Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Shocking Levels of Lead in Pet Products

With no government regulations for toxic chemicals in pet products it should come as no surprise that a shocking number contain lead and other dangerous chemicals. This is concerning because dogs and cats are smaller (usually) than we are and put everything in their mouths. Thus, the exposure to the hazardous chemicals is extremely concerning

Healthystuff.org has tested over 400 pet products, including toys, collars leashes and tennis balls. The results caused shock and awe in Happy Dog Land. The site is well organized and allows for searches by toxicity, brand or product type. Many of the entries include photographs for easy identification.

In addition to product rankings, the site provides valuable information about keeping Fido healthy and suggestions for taking action to protect our furry friends from hazardous chemicals.

Healthystuff.org also tests human products like toys, apparel and cars. This is a site to bookmark and visit often!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cool Holiday Gift Ideas and an Important Gift DON'T

Santa, reindeer and sleigh-loads of twinkling lights are appearing in malls everywhere. More critically, Black Friday is around the corner, and will be upon us before you can even say "arf."

Given that we have spent more time that we can ever justify looking at, reading about, and trying out an avalanche of canine products, we thought we would share our knowledge with you and help make your holiday shopping easier. Thus, with no further ado, here are our picks for all the canine-loving people on your gift list:

1. Happy Dog: Caring For Your Dog's Body, Mind and Spirit

Since this is our blog, we couldn't resist recommending our own book! HAPPY DOG is top choice for all the dog lovers on your list. Whether your giftee is a new dog owner or an experienced one, HAPPY DOG will teach him/her new tricks that will make Fido happy!

HAPPY DOG is available at bookstores and on-line retailers such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble. If you purchase the book on our website, we will personally sign the book and Barker and Meowsky will donate a portion of the sale to American Humane, the only national organization dedicated to protecting animals and children.

2. Richards Harness Coat

We used to cut holes in Shadow and Arthur's sweaters and coats to accommodate their harnesses. But that was before we found the Richards Harness Coat. This clever coat combines climate control, fashion, safety and convenience.

The coats are fully lined, machine washable, and come in a satisfying array of fashionable patterns and fabric choices for every weather condition. Choose fleece for winter, water resistant versions for rain, spa cooling coats for warmer weather and field coats to protect Fido when he's in the brush. The built-in harness is easy to adjust and closes with 2 simple clips. Fido's leash attaches to a sturdy ring sewn into the top of the coat.

We compared the Richards Harness Coat to others and it's no contest -- the quality and construction of the Richards coat are best in show.

Richards Harness Coats are reasonably priced ranging from $21.95 for XXS to $59.95 for XXL Long. Order on line or call 248-693-7422. Happy Dog Land readers can save 10% on their purchase by entering: HDL-2009-10 into the promo code box from now until 12/30/09.


For all the people on your list who love to walk their dogs, the WACKYwalk'r is a perfect gift.

Constructed from stretchy natural rubber tubing that's reinforced with an internal safety line, the leash extends to twice its length, thus allowing your pooch to explore without ripping your arm out of its socket. How? The leash's flexible tubing reduces the kinetic stress on both the human and the dog. With the WACKYwalk'r, you and your pooch will no longer feel the jerk caused by rigid leashes.

The leashes, which come in 14 vibrant colors, are available in 6 different sizes based on Fido's weight) and in 6 different styles to accommodate various walking environments and the pooch's strength.

The WACKYwalk'r ($24-35), which extends from 3 ft to 6 ft, is the longest leash. The URBAN ($22-$31) extends from 1.5 feet to 3 feet and allows for more control in congested areas. The STUBB'R ($27), which extends from 10 inches to 20 inches, is ideal for large dogs who are strong pullers. The X'TENSION ($8-$15) attaches to retractable leads and acts as a serious shock absorber for the dog and human.

Multiple dog families are also in luck. The CRAZYcoupl'r ($24-$35) allows you to walk 2 dogs comfortably on one leash. For a 3 dog family, the TRICKYtripl'r ($28-$33) is a perfect choice.

Our WACKYwalk'rs have made squirrel watching much easier to bear when we walk Shadow, Zeke or Arthur. Purchase the WACKYwalk'r products on line or call 610-222-0679

4. Port-A-Poo

Nobody likes hauling around a full poop bag while searching for a garbage can. The clever folks behind Port-A-Poo make life with a canine so much easier (and less smelly) with this must-have gizmo for anyone who walks their pooch.

We were initially drawn to Port-A-Poo's cute logo and pithy slogan ("picking up where your dog left off"). Then, the cleverness and usefulness of the product won us over.

