Sunday, April 29, 2012


The five "W" questions that a detective always asks:  who, what, where, when, and why...provide the lead-in to this week's topic of Questions On Dogs and Cats.  The human/pet connection has existed for millenia, in one form or another.  Recent written history provides many clues to the dynamics of that connection while many of the sciences give us indications of what happened thousands of years ago.  Sit back and enjoy a story of why you probably feel very comfortable sharing your time with a pet.

Repeating Cues: Information or Affect?

By Patricia McConnell

A blog reader asked a great question recently, in response to my comment that I couldn’t help myself and repeated “Stay, Stay, Stay” to Willie when in a dangerous situation at the side of a busy highway. We all know that repeated cues, like the ever popular “Sit, Sit, Sit” are not exactly “best practice” in dog training. And yet, they are commonly used, especially by beginners; just go to any Beginning Family Dog Training class and you’ll hear repeated cues thrown around like confetti at a homecoming parade. It was that very occurrence that helped inspire me to write The Other End of the Leash, about how the evolutionary backgrounds of people and dogs both help us (we’re both crazy social and insanely playful) and hurt us (direct facial contact is polite to people, rude to dogs). “Sit, Sit, Sit” sounds a lot like “Wooo Woo Woo” coming from a chimpanzee, and that is not a random association. But why? Why do we repeat ourselves like agitated apes, and why is it so hard to stop? We all know why it is a problem in training: If you want your dog to sit the first time you say “Sit” you are teaching the opposite if you say it three times in a row. But besides wondering why we do it, might it be useful, ever, to repeat ourselves?

First of all, why do we repeat ourselves when it makes no sense? A look at the science of vocal communication is helpful here. We know that individuals who are emotionally aroused tend to produce short, repeated vocalizations. Think of repeated whines from a needy dog, whimpers from a child upset about something, and your own predisposition to repeat yourself when you are nervous. In The Other End of the Leash I talk about a good friend who had never ridden, and yet was inappropriately placed on a nervous, high strung horse. The faster the horse went, the more my friend said “Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!” and the more he did the faster the horse went and the faster the horse went the faster he said “Whoa Whoa Whoa”… You can well imagine that it did not end well.

This linkage between emotional arousal and short, repeated vocalizations is so common in mammals that some speculated that all animal vocalizations were nothing more than indicators of their emotional state. As arousal increases, so does the rate of vocalizing. Thus, it makes sense that when we are nervous we tend to repeat ourselves, and who isn’t nervous the first time they take a dog into a dog training class, no matter how kind and benevolent the instructors?

But there’s more to vocalizations than the internal state of the producer. An important aspect of my dissertation research was to shift the focus and look at a sound’s effect on the receiver. I had found that across language groups, cultures and species of receiver, people use short, rapidly repeated notes to speed animals up, long and slow ones to soothe or slow them and one sharp sound to stop a fast moving animal. And the study I did on puppies showed that they indeed were more active in response to short, repeated notes than to long, slow ones. That’s why I argued that sounds do more than provide information about the internal state of the producer (or predict future behavior), but can be used to influence the response of the receiver.

Go back now to the story I told in a recent blog about having to get Willie out of his crate beside a busy highway. Picture cars and trucks whizzing by at 65 miles an hour, a huge bleeding, flapping beast barely contained by Jim’s arms, and me needing to open the crate in the back of my RAV to get Willie out and put the turkey in. Describing everyone as “aroused” is appropriate here: If Jim had lost the turkey it could have fallen/ran/flown just a few feet into the highway and caused a horrible accident. If I didn’t handle Willie right he could have been killed. Tom Turkey must have been the most agitated — injured and now captured by monsters, he must have been terrified. Here’s what the scene looked and sounded like, as best as I can describe it:

I opened the door to the back of the car (the door to Willie’s crate facing directly to the back). While holding my out, palm toward Willie in the universal “Stay” signal, I began repeated “Staaaaaaay, Staaaaaay, Staaaasaay” before I opened the door to his crate. Notice there were two important variables the sounds I used here: I repeated myself, but I was using looooooong, sloooooooow notes designed to keep Willie calm and still. I was also consciously keeping my voice low, the better to sound confident and even somewhat inhibiting to a dog. Thus, there were 2 functions to my “cue.” One was using sound to inform Willie what I wanted him to do. The other, which over rode the first, was focused on using sound to influence his emotional state and motor activity levels. This had an indirect benefit on me, in that speaking as I did acted to calm me as much as it did Willie. (Not a small benefit at the time, believe me.)

Was that a “perfect” use of sound in that context? Nope, I don’t think so. It was adequate, and it worked, but here’s a tweak that would have made it better. Ideally, now that I have time to think it through, it would have been better if I had said “Staaaaaaay” once, and then, as Willie did stay (which he did, bless him), I should have said “Gooooooooooood boooooooy” and repeated it as long as I needed to until I had him safely by the collar. That avoided repeating a cue (and thus undercutting the power of it when spoken once) but would, at the same time, serve to keep all of us calmer and safer.

Lots to think about here: First, think about what you say to your dog. Are you using vocal cues to convey information, or to influence your dog’s emotional state? And how do the sounds you use influence your own internal arousal levels? I’d love to hear your thoughts about this. Heaven knows I will never use sound ideally in every context (I have been known, on occasion, to shriek like a five-year old when truly panicked) but I find the more I understand about acoustic communication the better I am at it. You?

Adapted from:

Human-Dog Communication: Breed As Important As Species

Dog breeds selected to work in visual contact with humans, such as sheep dogs and gun dogs, are better able to comprehend a pointing gesture than those breeds that usually work without direct supervision. A series of tests should caution researchers against making simple generalizations about the effects of domestication and on dog-wolf differences in the utilization of human visual signals.

Márta Gácsi, from Eötvös University, Hungary, worked with a team of researchers to examine the performance of different breeds of dogs in making sense of the human pointing gesture. Gácsi said, "It has been suggested that the study of the domestic dog might help to explain the evolution of human communicative skills, because the dog has been selected for living in a human environment and engaging in communicative interactions with humans for more than 10,000 years. However, this study is the first to reveal striking difference in the performance of breed groups selected for different characteristics."

