Monday, June 29, 2009

Dogs, Camp and Reading

Yesterday, Jill dropped her son off for camp in a parking lot in the suburbs of Boston. It was Ian's first time at camp, and like most of the campers (new and old) the boys were nervous. It's not easy to leave your parents, whether you're 9 or 15. About half of the families had brought along their dogs as Jill would have if Shadow could fly in the cabin.

In the parking lot, both humans and canines could sense that the air was thick with emotions: excitement, nervousness, anticipation and fear. As the people and pets milled about, Jill noticed that virtually every kid bent down to pet the dogs as they walked by. Each time, Jill could see that the interaction melted away some of the nervousness and distracted the kid as he was about to leave his parents and his comfort zone behind. As the time for departure grew near, more kids and now parents were petting and smooching the dogs. As people flocked to the dogs, conversations were started and new friends found. Clearly, the dogs provided emotional support to everyone standing in the shadow of the buses.

Dogs are used in therapy for many of the same reasons they proved helpful in the parking lot. Dogs break down emotional barriers, offer unconditional and non-judgmental love and support, which encourages people to work through their stress.

Programs like Sit, Stay Read, Reading Education Assistance Dogs (R.E.A.D.), Bidewee's Reading to Dogs Program, Reading with Rover, PAWS for Reading and many others around the country bring therapy dogs to schools, libraries and clubs to help children learn to read. When the kids, most of whom have poor literacy skills, read aloud to the dogs magic occurs. The dog listens attentively and never corrects, laughs or teases the child. The dog is a non-threatening listener and the children are relaxed and willing to try to read aloud. As a child's reading skills improve, so does the child's confidence and self-esteem. Teachers report that formerly hesitant students volunteer to read aloud and students develop a love of reading. Hard numbers back this up. (Look here too.)

So, whether kids are going to camp, learning to read or coping with other stressful situations, dogs are there to lend a helping hand -- er paw. This is one of the myriad reasons dogs why are man's (woman's and kids') best friend.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Good Books For New Puppies

Teresa from Alaska recently wrote to Happy Dog Land asking us to recommend training books to help with her two new adorable puppies (pictured below).

Emma with her new brother Sam.

Big sis Kaytie holding Bailey.

We asked two well respected and trusted Certified Pet Dog Trainers (CPDT) trainers Lynn Brezina and Jamie Damato for suggestions. Here is their list:
  • Positive Puppy Training Works by Joel Walton
  • Before and After Getting Your Puppy by Dr. Ian Dunbar
  • Puppy Primer by Patricia McConnell
  • The Puppy Whisperer by Paul Owens
Of course, your home work along with a well recommended puppy class that teaches positive reinforcement rather than punishment-based training will start your new pup's life off on the right paw!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Little Latte Goes A Long Way

Micheal Gerson's Op Ed piece in today's Washington Post is worth a read. In his column, Gerson chronicles his transformation from someone who was infamous for his "intolerance for animals" to someone whose "prejudices" have been "melted" by a cute Havanese named Latte. While exploring his emotions, Gerson covers several heady topics including animal rights, animal welfare and friendship.

We may not agree with everything Gerson espouses, but it's always nice to give a shout out to a new member of the dog loving community.

A few weeks back, first-time dog owner and Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus wrote about her experiences with her new puppy Tank. Marcus' tale of the pup's introduction and effect on her family is humours and heartwarming. She writes:
"We are on the computer -- on our four separate computers -- less. We are rolling around on the family room floor more. We are talking to our neighbors, not just waving at them en route from car to front door. We are in the back yard, throwing the Frisbee for Tank to fetch or, in Jon's case, running alongside him; Tank, having had the pleasure of accompanying him on this mission, now refuses to budge until Jon gets moving, too. Smart dog, he has clearly distinguished between "Stationary Lady Who Feeds Me" and "Fun Running Guy."
Marcus reiterates what we in Happy Dog Land already know, a dog is a family member who brings love and joy and fosters togetherness and community.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

My Own Private Duncan Idaho or Been There DUNE That

Recently, a company specializing in genetic engineering called BioArts successfully cloned Trakr, a 9/11 canine hero. For those of us just getting over the fact that 8-track tapes are getting replaced by cassettes, this is nothing short of astounding. Spending your whole life with your same best furry pal is, apparently, only a few test tubes away. Seems like a no-brainer...right?


