Archive for February, 2008

The Power of Dog Hair

The Top 10 Uses for Dog Hair – a common resource, sadly under-utilized in modern society


“One of the earliest animals to be domesticated,
the dog has played a significant role in the development of human civilization.”

“The coats of dogs are just as diverse as the breeds of animals that possess them. Variations in color are tremendous and are usually a central consideration in determining a breed. Hair types also vary significantly, but are usually broadly categorized as short, medium, or long. The hair may also be fine or coarse, and coats are usually thickest among animals living in cold areas. In most locales, dogs begin shedding in the spring, thinning out the coat as warmer weather approaches. Though there is not a significant demand for products made of dog hair, some people spin excess dog hair into yarn and utilize it to create knit items.”

Well knit items are cool (and they’re on our list) but with just a wee bit of research, we found ten important uses for dog hair:

1.  Spin it into yarn to knit beautiful and useful things. 

2.  Felt it to make stuff like collars, hats or even a dog hair toupee! 

3. Yuck – make a coffee filter…. 

4.  Use it as the raw material for artificial diamonds 

5. Solve a crime  

6. Clean up oil spills 

7. Keep deer out of your garden  

8. Nesting material for birds 

9.  Protect sea turtle eggs from marauding raccoons (note that I don’t have a web link but I do have a couple of lovely thank you cards from a sea turtle refuge I used to send dog hair to)

10. Tie flies     

February 29, 2008 at 5:25 am 5 comments

Well — This Explains it

If you are foolish enough to read too much of what is currently published about animal psychology, animal rights, operant conditioning, dominance hierarchies, raw food diets, titers versus vaccines, the use of corrections in dog training, breed specific legislation, theories of mind, aromatherapy, early spay/neuter, evolution and whether or not your dog really will resent you for putting that silly costume on him at Halloween — you’re probably at least a little bit confused by the rabidly opinionated and utterly contradictory information you’ve found.

I’m one of those morons who reads too much.  And having spent far too much of my life absorbed with books, laboratory data and computer modeling – I decided to allay a bit of my own confusion by (what else) doing a bit of research on the net. 

Eureka!  I’ve found the explanation.  The flow chart below was recently featured on The Lounge of the Lab Lemming.  And it explains everything.


And, if you insist on getting serious about being able to read an article, study or paper critically — check out A Magical Journey Through the Land of Logical Fallacies  (here’s part 2) and this short, but insightul article on Ethics and Peer Review at

February 27, 2008 at 3:13 am 2 comments

My Dogs’ Medicine Cabinet

A recent post from Dolittler’s blog on the “Top Six Vet-Recommended Over-the-Counter Pet Meds in Veterinary Practice” gave me the nudge I needed to get off my cyber-butt and write a post that’s been percolating in the back of my mind for a while.

With a houseful of dogs, a dog training business, frequent four-legged visitors, occasional foster dogs and having had way too much training in areas like human and pet first aid, CPR, HAZMAT activities and disaster/emergency response; I’ve put together a list of things I’ve found convenient to keep on hand for minor, day-to-day health problems in my pack. 

Please note that I’ve taken items off my list that are also on Dolittler’s. 

Kaolin-Pectin: Not Kaopectate®!  Some Kaopectate® formulas include bismuth salicylate – these should never be used for cats. Dogs that are allergic to aspirin or who are taking aspirin, steroids, or another non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Rimadyl®, EtoGesic®, or Deramaxx® should never be given these Kaopectate® formulas.  Instead of worrying about which formula of Kaopectate® to buy, play it safe and get Kaolin-Pectin instead.  We get ours at

vetwrap.jpgVetWrapTM– (and generic variations) This is great stuff. It sticks to itself without adhesive or fasteners, it won’t stick to hair, it allows wounds to breathe, it doesn’t absorb moisture and cuts away from wounds easily. In most cases it is the best thing to bandage a dog with.

Gauze Pads – Good old-fashioned gauze pads (available at any pharmacy) are still the best thing around to control bleeding and absorb fluids on fresh wounds.  In a pinch, sanitary napkins work well too. 

