31 July 2008

Golden Retriever Adopts Tiger Cubs at Kansas Zoo

A dog at a southeast Kansas zoo has adopted three tiger cubs abandoned by their mother. Safari Zoological Park owner Tom Harvey said the tiger cubs were born Sunday, but the mother had problems with them.

A day later, the mother stopped caring for them. Harvey said the cubs were wandering around, trying to find their birth mother, who wouldn't pay attention to them. That's when the cubs were put in the care of a golden retriever.

Harvey said it's unusual for dogs to care for tiger cubs, but it does happen. He had seen reports of pigs nursing cubs in China, and he actually got the golden retriever after his wife saw television accounts of dogs caring for tiger cubs.

Puppies take about the same amount of time as tiger cubs to develop, and the adoptive mother just recently weaned her own puppies. "The timing couldn't have been any better," he said.

The mother doesn't know the difference, Harvey said. The adopted mother licks, cleans and feeds the cubs.

The Safari Zoological Park is a licensed facility open since 1989 and specializes in endangered species. It has leopards, lions, cougars, baboons, ring-tailed lemurs, bears and other animals. It currently has seven white tigers and two orange tigers.

Because white tigers are inbred from the first specimen found more than a half-century ago, they are not as genetically stable as orange tigers. The zoo's previous litter of white tiger cubs was born on April 23rd, although one of the three has since gone to a private zoo near Oklahoma City.

[Source: Yahoo! News]

30 July 2008

Great Dog Beaches Around the Country

There’s nothing dogs enjoy more than a good day at the beach. Fortunately, there are numerous ocean and lake playgrounds for canine frolicking in pet-friendly cities across America. The best ones, of course, allow dogs to go off-leash, no matter what time of year. A number of these dog-friendly meccas can be found in California.

San Diego: As a city, San Diego is beach heaven for canines. There are three off-leash zones where dogs can run free and even enjoy water activities such as kayaking and surfing.

Dog Beach at Ocean Beach: The original dog beach of California. Popular with both locals and tourists. It offers a wide stretch of sand along the Pacific Coast and is a great place for early morning romps, sunset walks or simply sitting and watching the waves roll in. Parking is plentiful, and this area is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Fiesta Island: Most of this large, sandy island in Mission Bay is a leash-free zone. Filled with sand dunes for a romping good time and the waters in the bay are calm — perfect for canine swimming. There’s ample parking and the area closes at 10 p.m. daily.

Coronado Dog Beach: With the backdrop of the famous Hotel Coronado, it’s a great place to picnic and relax. South of the Hotel Del Coronado, you can see the hull of the sunken gambling ship the Monte Carlo and, on a clear day, you can even see Tijuana. While the beach is open 24 hours (street parking only), it can get crowded, so go early.

Huntington Beach: Dogs are welcome on a stretch of sand along the famous Pacific Coast Highway between 21st Street and Seapoint Street — about three-quarters of a mile long. Open between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. daily. The restaurant area off the main beach has plenty of outdoor seating areas where you can relax and keep your pooch close by.

Long Beach: A hangout for celebrity dogs and their owners as it’s the only off-leash dog beach in all of Los Angeles County. This three-acre area between Argonne and Roycroft Avenues is in the heart of very pet-friendly Belmont Shore. Dogs are welcome at many of the outdoor areas of restaurants, as well as in some stores on trendy Second Street. This is a popular place for beach events and activities. To keep track, visit hautedogs.org.

Despite the fact that numerous Web sites and blogs claim there is a plethora of off-leash beaches in the northern California, none of these areas are official off-leash areas.

Chicago: The Susan Kimmelman Off-Leash Dog Beach located at the northwest corner of Montrose Beach (the point closest to the city) requires a special $5 DFA (Dog Friendly Area) tag confirming that dogs are vaccinated and in good health. The tags are sold at many veterinarian offices and directly from the Chicago Park District. Dogs must be leashed coming and going to the designated area.

The Evanston Dog Beach in northern Illinois, also requires a beach pass. The off-leash area is open May 1 through October 31, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. The beach pass costs $50 for residents and $100 for visitors, to be worn by dog owners.

Annapolis, MD: Quiet Waters Dog Beach on the banks of the South River in Annapolis, Maryland, is a popular hangout for dogs and is adjacent to a nearby fenced dog park. There are two play areas: One designated for larger dogs, the other for small or elderly animals. Owners are allowed to bring two dogs each, and there’s a shower to rinse off after a day of fun in the sun.

Lake Michigan: The Norman F. Kruse Park in Muskegon, Mich. offers a beautiful stretch of white sand, capped with sand dunes for canine fun and games. It’s a popular location for family beach picnics as parking is accessible and there are restroom facilities.

Duck, NC: In the town of Duck, dogs and their owners have the whole year to enjoy the vast stretches of beach that trace the coastline beyond a 10-mile radius of city limits.