The researchers found that gun dogs and sheep dogs were better than hunting hounds, earth dogs (dogs used for underground hunting), livestock guard dogs and sled dogs at following a pointing finger. They also out-performed mongrels. Moreover, breeds with short noses and centrally placed eyes were better at interpreting the gesture than those with long noses and widely spaced eyes, which can probably be connected to a more optimal retinal location of greatest visual acuity, that might help focus their attention. According to Gácsi, "Although these results may appear to be unsurprising, there is a common tendency to make assumptions about genetic explanations for differences in comprehension between 'dogs' and wolves. Our results show that researchers must be careful to control for animal breed when carrying out behavioral experiments."

Adapted from:

Why Humans Love To Keep Pets

By Krystal D'Costa

I’ll never forget the day S brought home a live chicken. When we lived in Queens, there were a number of fresh poultry and livestock suppliers that catered to the growing West Indian community so live poultry was readily available, but there were also a few backyard farmers in the neighborhood. S was at a gas station when he heard a cheeping noise. He knelt down to investigate and when he straightened up, found a chick sitting on the mat in the car. “What was I supposed to do?” he asked showing me the chick later that day. “It jumped in the car.”

His affinity with animals is nothing new. He trained goldfish. He has refused to kill mice, insisting on releasing them into the wild. At fifteen, he nursed a pigeon back to health after setting its broken wing. During a trip to Trinidad, he befriended a bull—despite being warned away by my uncles—by sitting in the mud with it for hours. And today, we are the proud parents of two cats (we did not keep Chicken Little) who can’t seem to get enough of him. I am definitely second fiddle in their feline minds—though handy to have around when they need to be fed.

S is not alone. Pat Shipman notes the significance of pets—and animals—in our lives:

In both the United States and Australia, 63% of households include pets, compared to 43% of British and 20% of Japanese households. In the United States, the proportion of households with pets is larger than those with children.

This relationship, dubbed the animal connection by Shipman, may have played an important role in human evolution, linking the traits that distinguish Homo sapiens from other mammals. How is it that some animals transitioned from food to friends, and what is the significance of this relationship?

The animal connection is the process by which pets or livestock become companions and/or partners, and are treated as members of the family. It refers to the close relationship between animals and humans starting 2.6 million years ago (mya), beginning with the use and study of animals by humans, and leading to regular social interactions. Today this is manifested in the adoption of animals and the care provided to them in the course of that relationship. The roots of this relationship may be found in the development of three often recognized traits of humans: making and using tools, symbolic behavior (including language, adornment, and rituals), and domestication of other species. Shipman views the animal connection as a fourth trait, tying the other three together and having an immense effect on human evolution, genetics, and behavior.

Though tool use has been documented in other nonhuman mammals, the manufacture and use of tools by humans is an extremely complex behavior. Modern chimpanzees are often recognized for their tool usage, but this usage varies whereas humans consistently use tools. Early humans used tools to process carcasses, and we have evidence of this from the marks left on the bones after contact with implements. Stone tools gave humans an advantage: they no longer needed to compete with scavengers. They could hunt game on their own and/or drive off those scavengers if needed. The increased meat in the human diet meant that humans occupied a predatory niche, and as such necessarily needed to disperse so that their localities could support their needs. While Shipman makes clear that the fossil record supports that expansion of geographic range about 2 million years ago, the more interesting point, in my opinion, is that in seeking out live game, humans needed to learn about their prey, which opened the door for a more meaningful relationship with animals.

Wild animals are certainly able to communicate with each other, but language has thus far largely been relegated to humans, who have a clearly identifiable syntax and grammar.  Animals have alarm calls, but there are limits to what they can communicate. For instance, a chimp alerting his troupe about a snake cannot provide details about the snake: The chimp cannot say it is a brown snake. (Or maybe it can, and we just don’t know.) And while educated apes may have a vocabulary of about 400 words, they don’t apply syntax and grammar to those words. Language allows humans to share information, and we have developed delightfully complicated means of doing so:

Ritual, art, ochre, and personal adornment are used to transmit information about such concepts as beliefs, group membership, or style, leaving physical manifestations visible in the archaeological record. Nothing interpreted as art, ritual, the use of ochre, or personal adornment has been reported in nonhuman mammals in the wild.

As more sophisticated stone tools were developed, humans could pursue larger game. But this might often require collaboration, which encouraged language. Perhaps the strongest example of this is prehistoric art which depicts animals extensively, revealing morphology, coloring, behaviors, and sexual dimorphism. It creates a record to be shared with others.

Domestication required humans to select for desirable behavioral traits and control the reproductive and genetic output over generations. They lived in close proximity to the animals, historically even bringing them into the home. Indeed, the physical closeness of humans to animals has allowed some infectious diseases to enter the human population from animal hosts, e.g., measles (dogs), mumps (poultry), tuberculosis (cattle), and the common cold (horses). However, the benefits have outweighed the costs when it comes to keeping animals near—animals are much more than a food source:

The Goyet dog is at least 17,000 years older than the next oldest domesticate (also a dog) … animals were domesticated first because their treatment was an extension of tool making.  Animals were domesticated as living tools. They expanded the reach of humans and made other resources more accessible. Animals could provide labor, milk, wool, and opportunities for the production of tools and clothing. And domestication was hedged on an understanding of biology, ecology, physiology, temperament and intelligence.

While much has been made of the monkey who appears to have adopted a cat, such cross-species alloparenting is rare. Humans are the exception. We routinely take in animals integrate them into our families, creating a beneficial relationship. Our connection to Fido may be deeply rooted in our evolutionary history.

Adapted from:


The LA Dodgers finished this week with a 3-game sweep of the Washington Nationals, the other hot team in the National League.  That leaves us with the best record in the NL.

The San Antonio Spurs won their first playoff game handily against the Utah Jazz.

"Properly trained, a man can be dog's best friend."  Corey Ford, 1952

~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~

Sunday, April 22, 2012


With all the publicity about many dogs and cats being overweight, what better opportunity for a pet owner than to combine their own workout routines with something for their pet?

Fitness with Fido

Four-legged companions offer a lot of motivation for pet lovers who want to get in better shape.

