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Hiking with Dogs

Summer is here, which means a good time of year to go hiking with your dog.  One of the best experiences that we can share with our furry friends is taking them on an outdoor adventure!  If you’re properly prepared, the benefits of hiking with your dog are immeasurable.  Hiking can be great therapy for a dog that is exhibiting boredom-based bad behavior at home such as shoe chewing, lawn digging, or gratuitous barking.  Remember, a tired dog is a good dog and hiking is a great exercise for humans as well!  Part of the fun of hiking with your dog is watching them get excited by the new smells and varying terrains.  Another advantage is that hiking is relatively inexpensive and requires little or no experience.

Nonetheless, here are some tips that I found from Dogster, and Washington State Trails websites to keep your dog and yourself as safe as possible while going for a trek in the outdoors…

1. Dog Health- Make sure your dog’s vaccinations are up-to-date before you hit the trail.  It’s always a good idea to have your veterinarian give your dog a checkup to make sure she’s in good health.  If your dog is not used to long treks, build endurance with shorter hikes before attempting longer, more difficult ones.

2. Find the Right Trail– Make sure your hike is in a park or open space that allows dogs.  National and regional parks are typically more dog-friendly than state parks.  Do your research and familiarize yourself with any restrictions such as which areas of the parks allow dogs, and whether they have to be leashed at all times.  If you’re just starting to hike with your dog, try some easy trails first.  See how your dog does crossing small streams, balancing on bridges and dodging big boulders.  Determine how much water and food is required for a day hike, how well your dog adjusts to a pack and how she fares with elevation gain and mileage.  As you get to know what kind of hiker your dog is, you’ll know what to look out for with the trails you choose.

3. Manners- A well-mannered dog can be a great trail mate, so it’s best if your dog is well trained on the leash before you bring her on a long hike.  Many experienced hikers advise never taking your dog off-leash even if it’s allowed, because too many things can go wrong.  Even the best-trained dogs can ignore voice commands and bound after a squirrel through bushes or shrubs, which can be dangerous to the dog and damaging to sensitive off-trail habitats.

4. Trail Etiquette– As a hiker, you are responsible for your own actions.  As a dog owner, you have an added responsibility, your dog’s actions.  You need to obey the rules specific to the trail that you’re visiting.  You and your dog should also yield the right-of-way to hikers and horses (if you are sharing the trail with them).

5. Wildlife– Always be aware what kind of wildlife is present, particularly if your dog is smaller.  Coyotes will attempt to lure away small dogs so they can be attacked by the pack.  Deer and elk, despite their non aggressive reputations, can cause serious damage by kicking with their back legs.  Rattlesnakes are present in all of the lower 48 states.  Even though they are shy and more afraid of us then we are of them, they can be found almost anywhere, including in lakes and rivers.  It’s best to keep your dog away from piles of dead branches, fallen trees, and grassy areas near creeks, streams, or other water sources.

The chances of encountering a mountain lion are extremely low, but if one happens to be around, your dog can make a tempting meal if it’s running unleashed through the bush.  If bears are in the area, you should absolutely keep your dog on-leash.  The last thing you want is your dog to annoy a bear and then run back to you with the angry bear in hot pursuit.  Other critters you want to avoid are porcupines and skunks, which may not be so dangerous, but can quickly ruin the day’s outing.

6. Dog Backpacks– Packs are a great way for dogs to burn extra energy during a hike and give them a sense of purpose.  Make sure you get the right size because if the doggy backpack is too small or too large, it can cause discomfort and even injury.  Get your dog used to it by letting him wear the empty pack on short walks in the neighborhood.  Younger and healthier working-type dogs can carry up to 25 percent of their body weight. For most dogs, 10 to 15 percent is plenty, which is usually enough for them to bring along their own water and kibble. Consult your vet before taking your dog on a long hike with a full backpack.

7. First Aid– Even for short hikes, it’s a good idea to bring basic first aid supplies like gauze pads, bandage tape, topical disinfectant, tweezers (for ticks and porcupine quills).  Keep your vet or emergency vet’s phone number on speed dial.

8. Hydration– Dogs get dehydrated much faster than humans do, so bring plenty of water and a collapsible bowl.  Many hikers let their dogs drink out of creeks and lakes, but they risk ingesting the giardia parasite, which settles in the small intestine and can wreak havoc on your dog’s system.  If you allow your dog to drink from a creek, purify the water first just to be sure.