Whidbey Island, WA: This picturesque setting offers dogs a wonderful stretch of sandy beach and ocean to enjoy. It’s a great place for people to relax and unwind too. On a clear day, you can see Mt. Rainer and the Seattle skyline.

St. Petersburg, FL: North Beach at Fort De Soto features a stretch of white sand and has been named one of the most beautiful beaches in America. The Pinellas Country Parks and Recreation Department has opened a Paw Playground adjacent to the beach area where dogs can socialize and enjoy some serious doggy play.

Key Biscayne, FL: The Dog Beach in Key Biscayne, Miami is on the corner of Waddell and Vernon Avenue, just south of South Street. Don’t be surprised if you see dogs sporting the latest bikinis, board shorts and shades to match their owners.

Petfriendlytravel.com's Travey Thompson says there are not as many off-leash beaches in this country as pet-lovers might imagine. “Leash-free beaches are the result of huge efforts made at a grass-roots level by dog lovers within a community. I think it’s important for people to understand that these beaches are a privilege that can be revoked at any time. We all need to help keep these leash-free zones in tact by always picking up after our dogs and obeying the rules of the beach.”

For up-to-date information about off-leash zones and beaches that require a leash, visit Haute Dogs, the organization that initiated the Dog Zone in Belmont Shore — it's also a good source of doggy beach information countrywide.

[Source: MSNBC]

29 July 2008

Wonder Dog Banned From Jumping

Clare O'Callaghan went to the pound looking for a pet. But she was taken not by the four-month-old kelpie pup's sweet face, but by his ability to jump 1.5 metres in the air from a standing start.

"It was like watching somebody on a pogo stick," said Ms O'Callaghan,of Toora, Victoria, with the kind of proud reverence that trainer Harry Telford used when talking about Phar Lap. Indeed, Riley is the Phar Lap of high-jumping kelpies - only twice failing to win in 30 high-jumping competitions in the past four years.

Last year, Riley set a world record - 2.91 metres - at the Casterton Kelpie Festival in Victoria. In February, Ms O'Callaghan received a call from festival organisers who wanted to know if Riley would be competing.

"He'd already won the championship twice in a row," she said. "They told me if he won a third time he'd no longer be eligible for competition, and could only appear as an exhibitor instead. "As a trade-off they said they were creating a Kelpie Hall of Fame, and that if Riley won again he'd be inducted into it."

On June 7, Riley tied at first place with another dog, Rosie - they both jumped 2.625metres - and thus was officially banned from competing there again. But Ms O'Callaghan was not happy about Riley's forced retirement.

"He should be allowed to keep on doing what he loves, until another dog comes along and takes the crown. In any sport there's going to be a younger, fitter competitor coming up in the ranks … every dog has his day," she said.

Shirley Foster, of the festival committee, said the decision to retire Riley was "all about keeping the event fresh". She said the Casterton Kelpie Association was considering holding an event for the best jumpers in the country and Riley could compete in that.

[Source: SMH.com.au]

28 July 2008

Rachael Ray's New Nutrish

Fido, meet Yum-o. Rachael Ray is bringing her trademark brand of culinary perk to the pet world, launching a new line of premium dog food. The Rover-friendly line, dubbed Rachael Ray Nutrish, features two varieties of all-natural pooch chow recipes, which have been both named after and developed for Ray's own four-legged friend, her pit bull Isaboo.

Proceeds from the products will be donated to Rachael's Rescue, an organization founded by the foodie that helps at-risk animals through the adoption process.

"I love my dog Isaboo, and as a member of my family, I need to make sure that she eats as well as the rest of us," Ray gushes. "With the launch of Nutrish, I now have the opportunity to share with other pet lovers some of her favorite meals, flavors and special treats." Those favorites include the somewhat cloyingly named treats Isaboo Booscotti and Isaboo Grill Bites.

"It seemed like not a lot of extra time to donate to something that could potentially raise millions of dollars for championing these little creatures that can't speak for themselves," Ray said of the line's charitable bent.

Ray has made no secret of her dog-loving ways over the years, featuring her pup in the opening credits of her Food Network show 30 Minute Meals, as well as featuring the dog on her syndicated talk show, Every Day With Rachael Ray.

Proving to be an equal-opportunity pet provider, Ray already has a line of natural cat food in the works.

[Source: Eonline]

24 July 2008

The Latest in Social Networking: Take Your Dog for a Walk

For Melissa Hotchkiss, going on a hike with her Shar-Pei mix, Jesse, took the bite out of meeting new people. The two were among 13 humans and 6 dogs on a hike at Harriman State Park, 45 miles north of New York, by Leashes & Lovers, a social networking group, and its partner, Outdoor Bound, to meet new people. If love or friendship was in the air, their dogs would sniff it out.

