Wednesday, 31 October 2007

the dog food industry

While Penny was snoozing today and I was working at my computer on an article for Astarte's mega-zine, [This link no longer works, because the site was taken down after the sad death of the gifted editor, Stacey Apeitos] an online craft magazine (sorry about the non-dog advertising), I checked my email and found I had a newsletter from It was a treasure trove of information and I must admit I got side-tracked from my writing for quite a while.

Dr Tom Lonsdale reported that an article of his on pet feeding had been published in Nexus Magazine. It was not the entire text of the article, but the whole thing can be read at rawmeatybones together with many other press clippings about feeding of carnivores.

The link that I found fascinatingly awful was a long report in the New York Times about the petfood industry. It's definitely not for the fainthearted but I couldn't stop reading.

In reading Dr Lonsdale's work I was reminded that originally I intended to feed Penny whole carcasses, or as near to that as I could manage. I'm afraid that we have slipped from this - but she does get the major part of her diet as raw meaty bones.

However, we include some vegetable matter. It's mostly Vets All Natural grain mix and also left-over vegetable parts. I put them through our juicer in order to partly-digest them before Penny gets them.

I read somewhere that it is better to have a masticating juicer because the juicing process breaks down the cell walls of the vegetable matter and makes it more likely to be digested by a dog. My juicer is a Champion Juicer and works by that method.

In a discussion of juicing processes I read that:
the juice from a masticating juicer may be refrigerated and stored for up to 24 hours, while maintaining an acceptable nutrient quality
In fact, I freeze the juice, mixed back in with the pulp - I hope that still contains the vitamins that Penny needs.

The Vets All Natural site mentioned above has some interesting articles, especially the one titled 'Feeding Raw Bones to Cats & Dogs'

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Jan Fennell the Dog Listener

Penny and I listened to Jan Fennell on ABC radio today. Well, I listened while Penny snoozed. Jan was interviewed by Richard Stubbs, one of my favorite radio hosts.
Jan Fennell believes that our relationship with our dogs is the key element in making sure they live harmoniously with us. She referred to four aspects when she was on the show:
1. Feeding
2. Perceived danger
3. The hunt
4. Reuniting after separation
I have seen her DVD but now that I've heard her speaking I think I'll watch it again.
She also mentioned her books (of course!) and I think I might send off for the one called The Seven Ages of Your Dog, which Jan says is not available in Australia. (She didn't sound very happy with her publisher about that!) When I originally read her other book, The Dog Listener, Penny was a small puppy and I concentrated on the information we needed for that stage.

Richard Stubbs questioned her quite critically about one point - she said that it is not necessary to take a dog for a walk every day. I had the impression that he was concerned that listeners would use this as an excuse for not walking every day. However, I think she was saying that walking is not necessarily the best way of keeping the dog happy and fulfilled. She seemed to mean that having active fun with the dog is just as fruitful.

I was so inspired by her ideas that I lugged out all the bits and pieces of agility equipment I have collected and set them up on the lawn and Penny and I did indeed have fun together. I must make a resolution to do this more often. To a certain extent it might be the easier option to just clip on Penny's collar, take a ball and go to the park. I've never thought of it that way - it seemed that it is my duty to go walking every day, hail or shine.

However, I might add that Penny also got an hour in the park, swimming and romping, so I think she got the best of both worlds...

Sunday, 28 October 2007

dogs digging to bury bones

This afternoon I was at a weekend craft workshop and spent some time sharing anecdotes about Penny with another dog lover. We agreed that it is quite amusing that our dogs love to dig in the garden to bury bones.

I'm proud of myself that when I got home and saw the hole where my thyme plant used to be, I was still able to raise a chuckle.

Penny got a smaller evening meal than she might have, because I believe that if she's burying her meaty bones then we're feeding her too much. However, I got to wondering if that is true, or whether she might be placing her bones in the garden for another reason. I thought of three aspects: the sheer pleasure of digging holes; the possibility that the taste is better if meat has 'matured' in the ground; an instinct to save food in case of future famine.

At Old English there was a discussion of dogs that bury their rawhide bones in the couch. Everyone seemed strangely cheerful about dogs burying potentially smelly objects under the cushions on the furniture. I guess it wouldn't seem quite so amusing if it were meat that was being buried.

I think bones buried in plain air would rot more quickly than meat in the soil. The other day I was gardening and dug up a whole joint that Penny had buried the week before. It looked awful when it came up on my shovel but when I washed the dirt off and pulled it apart to smell it, it was quite fresh. I took a chance and left it for Penny to discover and she ate it. No bad reaction, thank goodness.

