Are the rules governing service animals on airplanes about to change? The US Department of Transportation’s advisory committee on accessible air transportation met recently to consider refining the presents rules for Emotional Service Animals. Ever since 2003 when the DOT revised its policy on service animals to include emotional-support animals, there have been no restrictions for these animals and no real definition of a service dog. As Jenine Stanley, who serves on the committee and is with the Guide Dog Foundation, has noted there are no real rules as to what is a legitimate service or support animal.
“Once you board your plane with your animal and you say ‘I am coming with a service animal,’ i.e. an animal that is trained to medicate my disability, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether it’s true or not,” she said. Which is why the U.S. DOT wants to change the rules.
There have been numerous complaints from fellow travelers about the wide assortment of species, from miniature horses, pigs, boas, cats, and of course, dogs, that have been accorded the status of ESA and who usually have scant training about how to behave on an airplane. Some of the complaints have also been generated by people who have highly trained and skilled service dogs, such as seeing-eye dogs. Many of the ESA pets on planes can also distract (to put it mildly) a service dog from doing her job.
One key issue the committtee looked at was: Should specific species be defined? If so, what are they? The group suggested only dogs be listed as service animals, and dogs, cats and rabbits qualify as emotional support animals.
Another complication surrounding ESAs are the legal ramifications to the mental health professionals who are providing certifications. The University of Missouri recently conducted a study about the possible conflicts this presents to psychologists. Cassie Boness, a graduate student in clinical psychology, says these requests for certification for emotional support animals present several potential conflicts for mental health professionals.
“There are no standards for evaluating the need for an emotional support animal, whereas there are concrete rules to determine if someone is eligible for a service animal. These emotional support animal letters are formal certifications of psychological disability, and the psychotherapist is stating, by writing such a letter, that the person needing the emotional support animal has such a disability and that the presence of the animal addresses that disability.” Jeffrey Younggren, professor of clinical and forensic psychology, believes that the evaluation process should address the specific psychological issues that are going to be improved, and not just that the owner wants to be with their pet. They also noted that the lack of scientific guidelines regarding emotional support animals would make it difficult for the psychologist to defend this certification letter in court.
Younggren noted that "the study recommended was two fold: First, that these letters not be written by treating therapists for ethical issues but that they should be written by forensic evaluators/psychologists who do not have a dual role with the client. Second, we stated that, since these are disability determinations, there needs to be some type of comprehensive psychological assessment of that disability and that assessment should directly assess how the presence of the animal ameliorates the disability."
The working group committee members include representatives from American Airlines, Psychiatric Service Dog Partners, National Alliance on Mental Illness, Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind and America’s VetDogs. Key issues about service animals can be found here.
Stanley said she expects the new rules to be out for public comment within the year and to be set within three years.
Dog's Life: Home & Garden
Our House/Dog House
Great design is about creating spaces that work for the way you and your family live— and that’s true whether your “family” walks on two legs or four.
Indeed, a recent study by the National Kitchen & Bath Association showed that more than half of its member designers had been asked to design spaces specifically to accommodate pet needs in the past year.
The most common requests were for pet feeding areas; pet baths or showers; cozy bed/den areas; and storage for food, leashes, toys and grooming products. But, unlike the crates, portable dog beds or food bowls of old, these requests are being met in increasingly elegant and innovative ways. From furniture-style gates that retract seamlessly into the cabinetry to islands with built-in beds and wall niches that hide canine water fountains, the possibilities are endless.
“It’s not just a crate in the corner anymore; people want to designate a more permanent place in their home for their dogs, a place that incorporates them more fully into the home, just as they are incorporated into our everyday lives as family members.”
—Betsy Bassett Betsy Bassett Interiors
1. For tight spaces, consider tucking a dog bed under a table to give the dog a private spot out of the main traffic flow.
2. This dog-friendly space used a nook in the mudroom area to give the dogs their own space while also allowing the owners to shut the door and use the mudroom as a luxury kennel when they go out.
3. Even when space is at a premium, with a little design creativity, a private hideaway can be devised. Here, the dog’s nesting area is built right into the stairs.
4. A built-in dog bed keeps the dog tucked away in luxury comfort, while the cabinetry above provides space to store leashes, food, toys, and other gear.
