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Secret Life of the Human Pups

secret-life-human-pups

All we can learn from dogs, and how, in many ways, we should strive to be more like them, are recurring themes on this website.

But, for the record, this is not what we mean.

A new documentary by Channel 4 in the UK takes a look at the “secretive” world of men who like to dress up as, and play the role of, dogs.

Around 10,000 people follow the pet play craze in the UK, according to “Secret Life of the Human Pups” — in which several members of this “secret” society dress up and strut before the cameras.

Apparently, it’s another one of those secret societies that — judging from some of its related websites, and the public competition it holds every year — really craves attention.

The documentary — sensationalistic as it is, albeit in a properly restrained British kind of way — isn’t unearthing any new ground.

Furries — people who dress up and behave as animals — have been around for decades, and the only new twist we can see is a trend towards preferring latex over fur costumes.

Participants, as always, range from those who enjoy a playful escape from reality to those who truly wish to be another species, from those seeking to shock and grab attention to those who are probably in need of some mental health counseling.

Anonymous sex, as always, while not what it’s entirely about, remains a strong component — at least for some participants.

The director of the documentary, Guy Simmonds told Newsweek he began pursuing the project after he “stumbled across some pictures [of human dogs] on the Internet.”

“… The more we researched it, the more surprised I was to learn how large the community was in the U.K. They’ve got their own social networking sites, events and competitions.”

The documentary aired Wednesday night.

Simmonds says puppy players (generally men) come from all walks of life: “We’ve come across librarians, security guards, even CEOs of huge corporations who wanted to remain anonymous. There are gay, straight, transsexual, asexual pups.”

One 42-year-old man described the appeal of pretending to be a pup this way:

“Life is getting more hectic nowadays, so much pressure on work and life. Some people drink, there’s drugs… You’ve got to be civilized in our society. When you’re in puppy mode, all that goes away. We don’t care about money; we don’t care about what job you’ve got, or the bigger car.”

For other people, role-playing as a dog can be a way of dealing with social anxiety, deep-rooted childhood issues or chronic medical conditions.

London-based psychotherapist Wendy Bristow says it is not uncommon for those who have experienced childhood trauma to seek comfort in forms of escapism. She points to cases of paraphilic infantilism, in which adults seek comfort by putting on diapers and regressing back to being a baby.

By taking on the role of something in need of nurturing — be it puppy or baby — they may be attempting to make up for a lack of it in their pasts.

“The technical term is displacement,” she said. “They’re doing an activity that gets them comfort, but they’re not expected to relate back apart from being grateful.”

Whatever the case, it seems there is one thing that both dogs and men who dress up as dogs are probably seeking more than anything else — attention.

Study: Dogs trust us less when we’re angry

How quickly your dog responds to you has a lot to do with the look on your face and the tone of your voice, according to a study at Brigham Young University.

Your dog may not respond more quickly if you use a positive tone, but he’s likely to respond much more slowly if you’re using a negative one, according to the study, published in the journal Animal Cognition.

Brigham Young psychology professor Ross Flom and his research team conducted two experiments examining how dogs reacted to both positive and negative emotions.

“We know that dogs are sensitive to our emotional cues,” Flom said, “but we wanted to know: do they use these emotional cues?” he said.

The experiments measured how quickly dogs responded to an adult’s pointing gesture.

Some of the adults exhibited positive behaviors while making the gestures, such as smiling and speaking in a pleasant tone; others exhibited negative behaviors, such as frowning, furrowing their brow or speaking harshly.

As most dog owners could have predicted, the negative behaviors made dogs a little less cooperative and slow to react — proving yet again (as we also already know) you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

(Has anyone actually done a study on that?)

While dogs who sensed the pointing adults were angry reacted more slowly, dogs whose pointing adults reflected a positive attitude didn’t react any more speedily than those in a control group.

We can only assume those in the control group were issued orders by adults whose faces were expressionless and who spoke like Ben Stein.

Flom concluded that dogs use our tone and emotion to determine how fast to follow an order — or, to put it more scientifically …

“Together these results suggest that the addition of affective information does not significantly increase or decrease dogs’ point-following behavior. Rather these results demonstrate that the presence or absence of affective expressions influences a dog’s exploratory behavior and the presence or absence of reward affects whether they will follow an unfamiliar adult’s attention-directing gesture.”

Apparently, random human strangers were doing the gesturing in the study, as opposed to the owners of the dogs involved.

That, we suspect, would have made a big difference in a dog’s level of trust and eagerness to respond.

That dogs will take off and explore a new area or object based on a stranger’s request shows that dogs generally trust humans.

That dogs — or any animals for that matter — are slow to react to one who appears angry is really no big surprise, either.

That’s generally true in the human arena as well, with the exception of those being yelled at by drill sergeants, prison guards or junior high gym coaches.

Can a dog love doggy day care too much?

For a doggy daycare operation, word-of-mouth is generally considered the best advertisement for bringing in new customers.

