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Tag: poop

Fecal responsibility: Boulder looks at DNA testing to track down poop scofflaws

poopquestionBoulder City Councilwoman Mary Young wants to know how feasible it would be to require DNA samples from dogs, and create a registry so that, through DNA analysis, poop left on city trails could be traced to dog owners.

She’s not suggesting every dog in Boulder be tested (yet) — just the estimated 35,000 with so-called “green tags” that allow them to romp off-leash on some of the city’s trails and greenspaces.

Young has asked that the issue be discussed at tonight’s City Council meeting, the Boulder Daily Camera reports. (Yes, it happens to be an April Fools Day meeting, but nobody’s joking here.)

I would hope Boulder looks not just at whether it can be done (it can), but at whether it should be — that city leaders consider, in addition to the price tag of such a venture, the ethics and implications and utter goofiness of it.

There’s a lot of dog-related technology I don’t like (click the banner at the top of this page for one example) and poop-detection technology is near the top of the list.

Not just because of its Orwellian overtones, not just because it’s heavy-handed, dictatorial, silly, creepy, intrusive and expensive.  It’s also because technology, unleashed, has a habit of oozing beyond the boundaries of its originally intended purpose — DNA-testing of dog poop being just such a case — and spreading into ever scarier realms.

The day could still come when your tossed cigarette butt, un-recycled soda can or expectorated phlegm could be traced back to you, which, come to think of it, might be a better use of DNA technology than that being offered by the dog poop sleuths.

Declaring war on poop, and bringing out technology’s big guns, is overkill. Especially when the real solution can be achieved by simply bending over and picking up what your dog leaves behind.

In case you haven’t been following our posts on this issue, here’s how it works:

Deciding unscooped dog poop is simply intolerable, homeowners associations, apartment complexes or government entities sign up with a company called PooPrints, which sends them the supplies needed for residents to take swabs from the cheeks of their dogs. Those are sent to Tennessee, and a doggie DNA registry is created.

After that, any pile of poop that is found can be gathered, packaged and sent to a lab in Tennessee, where it can be unpackaged and tested and, by comparing DNA markers, matched to an individual dog, assuming that dog’s DNA is in the registry.

The company lets management know who the poopetrator was, and the owner is fined $100 or so — or, if a repeat offender, perhaps told they and/or their dog should move somewhere else. Thereby a community is made safe from scofflaws, as well as, say, a grandmother whose back might have been hurting too much one day to pick up every last dropping left by her Shih Tzu.

Here in my current home state, North Carolina, apartment complexes in Winston-Salem and Wilmington are among the growing number of property management companies and government entities turning to PooPrints.

Yes, dog poop can be hazardous to our health, and harmful to the environment.

So can the feces of all the non-domesticated animals we live among, but don’t feel compelled to prosecute for pooping.

danriversludgeSo, too, can the dumpage of corporate entities, like the thousands of tons of coal ash spilled into the Dan River by Duke Energy, coating 70 miles of the river with toxic sludge.

That’s a little harder to pick up after, and, I’d suggest, at least as deserving of society’s consternation and oversight and vigilance as dog poop — even if punishing the culprit won’t make them change their ways. (Big companies, unlike the average dog owner, can hire lawyers to avoid fines, and, if unsuccessful, they just pass the costs along to their customers.)

Finding clean sources of energy — that’s a use of technology I like. Using DNA to solve murders  (and clear the wrongly convicted) seems a good use,  too.

But gathering, packaging and mailing dog poop so technicians in Tennessee can comb through it and test it, by comparison, seems a silly use of our technological muscles.

In Colorado, Boulder officials say dog waste on public trails is one of the most common complaints the city receives, so it’s not surprising that they’d turn to a company that claims to have the solution.

Eric Mayer, director of business development for BioPet Vet Lab in Knoxville, Tenn., said the company’s PooPrint service is used by private property management companies in 45 states and in Canada. Franchises are popping up all over, like Burger Kings.

So far, the company doesn’t have contracts with any municipalities, but officials have been in talks with a half dozen different local governments. He said he expects to sign the first municipal PooPrints contract with Ipswich, Mass., sometime this year.

Maybe, if poop detection continues to catch on, it would be good for the economy. Maybe, you too could have a fulfilling career as a dog poop laboratory technician.

But there are far better ways to spend our time and money, and far bigger problems more deserving of our rage. Between all the emotion, and all the technology, we seem to forget that we can simply …

Pick it up!