Hotchkiss said she's not a social person, but that having her dog along made meeting new people less stressful because the emphasis was on sharing an activity both she and Jesse could enjoy. "I'm coming for her to be outdoors, and I'm just tagging along," she said.

Leashes & Lovers is among a handful of social networking Web sites catering to dog-centric lifestyles, hoping to help the similarly minded connect for fun, friendship or romance. Similar groups include datemypet.com, ­doglover.biz and dogup.com. Rather than simply give dog lovers the virtual tools to meet online, Leashes & Lovers works to bring them together. The New York-based group has held swim meets, pub crawls and cocktail parties. It partnered with Outdoor Bound to bring these hikers and hounds together.

Dogs are always invited on these outings, but they're not required. Some people with shy dogs bring photographs of them to share. The point is to be with people who understand when you tell them that you grieved for weeks when your puppy died, said Sheryl Matthys, a former TV reporter who founded the company. "You really feel like you get to experience something special with your dog and other dog lovers," she said.

Linda Biel, 44, of New York, said she had been to several dog-lover events, including a scavenger hunt, with Bolly, her Shetland sheepdog (named after the Bollinger brand of champagne). On this hike, Bolly would bound up the trail ahead of the pack, then return to Biel, who would spurt water from a bottle into the dog's mouth. Biel said she, too, wasn't on the hike to find love. ”The important thing is I'm doing something I like as opposed to an event that's geared toward meeting people,“ she said.

Matthys said about 70 percent of people who go to Leashes & Lovers events are women. That would seem to bode well for Henry Lin, 44, one of the few men on the hike. He brought along Nala, a shepherd-chow mix. He said such events can help weed out mismatches. "There's dog people and non-dog people,' he said. "I've gone on dates where I didn't proceed because the women didn't like the dogs."

Matthys, who also writes a column for the Web site under the name DogSexpert, said she does not know of anyone who has developed a significant relationship after meeting through Leashes & Lovers. Said Connie Magee, the leader of the hike and founder of Outdoor Bound: "We don't ask. But I do see lots of friendships formed, and lots of phone numbers and e-mails are exchanged."

[Source: Lexington Herald-Leader]

23 July 2008

Tips for Stress-Free Travel with Dogs

During the height of summer, many people take advantage of the warm weather to embark on family vacations — and cats and dogs are important members of those families. Making plans ahead of time and paying attention to your pet’s needs can make the trip a success for everyone, according to Central Life Sciences, the distributors of ComfortZone pheromone-based products.

Any changes in a pet’s environment can cause stress and lead to inappropriate behaviors, said Debra Nickelson, DVM, of Central Life Sciences. “By taking the appropriate measures to prepare pets for travel and anticipating their needs during a trip, many potential issues can be avoided,” she said. Nickelson offered these tips for traveling with dogs and cats:

- Help your dog or cat get used to traveling in the car before you begin a long road trip. You’ll be able to determine if your pet suffers from motion sickness or becomes overly excited in the car, and can seek treatment from your vet before you leave for your vacation.

- Make sure you have the proper carrier or seatbelt harness for your pet, to keep both the animal and the humans safe during the trip.

- Keep your dog on its normal feeding schedule as much as possible. Feed him one hour before you depart, and immediately after you stop traveling for the day.

- Never leave your pet alone in the car. Extreme temperatures in a closed car can be fatal.

- Obtain proof of vaccinations from your veterinarian prior to departing. Many hotels require these documents when checking in with pets.

- Pack some of your pet’s favorite items from home, such as bedding, toys, and food dish. Bring a crate if you must leave your pet unattended in the hotel room.

- Put the “do not disturb” sign on the door to keep out hotel staff. Leave a TV or radio on at a low level to drown out unfamiliar noises and voices.

[Source: Dog Channel]

22 July 2008

Colorado Springs, CO Named DogTown USA

Dog Fancy, the world's most widely read dog magazine, has named Colorado Springs, Colorado, the 2008 winner of DogTown USA -- the national competition in which Dog Fancy readers nominate America's most dog-friendly city.

"Some cities clearly roll out the red carpet for dogs and their owners," says Susan Chaney, editor of Dog Fancy. "Each year, it's gratifying to read about so many organizations and individuals who work toward making their cities welcoming to dogs. We're very pleased to honor Colorado Springs this year, and congratulate it for avoiding legislation like that adopted by Denver which bans pit-bull-type dogs."

Runner-up cities include:
-- Huntington Beach, Calif.
-- Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
-- Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.
-- Long Beach, Calif.

Each year, Dog Fancy calls for readers to submit nominations for what they believe to be America's most dog-friendly cities. The criteria used to select the winning city include plenty of dog-friendly open spaces and dog parks, events celebrating dogs and their owners, high vet-to-dog ratios, abundant pet supply and other services, and municipal laws that support and protect all pets.