Dilute Hydrogen Peroxide – This is the type commonly found in drug stores.  Three percent hydrogen peroxide can be used to induce vomiting.  ONLY DO THIS UNDER THE ADVICE OF A VETERINARIAN OR POISON CONTROL. Ask them for proper dosage information.

goldbond.jpgGold Bond Powder® – A good, old-fashioned, natural remedy for hot spots.  The active ingredients are menthol and zinc oxide.  Gold Bond dries wet wounds and eases itching. Note that Gold Bond Powder is not listed for veterinary use so you may want to check with your veterinarian before using it. 

Alum – Made of naturally occurring mineral salts, alum has antiseptic properties and helps stops bleeding.  It’s also a good treatment for hot spots. A stick of alum or small cylinder filled with alum powder is called styptic.  Styptic is one of the best things to treat a quicked nail with. 

Rectal Thermomter – Be sure you label container it’s kept in – ‘nuff said. 

Gauze Strips – These can make a convenient and readily available muzzle to keep you safe when handling an injured pet.  Gauze is also handy for bandaging, but I prefer VetWrapTM.     

Oil of Cloves – for tooth or gum pain. This is only a TEMPORARY FIX. A dog with tooth or gum pain needs to see a vet. 

zymox.jpgZymox® Otic Drops – This is wonderful stuff! Zymox® is an enzymatic formula that acts both to eat the goop out of your dog’s ears and to create an environment hostile to the yeast, bacteria and other micro-organisms that cause ear infections.  Since we started using it, none of our dogs have had ear infections. No chemicals, no antibiotics – and no cleaning!  You’ll love it and so will your dog. 

oxyfresh.jpgOxyfresh Pet Gel – An odorless, flavorless, aloe vera-based gel toothpaste for pets. It’s amazing stuff.  We’ve tried several pet toothpastes, and Oxyfresh was far and away the most impressive. With daily brushing it actually made a visible difference in how clean our dogs’ teeth were. (Please just ignore the pyramid scheme marketing information on their site <sigh>) 

bagbalm.jpgBag Balm – For dry or cracked pads. 

mushersecret.jpgMusher’s Secret – To protect paws from ice, snow and salt in winter. 

Cordless Electric Trimmer – This is a great thing to have on hand when your dog has a minor cut or injury.  Being able to quickly and easily remove the hair around the wound gives you the ability to assess the situation more quickly and easily than trying to see it through the dog’s coat. Be sure to muzzle the dog before you do this to prevent getting bitten. 

Glycerin Suppositories – A simple cure for constipation.  Use the baby-sized ones for small dogs and the adult-sized ones for large dogs. Check with your vet if you’re not sure how to use them (I’m NOT going there….)

Hot/Cold Gel Packs – These are the type you can put in your freezer or microwave and they’re handy for minor sprains and strains.  Don’t leave them on an unattended dog. 

Nail Trimmer – I prefer a guillotine type with replaceable blades.  My dogs range in size from 32 to 120 pounds. 

Miscellaneous stuff – Dog nail file (v-shaped rather than flat), tweezers, forceps, latex gloves (unless you’re allergic), tick removing tool and jar for ticks, large syringe (w/o needle) and saline to rinse wounds, graduated oral syringe to give meds or peroxide, pill cutter, an otoscope, and a flashlight with a concentrated beam.

pH Test Paper – If your dog is prone to urinary tract infections

Elizabethan collar or BiteNote Collar

Basket muzzle – (not nylon, elastic or any other sort that holds the dog’s mouth closed! 

Crates for restraining and transporting injured animals

Sling, towels or other devices to help an injured animal move

February 27, 2008 at 12:17 am 9 comments

Temple Grandin in Translation

In her best-selling book “Animals in Translation” Dr. Temple Grandin argues that animals and autistic humans share some important cognitive abilities.  Dr. Grandin, who is autistic herself, uses her unique insight into autism to explain animal behavior. Some of her theories include:

  • categorizing autism as an intermediate condition between animal and human consciousness;
  • attributing hyper-specificity as a basic characteristic of animals (i.e. they are not capable of seeing the forest, only of seeing many trees); and
  • arguing that the worst thing you can do to any animal is cause it fear; and comparing animals to autistic savants. 

According to Orli Van Mourik over at

‘For those who’ve read up on Autism, Grandin’s ability to “relate” to animals may come as a surprise. Autism is marked by an inability to empathize. Autistics find it next to impossible to grasp the inner workings of someone else’s mind. They lack what psychologists call “a theory of mind.” For a normally functioning person, this is a difficult concept to grasp. Our ability to infer another’s emotions is so instinctive.’ 

