Friday, August 31, 2012

The Naughty Kitty Chronicles

The Naughty Kitty

By Rocky Williams

That evil Warden of mine says when she looks in the dictionary under “Naughty Kitty” there is a photo of me. She also wants me to believe that under “Angel” there is a photo of Annabelle. Gag. Excuse me while I hack up a hairball and leave it where the Warden is sure to find it…with her bare feet!

I will admit that I probably am the naughtiest kitty on the planet. But I’ll bet you I have a lot more fun than my goody two shoes sister; wait, wouldn’t that be goody four-paws? Anyhoo, Annabelle is a good kitty and I am a naughty kitty. I DO know the difference, but I choose to be naughty because like I said, it makes life so much more interesting! What’s the point of being a feline if you can’t have a little fun?

Just in case there was any doubt as to what constitutes a good kitty versus a naughty kitty, I’ve put together a little primer.

The Good Kitty Versus the Naughty Kitty

A good kitty (Annabelle) doesn’t pay a lick of attention when the human is eating her food. A naughty kitty (me) gets their fluffy self in her face and tries to snag food from her plate right in front of her. My signature move is called the “grab and go” and I’m successful 9 times out of 10 because my paw is quicker than the hand.

A good kitty comes when called. A naughty kitty answers to none…unless there’s food involved, then we “pretend” to be obedient so we’ll get a snack. The Warden’s favorite trick to get a naughty kitty to come is to shake the tub of FELIDAE crunchies. Works like a charm!

A good kitty leaves all the pens, keys, note pads, remotes, and other miscellaneous stuff on the coffee table, right where the human put it. A naughty kitty pushes them all to the floor, then bats them around until they get lost under the furniture.

A good kitty barfs on the easy-to-clean linoleum or tile floor. A naughty kitty chooses to do the deed on the carpet or the human’s important work papers. Extra credit if your furball ruins some prized possession that “just happens” to be in the way.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Dealing with a Neighbor’s Noisy Dog

By Langley Cornwell

Have you ever lived in a neighborhood where a nearby dog barks incessantly? Where relaxing chores like watering your garden or refilling your hummingbird feeder is interrupted by aggressive snarling, growling and barking? Where the neighbor’s dog rushes the fence when you walk by and you’re sure he would attack if there wasn’t a barrier? If you have, you know what a nuisance it is. But what would you do about it?

I posed the question to my friends and fellow animal lovers. The answers were thoughtful, helpful and sometimes silly but offer a variety of ways to deal with the problem. Here are some of the responses:

Diane at CANIDAE said: “I have problems with this all the time. My solution usually involves squirting water over the fence when the dog is barking. If I’m lucky I actually get the dog wet. Usually this stops the barking. Of course I try to make sure the owner isn’t home at the time I do this. LOL! After a while, the dog gets conditioned to stop barking when he hears me open the patio slider and only needs a “reminder” once in a while. Of course, this isn’t the best way to deal with the barking and it doesn’t work with small dogs because they are a smaller target.”

Many people report success with distractions including squirting water (like Diane), sounding an air horn or rattling a tin can full of pennies when the dog barks.

Another friend of mine, Charles, lives beside a barking dog. He says: “Our next door neighbor’s dogs bark a lot, but they are not aggressive. Because the neighbors are very nice people, we just tolerate it.”

Caren offers this response: “Depends on what kind of fence it is. If it is a chain link fence, I'd build my own privacy fence to run alongside it – so I wouldn't have to see the dog every day.”

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The True Story of Rin Tin Tin

By Linda Cole

Rin Tin Tin is probably the most recognized and famous German Shepherd dog of all time. In the 112 year history of the breed, his bloodline is the oldest continuous line and has remained relatively unchanged over the years. Had it not been for a corporal in the United States Army during WW I, Rin Tin Tin most likely would have perished in France.

Rin Tin Tin was just five days old when he and his four siblings were found in a bombed out dog kennel outside of Lorraine, France. It was September 15, 1918; Corporal Lee Duncan and his battalion were walking through the area when he noticed the damaged dog kennel and convinced the others they should check it out. They found five pups and their mom alive in the kennel. They had survived an aerial bomb drop. Duncan picked a male and female from the litter. The three other pups and mom, Betty, were taken back to camp by the other soldiers, but sadly none of them survived.

Duncan named his pups Rin Tin Tin and Nannette after small French puppets called Rintintin and Nenette that were given to the soldiers by French children for good luck. Corporal Duncan was impressed with how the German war dogs performed, so he started working with Rin Tin Tin and Nannette to train them to perform just like the dogs he had seen. The German Kennel Master in charge of the kennel where the dogs were found had been captured by the Americans. Duncan went to visit him in the prison camp so he could learn more about the German Shepherd breed and Betty and her pups.