By Gwendolyn Purdom

Becoming a runner wasn’t a New Year’s resolution for Shanda Adams—it was a way to get her dog, Riley, out of the house.  After moving to Alexandria in 2008, Adams started coming home to chewed-up baseboards courtesy of her then one-year-old black-Lab/border-collie mix. Riley needed a less destructive way to expend energy. Running, Adams decided, looked like the best option.  “My motto had always been only run if chased,” says Adams, a human-resource specialist at the Treasury Department. “I was not a runner at all.”

But Riley changed her attitude. The pair started slowly. They’d run two blocks, then walk two, adding a little distance each trip. When Adams and Riley joined a dog-friendly running group in early 2009, the three-mile course still seemed too hard. But having Riley by her side pushed her to stick with it: “I look at him and he’s all ready to go with his leash, and even if I don’t want to go, I go.”

When it comes to reaching New Year’s goals to get healthier and fitter, pet owners may have an advantage. Some, like Adams, have seen firsthand the positive impact pets can make. Others might be interested in research that points to the health benefits of interacting with pets, such as lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Studies have shown that people with heart disease have better survival rates if they interact with pets.

Sandra Barker, director of the Center for Human-Animal Interaction at Virginia Commonwealth University, says more research is needed, but studies by her team and others show that pets—and not just dogs—have a physiological effect on people.  “The interaction is mutually beneficial,” Barker says, referring to research indicating that people and animals are less stressed out when they play together and that they experience increased levels of oxytocin, a hormone that creates feelings of love and attachment.

Pet lovers are taking that kind of evidence and running with it. In Burbank, California, trainers at the Thank Dog! Bootcamp combine a cardio and weight workout for humans with obedience training for dogs. Fitness DVDs such as My Best Friend’s Workout demonstrate techniques for intensifying daily dog walks.

Jeff Lutton, a McLean resident who formed the running group that Adams and Riley belong to, was so convinced of the advantages of exercising with his golden retriever, Josie, that when Cardio Canine—a company that makes hands-free running leashes—went up for sale a few years ago, he bought it.  “Josie will stick her nose in my face when the alarm goes off,” Lutton says. “She insists that I get out of bed. And when it’s rainy or cold or windy, she doesn’t complain. She’s different from the typical running partner who might sleep in on you, might not be too excited, might skip it when the weather’s bad.”

On Saturday-morning runs with the Washington Humane Society’s People & Animals Cardio Klub (PACK), dogs from the nonprofit’s shelters get a chance to work out alongside volunteers.  Kevin Simpson, a Humane Society behaviorist who helps run the program, says the animals get just as much out of the exercise as the people: “When they come back from their excursions, they look like how the rest of us feel from doing our run. They seem so much more content. They’re not jittery—they just seem more at peace.”

Adams is more at peace, too, knowing that her morning runs with Riley have curbed the dog’s hyperactivity and anxiety, while her own energy has increased. In 2010, she completed her first Marine Corps Marathon—and she gives Riley all the credit.

Adapted from:

5 Ways To Exercise With Your Dog

There's no question that pets are good for our health, helping to do everything from lower blood pressure to lessen symptoms of anxiety and depression. One recent study from the American Psychological Association even found that just thinking about a cherished animal improved the emotional well-being of a pet owner just as much as thinking about a cherished friend did. But that's not all the research team found.

"We observed evidence that pet owners fared better, both in terms of well-being outcomes and individual differences, than non-owners on several dimensions," lead researcher of the study Allen R. McConnell of Miami University in Ohio said in a statement. "Specifically, pet owners had greater self-esteem, were more physically fit, tended to be less lonely, were more conscientious, were more extroverted, tended to be less fearful and tended to be less preoccupied than non-owners."

Pet ownership is one health behavior that we're getting right: 39 percent of American households include at least one dog, according to the 2011-2012 National Pet Owners Survey. But there's probably more you can get out of your friendship with Fido. A dog needs exercise and so do you -- why not do it together? Here are five ways to make a workout more fun for you and your pet:

Morning Walk…A brisk daily walk can do wonders for your immune system, cardiovascular health and weight management, but it can be hard to find the motivation to get moving each morning. Use your dog's unflagging energy and need to get outdoors as motivation to move quickly from your house to the park.

A recent Michigan State University study found that people who owned and walked dogs were 34 percent more likely to get the amount of daily exercise they need, according to a university release.  "The findings suggest public health campaigns that promote the responsible ownership of a dog along with the promotion of dog walking may represent a logical opportunity to increase physical activity," epidemiologist and study author Matthew Reeves said in a statement.

Agility Training…This organized, competitive sport, in which dogs are judged on speed and agility as they complete obstacle courses, is also a good workout for the trainer. In order to usher your pet through a new routine, you'll have to run alongside offering command words and treats for a job well done. Your dog will improve strength and coordination while you both get a cardiovascular workout.

Doga…Dog yoga, or doga, is a type of Hatha practice that incorporates massage, stretching and relaxation for both pet and pet owner. Many yoga enthusiasts dismiss the practice, but practitioners of doga say that a class can help them de-stress and feel connected to their pups. But even if dog yoga seems silly, a 2009 New York Times article on the practice pointed out that doga can have a motivating effect on reluctant exercisers.  Were it not for their pets, many people would never take daily walks in the park. By extension, it's easy to see how taking your dog to doga may be a surefire way to make certain you do yoga yourself.  More on this later....

Skijor…Skijor is an amalgam of cross-country skiing and mushing, in which a person cross-country skis with a dog harnessed to him. The team effort -- the dog pulls forward while the person uses skis and poles to keep momentum going -- results in great distance and speed.  A snow-free version of the sport, canicross, refers to a cross-country runner who is harnessed to a dog. Both are recognized by the International Sled Dog Racing Association and clubs exist all over the country and in Europe, where both sports are more popular.

Canine Freestyle Dancing…If the measurable weight loss of Dancing with the Stars contestants is any measure to go by, ballroom dancing is a major workout. But the species of your partner has nothing to do with burning calories and improving endurance, strength and flexibility -- so why not cha-cha with FiFi?  Several organizations, including the World Canine Freestyle Organization and Musical Dog Sport Association can help you find classes.  More on these later....

Adapted from:

Dogs Jumping Rope—World Record

Watch this short video for a special treat:

Wouldn't that be fun???

