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News: Guest Posts
Channel Fido’s Inner Felix
Thrill your dog with a Chase It Pet Toy.

Do you have a dog who would give his right paw to chase after a squirrel, a cat or a plastic shopping bag fluttering down the street? I do, his name is Wally, and Wally loves his Chase It Pet Toy. The Chase It is simple in concept: You hang onto the end of the pole and flip around the stuffie, which taps into the dog’s instinctual drive to chase small, fast-moving prey. The ensuing game is hilarious to watch (ever see a canine back-flip?) and physically exhausting for the pup. A game of Chase It wears out my high energy Pit Bull Terrier in twenty minutes, which makes the Chase It Pet Toy a godsend for those mornings when I choose to hit the snooze button instead of the road for our predawn walk.

 

Check out the Chase It Pet Toy in action:
 

Culture: Readers Write
Lessons from Prunella
Advice for stress-free coping with an aged, beloved yet incontinent dog.

A few years ago, my dog Prunella was diagnosed with degenerative myelopathy, a disease of the nervous system that results in paralysis. At that time, my vet said that except for not being able to walk, Prunella would be just fine. And for a while, that was true. Eventually, she needed a wheelchair, but she was still the same happy dog—ask anyone who saw her rolling around San Francisco.

The vet also hinted that how long Prunella lived might not be determined by her health, but by how long I could stand the incontinence that accompanied her rear-end paralysis.

I soon learned what she meant. The incontinence became the most stressful aspect of my dog’s disease. Although I saw how some people could be driven to make the difficult decision to euthanize, I couldn’t consider that while she was still such a vibrant dog. My fiancé and I struggled with her incontinence, and taught ourselves how to deal with it.

I searched online for tips, but didn’t find a lot. I discovered several forums where people asked for advice, and the discussion turned into a debate over whether or not to put the dog down. Ugh. I read several pages where people simply accepted the mess that came with caring for their aged, beloved, yet incontinent dogs. Ugh. Just because I didn’t want to give up my dog did not mean I would accept living in squalor.

Since there doesn’t seem to be a lot of available information, I want to share some things we found to be helpful.

BASIC GEAR

Many online pet stores have lists of gear for incontinent dogs. Here are the things we found most useful.

Supportive bed with a waterproof cover. Ours was from Drs. Foster and Smith. It was key because most of Prunella’s accidents happened on her bed at night. To clean up, I simply wiped off the liner.

Puppy training pads.  We started out with diapers and disposable liners, but found that the diapers leaked, spread the mess everywhere she went, and pressed it into her fur. We switched to puppy training pads. The mess stayed in one place—on the pad—and not on our dog, who was smart enough to move away. Cleaning up became as easy as throwing away the pad.

Medications. Take your dog to the vet, and make sure there isn’t a medical problem that is causing incontinence. Prunella’s vet prescribed Phenylpropanolamine (PPA), which helped a lot.

Floor protection. Some people recommend covering floors with plastic sheeting or the plastic mats that go under computer chairs, but I think those look depressing. I bought a bunch of carpets from the Crate and Barrel Outlet Store. They look okay, can be cleaned, and are cheap enough to be semi-disposable.

COPING STRATEGIES

Gearing up is only the first step. Here’s the really hard-won knowledge.

Don't freak out! Prunella knew she was not supposed to relieve herself inside. However, she could not control herself, and in the end, did not even know when it was happening. When she had accidents, I could tell she was afraid I’d be mad, so I tried not to make her feel worse by punishing her or raising my voice. Staying calm will keep you from being stressed, sad, and looking at your dog like maybe she’s had a good, full life after all.

Learn to express the urine from your dog’s bladder. Prunella could not generate enough pressure to empty her bladder. She would have accidents, even after a long walk. Helping her urinate prevented accidents and reduced the risk of urinary tract infections. It takes a little practice, but I promise that she only peed on my shoes once. Ask your vet for a lesson, and check YouTube.com for instructional videos.

Consider supplementing your dog’s diet with high-fiber foods. We fed Prunella lots of brown rice and vegetables. I won’t specify the reasons why this is helpful, but let me just say that I cannot be more firm about this recommendation. The diet also made it easy for her to move her bowels and kept her regular. It was a relief to know she had taken care of business before I left for work.

Establish a quick and easy clean-up system. We relied on the following tools and strategies so our response to a mess was simple and decisive.

