Call it an “aha” moment for the AHA: The American Heart Association has finally, officially, recognized that dogs are good for the ticker.
Last week, the organization issued a statement saying enough evidence now exists to make that assertion, and it didn’t even recommend dogs be taken in moderation, or consulting your doctor first.
Heartening as the news release was, the statement was overdue, or at least a few beats behind the thinking of those of us who already knew, and didn’t need studies to tell us, that our dogs are good for the heart, by which I mean the organ and more.
Dog owners are more likely to get exercise. Stroking a dog lowers blood pressure. Stress is handled better by dog owners — even when their dog isn’t with them. Studies have proven all those things.
But the mysteries of what dogs do for the heart, and the soul, have only begun to be unraveled. And on top of all the benefits to humans that can be scientifically confirmed and quantified, there’s much more dogs do for us — much of it undetectable by microscopes and double-blind studies, and part of me hopes it always will be.
Being humans, we can sometimes get so wrapped in measuring something that it interferes with treasuring that something. We can get so intent on delving into something’s complexities that we fail to savor its simplicity.
Dogs, could they speak, would tell us that, and they’d likely advise to look for the simple answer first.
How important, heart-wise, is the simple fact that a dog can give us reason to live, and love? While I am not a medical professional, or even a medical amateur, I think a heart that’s engaged and occupied is more likely to keep running smoothly than one sitting empty in the garage, getting dusty.
“Perhaps when one owns a pet one tends to be happier,” said Dr. Glenn Levine of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, who led the committee that wrote the statement. “Pet owners might be more likely to take their medications and eat healthier meals.”
Pharmaceuticals and spinach, important as they may be, don’t make you happy to be alive, though, and want to continue in that state.
The AHA isn’t saying everyone should go out and adopt a dog to lower their risk of heart disease. The statement emphasizes there’s much more involved in keeping your heart healthy, according to an NBC Today report.
“We did not want people to see this article and just go out and adopt or rescue or buy a dog …while they continue to just sit on the couch and smoke cigarettes,” said Levine, himself a dog owner.
In one study cited by the committee, researchers signed up 30 people with borderline high blood pressure who were about to adopt dogs from a shelter.
Then they persuaded half of them to wait — in the best interest of the study, if not the dogs.
Those allowed to adopt dogs right away had lower blood pressure two and five months later than those who had not adopted.
And once all the study participants had adopted dogs, systolic blood pressure was found to be lowered in the deferred-adoption group as well.
The study didn’t say whether those that adopted had lower blood pressure than those who bought dogs. Nevertheless, and even though I’m not a doctor, that’s what I’d prescribe.
Posted by John Woestendiek May 13th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aha, aha moment, american heart association, animals, benefits, blood pressure, doctors, dogs, exercise, health, heart, medicine, official, pets, research, science, statement, stress, studies
On warm adobe
A lizard’s doing push-ups
I’m not so inclined
(Highway Haiku is a regular feature of “Dog’s Country,” the continuing tale of one man and one dog spending six months criss-crossing America. “Dog’s Country” can be found exclusively on ohmidog! To read all of “Dog’s Country,” from the beginning, click here.)
Posted by John Woestendiek July 11th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace does america, adobe, animals, dog's country, dogscountry, exercise, highway haiku, lizard, new mexico, ohmidog!, pets, push ups, pushups, reptile, road trip, santa fe
A new study confirms the notion that self-control is a limited resource, one that can and does get depleted — in humans and dogs.
And glucose, the study says, is one solution to helping us — whatever our species — stay on task, Miller-McCune magazine reports on its health blog.
The University of Kentucky study, which appears in the latest issue of the journal Psychological Science, says the same mechanism that regulates human self-control also operates in canines.
A research team led by psychologist Holly Miller conducted two experiments with canines, observing how much persistence they exhibited when given a task.
In the first, 13 dogs were separated into pairs based on their training history. One from each pair was cued to sit and stay by its owner for 10 minutes, with the command being repeated as necessary. The other was simply kept in a quiet room for that same amount of time.
Afterward, each dog was given a Tug-a-Jug toy, a clear cylinder containing treats that can be accessed via a hole at one end — if the dog manipulates it properly. Each toy contained half a hot dog, too large to fit through the hole.
The dogs that had exercised self-control by sitting in place for 10 minutes gave up and discarded the toy more quickly than the others.
