Friday, May 30, 2014

DVD Review: Teaching Your Dog to Skateboard (trick, dog)

EverythingDogBlog #170: Trick Dog? Trick Dog!

You DO have a trick dog!

If you can teach your dog to SIT, you can teach your dog to skateboard

Chances are that your dog sits when you ask him to. Did you teach him to do that or did he teach himself? Regardless, if he learned to sit, he can learn to skateboard.
Years ago I was working at a shelter and one day I was showing a lovely dog to a family in the Meet and Greet room. I gave the dog a hand signal to SIT while we were talking and the next thing I knew, the 9 year-old-boy exclaimed, "Look, Mom, Dad. He knows tricks!"
Well, folks, it's all tricks.
It's all Tricks!
SIT and DOWN are tricks to your dog. So are SPIN and SIT PRETTY. The only difference is that when he does a trick (SPIN, e.g.) people think he's really talented and special (which he is).
Teaching a dog to skateboard is one of the easy tricks that dogs love and people are amazed at. Here's a DVD that teaches you to teach your dog to skateboard. Bill Ryan, the dog trainer in the DVD also teaches skateboarding classes. And, as a matter of fact, I will be teaching a dog to skateboard next week. I'll let you know how it goes with this lab.
Teaching Your Dog to Skateboard*, Bill Ryan (video by Tawzer Dog**, produced by Legacy Canine, 2005, 30 minutes, $24, DVD)
Clear and Easy to Understand – For Whom?
There’s nothing like a short video that’s both affordable and clear (and just the right length)!
This DVD is for the average dog person who wants to teach an entertaining trick or for the new dog trainer who wants to learn how to teach a stunning trick that looks complex but is astonishingly simple if taught in small steps (two, as a matter of fact).
Demo the Method First then Teach a Naïve Dog
Bill Ryan first teaches the skill with his own cocker spaniel who already knows how to skateboard: therefore, Ryan begins with a short demo. Then he teaches a naïve 6-month-old dog.
Lesson for trainers (and you): First demonstrate on a dog who already knows the behavior, thus teaching the human; then, use the same method on a naïve dog, proving it works.
First, . . . .
The first step is to ensure the dog will not be afraid of the skateboard by pairing coming to you for a treat with getting on the skateboard in order to reach the treat. Ryan thus starts by setting the stage and preventing any errors.
How-To: The Two-Step Method
Ryan, sitting with his back to the wall with the skateboard between his legs, lures the dog onto the skateboard (with three paws) then tosses a treat to reposition the dog and give him another chance to succeed.
The second step is to stand up, bracing the skateboard to prevent sudden movement and again luring the dog on, gradually allowing the board to move forward.
That’s all there is to it! Dogs clearly love skateboarding (and food).
Helpful Hints and Troubleshooting
Ryan goes over the cue, “Three (three legs on board),” trouble-shooting a couple of potentialities, and emphasizes how to get the dog to increase speed, thus putting the board in forward motion as he jumps on for a wild ride.
The Rest of the Story
After the teaching demo and teaching a naïve dog, the DVD films an owner teaching her own dog to skateboard and finishes with Ryan beginning to teach a puppy.
Ryan demonstrates how forgiving our dogs are of our amateur training ability and how flexible they are in learning despite our slowness (food is the ‘glue’). He successfully teaches dogs while explaining to the viewer (much harder than it looks - to do two things at once) though in places a voice-over would have been good to prevent silences and to reinforce the narrative. 
Although a whitish JRT and a brown dog star, most of the dogs are blackish cockers against a black floor; however, the DVD is still very clear (thanks to Tawzer’s professional videoing) and easy to see everything. And finally, some minor ineptness could have been avoided and the lesson learned more quickly had Ryan used a clicker while luring.
Final minutes show Ryan walking along with his cocker who is skateboarding out 'on the town' and - two cockers on one skateboard – something to strive for!
*This is the title on the DVD package and the DVD. When viewing, you will see How To Teach Your Dog To Skateboard. 
**The DVD can be purchased at
(This first appeared on throughout Maryland on 30 May 2014.)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

