Are You a Dog Person?

According to research conducted by a psychologist from University of Texas at Austin, there really are dog people and cat people, with notable qualities distinct in each type.

The study, published in the journal Anthrozoos, found that individuals who define themselves as dog people are more extraverted, more agreeable and more conscientious than self-described cat people. Fans of felines, on the other hand, were found to be more neurotic, but also more open than their canine-loving counterparts.

Project leader Sam Gosling says, “There is a widely held cultural belief that the pet species -- dog or cat -- with which a person has the strongest affinity says something about the individual's personality.” He adds, “Given the tight psychological connections between people and their pets, it is likely that the differences between dogs and cats may be suited to different human personalities.”

It remains an open question, however, whether the pet takes on certain aspects of the owner’s personality and lifestyle, or if owners tend to select a pet that matches their own attributes. All of these factors probably come into play.

International Homeless Animals’ Day: Make a Difference

The first time Colleen Gedrich attended a candlelight vigil for homeless animals was in 2004. The event, sponsored by the Pennsylvania-based International Society for Animal Rights (ISAR), was in its 12th year. Chains of paper collars, each representing a dog that had died at a local animal shelter that year, blew in the breeze, while speakers told personal stories about shelter animals that had touched their lives.

When Gedrich attends another Pennsylvania vigil on August 21, it will be the 19th recognition of International Homeless Animals’ Day. People around the globe will be observing along with her. Below, the ISAR weighs in on how you can help homeless dogs.

Host a Vigil

Organize your own recognition of International Homeless Animals’ Day to raise awareness of the dog overpopulation epidemic. Contact the ISAR by phone or through their website, IsarOnline.org, to order a vigil packet. The packet includes guidelines for choosing a site, suggestions for speakers and posters to advertise your event.

“Even on a modest budget, many shelters can hold successful observances with open houses, adopt-a-thons and information stalls,” says Gedrich. “Some encourage the public to bring flashlights instead of spending their own money on candles. Just make sure to advertise!”

The ISAR can help you advertise by posting your vigil on their website and social networking pages.

Attend a Vigil

Every vigil has a personality of its own. Many include not only the candle-lighting ceremony in recognition of homeless dogs, but also dog adoption fairs, microchip clinics, raffles and blessings of the animals, among other things. You can find a vigil near you at the ISAR website. If there’s nothing in your area, light a virtual candle on ISAR’s website.

Donate Money

While the ISAR accepts donations, there are many animal shelters around the world that need help in order to maintain the homeless dogs they care for. When you make your donation on August 21, you can let your local shelter know that it’s in recognition of International Homeless Animals’ Day.

You can also donate supplies. “Dog food, dog toys and blankets are always welcome at facilities with overstretched budgets,” says Gedrich.

Donate Time

The same shelters that need donations also often need volunteers to clean cages, work at adoption fairs and provide loving kindness to homeless dogs. Your local shelter should have information about opportunities to give your time in honor of International Homeless Animals’ Day.

“A rambunctious dog may be overlooked by a potential owner because of how active it is. I’d be rambunctious, too, if I were in a cage all day. You can really help a dog get the recreation it needs,” says Gedrich. “Volunteers are the backbone of a shelter’s operation.”

Spay or Neuter Your Own Furry Friend

According to the most recent statistics available from the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy, 56 percent of dogs that enter shelters will ultimately be euthanized. The Humane Society notes that it is not just homeless dogs that breed homeless puppies. Many household pets have litters that will some day need shelter care. Spaying and neutering your beloved companion ensures that it won’t produce offspring that have nowhere to go. Be sure to find a reputable, licensed veterinarian.

While the mood at the vigils connected to International Homeless Animals’ Day is naturally somber, Gedrich has noted other emotions the events have brought out in her as well. “I always feel recharged at these events,” she says. “They’re extremely inspirational.” As the ISAR emphasizes, your participation in these events can let the world know that it is not okay to take the lives of innocent dogs, cats, puppies and kittens simply because there are not enough good homes for them.

How Dogs React to Human Infants

When Lena Harris got pregnant with her second child, her German shepherd, Guinness, started acting overly attentive and clingy, as if he’d sniffed out the forthcoming addition to the pack.