In a second experiment, 22 dogs repeated the first experiment with an additional component: Half the dogs were given a glucose drink prior to grappling with the toy, and half were given a sugar-free beverage.
“Dogs given a glucose drink persisted in interacting with the toy whether or not they had had to exert self-control prior to the test,” the researchers report, adding the glucose apparently replenished the animal’s capacity to keep at the task.
Previous research has shown glucose has a similar effect on humans.
“People can control their own behavior,” Miller said. “When they fail, it is not because they are terrible or weak; it is because they are depleted … If they want better self-control, they can build it. They can encourage their bodies to store more self-control fuel via exercise.”
Posted by John Woestendiek March 18th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, canines, depleted, dogs, exercise, experiment, glucose, holly miller, humans, news, persistence, pets, replenished, research, science, self control, study, tasks, university of kentucky, willpower
Here’s the lowdown on America’s new top dog, courtesy of the American Kennel Club.
Breed: Scottish Terrier
AKC Name: CH Roundtown Mercedes of Maryscot. (Sadie’s father and his littermates were all named for cars.)
Age: 4 years
Residence: Rialto, California
Biggest Wins: “National Champion” at the 2009 AKC/Eukanuba National Championship; Best in Show at both the 2009 Montgomery County Kennel Club and Philadelphia Kennel Club Dog Shows; won the Terrier Group at the 2009 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Seventy-nine Best in Show wins in 2009.
Favorite Pastime: When she’s not at home playing in the backyard or snuggling on the couch with her handler, Gabriel Rangel, Sadie loves being at dog shows. She loves the attention, the roar of the crowd and the treats she gets in the ring, the AKC says. When judges look at her, she looks back and makes it clear that she expects to be admired.
Favorite Treat: Sadie loves hot dogs made from organic chicken.
Exercise regimen: A long walk in deep grass in the morning and afternoon workouts on her treadmill
Beauty Regimen: Daily brushing, with a hair trim early in the week; on the morning of a show, she is bathed and blown dry.
Pedigree: Sadie is descended from the 1967 Westminster Kennel Club Best in Show winner Ch. Bardene Bingo. Bingo’s handler, Bob Bartos admires Sadie so much that he lets Sadie use Bingo’s show lead.
Fetishes: Sadie has a penchant for footwear. If a closet door is left open, Sadie helps herself to the lining of Rangel’s shoes.
Best friend: A Chihuahua named Tad.
Sleeping habits: In bed with her human family.
Posted by John Woestendiek February 18th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: akc, american kennel club, animals, beauty, best in show, california, dog show, dogs, exercise, family, fetish, grooming, habits, mercedes of maryscot, owner, pets, purebred, rialto, sadie, scottie, scottish terrier, shoes, statistics, trainer, treats, vital, westminster, westminster dog show
Here’s a nutty, and muddy, little story — one we’ll tell in pictures and words.
All the pictures were taken Sunday, at Riverside Park in Baltimore, where after three straight days of rain, sunny skies had finally prevailed, along with temperatures so toasty that the squirrels took a break from hoarding their nuts to eat some, and the homeless guys — usually up and gone by mid-morning — slept in.
It was really more like a spring day, except for the turning leaves, hitting their peak of redness on some trees, burning bright orange on others. Those already brown and fallen, after three days soggy, were starting to regain their crunch under the warming sun.
Football and softball games were getting underway on the sports fields — never mind the puddles. Parents and children filled the swings and slides in the fenced-in play area.
And dog walkers were out in abundance — some with their pets on leash, some of whom had let them off, which, in this particular park, as of now, is against the law.
Nevertheless, a lot of us do it — keeping an eye out for the white animal control van while we let our dogs enjoy a little freedom, exercise and squirrel chasing.
It was one of those free and easy, good to be alive, laid back Sunday mornings — quiet but for the happy squeals of children, the chirping of squirrels and that thwickety thwickety noise of dogs charging through piles of leaves — when what should appear but …
The white animal control van. Usually the animal control van keeps to the paved paths, stopping to warn those with their dogs off leash to hook them up, sometimes writing citations, which carry a $200 fine.
This animal control van was — for reasons unknown — driving through the grass, which, in addition to not being good for the grass, could prove problematic for homeless guys sleeping thereon, not to mention children playing, families picnicking, or squirrels a scurrying.