I've heard it said that meat/bones buried in soil don't rot as they would in the air and that this partly accounts for the fact that dogs can safely eat old buried bones. I don't know whether it is a myth or a fact. One interesting discussion has been collected by Mark S. Harris. It's a conversation about whether medieval cooks had a recipe for 'rescuing' rotting meat and whether that recipe included burying the meat for a time. One section says:
As I recall, the recipe is for a haunch of venison, which is a rather large piece of meat. Large pieces of meat may experience localized decomposition rather than general decomposition. Obvious tainted areas are removed and the bones and tissue around them are removed. Bones and connecting tissue tend toward early decomposition. The meat is then buried for a time, which exposes it to various nematodes to remove any remaining decomposing meat (think of treating a wound with maggots to remove gangrenous tissue). After being dug up, the meat is cleaned, trimmed, and cooked (which kills off parasitic nematodes). As long as the meat isn't too far gone to begin with, the recipe might work

It occurred to me that perhaps dogs can dig up and eat bones because when meat begins to rot in the ground, organisms in the soil eat the bad part. But that wouldn't explain the horrendous smell when Penny sneaks back into the house with a disgusting meaty bone from the garden.

At Barfworld there is a discussion of dogs' ability to eat food that would make a human ill.
The presence of bacteria in raw food often worries pet owners and vets. They assume these bacteria will make pets sick. However, dogs, being scavengers, have evolved to eat and thrive on bacteria laden food, requiring them for immune system maturity. Wild dogs eat the gut contents of their prey, and the feces of many different animals. They eat soil, contaminated meat, buried bones, infected meat and so on. These are all a source of microbes and any toxins they might produce. That is why the bacteria in raw meat are of little to no consequence to ninety-nine plus percent of dogs. This does not mean we recommend bacteria laden food for our pets.

Tom Lonsdale, in his book 'Work wonders; feed your dog raw meaty bones' says on page 55:
Dogs, like people, enjoy fermented foods. Bones fermented in the garden bed are a firm favorite - with dogs if not with humans. Soil bacteria seldom give rise to health problems. Although rare, the bacteria in putrefying meat can create digestive upset. Decomposing carcasses of chickens and ducks can be a source of botulinum toxin. Sufferers become weak and paralyzed and need urgent veterinary attention.

A chapter on 'The Dog's Digestive System' is available as an excerpt from 'Raw Food For Dogs - the Ultimate Guide for Dog Owners', by Morgens Eliasen. I found it an interesting read - it deals with the structure of the dog's mouth and the composition of dog saliva and dog stomach juices.

At Dogster Video I came across a cute video clip of a dog burying his bone. It was just like the way Penny does it. We think she looks hilarious when she comes in with a black face after using her nose to cover up the hole in the ground. She generally has a drink of water afterwards and I wonder if it is to wash her face.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

kangaroos and dogs

There were said to be kangaroos in Darebin Parklands today so I didn't take Penny there. I thought we should stay right away if the story is true.

It would be wonderful to think that this iconic Australian marsupial could live just 14 kilometres from the inner city area and be safe, but as far as I know that isn't the case. Basically, it's a suburban area and people and kangaroos, let alone dogs and kangaroos, don't mix in such an enclosed area.

I think these kangaroos might be part of a mob that is being increasingly forced into urban area by what I consider inappropriate housing development on areas where they used to roam free.

I believe the plan was to rescue the kangaroos from the Park and take them somewhere safe. We can only hope for the best and I'll be interested to hear how it went.

Apparently Canberra also has had the issue of kangaroos being forced by drought into inappropriate areas. I found a report dated 2004 about kangaroos killing pet dogs but I don't know how accurate is is. Strangely, it is from a site in the US. I did find the same reference at Asian Economic News, which seems reputable.

I have spoken to someone who told me of an encounter between her dog and a kangaroo in which, sadly, both animals fell down a bank into a river and drowned.

I'm going away for a couple of days without Penny so I'll leave it to the rest of the family to keep her safely away from the park both for her sake and for the safety of the kangaroos.

Here are a couple of links about kangaroos and dogs. I debated whether to include them in this post and decided to do so because we need to be aware that dogs and Australian wildlife can only interact if the dogs are under complete control.


a page about kangaroo hunting from The Edinburgh Literary Journal
a report of fatal attacks on a baby kangaroo and a koala by dogs

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

ethics and the feeding of dogs

Penny eats a lot of chicken. I'm fortunate that my local butcher sells free-range chickens and will cut them into pieces for me. I've also found a company, Belmore Biodynamic Meats, that sells a variety of free-range meats.