5. A comfy sleeping nook for the family dog was a high priority for the owners of this NKBA award-winning kitchen.
6. This kitchen pull-out from Rev-A-Shelf can be configured to provide storage for leashes, grooming tools and more, keeping them organized and out of sight when not in use.
Design professionals also cite a growing trend toward creating dog-specific spaces— perhaps a mudroom or section of the laundry room—to contain the plethora of accessories common to the well-loved pooch.
The personalization trend is also hot, with dogs’ individual needs and preferences helping to shape design solutions. For instance, older dogs suffering from arthritis may benefit from pet whirlpools, while an outdoor shower for the mud-loving Lab will likely improve dog-human relations. And, wider walkways will simplify navigating the home if the dog likes to stay close to the pack.
While a host of stylish pet accoutrements are now available, ultimately, great design is as much about solving problems as it is about style.
“It’s so easy to design in a single or multiuse dog wash—and the dogs will much prefer this to being blasted with ice-cold hose water outside. This is more like a doggie spa, with warm water and shampoo, maybe a little cream rinse, followed by fluffy towels and finally, a brush down. Could it get any better?”
—Doug Walter Doug Walter Architects
1. Even when space is limited, an efficiently designed utility area can incorporate appliances, a cozy sleeping nook beneath the laundry folding table, plus a dog shower and storage cabinets.
2. Dogs accumulate stuff just like people do. In this design, Nick Sannes of the S. J. Janis Company, Inc. notes, “We were able to help our client move this clutter into the dog’s own space with a mudroom addition that features a dog-washing station as well as integrated food and water bowls.”
3. An outdoor shower located conveniently near the mudroom entrance is perfect for cleaning up muddy paws (and muddy dogs).
4. Responding to the growing interest in pet amenities, manufacturers are creating pet concept spaces, like this Wood-Mode bathing area.
6. For older or arthritic pets, the Jentle Pet Spa from MTI Baths offers the choice of a soothing soaker tub or whirlpool system with five full-size massage jets to provide hydrotherapy benefits.
As Dave Burcher, CKD, of In House Kitchen Bath Home says, “Our pets want to be with us and we want to be with them, so we have to look at where the activities happen in the home and where we can craft cozy resting places for them. The kitchen is typically the biggest gathering space in the home and we spend the most time there, so that’s a natural fit.”
Build in a quiet hideaway for when company is over, or an eating area out of the main traffic flow. Tuck food and water bowls under an extended countertop for privacy, or consider adding a floor-height drawer to incorporate bowls.
Remember, the best designs help bring family together while giving everyone a place to call their own. That holds true for all family members—including the furry ones!
Don’t forget cleanup: “Rather than a wood top, an easy-to-clean surface should be used on the feeding station’s ‘counter’ surface.”
1. Removing a single base cabinet and adding a mesh door beneath the island creates the perfect den for the family’s two dogs, Scout and Maxie, who can relax in their private spot when they need alone time, or enjoy being in the kitchen with their family without getting directly underfoot during meal prep.
2. To keep the eating area neat and tidy, a pull-out drawer holds food bowls, while the adjacent waste/recycling center is repurposed to hold dog food.
3. Pet bowls should ideally be tucked out of the main traffic flow. In this built-in feeding niche, the stone top provides easy cleanability as well.
4. When space is at a premium, consider a pull-out feeding area that can be tucked away when not in use. The placement against the wall also keeps it out of the walkway, where human family members might trip over it.
5. For those who hate having a crate clutter up their home, here’s an innovative solution: a kitchen gate that recesses seamlessly into the cabinets when not in use.
6. A built-in water fountain tucked into a wall niche means you’ll never trip over the water bowl again!
I Shall Be Unleashed
While I’ve read that Dylan has owned many different dogs—everything from Beagles and Labs to St. Bernards and Great Danes (an eclectic bunch that seems to rival his varied musical styles)—his apparent affinity for them doesn’t stop at the end of the leash.
If you’ve listened to just a little Dylan, you’ve no doubt heard dogs running loose in his lyrics. But until recently I didn’t realize how prominent they really are. I first picked up on it while playing the album Infidels (one of my favorites) and found myself croon with Bob on a choice line from “Jokerman”: “Resting in the fields, far from the turbulent space/Half asleep near the stars with a small dog licking your face.” And after the words spilled out, I thought about it for a second. Hadn’t earlier that day, while listening to “Highlands” from Time Out of Mind, I heard him sing “I’m crossing the street to get away from a mangy dog/Talking to myself in a monologue”? And what about that line from the epic ballad “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” something about a white man who walked a black dog? Why hadn’t I picked up on this before?