9. Elevation– If the trail will take you to higher elevations, ascend at a slow and steady pace and make sure both of you drink plenty of water.  Watch your dog closely for signs of altitude sickness.  If she is panting heavily or slowing down, consider heading back down the trail or at least giving her a long rest.  Dogs want to please their owners and will try to tough it out, so it’s up to us to make sure they are not overdoing it.

10. Poop Bags– Bring them, use them, and pack them out!

11. After the Hike– Thoroughly check your dog for cuts or injuries as well as ticks, which can carry Lyme disease.  Dogs burn energy faster than humans, so keep kibble handy so your happy, trail-weary dog can have a little meal before you head home.

The benefits of living near the mountains are the beautiful hikes that are available to you.  To find trails that allow dogs, your best resource would be to go on your state’s trail website.  There you will find all the information you need about the trail, distance, elevation, location, and whether or not your furry friends are allowed.


Tips for Photographing Your Dog

These tips listed below were found on Digital Photography Shool’s website…

Summertime fetches fun adventures with your dog.  New places, old stomping grounds, or even to the park down the street; whichever place you go, memories are always made.  Capturing the moment with a picture is a great way to cherish the memory!  Pets fill their place in our hearts very quickly and we enjoy having their pictures framed on our desk or wall!  However, taking pictures of your furry friend is not always easy.  Pets, unlike humans, do not understand what we are trying to do and won’t just pose for the camera!  I will share with you some tips that I found that will help you get the most out of your photo session.

The first tip is to make sure and use natural light.  Lighting can make or break your photo.   If possible always use natural light when taking your pet’s picture.  Avoid flash, as flash burst can not only cause red-eye, but also frighten the animal.  Instead try to go outside or, if that is not possible, in a room well lit by a large window.

The second tip is to keep the eyes sharp.  Having sharp eyes is important in any kind of portrait photography.  As they say, “Eyes are the Window to the Soul” and your pet’s eye can be very expressive.  This being said, make sure to focus on your pet’s eyes and keep the tack sharp.

The third tip is to go to them.  It is very important that your pet feels comfortable and at ease, so instead of forcing him to come to you, go to him.  Most important is to get down to his level.  We all know how a dog looks when viewed from above; we see them like this every day.  Show us the way they see world!  Sit on the floor or lie on your belly and remember to shoot from HIS eye level or below.

Tip number four is to give value to their character.  You know your pet better than anyone else and a successful picture is one that conveys the character of its subject.  If you have a lazy cat, show him yawning, if your animal is of a playful type show him in action performing his favorite trick.

The fifth tip is to get up close and personal.  Put on that long lens and fill the frame with your pet’s face and fur, close up shots often make a beautiful animal portrait.

Tip number six is to surprise them.  One of the most difficult things is to let your pet hold still.  An easy trick is to let him play quietly and, once you have everything ready, let someone call for him or whistle.  This will surprise him and catch his attention and you will have a few seconds to capture him in a nice and alert posture!

The seventh tip is to schedule your photo session.  If you are longing for a formal pet portrait shot, try to schedule the photo session when your animal is somewhat sleepy or has just woken up.   It will be much easier to keep him still then.  If you want a more dynamic shot then pick up a time when your pet is energetic.  If he is sick it is better to just postpone it for another day.

Tip number eight is to be patient.  Pet photography requires a lot of patience.  No matter how excited your furry friend is, if you are patient enough, he will end up relaxing and you will have the opportunity to get a decent shot.

The ninth tip is to experiment!  Take your time and enjoy the session, try different approaches, angles and compositions.  Shoot a lot and you will have time to worry about the results later.

Now get out there and have fun shooting beautiful pictures of your beloved pooches!


Is There an Explanation for Those Confusing Canine Behaviors…?

All dog owners can agree on one thing… dogs do some pretty unusual and crazy things, but why?

Easy to please and entertain, dogs may seem like simple-minded creatures, however there’s a lot more to those slobbery smiles and wagging tails than meets the eye. Everything your dog does, it does for a reason. With the help of some pooch pros, I’ve figured out some of the reasoning behind the madness.

Almost every time I take my dog somewhere he has to munch on the grass!  I am sure the property owners appreciate the portable lawn mower, but why do dogs find grass so delicious?  It’s all part of evolution!   According to Dr. Benjamin Hart, who has studied animal behavior for more than five decades, it’s a trait they inherited from their ancestors.  For thousands of years, dogs were natural scavengers that ate anything in sight that provided dietary nutrients. While munching on the lawn can sometimes cause stomachaches or vomiting in dogs, most experts find that grass-chomping shouldn’t cause too much worry.  Just beware of letting your pooch nosh on any lawns that have been recently treated for pests or weeds.