I'm prompted to post on this topic because there was an article by Veronica Ridge in The Age Newspaper yesterday headed "Food that won't cost the Earth - a guide for the ethical eater". I thought the points made could be applied to feeding our dogs as well as ourselves.

Eat unprocessed - the more processed or refined a food is, the more energy and water is used to make it.

Choose local - the more miles a food has travelled, the more greenhouse gas it has generated.

Enbrace the season - buy what is in season in your local area.

Unpackaged food - don't buy food with high-embodied energy such as snacks with aluminium-lined packaging or individually wrapped biscuits.

Reduce waste - our throwaway culture wastes water, energy and other resources used in food production. Australians threw away $5.3 billion of food in 2004.

Eat less meat and dairy - the world slaughters about 60 billion animals a year for food.

Choose fish wisely - don't buy species that are overfished. Farmed fish are not necessarily better, because often more wild-caught fish are used to feed them.

Have a social conscience - buy products such as coffee or chocolate only if the farmers have received a fair price.

Buy organic or free-range - uses no synthetic chemicals and focuses on the health of the soil.

Consider animal welfare - intensive farming to produce milk, meat and dairy products causes suffering to animals.

Of the ten points, I think I am okay on some, but I've still got a long way to go on others.

Of course, I can ignore the coffee/choclolate one; organic and free-range I'm working on; I always avoid meats from industries that have a horrible reputation - for instance, I haven't found anyone to sell me free-range pork and I don't know if that is even possible in Australia. I try to feed raw as much as possible, and buy from a butcher rather than a supermarket, so that makes for less packaging; I juice and blend our vegetable scraps, so that cuts down on food waste.

But I'll still have to work on the other points, for the humans in the household as well as for Penny.

I'll add the link to the article here but I'm not sure how long newspaper articles stay on the site for general reading.

Likewise, the British newspaper, The Independent, has a long discussion of the ethics of feeding pets, called "Is commercial pet food ethical or even healthy?" and here is the link, but it might disappear after a while.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

was a local dog killed by a platypus?

Each Tuesday Penny and I travel to Lilydale in the Dandenong Ranges, about 40 kilometres from Melbourne for training at K9 Kompany.
Today, after having lots of fun playing (uhh, I mean... working) at agility, we went to Lillydale Lake for a romp. By the way, it beats me why the township's name is spelled differently from the Lake's.

Anyway, Penny ran around chasing balls and then we wandered over to the creek - Olinda Creek - to have a look and Penny, following her unruly habit, jumped in without looking to check it was safe.

She was still on lead, which might have hampered her style, so she sank to the bottom and came up looking surprised. It took a lot of scrambling and struggling before she could clamber up the rocky bank. I took her off lead and tossed a ball into a safer-looking spot and she happily swam out to get it, so obviously she wasn't disturbed by her underwater adventure.

Not long after, we met a local guy who told me I should be careful letting her swim there because his friend's dog had been killed by a platypus. He said the dog died not long after getting out of the water and a platypus spur was found in the dog's leg.

Having looked around on the internet I've come to the conclusion that it would be unlikely the spur from a platypus was found in the dead dog - the male platypus does have a moveable spur on its hind leg which could inject enough venom to kill a dog, but I didn't find any mention of the spur breaking off.

It might be possible a local dog was killed by a platypus but I don't see how they would have worked that out - maybe by the symptoms? Yet an article from the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics suggests the symptoms would be similar to a snake bite:
When a platypus feels inconvenienced, it digs its spur into its victim and releases its venom. Since it is only the male platypus that has the use of such artillery, it is thought that the spurs are probably used as an offensive weapon to assert dominance during the mating season and to lay down territorial boundaries. Venom production does indeed increase during the mating season, which sustains the theory. The venom has probably a defensive role too though the aim seems less to kill than to induce intensive pain. Human poisoning is not rare and results in excruciating pain accompanied by massive swelling. Snake venom and platypus venom do seem to cause the same physiological discomforts though snake venom is far more virulent. However, it has been shown that platypus venom can kill dogs when injected intravenously.

Even I, one of the all-time champion worriers, don't think I need to be on the look-out for platypuses in the water when Penny swims - however, it is an interesting topic to me because we are eagerly waiting for the return of platypuses to our local creek in suburban Melbourne. They've been missing for many years because of hunting and pollution.

I seems that platypus poison could be a useful substance because of its implications for pain relief in humans (and in dogs, one would hope).
Recent research shows that the venom could actually be useful as a new type of painkiller as it acts on pain receptor cells, which is a property unique among venoms but shared with the active ingredient of chillies.