“As I got further in the pregnancy, he became more hyper about herding me,” recalls Harris. “He followed me into every room; he even ignored the door bell, which usually drives him crazy. By the ninth month I swear it was like he wanted to either deliver the baby himself or give me a ride to the hospital.”

Imagined Behavior or Real Baby Detection?
Dog behavior expert Colleen Pelar, author of Living With Kids and Dogs … Without Losing Your Mind, says Guinness’ sixth sense isn’t surprising. Studies show that dogs are capable of sniffing out human cancers, so Pelar suspects they can detect other biological changes.

“I don’t think they have a concept of gestation or pregnancy,” she says. “But the dog is responding to the idea that something is different.’”

Even if dogs can anticipate a new family member, that doesn’t mean they know how to handle it. Here are some tips for getting them properly prepared and acclimated:

Make Changes Early

As a pregnancy progresses, life will inevitably change for your dog. You’ll give your pet less attention, and his or her usual mealtimes will likely become less punctual. It’s best to implement such expected changes gradually in the months leading to the birth. “This way, the dog doesn’t experience all these big changes at once and associate them with the baby’s arrival,” says Pelar.

Bring Home a Blanket

After the baby is born, bring home the baby’s swaddling blanket for the dog to sniff and “introduce” the dog to the new baby. Pelar says a mistake dads make is to hand over the blanket to the dog, or even play tug-of-war with it. “I get regular phone calls from hysterical mothers because the dog has torn up the blanket,” she says. “Treat it like a baby; Let the dog sniff it as much as you would let it sniff the baby -- not stuff his nose into it for five minutes.”

Store Prepared Treats

Any owner of a hyper dog knows that a Kong toy stuffed with peanut butter is the perfect diversion, providing needed peace and quiet. Prepare them in advance, so you don’t have to make the Kong treat while holding a crying, hungry infant in one arm.

Remember Your Dog

Queens, N.Y., pug owner Liv Keystone made an effort to include her pug in daily activities with the baby. Eventually, the dog was her daughter’s favorite playmate. “She's been so sweet,” says Keystone. “She even lets my daughter pound on her and pull her ears, which she'd never let us do.”

Use Help From Friends

If people offer to help once the baby is born, Pelar says a perfect answer is, “Come over and play with my dog.” Since dogs inevitably lose status and attention when the baby arrives, arranging these kinds of playdates can make up for lost time. “Have them come over and play with the dog for 30 minutes in the yard or take him to the groomer for you,” she says.

Be Patient

This is an ongoing relationship that requires work. A dog that tears up the baby blanket may end up being best pals with the baby from day one. And a dog that is perfectly loving from day one may grow to become jealous and aggressive toward that child once the baby starts crawling.

“There will be ups and downs, just like with siblings,” says Pelar of the dog-baby dynamic. “As long as you keep it on the path that’s mostly good, then you’re succeeding.”

Take Your Dog to Work

June 25 is Take Your Dog to Work Day, designed to raise awareness about dog adoption. After all, your co-workers will surely want dogs of their own after meeting your pal.

Preparing Your Dog

If your company welcomes dogs on June 25, do some homework before you pack your briefcase and leash. These tips should help your dog feel comfortable in your workplace and help you avoid any mishaps:

  • Consider your dog’s temperament. Your dog should be well-behaved, friendly, relaxed and gentle, recommends Deb Bennetts of Best Friends Pet Care in Norwalk, Conn., where as many as a dozen dogs show up for work. “Behaviors you think are cute may not go over well with co-workers,” she suggests.
  • Make a brief visit first. A “dress rehearsal” for the big day will help your dog prepare, advises Joan Mayer, a dog trainer in Ventura, Calif.
  • Teach your dog how to meet and greet. Train your dog to keep all four paws on the floor or to sit when meeting new people. “Both the guardian and the others meeting the dog can give treats for nice behaviors,” says Mayer.
  • Think like your dog. You might not notice the phones ringing all day in your office, but the noise could bother your furry friend. Consider your work environment and how your dog might respond. Practice appropriate behaviors, such as sitting and waiting at doors, elevators and office entryways, advises Mayer.

