Monday, August 31, 2009

Dogs and Pies....mmm Graph-a-licious

We just came across a website that was so much fun we had to share. Check out The site is exceptionally clever and hilarious.

Here's where you can see a beautiful, multi-colored thoughtful chart calculating What Your Dog Will Bark At. However, Godiva the dog who lived at the Terra Cotta Inn Clothing Optional Resport and Spa and barked at clothed guests, may beg to differ. Clearly, she wasn't part of the poll. Perhaps, someone will update the chart.

If you've ever wondered why dogs and not cats are man's (and woman's) best friend. Check out this graph. And then send this chart to your cat-loving pals. If you have a Dachshund or any hound for that matter, you must view this Venn diagram.

Hundreds of conversation-provoking charts are at your disposal on graphjam. There's even a chart to handle your most pressing pipe cleaner questions.

Bring snacks and water when you visit the site, you'll have so much fun, you won't want to stop. Moreover, if you are so inclined, you can create and upload your own graphs and charts.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

We're amazed by your happy dogs!

We've been moved, amazed and wowed by the exceptionally happy dogs our Happy Dog Land friends been submitting in our Show Us Your Happy Dog contest! We've had everything from grinning Golden Retrievers and sauntering Schnauzers to dignified Dobermans and marvelous mutts. Check out the gallery of entrants here.

It reminds us, once again, of how incredibly lucky we are to have such wonderful, furry friends in our lives. Dogs are more than just "pets," they are members of our families. So keep those entries coming -- we can never have enough happy dogs in Happy Dog Land!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Do Dogs Have Friends?

Depending on whether you ask a veterinarian, an animal behaviorist or a dog owner, you may receive a different answer to this critical question: Do dogs have friends?

Zeke and Arthur share a smooch.

Here at Happy Dog Land we've observed, entertained, loved and lived with countless dogs for many years. Based on that experience (and the fact that Billy fluently speaks "woof"), we firmly believe that dogs do indeed have friends. The photographs we chose to illustrate our point are not staged. Rather, they are snapshots of the relationships of dogs we know and love.

Lily and Louis enjoying the sun together.

Just as people are wont to do, dogs both like and dislike other dogs. For example, Jill's dog Shadow has decided that Arthur (Billy's mild mannered Cocker Spaniel) is his sworn enemy. Perhaps they both had their eye on the same mate in a former unneutered life or it could be that Arthur took a strong liking to Jill's son and Shadow is jealous. Although Shadow is perfectly happy to have Billy's other dog Zeke come and play, Shadow won't willingly let Arthur through the front door. When Baxter, a fluffy Coton de Tulear comes to visit, Shadow greets him at the door with crazed excitement and kisses. Shadow immediately gets into a play bow (front paws extended, head low and rear and tail up and loose), his entire butt is wagging and the joy in the air is palpable. Shadow clearly views Baxter as his friend.

Shadow and Baxter relaxing together.

When dogs share a home, they often become dependent on each other for emotional support and security -- just like we do with our friends. Arthur and Zeke are inseparable. When they are apart, each one is a bit anxious and lethargic. When they are reunited, even after a short break, they jump on top of each other and kiss and run through the house with expressions of happiness and relief on their faces. Their favorite way to relax is to lay on top of each other on the sofa and they often share a bone, each one chewing on the opposite end. Zeke and Arthur are more than friends. Indeed, they believe they are brothers and kindred spirits...and they are.

Maro and Spike play nicely together and share.

Pay attention to your dog's body language to determine whether he views another pooch as a friend or foe. If Fido's posture is loose, his whole back end is wagging, his mouth is relaxed and he's in a play bow, let him enjoy frolicking with the other dog. If Fido is stiff, baring his teeth, his tail isn't wagging or it's straight out, his ears are up or forward or his fur is standing on end (especially on the shoulders or hips a.k.a the "hackles"), he's telling you that the other dog is not a friend. Never force the issue. Remember, you can pick your friends and your nose, but you can't pick your dog's friends or your dog's nose. In addition, be aware of your dog's limitations: if he doesn't share, put away his bones and toys before a furry friend visits. Don't leave the dogs unattended, as play (even among friends) can occasionally get too serious.

So yes, we believe dogs can be friends. But don't assume that your dog will want to be friends with any other particular dog. Just as with people, some folks rub our fur the wrong way. So if you respect Fido's opinion, he can experience many of the same joys of friendship and companionship that you do. Except you may not want to sniff your best pal's butt!