After the war, Duncan made arrangements to have his pups sail home with him aboard a ship on a 15 day trip to New York. During the voyage, Nanette came down with distemper. By the time the ship sailed into New York harbor, she was very sick and died before he could get her proper care. Duncan went on to his home in Los Angeles with Rin Tin Tin, the only survivor from the bombed out kennel.

1928 movie ad
Rin Tin Tin began his movie career in 1922. While at an unsanctioned Shepherd Dog Club of America show, he wowed the crowd with his ability to jump a fence 11 feet 9 inches. A man named Charles Jones paid Duncan $350 to shoot Rin Tin Tin in action with a new moving picture camera and afterwards, Duncan decided to pursue a movie career for his dog. Duncan knew his dog was talented. Convincing Hollywood, however, turned out to be challenging.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

How to Succeed at Treat Training with Your Dog

By Tamara McRill

Have you been trying to positively reinforce good behavior in your dog by treat training, but it just isn't working? The problem could be in your technique. Simply giving your pet a bit of food without these best practices could be just a waste of both your time. I know, because I've been there and had to refine my technique.

Eliminating these common treat training mistakes from your routine will help you get your dog sitting pretty.

1. Sub-Par Treats

Dogs may have a reputation for eating any and everything, but any old treat may not be enough to motivate them to pay attention. My three dogs each have treats they just don't like. Dusty won't take anything that isn't meaty. Although most treats for training purposes should ideally come from your pet's daily food allowance, make sure what you are using as a lure or reward is actually a dog treat your pet desires. Otherwise there is no incentive for them to complete a desired action.

2. You Don't Mix It Up Enough

That's not to say you should be giving your dog his favorite snacks every time—you shouldn't. It's best to try and alternate treats so your pet isn't sure when her favorite will appear. My dogs love to be rewarded with CANIDAE Snap Biscuits, but I use a variety of treats so they stay focused on the task and don't get bored. In addition to the Snap Biscuits, CANIDAE also offers Snap-Bits and TidNips in three different flavors, so I have a lot of great options!

3. Lack of Praise

Every time you reward your pet with a treat, you should also positively reinforce the reward with genuine praise. This does double-duty by further establishing that they are doing good and placing a higher value on your praise, as it will be associated with a food reward. Soon enough, you'll be able to sometimes substitute praise as a reward, instead of a treat.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Most Popular Dog Breeds by States

By Linda Cole

Many people who love dogs have one or two specific breeds they favor over other breeds. I've always loved the Siberian Husky and felt blessed to be owned by two of them at one time. My other preference would be a German Shepherd or Border Collie. I have a mixed Collie/Shepherd and a mixed Lab/Border Collie; both are rescued dogs, as are my other dogs, and I wouldn't trade them for the world. I've never been concerned with adopting a dog based on the popularity of a breed, especially when it comes to a dog that needs a home. The dog owners I know also aren't concerned if their dog is on a “most popular dog breeds” list, but it’s still fun to read the various lists that come out every year. It's interesting how the different breeds vary from state to state when it comes to which dog breed people prefer.

When you think of Siberian Huskies, you automatically associate that breed with Alaska. If it hadn't been for dogs like the Husky and other sled dog breeds, the wilderness of Alaska might not have ever been settled. Without the sled dogs to deliver supplies and goods to the people living in remote villages, surviving in a frozen wilderness would have been more difficult. If it hadn't been for the courage of the Siberian Husky, the town of Nome, Alaska may not have survived a diphtheria epidemic. In Denali National Park, sled dogs are used to patrol the vast areas of the park and help protect wildlife and the land. So it might be a bit of a surprise to know that the most popular dog breed in Alaska is the Labrador Retriever! The Siberian Husky comes in at number four.

The AKC has listed the Labrador Retriever as one of the most popular dog breeds in the country. The Lab has topped the most popular list for a long time, and that holds true for 42 states. In the states where the Lab didn't rank first, the breed is still in the top three, except in Nevada where it falls to number four.

The Yorkshire Terrier and the German Shepherd are ranked in the top five in 37 states, and the cute little Chihuahua is among the top three favorite dog breeds in 34 states. Rhode Island dog lovers are partial to the American Pit Bull Terrier where the breed sits in the number one spot, and 28 states rank the Pit Bull in the top three.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Animals as Best Friends and Healers

By Julia Williams

If you believe what you read on the internet (sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t) the reference to dog as “man’s best friend” originated in an 1821 poem in The New-York Literary Journal. Regardless of where it came from, the saying has been quoted by countless dog lovers since. Of course, cat lovers say felines are just as worthy of the title. But why designate one or the other as humankind’s “best” friend? Dogs and cats each have their merits. And what about horses…or any other pet for that matter. Given the proven healing power of pets and all the many wonderful things they offer us, I think every animal deserves the title of best friend.