Just thinking about it for a moment, I could come up with a handful of other tracks that had a hound prowling around: “Gates of Eden,” “Summer Days,” “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.” So I dug a little deeper, played his music, and discovered that dogs, in some manner or another, play into more than 30 of his songs.
Now, maybe he doesn’t intend to do it, maybe the dog is just a symbol that’s occasionally freed from the stable of his mind, but they seem to inhabit his world, his thoughts, and, ultimately, they come to life in his music.
For instance, there’s a hound dog howling, appropriately, in the lament “Everything is Broken.” In “Seven Curses,” dogs are baying away during a dark moment of depravity. He conjures up a dog that talks in “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.”
He even wrote a song called “If Dogs Run Free,” a wistful tune about freedom that proclaims “If dogs run free, then what must be/Must be, and that is all.” (see lyrics below)
Dylan uses dogs as a messenger for mood, as set for the stage. You can picture them wandering down dirt roads, or collapsed on creaky porches. They’re dustbowl dogs and prowling alley dogs, dogs with no collars, dogs with no homes.
It’s a hungry, lonesome quality about them that he touches upon, a sense of being, all at once, tired and restless. They speak to the human condition that surrounds them, suggesting what really doesn’t need to be said.
He also unleashes dogs symbolically. “I ain’t your dog that’s gone astray,” he quips in “Got My Mind Made Up.” In “Tell Me” he puts to a woman—rather testily it would seem—“What means more to you, a lap dog or a dead lion?” And in “Neighborhood Bully,” the masses of opposition “wait for this bully like a dog waits to feed.”
They seem to represent something a little more, well, primal in “Obviously Five Believers.” In it, his “dog” is just barking away and he says to an aloof lover, “Yes, I could tell you what he means, if I just didn't have to try so hard.” Taken in the context of the whole song—especially when it lands on this line—there’s a suggestion of needfulness, of longing, of the dog denoting his yelping lust.
Patti Smith, friend and colleague of Bob’s, reportedly had a dream about some dog of his and spun the dream into a poem, “Dylan’s Dog,” something she’s been known to recite in concert. The version I found goes: “have you seen/Dylan’s dog/it got wings/it can fly/when it lands/like a clown/he’s the only/thing allowed/to look Dylan in the eye.” The poem, conceived by someone who knows him, certainly suggests a fondness that Bob has for dogs. An uncommon fondness. And, yeah, if anyone would have a winged dog, it would be Dylan.
Dogs seem to be a prevalent device in Dylan’s portrait of the world, helping define a place where it’s not always easy to find the right home. Or, perhaps, that it’s just better to roam.
Bob Dylan’s Nod to Dogs
A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall
All Over You
Cat’s in the Well
Changing of the Guards
Everything is Broken
Gates of Eden
Got My Mind Made Up
I Shall Be Free No. 10
If Dogs Run Free
Meet me in the Morning
My Back Pages
Obviously Five Believers
One Too Many Mornings
Only A Pawn in Their Game
Romance in Durango
Sitting on a Barbed Wire Fence
Talkin’ Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues
Tell Me, Momma
You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
When shopping for a trainer, look behind the advertising language.
If you live in a big city like I do, you’re overwhelmed with choice for just about any service you can think of. I could get a different coffee and haircut every day of the week and never leave my local neighborhood. This is great, in theory, but how do I choose the best place for my morning latte? Who should I trust to get my hair faded just right?
Choice is also a benefit when you’re looking for a dog trainer, but you can end up facing the same kind of issues, with a lot more riding on the outcome than a bitter drink or a less-than-stellar ’do.
So how do we find the right trainer if we have only Google to go on? Online reviews are hardly fair and balanced, but we don’t always have the luxury of a personal recommendation. The answer is to learn how to interpret the language used on dog-training websites.
Think of a trainer’s website as an infomercial. Although we know it’s designed to convince us to sign up, if we’re savvy we can also pick through the language to find clues about a trainer’s methods and beliefs. Let’s start with the most common word, one that pops up on almost every trainer’s site: effective.