Shadow and Bean resting after a long play date.

Some photographs by Michael Vistia, Vistia Designs

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Check out our new website. Enter our contest and win exciting prizes!

Visit the site to learn everything you wanted to know about the book and Billy and Jill (well almost). In Happy Dog Land, you'll find our blog, tons of expert advice about caring for your pooch and information about helping animals in need. Keep up with news, events and media appearances and contests too. You'll also be able to share photos and stories about your furry best friend.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Guest Entry Dog Massage: Much More than Pampering

Today we welcome Justine Erickson to Happy Dog Land. Justine is a Certified Animal Massage Practitioner and professional groomer. Today, Justine shares the many benefits of canine massage and explains why massage can actually improve your pooch's body, mind and spirit.

Dog massage has been performed for thousands of years…by dogs themselves! In one of my favorite books on dog massage, Healing Touch for Dogs , Dr. Michael W. Fox explains how dogs in the wild use their own type of massage called “social grooming.” When mothers lick their young pups, this important stimulating action actually aids in their digestive process. Dr. Fox also points out that dogs that do not receive this type of maternal social grooming or ‘massage’ are less likely to develop and thrive.

The physical benefits of massage are numerous:
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Aids Digestion
  • Improves joint flexibility
  • Relieves muscle soreness, tension, stiffness and weakness
  • Helps cleanse the body of toxins
  • Improves skin elasticity and coat quality (removes dead skin and stimulates hair follicles)
Massage has many emotional benefits for you dog too:
  • Reduces anxiety in chronically nervous dogs
  • Helps calm a dog for specific events that may make her anxious, such as vet visits, grooming sessions, moving to a new home, welcoming a new pet or baby into their family, etc.
  • Creates a sense of trust
  • Is an effective and enjoyable way to bond with your dog
Dogs in every stage of life, from puppies to seniors, can benefit from massage. Indeed, a regular massage regimen can:

  • Help with socialization: Massage gets a dog used to being touched and handled, which is especially important for families with young children or other pets.
  • Serve as a consistent way to monitor your dog: When regular massages are given, the therapist can develop a sense for what is "normal" for your dog. Any changes in temperament as well as physical changes (e.g., newly sensitive areas of the body, the discovery of new lumps, bumps or other changes in the skin or coat) can alert you to something that requires veterinary attention and may aid in early detection of a serious condition or illness.
Whether it’s for general wellness or condition-specific, massage can be customized to serve your dog’s individual needs and preferences. If your dog is very active and likes to engage sports, such as agility, or if is he's your favorite running companion, massage can help keep your pooch finely tuned for his favorite activities. Massage can also help your dog stay strong and avoid injury. For dogs who have had surgery or illness, massage can help speed recovery time as well as enhance their comfort and pain relief.

In my own practice, I like to incorporate gentle stretching as well as Reiki and acupressure when I feel that they will be beneficial for the dog. I really ‘tune-in’ to the dog and follow their signals about what feels good and what doesn’t. For some dogs, a short yet continuous session is best. Other dogs like to have longer sessions with "breaks" where they can stand up, stretch, sniff around and then resume the massage. Just like humans, dogs definitely have their own individual preferences and moods, which makes every session both enjoyable and challenging.

One of the most interesting aspect of the massage is what I refer to as the “calming ripple effect.” When I’m working on an individual dog, I’ve often seen the calming effects of the massage trickle over to other dogs in the immediate area. Before you know it, all of the dogs are lying down, relaxing, some falling asleep and snoring! This effect is especially amazing in animal shelters where dogs are experiencing high levels of stress. The calming energy that flows through the room is especially beneficial to these dogs. I believe that it helps them cope until they are able to find their forever home.

What you can do at home
Touch improves a dog's well-being. In fact, I would encourage you to lightly stroke and cuddle your dog as much as possible. However, any deep massage, more advanced techniques or intense stretching should be performed only by a trained professional.

Massage professionals are trained to understand the limitations of a dog’s body including the appropriate range of motion for canine joints. In addition, dogs that are older, have health problems or have recently had surgery can be more susceptible to injury. Thus, it is important to keep your dog’s massage practitioner well-informed of your pooch's current condition as well as his health history. When in doubt of your dog’s specific limitations, always consult your veterinarian first. Share this important information with your dog’s massage provider before the massage too. Massage should be a safe and enjoyable experience for your dog. Don’t be surprised if they get ‘hooked’ and are barking for more!

