Whole Dog Journal Blog

One of My Proudest Accomplishments

July 8, 2012 - If I had to pick which training accomplishment I am most proud of with my dog Otto, I’d have to consider a few. He’s got a rock-solid, enthusiastic recall that I love. When we’re out on the trail and he sees a duck and ducklings on the shore of the river, say, or hears a deer crashing through the brush away from us, this recall -- combined with a strong “Off!” (a.k.a. “Leave it!”) – never fails to bring admiration from my walking partners. (And because I reward him so richly for this, with a veritable avalanche of tasty treats, it stays nice and strong.)
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 12:01PM Comments (9)

Foxtails are a West Coast Danger to Dogs

June 24, 2012 - A friend called one day to complain about his dog’s latest vet bill: $300 to remove a foxtail that the dog sniffed up his nose on that morning’s walk. If you live on the west coast, you are likely cringing with recognition of the problem. If you live on the east coast, chances are you have no idea of what I’m talking about. Hordeum jubatum (informally called “foxtail barley” but infamous as “foxtail grass”) is a perennial plant species in the grass family Poaceae. It grows like, well, a pestilent, abundant weed all over California. When the grass is green in the spring, it’s pretty; it produces these lush heads that resemble a finer version or wheat or barley. But the moment the plants start to dry in the later part of the spring, the heads start to fall apart – and each tiny segment of the luxuriant heads becomes a danger to any dog who goes near it.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 12:01PM Comments (9)

Going to the Dog Groomers

June 17, 2012 - After a lifetime of washing my dogs myself, always, I’ve become addicted to taking my dogs to a groomer for even simple baths. Oh, I might still wash Otto on the back lawn in the middle of our 100-degree summers, but at any other time, I’ve decided it’s oh-so-worth it to have the groomer handle the whole mess. Even little 10-pound Tito, with his short coat – off to the groomer with you. It started last fall sometime. Someone had been forced to surrender a litter of backyard-bred (in the worst way) Labradoodles to my local shelter, and the chocolate brown puppies were thin, wormy, flea-infested, and, at the tender age of about 10 weeks, shaggy and matted to the skin in spots. They looked like a bunch of dirty mops, and they were lingering in the adoption kennels day after day. I asked the shelter director if we could possibly afford to take them to a groomer to be bathed and clipped and made to look like dogs. “Well,” she considered, “There is a groomer in town who sometimes will take one of our tough cases and groom them for free . . . .”
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 12:02PM Comments (21)

How NOT to Hire a House Sitter

June 10, 2012 - My husband and I recently went on vacation for a week. I hired an acquaintance to house-sit and take care of all the animals while we were gone. She had performed this task for us many times before, although not for about two years. But she and our dog Otto were familiar with each other, and she knew all the plants in our yard and garden that needed watering (the last time we went on vacation, we had hired someone else, and half of our azaleas died for lack of water while we were gone), so it seemed like a good idea. She is actually between jobs and staying with a friend right now, and told us that she’d appreciate having a place of her own to live in for the week. The one possible hitch in the plan was that she was bringing her young Pit-mix dog.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 12:01AM Comments (39)

Hidden Talents

June 4, 2012 - My son was visiting recently and we took the dogs for a walk: Our mixed-breed, Otto; Tito the Chihuahua, a relative’s dog who came to live with us “temporarily” a year ago; and Tule, an obese Labrador I was fostering for a few weeks on behalf of my local shelter. It was the evening of a hot day, and we walked to a nice spot along the river that flows through my town. Otto likes to wade, just up to his elbows. He’ll also swim a bit when he gets particularly exuberant, but it’s uncommon. Tule also likes to wade deeply, and to plunge her muzzle under the water and blow bubbles. I hadn’t seen her swim, though, in a half a dozen trips to the river.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 09:44AM Comments (3)

Hoping for a Home for Mickey

May 4, 2012 - So, the weekend of May 5-6 is the annual Adoptathon, organized by the North Shore Animal League. Participating shelters open for the whole weekend, or offer extended hours, and some reduce their adoption fees or have other strategies meant to maximize adoptions. At my local shelter, I’ve been doing my part this week by spending a few minutes every day with Mickey, doing a little basic training in hopes of finding him a forever home this weekend. Mickey is less than a year old, and cute in an ugly sort of way, or ugly in a cute way, I’m not sure which.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 11:49AM Comments (1)

Spoken English

May 1, 2012 - I was volunteering at the shelter last Saturday, and in the course of the day, I showed several dogs and puppies to several different potential adopters. It struck me at some point that almost every person who takes a strange dog or pup out into a “get acquainted” room or grassy run will almost immediately tell the dog (or pup!) to “Sit! Sit! SIT! Siiiiiitt?” It’s as if they always assume the canine knows what “sit” means and is being willful in not responding.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 03:26PM Comments (3)