Of course, we all want our dog trainer to be effective. Who would sign up for Dave’s Ineffective Dog Training? We’re spending time and money trying to help our dogs become well-mannered citizens, and we don’t want to feel like our efforts have been wasted. However, there are many different ways to accomplish training goals, some more fraught with potential pitfalls than others. Efficacy is important, but ethics are important too, and are something that trainers also reflect in their word choice.
Words like compassionate, fair and humane indicate what trainers believe about themselves, but they don’t add much clarity for potential clients. All three are subjective terms; what I believe represents compassionate training might not be what you envision. Besides, what counts as humane and compassionate is determined by a trainer’s beliefs about how dogs learn and how best to teach them, so these words raise questions rather than answer them.
Trainers also use a relatively small number of more specific, objective sounding terms on their sites. Because these can provide a general idea of the kinds of things that might happen to a dog during training, it’s useful to understand what they mean. Following is a list of the most commonly used.
Trainers who describe themselves as “force free,” or some variation of “purely positive,” will never deliberately use pain or fear in their training. They will focus on finding ways to reward a good behavior that is incompatible with the behavior they don’t want to see, like sitting politely instead of jumping up on guests. Often, they’ll use a clicker and treats, paired with ignoring the dog when he’s doing something inappropriate.
The key thing to remember here is that although these trainers might see themselves as using only positive, gentle methods, what really matters is how the dog sees things. Force-free trainers who put clients’ dogs in situations where they feel uncomfortable, or who can’t teach their guardians the skills required to carry on after the session, can cause frustration and anxiety and even reinforce undesirable behavior.
Trainers who describe themselves as “balanced” may use everything from electronic collars to clickers in their approach. The balance here is between things designed to punish bad behavior and things designed to reward good behavior. However, not all balanced trainers will use every tool, or the same balance of rewards and punishments. Some will use punishment only in certain cases, others will use it most of the time. Many balanced trainers make distinctions among different breeds of dog, or different types of problems that they believe won’t respond to the kinds of reward-based approaches on which force-free trainers rely.
For example, many balanced trainers claim that although dogs can learn tricks using a clicker and treats, they can be taught to avoid rattlesnakes only by associating the snakes with something unpleasant, like a shock. Force-free trainers strongly disagree with claims like this, which has led to serious rifts within the dog-training community.
LIMA AND HUMANE HIERARCHY
These terms are less common than the previous two, but they are gaining traction in professional circles as a way to explain both an ethical stance and a practical approach to dog training. LIMA stands for “Least Invasive Minimally Aversive,” meaning that with any set of possible interventions, the trainer will always try whatever is least likely to cause pain or punishment first, only moving to more potentially unpleasant options if he or she feels the need. (This position is endorsed by the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants and the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.) The Humane Hierarchy was developed by Dr. Susan Friedman as one way of organizing potential interventions, from most to least punishing. A trainer who uses these terms is engaged with the latest thinking on ethics and wants to display this engagement to potential clients. It’s very unlikely that trainers who align themselves with LIMA will use punishment, especially for basic obedience issues.
BOOT CAMP (and other military terms)
This kind of language usually suggests that the trainer believes in punishment as the best way to manage behavior. Trainers who sell themselves as providing this type of intervention often also subscribe to ideas about dominance and “being the alpha.” They appeal to frustrated owners who are faced with dogs who seem rude and out-of-control, but their approaches can be harsh and lead to suppression, not modification. Trainers who describe themselves or their approach in this controlling, militaristic language are probably best avoided altogether.
NO SUBSTITUTE FOR SUBSTANCE
Although being able to parse these terms and understand them gives us more of a picture of how a trainer operates than the words “humane and effective,” it’s clear that each label still represents a spectrum of beliefs and approaches.
The only way to get the clearest possible information is to ask trainers directly. That means you’ve got to shop around, get in front of trainers, and ask unambiguous and substantial questions about what is going to happen to your dog, and why. Dog behavior consultant John McGuigan proposes the following questions, which every trainer ought to easily be able to answer: What will happen to my dog if she gets it right? What will happen to my dog if she gets it wrong? Are there less invasive alternatives to what you propose?
These questions don’t cover everything, and they can’t inoculate you against a marketing spiel, but they’re a good place to start. If you’re not comfortable with the answers you get; if the trainer becomes evasive and starts using concepts like “energy,” talking around the question or invoking his or her years of experience; or if the answer involves anything that is designed to cause pain, to startle or to do anything else unpleasant, think twice. It’s your responsibility to exercise due diligence when choosing a dog trainer, and it’s always better to risk being seen as a busybody than it is to put your dog in a situation you didn’t want or expect.
