Home
media reviews
News: Guest Posts
Secret Life of Pets

An ever moving screen, action packed perfect for our video gaming generation, but also very familiar (if you have or have ever had a pet), and completely heart embracing film.  This colorful cartoon, laced with a whimsical score, and wonderfully designed backdrops, stars a little brown and white dog named Max (Louis C.K.) who becomes a lost dog along with his new brother/roommate, Duke (Eric Stonestreet), after they accidentally escape from the sight of their NYC dog walker. On their adventure to find home, Max and Duke come across a dark and comical band of abandoned pets of the underground with Snowball the bunny (Kevin Hart) leading the pack. The cast is exceptional including the likes of Jenny Slate, Ellie Kemper, Lake Bell, Albert Brooks, and Dana Carvey.

Max and Duke bring forth our pets’ psyche with such delightful humor and adorable innocence. The directing duo, Yarrow Cheney and Chris Renaud of Despicable Me, and the actors have brilliantly captured and depicted our very own beloved pets, you can’t help but think of them throughout the film.

Secret Life of Pets is a burst of color and flashy imagery in every moment, if you have a headache skip the movie until it subsides.  It’ll be an easy score with the kids and adults will have a lot to appreciate too.

Driving home, I couldn’t wait to reunite with my pets. My chocolate Lab, Caleb, was right behind my door as I opened it and my Betta fish, Koufax, swimming around in his tank to greet me. As Max says, “It’s the best part of the day.”

News: Guest Posts
App Review: Dog Food Hazards
Quick access to list of foods our pups should avoid.

Although we're inundated with apps these days some information is worth carrying around with us for quick access. The newly released Dog: Food Hazards app (android, free) is a very simple app dedicated to one topic, as you might have guessed, hazardous foods dogs should avoid.

Featuring a simplified layout for quick navigation, one can refresh their knowledge of dangerous foods for dogs and get information on symptoms caused by each featured food type. As a bonus they’ve prominently placed access to ASPCA’s pet poison hotline so it is quickly accessible too.

Unfortunately, the list of food hazards is limited, so it may not be helpful for people looking to delve deeply into the topic. While Dog: Food Hazards is a fairly barebones app, we enjoy the peace of mind that comes with its ease of access to information that every dog owner should know.

News: Guest Posts
App Review: Dog Decoder

Jill Breitner is a dog trainer with a mission: to make us aware of how dogs communicate by showing us how to “read” them. She developed her Dog Decoder app to do just that.

A helpful and handy primer on canine body language, it demonstrates the ways dogs let us know they’re scared, excited, cautious, willing and so forth. As Breitner explains, “If we understood what dogs try so hard to tell us, there would be fewer people bitten and fewer dogs ending up in shelters.” The app highlights 60 different poses/situations; each one (“butt sniff,” for example) comes with a helpful description that points out some common misconceptions, or the circumstances in which a dog will exhibit it.

A great tool for newbie dog people and those of us who need to brush up on dog talk. dogdecoder.com

News: Editors
Dog Days from BBC Radio
Worth tuning in

A friend of The Bark’s just told me about BBC Radio 4’s marvelous series called Dog Days. You have only a few days left to listen to them. Each runs around 15 minutes, and discusses various aspects of dogs behavior and dog culture. Interviews with researcher, John Bradshaw, and other British dog aficionados. From My Dog Tulip and Flush to current research on dog love. As the programs’ presenter, Robert Hanks (along with his Whippet Timmy), describes it, “When we tell stories about our dogs, we are also telling stories about ourselves.” Give a listen.

News: Editors
John Oliver's New Job
Is he up for it?
John Oliver and Hoagie

For the next three months John Oliver will be temp hosting “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” while Stewart is off making a movie. Last year when I had the good fortune to be invited to do a behind-the-scenes feature about The Daily Show’s dogs, I talked with Oliver about his Golden Retriever pup Hoagie, his first-ever dog. I asked him about imagining having her on the show with him, perhaps playing the “straight woman” to his more biting, take-down persona that he assumes as a “news correspondent” on the show. He replied that just wouldn’t work because “fundamentally” she would “humanize” him. And that Hoagie wouldn’t let him “do my job, it would bring up too much compassion whenever she is around.”

 We were reminded of that seeing a recent interview with the New York Times when Oliver noted that “all of my interview training is built around trying to take someone down.” But he recognizes that has to change now that he is sitting in Stewart’s chair, and he goes on to say that “When you have, say, Seth Rogen in front of you, the point is not to destroy him and the construct of beliefs he’s built up over his lifetime. It’s going to be talking to him about his new movie. It will be nice just to have a broader conversation where jokes can occur, but the primary focus is to have an interesting interview. It’ll be nice to be nicer to people.”

So can we suggest to Oliver that if he finds it challenging making the leap into jocular “nice host” affability that he look dogward to his Hoagie who can “assist” him to play the part. Or as Jon Stewart told us “there is nothing better than dogs, and they bring on the best in us too, nothing better.” Being a Golden, she definitely would be a natural and have the guests eating out of her hand, or vice versa.

Either way, we’ll be rooting for Oliver. He really is a hilarious guy who kept us in stitches and howling throughout our chat.

 

News: Editors
Shelter Me

The good people at the Search Dog Foundation sent us this notice about a PBS show that is not to be missed.