The Port-A-Poo is a hands-free way to carry poop bags whether they're empty or full. The Port-A-Poo easily and securely attaches to any leash. Once attached, it's literally a snap to use. Just open the clip, slip in the bag and you're good to go. Now, you'll be able to throw a tennis ball instead of clutching Fido's poop bag.

At $9.95, the Port-A-Poo makes a great stocking stuffer or gift for one of the eight nights of Hanukkah. Choose from 5 bright colors and 2 sizes that fit standard and retractable leashes. Purchase the Port-A-Poo on line or in retailers in the US and Canada and around the world.

5. Nose Print Jewelry By Robin's Loving Touch

Indiana artist Robin Durnbaugh of Robin's Loving Touch offers one of the most unique and meaningful jewelry ideas we've come across.

Robin's nose print pendants, charms and identification tags are made from an impression of your pooch's schnoz in yellow gold, white gold, sterling silver or solid chrome ($195-$625 depending on the metal and most include a matching chain).

Robin's jewelry keeps your best friend close to you at all times. Robin also offers finger print pendants to keep your human loved ones with you.

The pendants, charms and tags are personalized and instant heirlooms. Included in the price of the jewelry is a kit with easy-to-follow instructions for making the impression for the piece.

Both Jill and Billy have put in their orders. Jill will be wearing Shadow's nose print and her son's fingerprint. Billy will be sporting Zeke and Arthur's nose prints. Order on line or call 260-489-0671.

8. No Ears In Here Dog Bowl

Here's some welcome relief for all the long-eared dogs on your list. The cleverly designed No Ears In Here Bowl keeps pendulous ears out of the food or water so Fido's ears and the floor stay clean and dry while he eats or drinks.

The bowl is 9 1/2 inches tall so it won't tip over. The inner bowl, however, is just deep enough to hold 2 cups of food or water. This means that Fido is less likely to gulp his food and swallow excess air, which might upset his tummy.

The bowls are made in the USA and at $9.35 a piece make an economical and practical gift. Fill the bowl with treats, wrap it in cellophane and voila you have a snazzy gift that didn't break the bank. Order on line or call 574-267-6258.


Honor the people or pets on your gift list by helping animals in need. Making a donation to a favorite local or national animal welfare organization, shelter or rescue is a perfect gift for any animal lover. Most charities will be happy to notify the honoree of your gift, which saves you the time and effort of sending a card.


We hope our suggestions help make your holidays easier and removes some of the stress of finding the perfect gift for everyone on your list. One thing you will never see on our list is a live animal: dogs (or any pet) make lousy gifts! Taking on the responsibility of pet ownership is something that should not (and cannot!) be "given" to someone.

Everyone doesn't share our love of animals, and even animal lovers may be reluctant or incapable of assuming the responsibilities, time commitment and expense of a new pet. Animals are not returnable or disposable and, therefore, should never, ever be given as a gift.

Instead, wrap up a creative stand-in for the living, breathing animal, such as a picture, toy, food or cute collar and leash. Better yet, purchase a gift certificate from a local shelter or rescue. This allows the recipient to decide for him- or herself whether she’s ready, willing and able to welcome a pet into her family.

Moreover, the holidays are a dreadful time to introduce a new pet into a household. Routines are altered, celebrations take everyone from home and everyone is probably too busy to provide a new family member with the required care, stability, love and attention. Wait until after the holidays. Local shelters and rescues will be overflowing with rejected holiday gifts that are anxiously awaiting their new home.

We hope that this provides you with some good ideas on how to make your holiday season doggone amazing!

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Really Cool Dog Story from a War Zone

A dog lost during a battle in Afghanistan was found after 14 months alone in the desert--yes you read that correctly--14 MONTHS! His handlers are not sure exactly how Sabi, a NATO bomb sniffing dog, survived but the pooch is safe and sound and back on his base.

Get the full scoop here.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Soldiers and Their Dogs: A MUST SEE on Veteran's Day

We just came across this incredible compilation by Jason English of videos depicting dogs reuniting with their soldier parents after deployments around the world. Stop what you are doing and watch it ASAP!

The videos will leave you teary and smiley as they demonstrate the incredible human-animal bond.

After you've watched the videos, take a moment to think about the brave men and women who keep us safe everyday and send them your thanks and prayers.

Happy Veteran's Day!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Philadelphia Pet Expo

We just flew in from Philadelphia and boy are our arms tired!

We met many wonderful people and pooches at the Greater Philadelphia Pet Expo and gathered a ton of fur for the Pledge folks to demonstrate the Pledge Fabric Sweeper For Pet Hair.