Just because a living being has the same exact genes as your long time companion, doesn't mean Fido II, III and IV will have the same personality as Fido I. It really doesn't matter what Fido II looks like, or whether his mitochondria do a dance just like Fido I's. Rather, what really matters is Fido II's personality -- and that can't be cloned (at least not yet).

We all would love to have our old dog back after he dies. That's impossible, however, unless you can replicate every single experience Fido I ever had in his whole entire life (and just read The Boys From Brazil to get a sense of what that might entail!) Moreover, why go to the trouble and expense of cloning and the associated ethical conundrum when all you get is a new dog that merely looks like the original? Identical DNA can only go so far to bring back your beloved Fido I.

There are so many dogs in need of a home and your nurturing can make New-Fido into your new best pal. New-Fido will never be the same as Fido I. He will, however, be just as good, only different. And, that difference is what makes life interesting. Perhaps New-Fido will be a jogger and you'll lose weight, or she'll be that lap dog you always wanted. Each new pet opens a world of possibilities so why just settle for appearances?

Moreover, cloning could very easily become an addiction. Once you make one clone Fido, you can keep going back to the folks at Bio Arts and turn out a whole chain of Fido gholas -- just like the God Emperor of Dune -- and we all know how that turned out for Duncan Idaho and the entire human race!

Your dog is who he is because of the nurturing you and your family and friends provide. You can't just reawaken memories in the clone-Fido and expect everything to be the same. Moreover, you never know whether the cloning process itself can cause something to go awry. Fido III may turn out to be a pawn in a centuries old war and the Theilaxu's plan for fetch-dominance comes to your living room. In all seriousness, though, the more critical problem is that Fido II may suffer medical issues due to the cloning process. Cloning is hardly a risk-free undertaking.

While we understand the urge to clone, we must insist that you consider this option a folly. With so many wonderful dogs available for adoption, it seems silly to try to replicate a pet who has already reached his great reward. Each pet is different -- and that's the joy of it all. Don't try to relive the past through Fido II or III or IV -- let go and enjoy the present.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Bravo Portuguese Water Dog Breeders!

As reported in the Wall Street Journal today, the demand for Portuguese Water Dogs has risen tremendously since Bo Obama moved into the White House. Reputable Portie breeders (like good breeders of all dogs) don't allow just anyone to purchase their dogs. The screening process is strict and demanding. Portie breeders are turning down people at an even higher rate than usual because so many people want the "It" dog.
"We try to discourage people," says Mary Eadie, a breeder in Annandale, Va., who says she has had 300 calls since Bo Obama came on the scene. She says she narrowed the field by eliminating anyone who wanted a dog immediately or wanted a female to breed. Then she weeded through applications, finally inviting the final 30 for interviews to vie for the 10 puppies her two females gave birth to in March. "We try to educate the public about the commitment involved in taking on this dog," she says.
The vigilance of these breeders will protect the breed and ensure that the dogs go to people who can take proper care of these highly energetic dogs.

With demand for Porties growing by leaps and bounds, puppy mills will unfortunately fill the void. If you want a Portie and the "breeder" or pet store is willing to sell you one no questions asked, walk away and don't look back--you may be turned into a pillar of salt. Don't be tempted because you will be supporting unscrupulous people who don't care about the welfare and safety of the dogs. Moreover, you want to be able to sleep at night. If you can't get a Portie, there are millions of other wonderful pooches waiting for you to find them!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Kids and Dogs: A Few Rules And A Lot of Common Sense

By now, everyone has probably heard about the toddler who flushed a puppy down the toilet while trying to give the pooch a bath. Thankfully, the pup was saved by a skilled plumber. This story reminds us that while kids and dogs are a wonderful combination, they must be supervised. Pet expert Steve Dale provides some rules to keep kids and dogs safe while together. Review Steve's rules and talk about them with your kids.

Children are never too young to learn how to safely interact with pets. Start by showing your young child how to gently touch a pet. As your child ages, teach her some of Steve's more detailed rules. Your efforts will ensure that your kids enjoy a life-long happy relationship with our furry friends.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Ask Billy: Potty Training Follow Up

Abbie Bella with the grandson's pacifier.