You all know what I am talking about when I say ‘butt scooters’…. Why is it that dogs scoot their butts along the carpet?  This question has two simple answers.  1. Your dog has an itch that needs to be scratched. 2. Something is bothering him in the hindquarters region. This behavior is normal for the most part, but if you notice that your dog is doing it more than usual, be sure to check out the situation. There could be a chance your pup is suffering from allergies, tapeworms, flea bites or anal-sac disorders, all of which should be taken care of immediately.

Why are dogs always hungry and seem like they will eat anything?  Ages ago, long before dogs were domesticated, wild hounds did whatever they needed to do to survive.  Because of this, contemporary canines are capable of gorging themselves to the point of regurgitation.  This explains why your dog may sometimes eat its own feces or vomit (gross I know); it does what it needs to do to conserve calories and energy.  However, if your dog’s excessive hunger continues, be sure to check that his food is providing him with the proper nutrients to satisfy his needs.  Just like our junk food, some snacks your dog loves can have empty calories.

I cannot help but laugh when I see a dog sound asleep on his back.  The reasoning your dog is sleeping belly up is because it means that he’s feeling relaxed, secure and happy. The belly side is one of the most vulnerable areas of an animal, so the fact that your dog is exposing his underside means that he feels like he is safe in a comfortable setting.

I have heard some dog owners give cues in different languages.  Are dogs multilingual?  As much as we’d like to believe that our dogs understand us when we talk to them, the truth is that they’re not really listening to what we’re saying, but how we’re saying it.  Dogs listen to sounds, not words.  For this reason, you could speak to your dog in many different languages, as long as you’re consistently speaking to them in the same manner.  While your dogs may not be able to distinguish whether you’re speaking English or Spanish, they are excellent body-language decipherers.

My dog cannot hold its licker!  He will lick everything in sight, why?  It may not surprise you to learn that licking is a totally normal behavior, but the reason behind it might.  Licking can represent a number of things.  Dogs lick to show affection; they lick to groom themselves; they lick because they like the way something tastes; and they lick to gather information.  Their taste ability is far greater than ours.  However, if your dog’s licking is obsessive, you may want to bring him to the vet to make sure there isn’t anything more serious going on.  A variety of things could be the cause for obsessive licking including pain, allergies or stress.

You hear about the ‘ankle biters’ of the canines.  Is there a reason they do it?  Your dog could be displaying this concerning and annoying behavior because of instinct.  Dogs with herding backgrounds, like German Shepherds or Australian Cattle Dogs, have been known to nip at the heels of other dogs, animals and people, because this is what they were bred to do.  Often this behavior is just being playful.  But you should never encourage this behavior.  Be sure to teach your dog not to do it.  Give him proper chewing toys so that he can take his aggression and biting out on something other than your neighbor’s ankles!

That awkward moment while at the dog park, you look over at your dog and he is humping a fellow pooch.  Why do dogs do this?   Even if they’re neutered or spayed, dogs will continue to display their dominance over another by mounting behavior.  This is not done in a sexual manner, but rather to exert power over another pet.  In fact, dogs will mount on the same sex to show their social position.  That said, neutering and spaying may eliminate dogs’ sex-drive-related hormones and aggressive behavior, but it won’t necessarily stop them from wanting to be the leader of the pack.

Do you constantly get followed around the house by your fellow companion?  Just like a child, you are your dog’s family, so wherever you go, your dog will follow.  From the moment they are born, a dog learns to follow his littermates.  This same behavior explains why wild dogs used to travel in packs.  Dogs are social creatures that love companionship.  Your dog follows your every move because you are his security blanket, his food and his shelter.

These are just a few odd behaviors that are common with dogs.  There are several more that I didn’t get to… why?  Because it is a never ending list!  With that being said, it’s never a dull moment being a dog owner!

Thank you to Dogster for providing some of the information listed above…


Quick Tips for Traveling With Your Pet

Now that good weather is here and the snow shovel has been safely stashed away, you may be thinking road trip.  If you’re like many of us, you probably have pets who like to go along for the ride.  Summer vacation is no longer just for two-legged travelers.  Many hotels have been ratcheting up the pet amenities due to more people traveling with their furry friends.  This includes room service menus for Fido, massages for over-stressed terriers and tabbies, and cushy beds for canines.  I got to thinking about things that make for a good trip with pets, from choice of vehicle, to the right accessories, to things to bring and trip planning. Here are some tips for safely and enjoyably taking the critters on the road.

