Whole Dog Journal Blog

Who’s Smarter?

February 24, 2015 - One of my friends has a dog, Lena, who recently tore her ACL. She’s on as much crate rest as my friend can manage. Ordinarily, Lena is a highly active dog, and keeping her quiet while her knee heals is quite a chore. Lena had surgery on her OTHER knee a few years ago, and my friend has been told that Lena’s hips are highly dysplastic, so my friend has invested a lot in finding ways to keep Lean busy while keeping her inactive. She owns lots of food-puzzles and tons of toys and Lena eats only out of Kong toys . . . anything to keep her occupied and prevent her from tearing the house apart.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 08:32AM Comments (15)

Really? A Dog Park I'd Visit?

February 13, 2015 - I just found the ideal dog park. It’s in Grass Valley, California, in a gorgeous public park called Condon Park. It’s large, and set in a forested setting, with tall pines overhead, and the footing is thick with pine needles. It has two separate areas, with a smaller section (but still quite good-sized) reserved for “small and shy” dogs. I love that the folks who set it up did not specify small dogs only. What do you do when you have a dog who needs to really run and romp and get tired, but isn’t reliable off-leash yet . . . who could benefit from some socializing, but isn’t yet ready to be accosted by large, high-energy buddies? There are multiple entrances, each with a double-gated “airlock.” But the park planners have improved on the norm by including signs that encourage people to use one of the other entrances if there is a crowd by the first one they approach. And there is also signage that instructs people to remove their dogs’ leashes in the airlock area before turning them loose in the large area (which prevents owners from getting caught in the middle of a rambunctious group of dogs who are trying to greet the incoming dog, and prevents the dog whose leash is not yet released from being hindered from running or defending himself from the onslaught of even fun-loving, well-meaning playmates).
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 09:23AM Comments (8)

Cheaters Gonna Cheat

February 10, 2015 - A friend posted today on her FB page that someone in her neighborhood association had bragged on the neighborhood’s online discussion page that they were able to “get a doctor’s note” claiming that their dog was a “therapy dog,” in order to avoid having to pay a pet deposit for an apartment they were about to rent. I hope and trust that my friend excoriated the person and the tactic. It really seems to me that our society is quickly reaching the tipping point on this “emotional support animal” (ESA) thing. No one seems to know what the laws are concerning legitimate service dogs – and everyone seems to think that “emotional support dogs” are afforded the same rights as service dogs (they are NOT). The laws were succinctly described in a terrific article in the New Yorker magazine (October 20, 2014 issue):
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 08:20AM Comments (19)

Be Cautious About Seeking Online Advice

February 3, 2015 - I often scroll through posts on the Facebook page of a rescue group that I very occasionally have the opportunity to help. It’s a large group, national in scope, and there are dozens of postings to the page daily. Some are from experienced dog owners, with decades of breed rescue under their belts (and dozens if not hundreds of canine lives saved), and others are from first-time dog owners.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 08:24AM Comments (2)

Therapy Dog

January 26, 2015 - My brother passed away a couple of weeks ago after a fairly short and intense battle against cancer. He leaves behind a wife and young daughter. It’s been a very sad, hard time for my family. We held a memorial service for my brother last weekend. We rented a rustic building in a beautiful, wooded park in a Sierra town near where he had lived for many years. My sister who is a chef lovingly prepared much of the food. My sister in law’s many friends and co-workers helped up set up the hall, with live lavender plants on every table, and a local musician my brother had admired played the guitar. Friends and family members traveled from all over to help us remember my brother and celebrate his life. My dog Otto and my son’s dog Cole were present for the event. Every member of my family loves dogs, not least, my brother’s five-year-old daughter. She absolutely adores Cole, and his eyes light up when he sees her; they get along like peanut butter and jelly. I thought, correctly, that she would enjoy having Cole at the event – and I knew Cole would enjoy socializing with all the guests. He’s happy and polite and well-mannered and his coat is like silk. I thought he could be a good therapy dog for the memorial.
Posted at 08:51AM Comments (26)

Bad Breath is Significant

January 20, 2015 - I met a small dog recently who had breath that could knock you over. Because I’ve had small dogs before, I knew enough to lift her lip and take a peek at her teeth. Even so, I was shocked, though not surprised, by the appearance of her teeth. That is, you could barely SEE white tooth material, for the accumulation of hard calculus ­ tartar ­ on her teeth. Her gums were inflamed and swollen, too. It apparently didn’t occur to anyone who knew or handled the dog that her bad breath wasn’t some sort of character flaw, it was an actual health problem exacerbated by neglect. Rather, she was criticized as a “fussy eater.” I imagine I’d be a fussy eater, too, if I was in excruciating pain from infected gums.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 09:17AM Comments (16)

Training a New Dog is a Huge Challenge - Even for the Experienced

January 13, 2015 - The thing that always crosses my mind at some point during a fostering experience: “If I am having a difficult time coping with this behavior, how do people with little or no experience handle it?” And I conclude, “Well, I guess a lot of people don’t handle it; that’s why there are so many dogs in the shelter!”
Posted at 09:03AM Comments (8)