(Top photo, fake poop question mark, from Big Mouth Toys; bottom photo, sludge from the Dan River spill, courtesy of Dan River Basin Association)

How to keep dogs out of tree wells — NOT!

treesidewalk

Here’s a handy tip to keep dogs from doing their business in those sidewalk tree wells — one that works better than bricks, better than fences, and is all but guaranteed to keep those disease-carrying beasts from tainting our otherwise pristine urban tree life:

Take cuttings from thorny plants, like rose bushes, and spread them around the tree.

It may sound like a tip from Satan’s Helpful Household Hints (not a real book, to our knowledge). But it’s actually the advice offered by a Baltimore neighborhood association bedeviled by dog poop that’s not getting picked up.

The advice came in the January newsletter of the Fells Prospect Community Association.

“… You can make it clear that you don’t want pets approaching by planting thorny plants (roses, bayberry), or covering your tree pit with pine cones or cuttings from thorny plants that are uncomfortable for dogs to walk on. A sign will also encourage some people to move their dog to the next house.”

Of course moving on to the next house isn’t really the answer — is it? — unless dog and walker keep doing so until they are outside the boundaries of Fells Prospect, a neighborhood near Fells Point and Butcher Hill. Even then, the problem isn’t over. It has just moved somewhere else.

Even if every single resident of Fells Prospect adopted a tree well, nurturing it and the tree it contained (be it a live one or a dead one),  even if they filled said well with thorns, lead paint chips, discarded hypodermic needles and perhaps a few strands of barbed wire, that’s all — other than some canine and human casualties — that would be achieved.

This is a hardly a new issue. In big and densely packed cities, there are few options when it comes to dogs relieving themselves. Everything is so paved over that a tiny patch of turf or dirt surrounding a tree is the only place for dogs to go. So dogs go there. Responsible dog owners, at least, pick it up. But some dog owners, like some community association officials, are thoughtless and uncaring.

So the tired old battle wages on — escalating to levels that could involve bloodshed — when, if everyone would just pick up their dog’s feces, it could finally shut the whiners up, or at least most of them.

Setting booby traps that puncture and maim is not the answer.

It’s generally accepted that the best route is education, perhaps along with some enforcement of the law that threatens $1,000 fines for unscooped poop.

It’s generally true that a tree well that is well-maintained, with a healthy tree, and some flowers around it, will be avoided, if not by the dog, at least by their walker. Ace and I always tried to steer around those when we lived in Baltimore.  Sure, we’d come across dog poop on the sidewalk from time to time — just as we’d come across rats, both dead and alive, dirty needles and used condoms, and once in my backyard, a buried handgun.

cutthecrapBaltimore has bigger problems than dog poop. That’s not to say unscooped dog poop shouldn’t be addressed, only that it makes sense to do so with some perspective, in a reasonable matter that doesn’t involve installing weapons of mass destruction.

Alisa Peters, owner of You Silly Dog, was one of those that expressed concern about the community association’s advice: “It’s going to be uncomfortable and/or painful for the dog,”  she told the Baltimore Sun. “Why are we punishing the dog? It’s not the dog’s fault.”

Veterinarian Gregory Burbelo, owner of the Boston Street Animal Hospital, which advertises in the newsletter, told The Sun he plans to ask the association to retract its comments.

“It’s sort of trickery,” he said. “It hurts the dog but doesn’t serve as a warning to the owner to keep the dog out.” While a dog may have a fair chance avoiding a thorny bush planted in a tree well, sharp clippings spread across the ground could go unseen and lead to injuries.

Officials of the Fells Prospect Community Association declined to comment to The Sun, including Phyllis Fung, who co-founded Cut the Crap Baltimore last year to combat dog waste in the neighborhood. She’s the association’s secretary.

Making the issue even more thorny is the fact that residents don’t own the sidewalks, or the tree wells within those sidewalks, so they lack the right to install booby traps in the first place.

Worse yet, any such traps could injure not just dogs whose owners are scofflaws, but those belonging to law-abiding, poop-scooping owners as well.

“We’re ignoring the fact that we’re attempting to punish 100 percent of the animals for the issues of 10 percent of owners who are irresponsible,” dog owner and neighborhood resident John Lam told the newspaper.

“I’m hoping people will ignore [the suggestions]. There are are a lot of homeowners who think they own their tree pits and don’t realize they’re in the public right-of-way. I have a big concern that people will start putting stuff in the tree pits to hurt dogs.”

