Pup links!

The quiet watchdog. Source: Carlos Albala.

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

7 Reasons to Hire a Dog Trainer in a DIY World. Such a great explanation as to why a dog trainer is a great investment. We’ve only had two classes with our trainer, and I feel like we’re already reaping the benefits! An excellent post from Pamela. (Something Wagging This Way Comes)

Tugging Games. What happens when multiple dogs want to play tug with the same toy? Adorableness ensues! (Paws on the Run)

Modern dog beds and accessories from Waggo. I like the mod patterns on this dog gear: So colorful without being garish. I always have to stop myself from buying Pyrrha a million collars and leashes, though. Does anyone else have this problem?? (Dog Milk)

Cheat Sheet for Identifying Additives and Preservatives in Dog Food. Can’t pronounce the ingredient? Then it’s probably one of these mysterious additives and preservatives added to your dog’s kibble. Really helpful to know what these murky chemicals are actually supposed to do. (The Hydrant)

A Small Rant. This is why “big dog” people don’t often like “small dogs.” Time to train your toy breeds, world! As a side note: I was really heartened–and surprised!–to see a shih-tzu puppy in Pyrrha’s training class. It’s a shame that it’s so rare to see small breed owners taking obedience seriously. (The Elka Almanac)

Anja Zaharanski 365 Dogs Project. Artist Anja Zaharanski has set out to draw dogs every day for a whole year. The results are stunning! I can’t believe she does this every day; they are all beautiful. (Dog Milk)

Also, thanks so much for the Versatile Blogger Award, Tinkerwolf! Pyrrha and I are flattered. We love reading about Ted and following the progress of your raw-fed dogs photo project!

Little dogs, big attitude problems

One of the reasons I’m not overwhelmingly fond of little dogs is that I’ve met very few well-behaved ones.

My theory is this: Little dogs are often extremely cute. If they misbehave, it’s easy to excuse their behavior as an adorable tantrum and not give them any discipline or structure. If a little dog jumps on you–or even growls at you when you try to approach it or take away its toy–it’s easily ignored. They’re so tiny! What could they do? This is not the case if you have a big dog. Big dogs demand obedience training, because they can’t get away with bad behavior as easily as little dogs. If your lab or a German shepherd is out of control, you need to handle that problem ASAP. If your chihuahua or yorkie bites people, well, it seems like no big deal. Because they’re so cute and their teeth are so tiny!

This is not to say that everyone who has a big dog trains him; if only that were true! Rather, my generalization is that people with little dogs, especially toy breeds, seem to have a tendency to skip obedience training altogether. The result is fluffy-faced miniature terrors who become behavioral nightmares, despite only weighing a little more than five pounds.

Case in point. I got really, really frustrated with a woman and her two bichons on Sunday when I was out walking Bo.

Bo is a big, handsome golden retriever. He’s friendly to everyone, but with other dogs, he’s usually quite shy. He always wants to go up and say hello, but he slinks around them. We were walking up the sidewalk and I saw a woman on her cell phone walking two bichons on retractable leashes. I noticed that one of the dogs crouched down in a predatory way as we approached and locked eyes with Bo.

I moved off the sidewalk to let them pass and stepped into the street, giving them quite a wide girth. However, as we passed, this predatory-looking bichon charged after Bo, snarling and snapping at him. The woman did NOTHING to rein her dog in, and since he was on a (#*!@) retractable leash, we had to keep running into the street to get away from him. The dog ends up biting Bo on the back leg as we keep trying to run away from them, made difficult by the dog on the line that won’t be reined in. She laughed and asked me, “Is your dog a puppy?” “What? No,” I said, distracted and still trying to get away from her and her white demons. “Weird. He usually attacks puppies! Isn’t that cute?” she said, and kept walking away. “No, that’s NOT cute,” I said, but she wasn’t listening.

People out there with dogs: How is this in any way acceptable? If I let Bo do that to other dogs (especially other people’s PUPPIES!), I would get written up. I really wanted to bless that lady out. Instead, I just kept walking, fuming. (I admit I was also imagining this scenario playing out if I had a dog who wouldn’t tolerate such nonsense from such a little brat…) Bo seemed fine after we kept moving on, but I was still riled up about it when I got home.

What would you have done in this situation? Is there anything appropriate to say to people with little dogs who don’t do anything to train or control them?

Why I shouldn’t read Craigslist posts

Source: Google Images

I shouldn’t read the “Pets” postings on Craigslist because I always get really angry or upset. I wander to our local Craigslist from time to time, just to see what kind of animals people are re-homing or have lost or found in the neighborhood. I often come away very distressed.

These are the common posts I see on Craigslist (punctuated and spelled in standard English, for my readers’ sake). And yes, I have seen all of these posts, often multiple times.

“I need to find a new home for my dog because I’m allergic/I don’t have time for him/he’s too big for our apartment now.”