(Nearly) Wordless Wednesday - De-Lightful Dog Logo

EverythingDogBlog #169: Legacy Canine's Lovely Logo
Looking like Lady from Lady and the Tramp
Legacy Canine (“Catch them in the act of doing something good”) is a well-established dog training and behavior center in Sequim, Washington (don’t you just love the name of that little town? [the ‘e’ is silent]).
Terry Ryan has trained dogs and their people since 1968, first in the States and later in Japan. She is an author and speaker at national dog training conferences and even teaches ‘chicken camps’ where dog trainers train chickens!
The Legacy Canine logo is an English Cocker*, a breed Ryan has lived with since the 80s. She recently told EverythingDogBlog, “I like this logo because to the average person, it looks like a mixed breed dog while to the purebred fancy, it looks like the English Cocker that it is.” And to Ryan, it also looks like her own Cocker, Brody.
The design was drawn by Elaine Diedrich who has trained with Ryan for more than 15 years.
I think the paw and hand together show willing cooperation in training on both ends of the leash, don't you?
Read more about it
*My personal favorite Cocker is the ASCOB – any solid color other than black!
(This first appeared on on 28 May 2014 and the other Patches in Maryland.)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Book Review: Out on a Limb (black bears, bear-human relations and societies, what we can learn about dogs from bears)

Out on a Limb: What Black Bears Have Taught Me about Intelligence and Intuition, by Benjamin Kilham (Chelsea Green Publishing, $25, 2013, 190 pages)

Two Books in One

I don’t usually like the idea of two books in one because few authors can write in two different styles about two different subtopics equally well but I love Benjamin Kilham’s successful treatment.

Out on a Limb is a non-fiction book that reads like a story about black bears (with names), with Kilham even raising some of them from cub hood. The latter part of the book deals fairly scientifically and theoretically with evolution and what we can learn from bears, as well as how to co-exist with them which may be the most important take-away lesson in Out on a Limb. This evolutionary portion may be too detailed for some readers’ preferences.

Who is Kilham?

Benjamin Kilham, from New Hampshire, managed to graduate from college but ended up as a craftsman of sorts who rehabilitated wild animals, including bear cubs, leading him to become one of the world’s most respected bear experts. 

Kilham is not self-effacing. He does toot his own horn but he does so, with such charm that it may not be noticeable.

He reminds me of Jane Goodall, who began with few academic credentials but nevertheless became an expert in one field of natural history and eventually turned that research into a PhD. And he reminds me of Temple Grandin (who wrote the foreward) who had some difficulties in academia but whose gifts lay in observing animals.

Bear Lessons for Humans

I was left with a few thoughts. They remain with me, days later – always the sign of an excellent read. 

One, I want this book to be required reading for my college biology students. Have you ever wondered why some people donate their time or money while others don’t? This bear book will give you the answer. It’s all about ‘perceived surplus’ and altruism, cooperation and social exchange.

Two, everyone needs to understand that black bears are not inherently dangerous. The scary-to-humans sounds (snorts, huffs, and clacking of teeth), behaviors and bluffs merely convey fear and discomfort on the part of the bear. They will ‘tree’ when afraid and are largely herbivores, liking berries (and grubs).

Three, Kilham does not mention the ‘bear guy’ (a PhD) from Minnesota. Whenever someone writes a book, say, about canine massage or dog training, and omits the name of a former colleague or fails to reference the other experts in the field, it raises a red flag to me. Sometimes it is that they used to be close colleagues but have since parted ways for philosophical reasons, or reasons unknown. Nonetheless, it is only expected and polite in the world of science to also reference one’s colleagues.

Five, there is much in this book for dog trainers, for whom the current buzz word is ‘social learning,’ to assimilate and, finally, I was so enamored of Out on a Limb, that I emailed the author (and I do this less than once a year for the many books I read).

One aspect of bear behavior that will remain with me is, like the dog, the bear has an incredible sense of smell. Bears can even discern who has traveled into their territory. They also immediately and seriously punish cubs and others who break the rules but, once punished, all is forgiven and life goes on as before, only better (aggression followed by reconciliation). We humans have much to learn about forgiveness and ‘getting over a grudge.’ 

I will hold this book in my heart for a long time.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Book Review: 1089 Nights (not about dogs, but magical stil!)