But this may be the most golden recommendation of all.

rileyIn North Carolina, a dog named Riley apparently loves his daycare so much he ran away from home one day last week, walked a mile to get there, and sat patiently outside the front door.

“Someone walked in the door and they said there’s a dog sitting out here waiting to come in,” said Happy Dogs Café owner Teresa McCarter.

McCarter opened the door and in came Riley, a golden retriever who, though he is a frequent customer, wasn’t scheduled for a visit that day.

Riley immediately ran back to the daycare area to greet at least 20 of his canine friends.

Riley’s owner, Tonia Mosteller, said she and Riley had driven past the daycare earlier in the day. Riley whimpered when he saw some of his friends being walked by a staff member. Back at home, she put him in the back yard and left to run some errands.

“I noticed Riley watching me carefully as I left, but I didn’t think too much about it,” Mosteller told WBTV.

Somehow, Riley managed to unlatch the gate. Because Mosteller often walks him to the daycare in downtown Belmont, he knew the way there.

The daycare owner said she looked around for Riley’s owner when she opened the door for him before figuring out “he just decided to put himself in daycare that day.”

Happy Dogs called Mosteller to let her know Riley was there, but they recommended she let him stay for the day — at no charge.

“He got a free day of daycare and he worked really hard for that day,” McCarter said.

(Photo: Courtesy of Happy Dogs Cafe)

(Editor’s note: The video above is going to continue to bring you other stories. You might want to shut it off upon completion.)

After flunking out as a service dog, a black Lab named Dagger turns to an art career

Having a gallery opening and appearing on the “The Rachael Ray Show” show in the same week would be quite the accomplishment for any artist.

But this one has only been painting a year.

And he has no hands.

Dagger II burst onto the art scene in March, when Newsday published a story about the paint brush- wielding, three-year-old black Labrador.

dogvinciYesterday, in light of his growing fame, there was a follow-up story in Newsday recounting his recent achievements.

Dagger II and his human, artist Yvonne Dagger, met Rachael Ray last month and demonstrated the dog’s skills. Dagger II, wearing his trademark red beret, was said to have hit it off especially well with Ray’s co-host for the day, Regis Philbin. The episode airs Friday.

Friday also marks the gallery debut of Dagger II — also known as DogVinci. His works will be on display at Long Island Picture Frame and Art Gallery in Massapequa Park.

Dagger II and his owner have partnered with that business to sell both original works and limited edition prints of his creations.

Ten percent of proceeds will go to Forgotten Friends of Long Island, a Plainview-based animal rescue and rehabilitation group.

Yvonne Dagger adopted Dagger II after he flunked out of service dog training. It was discovered he had a fear of going up and down stairs.

After laying at her feet as she painted, he attempted his own foray into the art world.

sunny-day-1-lLast Summer, Yvonne Dagger said, the dog who had always quietly watched as she painted began nudging her. She asked him if he wanted to paint and he began wagging his tail. She set up an easel for him, made a brush handle out of a paper towel tube and duct tape, and taught him some commands.

Yvonne helps him load the brush with non-toxic paints.

“Brush,” she tells Dagger to get him to take the makeshift brush in his mouth. “Paint,” she says to get him to apply brush to canvas.

His original paintings are selling for up to $325.

You can learn more about Dagger II, and view more of his works, at his website, DogVinci.com.

(Photos: DogVinci.com)

Woof in Advertising: Dream Weekend

Bored as I’ve become with the whole “bucket list” concept — for humans and dogs — I couldn’t help but being impressed with Subaru’s Impreza ad.

Subaru turns to dogs for its advertising more than any car maker — and continues to put out better ones than any car maker, even as other companies begin to catch on to the power pooches have in marketing.

This one reminded me of the year-long trip and Ace took across America five years ago, We didn’t called it a bucket list, preferring to have the fun we had before our bones got too creaky, and before one or both of us was on death’s doorstep.

(We called it Travels with Ace. It never turned into a published book, but you can read almost all of it here.)

woof in advertisingThis ad (extended version) for the 2016 Impreza tells the story of a man and his aging dog having one last journey and completing a “bucket list” of treats for the dog.

Those include a brand new show to chew on, an unauthorized dip in a motel pool, a bone for the dog’s 14th birthday, reuniting with an ex-lover and more — all with Willie Nelson singing in the background.

The tag line: “It’s not just the miles in life; it’s what you make of them.”

Carmichael Lynch, the advertising agency, cast an 11-year-old rescue dog named Monkey in the lead role.

Willie Nelson, an avid animal rights activist, gave the agency permission to use the song — “I’ve Loved You All Over the World” — at a reduced rate.

Subaru launched the spot last July.

You can find more of our “Woof in Advertising” posts — looking at how dogs are used in marketing — here.

Bulldogs: That’s how they roll

If you were built like a bowling ball, you too might have a propensity for rolling.

Bulldogs sure seem to.

Sophie was just a two-month old pup when her owners noted how much she liked rolling, caught it on camera and posted it on YouTube. It would turn out to be the first in a series of rolling Sophie videos.

