Why Do Dogs Sniff Before and After Peeing?

November 16th, 2012
When I wrote "My Doggie Says... Messages from Jamie," I was curious about why Jamie did so much sniffing before peeing.  Was she looking for something?  Was she looking for the absence of something?  Well, there are several on-line articles that answer this question.  Mostly, they are sniffing for other dogs' "marks," so they can "mark over them."  That is, so they can claim the territory for themselves. This probably explains why Jamie would also sniff her way all the way to the end of someone's yard before peeing.  Presumably, because there were no other marks to "mark over." Here is one set of answers. A related question is, "Why do dogs sniff their own urine?"  I've always wondering if they were doing some kind of medical "self-diagnosis," or something like that.  Well, maybe not far off.  Here's an article titled, "Why Does My Dog Smell Its Urine."

Was My Dog Really Smart Enough to Figure that Out?

November 9th, 2012
If you read this blog, you know that Callie and I have a daily soccer match -- at her invitation.  It's a ritual we've followed since Callie was eight weeks old.  So for over five years, we've been doing our daily soccer game.  I kick the ball in the air, and Callie "bonks" it off her nose. You also know that we have our little ups and downs.  Some days, Callie really gets into the game, and other days, she just stares blankly as the ball whistles over her head.  I'm never quite sure what to expect. You also know that I think dogs are really smart -- much smarter than even our scientists give them credit for.  They read our body language better than we read theirs --  most of the time. You also know that I have all kinds of little tricks for getting Callie into the game.  Sometimes it takes us a while to get started, so I have to encourage her and try to persuade her to start the game.  She's always enthusiastic when we run outside, but sometimes it takes a few dozen kicks on my part before Callie gets going. Well, last night, at soccer time, it was raining fairly hard.  My first reaction was to skip soccer for the day.  But Callie kept begging me to play.  Finally, I gave in and opened the door to the back yard.  But I said to Callie, "Look, it's raining pretty hard; the yard is getting muddy; so we need to get started right away and just play for about five minutes." Imagine my surprise when Callie followed my instructions to a tee.  She "bonked" the first kick and worked her golden retriever butt off for five minutes.  Then we did our ceremonial "high five" and got inside out of the rain. Unbelievable.  What was she responding to?  Was it what I said (really, out loud)?  Did she pick up on my body language somehow?  Whatever it was, it was the first time she's ever jumped right into the game and then stayed with it for five minutes without interruption. We were both a little wet when we finished, but it was worth it.

What Is Your Dog Trying to Tell You?

November 7th, 2012
The whole point of "My Doggie Says... Messages from Jamie" is that your dog is probably "talking" to you more than you realize and that it is possible to get proficient at interpreting the messages.  "My Doggie Says..." is a collection of eighty-five color photographs that capture different behavioral messages that Jamie is sending.  Sometimes it takes some detective work to decipher what your dog is saying, but it's worth it.  As you get better at understanding "dog," your relationship with your pet will improve noticeably. Here's an interesting article, by Nadine Steele, that describes  a whole host of messages your dog might be sending you if it feels some kind of frustration or tension.  Dogs have a lot of "code" for different kinds of tension that they feel.  Nadine's article does a great job of identifying the important ones. http://bit.ly/UxjNB9

Thinking About Renting a Dog? Check with Barley, Labrador Retriever and Rent-A-Dog: Podcast

October 29th, 2012
Can you imagine being a dog with more than one home to go to every week?  Well,  I interviewed Barley, a Labrador Retriever and Rent-A-Dog, to find out what it's like for him.  Here's a short sample from Barley.   And here's the full interview:  

I Am So Attached to this Dog!