(Top photo by Gail Langellotto; graphic from Cut the Crap Baltimore)

Dung shui: Do dogs line up with the earth’s axis to do their business?

SONY DSC

I’ve often wondered why my dog Ace circles before he poops. He’ll go into a semi-squat, then, like a lazy Susan, make two or three revolutions before unloading.

Could it be he has an “inner compass” and is getting himself in line with the earth’s axis?

A new study suggests that canines line up along magnetic field lines to do their business. How they do that remains a mystery; why they do that perhaps an even bigger one.

Maybe they know something we don’t — we being so far removed from the natural world that we mindlessly let our toilets dictate the direction we face while defecating.

Who knows how much better off our digestive health might be, how much better aligned our chakras might be, if we all voided while facing directly north or south?

Whether there are benefits to parallel pooping — for humans or dogs — are not matters the Czech and German researchers addressed in their paper, recently published in Frontiers in Zoology.

Instead, the research focused on whether dogs – like cattle, deer and foxes – line up parallel to the earth’s axis when they defecate.

Over a two-year period, the researchers observed 70 dogs, of 37 different breeds, as they went on outings, and duly logged each urination (5,582) and defecation (1,893), as well as the direction the dogs were facing while doing the deed.

They say the results lend credence to the suggestion that dogs and other animals have some sort of internal mechanism that helps guide them in matters of pooping, and likely much more — at least when the earth’s magnetic field is stable.

The earth’s magnetic field is stable is only about 20 percent of the time during daylight, they note. But when looking only at those periods, dogs off leash seemed to prefer to poop with their bodies oriented along the north-south axis, the study said — facing either directly north or south. As for peeing, female dogs did that while aligned with the north-south axis, while male dogs preferred a northwest heading.

The researchers say that if dogs are capable of “magnetoreception,” it would open “totally new horizons for magnetobiological research.”

As for why the dogs do it in the first place, the authors said, “An answer may lie in the biological meaning of the behavior: If dogs would use a visual … magnetic map to aid general orientation in space, as has been proposed for rodents, they might have the need to center/calibrate the map now and then with regard to landmarks or a magnetic reference …We might think of this the same way as a human is stopping during a hike to read a map.”

In other words, maybe dogs use pooping as an opportunity to take stock, get their bearings, plot their next step and better understand their place in the universe.

Humans sometimes do that on the toilet, too, I’d venture, especially when they run out of magazines to read.

And while most humans don’t put much thought into what direction they’re facing during the act, or whether they’re aligned with the earth’s axis, there are  some who advise taking that under consideration.

In a cursory — highly cursory — search of the Internet, we found a website called Vaastu NaresH, which suggests a water closet that faces north or south will lead to increased health and happiness. Another feng shui-related website advised one’s entire bathroom face north — not so much to align with the earth’s axis, but because that’s where the malevolent spirits are.

(I’m not sure the malevolent spirits appreciate being honored that way, whether they might prefer that you, instead of offering a full view, shut the door and turn on the exhaust fan. Then again, they are malevolent.)

As for dogs, I’ve never noticed any consistent alignment when it comes to defecating. My dog Ace seems to be an omni-directional pooper, basing his stance on whether the sun is in his eyes, whether there’s something interesting to watch off in the distance in some particular direction, how urgent the situation is, or simply what point he’s at in his urgent and dervish-like pre-poop spin when nature finally calls.

Then again, what do I know? My toilet faces southeast.

Puparazzi: Celebrity’s dogs are fair game

finn seyfried

Are members of the paparazzi shifting their focus?

These days they seem to be shooting lower — if indeed it’s possible for them to go any lower — and focusing more and more on celebrity dogs.

It’s ridiculous, but understandable: Dogs, unlike celebrities, have to go out. Dogs, unlike celebrities, don’t object to photos being taken of them in an ungroomed state. Dogs, unlike celebrities, don’t file lawsuits.

But the even bigger reason is this: Dogs are more instinctual and spontaneous than most humans, and thus are more likely to do something outrageous — or at least something that the photographer sees as outrageous.

That, when you come right down to it, is what a paparazzo is after.

So when Amanda Seyfried’s dog, Finn, appeared to be humping another dog at the park, the image was captured and published on numerous tabloid websites (and now, for scholarly discussion purposes, on this one.)

