The laziest of dogs

The laziest of dogs

This is Pyrrha’s typical posture on any given day — sprawled out on the living room floor. (She looks kind of fat from this vantage point, but I promise you she isn’t… I’m like a pageant mom about her portrayal in photographs.)

We had more delightful house guests this weekend, my dear friend Angela (whom you may recall from a play date with Bo and Zoe) and her boyfriend, Marshall. Pyrrha took to them both very readily. They are both gentle, quiet souls and those are always Pyr’s particular favorites. She kept trying to incite them to wrestle with her, though, by taking their limbs into her mouth. This is probably a habit we should work on with more diligence, because most people aren’t exactly fond of a German shepherd suddenly taking their fingers into her mouth and giving them a playful nibble.

In other Pyr news: Last month, we switched her over to a grain-free kibble, and maybe I’m just deluding myself, but I think we’ve already been seeing the benefits. Her coat is much glossier, her poops are smaller, and her enthusiasm is only enhanced for meal time (that thin line of drool while she sits and waits for the bowl). After I lauded the benefits of grain-free kibble for weeks, Guion finally agreed and thought it was worth the extra $10 a bag for the health advantages. So far, a very good choice.

Also, Pyrrha issued a protective bark for the first time! I’m kind of celebrating it a bit. To me, the fact that she feels protective of our house and yard tells me that she is feeling more confident and secure. This is reinforced by the fact that she has never barked protectively before. She’s barked in fear, to ward off a dog behind the adjacent fences, but this was a bark directed toward a far-off person in the street, which said, “Hey, I see you! This is my place!” It’s still a very uncommon occurrence — as she still doesn’t bark when she sits in our front window and watches people and cars pass — but I see it as a sign of her increasing confidence.

Hope you and your pooches are well and enjoying a pleasant start to your weeks.

Review: In a Dog’s Heart

In a Dog's Heart.

Jennifer Arnold is the founder of Canine Assistants, a non-profit that trains and assigns therapy dogs for a variety of different uses. In a Dog’s Heart is her second book and was published in October 2011.

I hesitate to write a review here, because I found this book somewhat disappointing. Arnold is clearly a wonderful woman with a huge heart and lots of hands-on experience with dogs. She certainly knows a lot more than I do.

My reservation is that as a book, In a Dog’s Heart was not a successful project. It is essentially one woman’s collected ramblings about why she loves dogs. That is all well and good in itself, but it is not compelling or interesting. Perhaps it could have been reworked into something more memoir-like, resembling Caroline Knapp’s sweet book Pack of Two. Instead, Arnold’s book doesn’t seem to have any grounding frame of reference or context to give it much-needed structure.

I did appreciate Arnold’s thorough critique of Cesar Millan and the incredible damage he has done to dog training in America today. I enjoyed the heart-warming stories about the therapy dogs she’s trained, worked with, and assigned to people in need. However, I felt dismayed to read her hearty recommendation of dog food made by companies like Purina and Hill’s Science Diet, long known for creating chemically-laden refuse that is patently terrible for dogs. I also thought it was kind of silly that she believed so strongly in puppy temperament testing, something we’ve known for a while is not any reliable indicator of an adult dog’s temperament.

The book’s lack of organization–or a discernible point–is a crippling element. The chapters are haphazardly arranged and filled with all sorts of random thoughts. I almost felt like she just sat down with a legal pad and just wrote down all of the things she knew about dogs and then decided to structure her book that way. Essentially, I’m not sure what this book was trying to accomplish. Is it a behavioral guide? Is it a training manual? Is it a memoir? I don’t think it really knew either.

Arnold is very well-meaning and has done so much good for so many people and dogs. For that, she should be praised and applauded. But this book? Not a keeper.

Pup links!

A patient mix tolerates the aspiring dentist. Source: LIFE Magazine.