Justine Erickson is a graduate of the Northwest School of Animal Massage. She is also an Animal Reiki Practitioner and has completed canine acupressure training with the Tallgrass Animal Acupressure Institute

Friday, August 14, 2009

Philadelphia Eagles Sign Michael Vick

The Philadelphia Eagles signed admitted dog fighter Michael Vick. Phil Sheridan a columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer has some interesting comments about this development. If you're a big sports fan, check out the plethora of stories, commentary and fan comments all over ESPN.

What do you think?

We're happy the Chicago Bears took a pass.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Dueling Politicos Go to the Dogs

Conservative Jonah Goldberg and Robert Wright (blogging for the vacationing Andrew Sullivan) come from very different places on the political spectrum. Wright (the author of The Evolution of God) is an old-school intellectual, comfortable with abstract arguments about nearly anything (his website is also one of the more entertaining political sites anywhere). Goldberg (the son of legendary conservative flamethrower Luciane Goldberg and the author of Liberal Fascism) is one of the more vocal conservative voices on the Internet, and always in the middle of ad hominem battles with liberal bloggers. But despite their superficial differences, the subject of our canine friends fascinates them both. Goldberg is an inveterate fan of dogs, in particular his longtime companion Cosmo. He views dogs as exemplars of all that is good and true. Conversely, Wright is fascinated by dogs as a social phenomena -- are dogs parasites, or elements of our social fabric?

We understand where both of them are coming from. Here at Happy Dog Land, we continue to be amazed at the complex relationship we have with our furry friends. In dogs we project many of our best (and worst) features -- from heroism to cruelty. The evolution of dogs has paralleled the evolution of our civilization, and it is difficult to imagine ourselves today without the contribution of dogs. Dogs are a metaphor for nearly any kind of human interaction -- and they lay on our laps when we need a friend. They are an endlessly flexible lens through which we see ourselves, and they chew up our furniture. Dogs are a subject that never grows old, because in discussing them we are discussing ourselves -- and in looking at dogs we learn to better understand and appreciate each other.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Knitting For Your Dog

Today, we have a guest blogger, Corinne Niessner, the author of Doggie Knits, Sweaters and Accessories for Your Best Friend. Knitting for your furry friend is not only relaxing, but a nice way to make your pooch a Happy Dog. Although the temperature has been soaring here in Chicago, it's never early to start preparing for the cold weather that's just around the corner. So take it away Corinne!

Knitting has been a big part of my life, since I was in grade school. The rhythmic movements of my hands are now ingrained. I love the tactile aspect of it, watching my work grow in my hands, and even the smell of sheep and vinegar as I work with wool.

When I adopted my first dog, it was natural and inevitable that I would knit for her. I knit for the dogs that followed too. The dog sweater soon became my favorite garment to knit. I worked on getting the fit to be just right, and I loved to combine color in an unexpected way. Now, whenever I meet a dog, I imagine what the dog would look like in something knitted.

Instead of just knitting for my dog, I have a business, Lucky Penny Hand Made, where I make custom fit dog sweaters to order. In 2008, my book, Doggie Knits, Sweaters and Accessories for Your Best Friend hit the shelves, so now a knitter can create the Lucky Penny look at home.

Why should your dog wear a sweater?

People with long-haired dogs often scoff at the thought. Just because your dog is covered with hair doesn’t mean that they won’t feel the cold. Think of it this way--most of us have heads covered with hair, and in winter, we would very likely be wearing a wool hat. I also have found that in inclement weather, the sweater offers a layer of protection. My dog stays a lot cleaner because she has worn a sweater outside too.

People often tell me that their dog won’t wear a sweater. I am convinced that if the sweater is comfortable, and is knit of a fiber that feels good and keeps warm, a dog will want to wear it.

Why would you want to knit a dog sweater?

You can choose color and fiber and custom fit the sweater for your dog’s unique shape. If you love luxury fibers, making a dog sweater is a relatively inexpensive way to indulge. Yes, I’m talking cashmere for a dog sweater! Over my many years of knitting, I’ve found that quality fibers elevate the end product.

For beginners, a dog sweater is an excellent first project. Most new knitters begin with a scarf, which ends up to be a long, tedious project that many give up on. By the time your get tired of knitting a dog sweater, you’re probably done! If you’re a new knitter, it’s a way to learn technique that would prepare you for the big project that’s next on your list.