Here's the address of a platypus fact file.

Monday, 22 October 2007

why do dogs eat grass?

I noticed Penny eating grass in the garden today and it occurred to me it's lucky our garden has weeds.

The clump of grass included some panic veldt grass (ehrharta erecta) and what I think is prairie grass (bromus unioloides).

When I looked at a few sites to check out what types of grasses dogs usually eat, I came across an Australian article by Justin Huntsdale about Sam Bjone, who is studying the eating of grass by dogs - this was accompanied by a photo of dogs eating kikuyu (pennisetum clandestinum).

Green Foods has a report on this study also. Interestingly, they say they are excitedly awating the results because
We at Green Foods believe that dogs and many other carnivores, including cats and bears, eat cereal grasses because cereal grasses contain nutrients not found in meat that are essential for the animals' good health.

Of course, this raises the great debate about store-bought dry food, which is often criticised by raw feeders and barf (bones and raw food/ biologically appropriate raw food) feeders, who say that canines don't naturally eat cereals.

One organic site suggests that eating grass occurs because wild dogs would eat the entire body of their prey and this would include the stomach contents of a grass-eating animal. The author recommends growing rye or barley sprouts (not wheat sprouts) and including these in the daily diet. I can see that this might be useful but I'd want to cross-reference it with other authorities before I did it. After all, as long as I make sure our garden includes weedy varities of grass (not too hard to arrange!) Penny can choose the amount and type of grass she eats.

April Holladay, at WonderQuest (Solving Mysteries People Wonder About) , discusses the various theories briefly . She says
Finally, dogs may appear to eat grass, says Feiler, when they are just running the blades through their mouth to gather information. Their sense of smell and taste may act together to detect if other animals have walked through their area or urinated on the grass.

I must say, I enjoyed the cynical discussion of commercial supplements that are designed to enhance an apartment-dwelling dog's diet. I laughed out loud at the last sentence. Suffice it to say that Penny loves visiting a friend of mine who has lots of cats. Penny zeroes in on the kitty litter tray to check for enticing feline poo.

She also races out each morning to check the garden for possum poo. So, if I move to an apartment I just could be a customer for an intriguing type of dog-food supplement...

Saturday, 20 October 2007

dog body language

Penny tries to let us know what she's thinking or needing but we often misunderstand her because we don't speak 'dog'.

I do think humans are pretty good at reading dog body language, though. I read somewhere that if animated movies include canine characters, most humans will notice inconsistencies, so it's a challenge for the animators. I think it was the movie 'Babe' that was mentioned but I can't find any references to this on the Net.

However, in searching, I found lots of sites about dog body language.

'A dog's eyes are the windows to his soul'.
This quote by Turid Rugaas headed a page at Australian Canine Current Events where there is a huge list of sites dealing with dog body language.

I followed the link to Turid Rugaas' site and found an article called
Calming signals: the art of survival’ There are plenty of photos of dogs using different calming signals. They're in the link called 'Gallery'.

Paws Across America also had a good discussion of how to interpret dogs’ body language.

The UK ‘dog listener’ Stan Rawlinson, says that we need to realise that our dogs don't think as we do:
We are further hampered by the fact that we tend to think that our pets can understand complex thought patterns; we assume a dog's level of understanding is on a par with our own. This is known as “anthropomorphism”, the dictionary definition is “The attribution of human motivation, characteristics, or behaviour to nonhuman organisms or inanimate objects”. It is a bit like saying that a vine climbed up the tree to getter a better view of the garden.

In all my searching about on the Net at least I was reassured about the treatment of the animals used in the filming of the movie 'Babe'.

I guess the site that I found the most fascinating was one where there are instruction on how to make an animated movie (at a simple level) of your dog talking. I think it would be great fun, but I bet it would be harder than it looks. Still, it might be fun to try...

obedience training and canine freestyle, aka doggy dancing

Penny has been to lots of obedience training in her time but I think she prefers dancing, chasing lures and agility.

However, I've just spent some time watching and re-watching Amber-Mae's video of her obedience routine and enjoyed it so much that I think we'll have to get outside and practise some of those commands tomorrow. I noticed that Amber's human uses a ball for reward instead of food. I'm going to give that try - I think the only problem will be that Penny will obsess about the ball so much that she won't come back. I might try with two balls.

Also, I had fun looking at a canine freestyle video. I loved the fact that there were people of every age and fitness level enjoying themselves with their dogs and that some of them were terrible dancers - as I am! It looked like a funny hat was the way to spruce up your act. Maybe I could do that...