Chaney will travel to Colorado Springs to present the city with the top honor. For the complete story on DogTown USA, pick up the September issue of Dog Fancy, on newsstands July 29, 2008.

[Source: marketwatch.com]

21 July 2008

Is Your Dog a Meat Maniac?

Does your dog bark, dance, flip, or go nuts when he hears you work a can opener around his favorite meaty meal? If so, Alpo and celebrity judge, Joy Behar, want you to send in a video of your canine meat maniac.

The winner of the Alpo Real Meat Moments contest will be the face of the dog food brand, appearing on millions of Alpo cans and in national print advertising. The winner will also receive a trip for two to Hollywood, $10,000, and other prizes. Four runners up will receive a one-year supply of Alpo; 20 semifinalists will receive a six-month supply of Alpo.

The national contest ends July 27, 2008. Upload your entry of your dog going bonkers during dinnertime on the Alpo website or mail in videos. The videos will be judged based on originality, appropriateness to the contest theme, and the dog’s star potential.

You can also visit the website to view, rate, and pass on videos to your friends. The voting period to select five semifinalists runs from August 10 through August 24, 2008.

[Source: Dog Channel]

17 July 2008

Pampered Pooches Aid Troops

July 13 was the first K-9 Support Dog Wash at the Clarksville Dogtopia, but the fourth annual event for the company. Dogtopia employees were on hand to give the dogs baths and trim their nails for a monetary donation, and all the money raised went to benefit a group of dogs often forgotten -- working military dogs in Iraq.

Sue Dietrich, who owns the facility with her husband Ron, said she plans to use the money raised to buy things for both the dogs and their handlers. "One of our employees just came back from Iraq, so I plan to talk to him about what sort of things they need over there," she said. "But we've been given a list of guidelines of what to buy from Dogtopia, and we get to buy it ourselves. We're hoping to send some doggles (goggles to keep the blowing sand and sun out of the dog's eyes), booties for their feet to protect them from the sand, dog toys and some things for their handlers like chapstick."

In all, 51 dogs were bathed in four hours and more than $1,000 was raised for the working dogs in Iraq. "It exceeded our expectations. We ran over to finish all the dogs we had in line. We were still going until after 4 (p.m.)," Dietrich said, adding that several of the people were new to Dogtopia. "The majority were new people. It sounded like a number of them came a good distance. They weren't all local."

Dietrich was quick to point out that the added supplies they will send does not mean the Army is ignoring its working dogs. "This is in addition to what the Army provides," she said. "We think any extra little bit helps."

The annual dog wash fundraiser was created by Dogtopia founder Amy Nichols, who was trying to think of a charitable way to give back to animals, Dietrich said. In the last four years, the nonprofit arm of the company -- K-9 Support -- has raised more than $25,000 and sent more than 5,000 pounds of supplies to Iraq. In addition to the doggles and booties, Dietrich hopes to be able to send other items include cooling vests and pads for the dogs, as well as heat-resistant clothing.

Dietrich had eight people washing dogs for the fundraiser. Seven were Dogtopia employees, and one was a loyal customer. "Our No. 1 customer," she joked.

Sandra Pressman, of Clarksville, came out on a sunny Sunday to spend four hours up to her elbows in dog fur and suds. "I just think it's terrific that we can do something to help the dogs who are on the front lines, also risking their lives."

[Source: The View Newspaper]

16 July 2008

Niles Dog Show in Fremont CA

Dogs dressed up like bikers and hookers? It's the kind of stuff that might elicit howls at the Westminster Kennel Club, but it's all in good fun at the Niles Dog Show. For the past nine years, dog lovers have converged on Niles Community Park to celebrate man's best friend, even if his or her lineage can't be traced back further than a couple of mutts hanging out in an alley.

This year's 10th annual show, scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, includes a lot of the same attractions that have made the event such a hit in years past. There will be competitions for best costume, prettiest female, handsomest male, most unusual mix, hairiest dog and best performer. Comic juggler Dana Smith will perform with his dog, Lacey, and Happiness Country Kennels will present a dog agility course.

The show has expanded from about 40 entries when it first started to about 150 last year, Caster said. While the main goal is to have some fun, organizers also do their best to get dog lovers to consider adopting rescued dogs. One of the contest categories is "Best Rescued," in which dog owners tell how their dogs found their permanent homes.

Several purebred animal rescue groups will have booths at the show, and The Tri-City Animal Shelter's mobile adoption center will be on site. Also, a portion of the show's proceeds go to the Ohlone Humane Society.

In the costume competition, winners have included dogs dressed as gargoyles, unicorns and royalty. Caster couldn't recall if the dogs dressed up in garter belts or leather fared well at past shows.

Contestants can be registered up to the start of the show. On-site registration cost $20; click here for online pre-registration, which costs $15. All registrants will get a free dog show tote bag.