Dog-related links from around the Web this past week:

Veterinary Myth-busting Part 2: Feeding Dry Food Prevents Dental Disease. There you have it. I’ve read that kibble doesn’t prevent dental disease in several places, but it was nice to hear it from a blogger’s perspective, too. (Borderblog)

Doca Pet High Tea Feeder. If we do get a big dog (like a GSD), I’m in the market for an elevated feeder. This one is so sleek–and expensive! Sigh. (Dog Milk)

Worth Waiting For: See Scout Sleep Collars and Leashes. This new line of collars and leashes is really beautiful and functional at the same time. I love the simple, bold, geometric designs. (Under the Blanket)

Everyone’s a Critic: Ai WeiWei’s “Sunflower Seeds.” Fern and Theodore are totally bored by Ai WeiWei’s installation. I love it. [Side note: You may recognize Theodore from the cover of Love Has No Age Limit!] (City Dog/Country Dog)

Robert Clark. Photographer Robert Clark’s glamorous studio shots of show-worthy pooches. (Afghan hounds are always the most fun to photograph.) (Pawsh Magazine)

Pomeranian Puppy Refuses to Eat His Broccoli. Oh, the adorable-ness. It’s killing me. Pom pups barely look real. (Best Week Ever)

I was also tagged by Volunteer 4 Paws (formerly Inu Baka). I’m kind of new to the realm of blog tagging, so bear with me; here are my answers. Since I don’t have my long-awaited dog yet, these answers are about me.

  1. Describe yourself in seven words: Opinionated, detailed, organized, cautious, motivated, content, eager.
  2. What keeps you up at night? What if my future dog is evil? What if he/she cannot be trained? What if I fail my future dog? What if my future dog doesn’t love me? And so forth.
  3. Who would you like to be? A fraction of the fullness of the glory of God.
  4. What are you wearing right now? Skinny black jeans, black high-heeled oxfords, terra cotta blazer from the Gap, cashmere blend sweater from Banana Republic.
  5. What scares you? Losing my family.
  6. The best and worst of blogging? The best of dog blogging, specifically, is the wonderfully warm and helpful community I’ve found here. I started from ground zero in my dog knowledge and everyone has been so encouraging to me along the way. Keep that advice coming! I lap it up. The worst of blogging is the nagging feeling that it’s just an exercise in perpetual vanity. I actually feel less that way about this blog, since Doggerel is an educational venture; my personal blog is another matter…
  7. What was the last website you visited? Miss Moss, one of my favorite non-dog blogs.
  8. What is the one thing you would change about yourself? Just one? Well, that I would worry and fear less.
  9. Slankets, yes or no? Yes, if they come with night cheese.
  10. Tell us something about the person who tagged you. Thanks for the tag! I’ve enjoyed reading your blog since I started my journey in canine education and look forward to continuing to glean from your wisdom in dog caring, raising, and loving. Your giving heart and insightful nature is inspiring to me!

Pup links!

A young Elizabeth Taylor holds court with three dogs. Source: LIFE Magazine.

I was very flattered this past week to receive a mention in the “You Are an Inspiration Awards” from Pamela at Something Wagging. I’ve been so encouraged by Pamela’s blog since I started my dog research, and I look forward to continuing to follow hers and Honey’s adventures.

That said, here are some great dog-related links from around the Web this week:

Therapy Dogs: Born or Made? Patricia McConnell reflects on the qualities a great therapy dog should possess and discusses the age-old question of nature vs. nurture. Basically, if you have a calm, perhaps older golden retriever, your dog should be doing therapy. Bo and Dally would be IDEAL candidates, maybe when they’re older. Goldens were just made for this stuff. (The Other End of the Leash)

My Favorite Dog Training Books. Crystal lists some of her favorite training manuals. I need to read some of these myself! (Reactive Champion)

An Uphill Battle: Tartar in a Kibble-Fed Dog. Stephanie, the Biologist, discusses the problems of tartar buildup in her kibble-fed dog and debunks the popular myth that kibble cleans dogs’ teeth. (Musings of a Biologist and Dog Lover)

Hallmarks of Quality Dog Food. A list of ingredients to look for (and avoid) when shopping for kibble. (Whole Dog Journal)

Thoughts on Punishment. Reflecting on moving beyond basic punishment paradigms in training. (Save the Pit Bull, Save the World)