Not About Dogs but Worthy Nonetheless

An exception - a magical book by a local author!
EverythingDogBlog #165: Once every two years, a non-dog blog!
1089 Nights: An odyssey through the Middle East, Africa and Asia by Ann von Lossberg (2008, 303 pages, iUniverse, $16)
Tourist or Traveler?
There are tourists and then there are travelers. In case you haven’t pondered the difference, Ann von Lossberg explains them and is, herself, the consummate traveler! As well as a gifted writer.
You are there with her. You smell the putrid smells and the flowery fragrances, feel the hot sun and searing heat, experience the often sun-burned skin and dusty dust which is omnipresent, feel the pangs of hunger and frustration when they cannot hitch a ride, and wonder at the wonders of third-world countries so full of rich history.
In the beginning, . . .
Starting in the 80s, Ann has traveled the world for months at a time with her companion-then-husband, and lived to tell the tales with wit and a sense of adventure - through Montezuma’s Revenge and the tribulations of no-means-of-transportation-ever-operating-on-schedule (translation: waiting for days). Her traveling world is not that of Germany or Japan with their rigid, strict adherence to time, but of third world countries with never enough room on the train for all who have a ticket (that’s what the roof is for, right?).
You will laugh and giggle and chuckle along with the author (who may not have laughed at the time, but, in retrospect, smiles at her accomplishment – her survival and the wondrous hardships she so successfully tackled).
Who should read this book?
Any traveler from the 70s onward. This includes college students, Peace Corps Volunteers, traveler-wannabees, and you!
To be a successful author, in my mind’s eye, one must have a good story to tell plus be able to tell it well. Ann does both and is the rare author who can. (She is also a gifted photographer who holds her own shows - photos of women across the third world, especially).
I first met Ann in a college class and was wonderstruck by how she (and Jim) managed to spend months at a time in such regions as the Middle East, Africa (my eternal ‘wanna-go’ place) and Asia (been there, done that but would love to do it again and again). I am not the kind of person to just sell everything, pick up and go – even when I was younger. (I had to have the security of a job in Asia in the 70s before I left the US.) I couldn’t just exist with one backpack but, oh, the adventures Ann relates and the truths she learns and shares about herself and society and other cultures.
1089 Nights should be required reading for all Americans. It is that good!
Odyssey is the word
According to Merriam-Webster, an odyssey is a long journey full of adventures AND a series of experiences that give knowledge or understanding to someone.  The latter definition is a better descriptor for 1089 Nights. And the cover  photois mystical.
Get it. Read it. Keep it.
(The author has also created a foundation to send Cambodian children to school – more information appears in the book and on the book’s webpage. Ann lives in Columbia, MD, and is available for speaking engagements. Half the proceeds from the book are also donated to her foundation.) 
Caveat: This first appeared in the Maryland Patch online newspapers on 18 May 2014. The blogger received no compensation for the review.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Book Review: Kitty Genovese: The Murder, the Bystanders, the Crime that Changed America (not about dogs at all)

Kitty Genovese: The Murder, the Bystanders, the Crime that Changed America, by Kevin Cook (WWNorton and Company, 2014, 242 pages, $26)

Do You Recall. . . ?

Who doesn’t know of Kitty Genovese? Perhaps you may have forgotten her name but when I prompt you, you will recall ‘the crime that changed America.’ But do you know how it changed America?

Hers is a name studied in the top ten Social Psychology textbooks (and, no, she was not a member of the Mob). Hers was the victimization that was the impetus behind creating the Help phone number, 911, and of the Guardian Angels. Hers was the crime that spawned the phrase, bystander effect or diffusion of responsibility. Hers was the incident that caused America to wonder how apathetic we really are. And if we are the same, 50 years later.

Why Now?

You will recall at least something about the crime but chances are, not the ‘true facts,‘ or even that it was the ‘sign of the times.’ This year, 2014, is the 50th anniversary of her death and even though there have been books written about her before, the best researched is Kitty Genovese by Kevin Cook – out this year.

The Story – “I didn’t want to get involved.”

The story I recall is of a woman in New York City who, while crying for help, was stabbed to death in the courtyard of her apartment building while 37 or 38 people watched. Nobody called the police. The witnesses were ‘anonymous.’

But I was only a teenager then, on the ‘other’ coast and may not remember well. Or perhaps the facts in the paper were more sensational than accurate.