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Studying a dog's movements to look for lameness

Penny was limping for some time this year, and we often look at her as she walks towards us, trying to work out whether the limp is still there.

So I was fascinated when I came across a teaching module, presumably for vets, on studying a dog's gait for lameness. It uses optical motion capture data. Reflective round markers are placed at joints and key locations on dogs' bodies and then the dogs walk - I guess on a treadmill. A video of the movement shows only the markers and the difference between healthy gait, displasia and cruciate problems is clearly shown.

I found it at a site called What's New - which, by the way, is a great find for me as it seems to be a lhasa apso site and I'm convinced that Penny's ancestry includes lhasa apso.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

walking dogs at night

Penny hadn't had a walk today and guilt overcame us at 10 pm, so off we went with a torch, a fancy blinking collar (on Penny, not us) and a ball that lights up.

In the event we didn't need any of these things because we walked around the well-lit streets. My sister decided to take the opportunity to try out her photography skills - so, while Penny searched around for any food scraps, we admired the evening lights. (Penny found and scoffed a pile of chips; my sister managed to wrench a tasty bone out of her mouth; but we never did discover what it was that Penny found in a patch of long grass because she swallowed it too quickly for us.)

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

blog for the environment

Today is blog action day for the environment. I actually managed to miss the correct day, but I've changed my computer time to Samoa so I remember that somewhere it is still 15th October 2007 - after all, Penny doesn't care what the date is. Every day she takes time to appreciate the environment. I've never known her miss a chance to smell the aromas that fill the air, to look at a bird or to enjoy the texture of a tree-trunk (the bottom part).

One of her favorite environments is Darebin Parklands, an area of bushland right in suburban Melbourne. Thanks to the foresight and persistence of the founders of the park we have the opportunity to imagine what the area around northern Melbourne might have looked like two hundred years ago.

Forty years ago it was a stinking rubbish tip and a sea of weeds and today it looks like this:

Monday, 15 October 2007

rescuing dogs

When I was in the park today Penny was at home. Just for once I couldn't take her with me because I was weeding along the Ivanhoe side of the creek. Dogs aren't allowed on that side off-lead. Also, I wouldn't have liked her to be exploring around there because of the danger of snakes - it was a warm day.

However, I had the pleasure of seeing another dog walker come strolling along the Alphington side of the creek with her beautiful dalmatians.

She often walks with extra dogs because she takes part in 'dalmatian rescue'. I had a look at their site and there are some delightful dogs waiting for a home at the moment.

Thinking of animal rescue reminded me that one of my sister's favorite romance authors, Laura Kinsale, is interested in this issue. I followed links from her site to the announcement that the US has passed a Bill intended to ensure that in disasters (like Hurricane Katrina) people will not have to leave their pets behind.

That got me wondering what would happen in the case of an evacuation here, with bushfire an ever-present danger. I found that the country Fire Authority site's bushfire information booklet has an informative page on how to prepare for the safety of your pets.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

dogs and bones

Penny had a brisket bone for dinner tonight.

The usual performance began. She took it in her mouth and began to stress out about what to do with it. The tail went between her legs and the whimpering began. Oh, my! Where to bury it? What to do with it? The worry... The worry...

We closed the baby gates that block off access to the lounge-room and the bedroom - didn't fancy rotting meaty bones buried in our beds or the couch.

Finally I took pity on her and took her outside to bury it. Three minutes later she was back inside, tail between her legs again. Worry, worry...

Okay, so she decided to eat it. But it was too big to finish. So the stressing began again. I took her outside and left her there (it was cold and dark and I was trying to have my dinner.)

Eventually she came inside, smiling.

I'll go outside in the morning and see which one of my favorite plants has been dug up. Sigh...

Amongst her favorite places for burying bones are the plants in pots on the back patio. We don't worry too much, just put the plants back in and stuff the dirt around them again and hope they survive. Now I know we should be glad she's not as good a digger as the dog in this photo.

Friday, 12 October 2007

doggy dancing aka canine freestyle

I'm looking forward to seeing Amber-Mae's video of her recent OB routine when she posts it at the weekend. (Amber-Mae, I'm such a beginner I'm not even sure what OB means!) It was fascinating to see her doggy dancing video posted on Monday October 8. Penny and I will have to study it for some tips. Amber-Mae says she was only so-so but to me and Penny she looks fabulous.
I came across an article that I think its hilarious by Emily Yoffe on Slate about her one and only experience with doggy dancing. She lasted one month at class but that was it. I laughed out loud when I read her adventures with her beagle, Sasha. I've got a feeling that Penny and I are more like Sasha than Amber-Mae but we're going to keep practising.