Big hugs and thanks to Coal, Foxy and Belle and their families for helping with Billy's seminars. The dogs were patient and cute models!

See the photos from the event here.

We'll be at the Great Indy Pet Expo on Nov. 14-15. If you're in the area, stop in and see us!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Dogs and Swimming

This charming new entry in The New York Times' Puppy Diaries series reminds us that many of our pooches love to swim. Dogs that range from Portuguese Water Dogs and Retrievers to Poodles and Newfoundlands were literally bred to paddle their paws, and swimming can be great exercise for pooches. Nonetheless, although it may seem 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.

Thus, swimming safety is as critical for Fido as it is for people. So, whether you live somewhere that permits swimming year-round, or you can only bring your furry friend to the beach during the summer, keep 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.

Friday, November 6, 2009

How Smart are Dogs?

We all like to think of our dogs as being two (or perhaps even one!) step removed from Einstein. Much of this is not mere pride -- dogs accomplish some pretty remarkable things, and can be trained to do tasks both astonishing and profoundly useful.

This past week, the New York Times took a look at one such furry friend named Jet. If you don't feel inadequate after reading this, well, you're probably more interesting than the two of us:
He is both a seizure alert dog and a psychiatric service dog whose owner has epilepsy, severe anxiety, depression, various phobias and hypoglycemia. Jet has been trained to anticipate seizures, panic attacks and plunging blood sugar and will alert his owner to these things by staring intently at her until she does something about the problem. He will drop a toy in her lap to snap her out of a dissociative state. If she has a seizure, he will position himself so that his body is under her head to cushion a fall.
Sounds pretty amazing, eh? You're not the only one who is impressed:

In September, the Army announced that it would spend $300,000 to study the impact of pairing psychiatric service dogs like Jet with soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress disorder. Both the House and Senate have recently passed bills that would finance the training and placement of these dogs with veterans.
Well, here's the rub: are these dogs aware of what they're doing? Are they "thinking" or are they merely responding in conditioned ways to certain stimuli (the way, for example, Jill does when she is near a french fry).

One researcher at the University of British Colombia has attempted to figure this out, by giving dogs language tests and other intelligence exams meant for toddlers. Based on that, he has categorized different dogs by how many commands they can learn. Shadow, Jill's dog, will be pleased to know that Poodles are one of the smartest dogs according to this researcher. Another researcher, however, at the University of Florida, argues that dogs are simply deeply sensitive to the human beings around them, and that through conditioning they can effectively mimic the traits of human thought.

We're not sure of the truth. But we challenge anyone to deny that Zeke, Billy's Portuguese Water Dog, is not interested in the latest developments in fluid dynamics....

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Is There a Presidential Dog Walker?

I'm sure that many of you have wondered about walking habits of the Presidential dog, Bo. Who walks him? What happens when the President and his family are traveling -- who takes care of Bo?

The answer is here. It turns out that there is a designated Presidential dog walker, who has walked our national canines since 1972. His name, is Dale Haney, and we can now report that his favorite Presidential dog was Spot, the dearly departed dog of President George W. Bush (and ironically a puppy born of Millie, the dog owned by the elder President George H.W. Bush).

It's really quite an interesting tale!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Come Meet Us at The Greater Philadelphia Pet Expo This Weekend!

Billy pampers a K9 police dog at the Meet the Breeds event in NYC in October

If you live near Philadelphia, we'd love to meet you! We'll be at the The Greater Philadelphia Pet Expo on November 6-8 at the The Greater Philadelphia Expo Center, 422 Business Center, Oaks PA. Billy will be speaking several times during the event and answering all your dog care questions.

In addition, stop by the Pledge® Fabric Sweeper for Pet Hair booth to get your copy of Happy Dog: Caring For Your Dog's, Body Mind and Spirit signed by Billy and Jill and pick up some valuable coupons. Billy and Jill will donate $1 from every book purchased to the American Humane Association.

Click here to see other places you can meet Billy and Jill.

Old Dogs

Here at Happy Dog Land, we never cease to be moved by the sight of an old dog, half-remembering its frisky past, shuffling along beside its human companion, a sign that the circle of life was more than an Elton John sing-along. Andrew Sullivan notes a particularly moving story by Gene Weingarten, entitled "Why Old Dogs are the Best Dogs." Weigngarten, best known for perhaps the finest piece of feature writing ever put to paper, "The Peekaboo Paradox," tells the story of his recently departed dog, Harry. In this canine tribute, Weingarten says something unexpected and oddly powerful:

Puppies are incomparably cute and incomparably entertaining, and, best of all, they smell exactly like puppies. At middle age, a dog has settled into the knuckleheaded matrix of behavior we find so appealing—his unquestioning loyalty, his irrepressible willingness to please, his infectious happiness. But it is not until a dog gets old that his most important virtues ripen and coalesce. Old dogs can be cloudy-eyed and grouchy, gray of muzzle, graceless of gait, odd of habit, hard of hearing, pimply, wheezy, lazy, and lumpy. But to anyone who has
ever known an old dog, these flaws are of little consequence. Old dogs are vulnerable. They show exorbitant gratitude and limitless trust. They are without artifice. They are funny in new and unexpected ways. But, above all, they seem at peace.