Anyway, the animal control officer pulled his van to a halt in the grass, apparently to confront some lawbreakers, and when the time came to leave, he couldn’t. The van’s back wheels became mired in the mud, sinking deeper the more they spun.
The officer called for a tow truck and, about an hour later, one arrived. Its operator attached a chain to the animal control van’s axle and hoisted it out of the muck.
While his van was being saved, the animal control officer found the time to take some photos of off-leash dogs running in the distance. That’s what his camera was pointed at, at least. Then again, maybe he was just shooting the foliage.
Once freed, the van departed the park, leaving some big muddy ruts behind.
It’s unknown if the animal control officer issued any citations Sunday morning — and if so, whether the revenue those bring in will be enough to cover the towing fee and other damages left in the wake of his morning patrol.
After freeing the bogged down animal control van, the tow truck operator acccidentally hit a bolted-to-the-ground trash can, which he then used his truck to bend back into an upright position before pulling off.
Maybe sending animal control officers to hunt for unleashed dogs walking in parks with their owners — as opposed to cracking down on abuse, neglect and dogfighting — is a legitimate use of their time. Maybe citing the owners of dogs who are bothering no one, and who no one has, specifically, complained about, makes the city a safer place. Maybe it’s not just a heavy-handed, wheel-spinning waste of tax dollars.
But the only visible marks left by yesterday’s patrol were these:
(Photos by John Woestendiek/ohmidog!)
Posted by John Woestendiek November 16th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal control, baltimore, chase, citations, city, dog, dog parks, dogs, exercise, fall, fines, government, grass, homeless, law enforcement, laws, leash law, leaves, legal, mud, off-leash, officer, parks, photos, recreation, riverside park, run, spinning, squirrels, stuck, tax dollars, tickets, tow truck, trash can, unleashed, van, wheels
I’m not going to make fun of this study. I’m not going to make fun of this study. I’m not going to make fun of this …
Ah, I can’t resist.
If that sounds like a no-brainer — one of those things that perhaps man could figure out without an expensive study – consider this: “An early look at the data shows that the dogs who walk the most steps have a better body condition score.”
In all fairness, there’s more to the study than determining whether exercise is good for us and our dogs; and dog walking habits could, if properly approached, make for some pretty interesting reading.
Basically, I see three types of dogwalkers: Those who jog with their dogs, clearly getting exercise; those who hike or walk laps with their dogs, also getting exercise; and those who take their dogs to the park and let the dogs get all the exercise while they sit on the bench, yap with fellow dog walkers, smoke, or talk on cell phones.
In defense of the latter group, it should be pointed out that we they, are still getting exercise by virtue of walking to the park, and that, rather than being total slouches, they may prefer to let their dogs playfully romp and socialize off leash with other dogs — thereby getting even more exercise (the dogs, anyway) than they would by being walked in boring circles on a rope.
It should also be pointed out that members of the more sedentary latter group — while violating leash laws — are also allowing their dogs to gain social skills, and, perhaps, honing their own in the process.
But back to the study. Cornell researcher Barbour Warren says they are analyzing everything from how much dogs and humans actually walk together to human attitudes, and the decisions to walk the dog or not walk the dog.
“We’re trying to get people to make small changes in the amount of food they take and the amount of physical activity they take,” says Warren, “and finding out how dog walking might be involved and how typical veterinary practices might be involved in helping more.”
Warren says the study stems from the rise of obesity in the USA and obesity-related illnesses, including cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and arthritis. More than two-thirds of the people across the nation are overweight and one third are considered obese. Dogs are increasingly falling into those categories as well.
“We became interested in trying to prevent weight gain,” he says. “Dog walking offers two of the key elements for regular physical activity, purpose and companionship. Dogs can provide both of these in spades.”
The goal of the study is to develop the necessary data and tools to build a program to combat obesity by increasing dog walking as a form of family exercise.
Posted by John Woestendiek August 18th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: cornell, date, dog, dog walking, dogs, dogwalking, exercise, humans, obesity, overweight, research, skills, social, socialize, study, university, walking, weight gain
About 200 children in east London were given pedometers to automatically count how many steps they walked and ran each day as part of a research study.
But when the researchers at Mile End Centre for Sports and Exercise Medicine reviewed the results, they couldn’t figure out why some of the fat kids could be so fat, based on the amount of exercise the pedometers showed they were getting.
Turns out the little scamps were attaching the devices to their dogs’ collars.