  • Keep your pets safe and secure in a well-ventilated crate or carrier. There is a variety of wire mesh, hard plastic and soft-sided carriers available. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s large enough for your pet to stand, sit, lie down and turn around in. It’s always a good idea to get your pet used to the carrier in the comfort of your home before your trip.  If you prefer to not crate your pet, make sure they at least have a safety harness on and are belted in.
  • Get your pet geared up for a long trip by taking him on a series of short drives first, gradually lengthening time spent in the car. If you decided to keep your dog in a crate, be sure to secure the crate so it won’t slide or shift in the event of a quick stop.
  • Don’t feed your furry friend in a moving vehicle—even if it is a long drive.  Travel on empty. It’s a good idea not to feed your pet six to eight hours before embarking on a road trip. Having an empty stomach will make him less likely to throw up.   Giving your pet water, however, won’t upset his stomach and may make him more comfortable.  While some pets travel best on an empty stomach, others will feel more comfortable after eating a small meal. Some pets just need a little food in their stomach to help keep them from getting sick.  But only feed them about half of what they normally, just in case!
  • Never leave your animal alone in a parked vehicle. On a hot day, even with the windows open, a parked automobile can become a furnace in no time, and heatstroke can develop. In cold weather, a car can act as a refrigerator, holding in the cold and causing the animal to freeze to death.
  • What is in your pet’s traveling kit? In addition to travel papers, food, bowl, leash, a waste scoop, plastic bags, grooming supplies, medication and a pet first-aid kit, pack a favorite toy or pillow to give your pet a sense of familiarity.
  • Make sure your pet has a microchip for identification and wears a collar with a tag imprinted with your home address, as well as a temporary travel tag with your cell phone, destination phone number and any other relevant contact information. Canines should wear flat (never choke) collars.
  • Traveling across state lines? Bring along your pet’s rabies vaccination record, as some states require this proof at certain interstate crossings. While this generally isn’t a problem, it’s always smart to be on the safe side.
  • When it comes to H2O, always bring your own. Opt for bottled water or tap water stored in plastic jugs. Drinking water from an area he’s not used to could result in tummy upset for your pet.
  • If you travel frequently with your pet, you may want to invest in rubberized floor liners and waterproof seat covers, available at auto product retailers.

There are several dogs out there that tend to get car sick.  The first thing to realize when dealing with car sickness is that in 95% of cases it is stress related and not motion related. Your pet may relate a car trip with being taken away from its first home, or trips to the Vet or even worse, the Kennel.  It’s not surprising that subsequent rides in a car should evoke very strong mental and subsequent physical trauma.

If this is the case for your dog then my best advice would be to re-program your pet’s attitude towards travel in a car. Find a park about 5-10 minutes from home, ideally have someone else in the car too, to soothe the dog and distract him from the ride. Keep him happy all the way to the park. When at the park do all the enjoyable things that the dog loves, fetch the ball, and chase the Frisbee. The stay at the park doesn’t need to be that long…. just as enjoyable as possible. Then drive the dog home soothing him all the way again and when home make just as much fuss of the dog as you did at the park. Finish the session with his meal or a treat if time and conditions permit.  After doing this a few times your pet will now associate car travel with fun times.

Take frequent rest breaks. While some pets can travel for hours without having problems, others start getting queasy after a few miles. Get to know your pet’s pattern and stop at least every hour or two to take a quick walk to help your pet get his land-legs back. It’s also a good idea to pour him a little water, since he may not feel like drinking when he’s in the car.

If you are staying in a hotel, hopefully you checked the Pet Travel web site and booked a pet friendly hotel or motel online!   If the hotel/motel charges a pet fee pay it, don’t try to hide your pet, you will spend all night worrying about being discovered.  When you arrive ask for a ground floor room near an area where you can take a walk with Fido.  Be sure to pick up after your pet so that the hotel/motel will remain pet friendly.

Most accommodations ask that you do not leave the pet alone in the room for obvious reasons. You may have to order take out or room service, or if it is cool enough for your pet to be left in the car for a half hour or so you could go out to dinner and take them along. You may even find a pet friendly restaurant; look for places with outdoor seating areas like sidewalk cafes.

Take the time to review these helpful tips before you take off down the road with your pet.  It’s better to be over prepared than having to deal with a sick puppy on your road trip.


They Always Make Us Laugh….

These are some dog videos I’ve seen and wanted to share them with our followers…..Enjoy a good laugh 🙂

This baby learns chewing techniques from his Puggles!