Anyone who’s ever shared a close bond with a pet has undoubtedly witnessed their natural healing abilities firsthand. Be it physical, mental or emotional healing, our pets can greatly improve our lives. There have been many reports in recent years of these remarkable healing pets — among them, dogs who can smell cancer before any medical diagnosis has been made; dogs who can alert their owners to seizures before they happen; horses who help handicapped riders develop balance, strength and confidence.

Cats and dogs are frequently used as “therapy animals” for seniors in nursing homes because they provide love and attention to those who might be feeling lonely, sad or forgotten. I know from experience that Purr Therapy can be very healing. Many prisons have dog training programs, which gives the inmates a sense of purpose and helps them deal with the depression, anxiety and tension caused by incarceration. Some prisons even have “cat care” programs to help the inmates learn to be compassionate towards all living things. It’s clear these prison programs provide a healing experience for the inmates.

The Many Health Benefits of Pets

These natural healers with wagging tails and furry coats enhance our lives in so many ways. The peaceful purring of a cat or the friendly nuzzle from a dog can calm our frazzled nerves. Stroking their soft fur is therapeutic for both body and soul; it can lower blood pressure and reduce stress, while helping us to open our hearts to love. Walking the dog and playing games with our pet provides beneficial exercise for our bodies; it also lifts our spirits and provides a respite from the stress and strain of life.

Pets can improve the quality of our life and positively influence us in so many ways. They inspire optimistic thoughts in those who are disheartened, and gently remind us how important it is to nurture not only ourselves, but others. In his book, The Healing Power of Pets, Dr. Marty Becker writes "Our beloved pets are life vitamins fortifying us against invisible threats: like seat belts cradling against life's crashes; like alarm systems giving us a sense of security. Taken together, the healing power of pets is powerful medicine indeed."

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Should Non-Service Dogs be Allowed in Grocery Stores?

By Langley Cornwell

In the home improvement store last night, we stood in line with a collie and a hound dog while waiting for our duplicate keys. We stopped for frozen yogurt on the way home and sat at a table beside a French bulldog.

I used to think it was a big deal that you could take your dog along when you shopped at a big box pet shop. Now it seems you can bring your pet almost anywhere, and I’m mostly okay with that. But a west coast friend and I were discussing this trend and she said she’s seen more and more dogs showing up in grocery stores. I’m not okay with that.

Seeing dogs when I shop at an office supply store or a home improvement center is fine, even nice if they’re well behaved. Enjoying a cup of coffee or a light lunch al fresco among the animals is also fine, if the pet isn’t a nuisance. But I don’t want dogs in my grocery store.

This may sound hypocritical because our pets have no restrictions in our house. The dog is often right under my feet as I prepare dinner. But it’s our dog and our dog hair. Somehow, that makes a difference.

To get a reality check, I posed the question to some friends, all of them over-the-top animal lovers. Here’s a sampling of the responses:  

Juniper thinks it’s a bad idea all around. “I know that some dogs are better behaved than your average toddler, but many (if not most) can be unpredictable. They might jump on a kid, pee on the floor, tear into a bag of dog food, lunge at another dog... It's just a nightmare waiting to happen. It's also a health hazard.”

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

How EQUIDAE Helped a Hyper Horse Become a Champion

By Linda Cole

Felicia Harrison just turned 16 in June, but don't let her young years fool you. She's already an accomplished horsewoman with an impressive collection of medals and buckles. Her passion for riding and love of riding and horses, however, is even more impressive.

Felicia lives in Washington State in a small community that sits on the northern bank of the Columbia River, in an area described as “the crossroads to discovery” in the Pacific Northwest. It took me a few tries before I was able to get Felicia on the phone, because she's a teenager more dedicated to her horses and riding than she is to her cell phone!

In April, Felicia's family bought a 17 year old horse, Hollie Mae, from a friend. Hollie had been living in a cramped paddock (a small enclosure used for pasturing or exercising). When they brought her home, Hollie was hyper and wore herself down quickly. Her muscle tone was poor and she was sluggish when she ran. She hadn't been getting very much exercise.

Diet plays such an important role in temperament and physical health for humans and animals. Weighing only 990 pounds, Hollie was 160 pounds underweight. To add on pounds and give Hollie a healthier diet, Felicia started her on the CANIDAE Pet Foods line of horse feed, EQUIDAE, a few months ago. I asked Felicia if she noticed a difference when they switched Hollie to EQUIDAE. “It's actually a lot. Now she has much more energy. We can tell a big difference between the grain we were feeding her and the EQUIDAE. On the other feed, she was hyper and when we switched, her attitude became mellow. On a trail ride, she would be prancing or dancing in place, and now she walks with her head down, she looks around, and she's very serious.”