[Source: The Argus]

15 July 2008

Adopting a Dog Is a Life Changing Experience

There’s good news, bad news and better news about pets. The good news: A recent report by the American Veterinary Medical Association found that about 63 percent of all households in the United States have a pet. The bad news: 5 to 7 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year and about 3 to 4 million are euthanized.

The better news: One solution to reduce the number of pet deaths is adoption. Adopting a dog is a life-changing event. Dogs need lots of time and attention, requiring owners to be there every day. Therefore, it’s critical to find out whether you’re actually ready for a dog or would be happier with a goldfish instead.

“Making sure people are fully prepared to adopt a dog means a happier home and longer life for the dog,” said dog expert Trevor Wright. “Taking the time to thoughtfully consider if you are ready can reduce the number of abandoned and neglected pets.” Here are a few things to consider when adopting a dog:

1. Are your children ready? Babies and toddlers can’t be trained as easily as dogs, which is why many experts recommend waiting until children are at least 8 years old before bringing a canine into the mix. If you’re set on getting a dog and have small children in the house, consider adopting an easygoing adult dog who’ll need less attention than a growing puppy.

2. Is the decision to adopt unanimous? Dogs shed, bark and can be messy. Unless the whole household is fond of your dog, it’s easy for resentment to build. It also makes it hard to set and enforce house rules, such as whether the dog can join you on the couch.

3. Consider the costs. On average, expect to spend about $800 during the first year of your dog’s life. If you live in a city where vet costs are higher, work full-time and need backup care, and want to give him at least a few treats, it can easily climb to $1,200 to $1,800 annually.

4. No yard? No problem. Some people believe a fenced-in yard is critical to having a dog. In fact, a yard can become an excuse for not walking or exercising your dog daily. Dogs spending most of their time in the backyard miss out on meeting other dogs and people, which keeps them happy and well socialized.

For more information, visit Dog Time.

[Source: NAPSI]

14 July 2008

Dancing Goes to the Dogs in Canine-Crazy Japan

Rumba with your retriever, polka with your poodle, or samba with your Scottish terrier in Japan, where dog dancing is the latest must-do activity in this canine-crazy nation. Dancing lessons for pets joins a long list of things to do with your animal companion in a country where the pet industry is worth one trillion yen (nearly $9.5 billion) and where dog hotels, cafes and even dog-friendly cars are the norm.

At dance class "Wan Nyan World", which literally means "Woof Meow" in Japanese, dog-lovers and their reluctant partners do a little waltz and a little dog-trot to ABBA's "Dancing Queen". "Whether it's a Chihuahua or a big St. Bernard, if you have the right music and moves, any dog can dance. Even age doesn't matter," said 51-year-old Mayumi Ozuma, who teaches the class. "Dog dancing allows owners and their dogs to show their individuality."

For a tasty treat, dogs learn to circle their owners and move between their legs. Classes are held twice a month, and some couples even go on stage to display their skills.

Japan has more dogs and cats nationwide than children under 15, the result of an ageing population and a declining birthrate. Animals, and dogs especially, are often seen on the streets of Tokyo, dressed up in specially made clothes and being pushed about in strollers by their doting human "mothers".

"Dog dancing allows me to have fun with my pet. It's refreshing and I feel like my dog's also having fun," said Mikako Oba who was dancing with her one-year-old Corgi, Carlo, adding that she would like to enter dancing competitions in future.

Seiji Osawa, a 37-year-old businessman was excited about class because now he can maintain eye contact with his two-year-old Shih Tzu. "Now my dog will look at me," he said, sweating slightly from the dancing.

Others relish the class as a way to improve communication with their pets. "I like the fact that Naruto will do what I say -- it shows we are communicating," said 45-year-old Miyaki Takahashi of her dog. "He used to ignore me when I called his name, but now he will come near me."

[Source: Reuters]

10 July 2008

Marshfield Resident & Dog Compete in “Doggy Duathlon” in NYC

Nearly every day at high tide, Boo puts on an orange life vest and goes for a half-mile or mile swim in Duxbury Bay. In the evenings, he goes for a mile-or-two run on the grass at Marshfield High School, which, his owner said, is better for his joints. Boo, a 5-year-old black Labrador Retriever, and his owner, Stephen Meneely, are training for the IAMS Doggy Duathlon World Championships, part of the New York City Triathlon, which takes place July 20.

Meneely and Boo are running the race to benefit the Marshfield Food Pantry and raise awareness about hunger on the South Shore. “It’s all about the food pantry. It’s not about me. It’s not about publicity. It’s not about the dog,” he said. “This is going to affect a lot of people in Marshfield.”

Meneely, a software writer who has done about 100 triathlons, said he found out about the Doggy Duathlon when he tried to sign up for the sold-out New York City Triathlon. “We’ve been looking forward to this day ever since,” he said. “I’d rather do it for a charity and have it focus on the dog and a charity.”

