trying to find them is an excellent strategy for destroying your daily productivity.

Finding the right dog training videos is a daunting task because there are millions of videos out there and many of them have problems ranging from not being useful to being potential harmful to you and your dog. For novice trainers, it’s a huge challenge just to determine which videos feature techniques that are both humane and effective. Even the most experienced trainers can struggle to wade through the endless amount of material to find what they are looking for.

A new site called Clickety Clips is seeking to streamline the process by cataloging the best dog training videos to make for easier searching. Only videos using positive methods are included. Because the site is committed to positive training techniques, clicker training videos are featured prominently, but if you train with other markers or with a different style entirely, there is still plenty of material of great interest.

The videos are arranged by general topics such as Puppies, Wellbeing, Talks and Fun. Within each main category, the videos are organized further. For example, in the Puppies section, there are videos in the following categories: house training, recall, biting & chewing, before you get a dog, kids & dogs, basic cues and walking.

Clickety Clips is still a new site that is building its inventory of videos, so I suspect it will grow from its modest numbers now to considerably more in the future. It has some great videos from Sarah Whitehead, Sophia Yin, Ian Dunbar, Susan Friedman, Jean Donaldson and Gwen Bailey among others. I’d like to see them include videos from other well-known trainers including Karen Pryor, Laura Monaco Torelli, Patricia McConnell, Pia Silvani and Teoti Anderson.

I had a lot of fun wandering around the site and watching more videos than I had time for. Two of my favorites are Sue Sternberg’s At the dog park: the importance of participating and The Family Dog’s How to kiss a dog (not).  It’s refreshing to see video after video with reputable information and useful instructions.

Have you checked out this site yet and found a video that you really loved?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dogs Being Killed in Sochi
Animals are being exterminated in advance of the Olympic Games

The Sochi Olympics has been met with controversy on many fronts, but now reports are surfacing that the Sochi government is overturning their decision to control the stray dog problem humanely in advance of the Games. The government is worried that the animals may bite visitors or interfere with the competitions.

Back in April, Sochi decided against hiring an extermination company to kill homeless animals after strong opposition from animal rights groups. The government promised to move towards sterilization and build a new animal shelter. Now it seems that they've gone back on their word and returned to the original plan. On top of that, there seems to be no evidence that a new shelter was ever built.

According to Basya Services, the Sochi government has hired the company to "catch and dispose" of stray dogs. Reports also indicate that the pups are not always euthanized in the most humane manner (Poison seems to be common, which besides being a horrible death, is a dangerous thing to leave lying around. There is also a history of people shooting or stabbing stray animals).

If the Sochi government did try the humane approach, it doesn't seem like they allocated enough resources to make it successful. Admittedly the sterliziation method takes more time than their "quick fix," time that they no longer have. I can imagine that existing shelters and rescue groups are most likely overwhelmed.  

At this late hour it seems there is little that can be changed, but I hope that the attention and public pressure that Sochi receives will spur them to make a cultural shift in responsible pet ownership. Neutering pets is not common in Russia and that, along with less people abandoning animals, would make long strides in solving the overpopulation problem. It's sad that so many dogs will lose their lives over a sporting event.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Decker’s Dogs
Denver Bronco helps military vets get service dogs

Eric Decker is a wide receiver for the Denver Broncos, but making it to this year’s Super Bowl is only one of his recent accomplishments. More important in the eyes of many is the start of his foundation Decker’s Dogs.

Decker’s Dogs is a part of Operation Freedom, which is the branch of Freedom Service Dogs of America that focuses on helping members of the military transition from active duty and combat to civilian life. They are paired with trained service dogs that allow them to function with less fear and fewer restrictions so that they can be more independent and happier.  Many vets have PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), suffer from panic attacks and flashbacks, have TBIs (Traumatic Brain Injuries) or are suicidal, and service dogs can make life better for people with such issues as well as those facing other challenges.

All of the dogs in Operation Freedom, including those in Decker’s Dogs, are rescued from shelters and trained to be service dogs. Dogs are provided to clients free of charge, but it takes roughly $25,000 and many months to train a single service dog. That’s where Eric Decker and his wife Jessica come in. Since starting Decker’s Dogs, they have raised many thousands of dollars, and placed their first service dog. They plan to place two more by this summer.

Maybe you are rooting for the Denver Broncos or the Seattle Seahawks in the upcoming Super Bowl. Perhaps you didn’t know who was playing and certainly don’t care who wins. Either way, it’s still easy to cheer for Decker’s Dogs and the veterans and dogs whose lives they change.

News: Editors
A Puppy on her mind

Another great ad is launching at the Super Bowl, this one is from General Mills and reprises its multiracial family ad for Cheerios that stirred up a lot of intense and nasty hoopla online (as well as thumbs up opinions too) when it aired in May. Good for Cheerios that they are going with this family again, and it will mark a first appearance on Super Bowl Sunday for the company. And, no, there isn’t a dog in it, but there’s certainly a mentioned of a promised one. Little Gracie is a doll in how she raises the cheerios “poker” hand with her dad for a  “puppy” as her ante, but almost better is the expression on the mom’s face! What’s not to love about this?

Watch it!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Pit/Great Dane mix with an Unusual Start

A late night call on standby had me driving my animal control truck across town in the dark to the scene of a vehicle accident. I hadn’t been given many details and hoped it wasn’t a fatality. When I arrived, I found a truck wrapped around a telephone pole and several police cars and a tow truck at the scene. An officer led me to his patrol car where he pointed to the back seat.