  • We created a cleaning station for gear and dog. Ours was in the backyard, near the hose. It consisted of a bucket, detergent, dog shampoo and brush, a place to air-dry everything, and towels. Having everything right there made cleaning so easy. The bucket neatly held everything when not in use.
  • Invested in a carpet-cleaning machine. Prunella could no longer walk on slick surfaces like wood or tile, so we needed to have carpet everywhere. Owning my own carpet cleaner was the difference between thinking, “Boo hoo, I have a semi-continent crippled dog and I live in a dump” and being too embarrassed by dog hair and weird smells to have guests over. Sure, we may have served tea and homemade lemon bars to my future in-laws while our dog took a big pee in the middle of the room, but at least it didn’t look or smell like that happened all the time. Even if it did.
  • Stocked up on stain and odor remover. Since her behavior was involuntary, we didn’t bother with formulas with enzymes that keep pets from peeing indoors. We pulled out the big guns—our choice was Resolve.
  • Repurposed bar towels, lots of them, for drying Prunella, wiping floors and blotting the carpet.
  • Isolated the laundry. It’s depressing if smelly dog stuff is scattered all over the house. It’s much nicer to have one small bin to hold gear and towels until it’s time to do laundry, which we did often, with lots of hot water and bleach.

To anyone who is just beginning to deal with this, please know that it gets better. Once you have developed your own system, your stress level will go way down. You will remember why you love your dog again. You will wonder how anyone could even consider putting their dog down, merely for being incontinent. It is a lot of work but it can be done.

Almost two years after she first started exhibiting signs of degenerative myelopathy, Prunella became unable to walk in her wheelchair, or even move a few inches for a bowl of steak. When she no longer seemed happy, we felt it was time to let her go. We still miss her terribly.

News: Guest Posts
Three-Year Rabies Requirement
UPDATED. Finally Arkansas. Alabama and Rhode Island next?

The only state in the union to require a rabies vaccination every year may be changing its tune. Weeks after Arkansas extended its rabies booster requirement from every year to every three years, Alabama Senator Larry Dixon introduced legislation to do the same in his state. In addition, Senate Bill 469 includes a medical exemption clause for animals whose health would be jeopardized by the vaccination. The bill has been assigned to the Senate Health Committee. [Editor's Note: Progress in Alabama. On March 26, the Senate Health Committee has sent the three-year rabies vaccination requirement to the senate for a vote.]

Proponents of less frequent vaccination argue that the booster provides immunity that lasts for years and carries risks for significant adverse reactions including autoimmune diseases. Leading the fight against over-vaccination and spearheading research to determine the long-term duration of the rabies vaccine is The Rabies Challenge Fund. After success in Arkansas, the Fund began nudging legislators in Alabama and also Rhode Island, which has a two-year requirement.

Finally, earlier this week, Wichita, Kansas, extended its municipal ordinance from one- to three-year rabies requirement. (Unfortunately, these revisions to the city animal ordinance also included restrictions on Pit Bull owners, although the City Council rejected an outright breed ban.)

News: Guest Posts
Fetch the Meteorite
Forget about balls, maybe your dog can bring home something valuable.

Do you have one of those dogs who collects rocks? Maybe even plunges into lakes or streambeds to retrieve them? People sort of smile, sympathetically, when they see it; it’s cute but a little weird. Well, all those stone-loving pups with the ground-down teeth have a new patron saint: a Texas stray named Hopper. He had the good fortune to grab a meteorite in his chops in the weeks after a fireball hit the earth near Austin in February, which made him the first dog ever to recover a meteorite, according to Rob Wesel, a Portland, Oregon, a collector of space debris. Wesel knows a little something about dogs and rocks from outer space; his website Nakhla Dog Meteorites is named for a dog reportedly vaporized by a meteorite in Egypt in 1911.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Behavior: When New Puppy Barks at Men

Question: Shiloh is a six-month-old terrier mix female from the rescue shelter that we brought home February 2. She is terrific and has taken well to our household including our five-year-old terrier mix male. My concern is that no matter when my husband enters a room she barks at him like she has never seen him before even though he talks to her using her name first. The barking is continuous, not just a short bark. He plays with her, even hand-feeds her at times, pets her and does all he can to help her bond with him and she seems willing to let him do this.  She seems to be “easy” around females and shies away from most males. Shiloh bonded with me right away.
 
Please, any suggestions would be appreciated as it is making my husband increasingly uncomfortable. Thank you.

--Audrey Silberman, Durham, N.C.