Dogs Make Good Bicycling Partners

By: Wade Shaddy

With a few precautions and a bit of conditioning, dogs are natural biking partners. Most dogs love to get out and run, but size and endurance are important considerations. Among the best biking partners: Akitas, Labradors, huskies and collies.

You can take your dog cycling with you at any age, except when he's a small puppy. Most well-conditioned 2- to 5-year-old dogs can maintain a speed of about 10 mph for about an hour or more – just right for trail riding. There are some dogs, however, that aren't designed to be out in the heat as much as other dogs, namely snub-nosed dogs such as the bulldog and the Pekingese.

Start your dog's conditioning program slowly, going just a few miles each day, building up distances gradually. If your dog is over 5 years old, he will have gained some weight and will begin to slow down, so ease up. Your dog can run with you for many more years, as long as you don't overdo it. If your dog lies down during training or lags behind at a speed under 5 mph, end the session immediately. Keep in mind, too, that we're talking trail riding here. If you're going to be riding on pavement or in traffic, do the dog a favor – and leave her home.

Running is the essence of life to dogs, and often they don't know when to quit. It's up to you to recognize signs of heat exhaustion. Sled-dog runners use the 120 rule: If the combined total of outside temperature plus humidity equals more than 120, they don't run their dogs. Follow their example.

While out on the trail, "watch for lethargy, disorientation and sloppy foot movements" says Tracy Howard, a veterinary technician. "If you see any of these signs, stop immediately, and get your dog water. A dog's normal temperature runs higher than that of humans – around 100 to 102.5 degrees. They only sweat in their pads and panting helps keep them cool. It would be a good idea to plan your trip near water so if the dog needs to cool off, he can just jump in.

Be on the lookout for hazards: poisonous plants, dangerous wildlife or other aggressive dogs. A major hazard in trail running is the thorn or grass awn, which is a small spear-shaped seed that can lodge in your dog's eyes, ears, nose, paws or puncture the skin.  "We see hundreds of dogs with grass or cheat awns in them every year," Howard says. "If it's in the paw or skin, you might be able to remove it with tweezers. If your dog starts limping during a run, stop immediately and inspect his foot, and pull out the offending awn."  If the awn lodges in the nose or eyes, things get more complicated, says Howard. "If your dog starts sneezing uncontrollably or scratching at his ears and continues for several hours, take him to the vet."

Most dogs can run for years without any trouble, but a common injury, known as a torn anterior or cranial cruciate ligament, can occur in active dogs. If your dog shows signs of soreness or has trouble getting to his feet, take him to the vet. The most common running-related injuries are worn down pads. You can avoid this by using Pad Guard®, a spray that is applied directly to your dog's feet. It forms a protective barrier and works better than booties.

Lastly, always observe the courtesy rules of the trail.  Keep your dog under control at all times, especially around other hikers and bikers...they may not like dogs as much as you do.

Adapted from:

Hiking with Your Dog
By: Dr. Douglas Brum

Hiking with your dog can be one of the most joyful experiences of pet ownership. Besides being great exercise, it's a good way to spend quality time with your canine chum. Taking a walk in the woods is a simple thing to do, but you can maximize your enjoyment and your dog's safety by preparing ahead of time.

• Before going hiking, check for any restrictions in the area. For example, national parks and some state parks do not permit dogs on hiking trails. Most parks also require your pet to be on a leash, unless you are in a designated doggie park. Leash walking is always a safer option as it decreases the chance your pet will wander into trouble. Unusual sights, sounds and smells may tempt the unleashed dog to stray deeper into the woods or bring about encounters with other animals that could cause a confrontation.

Make sure your pet is up to date on all of his vaccinations. In some areas of the country, it might be wise to vaccinate for Lyme disease as well. Your dog should also wear a collar with clear and current identification tags. Microchipping is another option that many pet owners are choosing.

• Avoid areas that permit hunting. Bright colors for you, and even a bright colored collar and vest for your dog would be a good idea, in case you accidentally wander into a hunting area.

• Make sure you know the limitations for you and your dog. If you are used to long hikes up tough terrain, but your dog is not, take it slow. Start with easier walks and work up to the tough ones. For smaller or older animals, certain strenuous hikes might better be skipped. For animals with arthritis or medical conditions, consulting your veterinarian first is a good idea. Even animals that are normally active might have problems on rough terrain. Pad abrasions, cuts, and ulcerations are common occurrences if your pet's pads are not adapted to walking on more abrasive surfaces. Pad protecting "booties" are commercially available that can help protect sensitive paws if needed for rough terrain or snow and ice.

• Take rest breaks as needed and don't forget to bring food or snacks for yourself and your dog. Better than sharing your sandwich, bring along a dog treat or a meal specifically for your dog. Water is also important. Ideally, dogs should not drink from the ponds or small streams along the trail, for the same reasons people should not. Poor sanitation, and increasing development has led to increased incidence of contracting diseases. Giardia cysts occur in dogs and people, and can cause significant gastrointestinal distress and diarrhea. Practically speaking, it may be impossible to prevent your dog from drinking some water on the trail, but being prepared and taking some precautions will decrease the chance of illness. Some dogs may be large and strong enough to even carry their own rations, and many different types of "dog backpacks" are available for purchase. A dog with his own backpack adds another dimension of fun on the trail.

• It is always a good idea to pack some emergency supplies for both you and your pet. A small first aid kit for dogs should contain a few important items. Bandage materials, tape and a disinfectant (e.g. hydrogen peroxide) are included for cleaning and wrapping wounds. Antibiotic (e.g. Neosporin®) and cortisone creams are useful for cuts and insect bites respectively. Diphenhydramine (check with your veterinarian for a dosage for your dog) is useful for severe reactions to insect stings or hypersensitivities. Consider taking an anti-inflammatory, like aspirin, for use after a long days' hike. Just like people, after a long day hiking, many dogs may be sore the next day. Anti-inflammatories will help with a quicker recovery. Check with your veterinarian for the right dose and best anti-inflammatory for your pet.

• Be considerate to others on the trail by keeping the environment clean, and leaving it the way you found it. If your dog messes on the trail, clean it up and pack it out. This is the best way to ensure the continued availability of hiking trails to you and your dog. If this is not possible, at the very least, make sure the stool is moved away from the trail.