This Lab’s dream came true!!!

Someone’s totally guilty!!!!

Where did the water go?

Sign up this guy for the next round!

This isn’t a dog… but I couldn’t resist putting this up!

Someone is a little tired… at least the front end is

This one is a classic….

You don’t see this everyday…


Dogs With Jobs

It’s estimated that around 77 million dogs are kept as pets in the U.S. today, but there are no similar figures for working dogs. I’m guessing this is because the list of canine careers is impressively long, and there is no central reporting agency to keep track of all the amazing canines that are willing to work for praise, toys, treats and love instead of a paycheck.  Most of us know dogs best as pets and companions, but for thousands of years, dogs have helped people with daily tasks such as herding livestock, hunting for food, or hauling loads.  More recently, dogs have been used to help people with disabilities, to assist in search and rescue missions, and to protect the public in partnership with military and law enforcement units.  Some dogs even do unconventional jobs like helping scientists track endangered species, locating ancient burial grounds, or alerting wine grape growers to insect infestations in the vines.

I want to take some time to recognize these astounding dogs that not only assist their owners, but play a significant role in society.  Here is a brief overview of some jobs that dogs have…

Guide Dogs:  A Guide Dog is specially trained to provide mobility and independence to the visually-impaired user.  A guide dog provides these services as a loving companion, he has a quiet and calm disposition, a high level of initiative and concentration while working, and a strong will to work. The most common breeds used in assisting the visually-impaired are Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, and German Shepherd Dogs. Their intelligence, size and temperament make them ideal Guide Dogs.

The human partner makes most of the decisions for the team, giving the dog directions and determining, after listening to the flow of traffic, the most optimal time to cross each street. Guide dogs are carefully conditioned to refuse the “Forward” command under certain circumstances where it would be unsafe to proceed, something termed “intelligent disobedience.” The net effect of the conditioning, however, is a habitual reaction from the dog to specific stimuli which substantially improves team safety. It should be noted this skill deteriorates over time if the handler forgets to appropriately praise the dog for avoiding a situation. Like other assistance dogs, a guide dog relies heavily on the team leader’s feedback, especially praise, to reinforce and motivate desired behaviors.

Service Dogs:  Service Dogs are trained to assist people who have a wide variety of mobility impairments and other disabilities, such as seizures, psychiatric disorders, life threatening medical problems, or chronic pain. These dogs provide services to disabled individuals helping them function with greater self-sufficiency; prevent injuries; and summon help in a crisis.

Most assistance dogs are donated to a regional office of a training organization like Guide Dogs of America,   Dogs for the Deaf, Inc., or Freedom Service Dogs.  In some cases, these organizations rescue dogs from euthanasia at local shelters.  Hearing assistance dogs are often small mixed-breed canines rescued from shelters.  Service dogs for the physically or mentally challenged may be small or large, purebred or mixed breeds, depending on the needs of the client.

In cooperation with local foster families, the regional offices of training organizations get started on socializing and training the puppies in basic manners and obedience. Once the dogs are old enough to begin formal training, they are brought back into the regional office and given enough training to meet the minimum standards required for all assistance dogs.  Service Dogs receive approximately six months to one year of training on learning to perform various tasks, obedience, and public access manners.

Once the dog achieves at least the minimum standards of proficiency, the dog is matched to a person and begins training for the specific needs of that person.  For example, a person who struggles with upper body strength might need a dog that can open doors and cupboards.  A person who has seizures might need an assistance dog that can sense an oncoming seizure and communicate to the person that he or she should sit down before the seizure hits.

Service dogs may perform a wide variety of tasks to help their handlers.  They might retrieve dropped objects, pull a wheelchair, turn light switches on and off, provide a counterbalance for those who have mobility issues, or alert the person when his or her blood sugar drops.  They can also be very calming to a person who has autism or other mental challenges.  Each dog must be able to perform at least three tasks related to their partner’s disability.

Therapy Dogs:  Therapy Dogs are used for the benefit, both physical and emotional, of people in hospitals, seniors’ residences, nursing homes, day care centers, special needs schools, psychiatric hospitals and many other places where people may be restricted from having pets. The medical profession has widely acknowledged that stroking and petting animals can have a calming effect, lower blood pressure, and relieve tension.  Research has also proven that animals can dramatically improve the quality of life for the elderly; they can help sick patients recover faster, and can bring a renewed zest for life to the lonely or depressed.