Answer: Shiloh seems afraid. Often the scariest situation for dogs is the appearance or approach of a person with whom they are not yet comfortable. Many fearful dogs react more to men than to women, especially men who are tall, have deep voices, broad shoulders, a strong jaw, or facial hair.

To help Shiloh exhibit better behavior when your husband enters the room, it is essential to change the way she feels in that situation. Focus on changing her emotions so the behavior will stop rather than trying to stop the barking directly.

There are two ways your husband can help Shiloh overcome her fear so that she does not bark at him in this context. One technique is to present himself in the least threatening way possible. When he enters a room, he should turn slightly to the side, lean ever so slightly away from the dog, and squat.

The second technique is to teach Shiloh to associate the appearance of your husband with feeling good. The basic idea is to consistently pair up what Shiloh loves best with your husband entering the room. For most dogs, this means steak, chicken or freeze-dried liver (no dry biscuits!), but some dogs adore balls or squeaky toys. Instead of her thinking, in some canine sort of way, “Yikes! He’s here and he’s so imposing!” we want her to think, “Here he is again! Oh boy oh boy oh boy, where are those super treats (or toys)? I’m so happy he’s here with that magical stuff!”

To make the combination of these two techniques most effective, every time your husband enters the room, he should do so calmly, position himself in the non-imposing stance, and immediately (within a second) throw the treats or toys to her. Ideally, he will toss them to her before she reacts, but he should toss them anyway, even if she’s already starting barking. It’s better to toss them as opposed to handing them directly to her. That way, he does not have to approach her, which could set her off. Her special favorite item should be reserved for this situation only to make the pairing with your husband as tight as possible in her mind.

Hopefully, your husband will soon have a special place in Shiloh’s heart. Best wishes and paws crossed for all of you.

News: Guest Posts
No More Bad Fur Days
Attack of the hairballs? Furminator to the rescue.

Where there's a dog, there's dog hair, and if you have double-coated dogs, you’re looking at dog-hair dust bunnies the size of, well, actual rabbits. After living with Huskies for more than 25 years, I was skeptical that any single grooming device could make a difference. Until I tried the FURminator. This cool tool with a silly name is almost magic. Not only does it leave the dog’s coat tidy and sleek, it’s nicely weighted so it’s easy on the wrists. Plus, it doesn’t get jammed up with hair and won’t scratch your dog’s skin. Watch the video on the FURminator website--that carpet of loose hair isn't advertising exaggeration. This is one tool I'd hate to be without.

News: Guest Posts
Helping Pups Out of the Dog House
Charlotte ad man applies a little creative thinking to the foreclosure crisis.

If simple necessity is the mother of invention, you gotta believe a crisis like our current sub-prime/banking/global market implosion is going to spark some pretty incredible results. (Think: Octuplets without the nuttiness.) One glimmer comes from Charlotte, N.C., where the proverbial light bulb flashed for Phil Jones, when he read an article about the rising number of pets abandoned to his local shelter due to foreclosures. As art director at Wray Ward, a Charlotte advertising agency, his job is to attract attention and motivate folks to take action. So he installed a large dog house at the shelter hung with a “Foreclosure” banner and a box filled not with listing sheets but dogs available for adoption. It sums up the problem in a glance and then offers a way to help.

On the subject of foreclosures, there’s a little good news mixed in with the climbing unemployment numbers and plunging Dow. According to Foreclosure.com, foreclosures slowed “dramatically” in January. Dropping more than 25 percent to the lowest number since April 2008. This is good news for everyone. Still, at more than 70,000 foreclosures per month, the numbers are very high. Remember, the Humane Society of the United States’ Foreclosure Pets Grant Fund, which supports local shelters and rescue groups working to expand their networks of foster homes, starting pet food pantries, or providing financial assistance for veterinary care.

News: Guest Posts
Oprah Opts to Adopt
UPDATED. Shelter pups get another shout out from the talk-show superstar.

[Editor's Note: One of the two dogs Oprah adopted from her local shelter has died of canine parvovirus.]

After Oprah Winfrey’s beloved Cocker spaniels, Sophie and Solomon, passed away last year, she announced that she would adopt her next dog when the time was right. Last Friday, March 6, she kept that promise and introduced new family member Sadie on her show. Oprah and her partner, Stedman Graham, adopted the adorable 10-week-old Cocker spaniel puppy through PAWS (Pets Are Worth Saving) Chicago, the city’s largest no-kill shelter. Sadie was one of 11 puppies in the litter. Three of her siblings still needed homes and also appeared on Friday’s show. They quickly found new homes by that afternoon thanks to the extra attention. Hopefully, other shelter pups around the country also benefited from Oprah’s example.