Felicia also said that her horse “has more muscle tone in her butt and neck, and her flanks have gotten a lot more muscular. Now she is kinda like a mini tank – she's gained about 150 pounds and her coat is very shiny and soft! Before it was really long and shaggy, and she had a dull look to her and appeared sad and miserable all the time. Now she's perky and happy! Her previous feed had a lot of molasses in high concentrations to quickly put weight on her. It was more like feeding her coffee and the EQUIDAE is like feeding her a tea; she doesn't get hyper eating it. It has a lot of natural ingredients and she doesn't have to eat as much to get full.”

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Does Your Dog Talk or Sing?

By Tamara McRill

I have to admit to a bit of pet envy when it comes to dogs who are able to speak a few words or “sing” a song. It's not that my three guys aren't smart—they are—but they don't have any linguistic skills to speak of (pun intended) when it comes to verbalizing anything in English. So while we do plenty of dog dancing, we won't be down for any karaoke duets anytime soon.

It's not that I need my dogs to actually be able to tell me, “I wub you,” but imagine how cute it would be! As it stands now, I can get my fix of doggie talk from YouTube videos and my parents' dog, Rascal, who has some verbal talent. His favorite phrase involves getting just “one more” dog treat or more when showing off his words.

Do Dogs Really Talk?

According to scientists, dogs only talk if you count barking. Research has been done that proves what most pet owners have figured out on their own: that dogs communicate with each other and even attempt to speak to us through specific barks and tones. It's this sensitivity to tonal nuances that make it seem as if dogs have learned to talk when they are really just imitating human speech patterns. Even dogs who master certain phrases aren't thought to know what the words mean.

Are the Voices In Our Heads?

Scientific reasoning and research are all well and good, but it's hard to coincide that with what we hear and experience. I'm not saying I don't get that repeating a word and offering a yummy CANIDAE dog treat as a reward are stacking the deck, but imitation seems to be a fairly important aspect of how we learn to speak a language ourselves. And I would double dog dare you to tell a parent that the first word their child utters doesn't actually qualify as talking.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Which Dog Breeds are the Fastest?

By Linda Cole

The Greyhound is hands down the fastest dog breed around with a top speed of about 45 miles per hour. Some people claim the greyhound is the second fastest land animal, right behind the Cheetah (70-75mph); however, other land animals like the Lion (50mph), Pronghorn Antelope (61mph) and Wildebeest (50mph) are faster than the Greyhound which sits at number 7 on the list. There are other fast dog breeds right on the heels of the Greyhound, and some of the breeds might surprise you. Keep in mind, the “fastest list” isn't one everyone agrees on.

The Whippet (35.5mph) and other sighthounds like the Afghan Hound (40mph), Scottish Deerhound, Borzoi (38mph), Saluki (43mph), and Ibizan Hound were bred to sight their prey, give chase, and wear them down. Sighthounds hit their top speed in only a few strides and are built for endurance. In a one-on-one race with a cheetah, the Greyhound or other sighthounds could easily outrun the big cat, because a cheetah's top speed is only good for a short distance.

The Siberian Husky has a top speed of around 28mph, but the dog is like the Energizer Bunny and will keep going and going. Endurance is the name of the game for a Husky. A team of dogs can maintain an average speed of 10-11 mph and run for hours, covering around 150 miles in a day. They can withstand a harsh winter climate and have great instincts for finding a safe trail under snow and ice.

The Border Collie is a speedy and agile herder with a top speed between 20-30mph, a speed they can maintain as they quickly twist and turn to keep livestock in line. They can work over rugged terrain with the same surefooted confidence of the sheep they herd. Considered the smartest dog around, the Border Collie is quick to learn new commands, especially if he's offered his favorite CANIDAE treat.

Friday, August 17, 2012

How Do Cats Show Affection?

By Langley Cornwell

I’ve always been a “dog person.” Growing up, we had hamsters, turtles and dogs as family pets (and a horse, but he was imaginary so that probably doesn’t count). As an adult, I became active in rescuing and rehoming shelter dogs. For some reason, cats never really hit my radar.

Then along came my future husband, an ardent “cat person.” When we decided to make a life together, cats were a non-negotiable for him and dogs were a non-negotiable for me. So we agreed to make room in our hearts and our home for both.

At first, I didn’t know how to relate to cats. I believed everything I’d been told about them: that they’re independent and aloof, that they aren’t affectionate, etc.  Still, my clumsy attempts at interaction didn’t faze the little kitten we adopted whatsoever. Jet chose me to be his best buddy and that’s what we are. He’s my special little guy. He has introduced me to the wonders and joys of living with felines, a pleasure I’d missed for many years—but never will again.

Our cat is clearly affectionate; he shows me affection in ways that are impossible to miss. We’ve fostered other cats, however, that are harder to read, but it helps that we’ve studied and observed the different ways that cats show affection.