Van Mourik goes on to explain that empathy arises from projection, from assuming that other peoples’ (or other animals’) internal experiences and reactions to stimuli will be similar ours.  The ability to project is a skill that most autistics lack.

Despite this, Grandin writes that early in life she sensed that, like her, animals tended to focus on details in the environment and that, also like her, they seemed to understand the world based on sensory experiences instead of narrative. 

Her intuition on how animals, especially prey animals, perceive and understand their world has led her not only to a best-selling book, but also to a successful career in studying livestock behavior, designing stock handling facilities and consulting on the humane handling and slaughter of meat animals.  Her brilliant insights on livestock were highlighted in the 2006 BBC documentary “The Woman Who Thinks Like a Cow.” 

As intriguing (and as popular) as the idea that animals think like autistic savants is, new research by Giorgio Vallortigara et al of the University of Trento, Italy casts doubt on the hypothesis.  Vallortigara is quoted as saying “Autism is a pathological condition.  The extraordinary feats of remembering thousands of caches or sounds shown by some animal species are exhibited by healthy animals.”  The exceptional skills of savants, on the other hand, arise despite (or because of) the loss of other cognitive skills.

The Italian researchers assert that, “the left hemisphere sets up rules based on experience and the right hemisphere avoids rules in order to detect details and unique features that allow it to decide what is familiar and what is novel. This is true for human and nonhuman animals, likely reflecting ancient evolutionary origins of the underlying brain mechanisms.” Vallortigara stated that while Grandin’s book “shows extraordinary insight into both autism and animal welfare,” the question of equivalent cognitive abilities between savants and animals “deserves scrutiny from scientists working in animal cognition and comparative neuroscience.” 

For some time I have questioned Grandin’s assertion that fear is the primary emotion experienced by animals. In her book “Animals in Translation” Grandin wrote that if animals, like autistic humans, are prone to sensory overload, and their emotions would also likely be largely governed by fear.  She goes on to relate the propensity for sensory overload (and therefore also to be strongly affected by fear) to improper function of the frontal lobes.  The article published by Vallortigara et al may cast doubt on this theory, as they based much of their findings on the fact that animals have healthy frontal lobes.

Temple Grandin’s brilliant insights on livestock handling have not only made her surprisingly successful, more importantly, they have also lessened the suffering of the animals that go into our meals every day.  While a few of her theories may not, ultimately, stand up to academic scrutiny, she undeniably has a unique voice and a perspective in understanding animals (and autistic humans) and her contributions to the fields of humane livestock handling and animal cognition should not be belittled.In a future post I hope to go into detail on why I think that her book “The Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships” may provide deeper insights on how to understand and live with animals that the bestselling “Animals in Translation.”

February 25, 2008 at 6:00 am 1 comment

Hands-Off Dog Training

Trends in modern dog training are headed toward methods that involve less and less interaction from the trainer.  Moved by the spirit of ‘hands-off’ dog training, we’d like to share a couple of the more innovative new methods with our friends.


No tools! No treats!  This method appeals to the only thing stronger than your dog’s sense of smell.

 His sense of irony…


This innovative method allows you to train your dog while you’re at work, out to dinner or even sunbathing at the beach!  All you have to do is slip a DVD into your home theater system and hit the play button before you leave.  Your dog stays home and watches an eductional video where he learns to obey your every command.

(The REALLY scary thing about this second clip is that it appears to be a promotional video for a real training program)

February 23, 2008 at 6:45 pm 5 comments

Problem Dog

Argus, the passive-aggressive Pitbull.  OMG, he’s the freakin’ Woody Allen of the dog world.  Be afraid.  Be very, very afraid…..