Boo, he said, got a taste for competition as a puppy, when he jumped out of the open window of his car to swim after his owner during a swim practice. Two years ago, the dog ran with Meneely’s wife in a relay of The Fantastic Nantasket Beach Triathlon in Hull. Meneely swam and biked in the race. The family came in third and Boo got his first medal, Meneely said.

This summer, the two have been training together in Duxbury Bay, sometimes with other South Shore triathletes. They also walk together for several miles a day. “I take him swimming as often as I can, wherever we go,” Meneely said. “He’s come to a lot of local races with me.”

Meneely and Boo will compete with 26 other pairs in the July 20 race, which includes a 10-kilometer run around the northern loop of Central Park. The Doggie Duathlon champion wins The Rembrandt Cup. The race was also supposed to include a 1,500 meter swim in the Hudson River, with the dogs in life jackets, but that portion was canceled this week due to logistics. The day before, Meneely said, he and Boo will run in the Chipotle Underwear Run.

He said the Doggie Duathlon will probably be Boo’s last race, especially with the heat of training in the summer. “He’s getting a lot of white hairs,” Meneely said. “It really takes its toll on a black dog. It’s brutal for him.” For more information on the IAMS Doggie Duathlon, click here.

[Source: The Patriot Ledger]

09 July 2008

Teaching Your Dog to Swim

Swimming seems so integral to being a dog that we’ve even named a stroke after them, the dog-paddle — so you’d assume that’s something that every dog is born knowing how to do. It turns out that you’d be wrong. Not every dog knows instinctively how to swim, and some can’t swim at all, Wendy Diamond, the founder and editorial director of Animal Fair magazine, told TODAY. Dogs’ aquatic abilities are so misunderstood, in fact, that she put together a list of water safety tips for dog owners.

Diamond confirmed that some dogs are born swimmers. It’s a good bet if the dog’s breed includes the word “water,” as in Portuguese or English water spaniel, it takes to swimming like a nursery-schooler takes to finger-painting. For owners of those breeds, the problem isn’t getting the dog into the water, but keeping it on dry land.

But other breeds aren’t as water-friendly. Some dogs have to be taught to swim, Diamond said, and others, like bulldogs, take to the water like submarines take to the Cross Bronx Expressway. For the former, there is hope. For the latter, there are those bright orange canine flotation devices. Among those that can’t swim at all or swim only with great difficulty are basset hounds, bulldogs, dachshunds, pugs, corgis, Scottish and Boston terriers and greyhounds.

And then there are dogs like the Maltese, which are capable swimmers, but which are also susceptible to rheumatism, arthritis and chills that could be exacerbated by taking them in the pool with you. Diamond has a checklist for doggy swim lessons:

Avoid excessive noise: “Take them to an area that’s not so crazy and hectic,” she advised. Like children, dogs can become frightened and confused if there’s a lot of noise and activity around them. The object is to keep them calm and focused on the swimming lesson.

Use encouragement: As when teaching a child, keep your voice upbeat and positive, she said. “Using treats and toys to encourage your dog to enter the water also works quite well,” she said.

Never throw them in: Just as you shouldn’t throw a child in the water and expect it to swim to safety, you shouldn’t do that with a dog, Diamond said. “Don’t force the dog. If they don’t want to do it, don’t force them to do it.” Instead, she told Celeste, “Slowly put them in the water and get their paws used to it.”

Support their weight until they paddle: Even if the dog is wearing a life vest, Diamond said, support its midsection and hindquarters in the water until they start paddling and feel comfortable.

Show them how to get out: Getting a dog in the pool is only half the battle. Diamond reminded pet owners that they also need to be shown where the steps are in the pool so they can easily get out.

Keep an eye on them: Even in the water, dogs can wander off. Dogs that swim naturally and well can jump in the ocean and keep swimming until they’re lost, Diamond said. “You want to make sure, like children, that you watch where they’re going,” she said.

[Source: NBC Today Show]

08 July 2008

In Poll of Pet Owners, McCain Tops Obama

If the presidential election were up to pet owners, John McCain could have a blue ribbon in his future. From George Washington's foxhounds Drunkard and Tipsy to George W. Bush's terriers Barney and Miss Beazley, pets are a longtime presidential tradition for which the presumed Republican nominee seems well prepared, with more than a dozen. Democratic candidate Barack Obama, on the other hand, doesn't have a pet, though he has promised his daughters a dog after the election, win or lose.

An AP-Yahoo News poll found that pet owners favor McCain over Obama 42 percent to 37 percent, with dog owners particularly in McCain's corner.

"I think a person who owns a pet is a more compassionate person — caring, giving, trustworthy. I like pet owners," said Janet Taylor of Plymouth, Mass. Taylor, who described herself as a retired stay-at-home wife, owns two cats, Lady Jane Taylor and Mr. Tommy Katz.