AGGGH. You people are the worst. Do NOT get a dog if you are, a.) allergic or someone in your family is allergic; b.) unable to properly care for him or give him the time he needs; or c.) living in a space that is not accommodating to an animal. Everyone is susceptible to a dewy-eyed puppy, but so few people really think through the consequences and responsibilities of caring for a dog. I just saw a post from a college student who was giving away her dog–whom she had adopted just three months ago from the SPCA–because she “realized [she] didn’t have time for him.” People, think about these things! SPCA, you probably shouldn’t let college students adopt dogs! It never fails to amaze me, but there you have it. I find that this is the most common post in the pets section of Craigslist. It’s also the one that gets me the most riled up.

“I’m giving away my dog because we’re moving.”

I understand that in this economy, there may be mitigating circumstances and you really can’t afford to bring your dog along. Sometimes, though, I feel like this statement may be a cover for the truth that you either can’t afford to keep your dog anymore or you are looking for an excuse to get rid of her. If so, fine, but I wish people were more up front about this. These posts are often peppered with comments about how much they love their dog, etc. Barring any dire financial circumstances, a committed dog parent would find a place to live that accommodated their dog. Simple as that.

“I want a dog who looks exactly like my old dog.”

Um, OK. Good luck with that.

“I’m looking for a purebred [insert breed here] but I want to pay less than $100 for it!”

You will be buying from a backyard breeder at best and a puppy mill at worst. I don’t know why people think they can get high-quality and humanely bred pets for such a small amount of money.

“I want a pit bull/rottweiler/German shepherd puppy! I also want it to be free or have a very small adoption fee!”

This makes me extremely nervous and angry–especially because those are the breeds that are most commonly mentioned in these types of posts. Just a few days ago, I saw this exact post from someone who wanted a “free” pit bull puppy. I was so distressed about it that I actually sent the person an e-mail, telling them to go visit our local shelter, which currently has a few pit bulls right now. I gave them a link to the shelter website and even recommended a particular pit bull (Pooch) that I had worked with. I also couldn’t help myself from throwing in a gentle statement that said, more or less, you get what you pay for, so don’t go looking for a free puppy. After all, the adoption fee at a shelter is a negligible amount compared to what you’ll be paying for the lifetime of that dog. If you can’t afford that adoption fee, then you definitely can’t afford to keep a dog.

Am I the only one who needs to stop reading Craigslist? Is there anything that can be done?

A rant about America’s fat pets

Obese canine from New Orleans
An obese dog in New Orleans. Source: Flickr, user mrtgt

This is my brief rant for the day. I just need to get it out of my system: I am disgusted by the number of FAT dogs and cats that I see on a daily basis.

Obesity is a well-known problem in America, but it’s spread beyond humans and now also afflicts our defenseless pets. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention estimates that 54 percent of American dogs and cats are overweight or obese. More than half. That’s disgusting. And wrong.

Many of the dogs that we receive at the SPCA are strays, but many are abandoned by their families. The interesting thing is that dogs who scavenged on the streets are often in better health than those who lived in cozy homes, because those surrendered dogs were grossly fattened up by their owners. The overweight dogs have many more severe health concerns than the homeless dogs who lived in alleyways. A few weeks ago, I was walking a fairly young border collie mix at the shelter who was extremely overweight. He was only five years old, but he could barely WALK because he was so fat. The dog was shaped like a blimp. It made me so angry. I wished I could have talked to his former owners face-to-face to give them a piece of my mind…

Obese Dog
An obese blue heeler mix. Source: Flickr, user mediamisfit

The other thing that makes me angry is when I am walking Bo, my friend Liz’s beautiful and healthy young golden retriever. Bo is a trim, healthy two-year-old and yet, when I walk him, people often stop me and say, “You need to feed your dog! He’s SO skinny!” This is offensive in a number of ways, but I manage to force myself to politely respond, “He’s actually a very healthy weight. But thanks anyway.” They look skeptical and keep walking. These people are so accustomed to seeing fat dogs that when they see a healthy one, they think he’s underweight! It’s unbelievable. And sad.

I believe that overfeeding our pets is morally wrong. This is why. Adult humans have the free will to eat whatever they want. You want to live exclusively on fast food, soft drinks, and Doritos? Go right ahead; it’s your right as a full-grown, (supposedly!) rational adult.

However, when our terrible eating habits are extended to our children and our pets, our “freedom” becomes a dangerous and life-threatening practice. We are actually endangering the lives of those who depend on us. Children and dogs do not have the ability to choose what they eat; we do. Therefore, we should be mindful of what we are feeding them. Your obese dog has an increased risk of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease and you’ve likely knocked at least two years off of her lifespan. This is something to take very seriously. And yet I think an embarrassingly small number of people do. I guess it’s proof enough if you look around that most people do not take good care of their bodies. Why would they be inclined to take good care of their pets’ bodies, too?

Every dog’s needs are different, but the APOP website provides a list of healthy weight ranges for many dog breeds that could be a helpful resource. I wish this information was more widely disseminated to current and potential dog owners. One can keep hoping…

What are some ways that you keep your dog healthy? Have you ever had to put your dog on a diet? How did you do it?