Bringing home gifts

Our cat is an irrepressible hunter. I won’t go into details but we’ve had a variety of gifts deposited on our porch. (As an aside, there is nothing cute about a mole). My husband keeps telling me I need to acknowledge my gifts because our cat is expressing his love for us, but I had a hard time buying it until I looked deeper. Catster confirms that when a cat brings home the spoils of his hunting activities, he’s presenting you with a prized gift and he expects you to be pleased with it. In fact, they liken the action to a child seeking approval from his parents.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Dog Breed Profile: Bergamasco Sheepdog

By Suzanne Alicie

I love watching dog shows on television because I always learn about some breed I’ve never seen before, which then leads to researching the breed. One of my favorite breeds to see has been what I call the “mop dog.” There are actually several dog breeds that have roped or matted coats that to me look like mops when they run – one of these is the Bergamasco Sheepdog. The Bergamasco is an excellent show dog with a nice smooth gait and striking features. The personality of these dogs shines through, although most often what catches my attention first is the coat.

Of course the most distinctive feature of this dog is its appearance; talk about a unique dog! The felted coat looks almost like dreadlocks and is quite long. This coat is made up of three types of hair that forms mats which grow to the ground. What is interesting to me is that Bergamasco pups are born with a smooth, short coat and as they grow the hair grows and mats itself.

The medium sized Bergamasco is compact but solid and powerful with a great deal of stamina and strength. Originating in the Italian Alps, the Bergamasco was originally a herding dog. These days this excellent working dog is bred and raised to compete in agility trials, shows, fly ball, tracking and of course herding exhibits. As a herding dog working in the mountains the felted coat was not only warming but also water resistant and didn’t tangle or get caught in things as loose fur would.

The color of the Bergamasco varies between shades of gray or merle, black and a few shades of brown mixed in. The colors are ideal for camouflage when the dogs worked in the mountains of Italy, guarding and herding the sheep.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Are Dogs and Cats Capable of Feeling Empathy?

By Linda Cole

I had a cat that always seemed to know when I was feeling sad. Toby wasn't a feline that usually climbed into my lap, and would come to me only when she wanted attention. Even though she wasn't the cuddly type, if she thought I needed a friend, that's when she would curl up on my lap and purr as if she was trying to make me feel better. A new study conducted at the University of London says dogs can feel empathy towards us, but I believe cats also know when we need a paw to hold.

From the study, scientists concluded that dogs are more apt to go up to someone who is crying and react to them in a submissive way. The researchers wanted to see if dogs would show empathy to either their owner or a stranger if the dogs thought they were upset. They tested 18 dogs in their homes, where the dogs were relaxed and comfortable.

A researcher sat with a dog's owner and they took turns humming, talking, and pretending to cry. The idea was to see if the dogs would respond just to their “crying” owner or if they would also react to a stranger. The study found 15 of the 18 dogs approached the sad person regardless of whether they were the dog's owner or not. Only six responded to humming.

Researchers concluded it's possible the dogs were expressing an emotional behavior and not just approaching out of curiosity. When the dogs reacted to the crying, none of them paid any attention to the one that wasn't crying. When it came to showing a submissive behavior, 13 of the 15 dogs that went to the sad person did so with their tail tucked between their legs and with their head bowed, which researchers saw as showing empathy.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Alleviating Your Dog’s Back-to-School Blues

By Tamara McRill

It can be cute watching your dog tug on backpacks and careening for the door once school’s out, but the sadness some dogs feel in the fall is no laughing matter. The “Dog Days of Summer” could stand for the glorious months pets spend playing and bonding with their youngest owners, but all of the fun winds down in August. The kidlets go back to school and their four-legged best friends are left bereft of company for the majority of the day.

The feelings depressed dogs can go through at this time are very real, and they will need your help to minimize its impact. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to do just that.

Before School Starts

In the weeks before school starts, you can be working on transitioning your pet to his new fall routine. Gradually shift play, exercise and meal times to the times these will occur when school is in session. Don’t forget to also work on a new potty schedule.

It can be hard to lessen contact between pet and child during the times they would normally be in school, but try. If your dog will be spending more time outside or in a certain room while your child is in class, now would be a good time to get her used to it.

If your child is going off to college and is your pet’s primary companion, now is also the time for you – or whomever will be taking over – to start taking a larger role in their care.

Monday, August 13, 2012

What Westminster Dog Show Champions Do After the Big Win

By Linda Cole

After a dog has won top honors at the most prestigious dog show in the world, what else is there left to accomplish? A win at the Westminster Dog Show is the highlight of any show dog's career and most winners are ready to kick back and retire from the ring, but not all of them. Here's what a few past Westminster champions have been doing since their big win.

Rufus the colored Bull Terrier, 2006 winner

Ch. Rocky Top's Sundance Kid, better known as Rufus, the colored Bull Terrier, made Westminster history when he delighted the crowd and won Best in Show. Rufus retired after his crowning as the 100 year dog and the only colored Bull Terrier to win at Westminster. However, he isn't a canine to sit back on his haunches and while away his retirement years. When his owner, Barb Bishop, saw that he was getting bored, she decided he needed a job. Rufus is now a certified therapy dog, giving comfort to people in nursing homes and hospitals. He is also an ambassador for bully breeds, teaching children about responsible dog ownership, and educating people about breed specific legislation and myths about the bully breeds.