Dog's Life: Home & Garden
Home Design Tips for Dog People
When Vern Yip talks style, we listen. Not only is he a multi-talented fabric and accessory designer and an HGTV Design Star judge with multiple seasons under his fashionable belt, he and his family share their Atlanta home with big dogs. Following are a few fieldtested pointers. For more decorating advice, pick up a copy of his new book, Vern Yip’s Design Wise: Your Smart Guide to a Beautiful Home, from Running Press.
• While I prefer the idea of a comfy dog bed with a great-looking, washable cover next to the main seating area, if you want your dog on the sofa, go for a low-maintenance, stain-resistant indoor/outdoor fabric or distressed leather. Many leathers scratch easily, so it’s best to avoid anything with too fine a finished surface. (Washable slipcovers also work in these instances, but staying on top of keeping them laundered does add to the chore list.)
• Does your dog sleep in your bed? If so, avoid dry-clean-only fabrics for duvets and decorative bedding items. Sending bedding out to the dry cleaner with any frequency can get expensive. Alternatively, place a dog bed alongside your bed. Having multiple dog beds throughout your home is a great way to keep your canine companions with you but off the furniture.
• To keep your house looking clean, go for rugs and upholstery with patterns, which tend to hide dirt and hair better than solids.
• If you have tall dogs with long tails or active dogs who run through your rooms, secure your easily damaged decorative items with museum wax. Museum wax can be purchased online and in many hardware stores, and doesn’t permanently stick to surfaces. However, objects secured with it won’t move until you intentionally sever the bond. Test a bit of the museum wax in an inconspicuous spot to be sure it won’t harm whatever surface you’re working with.
• Select furniture that goes all the way to the floor or has taller legs, which will allow you to see under the piece. Dog hair is notorious for traveling everywhere; when your sofas and chairs are on small, low-profile, block legs, it’s easy to miss all the hair that collects underneath, and vacuuming it up means moving the furniture.
• Is your dog a drooler? If so, avoid silk for upholstery, curtains or any other material surface. Silk is a beautiful home décor fabric but it does stain.
• When you refinish wood floors, choose a durable product such as Bona Traffic, a waterborne commercial and residential hardwood floor finish, to help ward off claw dings.
• Consider carpeting your stairs or installing a runner. Smooth surfaces such as wood, stone and tile may be easy for your dog to negotiate when he’s younger but can cause problems as he ages. Carpet not only protects your steps, it also provides dogs with reassuring extra traction.
• Putting in a tiled floor? Use bigger tiles to minimize grout joints. Tile is wonderfully hard wearing, but grout can become stained, dirty or damaged; smaller grout joints (¹/₁₆-inch is ideal) help keep that to a minimum. Fewer and smaller grout joints are also beneficial if your dog has an accident, since grout tends to be porous.
Dog's Life: Home & Garden
These bubbling fountains, shelters and other creations are treats for pets and inspiration for other owners
Houzzers, we put out the call, and once again you answered. Your unconditional love for your pets shines through with the care and thought you've put into building things that make them happy. And your projects have also made your patios and yards more interesting. Get ideas from some homegrown responses to pets' love of the outdoors — and to the need to keep pets safe and comfortable. Have a look, then please share your own outdoor pet project.
In Arizona’s hot climate, plenty of water for dogs is imperative. Houzz user Diane Way created this fountain from bored green granite and river rock, with underground circulating water that a sprinkler system freshens once a day. “Luna loves it, and it’s just her size,” she says.
By Reader Pet Projects, original photo on Houzz
"After my two large dogs starting drinking out of my neighbors' birdbath on a regular basis, and seeing some great ideas on this site for dog-friendly backyards, I decided that I would make my own water fountain for them," says Houzz user katiek78.
"I wanted something that I could afford and would circulate the water to try and keep things from growing in it." She fashioned the doggy fountain from a planter and a garden pond pump, and the dogs can't get enough.
By Reader Pet Projects, original photo on Houzz
Everyone loves a porch, including Houzz user jkpp04's dog Oscar and his friends. The dogs spend a lot of the day outside and have a great shelter to enjoy.
By Reader Pet Projects, original photo on Houzz
Houzz user osvold11 recently completed a dog-friendly backyard makeover. Oz has this fetching strip.