News: Guest Posts
Supernanny to Save the Day
Petfinder.com enlists Victoria Stilwell--and you--to help troubled pup.

I’ve been avoiding the latest celebrity trainer, Victoria Stilwell of Animal Planet’s “It’s Me or the Dog.” I figured she was just another quirky import with an accent. But I love watching trainers in action, especially from the comfort of my own couch, so I was thrilled to read Helene F. Rubinstein’s thumbs-up on Stilwell and her positive methods in the current issue of The Bark.

No sooner had I declared my TiVo affiliation to this Punk-Supernanny-hybrid that I learned one behaviorally-challenged homeless hound will soon be a Stilwell clients. Yahoo.

Of course, in the world of American Idol and Survivor, the public is going to pick that dog. First, the more than 12,000 shelter- and rescue-group members of Petfinder.com were asked to nominate wonderful dogs whose behavior issues have prevented them from being adopted. Those nominations were narrowed down to five dogs—Ollie the nipper, George the barker, Trojan the puller, Liza Bean the shy girl, and Charlize the unmanageable.

I don’t know how you’ll choose a favorite, but if you can, place your vote (through March 22). Stilwell will provide a free behavioral consultation to highest vote-earner's adoption organization and (we're optimistic here) future forever family or individual. Runners-up receive great exposure and a copy of the Petfinder.com Adopted Dog Bible.

You can track the lucky dog’s progress at the Petfinder blog.
 

News: Guest Posts
What Makes A Great Dog Person?
Where there’s an ideal, there’s a way. Help us set the standard.

There’s a lot of focus on what makes a good dog, but what about a good dog person? That’s one of the goals here at The Bark. Through our stories—directly or indirectly—we explore this simple question. Now, we’re putting that question to you.

You’re out there in the agility rings and the off-leash parks, navigating icy sidewalks and fretting in veterinarian’s waiting rooms. You read pet food labels, sign animal-welfare petitions, reward your pals for dropping slobbery toys at your feet. Everyday you probably strive to be the best guardian you can be. So we ask: How do you do it?

We’ve started our list of simple, concrete actions that can make us the sorts of people about whom our dogs brag. We hope you’ll add to our list, improve on our suggestions, or just tell us what you do to be a good dog person. We’ll gather together all your intel (posted as a comment or sent to webeditor@thebark.com) to write the first-ever Bark reader-driven guide for how to be a top-flight, A-1 dog person.

Let’s get started.

Double-down on physical and mental exercise. Teach your dog a new trick. Take breaks for games together throughout the day (if you’re lucky enough to be together.) Enroll with your dog in a class such as agility, Flyball, Rally-O, or even an obedience refresher course.

Take longer walks—in new places—with your dog. Use the time to engage with your pup. Call to her often, reward her recalls, have her go into a down, reward her, then release her and walk again. Short “training” or re-enforcement sessions keep you both sharp.

Bring your whole self to the dog park. It’s fun to meet your friends and visit, but your dog and her activities are the priority. (There’s a reason they call it a dog park.) Don’t be so distracted by a conversation (cell phone call or texting) that you lose track of your dog. More dog park tips.

Resolve to cook or prepare “homemade” chow. Maybe start with one meal a week--such as, chicken and brown rice?  Or add variety and nutrition to standard fare with “people food” additions. Or try baking your own treats. Not only is it surprisingly easy to do; with smart planning, homemade options are easy on the wallet too.
 
Give your dog regular check-ups. Frequent home grooming is a good way to check in with your dog. Cleaning ears, clipping nails, combing and trimming fur, and brushing teeth help keep your pup feeling good and keep you tuned in to her status.

Keep up with your dog’s essential vaccinations without over-vaccinating.

Foster a shelter or rescue dog, especially if you’re a one-dog family. Not only will your pup enjoy a little canine company but you’ll help socialize your guest and ease his or her way to a forever home. If you can’t foster, consider sponsoring a shelter/rescue dog. You can help defray the cost of spaying/neutering, vaccinations, microchipping and more; a small donation goes a long way.

Read a good training book. Smart trainers are always coming up with new, useful pointers. Even if your dog makes Lassie look erratic, there’s always room for fine-tuning. (See our recent recommendations.)

We’re fired up about our new website and the direct, immediate feedback we’ve been getting from you. It’s a good thing that makes us want more. Post a comment below or email your suggestions the webeditor@thebark.com.

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