Richard Powell, 79, of Spokane, Wash., whose dog passed away last fall, said if a person owns a pet, that "tells you that they're responsible at least for something, for the care of something." He said pet ownership wouldn't make a difference in his vote, but if a president owns a pet, "I'm glad to know they like animals."

The poll found that among people who don't have pets, Obama leads McCain 48 percent to 34 percent. But that still leaves McCain looking strong, since the majority of homes have a pet. The American Pet Product Manufacturers Association estimates that 63 percent of American homes include a pet, including 88 million cats and 75 million dogs.

Dog owners lean toward McCain, 43 percent to 34 percent, while cat owners basically divide their loyalties with 41 percent for McCain and 38 percent for Obama.

The population breakdown of who has pets and who doesn't may be a factor. For example, the poll found 47 percent of whites own dogs, compared with just 24 percent of blacks. Whites tend to favor McCain, while blacks overwhelmingly favor Obama.

Some 64 percent of dog owners are married, slightly higher than the overall population. The poll found 47 percent of married people own dogs, compared with 39 percent of non-married people. Married people tend to favor McCain.

The AP-Yahoo News poll is part of an ongoing study that tracks the attitudes and opinions of a group of more than 2,000 Americans to see how their political views evolve over the course of the election campaign. The AP-Yahoo News survey of 1,759 adults was conducted from June 13-23 and had an overall margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points. The margin of sampling error for population subgroups is larger.

[Source: Associated Press]

07 July 2008

Vetting Obama's Canine Companion

As President Harry Truman once wisely noted, "If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog." Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama and his wife Michelle have suggested that whether or not they live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue next year, they will take the former president's advice.

The Obama family has used the promise of a pet as a bargaining chip in asking their daughters, Malia, 9 and Sasha, 7, for their support during the long campaign season. The American Kennel Club (AKC) took it upon themselves to offer the Obamas some guidance in finding the appropriate canine friend.

The AKC is asking Americans to cast a vote for the best qualified "first pet" for the Obama family, limiting the list of selections to hypoallergenic breeds because of Obama's daughters' allergies. The public has been given five solid canine choices including the Bichon Frise, the Chinese Crested, the Poodle, the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier and the Miniature Schnauzer. Click here to vote.

It's important for the public to evaluate several characteristics when choosing a presidential pup. As a presidential pet, the dog will need to be well behaved during its potential interactions with high public officials, a good travel companion, given the busy White House schedule and in the case of the Obama family specifically, small enough that the young girls are able to walk the dog. Thus far, the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier has been voted the premier choice, but the public has until August 19 to cast a ballot.

The AKC chose to focus on canine candidates for the Obamas as the McCain household is already bustling with animals. According to the Associated Press, the presumptive Republican nominee has at least two dozen animals, including several McCanines: two Yorkshire Terriers named Lucy and Desi, an English Springer Spaniel named Sam, and a mixed-breed named Coco. For a look at the breeds that the McCain family favors, click here.

[Source: ABC News]

03 July 2008

5 Ways Pets Can Improve Your Health

A pet is certainly a great friend. After a difficult day, pet owners quite literally feel the love. In fact, for nearly 25 years, research has shown that living with pets provides certain health benefits. Pets help lower blood pressure and lessen anxiety. They boost our immunity. They can even help you get dates.

Allergy Fighters
"The old thinking was that if your family had a pet, the children were more likely to become allergic to the pet. And if you came from an allergy-prone family, pets should be avoided," says researcher James E. Gern, M.D., a pediatrician at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. However, a growing number of studies have suggested that kids growing up in a home with "furred animals" — whether it's a pet cat or dog, or on a farm and exposed to large animals — will have less risk of allergies and asthma, he tells WebMD.

In his recent study, Gern analyzed the blood of babies immediately after birth and one year later. He was looking for evidence of an allergic reaction, immunity changes, and for reactions to bacteria in the environment. If a dog lived in the home, infants were less likely to show evidence of pet allergies — 19% vs. 33%. They also were less likely to have eczema, a common allergy skin condition that causes red patches and itching. In addition, they had higher levels of some immune system chemicals — a sign of stronger immune system activation. "Dogs are dirty animals, and this suggests that babies who have greater exposure to dirt and allergens have a stronger immune system," Gern says.

Date Magnets
Dogs are great for making love connections. Forget Internet matchmaking — a dog is a natural conversation starter. This especially helps ease people out of social isolation or shyness, Nadine Kaslow, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University in Atlanta, tells WebMD. "People ask about breed, they watch the dog's tricks," Kaslow says. "Sometimes the conversation stays at the 'dog level,' sometimes it becomes a real social interchange."