“Usually she just throws herself onto her back and rolls around but the first few times she did it she happened to be on a sloping hill … I just set her down to go potty and as you see in the video, she threw herself down on the ground and rolled down the hill,” her owner wrote in a YouTube post.

“I picked her up, terrified that she had ‘fallen’ down this hill but I put her back down and she just did it again and again, 4 more times with such gusto we realized she was just having a ball! We were a bit afraid that she had ‘issues’ but she’s perfectly fine. We contacted the breeder and it turns out Sophie’s mother did the same thing.”

More recently, another rolling bulldog debuted on the Internet and quickly went viral:

So what’s behind it?

One plausible theory could be, in addition to seeming to enjoy the activity, they may be scratching some itches.

Given how humans have shaped the breed, an English Bulldog — with its short legs, short neck, and non-existent snout — isn’t able to reach too many parts of its body with its paws or mouth.

Human manipulation of the breed has led to far more severe, and less laughable, problems than that, including having heads so large most have to be born through C-sections. But they’ve adapted to the shape we’ve given them — at least in this regard.

They let the ground be their back scratcher. They roll over and squirm around on their backs — even though getting in and out of that position is sometimes a struggle.

To cope with that, they find a good hill, allow momentum do its job, and let the good times roll.

Wolfdog: A treasure among the trash

He goes by the nickname “Wolfdog.” Lives in Alabama’s great outdoors. And he spends most of his time, along with his dog, Bandit, picking trash — copious amounts of trash — out of the waterways.

It’s not a job. He doesn’t get paid. He says he does it out of his love for the planet and its wildlife.

“I’m not asking anybody for anything. I’m not a charity case. I ain’t a bum. I’m not a mooch,” says 55-year-old Cliff Skees. “But I do care about the environment. I care about wildlife. I care about human beings, but human beings, they take one look at me and they say, ‘Well, he’s just a piece of trash, you know.’

“Maybe I am. But then again, maybe I ain’t. I can look myself in the mirror and say I’m trying.”

We’ll go so far — despite the hard times he’s gone through in life — to cast a vote for “ain’t.”

And to point out that, most likely, a lot of those people who see him as “trash” are the same ones who so casually discard it, cluttering the waterways around Mobile, Alabama.

Skees is an unpolished gem, first discovered four years ago by Ben Raines, an environmental reporter for the Mobile Press-Register.

At the time, Skees was living the woods and was commonly seen with Bandit, gathering garbage from the shores from a canoe with these words painted on the side, “Be a critter, please don’t litter.”

Raines wrote a story back then about the man and his mission. He followed along as Skees — and Bandit, too — scooped up trash from the water and returned it to their base, where 140 bags full of garbage, stacked and numbered, sat.

“It was a startling sight, and a testament to just how trashy we Alabamians are, for even with that much trash picked up, so much more remained along the river banks,” Raines wrote.

Recently, Raines ran into him again — and found out that, while Skees’ mission remained the same, his situation has improved somewhat. You can read that second story here.

After the first story appeared, someone donated a pontoon boat to Skees, and he turned it into his base of operations.

Raines happened upon Wolfdog and Bandit again last week at a boat ramp on Chickasabouge Creek.

“They both looked prosperous and had a certain spring in their collective step. I immediately had the feeling some good fortune had come their way,” Raines wrote.

“Mr. Ben!” Wolfdog shouted, “You’ve got to see my rig. Things are different these days.”

bandit

Wolfdog then showed off the houseboat he had fashioned from the pontoon boat — one complete with solar panels, an electric motor, and other features that he fashioned out of recycled materials and some “backwoods hillbilly ingenuity.”

“The woodwork is top notch. Glossy marine varnish shines from every surface. There’s a bed, a table, a propane stove and several small windows. The framing for the insulated walls is aluminum, to better resist rotting. Everywhere you look, the craftsmanship is meticulous,” Raines reported.

An anonymous donor gave Skees the old 1979 pontoon boat after the first article appeared, apparently to support his one-man cleanup mission.

While friends donated items to the houseboat project, Skees receives no support for his efforts to keep the waterways clean — except that which Bandit supplies. When they are out in the canoe, Bandit will leap off to collect cups and plastic bottles in his mouth.

Wolfdog says he hopes to set a Guinness World Record for picking up trash, and he still dreams of finding some support from the local environmental groups.

“I can’t get nobody to help me. That’s what breaks my heart the worst. I can’t even get a thank you,” Wolfdog said. “I think they look at me and they see trash…

“I won’t give up. Get discouraged sometimes. But my best work, the best of my work, don’t come nowhere close to what I leave behind … There’s just no comparison. No comparison. Not nowhere close.”

Skees says it was on his first canoe ride that he fell in love with the solace of canoeing.

That trip is also when, seeing trash in the water, cleaning it up began his calling.

“For certain for sure,” he said. “There aren’t enough words in my vocabulary to talk about it.”

If you are interested in helping Wolfdog and Bandit with their mission, contact Raines at braines@al.com.

(Photo courtesy of Wolfdog)