In addition to standard canine training, Therapy Dogs receive specialized training to learn how to behave around people with difficult medical conditions. However, they aren’t classified as Service Dogs because they’re not trained to stay with people and do not directly assist them with tasks.

Therapy Dogs come in all sizes and breeds. The most important characteristic is temperament –a good Therapy Dog enjoys human contact and is patient, gentle, calm, reacting well to other dogs, and must be confident and comfortable in a variety of situations.

Herding Dogs:  Herding livestock is one of the oldest jobs for dogs. There are many breeds of herding dogs as well as many styles of herding. For example, the Border Collie commonly when herding sheep, uses what is called “the eye” to work — a glare which asserts their dominance over the sheep, others are well known for their ability to dart in and nip the heels of cattle. Stockdogs are used on many farms and ranches and mostly to work with cattle and sheep.

Today, herding dogs are also seen competing in Herding Trials all over the world. Quite often the people participating in this sport are not involved in the livestock industry but have an interest in working with their dogs to help preserve the instincts and abilities of the herding breeds.

Livestock Guarding Dogs:   Dogs have been bred and used for centuries to protect livestock. Most of these dogs have a strong guarding behavior that, with proper training and patience, can be modified to make them good pets and household protectors. In general, livestock guarding dog breeds are large, strong, and independent. They are generally calm and intelligent.

Dog breeds used to guard livestock are generally different than herding dogs. Herding dogs, like collies, help herdsmen and women move their animals. Livestock guarding dogs, instead, protect animals from threats like wolves and other predators.  Livestock guarding dogs are highly social. They like to stay in groups, with other dogs they’ve known since they were puppies. This social nature predisposes them to protect and stay with livestock.

As pets, livestock guarding breeds can be challenging. They require lots of daily exercise, as well as a job. When they’re working guarding animals, this is easily accomplished. However, the amount of exercise and mental stimulation they require can be difficult to get as house pets. Livestock guarding dogs also need training and supervision from someone who is capable of assuming a strong leadership role.

Sporting Dogs:

As hunting became a sport rather than a life duty, the role of dogs continued to evolve. Hunting dogs were developed to track, point and set game for their masters. By 6,000 years ago, pointers, shepherds, mastiffs, greyhounds and wolf breeds were the prevalent hunting dogs, as they are documented in cave painting as workers hunting with their masters. From these five breeds, man began to look for special traits in dogs and use them for different needs. This is when breeding began and the number of dog species began to grow.

Today, dog hunting is almost entirely for sport, with the exception of subsistence hunts — isolated Alaskan families, for example, use dogs to help them hunt for food. In the end, the history and evolution of hunting dogs goes hand in hand with the evolution of man.

Sporting Dogs are hunting dogs that are renowned for working closely with hunters and other dogs in the field. Some of the best known are the Labrador Retriever, Pointer, Spaniel, and Setter.  This group of dogs is known to make exceptional pets. Bred to work closely with people and dogs they are loyal and friendly. They love playing with their family and tend to be affectionate and gentle with children. They are also lively and very energetic and enjoy physical activity, either on land or in the water.

Another type of hunting dog is the Hound Dog. Sporting dog breeds differ from hound dogs because they hunt by scent carried in the air, while the hound dog breeds are ground scenters. Today’s Sporting dogs have remarkable instincts and excel in hunting in both water and on land.

The importance of the dogs in service to man cannot be underestimated. The bond between man and dog has evolved throughout history. Various dogs were developed through selective breeding and hunting dog training, to assist in hunting birds and other game. Some of these early dogs were the ancestors of the pointer, retriever, setter and spaniel of today.

Despite their great personalities, some Sporting dog breeds are not the best choice for everyone. Most get along well with other pets, but there are a few that can’t be trusted around small pets.  They all need a great deal of exercise, and for some breeds the spunky puppy behavior may not diminish with age. Many can be notorious for getting away. If they get a chance they may unthinkingly take off if the opportunity presents itself, especially when young. They also bark, but are not usually aggressive to strangers.

Police Dogs:  Police dogs are in widespread use across the United States. K-9 units are operated on the federal, state, county, and local level and are utilized for a wide variety of duties, similar to those of other nations. Although most Americans perceive these animals as attack dogs, their duties generally include drug, bomb, and weapon detection and cadaver searches. The most common police dogs used for everyday duties are German Shepherds, though other breeds may be used to perform specific tasks.

Why do we bother using police dogs at all? For one thing, their sense of smell is almost 50 times more sensitive than a human’s. A dog can sniff out criminals, drugs, weapons, and bombs in situations where a human officer would have to search every inch, a dangerous task.