Starting April 1st, PBS affiliates nationwide will feature SDF Search Teams as part of a series that celebrates shelter animals and the people whose lives they touch. For the first time, a video crew has captured the story of our teams -- from recruitment, to training, to pairing with a first-responder. The show is hosted by Jane Lynch, Emmy and Golden Globe-winning actress, singer, and comedian.

 

 

 Click here to see the Dates/times in your area

Culture: Reviews
Review: A Nose for Fun
Nosework
Nosework Search Games

What is it about Nordic people that makes them so lyrical to listen to? It’s more than the accent—they just emanate gentleness. Nosework Search Games, a new DVD by Turid Rugaas (author of the wonderful classic book Calming Signals) and one of her students, Anne Lill Kvam, feels like the ’60s version of competitive nosework, focusing on games to exercise a dog’s mind rather than on how to play by the rules. They often call dogs “harmonic,” and talk a lot about letting dogs be themselves. There are step-by-step instructions on how to train for “the lost retrieve,” “the square search” and “search for treats” (which needs no instruction in my household). The structure is a little hard to get used to; they talk about the different games way before they get around to telling you how to do them, and the instructional portions were fi lmed at actual seminars conducted by the two women throughout Europe. But about a quarter of the way through, it becomes a somewhat Zen-like experience to watch. Be sure to wait for the credits at the end, during which Ms. Rugaas talks about her dog following her car tracks all the way to town without her knowing … you can see and hear the absolute wonder she has for dogs, and truly appreciate her love of the canine brain.

Culture: Reviews
Tough Love: A Meditation on Dominance and Dogs
DVD Review, Anchorhold Films/Tower Hill Films
Tough Love: A Meditation on Dominance and Dogs

This new documentary explains why the alpha theory (which has been widely popularized as a “fact” by a famous TV personality) is based on an incorrect understanding of both wolf and dog behavior. And as importantly, why positive reinforcement is the only effective course for dog training. Chad Montrie, the film’s director, has assembled a cohort of highly regarded experts on dog behavior — Sophia Yin, DVM, Alexandra Horowitz, Karen Pryor and Bob Bailey among them — to talk about the history of the “alpha dog” concept and why it still has power to persuade today. Is dominance what dogs actually want or expect within their human families? See what academics and experts have to say on this very important topic. You may purchase the DVD or watch it as a “pay for view” on anchorholdfilms.com.

Culture: DogPatch
Muse: Robin and Linda Williams Song To Their Dog
Bluegrass Tribute
Robin and Linda Williams, and Tessie Mae.

Robin and Linda Williams have been making music together for almost 40 years. Their new CD, These Dark Old Hills (Red House Records), is a vibrant collection of original folk and bluegrass tunes, one of which especially caught our fancy. The couple praises the charms of their rescue dog, Tessie Mae, in a song.

What surprised the couple most about this sweet stray, whom they adopted from the Charlottesville, Va., SPCA, was her independent streak. As they told us, “We couldn’t leave any door open or else she would take off, and no amount of calling would make her stop. Just like we say in the fi rst verse of the song. ‘You’re an angel and a little sneak/A sweetheart with a stubborn streak/Good at following your nose/Out any door that wasn’t closed.’”

While we found this song to be a real toe-tapping, paw-thumping delight, Tessie has another idea about what the couple should be doing. “She doesn’t particularly seem interested in our music other than in the fact that it takes our attention away from her. When we’re rehearsing, she’ll come in the room wagging her tail and look at us as if to say, ‘Okay, it’s time for you guys to focus on me.’” Hard to not to do that with a chorus that goes, “Hey, Hey your straying days/Are over Tessie Mae/ Hey, Hey sit and stay/Don’t turn your head away …”

Listen to it on YouTube.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dogs in the City
New show is worth a look

“Dogs in the City” is a new CBS show based in New York and starring dog trainer Justin Silver. Each episode shows several people or families whose dogs have issues. Silver works with the people to improve the dog’s behavior and quality of life.

Silver really understands people, connects with them, and sees the human social dynamic clearly and fairly. He is direct, like a proper New Yorker, calling it as he sees it, but always in a kind and respectful way. The people chosen to be on the show are quirky enough to be interesting, but not too far out there. They are well within the range of clients that most trainers and behaviorists work with over the years.

The show focuses on how the people featured impact the behavior of their dogs. The show does not emphasize training specifics. There is little actual training in the show, and few specific cues given to the dogs, presumably because this show is not a how-to show on training. That said, Silver sets a good example as a trainer by using healthy treats and by emphasizing the importance of what people DO want their dog to do rather than on what they DON’T want their dog to do.

Some of what Silver says and does may not feel quite right to trainers. He pulls on the leash quite a bit with dogs, including his own, Chiquita and Pacino (who by the way are both adorable and beautifully behaved.) He uses the term “socialization” to mean being social with other dogs rather than using it more technically to refer to early, influential experiences during specific periods of development that in dogs end at around 4 months of age. He talks about being “master” which is not a term so commonly used anymore. He often kisses dogs on the nose, which is not a great example for viewers.

That said, it’s only fair to state the well-known adage that the only thing two dog trainers can ever agree on is that a third trainer is doing something wrong. I’m never going to agree completely with any other trainer, but there are things to praise about each one, too.

Silver’s deep connection to and love for both dogs and people is obvious, and he clearly cares to about members of both species. I love his emphasis on letting dogs be dogs rather than treating them as four-legged people. In summary, I like Silver, enjoyed the show and plan to watch it again. If you’ve watched it, what do you think of it?

Pages