On TMZ.com, the photo was under the headline: “AMANDA SEYFRIED’S DOG RAPES OTHER DOG.”

(Maybe dogs should file lawsuits.)

When a dog humps another dog, it’s generally not news, just as it’s generally not news — not even tabloid news — when a dog poops, pees, drools or scratches him or herself.

True enough, Anne Hathaway made the news (or at least the Huffington Post) when her dog pooped — but that was because the actress promptly packed up the poopage and placed it on the windshield of the car belonging to the photographer who was following her and Esmerelda as they went for what was supposed to be a leisurely walk.

Hathaway may have felt she’d gotten vengeance, but she actually fell straight into the trap.

A celebrity doing something outlandish makes for a much better photo than a celebrity just walking down the street.

That’s the biggest reason celebrities are stalked with cameras — either because they have just done something outrageous or embarassing, or in hopes they will, once spotting the photographer, do something outrageous or embarassing.

I, for the record, have great respect for photographers. Some of my best friends are photographers. But photographers whose sole purpose is to track down, follow and provoke celebrities are even worse than humping dogs. They are annoyances, hard to shake off and best avoided, getting their kicks, and paychecks, by exploiting other people’s fame and America’s seemingly incurable addiction to celebrity.

As the paparazzi becomes more puparazzi (or pawparazzi, your choice), a celebrity’s dog, it seems, is falling under the same category as a celebrity’s unfashionable sweat pants, overflowing bikini/Speedo, or botched plastic surgery — fair game.

And while I have no major problem with them aiming their cameras at celebrity dogs out in public, the photographers and those who publish their images ought to keep in mind that, when it comes to dogs, pooping, peeing and humping are mostly natural behaviors that – while maybe one requires some slight correcting — don’t call for felony charges or 30 days in rehab.

One of the foibles of humans is that we like to build people up and then see them get knocked down — enjoying both their rise to glory and their fall from it.

We do it all the time with members of our own species, and especially with celebrities.

Let’s not do it to our dogs.

(Photo: SplashNewsOnline.com)

Pooparazzi: Anne Hathaway’s revenge

Anne Hathaway

Anne HathawayActress Anne Hathaway and her chocolate lab, Esmerelda, teamed up to leave a gift on the windshield of a photographer that was dogging the duo as they tried to enjoy an afternoon walk.

The Huffington Post reported that the “Les Misérables” star was walking her dog on the day after Christmas and found herself being followed by a man with a camera.

When Esmerelda pooped, Hathaway dutifully scooped it up in a yellow plastic bag, and knotted the top.

Then, the website reports, she placed the bag on the windshield of the unidentified photographer’s car and walked away.

Human poop poses problem for Berlin dogs

biodegradable pet waste bagsThe health hazards that unscooped dog waste in public places can pose to humans has been well-established, well-documented and well-hollered-about.

So — yucky as it is – it’s only right to share some news that shows the reverse side of the equation can be true, too.

According to a report from the German newspaper Tagesspiegel, dogs in Berlin are being sickened by human feces left in some public parks frequented by drug users.

Veterinarians say they’ve seen an increase in such poisonings.

Dogs who ingest the waste show symptoms that include shaking, dehydration and difficulty walking. Tests on dogs have found heroin and other illegal drugs present in their systems.

Vets say most cases took place in parks the city’s Treptow and Kreuzberg areas, where drug users are known to gather, especially at night.

Berlin-based veterinarian Reinhold Sassnau told Tagesspiegel that the poisonings are rarely fatal. Most dogs recover if they quickly receive treatment, which includes inducing vomiting. Otherwise, prolonged treatment might be required.

Just something to keep in mind next time you (or your dog) step in a  pile of dog poop (or is it?) at the park.

Thou shalt not poop

thoushaltnotpoop

When the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine decided it needed to do something about the increasing numbers of dogs pooping on its hallowed grounds, it turned not to a deity, but to a design firm.

That firm’s answer? A series of signs, using Old Testament verse as an inspiration, along with regular English, in smaller print, for those who might not get it.

The Episcopal church, something of a landmark in New York City, isn’t totally down on dogs. It hold a blessing for dogs and other creatures on St. Francis Day. And it doesn’t mind that it has become a popular spot with dog owners. It just didn’t like the mess.

The design firm Pentagram says the church didn’t specifically request humorous signs, but that seemed to be the best approach.