October 10th, 2012
This photo was taken on a recent fishing trip at Lake Arrowhead.  Callie loves to go fishing.  Actually, she loves just about everything at Lake Arrowhead, but she's really in her element on our boat, cruising from fishing spot to fishing spot, sniffing my bass before I release them back into the lake, and roaming around the boat without her leash. She's a terrific fishing buddy.  She obviously loves being on the boat and letting her coat blow in the wind as we cruise around the lake.  She starts to get excited when she sees my fishing rod bend down from the weight of a fish.  She watches attentively while I net a fish and remove the hook.  (I release all the bass I catch.)  And she usually takes a sniff, or a lick, at my catch before I put it back in the lake. I've had a lot of dogs, and, as you know, I wrote a book about Jamie Golden Retriever ("My Doggie Says...: Messages from Jamie"), but I've never had a dog that participates as much as Callie.  She's part of the team, and she knows what she's supposed to do every step of the way.  When we first get on our boat, Callie is on her leash -- so she won't dive into the lake and do one of her other favorite things -- go for a swim.  But once she's on the boat, the leash comes off.  It was easy to train her to stay inside the boat.  All it took was a couple of corrections when she started to climb up on the bow or the stern.  Now she roams freely on the boat, and she's obviously proud to have so much freedom. Some dogs would just be a "bump on a log."  They might just go along for the ride, but not Callie.  She interacts and participates every step of the way.  She asks for fresh water if her water bowl is low.  She looks for a comfortable place to sit -- or lie -- sometimes in the sun, sometimes in the shade.  On a hot summer day, she will ask me to put up the bimini top, so she'll have some shade to lie in.  When we leave one fishing spot for another, she looks for a place to sit beside me.  Sometimes, she'll wait to climb up on the seat until I move a fishing rod or boat line out of the way.  Always interacting, and always extremely polite. If you follow this blog, you know  that Callie and I play soccer every day.  Here's what that looks like. [Youtube= This has been an incredible bonding process.  Callie's focus "comes and goes" during our soccer matches.  So I've had to learn how to adapt to, and "manage", her focus and attention span.  Sometimes, Callie gets off to a hot start and then loses interest.  Sometimes, she has a difficult time getting started.  I've learned a few tricks about keeping her interest level up.  If she gets completely distracted (by eating grass, for example) it usually works to "stop" the game (literally, put the ball away) and then "start" it again. We've gone through a couple of periods (a few days, perhaps) when Callie just didn't seem very interested in playing soccer.  One thing I've noticed this summer, though, is that usually after a few days at Lake Arrowhead, she attacks the soccer game with more vigor than ever.  She'll play for ten minutes without letup, answering my every kick with a "noser" -- a "bonk" off her Golden Retriever nose. As I try to tune into her energy levels, I've discovered that her "focus" sometimes reflects mine.  If I'm distracted and thinking about some work issue, Callie seems to lose interest.  If I work hard at staying "in the present" and staying focused on the game, she gets more "into it."  It's almost as if she is training me to stay focused and "in the moment."  Is Callie my Zen-Dog Person Trainer? My relationship with Callie goes far beyond fishing and soccer.  Callie is the most socially interactive dog I've ever been around.  She has several doggie boyfriends in the neighborhood, and, when she sees them coming, she gets very excited -- wagging her tail and rushing to say "hello."  But it's not every dog; she's selective. Callie is the same with people.  If she sees a people friend, she either rushes to say "hi," or she sits and waits for the person to catch up.   When she's walking near, or on, the nearby golf course, Callie is always looking for greens keeper Jeff -- or his red golf cart.  Jeff is probably Callie's favorite person outside our family.  Because Callie is so friendly, I have made a lot of new friends -- both dog friends and people friends. One of the most endearing things that Callie does is to sit down beside me and "ask" me to scratch her throat and neck.  This can happen when I'm working in my office, watching TV, or sleeping soundly at 2:00 in the morning.  It doesn't matter; I'm always glad to accommodate her request.  The message seems to be, "Just checking to make sure everything's OK." This kind of #dogbonding has a spiritual and philosophical side to it.  It sure feels like Callie is helping me grow in a lot of different ways.

Callie Golden Retriever: “You leave my man alone!”

September 10th, 2012
Callie Golden Retriever (in the foreground of the photo) is the most social dog I've ever known.  She has countless doggie and people friends.  But that doesn't mean she's friends with everyone.  She's selective.  And she has a few favorites.  In this photo, she's visiting with her Lake Arrowhead neighbors, Reilly, Ruckus, and Rowdy. But yesterday, she did something that just blew me away.  In our home neighborhood, Callie has two special "boyfriends," Sampson, a yellow Labrador Retriever, and Lucky, a Golden Doodle.  We were walking with Cousin Maggie Golden Retriever (my daughter's dog), and joy-of-joys, for Callie, along walks her special friend Sampson.  Maggie is very friendly, too, but when Maggie tried to say "hello" to Sampson, Callie pushed herself in between Maggie and Sampson.  She wasn't going to let Maggie get anywhere near her "man."  Where's the camera when I need it? Don't dogs do the most amazing things sometimes? Have you seen dogs act like this before?  If so, please comment.