Your 2012 Fitness Plan for You and Your Dog. A practical and motivational guide to getting you and your dog in shape for the new year. A dog is such a great motivator for me to get outside and move! (Pretty Fluffy)

Comparing Bergan and Kurgo Dog Harnesses. The most widely traveled dogs give their reviews of two car harnesses. I’ve thought about getting something like this for our future dog. How does your dog travel in the car? (Take Paws)

One Big Dog on a Little, Kitty Bed. I love it when dogs (and cats!) mix up their beds. It’s always funny. (That Mutt)

Indigo: The Hockey-Loving Dog. This focused border collie reminds me of Emma, my childhood Aussie, who was fixated whenever we played hockey on the cul-de-sac. We kind of drove her crazy. It’s torture for a herding dog to watch such a game and not be allowed to get out there and HERD! (Shirley Bittner)

The Dog. My dear friend Rachel writes about her dog Cider‘s displays of devotion when she comes home. So sweet! (Mixed with Gold)

What should I feed my future dog?

Dog food canisters from Etsy.

Lately, my dog reading focus has been pretty heavy on the health and nutrition side of things. I’ve been scouring Dog Food Advisor constantly and I’ve been writing down all sorts of advice and ratings. I read the (pretty terrible) Natural Dog Care and the (really great) Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs. The latter book especially convinced me of the truth that dogs should not be exclusively eating low-grade, high-carb, and high-grain kibble.

So, this means I want to make food for my dog or supplement his or her kibble with fresh meat and natural food. Therein lies the rub. My husband and I are de facto vegetarians. I say “de facto” because we tend to eat vegetarian six nights a week; I don’t eat any meat myself for the rest of the week. This means we’re not really in the habit of buying a lot of meat. We’ll eat it occasionally and if we go to friends’ homes for dinner, but it’s not a regular part of our menu. We can buy meat, however, and we are blessed to be surrounded by plenty of local farms and butchers who raise and sell organic, free range beef and poultry.

These are my options, as I see them:

  1. Kibble diet: Buy a high-quality, grain-free kibble and feed exclusively.
  2. Half kibble/half homemade diet: Supplement homemade meals with high-quality, grain-free kibble.
  3. Raw diet: All raw meat and fresh foods, all homemade and self-prepared.

Everyone I know who has a dog has them on an all-kibble diet. Most dog owners I know also stick to the adage that “people food” is bad for dogs (a myth quite successfully perpetuated by the pet food industry). These dogs eat the exact same thing, day in and day out, and don’t complain. They get fat, though, and often smell bad and shed terribly. After having read these excellent books, I don’t think I could feed my dog an all-kibble diet and feel good about it. Unless it was a really, really high-quality kibble. I might be eating my words on this in a few months, but from today’s vantage point, I don’t think my conscience would rest comfortably if I gave my dog only kibble.

I’m leaning most toward the half kibble/half homemade diet at this point, at least in the beginning.  If I find out that all homemade/raw is easy and affordable, we might just go for that. The plan would be to mix kibble with homemade recipes, including some raw meats, fruits and vegetables, and recommended dairy products. I think this plan could also help us cut down on the food that we throw away: Dog as (carefully moderated!) trash reducer. I plan on arming myself with books like Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs and other canine cookbooks to make sure that our future dog is getting all of the nutrients that he or she needs.

I’ve read some about raw diets for dogs. They make me a little nervous, for a few reasons: 1) I don’t cook all that well for myself; I’m not sure how reliable I would be at cooking every day for my dog; 2) It sounds really expensive; 3) It also sounds very time-consuming; and 4) It would take some effort to find reliable places to get such raw meats. Maybe I will work up to it. For right now, though, I’m not sure if I have the guts (or capital) to jump into a raw diet.

Either way, it’s a lot to think about, and I’m sure I may think differently about some of these things when I’m actually in the day in/day out grind of having a dog.

What kind of diet is your dog on? What do you recommend? If you feed kibble, do you have a particular brand you like? I’m all ears!