The crime warranted a one-paragraph mention in the paper the next day. The following day, it was expanded to four paragraphs. Only when it caught the eye of enough people, two weeks later, did it make national news (and then it went ‘viral’ but it almost missed doing so).

The Real Story - Captivating, Historical

Well, the facts are a bit different than my recollection and from many accounts. Kitty was a vibrant young woman in her 20s who managed a bar, working 16 hours a day. She was also a lesbian who lived with her partner - was not well accepted 50 years ago.

The year was 1964, a few months after JFK’s assassination and the year of the New York World’s Fair. There was no 911 to call. People did not have cameras in their cell phones, or even cell phones at all.

It was winter-cold and 3 o’clock in the morning. In the quiet neighborhood, people were sleeping yet many awoke to screams and went to their windows. Some saw nothing. Some saw ‘a family feud.’ Some, getting to the window belatedly, saw a woman stumbling down the street, probably drunk – and returned to bed in the stillness. One person had yelled out for the man to stop it. He seemed to, so the yeller shut his window. Some knew it was their neighbor, Kitty - some didn’t.

The book starts and ends with the crime itself but the ending is well-worth reading for a twist that hardly anyone knows. You may very well read the entire 242 pages in one evening – it is that riveting.

Do you remember the song, “Outside of a Small Circle of Friends”? Beautiful folk music, and, now, unforgettable words.

The Setting

In 1964 when one called the police, sometimes nobody came. You had to leave your name and address and phone number and explain and explain and explain to the often hostile and inefficient police. Many people didn’t count on the police. There was no 911 number to call.


Why did nobody act in time? Were they apathetic? Were they afraid? It took a half hour for Kitty to die. She was stabbed numerous times, and the perp even came back to finish the job (and rape her). (And his story was fascinating in itself.)

What would you have done then? What would you do now?

This book will remain in your mind and will either put you at ease or cause you to lose sleep. Regardless, it is a fascinating, good read.
Why Did I Post This?

I have started reading non-dog books and some are truly excellent. This one just came out, I remember hearing about Genovese often over the years, and my Social Psychology class talked about her this spring. It is also the 50th 'anniversary' of the incident (murder). Thought-provoking, to say the least.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Announcing Bolo!

Be On the Look Out for Bolo - And Watch her Grow!

EverythingDogBlog #164: The Raising Bolo Project Logo - A De-Lightful Dog Logo for (Nearly) Wordless Wednesday
The Bolo Logo

“A Dog can Change the Way You See the World” 
One puppy will and Bolo is that Puppy. . . . 
Dog is Good is raising a puppy this year, Bolo, a future Leader Dog for the Blind (“Finding Your Way”).
Because dog-people know, “It takes a village to raise a puppy,” Dog is Good (DIG) is using social media to help raise funds for Leader Dogs during Bolo’s first year, before her official training begins. A portion from each item sold by DIG or one of the Bolo Project sponsors is donated to Leader Dogs. So far, more than $15,000 has been raised or donated through DIG sales, donations and special events. (For information on becoming a sponsor, attending an event, or donating, see the Bolo Project page.)
The Bolo Project is a year-long (September 2013 to September 2014) fundraiser to help the Michigan-based Leader Dogs for the Blind (founded in 1939 and supported by donations and Lions Clubs).
Now, About Bolo!
Bolo's Birth Announcement
Bolo is a lively lovely little yellow Labrador retriever, born August 1, 2013, and weighing in at 9.5 ounces and 7 inches long. The happy little puppy has already met and fallen in love with Victoria Stillwell, as well as loads of other people and kids – she is very well-socialized. Watch her grow in the accompanying photo spreads! (see composite photos below)

Bolo gets Bigger!
To watch You-Tube videos of Bolo (starting with the origin of Dogvergnugen and Puppy Pick-up Day) click here, and follow Bolo on Facebook here.
Bolo Logo
The Bolo Project logo (see logo above) carries through on the Dog is Good color scheme and on the dog – this time with a much-loved (signified by a red heart) puppy, Bolo. Bolo’s head is cocked just the way we humans just melt over and the puppy is sporting a halo of puppy perfection. Bolo is also decked out in her Leader Dog in Training bandana.
For more information about Dog is Good, please see the previous two Wordless Wednesdays: the first, on April 30, was about theDog is Good logo itself (and the company), and last week, May 7, EverythingDogBlog explained All About Dogvergnugen!
Read more about it:
The Bolo Project:
Go, Bolo!
(This first appeared on Maryland Patches [, e.g.] on 14 May 2014.)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Keep Your Dog Away from this Top Five List

EverythingDogBlog #163 
Top Five Human Meds Toxic to Pets

Do you have any of these medications in your house? (I know we do!) If so, be sure your dog cannot get to them!