A big black puppy stared back at me, his glossy coat highlighted by the flashing blue and amber lights of the emergency vehicles. I opened the door and called to him softly “hey buddy, what are you doing here?” He wagged and wiggled closer and I scooped him up. He looked young but his feet were massive and he was all heavy bone and knobby knees. I studied him in the headlights of the patrol car for a moment. Black Lab? No, the coat was too short and sleek and he was bigger than a Lab. He looked a bit like a Pit Bull but he was too big and his ears were too droopy for that. He may have even had some Great Dane or Mastiff in there, but either way, he was gorgeous.

I was told that the accident occurred after some gang members were involved in a high speed police chase. The chase ended when they wrecked their truck and fled the scene. When officers arrived, they found drugs, guns and one black, knobby-kneed puppy in the wreckage.  I was amazed that he wasn’t injured and he didn’t even seem upset by his predicament.

The suspects were later apprehended on serious charges and the puppy was never claimed. A local wildlife rescue worker, Danielle, fell in love with him and adopted him. She named him Morrison and he has grown to be huge, muscular bundle of fun and love that delights everyone who meets him. He goes to work with Danielle every day and lives the life every dog deserves.

Did your dog have an interesting or unusual start? Share it with us.

News: Guest Posts
Rufo's Story

This video is the story of Rufo, a pit bull mix who, though loving and sweet, could not get adopted. He was deposited at a muncipal shelter at age one. For the next six years he lived in a cage twenty two hours a day.

Now adopted and one of our Smiling Dogs in our new issue. Rufo has many reasons to be smiling now.


Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Promoting Annual Checkups for Pets
Vet visits are down and health problems are up

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the number of canine vet visits dropped 21 percent since 2001 (and a whopping 30 percent for cats), while the number of emergency visits increased. Meanwhile, the Banfield Pet Hospital network has seen an increase in pet obesity, diabetes, arthritis, and thyroid and kidney disease. It seems that more and more people are waiting until their pets are very sick to bring them to the vet.

In response, a new campaign has been started by Partners for Healthy Pets, a collaboration between the AVMA, the American Animal Hospital Association, and more than 90 other veterinary organizations. to promote annual checkups for all pets. They want to let people know that preventative care saves lives and money by identifying problems before they require surgery or complicated treatment.

As an example, I was shocked to learn that only 55 percent of dogs are on heartworm medication, one of the easiest ways to prevent a fatal disease.

So why aren't people going to the vet? The 2008 economic downturn certainly didn't help, but the decline has been in motion for years. Some think that the research against annual vaccination or the proliferation of pet health information on the internet started the trend. Others believe that vets need to become better at marketing their skills, which is an interesting take.

Most of us at some point probably received a reminder postcard from our vet about vaccines, but an annual wellness exam nvolves much more than booster shots. Dr. Karen Felsted, a Dallas veterinary consultant, believes that vets need to describe the full value of what goes on in a check-up, such as how they observe gait and look for other behavioral clues that may indicate more serious problems. This is particularly important because animals like to hide illness as long as possible.

I always say that you are the best judge of your pet's health. After all, you're the one who sees your dog's behavior every day and knows if something isn't normal. But your pup's health should be a partnership between you and your veterinarian. If you're not bringing your pet to the veterinarian at least annually, find one that you respect and trust. Your dog will thank you for it!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Puppy Dog Eyes Influence Humans
Infantile features have power

Those big puppy dog eyes may be powerful in addition to just being cute. According to a recent study, they may actually affect human choice about which dogs to adopt. The researchers who conducted the study “Paedomorphic Facial Expressions Give Dogs a Selective Advantage” found that dogs whose facial expressions made them look more puppyish were adopted more quickly from shelters than dogs who did not show such facial expressions. (Paedomorphism is the retention of infantile or juvenile traits into adulthood.)

One of the most prominent paedomorphic features is large eyes relative to the size of the face. This trait can be enhanced by raising the eyebrows which makes the overall height and size of the eyes seem bigger. It was this action of eyebrow raising that was studied in the experiment.

A total of 27 dogs were a part of the study. To minimize variation in facial features, all of the dogs were of similar types: Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Mastiffs and mixed bull breeds. Dogs were filmed for 2 minutes and researchers recorded the number of eyebrow raises and tail wags that each dog performed as well as noting how much time the dog spent at the front of the kennel. Frequency of eyebrow raises was associated with shorter times until adoption. Specifically, dogs who raised their eyebrows 5 times during filming were adopted in an average of 50 days, those that performed 10 eyebrow raises were adopted in an average of 35 days, and dogs who did it 15 times had an average waiting time until adoption of only 28 days.

Interestingly, they found that amount of tail wagging and time at the front of the kennel were not strongly associated with time until being adopted even though such traits are typically considered favorable behavioral signs of friendliness. It would be interesting to know if the eyebrow raising behavior correlates with temperament and suitability as a pet or if it is a behavior that serves more strictly to encourage caregiving behavior in humans.

These results may shed light on the domestication of dogs. It has been proposed that the juvenile traits of dogs arose as a byproduct of selection against aggression. This line of reasoning claims that people chose to associate with the least aggressive canines, and that the evolution of puppyish features and behavior developed as an accidental consequence of those choices. Experiments support the idea that selecting against aggression does lead to the evolution of juvenile traits. However, this latest study suggests that the puppylike features themselves may have influenced which canines became closely associated with humans and that such features may have evolved earlier in the process of domestication than previously thought.

Do your buddy’s puppy dog eyes exert a powerful influence over you?