By Reader Pet Project, original photo on Houzz
There is also a sunning and resting spot for Pilar in osvold11's yard. The yard does not have any lawn, and all of the plantings are tolerant of the dogs' doing their business and can recover from heavy pet use.
By Reader Pet Projects, original photo on Houzz
"To help our dogs, we built 'windows' into our privacy fence," says Houzzer Amanda Naughton. It has stopped one dog from trying to dig underneath the fence, and the other just enjoys checking out what's going on beyond the yard. "To help them with the neighbors' dogs, we put a window from our yard to their yard. Now our two dogs and their two dogs can sniff and see each other, so there is a lot less barking."
The two windows in the fence gates were such a success, Naughton built the dogs a raised and covered corner area, called "the fort."
When Houzz user dzanoff designed a garage with a guesthouse over it, a doghouse was included in the design. The exterior entry gives access to an indoor space underneath the stairs that includes a light, a raised bed and a heated water dish for winter. Visiting kiddos also like to use the dog space as a fort.
This little shelter was inspired by a garden shed on Houzz, and it even has its own dog weathervane. "I made this doghouse for my mom's two pups and painted it to match the house," says Houzz user Feels Like Home. The house also serves as a pass-through with a doggie door to the inside on one end. Inside is a carpet to wipe wet paws on, and the structure gives the pooches shelter on rainy Seattle days.
News: Guest Posts
There are few more joyfully optimistic moments in life than the day you bring a new dog into your home. Your new bundle of fluff will add a new dimension to the household, helping you to see your home in new ways, providing unexpected moments of love and humour, and bringing demonstrable benefits to your mental health. But that element of surprise a pup brings can turn into stress when your new best friend discovers ways to damage your stuff – or herself – that you had never imagined in the days of anticipation before picking up her up.
The right preparation is crucial when introducing a new dog into your family, and even if you’ve had dogs before, chances are it’s been a decade or more since you went through that difficult teething period – so a little refresher is called for. Every dog has it’s own needs, and you’ll want to check with the breeder or rescue home as to your new pal’s particular dietary and exercise needs – and any emotional quirks of which you need to be aware. Shop for the toys, tools and barriers you’ll need in advance, and set out a plan as to which areas of the house she will be allowed in, and where on your property she will sleep, play, go to toilet and so on. Ensure everyone in the family knows the rules, and their own responsibilities.
Once she arrives, it can be tempting to just play with and dote on her until you both collapse exhausted on the sofa – but establishing some ground rules straight off is essential. Take her to her toilet place, and remain with her until she’s done: do this regularly until she knows where’s where. If you already have a dog, introduce the new siblings on neutral ground. To your first dog, this suspicious character will be an intruder on their territory, so getting them to bond is a sensitive business.
There’s a lot to consider in preparation for bringing a new dog home, but thankfully this new infographic breaks it down into a handy checklist. Be sure to go through it in detail before pooch arrives, and you’ll be set for a beautiful – and fun-filled – life together.
A guide to bringing a dog home for the first time [Infographic] by the team at Santa Fe Animal Shelter
Dog's Life: Travel
From the moment my partner, Dave Hoch, and I decided to embark on a world cycling tour in 2015, our Australian Shepherd, Sora, was a crucial member of the team. Leaving her behind wasn’t an option. Sora is part of our pack: if we go, she goes. After years of work and training, Sora—whom Dave had adopted in 2008 as a “last chance,” three-year-old project dog—had become a well-behaved adventure companion. However, she never seemed to shake her mistrust of new people and need to challenge other dogs, and we came to accept that this was just part of who she was. So, imagine my surprise when I walked out of our hotel in a Chilean Altiplano village earlier this year and saw Sora standing between two preteenagers, being vigorously petted. They said that their own Australian Shepherd had recently passed away, and Sora reminded them of their pup.
Why was I surprised? Sora is not exactly kid-friendly. Their uncontrolled movements and loud noises terrify her, and she tends to react by growling and lunging. Yet, these two young people got in her face, crowded her and petted her like she was the dog they once had. And she seemed to revel in the attention.
Who is this dog?
The answer to that question begins with what turned out to be an experiment in trust. Determined to have Sora with us on our trek, we focused on providing her with opportunities to associate strangers with positive experiences. The program relied on our understanding of Sora’s needs, explicit communication and treats—lots of treats.