1.     Pain relievers (such as Advil, Aleve, Motrin, Tylenol)
2.     Antidepressants (Zoloft, Cymbalta, Effexor)
3.     ADD/ADHD medications (Ritalin, Vyvanse)
4.     Sleep aids like Klonopin, Ambien, Lunesta
5.     Muscle relaxants – Lioresal, Flexeril
6.     Heart meds (e.g., Cartia, Cardizem)

The Pet Poison Helpline is available 24/7 to help save pet lives (fee: $35 per incident which includes follow-up calls) throughout the US, Canada and the Caribbean.

Check them out before you need to!

Read more about it: for a list of poisons and a guide to pet safety plus an iPhone App
(This article first appeared on the Maryland Patch websites on 13 May 2014.)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Under the Dog Star, book review (woman veterinarian, dogfighting, mystery)

Under the Dog Star, A Rachel Goddard Mystery by Sandra Parshall (Poisoned Pen Press, 2011, 305 pages, $14.95) If you love the Deborah Knott series by North Carolina author Margaret Maron, you will love this series. 

“Good Dog!” (Good Book. Good Series.)

A good book, a good series of mysteries starring veterinarian Rachel Goddard. . . .

I read the 4th mystery in the series of six* (so far) by Agatha Award-winning and very prolific author, Sandra Parshall, formerly a newspaper reporter in nearby Baltimore. There is so much to explore in the background of the characters, that I can’t wait to get the whole story by reading the other five books.


At 305 pages, it was a short book (by that I mean I read it in less than two days – it was that spellbinding!) It would make a great beach or airplane read, too.

I’m not sure who is the protagonist: Dr. Rachel Goddard, the veterinarian, or her significant other, Tom Bridger. (Both seem to have equal time, making Under the Dog Star appeal to men as well as women readers.) Tom is a small town cop in their rural Blue Ridge Mountain community in Virginia where nearly everyone has a dog or two, plus a rifle or three.

Tom and Rachel care very much about each other: each worries about the dangers lurking for the other, and the caring, concern, and verbalizing can be familiar to the reader. Who hasn’t stayed awirake all night waiting for a spouse to come home safe after being called out in the middle of the night – or known someone who has? Who hasn’t stayed awake waiting for a teenager to come home after a date?

The Plots

A ‘murder’ of a ‘leading citizen’ (a physician), dogfighting rings that surface every couple of years (did you know there is a Fighting Dog DNA Database?), a dozen pet dogs that disappear from their yards, a fascinating dysfunctional family - all lend their hand to a convoluted twisty tale that manages to tie up fairly nicely in the end. 

Even though the astute reader can guess at some of the outcomes, enough cliff-hangers and surprises abound to keep you reading faster and faster.

Another timely theme is the current economy: many people can no longer afford their pets and some even drive them out into the countryside and abandon them there, falsely thinking they will have a chance of surviving. . . .

What Didn’t I Like?

Very little!

But, to balance my comments, some things seem just too easy – the dart guns ‘shot’ to immobilize an animal are used in a new way (poetic license? In reality, the quantity of the ‘ammo’ must be carefully calibrated for the weight of the animal - which takes time.); the use of the outdated term, ‘alpha dog,’ here meaning the leader of a wild, feral pack of dogs; the hard-to-believe escape of a fighting dog or two; and the easy capture of loose, very hungry, dogs in a ‘pack.’ I also prefer ‘crate’ to ‘cage’ but realize that the location of Under the Dog Star is rural Virginia.  And, since I read the book so quickly (it was that good!), it took me some back-reading to get all the characters straight.