(thanks to Coconutmonkey for this)

February 22, 2008 at 5:32 am 5 comments

BSL Rears its Ugly Head in MN

From an AKC Legislative Alert Wednesday, February 20, 2008:

Minnesota House File 3245, sponsored by Representative Dennis Ozment, seeks to lift the state’s current prohibition on breed-specific legislation. If passed and signed into law, the changes imposed by this bill would have a profound impact on all dog owners in Minnesota. It is imperative that all dog owners and breeders in Minnesota contact the members of the House Public Safety and Civil Justice Committee to express their opposition to the bill as currently written.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) supports reasonable, enforceable, non-discriminatory laws to govern the ownership of dogs. We support laws that: establish a fair process by which specific dogs are identified as “dangerous” based on stated, measurable actions; impose appropriate penalties on irresponsible owners; and establish a well-defined method for dealing with dogs proven to be dangerous. The AKC strongly opposes any legislation that determines a dog to be “dangerous” based on specific breeds or phenotypic classes of dogs. As currently worded, HF 3245 conflicts with AKC’s reasonable, non-discriminatory dangerous dog position. Specifically, it would:

* Establish a task force to study and recommend a uniform, statewide, mandatory system of dog owner and dog obedience education training according to commonly accepted standards and best practices for each breed or mixed breed of dog.

* Allow all statutory or home rule charter cities, or counties, to recommend to the task force specific breeds of dogs to be designated as dangerous or potentially dangerous based solely on the specific breed of dog.

For a copy of the bill, click here   WHAT YOU NEED TO DO:Contact the members of the Minnesota House Public Safety and Civil Justice Committee who will consider this bill. Let them know that, if passed as currently written, HF 3245 will result in unfair and discriminatory dangerous dog policy in Minnesota. For some EXCELLENT tips on how to write your letter please check out our friend Wallace the Pitbull’s website.  

Find out who your legislator is and how to contact him/her here:

We strongly suggest that you take the time to write a letter and send it via the mail rather than to send an email.  Many of these people receive hundreds of email posts a day and, frankly, email is a lot easier to ignore than a written letter is.

UPDATE:  The bill was returned to its author on March 3, 2008.  We’ll continue to monitor it’s status, but hope that it has gone to bed for good.

February 21, 2008 at 12:41 am 11 comments

Feral Dogs Hound Cleveland’s Rockefeller Park

Rabid fans in the infamous Dawg Pound at Cleveland Browns Stadium used to be the scariest pack in town… but Cleveland’s Rockefeller Park has become notorious as the home of an elusive and intimidating pack of wild dogs. The park meanders through 200-acres of land along Martin Luther King Boulevard that was donated to the city by John D. Rockefeller in 1897. 

Joggers and bicyclists have begun to avoid the park and adjacent boulevard as the pack becomes increasingly bold and bullying. 

According to chief animal warden John Baird, the park is a challenging place to find and trap the dogs.  But Baird also notes that the city has actually made a great deal of progress in reducing the feral dog population of the city.  In the 1970’s and 80’s packs of feral dogs prowled many of Cleveland’s neighborhoods.  The pack roaming Rockefeller Park is reportedly the only one left.

It’s a scary situation — but it could be worse.  John D. Rockefeller was reportedly the first person to import Bullmastiffsto the United States.  He acquired the dogs to guard his Tarrytown, New York estate.  Bullmastiffs were already patrolling Tarrytown when Rockefeller donated the park land to the city in 1897.  Imagine a pack of those impressive beasts lumbering through the park after joggers!


February 20, 2008 at 5:58 am 3 comments

How Much is that Clone in the Window?

A South Korean biotechnology company has received its first order to clone a dog. The company states that if the project is successful, they plan to begin regular commercial production next year.

Am I the only one who gets the creeps when I read that?

I mean I am DEEPLY, STUPIDLY in love with my dogs.  I spend countless hours of time and many thousands of dollars on their training, care and recreation.  My interest in dogs has gone well beyond eccentric and may, in fact, push the boundaries of obsession – but I can not imagine plunking down $150,000 for a replication of even my most beloved dog.


It’s just wrong.

The sleeping beast at my feet isn’t a simple expression of the genes he inherited.  To paraphrase B.F. Skinner, “he is a locus, a point at which many genetic and environmental conditions come together in a joint effect.” 

My dog is utterly unique.  The thoughts, senses and experiences of his nine months on this earth have as much to do with who and what he is as the genes that created his lovely body.  A dog is not a commodity that can be factory-produced to exacting specifications. Dogs are living beings, and even when one considers them at the scale of littermates, each is as unique as a snowflake or a fingerprint.

“The cloning of humans dogs is on most of the lists of things to worry about from science, along with behavior control, genetic engineering, transplanted heads, computer poetry and the unrestrained growth of plastic flowers.”
Lewis Thomas

February 19, 2008 at 5:41 am 10 comments

Are we Afraid of Nature?