The signs read, “Thou shalt not poop (Please keep dogs off grass),” ”Hold close thy loved (Please keep dogs on a leash),” and “Collect what you receive (Please clean up after your dog).”

(Photo: Pentagram)

Much ado about poo in Spain

There might not be any town as intent — you might even say obsessed — with wiping out dog poop as Brunete, Spain.

First, officials in the town on the outskirts of Madrid launched a social awareness campaign, aimed at encouraging pet owners to pick up after their dogs.

Part of it included a remote control pile of poop on wheels, which approached citizens bearing the message “Don’t leave me, pick me up!”

“The amount of dog poo on our streets dropped considerably as a result,” a town spokesman is quoted as saying in this article.

When “volume” started rising again, the town opted for a sneakier approach — though it, too, has an in-your-face element.

In February of this year, officials in the town of 10,100 assigned 20 volunteers to patrol the streets in search of dog owners who don’t pick up after their dogs.

Upon seeing an offense, the undercover volunteers approach the owners and strike up a casual conversation — not mentioning the poop, just feigning interest in the dog and asking about its name and breed.

Once the dog walker departs, the volunteer would pick up the dog poop and put it in a box. Then, using the town’s database of registered dogs, they find out the address of the dog walker. Then they’d deliver the surprise package by hand to the pet owner’s home, along with an official warning.

If that weren’t embarassing enough, they film the reunions between dog owners and their dog’s poop.

Brunete Town Hall estimates the program has reduced the amount of unpicked up dog waste by 70 percent.

Officials aren’t sure whether it’s the threat of the fine, receiving a package of poop, or getting humiliated on camera that’s doing the trick, but they say the program seems to be working.

Health insurer get stinky response to advertisements mailed to family dog

sdTired of junk mail they were receiving from a health insurance company — all of it addressed to their pet — a family in Indianapolis struck back by sending along a little something from the dog.

The mailed feces was sent along with this note: “Your bulk mailer has purchased a bogus name. Our dog does not need Medicare insurance and has never written a letter nor called Anthem requesting such trash … When are these solicitations going to stop arriving? Well, let’s see if you like your trash back. What comes around, goes around!”

The family, pointing out they were tired of the insurance company’s “crap,” addressed the package to “Expert A–holes” and ended the letter by saying, “Bon appetite.”

Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield told police it was the second time in two months they’ve received dog feces in the mail at their Virginia Avenue office. A similar delivery came in March.

Police have passed the complaint onto the postal inspector, according to Fox 59 in Indianapolis.

Anthem employees sealed the latest shipment in a plastic bag to hand over to inspectors, according to RTV 6.

The most recent letter had a return address, but police were unsure if it was authentic.

Greetings from Bellaville, New Yorkie

I’m a proponent of spending more time with your dog, and less with your computer, but here’s an interesting, and interactive,  presentation from WNYC in New York, which has mapped out not just what breeds dominate the city’s neighborhoods, but what names as well.

Citywide, the top three female names for dogs are Bella, Princess and Lola; the top male names are Max, Rocky and Lucky and the top breeds are Yorkie, Shih Tzu and Maltese.

(Actually the most popular dog in New York is the mutt, and WYNC does report that elsewhere. Somehow they didn’t rate getting on the map, though.)

What’s the most fun though is scrolling through the boroughs to see where Lola tops Lucy, where Buddy beats Buster as the name of choice, and what breeds are, from neighborhood to neighborhood, most predominant. While Yorkies dominate most areas, there are enclaves where Labs and Chihuahuas and pit bulls are owned in the highest numbers. There’s a major English bulldog contingent in lower Manhattan, and pit bulls are the highest in number in Bed Stuy.

The list is based on information WNYC obtained from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which runs the city’s dog licensing program.

The feature has some other bells and whistles, too, including opportunities to play games and make a t-shirt.

Just after WNYC came out with its map, Gothamist put together an interactive map of its own – this back in January — claiming to show not where the dogs are, but where their poop is, or at least where it’s most complained about. The map shows what neighborhoods have the most barking dog complaints, too.

One wonders what would happen if those two interactive maps were to interact. Would that reveal large dogs named Brutus leave bigger droppings than Chihuahuas named Princess? That Sparky barks more than Snoozy?

Somewhere we have to draw line on all this interactivity with our computers — especially that share of it that’s presenting information that’s just everyday knowledge or common sense or entirely bogus.

In those cases, your time would be better spend interacting with the dog.

adobe x pro