Only the most dedicated officers are considered for K-9 units. They must have exemplary records, plenty of arrests with convictions, an outgoing, energetic personality, and strong physical conditioning. A K-9 officer often puts in 60 hours each week. The pay is good, but the schedule is grueling, and there’s no backing out. A K-9 officer can’t decide a month or a year into the job that he or she is tired of it. A police dog’s career usually lasts about six years, and the handler is in it for the long haul.

The use of police dogs is increasing as police departments realize that a well-trained dog/handler team actually reduces liability, rather than increasing it. Every time a suspect runs away or fights police officers, the chase and struggle can lead to injuries and lawsuits against the department. The use of a K-9 unit can often keep a suspect from resisting at all, and can often end the situation before it escalates to the point where someone might get injured.

No one is quite sure when humans first domesticated dogs, but one thing is certain — dogs and people have been working side by side for thousands of years. Modern training methods ha­ve led to dogs becoming an integral part of many pe­ople’s lives, not just as companions, but also as guide dogs, search-and-rescue dogs, and bomb- or drug-sniffing dogs.


The Last Great Race… The Iditarod!

You cannot compare it to any other competitive event in the world! A race over 1,049 miles of the roughest, most beautiful terrain Mother Nature has to offer. She throws jagged mountain ranges, frozen rivers, dense forests, desolate tundra and miles of windswept coast at the mushers and their dog teams. Add to those, temperatures far below zero, winds that can cause a complete loss of visibility, the hazards of overflow, long hours of darkness and treacherous climbs and side hills.  All of those together and you have the Iditarod, an exceptional race only possible in Alaska.  From Anchorage, located in south central Alaska, to Nome on the western Bering Sea coast, each team of 12 to 16 dogs and their mushers cover over 1,049 miles in 10 to 17 days.

It has been called the “Last Great Race on Earth” and it has won worldwide acclaim and interest. German, Spanish, British, Japanese and American film crews have covered the event.  Journalists from outdoor magazines, adventure magazines, newspapers and wire services flock to Anchorage and Nome to record the excitement. It’s not just a dog sled race, it’s a race in which unique men and women compete. Mushers enter from all walks of life. Fishermen, lawyers, doctors, miners, artists, natives, Canadians, Swiss, French and others; men and women each with their own story, each with their own reasons for going the distance. It’s a race organized and ran primarily by thousands of volunteers, men and women, students and village residents. They man headquarters at Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, Nome and Wasilla. They fly volunteers, veterinarians, dog food and supplies. They act as checkers, coordinators, and family supporters of each musher.

The Spirit of Alaska! It’s More Than Just a Race…

The race pits man and animal against nature, against wild Alaska at her best and as each mile is covered, it is a tribute to Alaska’s history and the role the sled dog’s played.  The Iditarod is a tie to that colorful past.

The race starts on the first Saturday in March, at the first checkpoint on Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage. A five-block section of the street is barricaded off as a staging area, and snow is stockpiled and shipped in by truck the night before to cover the route to the first checkpoint. Prior to 1983, the race started at Mulcahy Park.

Shortly before the race, a ribbon-cutting ceremony is held under the flags representing the home countries and states of all competitors in the race. The first musher to depart at 10:00 a.m. AST is an honorary musher, selected for their contributions to dog sledding. The first competitor leaves at 10:02 and the rest follow, separated by two-minute intervals. The start order is determined during a banquet held two days prior by letting the mushers choose their starting position.

The Iditarod Trail, now a National Historic Trail, had its beginnings as a mail and supply route from the coastal towns of Seward and Knik to the interior mining camps at Flat, Ophir, Ruby and beyond to the west coast communities of Unalakleet, Elim, Golovin, White Mountain and Nome. Mail and supplies went in. Gold came out. All by the travel of a dog sled. Heroes were made, legends were born.  In 1925, part of the Iditarod Trail became a lifesaving highway for epidemic-stricken Nome. Diphtheria threatened and serum had to be brought in; again by intrepid dog mushers and their faithful hard-driving dogs.  Throughout the years, the sled dogs were important to day to day life in the villages and throughout Alaska.  All of these examples and more are a part of Alaska’s history.