Listening to Your Dog

May 1, 2012 - Duncan wakes me this morning as he usually does: with a jump onto the bed and a cool damp nose gently touching my cheek. I respond as I usually do: “Okay, give me a minute.” I wrestle to open my still sleep-induced eyes and start to get out of bed. I glance at the clock – because that’s what morning does – makes one acutely aware of time. But wait! It’s only 1:28! I tell Duncan, “No way!” and pull the covers back up. He seems to accept this and goes back to sleep himself. Duncan is a 10-year-old rangy 60-pound B&W Border Collie. We’ve known each other since he was 5 1/2 weeks old. I think I know him pretty well, but that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped listening to him.
Posted by Barbara Dobbins at 03:33PM Comments (19)

Permanent Hall Passes

May 1, 2012 - My Border Collie Daisy is a consummate counter surfer; she hangs 10 with the best. The trainer in me sighs and acknowledges that I was not successful in getting the behavior to cease over 10 years (so she’s now had a decade of practice). The student of canine ethology in me watches in fascination at the opportunistic seeking and realizes this descendent of wolves has not succumbed to learned helplessness. The dog mom in me says “You go, girl!” and is filled with joy that this dog who was diagnosed with cancer over two years ago is feeling this feisty and that her spirit – and appetite - hasn’t been dampened by treatment.
Posted by Barbara Dobbins at 03:14PM Comments (7)

Homemade Dog Food Diets Don’t Require an Analysis

May 1, 2012 - For the past few months, I’ve been writing critiques of home-prepared diets for the Whole Dog Journal. My original intention was simply to review the diets and offer comments about what they might be missing or how they could be improved, but I ended up doing a full nutritional analysis of each diet to try to figure out why the dogs eating these diets were having problems, or to better understand a very complex diet. My goal was two-fold: to find out how each diet compared to National Research Council (NRC) guidelines, which would be helpful to those experienced in feeding a homemade diet, and to help newbies get started with the recipes provided.
Posted by Mary Straus at 04:08PM Comments (22)

Tracey v. Solesky ; Society v. Pitbulls - Maryland, 4/26/12

April 30, 2012 - In an exceptionally ill-considered decision, on April 26, 2012, the Maryland Court of Appeals (highest court in the state) delivered a finding that not only held a landlord liable for a 2007 incident in which his tenant’s dog, an American Pitbull Terrier, escaped from a pen and mauled a child, but also declared that “a pit bull or any dog with pit bull ancestry shall be deemed hence forth vicious and inherently dangerous as a matter of law.”
Posted by Pat Miller at 12:25PM Comments (23)

Saturday at the Shelter

April 24, 2012 - I haven’t spent a day in my local shelter for six weeks or more. I’ve been super busy, and then I fostered a really cute, really unsocialized dog for a while, which took up most of any extra time I had for a few weeks. Saturdays are usually a big adoption day at the shelter, and there is only one other volunteer who helps with adoptions on Saturdays. When I heard that she wasn’t going to be at the shelter, I decided I’d better go, even though I had several invitations for fun events and a ton of work to do. I walked into the shelter at 11:30; it opens at 11 on Saturdays but I was running late -- plus I needed to buy some dog treats on the way. When I walked in, the shelter’s head veterinary technician caught my eye. “Can you go hang out with the lady with the Golden out in the outdoor runs?” she asked. “I’ll be out there in a few minutes.” No clue as to why she wants me out there, but I’m here to help.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 08:37AM Comments (8)

Thinking (more seriously) About Health Insurance for the Pets

April 16, 2012 - One of my young cats is sick. Last Friday, I noticed he was just being unusually subdued – particularly in relation to his littermate sister, who was bouncing around the kitchen and harassing/trying to engage the dogs in play. I picked up the quiet one-year-old cat and held him a while, feeling him all over for lumps or bumps or wounds of any kind. I didn’t find any, but I did notice that under his longish coat, he was a lot thinner than his short-haired sister. And did he feel a little warm? I called the vet and made an appointment.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 04:44PM Comments (26)

The Dog Ate My (fill in the blank)

April 9, 2012 - It’s one of the oldest excuses known to man, perhaps even pre-dating man’s willingness to share a home with dogs. But every once in a while it’s true: The dog DID eat something critical. Seattle resident Russ Berkman came home from work one day and found some tiny scraps of paper and elastic on the floor. A minute’s worth of detective work confirmed that the scraps were all that was left of four tickets to the 2012 Masters (golf) Tournament in Augusta, Georgia – and that the culprit was his Swiss Mountain Dog, Sierra.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 10:26AM Comments (9)

Evacuation Plan

April 2, 2012 - If you woke up in the middle of the night and your house was on fire, could you escape with your dogs? I read the above news story and have to admire the man who thought quickly and was able to throw a mattress out his bedroom window – on the second story of his home – and then throw his dog, a hefty-looking adult Labrador, onto the mattress. Only then did he jump onto the mattress to escape. Both man and dog suffered some soreness but were otherwise okay.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 09:12AM Comments (1)