• In most areas of the country, it is advisable that your dog be on heartworm preventative medication, especially when hiking in mosquito-infested woods. Insect repellents that are safe for pets are also available and may be very useful at certain times of the year. It is also a good idea for dogs to be on a flea and tick preventative when out in the woods. Fleas may cause skin problems and allergies, and ticks may cause infections and spread disease. Prevention using the many products available through your veterinarian is the best defense.

Taking the time to do a little planning ahead will ensure a happier and more fulfilling hiking experience...truer words were never spoken.

Adapted from:

Rollerblading with Your Dog

Some in-line skate enthusiasts live for the mornings when they can leash up their pooch and go for a nice sprint together along a shaded park path. Not only is it great exercise, but the dog is often delighted that their human buddy can keep up with them.

Other in-line skaters, however, see a sport fraught with danger. Without complete control over the skates and the dog, someone rollerblading with Rover could turn into a barreling, 30-mile-an-hour hazard to themselves and other pedestrians.

Among rollerblading enthusiasts, there is no solid consensus over whether dogs and skating mix. But all agree that no one should attempt it unless they are highly skilled skaters and have confidence in their dog's obedience training. They further agree that skating with dogs should only be done in an area without vehicles, and at a time when fewer people are about.

"It looks fun, but unless you have complete control over yourself and your dog, it's pretty dangerous and unpredictable," notes Noelle Robichon, a certified in-line skate instructor from Minneapolis.  Robichon is one enthusiast who believes canines and skates don't go together. "If he suddenly takes off to the right or left, you can trip and injure yourself and the dog," she said. The leash can trip up the skater, who may have to instantly choose between falling on the pavement and being hurt, or falling on and injuring their dog.

Innocent bystanders are at risk as well. Pedestrians may not be aware that a human/canine package is rumbling towards them from behind, or may not be able to get out of the way fast enough.  Having Rover suddenly take off after a small animal or object is probably one of the bigger dangers people face, notes Kalinda Mathis, executive director of the International In-line Skating Association. The IISA is an organization comprising manufacturers and skaters to promote the sport and safety.

Mathis says the IISA doesn't have a position on dogs and skating; in fact, she enjoys skating with her chow dog in the mornings. But she agrees that the exercise poses a danger to the public, the skater and the dog unless adequate precautions are taken.

One of the primary precautions is skill level. Preferably, you've taken lessons from a certified instructor on how to avoid obstacles and skating has become an instinctive, second-nature activity to you. Even the smallest obstacles – pebbles, cracks in the pavement, etc. – can trip you if you're not skilled.

• Always wear appropriate protective gear: a helmet, wrist guards, knee and elbow pads. This is important for skilled skaters to remember. Studies have shown that most injuries are sustained by overconfident, under-prepared veterans.

• Follow the SLAP guidelines: skate smart, legal, alert and polite. This includes wearing protective gear, obeying traffic regulations, avoiding hazards and traffic, and yielding to pedestrians. Always announce your intention by saying "passing on your left."

• Use a slightly longer leash than normal. The leash should be long enough to give you warning if your dog takes off in an unexpected direction, but not so long as to put him in danger before you can save him.

• A harness leash is best to avoid choking your dog in case you have to pull in an emergency.

Another primary precaution is location and time. You should only skate in areas devoid of traffic at times when people are less likely to be around. Mathis, a 15-year veteran and an instructor, says she skates with her dog in a park in the morning.

A further precaution is the dog's training. A dog should be trained to stop reliably on command. Many skaters are tripped by the leash when their dog suddenly goes left or right.

Watch Out for Your Dog

Rover may be eager to go for an extended romp, but you have to know when to say when.

• Keep your dog hydrated.
• Work up to a level you're both comfortable with.
• If it's hot, keep the run very short or don't take him with you.
• Dogs perspire through their feet; if the ground is hot, he won't be able to cool down.
• Running on pavement is hard on your dog's joints. If he shows discomfort, stop.

One way to reduce the risk of injury to your dog is off-road rollerblading. This is recommended by enthusiasts such as Lidia Dale-Mesaros, who is co-owner of  "On soft ground, there's more 'give' for the dog," she said. offers several products for off-road rollerblading, including a quick-release mechanism for the skater and jell-filled boots for the dogs. The quick-release mechanism, called Bail-Out, allows an owner to detach from the dog if he runs in an unexpected direction.

The product carries its own risks; if used in a high-traffic area, the dog is no longer in control of the owner. Again, obedience and training are paramount. The jell-filled boots are designed to help keep the dog's feet cool. Dale-Mesaros says they are not designed as shock absorbers.

If your dog shows signs of soreness or trouble getting to his feet, take him to the vet. The most common running-related injuries are worn-down pads. You can help avoid this by using Pad Guard, a spray that is applied directly to your dog's feet. It forms a protective barrier and works better than booties.

This all seems to be a bit problematic for the rollerblader AND the very careful doing this.

Adapted from:

Bonding With Their Downward-Facing Humans

Doga combines massage and meditation with gentle stretching for dogs and their owners


In Chicago, Kristyn Caliendo does forward-bends with a Jack Russell Terrier draped around her neck. In Manhattan, Grace Yang strikes a warrior pose while balancing a Shih Tzu on her thigh. And in Seattle, Chantale Stiller-Anderson practices an asana that requires side-stretching across a 52-pound Vizsla.

Call it a yogic twist: Downward-facing dog is no longer just for humans.

Ludicrous? Possibly. Grist for anyone who thinks that dog-owners have taken yoga too far? Perhaps. But nationwide, classes of doga — yoga with dogs, as it is called — are increasing in number and popularity. Since Ms. Caliendo, a certified yoga instructor in Chicago, began to teach doga less than one year ago, her classes have doubled in size.

Not everyone in the yoga community is comfortable with this.

“Doga runs the risk of trivializing yoga by turning a 2,500-year-old practice into a fad,” said Julie Lawrence, 60, a yoga instructor and studio owner in Portland, Ore. “To live in harmony with all beings, including dogs, is a truly yogic principle. But yoga class may not be the most appropriate way to express this.”

Appropriate or not, this is how it works: Doga combines massage and meditation with gentle stretching for dogs and their human partners. In chaturanga, dogs sit with their front paws in the air while their human partners provide support. In an “upward-paw pose,” or sun salutation, owners lift dogs onto their hind legs. In a resting pose, the person reclines, with legs slightly bent over the dog’s torso, bolster-style, to relieve pressure on the spine.