We first met Abbie Bella in April when her mom Judy asked Billy for potty training advice. Abbie is now seven months old, has graduated from her first obedience class and been micro-chipped and spayed. Bravo Judy! Training your pooch, fixing your dog and giving her permanent identification is not only responsible, but will help keep her safe and healthy.

Judy has been following Billy's advice for about two months. Here's a progress report:

"Abbie was sleeping with me, but then she would get up all the time and I would have to get up to make sure she wasn’t tinkling or pooping on the carpet. I was losing a lot of sleep and couldn’t handle that. Since May 29, I have been putting Abbie in her crate in the bedroom right beside my bed, close to my pillow, where she can see me. First, we will get in the bed, cuddle and play awhile and then I will crate her for the night. Abbie now sleeps through the night without having to go out before 6am. On the weekends, we tend to sleep a little later, but she whines when she needs to go out. I take her out and then come back to bed for awhile and she usually goes back to sleep!"

Way to go Judy! Billy is a firm believer in crate training. Abbie is safe when she's in her crate. She's also learning to control herself because she wants to keep her personal space clean. Just be sure to race her outside as soon as you open the crate door. Praise her and give treats when she goes to the bathroom outside.

"I'm following Billy's advice and taking Abbie out right when I get in the door at home, after eating and on an hourly basis up to bedtime each night. Abbie's been getting the hang of potty training, but we did have two accidents this past weekend, both in the hall, but I am trying to "watch" her more and take her out more. It’s been a long time since I had a puppy to care for and I was used to my older dogs going and coming as they pleased out the doggie door."

Every time Abbie goes out the doggie door, give her a treat and make a big fuss with lots of praise and kisses. She'll learn that using the door brings all sorts of positive attention. Positive reinforcement is a wonderful thing!

Moreover, a few accidents is not bad -- potty training is a process that requires patience! Judy agrees and notes that it has been a long time since she had a puppy in the house. She writes, "I think Abbie will eventually understand, I just have to be patient while she is learning. She is a puppy and I am trying to think of her like the grandson as far as 'potty training' is concerned. He is learning too and still has accidents. Puppies are like children at least mine are."

Although Abbie's potty training is progressing well, Judy tells us that once Abbie's paws hit the carpet she sometimes has an accident. We're not sure exactly why carpet confuses Abbie. Perhaps, her super-powered canine nose is able to detect smells or urine lingering in the carpet from other dogs. There's a chance that when she was a new pup her cage was lined with a piece of carpet, a mat or a towel and she's used to the sensation on her feet. The fact that she has been recently spayed could be the reason. The spaying procedure removes the ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus. Occasionally a dog will suffer a potty training setback after this type of major surgery. (Here's an informative article about the spaying process.)

Judy, no matter the reason for a setback, keep trying and continue your routine--you're doing a fabulous job! Don't get frustrated and stock up on Petastic, our favorite stain and odor remover. Your patience and care will help Abbie become house trained quickly and let her know how much you love her!

Tell Abbie we're proud of her progress and give her a hug from her friends in Happy Dog Land!

If you need advice or have a question about dog care, send it to Billy at We'll post the answer here. Please include a photo of your pooch so we can show him/her off to everyone in Happy Dog Land.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Dog Park Update: Che is returned!

Che the lost pooch we reported on yesterday was reunited with his owner. It turns out, Che probably just wandered off and escaped from the dog beach. We're glad he's safe, but this is a perfect opportunity to remind everyone to watch your dog at all times. Moreover, before letting Fido off leash, verify that all escape routes are closed off.

Scroll down to the comments at the end of the article--the discuss is interesting. Readers are debating whether the people who found the dog would have returned him without the $2500 reward and whether they should have accepted the reward.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Danger at the Dog Park: What to do if your dog is lost or stolen

KIDNAP VICTIM: Che is a 6 month old Shar-pei/Pug mix with a surgical scar on his belly. He weighs about 30 pounds and is white with brown spots. IF YOU HAVE INFORMATION CALL (773) 415-9813.

Over the weekend, this cute Shar-pei/Pug was stolen at one of Chicago's dog beaches. Everyone considers dog parks and dog beaches safe havens to play and socialize. After all, these places are filled with dog lovers. Unfortunately, some bad people take advantage of the collegial atmosphere and tragedy can occur. Support for Che and his owner has been overwhelming. Posters have sprung up all over town and hundreds of people are on the look out. Che's owner has offered a $2500 reward for his safe return with no questions asked.

