28 October 2009

Dogs Teach Kids To Read (Yup, You Read That Right)

Meet Bailey. She's a registered therapy dog, but you won't find her in hospitals or nursing homes. Instead, Bailey makes weekly visits to libraries and schools. She sits quietly or snuggles up to kids as they read her a book. And no, she's not napping, and the kids don't have treats in their pockets. She's actually helping these children learn to read.

It sounds implausible. After all, dogs can't read. How could they possibly help someone learn a skill that they themselves can't grasp? But it's a growing trend, and it seems to be working.

The philosophy is simple. Children who are just learning to read often feel judged or intimidated by classmates and adults. But reading to a dog isn't so scary. It won't judge, it won't get impatient, it won't laugh or correct if the child makes a mistake. In a nutshell, dogs are simply excellent listeners. And for shy kids or slow readers, that can make all the difference.

Kathy Klotz is executive director of Intermountain Therapy Animals, which runs a nationwide program called R.E.A.D. -- Reading Education Assistance Dogs. She says there's another benefit of reading to the dogs that she didn't anticipate: confidence.

"A factor that we never planned for, that turned out to be really important, is that the child feels like they're letting the dog understand the story," she says. "They get to be the teacher, the storyteller, the one who knows more than the dog for a change. ...They just blossom when they get to be the one who knows more than the dog."

The children know they're not actually teaching the dog, of course, but the for the kids, the idea that they know more than the dog and can share their knowledge is a powerful one. And now that volunteers are aware of that aspect, Klotz says they actively foster the idea of the child as the teacher.

"One of the things you do in the program is you always speak for the dog," says Klotz. "Like if [the child] doesn't know a word, the dog doesn't know the word either. And then they're not alone, and they can look it up in the dictionary together."

To read the full story, head on over to CNN.com

26 October 2009

2010 Pet Calendar Round-Up

Cat and dog calendars for 2010 are starting to roll into stores and are ready to purchase on the Internet. So much for just cute pets. Some of these calendars are hysterical with pets dressed as rock stars, outfitted in glamorous designs or doing yoga. The second dogs doing yoga calendar is ready, but worry not, these images are photo shopped.

The calendar by Dan and Alejandra Borris hosts a year full of images showing popular dog breeds positioned in classic yoga postures created using computer wizardry.

Takkoda has produced a calendar of pets made to look like rock stars and is selling it at Heliotrope.com. For Pets Rock 2010, pets were photographed in their own homes to capture their natural expressions and then "dressed up" digitally to look like stars such as Dolly Parton, Gene Simmons, Abba and Ozzy Osbourne.

Cat lovers might enjoy the United Bamboo's 2010 calendar of cat fashions, truly elegant shots in designs done by Miho Aoki.

To see more strange and adorable pictures, head on over to USA Today

20 October 2009

Dog Day Masquerade

Despite the wintry chill, it really was a dog day afternoon on Sunday when the 5th Annual Times Square Dog Day Masquerade was held in, well, Times Square. Run, don't walk over to HuffPo and check out all the adorability.

19 October 2009

Paintings By Dog Sell for $1,700

Sam the painting hound mix isn't just painting for kicks -- er, wags -- anymore. Now he's cashing in on his talent, with some of his two dozen paintings selling for up to $1,700, The Telegraph reports.

"Sam is a regular renaissance dog and his abstract paintings are all the rage with the hip New York galleries," says owner Mary Stadelbacher who runs Shore Service Dogs in eastern Maryland. She says:

"Using his specialized training as a house-help dog, combined with my amateur art background, Sam is a fully trained artist ... He takes the paint-brush mouth piece and will approach the canvas and begin painting on the simple command of 'paint'."

[Source: USAToday.com]

13 October 2009

How To Take The Perfect Halloween Photograph

It's almost Oct. 31, and that means your pets will soon be tricked out in all their Halloween finery.