From the beginning of our tour, which started in Norway, we allowed frequent, short interactions with inquisitive strangers on the street or in the homes of hosts along our route. We overcame language barriers by demonstrating how to meet Sora while avoiding direct eye contact with her; how to stand next to, not over, her; and where to pet her (under her chin). Slowly, Sora began to form positive associations with strangers. She began wagging her tail at initial greetings, and would sidle up to people and solicit their attention. As her confidence grew, so did our confidence in her.
Once we hit the Balkans, we no longer feared her reaction to humans. Dogs, however, were another matter. There, dogs roam the streets, and when a new tail comes to town, everyone wants to get in on the greetings. To assuage our anxieties , we developed a routine that worked for Sora.
We never allowed head-on meetings. Instead, other dogs got their sniff on from behind as we petted and praised her. We observed her body language: was she stiff and ready to fight, or was she wagging her tail and grunting, which signified her intent to play? As we made it possible for Sora to engage with dogs gradually and on her terms, she became more relaxed and far less combative.
In more than 15 months of travel through 20 countries, we accomplished a feat we previously thought impossible. Taking Sora out of our home environment, where encounters with new people and dogs occurred only occasionally, the series of micro-introductions while traveling transformed her into a more social, confident dog. While she still has moments of distrust, her behavior has evolved from a handicap to an occasional slip.
We have walked Sora through the streets of busy cities like Istanbul, Turkey, and Santiago, Chile, where dogs sprinted toward us in droves, and stayed in the homes of complete strangers with both children and dogs. This was made possible by exposure, being clear with others about what she needs and taking it day-by-day.
Sora sleeps at our feet each night and snuggles between us each morning. She’s a constant reminder to play, and helps us meet new friends. As we zoom by, kids squeal and adults grin. Having her with us amplifies the adventure.For more on Jen, Dave and Sora’s big adventure, go to longhaultrekkers.com
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Recently, our dog Lola got a little too personal with a skunk and wound up with a face full of stink. To remove the offensive smell, we very carefully washed her with the go-to formula of 4 cups hydrogen peroxide, ¼ cup baking soda and 1 teaspoon dish soap—that did the trick. Her leather collar was still pretty smelly, however, so I took another approach for it. After soaking it in warm water with 2 teaspoons baking soda and letting it air dry, I applied Skidmore’s Leather Cream with beeswax to both sides to recondition and soften it up. That not only worked like a charm, it also added a refreshing aroma.
Dog's Life: Travel
National Conservation Lands
National Conservation Lands protect 32 million acres of this country’s most ecologically rich and culturally significant landscapes. Each is different, not only in terrain but also in history. These lands are made up of National Monuments and National Conservation Areas and similar designations, Wilderness and Wilderness Study Areas, Wild and Scenic Rivers, and National Scenic and Historic Trails.
They are overseen by the Bureau of Land Management and, unlike other public lands, such as those administered by the National Park Service, they have a much more tolerant policy about off-leash dogs.
There are more than 30 sites in the western states in which you and your dog can freely explore. It’s important to note that while dogs need to be on-leash in developed areas and campgrounds, generally, they are not required by law to be leashed in the backcountry. However, in some regions, for their own safety, dogs should be under leash control; hunting and fishing are allowed on most of these lands, more reason to keep the safety of your dog in mind. Be sure to follow the rules at each individual park, and—of course—to pick up and pack out your dog’s waste.
Steese National Conservation Area
Agua Fria National Monument
Gila Box Riparian National Conservation Area
Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument
Ironwood Forest National Monument
Las Cienegas National Conservation Area
San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area
Sonoran Desert National Monument
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Fort Ord National Monument
Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument
Carrizo Plain National Monument
King Range National Conservation Area
Mojave Trails National Monument
Piedras Blancas Outstanding Natural Area
Sand To Snow National Monument
Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument
Browns Canyon National Monument
Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area
Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area
McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area
Basin and Range National Monument
Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area
El Malpais National Conservation Area
Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument
Prehistoric Trackways National Monument
Rio Grande del Norte National Monument
Fort Stanton-Snowy River Cave National Conservation Area: the cave is off-limits to all but scientists. Around the Fort and backcountry trails are fine.
Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument
San Juan Islands National Monument
Fall is a great time to visit. For a complete listing of dog-friendly National Conservation Lands, see conservationlands.org
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