Doga instructors are not required to complete certification, though teacher training seminars do exist, like ones taught by Brenda Bryan, 43, a yoga and doga instructor in Seattle who has just written a book on the subject. In general, instructors learn informally by sharing techniques. Guiding these techniques is an agreed-upon, though not officially stated, philosophy: Because dogs are pack animals, they are a natural match for yoga’s emphasis on union and connection with other beings.

Ms. Yang, 39, a financial analyst in Manhattan, has gone to doga classes for more than a year. Though she says that her 10-pound Shih Tzu, Sophie, has helped deepen her stretches by providing extra weight, the main reason she goes is to bond with her dog. “I always leave with a smile,” she said.

Such post-doga smiles run about $15 to $25 a class. Whether this is a bargain or overpriced depends on how — and why — the class is taught. Paula Apro, 40, of Eastford, Conn., owner of an online yoga retail store, tried a class near her home last summer.

“A stuffed animal — but not even a dog-shaped stuffed animal — was used by the instructor,” she said. Owners struggled to get their very real dogs to replicate the stuffed-animal poses, she said, and bags of treats were used to get the dogs to change positions. “It was lunacy,” Ms. Apro recalled. “Peanuts, my retired racer greyhound, didn’t participate at all. Instead, I did downward-facing dog while he ate the most treats he’s ever had in a 60-minute period.”

Ms. Caliendo said such tales are the exception. She offers her class in conjunction with the Royal Treatment Veterinary Spa in Chicago, which specializes in holistic animal care. “In no way is doga for teaching dogs silly tricks,” she said. “The dogs are never manipulated into any type of pose.”

Ms. Caliendo’s classes focus on poses and massage for dogs aimed at improving digestion and heart function, and poses for people that emphasize stress reduction and feeling well.

Ms. Bryan, the author in Seattle, said: “It’s a new field so there can be confusion about what doga is and isn’t.” Her classes are loosely structured and filled with humor. “Who cares if everybody’s facing the same direction and doing exactly the same thing?” she said. “Besides, laughing is spiritual.”

Ms. Bryan said some of her earliest classes were a challenge. “I was brand new to this, and in one class, this dog just wouldn’t stop barking,” she said. “There I was, trying desperately to look tranquil and calm, but inside I was, like, ‘Shut up!’ That was the turning point for me. I mean, this was a dog. Plus, he was having the best time of his life.”

Kari Harendorf, 38, teaches doga in Manhattan. “Jobs are disappearing,” she said. “Mortgage payments are looming. Change is everywhere, but your dog remains steadfast. So, why not spend time together?”

Ms. Harendorf links yoga to reductions in stress hormones, like cortisol, and blood pressure. “People always ask me, ‘Do dogs need yoga?’ ” she said. “I say, ‘No, you need yoga. But your dog needs your attention, and bonding with your pet is good for your health.’ ”

She is saying something many dog owners already know: Were it not for their pets, many people would never take daily walks in the park. By extension, it’s easy to see how taking your dog to doga may be a surefire way to make certain you do yoga yourself.

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The North American Dog Agility Council (NADAC) was formed in 1993 to provide North American dogs and their handlers with a fast, safe and enjoyable form of the sport of dog agility. NADAC sanctions agility trials sponsored by affiliated clubs.

The purpose of a NADAC agility trial is to demonstrate the ability of a dog and its handler to work as a smoothly functioning team. With separate class divisions for Veterans and Junior Handlers and a variety of games, NADAC dog agility offers something for everyone!  Try both of these web sites for more information:

The Mission of the Musical Dog Sport Association is to advance the sport of canine freestyle and to share the joy of the canine/human bond achieved through positive training, enhanced by the artistry of music and choreography. Created by freestylers for freestylers, the MDSA defines Canine Freestyle as a dog sport in which training, teamwork, music and movement combine to create an artistic, choreographed performance highlighting the canine partner in a manner that celebrates the unique qualities of each individual dog. It is built upon the foundation of a positive working relationship of a dog and handler team. The MDSA is proud to continue the tradition of growth and exploration of this new sport. We look forward to working in harmony with all as we strive towards our common goal to bring the wonder of Canine Freestyle and the joy of the dog and handler bond to even more people.

The LA Dodgers continue to have the best record in the National League following a 6-game road trip.  Our centerfielder, Matt Kemp, has been really pounding the ball for some awesome offensive stats.

The San Antonio Spurs are trying to sew up home court advantage throughout the playoffs in the NBA...which will end its regular season this week.


"There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter."  Rachel Carson, author

Now that spring and, in some areas, summer have arrived, the opportunity to get outside with your pooch and do some type of exercise is staring you in the face.  Carpe diem!  You and your pooch can rest when finished....

~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~

Sunday, April 15, 2012


OK, even though this whole issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats is devoted to cats, what does this breed of dog have to do with the lead news story of April 15, 2012? 

The lead news story of April 15, 2012 is about the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic (April 15, 1912) and the dog in question is a...Pomeranian.  According to reliable news sources, there were 12 dogs that were included in the "passenger" manifest on the Titanic for its maiden voyage.  Only 3 of them survived and 2 of those were...Pomeranians (the 3rd was a Pekingese). 

Now, on with the "cat's meow."  Helpful Buckeye always gets a bunch of e-mails from cat owners when we run an issue that features cats.  This will actually be the first in a 3-part series that will be spread out over the next 2 months.  Our readers with cats know that their cats really do think they are special, whereas dog owners know that their dogs would like to be treated as if they were special.  There's a major difference in that statement.  In the way of an introduction, I am reminded of an old quote about cats:

"Thousands of years ago, cats were worshipped as gods.  Cats have never forgotten this."  Unknown

Cat Facts 

1: How many toes do cats have on their back paws?

A) 0
B) 2
C) 4
D) 5

2: What are female cats called?

A) queens
B) felines
C) toms
D) cats

3: The longest recorded lifespan of a cat is how many years?

A) 24
B) 29
C) 34
D) 39

4: How many hours a day does the average cat sleep?

A) 10
B) 14
C) 18
D) 20

5: For how long are female cats typically pregnant?