The pilot study in Whitechapel required 11 and 12-year-olds to clip a pedometer to their waists, with researchers at the centre collecting the readings by satellite, according to a BBC report.
“But after a week we found there were some kids who were extremely active but still obese,” said Professor Nicola Maffulli.
It was “not unheard of” for participants in previous studies to manipulate the readings of pedometers, he added. Once adjusted to take into account the help from pets, the study indicated that boys in the borough walk or run 12,620 steps a day, below the recommended level of 15,000 steps. Girls were found to take 10,150 steps, falling short of the recommended 12,000 steps.
It indicated that more than a third of 11 and 12-year-olds in the borough of Tower Hamlets are overweight or obese – 11% higher than the national average.
The borough’s dogs, on the other hand, are looking quite fit.
Meet my new hero — Raleigh, the dog. I’m thinking of taping his picture to my refrigerator.
Raleigh, through diet and exercise — and we all know that, unfortunately, is what it takes — dropped 100 pounds in just over three years.
Raleigh weighed 60 pounds when owners Jane and Jay Whitehead of Oconee County adopted the then one-year-old mixed breed at a Gwinnett County animal shelter about six years ago.
But, as the Athens Banner-Herald points out in a lovely story about Raleigh’s weight battle, he just kept growing – sideways.
By February 2006, Raleigh was a Goodyear blimp on legs, ballooning to 187 pounds.
The Whiteheads tried cutting back on Raleigh’s food, and took him to their vet, who found no disorder. Other than his weight, he was perfectly healthy.
He couldn’t walk more than a few steps at a time before he flopped over on his side, and it would take three people to get him up again, his owners said.
“It just kind of equates to people you see on TV that are so obese they can’t get out of bed. That’s what he was,” said Jane Whitehead, the chief financial officer for a Gwinnett County company. “You just don’t know what to do. He had no quality of life, but nothing seemed to help.”
In late 2005, the Whiteheads’ vet referred them to Sherry Sanderson, a professor in the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine’s department of physiology and pharmacology who was beginning a study on a new weight-loss drug for dogs.”
Raleigh turned out to be ineligible for the study, but Sanderson remained interested in his case, and suggested the Whiteheads began feeding Raleigh a specially formulated dog food that is low in calories but has the nutrients dog need. It was was provided free by the Nestle Purina PetCare Co., which also helped pay for the rest of Raleigh’s therapy.
That was the other problem. Raleigh was too far gone for normal dog exercise, but Sanderson asked one of her students to set up three-times-a week sessions on an underwater treadmill in the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Small Animal Hospital. The treadmill, most often used to rehabilitate dogs after surgery, allows dogs to move their legs without putting much weight on their joints.
The treadmill and new diet worked for Raleigh, who began shedding pounds. In a few weeks, he was able to walk short distances on his own.
By January 2007, Raleigh had slimmed down to 116 pounds, and by last April, he was down to 89. His owners are aiming for a goal weight of 70 to 80 pounds.
“After seeing what he did, I don’t think there’s any case that’s truly hopeless,” Sanderson said. “I hope he can be a motivator for others.”
Posted by John Woestendiek June 1st, 2009 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: canine, college, diet, dog, dog food, exercise, fat, food, georgia, gwinnett county, jane whitehead, joints, loss, medicine, obese, obesity, oconee county, overweight, pounds, raleigh, treadmill, underwater, university of georgia, veterinarian, veterinary, video, weight loss
But between busy schedules, foul weather and the recent rise in leash law fears here in Baltimore, wearing your dog out with a good romp can be difficult.
My spring schedule involves farmers markets, trips to see family and friends, graduations, cook outs, baseball games, and weekend journeys – all of which starts to eat into my time to exercise my border collie.
It has been made much worse lately by the monsoon season we have been experiencing — great for the crops, terrible for dog owners.
The soon-to-be-corrected hike in leash law fines to $1,000 really cut into the number of people taking their dogs to Baltimore parks, too, with many who once let their dog play off leash, turning instead to settling for a quick on-leash walk.
It’s harder to raise a dog in the city, harder yet when the weather doesn’t cooperate. A dog owner in an urban area has no choice. Assuming you don’t have a pricey doggie treadmill, you, like the proverbial mailperson, have no choice but to be out there – rain, sleet or snow. And even if you do have a yard, you still have to deal with snow covered fur, wet dog smells, and muddy paws. This April, soggy as it was, reminded me how important it is to have a variety of ways to exercise your dog in your own home.