Che's owner has already been contacted by a scam artist claiming to have the dog. If your dog is lost or stolen, what should you do and how can you protect yourself from scam artists trying to take advantage of your situation?

Regardless of how conscientious and careful you are, Fido can end up lost or sadly, stolen. Your chances of recovering your pet are a million times better if he’s wearing an identification tag and he has a microchip. Collars can slip off; chips are permanent. Most veterinary offices and shelters have equipment to read a microchip. If the information is current, Fido will be back in your arms that much sooner.

The moment you realize that Fido is missing, do the following:
  1. Grab a recent picture of your pet and roam the area where he was last seen. Call your pet’s name as loudly as you can. He may be scared and hearing your voice is likely to draw him to you. In addition, talk to everyone you meet on your search. They may have information that will lead you to your dog.
  2. Contact all local shelters and animal-welfare organizations, animal-control agencies and veterinary offices, as well as the police. Provide a detailed description of your dog and any information about the incident.
  3. Visit the local shelters every day. You know exactly what your pet looks like. A shelter worker may have a different idea of what light brown, spotted or short hair means. Moreover, many dogs may fit your description.
  4. Alert your neighbors. Go door-to-door; ask people who live and work in the area if they’ve seen your dog.
  5. Place an article of your clothing on the front porch so your dog can smell home. Dogs have been known to return after many months and many miles
  6. Advertise! Prepare a flyer with your dog’s picture, your contact phone numbers and e-mail address and information about his last known whereabouts. Hang the flyers on signposts and telephone poles and in stores, animal hospitals, libraries, coffee shops and other locations in the area. Place ads in newspapers, online and on the radio. Place the information on Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites.Get the community involved--the more people that are on the look out the better.
The announcement should include a detailed description of your pet, such as breed, gender, age, weight, color and any special markings or characteristics. It’s despicable and unforgivable, but evil people may try to play on your heart strings while you are searching for your lost pet. Therefore, always leave out one identifying detail to protect yourself from scam artists. Likewise, never include your home address.

If someone calls or e-mails claiming to have your pet, ask her to describe your dog. If the person doesn’t mention this characteristic, she’s not trustworthy. Moreover, if the story seems far-fetched, it probably is. Be wary of any person who asks for money before returning your pet. Most Good Samaritans are not motivated by financial benefit. Always arrange to meet a stranger in a public place, such as an animal shelter, a pet-supply store or a veterinary office. Don’t pay a reward until you have your dog firmly in hand. If you believe that someone has stolen your pet or is trying to scam you, contact the police.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Pet Portals

Many vets are offering an interesting new service called a Pet Portal. Here's an example from Jill's vet Blum Animal Hospital in Chicago. The free service allows a pet owner 24/7 seccure access to a variety of important information and services such as:
  • vaccination history
  • request appointments and ask questions
  • medical alerts and recall information
  • order prescription refills
  • articles on pet care and health
  • medication and exam reminders
  • instructions for pet sitters
  • birthday reminders
The portal is essentially a web page for your dog. It's private, password protected and allows you to access your pet's information even when the vet is closed. It's a convenient way to manage your pet’s health care and medication schedule, communicate with the animal hospital and learn about pet health.

Check with your vet to see if the office offers Pet Portals. In addition, be sure to read the policy for email lists. Most vet's offering Pet Portals don't sell your email. Some, however, send coupons and information from companies the office determines to be beneficial to patients. In the later case, you should be able to opt out of receiving any ads--unless of course you enjoy spam.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

High Flying Canines

Wow! Some dogs can really fly! This past weekend extreme canine athletes competed in the Teva Mountain Games in Vail, Colorado. Rouser launched himself 24 ft 7 inches off a dock in pursuit of a toy and won the air distance jump competition. Another high flying pooch, Jet, clinched the vertical jump competition by leaping 6 ft 2 inches off the ground and then went on to win the speed-retrieve competition.

Here's a video of Georgia competing in the air distance jump competition.