A) 9 months
B) 4 months
C) 2 months
D) 1 month

6: Using the length of a cat's tail as a guide, how many tail lengths high can a cat jump?

A) 5
B) 9
C) 3
D) 7

7: A cat without a tail likely lacks what?

A) balance
B) mating appeal
C) navigating ability
D) sensing ability

8: Which of the following is not another meaning of 'cat'?

A) a kind of whip
B) a handgun
C) a type of construction vehicle
D) to vomit

9: Cats have three eyelids. A cat showing this third eyelid can indicate all of the following except what?

A) it is happy
B) it is sick
C) it is scared
D) it is tired

10: Many things have been claimed about cats throughout history. Which of the following beliefs about cats has not been held by a culture...that we know of?

A) they are witches
B) they are minions of the devil
C) they are the embodiment of Gods
D) they can see the future did you do?  The answers can be found toward the end of this issue.
Adapted from:
If Your Cat Could Talk

Until about 40 years ago, the cat was thought to be an outdoor pet...but its independent nature and the relative ease of taking care of its basic needs has made the cat a much more popular pet.  In fact, recent surveys have shown there are millions more cats as pets than dogs. 

The ease of care for basic nutrition and toileting needs, as well as their independent nature, has led owners to believe that basic pet care for the cat appears to require less effort than for other pets, including dogs.

While cats may be surviving, their health concerns are often unrecognized and their needs are not being met in a lot of households.  Here are the top 5 things your cat would want you to know if it could speak with you:

1. I Need to Visit a Veterinarian. Cats are masters at hiding illness and may show only very subtle signs of sickness. Unless owners are aware of these subtle signs, they may often miss small behavior changes that can signal disease until the disease is in a more pronounced stage.

Proactive preventative health care actions like visiting your veterinarian for annual wellness visits can help with detecting disease before it becomes advanced. Cats also need to stay up-to-date with vaccinations as per AAFP Vaccine guideline recommendations. Senior cats may often need to visit the veterinarian more frequently. Visit to find a feline practitioner in your area.

2. I Need Active Play. Cats are natural hunters and need an opportunity for play that enables them to express hunting behaviors.

Environmental enrichment for indoor cats is very important because it allows them to play, express their instinctual hunting behaviors and can provide regular exercise.

Cats are greatly influenced by early experiences so socialization during this time is critical. Cats are usually most content when they can dictate the timing of interaction with their owners and other humans.

Like humans, feline obesity is a rising health care concern in the U.S. and creating an environment that allows the cat to play and exercise can improve their overall health.

3. I’m Naturally Clean and Highly Sensitive to Scent. Cats often respond negatively to new scent profiles in the home including cleaners, new furniture, visiting people, dogs or other cats. Scent marking indoors can mean the cat feels threatened or it can be a response to changes in their emotional state because of changes in their environment.

Cats need a comfortable quiet place for toileting and in a location where they can avoid contact with other cats and human traffic. They prefer at least 1.5 inches of litter in order to bury their waste. It is also recommended that there be one litter box per cat, plus one extra and in different locations distributed throughout the home environment.

4. I Need Small Frequent Meals. Cats are carnivores, unable to survive or thrive without nutritional nutrients such as taurine that is found only in meat.

Vegetarian diets are not recommended for cats because of the cat’s unique nutritional needs. Your veterinarian should always be consulted first before feeding a homemade diet.
 Cats often eat only a few mouthfuls of food at any one time and not a large meal (prey is usually small).

The feeding process for cats is not a social event and thus they prefer to eat alone. Eating meals with other cats in close proximity or placing a bowl in a corner can create stress during the feeding process.

5. I Need a Veterinary Practice That is Cat Friendly. Cats have unique needs that practices must learn in order to provide the best possible health/medical care for the cat.

The entire veterinary team must learn and incorporate feline friendly handling techniques into their practice. Cat friendly practices understand that the trip to the veterinarian can be stressful for you and your cat, and they can help provide strategies to decrease the stress associated with the visit. 
 Practices that understand the distinct needs of cats will be able to provide improved wellness care, valuable education for you the client, and be proactive about diagnosing disease early to ensure a longer, better quality of life for your cat.

Adapted from:

'In Touch' With Your Cat's Health

The Humane Society of the United States

Regular visits to the veterinarian are an essential part of keeping your cat healthy. An excellent way for you to keep tabs on him in between vet visits is to do your own nose-to-tail checkups at home.

Get in the habit of running your hands all over your cat's body whenever he's cuddling with you or you're grooming him. This is the best way to discover problems before they become serious. Call your veterinarian if you find any of these conditions.

Skin deep

While petting your cat, feel for any lumps, scratches, scabs, swelling, or any other irregularities. Dandruff, oily fur, and missing fur can indicate skin or internal problems. Part the fur to look for fleas; specks that look like black pepper are actually "flea dirt" (flea feces that contain your cat's blood and turn red when wet).

Lend an ear

The hairless part of your cat's ears should be clean and odorless. If your cat is having problems, he may shake his head a lot and scratch his ears. Check for flaking, scabs, foul odor, or discharge. If you see a black, gritty substance inside, he probably has ear mites, a parasite that causes severe itching and is contagious to other cats.

Eye spy

Look for bright, clear, evenly focused eyes. Redness, discoloration or discharge, squinting, or the emergence of the third eyelid can signal that your cat has a problem.

Open wide

Healthy gums are pink, pale or bright; red gums may mean something is wrong. Drooling and pawing at the mouth are cause for concern as well. Brown streaks and tartar build-up on the teeth may indicate a dental problem. Your cat's breath should not be so bad that you can't stand to have him near you.

 Get nosey

Cats noses should be clean, and, depending on his activity level and the ambient temperature, his nose may be cold or warm. If he paws at his nose, sneezes frequently, or there is a discharge, contact your veterinarian.

Tall tails

Look under his tail. If you see what looks like grains of rice or spaghetti, contact your veterinarian. Your cat has parasites—some of which may be spread to you or other pets.

Foot the bill

Most cats don't like to have their feet touched, but if yours doesn't mind, look for stuck-on litter, torn claws, cuts, swellings, or infections. Also, check your cat's claws regularly to see if they need to be trimmed; untrimmed claws can inadvertently scratch you, get caught on carpet and furniture, and grow into the paw.