Many shelters specialize in placing older dogs in new homes. Check Petfinder and Adopt-A-Pet, where you can search for dogs by age.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Circus Dogs

We are of mixed feelings here at Happy Dog Land about circuses. There have been many reports over the years regarding mistreatment of circus animals, and we are not completely convinced that many traditional circus animals are enjoying their fate.

However, we may make an exception here. The Big Apple Circus, apparently, does not use exotic animals (no elephants, etc.). Instead, this circus adopts homeless domestic animals and then trains them to become circus performers. Even more importantly, these dogs live with their trainer as pets.

One detail, however, was particularly striking:

Mr. Anastasini is adamant about taking care of the dogs after they retire. They still long to perform, he says, so he often runs them through their old acts to keep them happy. One of his goals is to build a shelter to rehabilitate problem animals and return them to their owners or give them to others. And where does Mr. Anastasini take the animals during their three-month stay in New York? Central Park, of course. “A lot of people think I’m a dog walker,” he said.

Now that's a circus we can get behind...

Monday, November 2, 2009

Military Rescue

We challenge anyone not to be moved by this story of a Marine stationed in Iraq and his dog. Interestingly, this is a case of a feral, wild dog (and see our in-depth discussion of that phenomenon here) who chose his human companion. Which just goes to show that dogs can be good judges of character!

Eat Fido? No way!

We have been gob-smacked at the number of recent articles proposing (Modest Proposal-style, we hope!) that we should eat our pets. First, we have environmentalists trying to place our dogs on buns. The authors of the forthcoming Time to Eat the Dog: The Real Guide to Sustainable Living argue that because dogs and other pets have a significant carbon footprint we should, well, get rid of them. "A lot of people worry about having SUVs but they don't worry about having [dogs] and what we are saying is, well, maybe you should be because the environmental impact is comparable," says Brenda Vale, one of the authors.

This is, of course, intentionally provocative, and we appreciate a good polemic here at Happy Dog Land as much as anyone. However, let's be honest -- arguing that we should not have pets because of the adverse environmental impact is akin to saying that we should not have children because of the adverse environmental impact. Or, for that matter, do almost anything associated with modern life because it has an adverse environmental impact. Unless, of course, the authors are prepared to quit their jobs teaching at a university and return to the land as hunter-gatherers.

This type of (and Jill's husband Darren will provide the pretentiousness here) "utilitarian fiddle-faddle" is not far from the type of "ends justifies the means" logic that would justify government control over our daily lives in the interest of the "greater good." As we do not defend Grindlewald (or Stalin) we strongly encourage the Vale and the other authors to consider where this type of logic leads us. We should all do our share to improve the environment, but never presume that entire categories of behavior (and, by implication, entire populations of animals) should be eliminated.

Our next provocateur is novelist Jonathan Safran Foer. A talented writer (he gave us the classic Everything is Illuminated) he now tries to use our love of dogs to convince us all to become vegetarians. In the Wall Street Journal, Foer argues that there are fewer things that separate our beloved pets and the animals we consume that folks would generally like to admit. Thus, suggests Foer, why not eat dogs?

While we were quite surprised to find that it is legal in 44 states, Foer doesn't really want us to eat Fido. Instead, he wants us to avoid eating animals altogether. Here at Happy Dog Land, we are not proscriptive about the eating habits of our friends and visitors -- and count both vegetarians and omnivores amongst our close companions. However, we do agree that industrial agriculture is bad for animals and people alike, and try to be as cruelty-free as we can.

More importantly, however, we do strongly encourage all of you to be aware of the decisions you make. Why are we feeding ourselves (or our pet?) certain types of food. Could we do better? Could we help prevent animal cruelty by purchasing meat (or dog food) from certain types of vendors, rather than others?

While we are not planning on eating Zeke, Arthur or Shadow anytime soon, we are always glad to have the opportunity to think about the role played by dogs in our lives, and how it differs from other relationships we have with the natural world.

That said, if we see you chasing Fido with a fork, we've got his back.