I came across Emily Yoffe's story at Curator's blog at The Pet Museum.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Using a pleasant stimulus to make a dog like something

Penny likes having her paws washed in diluted chlorhex. We clean her paws each day because she had a rash between her pads and was licking her paws and the vet said to try this treatment. It seems to be working.

She likes it because I give her a small treat at the exact moment when each paw goes into the liquid. I have only to pick up the small container with the chlorhex solution and she rushes over to get started.

I got the idea from noticing that the vet suggests I offer her a treat just as he gives her a vaccination. I must say, though, she still doesn't like injections.

When she was a tiny puppy she didn't like being brushed, so we started acclimatising her to grooming by holding the brush against her skin and giving her a treat; we gradually moved on to brushing and now she loves the actual grooming. In psychology terms I suppose she has associated grooming with a pleasant experience and now she doesn't need treats. I'm not sure it's a case of classical conditioning, as in the original Pavlovian experiements. After all, she might simply like being brushed.

She sure loves the brushes - the toothmarks on the handles show just how much.

In looking around for information on Pavlov's experiments with dogs I came across a discussion of how humans react to a stimulus paired with the smell of peanut butter or vanilla. It seems that we're not much different from dogs.

I must admit that when I walk into the house one of the first things I do is stroll over to the fridge or the pantry to see if there's any chocolate to be had.
The discussion said, in part:
Some researchers think that visual signals encourage certain behaviors. For example, in this latest study, the visual signals were the abstract pictures. However, many things can become visual cues in daily life. It is possible that some people are conditioned to want fattening or sweet foods when they go to a particular restaurant; perhaps other people eat bags of potato chips when they watch TV or drink too much alcohol when they are with certain friends. People who want to change certain eating behaviors may benefit from changing their environment. A change in a person's environment may help to avoid behaviors that they hope to change.

We're careful to make sure Penny has a healthy diet. It's a pity we're not so conscientious in looking after our own health.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

How much do dogs sleep?

Penny sleeps a lot. I wondered why that is so and had a look at a few sites. Pet Place says nobody is sure why they sleep so much and that it depends on the breed of dog - larger breeds sleep more.

An article at Pet Tails had more information and I was interested in what it said about stages of sleep and positions dogs sleep in. One comment was that if the dog is curled up she is probably in a light sleep. I would say this is true of Penny because if I walk past her when she is curled up she is often resting with her eyes open - I assume she opens them when she hears me moving around.

I also feel sure this article is correct when it says dogs sleep on their backs with their paws in the air because they have less fur on their bellies and thus they are trying to cool down. I've often seen Penny sleep like this on a warm night.

Animal Behavior Associates says
How much do dogs and cats sleep? Under controlled laboratory conditions both cats and dogs sleep about 13 hours per day but they wake up more frequently than people do. How much and when pets sleep varies enormously depending on the social and physical environment. A dog living as an only pet in an apartment may sleep much more than one working as a herding dog on a farm. Pets will often adjust their activity and sleep cycles so that they can be active when people and other animals are active.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Should dogs stretch before agility sessions?

Today Penny did stretching exercises before her agility class. Sometimes we do a mix of agility and tricks but today was all agility. Cindy, our teacher, got us to do some stretches beforehand to get Penny's spine active. She did 'paws up', putting her front legs up onto my forearm and also some bowing to mobilise the spine.

I'm convinced this is a valuable way to start an agility session and I'm going to try to remember to do it before we practise at home. However, I have read some articles in magazines lately throwing doubt on the value of stretches for humans as a start to sport or activity sessions and I read a discussion of this topic on the Net tonight.

An article at Dog Agility Preschool has a discussion of the necessity for warming up (humans AND dogs) that I think is most interesting. There is also a great discussion of warming up and cooling down at the Connecticut Police Work Dog Association, with photos and examples of how to help your dog prepare for activity.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

A dog's genetic heritage

We've always thought that Penny was a princess in disguise. She was sold to us as a shih tzu cross maltese but no-one we ever met had a dog who looked like her.I've spent many fun hours surfing dog sites to decide what she might actually be - part Tibetan terrier? Lhasa Apso? Silky terrier? The possibilities are endless.

And tonight I've found an article on msnbc about a new test for canine genetic origins. I could send off a swab from her cheek or have a vet take a blood sample and get a DNA result that would identify her breeding - if she's one of the 134 breeds whose DNA has been registered.

I won't do it, because she's beautiful to us whatever her heritage. But it's fun to dream...

I found the news item by following a link from a page on the care2 site. I think the page belonged to amber e.