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

January 6, 2015 - It’s one of those jobs you just don’t ask a native (and lifelong) Californian to do: review dog coats. The only time I tried it, I failed; I separated the products under consideration into two categories – rain coats and warm coats – and was taken to task, rightly, for not providing a choice for dogs who have to go out in freezing rains. Because . . . a freezing rain? I have never experienced such a thing, much less had to walk my dog in one. I was reminded of this recently, when I flew into Edmonton, Alberta, in order to tour the Champion Pet Food manufacturing facility north of there. I have never, ever, been somewhere so cold before – and they were having a relatively warm week for that time of year. The whole time I was there, I kept thinking, how on earth can you walk your dog in this cold? How do their paws not freeze?
Posted at 08:30AM Comments (65)

People Food?

December 30, 2014 - I don't know why it always surprises me when someone refers proudly to their strict adherence to prohibiting their dog from getting any "people food." I understand they are proud because they believe they are doing the right thing – that they think "people food" is somehow bad for dogs and that they are keeping their dogs well (and well - behaved, even) by not "spoiling" them. What I don't understand is how people have come to regard what I'm going to call * real food * could be bad for dogs.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 08:47AM Comments (12)

Don’t Lose Them

December 23, 2014 - I don't know about you, but my Facebook news feed is often cluttered with posts regarding lost dogs. In the past week alone, friends or family shared photos and information about half a dozen different lost dogs, from all different parts of the country and lost due to all sorts of circumstances. I find these posts doubly sad, because not only are the people bereft for the loss of their dogs (and the dogs unquestionably scared out of their minds, cold, and hungry), many of the incidents described appear to have been avoidable - with hindsight, of course. But the point is, if people thought more about the bad things that can happen when they least expected them, and worked to prevent them, many of these tragic "lost dog" cases would never happen.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 08:30AM Comments (7)

It’s Always Something

December 15, 2014 - Here’s the biggest problem concerning pet insurance for many of us dog owners: the more dogs (or total pets) you have, the less it seems to make sense. If only there was a company that offered some sort of “pack” insurance that you could apply to whichever one of your pets most needed care.
Posted at 12:38PM Comments (7)

Does Your Dog Have a Drinking Problem?

December 9, 2014 - I'm lucky to have two dogs, one small and one large, who can come galloping into the house from a hard romp, run to the water bowl, and drink their fill, and hardly leave a drop on the floor. I'm reminded of how lucky I am every time my son's dog comes to visit - as I move the water bowl outside and grab the first of a series of “dog towels” from the bottom shelf of the linen closet, the stained, frayed-edge, holey towels kept just for dog baths and... well, this! Cole is incapable of drinking even a little without redistributing half of it around the kitchen. It wasn't such a big deal in summer - it's so dry here, the water would evaporate in no time. But now, with cold floors and me walking around in socks... Darn it, Cole!
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 10:58AM Comments (12)

Puppies at the Supermarket

December 3, 2014 - As I approached the front of the supermarket, I saw about six or seven people standing in a circle. Uh oh, I thought, and sure enough: There was a couple there with three pit-mix puppies. The pups looked like they were about 8 weeks old; they had the pudgy, unformed bodies and the stoic/exhausted expressions of very young pups.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 05:08PM Comments (11)

Thanks For Dogs

November 24, 2014 - First, of course: Otto my wonder dog. I could not be more thankful for this dog, I really couldn't. It's incredible to me that I've been lucky enough to have two "heart dogs" in my adult lifetime. Otto and his predecessor (Rupert the Border Collie, who passed away at the age of 14 in late 2003) could not be more different in appearance and temperament, but both of them have been so generously present for me. Both dogs have seen me through some tough times for me and my family, and I'm grateful for their constant companionship, soulful comfort when needed, and readiness for fun and adventure all the rest of the time. Border Collie owners are accustomed to their dogs watching them constantly, and so I accepted the ever-present scrutiny from Rupert, but I have to admit that it is a little unnerving to have a dog with no BC traits whatsoever being so sensitive to so much as a hitch in my breath or my tone of voice as I talk on the phone; Otto detects any emotional instability at all and offers himself to me immediately. "Here I am, pet me, it's going to be okay," he seems to say. And so far, with his help, it has been. Thank you, Otto.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 03:57PM Comments (9)

Barking Dogs: A Rant

November 17, 2014 - Why do people expect dogs to be calm and quiet when they are left outside for hours and hours, with minimal protection from the weather - or at least, a lot less than they get indoors - and nothing in particular to do? It has to be one of my top three dog-owner pet peeves. For me, there is just nothing as aggravating as listening to a dog barking incessantly. I both feel for the dog and feel murderous at the same time. Who do I want to murder? Alternately, the dog, the owner, and myself!
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 12:54PM Comments (10)