Here are some fun videos of dogs competing at other events:

If your pooch likes to run, jump and follow directions, check out the Dock Dogs website. With training and practice, your pooch could break the world record for Outdoor Big Air Jump now held by Country, who jumped 28 feet 10 inches on October 9, 2005.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

HAPPY DOG: An Update On Our Book

We interrupt our regularly scheduled dog information blog with an update on our book HAPPY DOG: CARING FOR YOUR DOG'S BODY, MIND AND SPIRIT. We are getting closer and closer to publication on September 1, 2009.

In addition to helping you improve the life of your pet, we want to help improve the lives of dogs in need. For that reason, all of our book events will benefit local shelters. Please email us if you'd like to plan a book event in your city to benefit your favorite animal rescue, shelter or animal welfare group.

We've had some other exciting news as well:
  • All the major book clubs, including the Literary Guild, Doubleday Book Club, Book of the Month Club, Crossings, Lifestyle, Children’s and Black Expressions Book Club will be offering a special hardcover edition of HAPPY DOG beginning in September.

  • Billy will be appearing in an article in the September issue of Good Housekeeping Magazine.

  • We have teamed up with Barker and Meowsky to raise money to help dogs in need. Barker & Meowsky will donate a portion of each book they sell to several animal welfare organizations and shelter. More details to come!

  • We will be signing books at Chicago Animal Care and Control's BIG NIGHT annual fundraiser on September 9 in Chicago from 6:30 -9:00 pm at the Cultural Center. This event features food from Chicago's top chefs and a fab silent auction. More details to come.
So stay tuned--we'll share the news as we receive it!

And now, back to our regularly scheduled dog care blog...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Here's the poop on poop.

If your dog has diarrhea or strange stools (or is vomiting) for more than 24 hours, call your vet. Strange poop could be loose, mucus-y, unusual or different smelling or an off color like white, tan or green.

We've all heard this admonition many times. Even us dog experts in Happy Dog Land know this rule. Yet, Jill ignored Shadow's bathroom issues and she's hoping you all learn from her mistake.

Yesterday, Shadow had an appointment for his semi-annual examination. On the way, Jill & Shadow stopped in to visit Billy at his salon. Shadow promptly went to the bathroom on the floor. Jill scooped it up to bring to the vet and thoroughly sanitised the floor. "Strange that Shadow had an accident," she thought, "but convenient because now I have a stool sample for his appointment."

During the appointment, Jill and her vet discussed Shadow's lifestyle and habits. The doctor discovered that Shadow had lost 2 pounds since his last visit in February. Concerned, the doctor, asked about Shadow's stools. Jill mentioned that Shadow had had a bit of diarrhea over the past few weeks, but nothing memorable.

Today, the doctor called and notified Jill that Shadow has Giardiasis, a bad-news parasite. Shadow is now being treated. Hopefully, this explains Shadow's weight loss too.

Looking back on the last few weeks, Shadow's stools were occasionally, but not consistently, loose or strange. Shadow did have at least one messy accident in the house, but because his stools were often "normal" Jill figured that he had a minor stomach ache. She figured wrong and now she feels like the world's worst dog mom!

So please, for Fido's sake, internalize and follow these two simple rules:
  1. CONTACT YOUR VET IF YOUR DOG HAS DIARRHEA, A CHANGE IN HIS STOOL OR IS VOMITING FOR MORE THAN 24 HOURS. (And, yes, we're yelling!) Fido's stool does not have to be continually different to be a red flag. If his stool is loose or weird even twice, it never hurts to call. If it's more than a minor stomach upset, you'll be glad you did!
  2. A fresh stool sample yields the most reliable test results. Ideally, bring Fido's sample to the vet as soon as possible, the fresher the better! If you can't get the sample to the vet immediately, keep it cool or refrigerated. Discard samples that are more than 12 hours old according to the American Animal Hospital Association. Shadow's sample was extremely fresh (only 30 minutes old), which helped the vet diagnose Giardiasis. This parasite is often eludes testing if the sample is stale.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Bo Obama: Comic Book Super Hero

First he's a Beanie Baby and now this! What a lucky dog!

The nation's First Portuguese Water Dog (who is second only to Zeke, Billy's Portie) is staring in issue number four of the Marvel Comics series Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers. The issue will be available August 12, 2009.

When Bo is returns to the White House after saving the universe, perhaps he can give the President a few tips on saving the economy or, at least, the auto industry.