However, none of the very minor flaws detract from the very readable excitement of Under the Dog Star!  As a matter of fact, I am going to read rest of the series. That should keep me busy for a week!

For a sneak preview, listen to Chapter One here.

Titles in the Rachel Goddard series of veterinarian mysteries by Sandra Parshall:
Heat of the Moon (2011**)
Disturbing the Dead (2011)
Broken Pieces (2011)
Under the Dog Star (2011)
Bleeding Through (2012)
Poisoned Ground (2014)

**Publication dates may be off a few years because it is not always apparent if the date refers to the coming-out of the hardback, the paperback, the e-version or what.

(I checked this book out of my public library. This article first appeared on on 11 May 2014.)

Friday, May 9, 2014

"Canine Massage? You've Got to be Kidding!"

EverythingDogBlog # 160: Benefits of Canine Massage for YOUR Best Friend
"Why would I massage my dog? I pet him every day so I don't need to massage him."

I have been practicing and teaching canine massage for more than ten years now and still hear comments like those above.
The who/what/where/when/why and how of canine massage

Who? I focus on the massage of the average, healthy dog by his dog-person to strengthen the bond between them. It is a simple activity you can quickly learn, to become closer to your dog. Canine massage is also something you can always learn more about – there are always more strokes to ‘pick up.’
What? Massage can be defined as the gentle, deliberate manipulation of muscles, skin, connective and adipose tissue to promote increased circulation. Its purpose is to relax, or stimulate (depending on the direction of the strokes and the amount of pressure used). Canine massage can be used daily, post-operatively to hasten recovery, before and after strenuous sports and exercise, and at other times – just like in us humans.
Where? You can massage your dog just about anywhere. I encourage people to set aside a certain towel that becomes the ‘canine massage towel’ (or piece of carpet or other material). This way you can take it with you in the car to the vet’s waiting room to relax your dog, to the dog park for ‘post-play’ massage (outside the park, of course), even on vacation. Once your dog learns (quickly) that when you get out the special towel, it means a good relaxing time, he will be ‘putty in your hands,’ so to speak.
When? You can massage your dog just about any time but setting aside a certain time and place a few times a week is best. A massage can last up to 45 minutes but can be effective in just a few minutes – a ‘spot massage for Spot!’
Why? There are many reasons to massage your dog. You have probably experienced a massage yourself and can recall how wonderful you felt afterwards – relaxed, rejuvenated, just plain happy with the world. Well, our dogs lead an even more active life and, especially those who are not canine athletes (agility, flyball, etc.), don’t use all their muscles every day. Consequently, some remain tighter than others. A massage is a wonderful way to ‘use’ those muscles and warm them up so they don’t tighten even more due to lack of use, thus, making them prone to tearing  or other injuries when they finally are used.
In addition, when you massage your dog, it strengthens the bond between the two of you. This is my primary reason: canine massage is a healthy activity you can do just about anywhere, any time and your dog will love you even more for it!
Thirdly, it is the rare occurrence that when I do a demo massage of a dog at a dog walk, e.g., that I don’t find bumps the owner has missed by merely petting the dog the same way each time. So, I often recommend a vet visit to get those lumps checked out (sometimes they are merely missed ticks). So, for health reasons, also, massage your dog!
How? Canine massage is something you really need a good introduction to, by attending at least one seminar or workshop and then, repeatedly brushing up on your technique so it doesn’t get out of whack (back to the basics). In addition, there are times when massage is counterindicated and places on your dog that he probably won’t welcome touch (over the spine, for example).
For more information:
I will be giving a two-part seminar/workshop on canine massagethat is free to the public (location: Columbia, MD) on Monday May 12 and 19 at The Other Barn from 6:30-7:30 p m. For more information and to RSVP, check out the flier above and then call 410-884-6121 or email to reserve your spot.
The first session will be a PowerPoint presentation and we will practice some strokes. Bring the largest stuffed animal you can beg, borrow or otherwise find (or you can practice strokes on someone else or yourself in lieu of a stuffie).
The second session will be outdoors with your dog (live and friendly, or stuffed) where we will go over strokes and a routine. You will get more out of it if you come to both sessions but if you can’t you will still come away with plenty of good information!
See you there! Your best friend will thank you for it!
(This first appeared on on 9 May 2014.)