Whole Dog Journal Blog

The Virtue of (Your Dog’s) Self-Control

August 25, 2015 - The more time I spend with dogs (my own and particularly other people’s), the more I think that promoting a dog’s self-control is the most valuable thing we can do to make him more enjoyable to be around, while preserving both his dignity and individuality. That sounds like a lot of new-age mish-mash, so let me explain. I don’t like it when dogs jump up in greeting, or crash into me when playing with each other. It makes being with them unpleasant – to me, anyway, and maybe some of you. Making a lot of rough physical contact with us doesn’t seem to bother many dogs, probably because it’s something that many dogs do among themselves. Also, I don’t want to have to struggle with my dogs physically, ever. I shouldn’t have to drag a dog somewhere he doesn’t want to go or physically restrain one from doing something he really wants to run toward or check out.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 08:37AM Comments (6)

Mid-life Surveillance

August 18, 2015 - I’m the owner of two middle-aged dogs. I’m also a friend to many people with senior dogs with serious medical conditions. I’ve started worrying about my middle-aged dogs, especially Otto, my 70-pound wonder mutt / “heart dog.” (Small dogs live longer, so I’m less worried about 10-pound Tito, who lives with us but who keeps his own counsel and has never achieved “heart” status with either my husband or I.) I know that every disease is best treated early, so I’m scheduling a major middle-aged wellness exam for Otto next week, in preparation for his first dental cleaning. I’ve had his blood tested annually, for blood cell counts and blood chemistry – and for vaccine titers. (He was vaccinated a LOT at the shelter I adopted him from when he was about 7 months old, and not since, except for rabies as required by law and once, a bordetella vaccine that was required in order to admit him to an agility class. His vaccine titers have always come back super strong.)
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 08:32AM Comments (16)

Time to Get Seriously Social

August 11, 2015 - This summer is FLYING by. There is so much to do. But there’s one task right under my nose that hasn’t been getting done, that HAS to get rolling: socializing “Mommy,” the Dachshund/Chihuahua-mix I’ve been fostering for . . . gosh, I don’t even know how long. Let’s see, I went to the shelter looking for a puppy to photograph for an article in the June issue, and we put that together in April . . . When I saw this cute little mommy dog trying valiantly to protect and raise her tiny, single, three-week-old puppy in the shelter, I immediately asked if I could foster them both. I took them home that day.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 08:25AM Comments (33)

Who Doesn't Scoop Poop?

August 3, 2015 - It's very difficult for those of us who always scoop our dogs' poop to understand those who don't. I honestly have never heard anyone defend their habit of looking the other way (and then walking the other way!) when their dog defecates somewhere he or she shouldn't - such as on a public sidewalk, on someone else's lawn, or outside of a hotel - and I really just can't imagine what such a person is thinking when they do this.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 10:37AM Comments (28)

Car Safety

July 27, 2015 - One shouldn’t watch the latest videos from the Center for Pet Safety (CPS) on a full stomach. Even though NO ACTUAL DOGS ARE HARMED in the videos, watching a few of them may make you feel ill. The videos are the product of the CPS’s latest round of testing safety restraint systems for dogs who are passengers in our cars. The CPS, you may remember, is the nonprofit organization prominently featured in WDJ’s January 2015 article, “Restraining Order,” which discussed CPS’s testing of car safety restraints for dogs. (Also discussed at length: the fact that only two harnesses on the market passed the crash-tests. The article, available free to our subscribers, appears here:
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 10:16AM Comments (18)

Best Dog Friends

July 21, 2015 - I’ve said it before and I will say it again: There is nothing as valuable as a “best dog friend” (BDF?) for your dog – particularly when you have a young, playful dog. Then, having or knowing a dog who plays well with your dog, and is available to you on a regular basis, is just priceless. My son’s coonhound, Cole, loves coming to stay at my house when my son is travelling, but not because of who he gets to play with here – because he mostly has to play by himself here. He gets lots of off-leash running and swimming, and lots of love from Nana (me), but no love from my dogs, who are above playing with youngsters anymore, middle-aged bachelors who just don’t want to do that anymore.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 09:08AM Comments (8)

A Temporarily Large “Pack” of Dogs

July 14, 2015 - I own two dogs. One is Otto, my heart dog. He’s a largish mutt, about 7 years old, well-trained, well-behaved, and well-socialized. He serves very effectively as a watchdog, letting us know when anyone enters our front gate – and when UPS has a package for us. Or anyone else on our street. Barring his suspicion of UPS, he’s a joy to live with. The second dog I own is Tito, also about 7 years old. He’s a probable Chihuahua-mix, having been purchased (by a relative) as a purported purebred puppy from a likely puppy mill. His start in life was a little rough, and he bounced from one relative’s home to another, picking up “issues” along the way. But he’s an astute observer of behavior, and once he landed here he just started going along with the program, more or less. Aside from his barking when friends arrive, he stirs up no trouble in the house, in the car, or on the trail. He follows Otto cheerfully, and though they don’t cuddle or sleep together ever, they get along with perfect understanding.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 08:47AM Comments (15)

Musing About Unusual Mixed-Breeds

July 7, 2015 - The dog shown here is half Bloodhound, half Border Collie. I was skeptical, too. Bloodhound I can see. But I don’t see a trace of Border Collie. Then I learned her story. Indy was an “accident” – the product of two purebreds owned by a family who actually breeds and shows Border Collies and Bloodhounds. I wouldn’t have guessed that a fan of one of those breeds would also possess the other, but you never know about people.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 09:23AM Comments (45)

Pond Scum - Watch Out!