Brush it off

If your cat likes to be brushed, finish off your exam with a nice grooming session. Brushing is good for removing loose fur, distributing oils, and stimulating blood flow. Brushing also helps prevent hairballs, which cats cough up when they've swallowed too much fur from grooming themselves or another cat in the household.
 Book smarts

All owners should have a book on cat care (recommended by a veterinarian) that includes a section on emergency first aid. You should never try to be your own veterinarian, but there are some emergency procedures that could minimize damage and keep your pet relatively comfortable on the way to the veterinarian. Familiarize yourself with these procedures before an emergency happens.

Adapted from:

Subtle Signs Of Sickness

Inappropriate Elimination Behavior

Client education about litter box care and normal elimination behavior is important for prevention and treatment of medical and behavioral problems. Clients should be aware that inappropriate urination and defecation often accompany an underlying medical condition and do not occur “to get back at the owner.”

A cat that is urinating inappropriately may have any number of conditions associated with the behavior, including lower urinary tract disease, kidney disease, urinary tract infection and diabetes mellitus. It can also be a sign of arthritis, which makes it difficult for the cat to get into the litter box.

Blockage of the urinary tract signals a veterinary emergency. A blockage is treatable, but timing is critical. Once identified, the cat must receive veterinary care as soon as possible. Otherwise, fatal complications could develop. Signs include straining in the litter box with little or no results, crying when urinating and frequent attempts to urinate.

Changes In Interaction

Cats are social animals, they enjoy interaction with their human family and often with other pets. Changes in those may signal problems such as disease, fear or anxiety. They may also signal pain, which can cause aggression. For example, a cat may attack an individual who causes it pain, such as a person combing over a cat’s arthritic hips or brushing a diseased tooth.

 Changes In Activity

A decrease or increase in activity can be a sign of a medical of condition. As cats age, there is increased risk for arthritis. Discomfort from systemic illnesses can also lead to a decrease in activity. It's important to understand cats don't usually slow down just because they are old. More activity is often caused by hyperthyroidism. Changes in activity warrant a visit to your veterinarian.

Changes In Sleeping Habits

The key to differentiating abnormal lethargy from normal napping is knowing your cat's sleeping patterns. The average adult cat may spend 16 to 18 hours per day sleeping. This is normal, but much of that sleeping is “catnapping.” The cat should respond quickly to usual stimuli, such as the owner walking into the room or cat food being prepared. If your cat is sleeping more than usual or has discomfort laying down and getting up, this may be a sign of underlying disease.

 Changes In Food Or Water Consumption

Contrary to popular belief, most cats are not "finicky" eaters. Look for changes, such as a decrease or an increase in consumption and how the cat chews its food. Decreased food intake can be a sign of several disorders, ranging from poor dental health to cancer. Increased food consumption can be caused by diabetes mellitus, hyperthyroidism or other health problems.
 Changes in water consumption may be more difficult to observe, especially in cats that spend time outdoors or drink from toilets and sinks. Increased water intake can be an early indicator of thyroid problems, kidney disease, diabetes or other conditions.
If food and water intake is questionable, clients can measure the food and water given, and then measure what remains after 24 hours to get a more accurate picture of actual consumption.

Unexplained Weight Loss Or Gain

A change in weight does not necessarily correlate with a change in appetite. Cats with hyperthyroidism or diabetes mellitus can lose weight despite good appetites. Many other diseases cause both appetite and weight loss. If your cat goes to the food dish and then backs away from it without eating, nausea may be the source.

Weight changes often go unnoticed because of a cat's thick coat. You can assess body condition by feeling gently along the ribs. The ribs should be easily felt but not prominent.

On the other hand, obesity has become a serious health concern in cats, with increased risk of diabetes mellitus, joint disease and other problems. Cat owners can purchase small pet scales to chart weight at home. Take the cat to the veterinarian if there are any unplanned changes in weight.

Changes In Grooming

Typically, cats are fastidious groomers. Note whether your cat's coat is clean and free of mats. Patches of hair loss or a greasy or matted appearance can signal an underlying disease. Also watch to see if your cat has difficulty grooming. A decrease in grooming behavior can indicate fear, anxiety, obesity or other illnesses. An increase in grooming may be a sign of a skin problem.

 Signs Of Stress

Yes, your cat can be stressed despite having an “easy” life. Boredom and sudden lifestyle changes are common causes of stress in cats. Stressed cats may spend less time grooming and interacting, or they may spend more time awake and scanning their environment, hide more, withdraw and exhibit signs of depression. They could also change their eating patterns. These same signs may indicate a medical condition. It is important to rule out medical problems first and then address the stress. Because the social organization of cats is different from that of people and dogs, changes in the family, such as adding a new pet, should be done gradually. Please contact your veterinary hospital for information on how to successfully make changes in your household.

Changes In Vocalization

An increase in vocalization or howling is more common in older cats and is often seen with some underlying condition such as hyperthyroidism or high blood pressure. Many cats also vocalize more if they are in pain or anxious. If you note a change in vocalization, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to rule out medical problems and to obtain suggestions for minimizing or eliminating the behavior.

Bad breath

Studies show 70 percent of cats have gum disease as early as age 3. It is important to have your cat's teeth checked every six months to help prevent dental disease or to start treatment of problems. One of the early indicators of an oral problem is bad breath. Regular home teeth brushing and veterinary dental care prevent bad breath, pain, tooth loss and spread of infection to other organs.

Adapted from:

The answers to the quiz are: C, A, C, B, C, D, A, B, C, D

The LA Dodgers have opened this season with a 9-1 record, the best in the Major Leagues.  Granted, it's still very early in the season...but, I feel our players are playing with a comfort level that could only come from knowing that they are out from under the pressurized atmosphere of having an owner who didn't have the team's best interests at heart.  We had to turn a triple play in the 9th inning to win today's game but that's what winning teams do...they find a way to win the game.

Desperado and Helpful Buckeye lost a canine friend this week back in Richmond, VA.  Our good friends Barbara and Don, told us that their Scottish Terrier, Megan, had reached the end of her life.

This is the appropriate time to use a quote I've been memory of Megan:

"We give dogs time we can spare, space we can spare and love we can spare. And in return, dogs give us their all. It's the best deal man has ever made."—M. FACKLAM

~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~