Healthy food for dogs

We try to make sure Penny eats only healthy food. Often it's from human-grade ingredients, though I don't believe that is always necessary. After all, she's a dog, with a wonderful canine digestive system.

Jabari's Mum mentioned to me the other day that she is trying a new pet food. She said:
For some time now I have been alternating the VAN with the Ecopet roll. First I bought it just to try it out. Jabari really liked it so I checked the site and found that they claim to use only human grade products and the ingredients sound really good and healthy.
There are small and large rolls (also dry food). As it is concentrated, the amount fed is quite small. (It is also locally produced.)

She says Jabari likes the chicken and the peanut flavored ones.

I'll give this food a try. I am a believer in offering a range of food to Penny because I want to provide a 'balanced' diet. It's easy to be influenced by the massive advertising campaigns waged by the mega-corporations selling pet foods. They try to convince us that only they know what our pets need. However, it seems to me that if parents can trust their judgment in raising a basically healthy human child, then pet owners should be able to acquire enough information to work out what a dog needs.

From the moment we brought Penny home and decided to feed as natural a diet as possible, I've browsed dog-feeding sites. Here are some that influenced me:
the barf diet
and barf Australia

Tom Lonsdale on raw feeding
I went to the vet with Penny the other day and when he looked in her mouth he said, "Lovely clean teeth. She must eat lots of bones!" That's thanks to the writings of Tom Lonsdale.

Raw Feeding FAQ and Raw Learning
Heaps of info on these sites.

Holistic health care for people and animals

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Chocolate and other foods that are taboo for dogs

We try to be careful to keep dangerous human-type foods where Penny couldn't reach them but it's always good to get up-to-date information about this subject.

I was reading Bark Blog and followed their link to National Geographic magazine's interactive page where you can move a little lever to point to your dog's actual weight and figure out what symptoms might occur if she accidentally ate chocolate. They list six types of chocolate products and cross-index it with a range of symptoms.It is actually quite good fun, though of course I hope never to have to use it in a real situation.

There's also a page called Canine Taboos with an overview of the dangerous foods to be most aware of.

Friday, 5 October 2007

elegant crates for the dog with everything

Crating a dog is a good way to give her a place of her own and also to restrict her movements when necessary. Penny has a crate that she retires to when she wishes - often quite early in the evening if it's been a long day.

When we had a visiting puppy for the night I set up a carboard box for him and Penny immediately moved in to that. Seeing she was enormously put out to have him in our house, I think she was asserting her dominance by taking over the new home. (I'd found him on a busy street and he only stayed one night before being safely reunited with his loving owner, thanks to microchipping.)

But... have a look at the Hardwood Hideaway. Now, I'm sure Penny could look like the princess she really is, if she could rest in one of these crate mansions. Here is a picture of just one of the fantastic fine furniture pieces they have for sale.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Fitness for dogs

Penny likes to run and jump. However, sometimes I'm not sure how much exercise is good for her. Therefore I was interested to read an article called Fitness in your backyard. It gives a general overview of what kind of exercise is suitable for the average dog and how you could manage this in your local environment.

I found the article by following a link from a great Squidoo called Canine Athletes! by JohannTheDog. The Squidoo has lots of interesting information about a great variety of sports and athletic activities for dog.

If you haven't already visited Squidoo, it's worth a visit. It's a community of sites where anyone can set up a site to teach a skill or share a passion. Tonight there were 848 sites (called 'lenses') for the search word dog and 199 for canine.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

are annual vaccinations good for dogs?

A visitor from Canada recently commented to my sister that Australians over-vaccinate their dogs. She was surprised that we give our pets vaccinations that she considers unnecessary.

Penny still gets her annual shots because I take my vet's advice, but at an online magazine called Dog Owner's Guide I found an article that has got me thinking.
The article discusses at length the pros and cons of vaccination regimes. In part it says:
Research shows that vaccines have a longer term of effectiveness against disease than previously thought, and some veterinary colleges have published alternative vaccination protocols that suggest three-year intervals after the initial shots and a 12-month booster...

An increase in knowledge about the canine immune system and more information about the length of time that immunity is conferred by particular vaccines have prompted veterinarians and researchers to question the yearly booster for adult dogs.

As a result, several universities have changed their vaccination recommendations and both the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Animal Hospital Association have published changes in their vaccination guidelines.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

old dogs and young dogs

Old dogs and young dogs move through life at a different pace. Bonnie, Penny's much loved elderly mentor, visited on Tuesday. As usual, Penny was ecstatic and raced around in circles, accompanying Bonnie on her leisurely inspection on the garden.

how do I make the dog stop?