June 30, 2015 - It’s that time of year again: when rising temperatures lure dogs and dog owners to bodies of water, intent on cooling off, and when the water itself becomes dangerous to drink or swim in. The dangerous element, a toxic substance often called “blue-green algae,” is more accurately called cyanobacteria. Genuine algae are simple plants; cyanobacteria refer to a group of microorganisms that possess characteristics of harmless algae, but differ from algae in that they produce highly potent toxins. When the conditions are right, with high temperatures and shallow water, the population of this microscopic bacteria explodes, causing a sudden and highly visible “bloom” of blue-green scum on the surface of the water. That “bloom” is also responsible for the release of the toxins into the surrounding water.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 08:36AM Comments (0)

Let’s Talk About Our Relationship

June 23, 2015 - Have you ever met a dog who is fun, smart, and friendly ¬– but who seemed to have no real interest in humans, or at least, you in particular? Perhaps this sort of dog is right for some occupations, and perfect for some people, but for me, a dog with “affiliative” behaviors is a must. I like dogs who like people! I’m not alone, either. When I help someone find and select a new dog for his or her family, I ask them to write a list of attributes that they really want in a dog, things they would like to have (but aren’t deal-breakers), and things they really do not want. If their lists look thin, I ask them questions to try to spark a little more discrimination. My motivation is simple: If they are going to commit the next 10 to 15 years of sharing their lives with this dog, it should be a good fit. Nine times out of 10, what most “pet dog” people want is a dog who behaves as though he likes them, and wants to be with them. If a dog can make a person feel cared for, or as is they are being paid attention to, the person can often overlook a LOT of other behavioral or health deficiencies in the dog.
Posted by Nancy Kerns, WDJ Editor at 08:22AM Comments (17)

Independent Stores

June 16, 2015 - A couple of weeks ago, I found myself in the highly unusual (for me) position of being in a strange city and ready for my flight home more than an hour before I needed to go to the airport. So I killed time by asking my phone to direct me to a nearby pet supply store. Some national chain stores populated the list, but then I recognized the name of a small, regional chain, Centinela Feed. I hadn’t been to one of those stores before, but I knew that the folks who own the chain are also behind Lotus Pet Food. They had invited me a few years ago to tour and take pictures and video of the canning facility they built, where they make Lotus’s canned foods. But I hadn’t had time on that trip to visit any of their stores.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 08:33AM Comments (28)

Good Teachers “Rephrase the Question”

June 8, 2015 - A short blog post today, to remind myself (and perhaps others) of something so simple I forget it all the time: When a dog is having trouble learning something, “pose the question” differently! Case in point: I’m fostering a puppy, about six months old and about 40 pounds. When I brought him home from my local shelter, he was terrified of the car. A week later, he’s now much more comfortable in the car, but (until yesterday) he was still reluctant to approach it, even when being lured with treats and toys. My office is in a house that’s three blocks from where I live, and I rent other rooms in the house to students. I drive my car back and forth in that three-block “commute” several times a day – ridiculous, I know, but when I’m toting my laptop and/or camera, my own two dogs and a foster dog or two, and a sandwich or coffee, it’s often easier to pile everything into my car and drive. (When I have time and nothing to carry, the dogs and I all walk from one house to the other, of course.)
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 01:20PM Comments (5)

In limbo, In The Back

June 2, 2015 - Many of us “feel sorry for the animals” when we visit a shelter’s adoption row and look upon the faces of the dogs who desperately need homes. But those are the lucky ones – the ones who have been assessed and deemed “adoptable.” There are many other dogs in shelters who may not be so fortunate.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 08:51AM Comments (22)

Be Generous, But With Care

May 26, 2015 - We’ve all seen them: online pleas for donations on charity fundraising sites, supposedly to benefit a person or pet in need. Sometimes it’s a fantastic cause, but please be aware that sometimes, it’s a scam! I recently saw a short article on the website of my local TV news channel, telling the story of a dog who had been reported missing in February, who was found in late April, trapped in the basement of a home that had burned to the ground some time ago. The Lab-mix had apparently survived by drinking rainwater, but there was no food, and she had lost nearly as much body weight as she possibly could and still survive. She was reported to be more than 60 pounds when she went missing, and was down to 26 pounds when found, not much more than skin and bones. Dramatic photos accompanied the article, including one of the dog still trapped in the basement.
Posted at 08:19AM Comments (6)

Movies Going to the Dogs

May 19, 2015 - Once in a while, I hear of a unique idea to support a great cause that really grabs my attention. In this case, it’s movies going to the dogs… more specifically, the Ruff Cuts Film Festival, a canine-themed event founded in 2014 by Service Dogs of Virginia (SDV). Taking inspiration from great film events such as Banff, Sundance, and Cannes, the Ruff Cuts Film Festival puts a new twist on the idea and features dog-themed independent films. Founder Peggy Law established the festival not only as an annual fundraiser for the non-profit SDV, but also as a way to celebrate the amazing relationship between people and dogs.
Posted by Lisa Rodier at 08:28AM Comments (0)