An Event for All Alaska

Anchorage is the starting line — a city of over 250,000 people, street lights, freeways and traffic. From there the field of dog teams which grow in number each year, runs to Eagle River, Checkpoint # 1. After a restart in the Matanuska Valley at Wasilla, the mushers leave the land of highways and bustling activity and head out to the Yentna Station Roadhouse and Skwentna and then up.  Through Finger Lake, Rainy Pass, over the Alaska Range and down the other side to the Kuskokwim River — Rohn Roadhouse, Nikolai, McGrath, Ophir, Cripple, Iditarod and on to the mighty Yukon — a river highway that takes the teams west through the arctic tundra.

The race route is alternated every other year, one year going north through Cripple, Ruby and Galena, the next year south through Iditarod, Shageluk, Anvik.

Finally, they’re on the coast — Unalakleet, Shaktoolik, Koyuk, Elim, Golovin, White Mountain and into Nome where a hero’s welcome is the custom for musher number 1 or 61!

The route encompasses large metropolitan areas and small native villages. It causes a yearly spurt of activity, increased airplane traffic and excitement to areas otherwise quiet and dormant during the long Alaskan winter. Everyone gets involved, from very young school children to the old timers who relive the colorful Alaskan past they’ve known as they watch each musher and his team. The race is an educational opportunity and an economic stimulus to these small Alaskan outposts.

On the Trail

Every musher has a different tactic. Each one has a special menu for feeding and snacking the dogs. Each one has a different strategy — some run in the daylight, some run at night. Each one has a different training schedule and his own ideas on dog care, dog stamina and his own personal ability.

The rules of the race lay out certain regulations which each musher must abide by. There are certain pieces of equipment each team must have — an arctic parka, a heavy sleeping bag, an ax, snowshoes, musher food, dog food and boots for each dog’s feet to protect against cutting ice and hard packed snow injuries.

Mushers spend an entire year getting ready and raising the money needed to get to Nome. Some prepare around a full-time job. In addition to planning the equipment and feeding needs for up to three weeks on the trail, hundreds of hours and hundreds of miles of training have to be put on each team.  Training starts in late summer or early fall and intensifies between November and March; competitive teams run 2,000 miles before the race. When there is no snow, dog drivers train using wheeled carts or all-terrain vehicles set in neutral.  The dogs are well-conditioned athletes.  An Alaskan husky in the Iditarod will burn about 5,000 calories each day; on a body-weight basis this rate of caloric burn is eight times that of a human Tour de France cyclist.

The Sled Dogs…

The original sled dogs were Inuit Sled Dogs bred by the Mahlemuit tribe and are one of the earliest domesticated breeds known. They were soon crossbred with Alaskan huskies, hounds, setters, spaniels, German shepherds, and wolves. As demand for dogs skyrocketed, a black market formed at the end of the 19th century which funneled large dogs of any breed to the gold rush. Siberian huskies were introduced in the early 20th century and became the most popular racing breed. The original dogs were chosen for strength and stamina, but modern racing dogs are all mixed-breed huskies bred for speed, tough feet, endurance, good attitude, and most importantly the desire to run. Dogs bred for long races weigh from 45 to 55 pounds, and those bred for sprinting weigh 5 to 10 pounds less, but the best competitors of both types are interchangeable.

Starting in 1984, all dogs are examined by veterinarians/nurses before the start of the race, who check teeth, eyes, tonsils, heart, lungs, joints, and genitals; they look for signs of illegal drugs, improperly healed wounds, and pregnancy. All dogs are identified and tracked by microchip implants and collar tags. On the trails, volunteer veterinarians examine each dog’s heart, hydration, appetite, attitude, weight, lungs, and joints at all of the checkpoints, and look for signs of foot and shoulder injuries, respiration problems, dehydration, diarrhea, and exhaustion. When mushers race through checkpoints, the dogs do not get physical exams. Mushers are not allowed to administer drugs that mask the signs of injury, including stimulants, muscle relaxants, sedatives, anti-inflammatories, and anabolic steroids. As of 2005, the Iditarod claims that no musher has been banned for giving drugs to dogs.

Each team is composed of twelve to sixteen dogs, and no more may be added during the race. At least five dogs must be in harness when crossing the finish line in Nome. Mushers keep a veterinary diary on the trail but are not required to have it signed by a veterinarian at each checkpoint. Dogs that become exhausted or injured may be carried in the sled’s “basket” to the next “dog-drop” site, where they are transported by the volunteer Iditarod Air Force to the Hiland Mountain Correctional Center at Eagle River where they are taken care of until picked up by handlers or family members, or they are flown to Nome for transport home.

There is no question about it… the Iditarod is by far the most grueling, intense, and demanding race for the duo of man and dog.  Tune in as the race is going on right now!