Penny spent an hour Sunday morning at A Perfect Spot dog training. Both she and I had good fun and she had lots of treats. (She missed breakfast as I don't want her to put on too much weight with all these treats.)

We succeeded on most activities but we certainly didn't shine at the 'stop!' command. The idea is that Penny will run towards me and I will put up my hand (like a British policeman stopping the traffic) and she will slide to an immediate halt. The technique I tried was to hold up my hand, at the same time throwing a treat at her. She would stop to eat the treat and when it was all happening smoothly I could add the verbal cue 'stop'.

I've learned one thing - if the treats are tiny and we're working on grass, she'll spend lots of time nosing around for the food. The other catch was that she soon figured out that I actually DIDN'T want her to come to me, so she sauntered towards me, waiting for the food to land at her feet. Great fun for her, but not what was expected.

It was 'back to the drawing board' after class and we tried it out in our garden with bigger treats. She was starting to look a bit tubby already...

At K9 Kompany we've tried a similar command with mixed success. I call Penny to jump towards me over a series of jumps and when she's over the first one I stop her with the same technique. I've been told to lean forward to add my body language to the hand signal.

I looked for some help in the book written by the Kintala founder, David Weston and I think I'll try his technique. The chapter is headed 'Stop on recall' but it's actually a 'Drop on recall.'

He says the dog must first be thoroughly conditioned to drop from the stand position at a distance. Then he says:
1. Practise the drop from a stand position once or twice, using the voice signal 'drop' only and reinforce successful responses.

2. Leave your dog in a stand wait position, walk away five paces and turn to face your dog.

3. Call your dog to you but, the moment it moves, give it the voice signal to drop. Return to the dog and reinforce the correct response.

4. Repeat points 2 and 3 gradually increasing the distance between you and the dog, and allowing the dog to make more movement towards you before offering the voice signal 'drop'. Continue to return to your dog and reinforce it in the drop position.

He then says you should make a hand signal with the voice signal and has a clear explanation of how this signal should look, together with a photo.

I've only mentioned the basics of what he says, because that's what I'm going to try first. I'd recommend this book to anyone wanting a clear set of reward-based lessons, because the explanations are clear and there are a series of photos on every page.

Monday, 1 October 2007

choosing a perfect name for a puppy

Penny goes by many names in our household: The Flying Carpet - when she takes a mighty leap and launches into the unknown, fur streaming in the breeze; Princess Penny - when she's looking regal; Penelope - when we don't want her to know we're talking about her (we pronounce it Penn-ee-lope as in antelope, to make it even harder for her).

Her name isn't actually a shortened form of Penelope, as you might think. When she was a puppy she was a delightful reddish metallic color, so we named her after the copper coin.

Naming her took a great deal of thought, discussion and glasses of wine, because we were first-time dog owners and inhibited at the thought of calling her in public by anything other than a conventional name.

As for deciding what verbal command to give her for toileting, that's another story...

Perhaps we should have looked around on the Internet for ideas, because there are plenty of lists to help. I particularly like this one because it gives suggestions according to the country of origin of the breed. The list of Australian names is amusing, to a local. I can't imagine calling my dog shonky or daks or squizz. Yelling out 'come, Dilly Bag!' might work in some parts of the world but I think it would get a few strange stares in a Melbourne park.

On the other hand, the Eskimo names sound great. I can just imagine myself summoning Sakari or Desna. I would feel quite sophisticated. I'm not so sure about K’eyghashutnu, though. Anyway, who wants to give their dog a name that means Fish Harvest Creek?

There is a huge list of names at The Pampered Pup and I enjoyed the short article at Cute Puppy Dog reflecting on naming of dogs. I think the writer makes a good point that it's important that the name not sound like a command. I can just imagine the scene; the dogs sitting with their heads tilted to one side, trying to figure out what their humans want them to do:
Come, Conn
Sit, Sid
Stay, Stan
Wait, Walt.

I'm sure you get the picture...

There's some timely advice, too, on another dog-names site:
Choosing the perfect name for your puppy is an opportunity to demonstrate to the world just how creative and insightful you are. Dog names say a lot about your loved one and believe it or not a lot about you. Think about the last few dog names you heard. Did the dog names stand out, were they a good description, were they unique and easily distinguishable from other words and did they have meaning? These are all important considerations to think about when choosing perfect dog names.

You will use your wet nosed friend's name well over 30,000 times, so choose wisely...
While some names may sound great, be unique and seem like the perfect of all dog names, be careful as the name may have a hidden meaning. Be sure when you look through our lists of dog names you click the name to check the meaning and any hidden meanings.