James the English Springer Spaniel, 2007 winner

Ch. Felicity's Diamond Jim was a therapy dog beginning at the age of seven months. After retiring from the dog show ring, he simply picked up where he had left off. Owner Teresa Patton and James worked with Angel on a Leash, as well as other pet therapy organizations. He also helped raise around $15,000 participating in memory walks for the Alzheimer's Association. After winning at Westminster, James went on to finish four rally titles and won his first obedience title. Sadly, James passed away in May 2011 from lymphoma. He was one of the oldest Springer Spaniels to win at Westminster.

Uno the Beagle, 2008 winner

Ch. K-Run's Park Me in First went on a nationwide tour with David Frei, Westminster's famous announcer and founder of Angel on a Leash, as an ambassador to help promote canine therapy work. Uno was a busy Beagle and tossed out the first pitch at baseball games, put in appearances at art galleries and charity fundraisers, rode on a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade float, turned on purple and gold lights at the Empire State Building for the 2009 Westminster Week celebrations, and was an honored guest at the White House. Now, Uno is happy being just a dog, hanging out with his best friend Caroline Dowell, playing with his canine buddies, and snoozing on Caroline's bed.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Psychogenic Alopecia in Cats

By Julia Williams

I’ve gotten to know many pet bloggers in recent years, and even correspond with a few. In one email, a fellow pet lover shared a problem she was having with her cat, and asked for my advice. She was concerned that her cat was becoming increasingly bald on his belly from over-grooming. She worried that people would judge her for the baldness, thinking she was not a responsible pet owner. It made me laugh – not because her cat’s bald belly or her embarrassment were funny, but because little did she know, I’d been dealing with that very same issue with my cat for years!

Look at my cute bald belly!
About six years ago, I noticed that the fur on Mickey’s belly was thinning. It would thin to the point of near baldness and then grow back, with the cycle repeating every few weeks. I didn’t see Mickey licking excessively and he was a very healthy cat, so the sparseness of belly fur didn’t really worry me. Nonetheless, I did discuss it with my vet at his next regular checkup. Turns out, the condition is quite common in cats.

What is Psychogenic Alopecia?

For various reasons, a cat will sometimes begin to excessively groom their hair and skin, which results in hair loss and baldness. Typically the over-grooming starts on the abdomen and may progress to the rear legs and tail. The degree of baldness may wax and wane over time. Additionally, some cats do their licking in private, so the absence of belly fur may be the first inkling an owner has that something is awry.

Diagnosis of the condition is usually made by noting the characteristic pattern of baldness. Skin, blood and/or urine tests are sometimes performed to make sure other illnesses are not the culprit.

What Causes Psychogenic Alopecia?

Psychogenic Alopecia is believed to have a psychological or emotional origin, and has been compared to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Stress, anxiety and boredom may intensify the behavior. Skin allergies caused by fleas, food, pollen or environmental allergens may also exacerbate the condition.

Like OCD, Psychogenic Alopecia is usually not curable, but there are things owners can do to lessen their cat’s over-grooming (see below). Moreover, the condition is generally not debilitating, i.e., it doesn’t lessen a cat’s quality of life or longevity.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Training Games for Shy Dogs

My shy pup Frosty

By Langley Cornwell

Even though I’ve had all types of dogs come in and out of my life, this is the first time I’ve ever had a shy, fearful dog. Because I like to write about what I know (or need to know), I’ve spent hours researching, studying and writing about shy, fearful dogs. In doing so, it’s been interesting to note how many shy dogs are out there, and how many compassionate humans are searching for ways to make their shy dog’s life easier and richer.  

In How to Train a Fearful or Insecure Dog, I wrote about our shy pup Frosty, and shared what’s been working for us. We’ve made good progress, but we still have a long road ahead of us. So now we’re learning a few training games.

One of the biggest problems Frosty has is interacting with other people. With a lot of patience and the help of some awesome dog-people, she’s finally learned good doggie social skills. She greets other dogs correctly and does fine in any canine-to-canine situation. But when it comes to dealing with strangers, look out! She either cowers and shakes or she cops a lunging posture, hackles raised, and starts to bark aggressively. My husband thinks she likes dogs but doesn’t like people. I think we can help her with that. asserts that teaching your dog how to communicate with people is a vital milestone in their journey towards becoming a healthy, well-adjusted dog – so that’s where we’re focusing our attention. They outline two training games that are particularly helpful when working with a shy dog.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Does the Moon Really Affect Your Pet's Behavior?

By Linda Cole

In the horror movies, a full moon can bring out unnatural creatures of the night and send them wandering across the land. The moon plays a role in the ocean tides and gives us an awesome sight in the night sky when it's full. Rumors and legends claiming that people and animals act strange during a full moon persist even today, but can the moon really affect your pet’s behavior?