So, I thought I would share a few:
1) Spend a couple minutes a day training your dog. If you have taken an obedience class or even watched Victoria Stilwell, you have some basic idea of how to teach sit. Running through a couple minutes a day with your dog on behaviors they already know, or things you want them to learn, will keep them out of trouble.
2) Play ball in the house. This is only an option if you aren’t an antique collector, and it won’t work for large dogs unless you live in a warehouse. But roll a ball across the room to your dog. Let him/her bring it back. Repeat. Keep repeating until one of you grows bored.
3) Present new or new-again toys. If your dog has toys that have fallen out of rotation, or that are no longer fun, take them away. Wash them, and hide them in a closet. When you have a rainy boring day, or a 10th rainy boring day, you might be surprised how excited your dog becomes for any kind of distraction. Other ways to make toys fun, even if they weren’t before, include burying the toys in kibble for a day to get it smelling like food, and inserting replacement squeakers because, as we all know, it’s all about the squeak.
4) Take a class. This is great in the dead of winter and in the sweltering days of summer. Sign up for an obedience class. The spaces are climate controlled and you will be amazed how tired your dog is after an hour of using their brain. It also helps you have options for training sessions in the house.
5) Mental Puzzles are another great option. You could buy a commercially available dog puzzle, such as the ones here. You could serve dinner in a food dispensing Kong. Even dumping kibble on the kitchen floor, putting it in a stuffed animal that has already been gutted, or turning dinner into a game of fetch will buy you some exercise credits.
6) Set up a play date. If you have friends with dogs that get along with your dog, set up a play date. Move the fragile stuff out of the room, and let them play. Better yet, find a friend with a garage and get a couple dogs together. Even an hour of romping and wrestling will wear your dog out. Some of the daycares and training spaces in Baltimore are available for rent in 15 minute increments during off times. We rent out our training space for play dates or practice sessions any day of the week.
The key to surviving rough weather with a pet that requires exercise is to find ways to entertain them. If none of the above seem to be enough, I can recommend a great place to buy rain boots.
Posted by John Woestendiek May 14th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ball, behave!, behavior, busy, challenges, city, class, day care, devices, dog, dogs, exercise, fetch, food, house, indoor, indoors, inside, kong, leash law, mental, new again, obedience, old toys, play date, puzzles, sit, squeakers, stay, time, tired, toys, training, training centers, treats, tricks, urban, weather
Baltimore city’s leash law – and the new $1,000 fine violators of it face – was alternately blasted and defended on WEAA’s Marc Steiner Show last night as four guests and numerous caller-inners voiced their opinions and offered solutions.
The city increased the leash law fine from $100 to $1,000 in February, then followed up with a crackdown on violators.
William Cole, the city councilman who, though he was among those approving the increased fines, is now seeking to have them lowered, and said last night that the majority of the council feels the same way.
Cole has also introduced an amendment to allow the city Recreation and Parks Department establish off-leash hours in designated areas of city parks.
Cole said he favors fines of $250 for a first offense, $500 for a second, and $1,000 for a third. But he also said, at one point, “I would hope that any animal control officer responding to a complaint is first going to give a warning.”
Cole also displayed some excellent hair-splitting skills when he said that the new law, while it does produce new revenue for the city, “is not a revenue-producing bill.”
And he was slightly off the mark when he assured listeners that a dog park in Latrobe Park in Locust Point – the first the city has chosen to take part in opening – would be ready in “in the next couple weeks … two months?” Mary Porter, design planner for the city Department of Recreation and Parks, then corrected him, saying, “end of the summer.”
Also on the program were Judith Kunst, a single mother and dog owner involved in the petition effort to reduce the fines (1,316 signatures so far), and Robert Joyce, a dog owner and lawyer who has offered to represent, pro bono, anyone fined $1,000 for having their dog off leash.
You can hear the podcast here.
Cole admitted that the city council wasn’t aware it was increasing the off-leash fine when it approved the bill, saying it was included in a category marked “other offenses” that no one seems to have bothered to look into. “Quite frankly, we didn’t pick up on it,” he said.
Posted by John Woestendiek May 5th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: baltimore, city council, dog, dog parks, dogs, Druid Hill Park, exercise, leash, leash free, leash law, leashed, marc steiner, parks, patterson park, radio, recreation, riverside park, show, unleashed, weaa, william cole