My book Doggie Knits, Sweaters and Accessories for Your Best Friend is new knitter-friendly. It has a detailed "how to" section, and drawings and photographs that take you through the maneuvers needed to complete your projects. If you need more than a book to get started, consider enrolling in a class at your local knit shop, park district, or public library.

Once mastered, knitting is a skill that will stay with you for life. It’s even more satisfying when you can share it with your dog!

You can see the Lucky Penny Hand Made collection on line. If you're in Chicago this fall, visit Corinne at Yarn Con on October 17th and the DIY Trunk show on November 21. Both events are at Pulaski Park, 1415 W. Blackhawk Street. Copies of Doggie Knits, Sweaters and Accessories for Your Best Friend, will be available at both events.

Corinne Niessner lives in Chicago with her best friend and muse, Piccolo. Read all about Corrine's crafty adventures on her blog: Lucky Penny Hand Made.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Dogs Outsmart Kids

Check out this article from

Stanley Coren, a canine expert and professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia has made it official: dogs are as smart as a 2 year old human when comparing language skills. Coren posits that Border Collies, Poodles and German Shepherds (in that order) are on par with a 2 and half year old. Even more interesting, dogs would outsmart a 3 or 4 year old in basic arithmetic.

Coren also reports that dogs are socially more adept than human toddlers too: "the social life of dogs is much more complex, much more like human teenagers at that stage, interested in who is moving up in the pack and who is sleeping with who and that sort of thing."

Interestingly, older breeds such as hounds and some hunting dogs scored lower on the intelligence tests. More recently introduced breeds score higher. Coren believes that there's a "high probability that we've been breeding dogs so they're more responsive to human beings and human signals."

Even with all this good news, Shadow, Jill's Poodle, is frustrated because he's been unable to type up an email to Mr. Coren outlining his objections to being ranked second. He's been muttering darkly about "opposable thumbs."

Friday, August 7, 2009

Swimming Safety Rules

Before Fido dives in for a lap around the pool or a swim around the lake, review the safety rules offered here.

Even though it seems to us humans that the dog paddle is hard-wired into every canine brain, not all dogs like swimming or know what to do when they enter the water.

Keeps these safety rules in mind:
  • NEVER let Fido swim unattended or unsupervised.
  • Verify that your dog knows how to exit the water.
  • Be realistic about your dog's fitness and agility level and her desire to swim. Some dogs are perfectly happy walking around in ankle deep water, some dogs could spend all day paddling around the deep end of a pool and some are terrified at the mere thought of putting paw to water. Listen to your dog!
  • Don't toss Fido into the water, introduce him gradually so he doesn't panic and sink.
  • If you own a pool, be sure it is securely fenced in and covered when not in use.
  • Use safety equipment like entry and exit ramps and canine life jackets.
  • Wash your dog after his swim. Chlorine and lake or ocean water can leave stinky and irritating residue.
And, as Jill's grandfather used to say, don't let Fido swim on a full stomach.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Banfield, The Pet Hospital Bans Tail Docking and Ear Cropping

USA Today is reporting that Banfield, the Pet Hospital, a national network of 730 animal hospitals and 2000 veterinarians will no longer perform tail dockings, ear cropping or devocalization on dogs for purely cosmetic reasons, such as to satisfy breed standards.

Purely cosmetic surgery on dogs --- not a good thing. The American Veterinary Medical Association agrees.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Dog Ancestry and Genetics: Redux II

Scientists may have discovered why Dachshunds, Basset Hounds and other breeds have short legs. Read this article for the details and learn about the genetic marker that may help explain this physical characteristic.

Interesting information to discuss over breakfast.

Where do dogs come From: Redux

A while back, we discussed theories of the evolutionary origins of our canine friends.

New research chronicled in a recent New York Times article, adds a novel theory for dog lovers and scientists to chew on: dogs did not evolve in East Asia, but more likely in the Middle East.

Stay tuned as researchers discover more about man (and woman's) best friend. In the process, this knowledge of canine genetics will hopefully improve the health of our four-legged pals.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Be Like Martha: Pledge to Help a Shelter

Although we take no position on the food, Purina has a wonderful new program to encourage people to volunteers at animal shelters. Purina will donate $5 to a participating animal shelter when you pledge to volunteer there. Jill and Billy have made their pledge to Chicago Animal Care and Control. Martha Stewart, who is a spokesperson for Purina, made her pledge. Purina will donate up to $500,000 to help needy pets. What are you waiting for? Volunteer today!