The Towhee Conspiracy

September 5th, 2012
Usually I write about dogs, but this post is strictly for the birds. One of my objectives on my recent Lake Arrowhead vacation was to get a better photograph of a spotted towhee that I saw last year. On the first day of vacation I heard towhees several times, making their somewhat mechanical sounding very high-speed click click click sound. They sound almost like a cicada. But I was never able to spot one of them. It seemed like they were always at a distance and buried in the bowels of an oak tree or on the other side of a tree. This went on for several days. On the fourth day of my vacation, Barbara and I went for a long walk, and we heard the towhees calling, but they were always “over there” somewhere. I was never able to get a closer than about seventy five yards to one of them. I have a powerful telephoto lens for my cameral, but that’s still not exactly a clean shot Several times when I spotted the towhees, I tried to get a little closer, only to have the birds fly away. They are obviously very skittish and not comfortable around people. About a week into my vacation I started to get the idea that all of the towhees on the mountain were conspiring to avoid me. It seemed like, no matter what I did to get closer to one, they outsmarted me. Several times I thought I was in good camera range only to have the birds fly away just as I started to focus. So now I'm starting to perseverate on these little guys. This is getting serious. It seems like they are really ganging up on me and avoiding me at all costs. One evening, one of the towhees let his guard down a little and gave me a pretty clean shot. It was clean, but the bird was about one hundred yards away, so the image did not enlarge very well. I thought "well this is good enough for now, but I need a better shot.” Several mornings later, I thought I finally had my perfect shot. I was practicing golf in a net, and all of a sudden I realized that one of the towhees was buzzing away in the top of an Oak tree about thirty yards away. Obsessed as I had become with getting a picture of this little guy, I had brought my big camera and lens so I only had to walk a few feet, and I had a fairly open shot of the bird. He (the males have the fancy colors) was about forty feet high on a dead branch -- with no obstructions. A very nice shot. Unfortunately, the bird was facing away from me. I did get a couple of marginally acceptable shots, but I remained convinced that the towhee community was conspiring against me and alerting the the others anytime I got within fifty yards of one of them So now I've got about a week left to get a good image of the towhee, and I'm becoming more and more convinced that he and his friends are conspiring against me. I say "he" because one of the birds lives in a wooded transition area adjacent to my property. I hear him every morning and every evening. A few more days go by and I'm hearing the little guys everywhere. Buzz, buzz, buzz. But I never got a good shot. I walked out onto the street a couple of times because I heard a towhee near the street, but every time I got within about seventy yards the bird would fly to another tree. On the very last day of my vacation, I had to pack up my golf practice net and carry it up to the house for storage. I had my large camera and lens with me, just in case, and as I approached the house I heard a “click-click” sound. Not the usual “buzz” -- just a few clicks. It occurred to me that that the usual buzzing sound is made up of high-speed dozens of these “clicks,” and, sure enough, I looked up, and about forty feet away sat my spotted towhee friend -- in wonderful, soft morning sunlight and looking right at me. You only have a few seconds in these situations, so I quickly grabbed my camera, focused on the bird, and fired off half a dozen shots (using the “automatic shutter” feature). After about six shots, the towhee flew away. Now the conspiracy thickens. When I looked at the images I realized that I had set my camera for multiple focal points which is great for in-flight photos -- like a cooper’s hawk flying overhead. But in this case the camera focused on everything except the towhee, so the image was very fuzzy. Now, in case there was any doubt, I am totally convinced that the towhee conspiracy is in full motion. But it gets better -- or worse. When I returned to Los Angeles, I went to the golf club for some practice, and I was totally surrounded by the towhee “buzzing” sound. This time, it wasn't coming from a spotted towhee; it was coming from a biological relative -- the black phoebe, which is abundant around my home. In fact, every year, several of them nest under the eaves of my house. All of a sudden, their sound took on new meaning. So now it's not just the spotted towhee who is out to get me, it's also his buddies, the the black phoebes, who are slowly -- or maybe not so slowly -- driving me crazy. Paranoia to the max. Finally, I decided the photograph I got last year wasn’t really all that bad. As a post-log, I was back at lake arrowhead three weeks later, and I realized that I was not hearing the spotted towhees at all. After a little research on their migration patterns, I discovered that they visit the mountain elevations only in the spring and early summer. Then they return to the lower elevations and coastal California. Maybe next year.

Great Link for Radio Show Guests Who Want to Talk About Dogs and Related Subjects

August 27th, 2012
The Animal ebook is designed for potential radio guests and includes title of show, name of host, theme, where aired, guest criteria, email, website, phone (optional), and best method of contact. Covers animal advocacy, health, care, competition, communication, behavior, longevity, dog relationships, pets and the paranormal, pet peeves, wildlife, training, shelter and rescue. For information on all 16 ebooks, ranging from animals to sports, please visit http://www.talkradioadvocate.com

DogStars: How to Turn Your Dog into a Movie Star: Podcast with Georgina Bradley, of DogStars.com

July 30th, 2012
Georgina Bradley, certified professional dog trainer, is the founder and backbone of DogStars.com.  Her training center in Vancouver, British Columbia, not only turns out DogStars, it helps them find opportunities to show off their stuff.  For example, Georgina helped train the dogs for the 1995 movie, "101 Dalmations."  In this podcast, Georgina explains some of the basic training required for a dog to become aDogStar, and she teaches you how to train your dog to do the "eye line" trick, a key behavior for a dogstar. Here's Georgina on the "My Doggie Says... Show."  

Making Doggie Friends at Lake Arrowhead Village

July 12th, 2012
Callie Golden Retriever loves to make friends at Lake Arrowhead Village -- both people friends and doggie friends.  Yesterday, she sat patiently with Cody, a lovely Australian Shepherd puppy, while Barbara and I had lunch at the waffle restaurant.  The restaurant has some nice outdoor seating, so Callie can sit in the shade just a few feet away from us while we eat brunch -- at the edge of Lake Arrowhead. You don't have to watch a dog for very long, sometimes, to get a feel for its personality.  Well, Cody was really fun to watch.  He's just full of beans and energy.  Inquisitive.  Friencly.  Non-threatening.  But very confident.  He'll be a great, well-socialized adult. Callie loved Cody, but that's not unusual.  Callie, too, is an incredibly well socialized doggie.  It's especially fun to see her interact with smaller dogs, because she plays a very humble and submissive role.  She tries to make herself smaller (lower) than the other dog, and it pretty much always works!