For centuries, people have used a full moon to explain odd behavior and the common belief is it can have an effect on both people and animals, including pets. Dogs are supposed to howl more during a full moon, and cats yowl their mating calls with more passion. There have been attempts to study whether a full moon really can affect people abnormally and cause some people to become more aggressive or commit more crimes just before or right after a full moon. Some studies have shown increased visits to emergency rooms on days prior to and after a full moon, but there is no study that can absolutely say a full moon is the cause. It's possible emergency rooms see more patients a few days before and after a full moon because it's lighter outside at night and there's a higher percentage of people out and about which could create increased chances of more accidents.

A study on pets was done in 2007 by a researcher at Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Raegan Wells, DVM, wanted to find out if pets were affected by a full moon. She wanted to know if, like people, pets experienced more injuries or got into more trouble during periods when the moon was full. She discovered a correlation between more emergency visits for both cats and dogs during the period just before or after a full moon. The study, “Canine and Feline Emergency Room Visits and the Lunar Cycle,” was the first of its kind and was published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Wells went back over an 11 year period and charted emergency visits at the clinic and noted when full moons had occurred within that time frame. During the 11 year period, 11,940 pets were seen at the university's veterinary medical center. The visits consisted of animal bites, epilepsy seizures, cardiac arrest, gastric problems, trauma, and other emergencies. The vets saw 9,407 dogs and 2,533 cats. According to Wells, there was a 28 percent greater chance for dogs and a 21 percent increased chance for cats to be seen by emergency personnel during periods of full moons.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Have You Tried Dog Scootering?

By Tamara McRill

Dog scootering could be the perfect canine sport for those of us who are envious of the athletic coolness of mushing, but just aren't down with playing outdoors in frigid temps.

Not being the most graceful individual on the planet, I was a little leery of flying behind my chocolate Labrador, Wuppy, on some sort of tiny Razor scooter. Besides that, not many people over the age of nine look too hip on one of those contraptions. Turns out that's not the type of scooter used at all! What is used is a more sturdy, unmotorized scooter with mountain bike-like tires, brakes and sometimes front shocks.

Now that's the kind of quasi-retro conveyance I can dig. It's also the one I'm the least likely to go careening off of, potentially injuring both myself and my precious dog.

The sport of dog scootering does use some of the same equipment as dog sledding, namely the harness. A gangline attaches the harness to the scooter. You can even use more than one dog, which is actually recommended if your pooch weighs less than 30 pounds.

You can teach your dog the same commands used in mushing, but I probably won't. I have the utmost confidence in my dog’s ability to learn those, but not so much in myself. If I'm about to slam into a building or ongoing traffic, I know it's going to be English directions tumbling out of my mouth. Of course we'll have all common commands, like “whoa” and “leave it” down first.

Monday, August 6, 2012

New Study Shows Dogs are Risk Takers

By Linda Cole

We exercise self control every day to keep our feelings, actions and thoughts under control. But sometimes we all have days when patience is thin and it can be difficult to keep from saying or doing something that could get us into trouble. If we have a hard time controlling our actions at times, imagine how hard it can be for our dogs. In a new study, team of French researchers led by Holly Miller from the University of Lille Nord de France wanted to find out if dogs react like us when they lose self control and become risk takers when their buttons are pushed to the limit.

The researchers wanted to know if dogs would throw caution to the wind and be willing to gamble by making impulsive decisions that could become dangerous or harmful to them. The answer turns out to be yes; dogs will react in much the same way we do when we have a lapse in controlling our emotions due to stress, being over tired or frustrated.

Researchers recruited 10 dogs from home environments for their testing. In one test, the dogs were trained to sit and stay on a mat for 10 minutes. As they sat still, a ZhuZhuPet toy hamster was sent roaming around the room as a distracting annoyance. The toy forced the dogs to maintain self control to remain on the mat. After 10 minutes, the dogs were taken into another room one at a time where they encountered a snarling, barking dog confined in a cage. Each dog was left in the room for four minutes as researchers recorded where the dogs chose to spend their time.

The next day the dogs were put into cages where they waited for 10 minutes. They were free to move around in the cage and didn't have to exercise any self control by watching an annoying toy running around the room. After 10 minutes in a cage, each dog was again taken into a room with the snarling, barking dog in a cage. The dogs that spent their four minutes close to the angry dog in the cage were said to be more impulsive, and if they stayed away from the caged dog, they were more cautious.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Why Do Cats Make Purrfect Pets?

By Rocky Williams

As a cat, I can’t think of anyone more qualified to extol the virtues of my kind. I do, after all, have firsthand knowledge of all the things that make me (and every kitty in the world!) the greatest pet anyone could ever want. Granted, some felines persist in making sure that old stereotype of the independent cat remains alive and well, which tarnishes their own “Purrfect Pet” medal just a bit. Even so, I still believe we win paws down when compared to other, shall we say, less purrfect pets. No need to get specific, I think you all know who I mean…woof!