According to recent studies, computers and climate-controlled shopping malls have replaced the natural world in the leisure activities of our children.

Are we headed for a world where people no longer feel comfortable with nature?


In a recent study conducted at the University of Illinois at Chicago, trends in the number of Americans visiting natural areas like State Parks, National Forests and campgrounds were analyzed.  Investigators also reviewed trends in the numbers of outdoor licenses (fishing, hunting, trapping, backpacking, etc.) issued during the study period.  Results indicated that the number of visits by Americans to natural area peaked between 1981 and 1991 after 50 years of steady increases.  They further showed that visits have steadily decreased since that peak at a rate of approximately 1% per year.

According to Patricia Zaradic of the Environmental Leadership Program and co-author of the report published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. “It would take 80 million more visits this year to get the per capita number back up to the level it was in 1987.”

According to a study published by the White Hutchinson Leisure & Learning group;

“If children’s natural attraction to nature is not given opportunities to be flourish during their early years of life, biophobia, an aversion to nature may develop. Biophobia ranges from discomfort in natural places to contempt for whatever is not man-made, managed or air-conditioned. Biophobia is also manifest in regarding nature as nothing more than a disposable resource.”

Communing without nature… 

This aversion to nature has become increasingly common in people raised in suburban surroundings where nature is tolerated only in as much as it cooperates as a decorative accent.  We are creating a world where young people prefer to learn about nature though Podcasts, interactive computer games, television and surfing the web rather than by actually experiencing it.  

Have we become a society where we are more comfortable with technology than nature? 

 And there’s more to this than just the allure of those nifty electronic devices… Richard Louv, chairman of the Santa Fe, N.Mex.–based Children and Nature Network and author of “Last Child in the Woods”, ascribes the change to increasing school and work pressure on children and parents.  He’s also concerned about the fear factor. “You didn’t have the concept of stranger danger [in the past],” Louv says.  If you are raising a generation under protective house arrest, will they have a joyful experience in nature?”


Now that we have a media more interested in making news than reporting it, the concept of ‘stranger danger’ (much like that of killer pibbles) has been blown utterly out of proportion. Sadly, 85% of all children who are molested are the victims of people they know well, they are not attacked by strangers. Statistically speaking, your child is likely in more danger at home or at school as he or she is out on a hike. But the never-ending string of heart-rending stories about children kidnapped and brutalized by random strangers hyped by the media not only affects us all – it also gives us a false sense of danger.

Your creepy uncle Edwin is likely far more dangerous to your child than that random killer you’ve never met.  Not just because Edwin is, statistically speaking, far more likely to molest your child but also because your deep, (understandable) but misplaced fear of that nameless, faceless stranger keeps you from allowing your child to experience the joy, beauty and freedom that time alone with nature provides.

Watching a spider build her web, eating fresh picked gooseberries, catching frogs, climbing trees, looking for shooting stars, and seeing fantastic creatures appear and then evaporate away in the shapes of clouds – you can’t reproduce those kinds of experiences electronically.

And without those kinds of direct, hands-on experiences, the value of nature is lost on us.  Without it, we can’t know how inexplicably beautiful and awe-inspiring nature is and its impossible for us to have a real idea of how our actions impact the environment.

 I could devote an entire book to how and why modern Americans fear nature and another one to the deleterious effects of that fear.  Instead I’d like to propose a remedy for the epidemic. I believe that dogs are that remedy. Despite what Jon Katz, the author of “The New Work of Dogs” says, I think that one important reason we have been blessed with the companionship of these wonderful creatures is – their ability to re-connect us with nature. 

If you have a dog, you need to walk it. Walking a dog means you have to be outdoors. Being outdoors with a dog involves spending time with a being that finds inexpressible joy in the smells, sights and sounds of nature.  To a dog, urine is beautiful, bugs are interesting and grass is made to roll in. Walk your dog.  Listen to your dog.  Find the joy in the weeds in your lawn, the spider in your basement, the mice in your garage and the stars in the sky.  Put away the iPod and your computer.  Shut off your television, get out of your car and experience the world with your dog. I guarantee it’ll make you a better (and happier) person.

February 18, 2008 at 6:45 am 4 comments

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February 2008