Dogs for the Aged
"Studies have shown that Alzheimer's patients have fewer anxious outbursts if there is an animal in the home," says Lynette Hart, Ph.D., associate professor at the University of California at Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. "Their caregivers also feel less burdened when there is a pet, particularly if it is a cat, which generally requires less care than a dog," says Hart.

Walking a dog or just caring for a pet — for elderly people who are able — can provide exercise and companionship. One insurance company, Midland Life Insurance Company of Columbus, Ohio, asks clients over age 75 if they have a pet as part of their medical screening — which often helps tip the scales in their favor.

Good for Mind and Soul
Pet owners with AIDS are far less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets. "The benefit is especially pronounced when people are strongly attached to their pets," says researcher Judith Siegel, Ph.D. In one study, stockbrokers with high blood pressure who adopted a cat or dog had lower blood pressure readings in stressful situations than did people without pets.

People in stress mode get into a "state of disease," in which harmful chemicals like cortisol and norepinephrine can negatively affect the immune system, says Blair Justice, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the University of Texas School of Public Health and author of Who Gets Sick: How Beliefs, Moods, and Thoughts Affect Your Health. Studies show a link between these chemicals and plaque buildup in arteries, the red flag for heart disease, says Justice.

Like any enjoyable activity, playing with a dog can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine — nerve transmitters that are known to have pleasurable and calming properties, he tells WebMD. "People take drugs like heroin and cocaine to raise serotonin and dopamine, but the healthy way to do it is to pet your dog, or hug your spouse, watch sunsets, or get around something beautiful in nature," says Justice, who recently hiked the Colorado Rockies with his wife and two dogs.

Good for the Heart
Heart attack patients who have pets survive longer than those without, according to several studies. Male pet owners have less sign of heart disease — lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels — than nonowners, researchers say.

[Source: MSN.com]

02 July 2008

Helmsley, Dogs’ Best Friend, Left Them Billions

Sure, the hotelier and real estate magnate Leona Helmsley left $12 million in her will to her dog, Trouble. But that, it turns out, is nothing much compared with what other dogs may receive from the charitable trust of Mrs. Helmsley, who died last August.

Her instructions, specified in a two-page “mission statement,” are that the entire trust, valued at $5 billion to $8 billion and amounting to virtually all her estate, be used for the care and welfare of dogs, according to two people who have seen the document and who described it on condition of anonymity.

It is by no means clear, however, that all the money will go to dogs. Another provision of the mission statement says Mrs. Helmsley’s trustees may use their discretion in distributing the money, and some lawyers say the statement may not mean much anyway, given that its directions were not incorporated into Mrs. Helmsley’s will or the trust documents.

“The statement is an expression of her wishes that is not necessarily legally binding,” said William Josephson, a lawyer who was the chief of the Charities Bureau in the New York State attorney general’s office from 1999 to 2004.

Still, longstanding laws favor adherence to a donor’s intent, and the mission statement is the only clear expression of Mrs. Helmsley’s charitable intentions. That will make the document difficult for her trustees, as well as the probate court and state charity regulators, to ignore.

The two people who described the statement said Mrs. Helmsley signed it in 2003 to establish goals for the multibillion-dollar trust that would disburse assets after her death. The first goal was to help indigent people, the second to provide for the care and welfare of dogs. A year later, they said, she deleted the first goal.

Howard J. Rubenstein, a spokesman for the executors of Mrs. Helmsley’s estate, said they did not want to comment on the statement because they were still working to determine the trust’s direction.

When she died last year at 87, she left all but a few million dollars of her vast estate to what will become one of the nation’s dozen largest foundations when the probate process is finished. She had $2.3 billion in liquid assets when she died, according to the probate petition, and the disposal of her real estate holdings is expected to produce an additional $3 billion to $6 billion.

Even if the resulting total is at the low end of the estimate — $5 billion or so — the trust will be worth almost 10 times the combined assets of all 7,381 animal-related nonprofit groups reporting to the Internal Revenue Service in 2005.

The five executors of her will — Mrs. Helmsley’s brother, Alvin Rosenthal; two of her grandsons, Walter and David Panzirer; her lawyer, Sandor Frankel; and her longtime friend John Codey — are also the trustees of the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust and, according to the two people who discussed the mission statement, have fretted about the public outcry that disclosure of its terms might incite.

The trustees recently hired a philanthropic advisory service to help them figure out a way to remain true to Mrs. Helmsley’s intentions while at the same time pursuing broader charitable goals with her foundation.

Judge Renee R. Roth of Surrogate’s Court in Manhattan will also play a role. She has already demonstrated a willingness to be flexible, cutting the size of Trouble’s trust fund to $2 million, from the $12 million prescribed in Mrs. Helmsley’s will, and ordering that the difference be added to the pending charitable trust.

[Source: The New York Times]

01 July 2008

A Guide to Dog Parks

This video has some great dog park etiquette tips for finding and attending dog parks.