Size Does Matter

One thing that makes us cats awesome pets is that we are small, which means that even if you live in a teeny tiny apartment, we’ll adapt. We don’t need a yard – we can get all the exercise we need just by shredding your couch! Throw in an ottoman and some catnip toys, and we’ll worship you for life. No wait, that’s what that “other” pet does. Cats worship only one … themselves.

Our small size also means we don’t need to eat mountains of food, which is easy on your budget and your back. You can even spring for the really good stuff – that would be FELIDAE cat food and TidNips treats, naturally– and you won’t keel over from sticker shock at the pet food store.

We’re Low Maintenance

Cats are lean, mean self cleaning machines. We take our bathing duties seriously, so don’t even think about taking over for us unless you want your arms to look like they just went through the wood chipper. Training a cat consists of showing us where you want us to sleep, so we’ll know to avoid that spot at all costs. Hey, leave your sweater on the bed and you’ll always be able to find us when you come home!

The Healing Power of Purr Therapy

The Warden says nothing gets her body back into balance quicker than a contented cat on her lap, purring away. Opinion aside, there have been actual research studies done which have shown that the health benefits of owning a purring pet are real and substantial. Supplement the purr with a little biscuit making (sans claws), and you’ll be healthier and happier than you ever could’ve imagined!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Which Breeds Commonly Make up a Mutt?

By Langley Cornwell

Many of us have loved a mutt at one time or another. A special mixed-breed dog was my beloved companion for 17 years. She was stunningly beautiful and incredibly well behaved, with a sweet yet mischievous personality. My friends and family adored her too; she was an exceptional pet and people often asked what breed she was. I suspected she was part yellow Labrador but the other parts were a mystery at that time.

During her lifetime, countless people commented that they’d like to have a dog just like her. Heck, I’d like to have another dog just like her! Of course, I had no idea of her true heritage; a Good Samaritan found her alone, weak and malnourished, in an abandoned warehouse. Through a circuitous route involving several shelters, she finally found a forever home with me.

Then, when I wrote a breed profile about the Expressive Norwegian Lundehund, I came to believe that my mystery dog was part yellow Lab and part Lundehund. At the time when I had this dog, there were no tests to determine a mixed breed dog’s ancestry.

Within the last several years, however, DNA tests have been developed to genetically determine a dog’s breed composition. And if you don’t want to get all technical, there are other, less scientific methods to identify a dog’s heritage. Linda Cole recommends a practical approach to breed determination in How to Tell Which Breeds are in Your Mutt.

Because I am an animal rescuer, I’ve had many dogs come in and out of my life. Out of the all of them, only two have been purebred dogs. That’s been my choice; I take in the dogs that are hard to place, which usually means mutts. (As an aside, shelters usually have plenty of purebred animals if that’s what you’re looking for.) Interestingly, more than half of the dogs in the U.S. are mutts.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Dog Behavior: Jealous Dog versus Possessive Dog

By Linda Cole

It's not always easy to determine if your dog is acting out because he's trying to protect you or is a jealous or possessive dog. Sometimes it could be all three, but there is a difference between the behaviors. Just because a dog is jealous doesn't necessarily mean he's possessive or protective. Your job is to figure out what's bothering him before you can address his behavior.

A possessive dog is trying to dominate and control. He may claim his toys, food bowl, sleeping area or owner as his own. Other dogs, cats and humans can be as risk from a dog that feels he has to protect his things. An adult or child that accidentally gets too close to a toy may be bitten. Two dogs may get into a fight over food if a possessive dog thinks the other dog is too close. He may even growl at you if you approach his food bowl, whether it's empty or full. The possessive dog sees a threat, but unlike a protective dog doing his job, possessive behavior keeps a dog on high alert and he won't back down, even though there's no real threat.

When a dog showing possessive behavior growls, snaps, whines or attacks another pet or person, he's telling you he feels insecure, confused, and has a lack of confidence. He's always on guard and stressed out. And when people tease a stressed out, insecure dog, he uses aggression to protect himself because in his mind, his owner isn't protecting him. He's afraid someone or another dog will take something he cherishes. Aggression is a serious issue that needs to be dealt with immediately. Anytime your dog is showing aggression, have your vet check him out to make sure there's no medical issue bothering him. You may need the help of an animal behaviorist to deal with a possessive dog's aggression.

The jealous dog sees other people or pets as a rival for your attention and love. He tries to force himself in between you and someone else or another pet. He may challenge a spouse when they try to snuggle next to you on the couch or in bed. A jealous dog may attack another pet that gets too close to you. He'll try to push another pet away so he can get your attention. He's afraid of losing your love and attention.

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