What You’ll Need for the Big Day
You wouldn’t leave for work without your work-related tools, whether you wear a hard hat or carry a briefcase. Your dog’s day at work will go smoother if you take these along as well:

  • A well-exercised dog Burn that excess energy with a brisk walk or a game of fetch before you go to work.
  • Your dog’s bed Bring a familiar blanket or bed, and set it up in a calm corner where your dog can relax. You can try a crate, if your dog is accustomed to crates and your workplace has room.
  • A baby or pet gate You may need to restrict your dog to a certain area in the workplace or to define some spaces as off-limit areas.
  • A heavy-duty water bowl Be sure to bring a mat to place under the bowl as well, to avoid spills.
  • Treats Letting your co-workers dispense treats is a good way for your dog to make friends.
  • Toys and food puzzles Your pooch needs something to occupy its time while you’re working.
  • Doggie waste bags and wet wipes You should only bring a trained dog into the office, but just in case of an accident, bring backup waste bags and wet wipes.

Celebrating the Day
If your company doesn’t allow dogs on June 25, you can still celebrate the day by bringing photos of your pet to share or by setting up a fundraiser for local shelters or dog adoption organizations. If your dog is allowed, your preparation for the day could go a long way toward encouraging the acceptance of dogs in public places.

“Thinking and planning ahead is the key when exposing your dog to situations that might be outside its norm,” says Mayer. “If we can make this type of special occasion successful for everyone, then maybe it’ll turn into something even bigger.”

Dog Park Etiquette

Just like the gym or the workplace, a dog park is a social place with its own set of proper etiquette guidelines. But what that means in a dog park isn’t always obvious. With the help of Charlotte Reed (author of The Miss Fido Manners Complete Book of Dog Etiquette) and Cheryl Smith (a certified dog behavior consultant and author of Visiting the Dog Park: Having Fun, Staying Safe), we set the record straight on some important aspects of dog park decorum.

Q: I’m very protective of my small dog. I want her to have fun at the park, but I don’t want her to get hurt. Can I keep her on the leash so that I’m always close and can pull her out of rough situations?

A: Sorry, but no. A dog park is specifically for off-leash play. “A leash can create different reactions in the leashed dog, who feels constrained and unable to react as he or she may wish,” says Smith. “Leashes can create barrier frustration,” she says. This is a common dog behavior issue, where dogs may lash out because they don’t feel in control. If you’re still concerned about your pet, you might consider trying to establish an event for small dogs only at your local dog park.

Q: My dog gets really thirsty after running around in the park. Should I bring his water bowl for drink breaks?

A: Only if you bring him outside the park for the break. It’s too hard to keep the other dogs away from your bowl, and both Reed and Smith point out that a communal water bowl is also a communal germ pool. Nasty bugs like giardia can spread through water.

Q: What about treats? Since I dole those out by hand, they’re something I can control.

A: It's not a good idea to give your dog food in front of other dogs. Not only might you get mobbed and knocked over by jealous, hungry dogs, but other owners could also become agitated. This tip additionally applies to food you might bring for yourself. “The smell and sight of it will rile up the dogs,” says Reed.

Q: Aside from being a great place to exercise my dog, isn’t the dog park also a perfect place to find love?

A: Perhaps, but keep the former purpose at the forefront. Reed once witnessed a flirty woman become so enamored with a male dog owner that she didn’t notice her terrier escape the dog park and run away. The dog was smart enough to run home, but as Reed points out, “You should love the ones you’re with and not lose them by looking for love at the dog park.”

Q: My dog is always well behaved and can fend for herself. Is it OK for me to leave her in the park for 20 minutes while I run to the store?

A: Absolutely not. You are responsible for your dog’s actions, so you need to be there. “Believe it or not, people do this,” says Smith. “But the park is not to baby-sit your unattended dog while you go off and run some errands.”

Q: I appreciate that my dog gets to play, but I also like to use the dog park as a way to relax. It's not as if my dog is a 2-year-old child, so is it OK to bring a book to read?

A: No! Your dog is like a 2-year-old child, and you need to pay attention. Do this for the sake of his or her safety, and for the sake of the other dogs. And speaking of 2-year-olds, you might notice that dogs poop whenever and wherever they want, and it’s your responsibility to pick it up. “Piles of poop are the prime reason dog parks are shut down or never open in the first place,” says Smith. Most people are happy to clean up after their dogs, so a poop-filled dog park is likely the result of people who don’t pay attention.