Professional animal photographer Sam Allen gives us the following tips for taking great photos of your costumed friend. Patience is key, says Allen, who spoke to PEOPLEPets.com from her studio in Portland, Maine. (That’s her yellow Lab, Zoey, impersonating Dracula.) "It takes time to get the photo just how you want it," she explains. Here are a few of her best suggestions:

1. Get comfy. Your pup isn’t necessarily thrilled to wear strange attire. He might try to chew the costume or wriggle it off. So let your pooch sniff the costume, walk around, get used to it. If there are several parts to the costume, put on one at a time. Headgear goes on last. Comfy also means taking the dog for a walk before your photo session. In the studio, "my dogs can become really antsy," says Allen. Time for a bathroom break!

2. Employ treats. Use food and toys, those major motivators, to snag your pet’s attention. Your animal will likely prick up its ears, cock its head or make its cute face. "It’s bribery, but it works," Allen says.

3. Use natural light. It's best to take photos outdoors on a slightly overcast day. Avoid direct sunlight, which will create harsh shadows. Indoors, take photos in a well-lit room or near a window with indirect light, and use your camera’s flash to further illuminate your subject.

4. Downplay the background. Position your pet in the middle of a yard or room, not against a wall. Plenty of space behind the pet makes for a softer background. Clear up nearby clutter and distractions.

To read the full article, head on over to The Today Show.

And if you're looking for wardrobe options, check out Modern Tails' Halloween Collection!

12 October 2009

4 Leggers Can Has Wii Fit

No, Nintendo haven't invented dog tennis - but they have invented a way to let you to hook little Fido up to the Wii Fit. He doesn't actually get to play games, or even do any dog specific exercises, but you can weigh him and see how his diet is doing.

The key feature of the original Wii Fit game is the plastic Wii Balance board, which doubles up as a game controller, calorie burn counter, and now in the new Wii Fit Plus game it also serves as a weighing machine for your pet.

You can also create a Mii avatar for your dog. I think that's something we've all wanted to do for a while.

Other features of the Wii Fit Plus are 20 new activities, including skateboarding and a Segway course. There's also more control over exercise schedules with the ability to set workouts to any duration in five-minute intervals up to an hour, and with users able to choose from specialized routines that focus on specific fitness goals or target areas.

Players can also now see an estimated amount of calories burned during each workout while tracking their overall progress.

So this little package promises fun and a healthy dog.

[Source: Shinyshiny.tv]

05 October 2009

Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About NYC and Dogs (But Were Afraid To Ask)

Got a question about taking your dog on the subway during rush hour? Want to know where the best four-legger friendly restaurants and watering holes are? Looking for a dog run that's open late? Look no further. Last week, the NY Times ran an entertaining and very informative 3 part Q&A with Nadia Zonis, author of "City Walks With Dogs: New York." You can check out all 3 segments over at NYtimes.com.

02 October 2009

In PA, Dog Days Help Students Adjust to College Life

About 5 in the afternoon, they started to gather on this central Pennsylvania college campus: The shih tzu brothers Boomer and Otis; Maggie, a lumbering chocolate lab; Cole and Chase, the David and Goliath of the bunch, of course named after Phillies; and the talented Bunsen, the boxer mix who has his own blog and can eat treats he flips off his nose.

Then it was time to send in the homesick freshmen.

"You're cute! You look like my dog," said Kayla Springer, 18, a biology major from Kennett Square, who was fussing over Chase, a border collie/German shepherd.

Thus began one of the "Dog Days," as they're formally called at Susquehanna University, along the banks of the Susquehanna River. Professors and other staffers brought their dogs to school for an hour of social interaction with students, especially freshmen, on Tuesdays during September.

The events, held in a grassy area outside the dining hall, are designed to help students overcome their homesickness - particularly the piece most painful for some: absence of the family pet.

"The fact is that students miss their pets, sometimes more than they miss their families," said Anna Beth Payne, associate dean of student life and director of the school's counseling center.

"You, as parents, didn't sleep with them in the bed every night before they came away to college. The dog did."

To read the rest of the story, head on over The Philadelphia Inquirer.