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Learning to Translate Their (Body) Language

Because you're in a rush, you call your dog in a somewhat irritated voice to come back to you once he's had his walk off leash. But just to get your goat, it seems, he makes his way toward you slowly — and in a curve rather than a straight line, which only makes him take longer. And the more annoyed you get, the more slowly he goes. So of course you scold him once he gets to you.

Or perhaps you want your dog to do something, and his response is to act "stubborn," or perhaps "distracted." Maybe you're yelling at him to comply one way or another and all he does is sniff the ground.

Identifying Canine Stress

Our canine friends become stressed for the same reasons we do, says On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals. First and foremost, that means situations where they do not feel they can cope but also instances in which they feel the threat of pain or discomfort.

They show it by exhibiting calming signals — signals that, to another dog, are invitations to relax because no harm is meant. If you see these calming signals in your dog, try to figure out what you can do to limit his stress.

Coping With the Loss of your Dog

In his delightful book, Off the Leash, about a grown mans very first year with his very first, very beloved puppy, author Matthew Gilbert asks, Why get a dog when its life will end, probably before yours? He then goes on to answer the question: Because its worth the pain of loss."Like so many others, he had, as he puts it, begun to understand and accept the bargain. He acknowledges that his yellow Lab, Toby, would leave…someday. But, he says, I was blocking that fact as much as I could, successfully, rather than obsessing about his death so much that I forgot to enjoy him. I was not pregrieving him, just savoring him.

Do Unto Animals

Any reader of this newsletter has got to like a woman who writes a book about animals in general but entitles a chapter near the beginning, The Dog: I Have to Admit, Hands Down My Favorite. That woman is Tracey Stewart, who followed her heart more than 15 years ago and left the field of design to become a veterinary technician, or animal nurse. Her love of animals started with dogs - well, one dog in…

Bet You Didnt Know…

1. At the beginning of the twentieth century, pit bulls were among the most popular family dogs, even given the moniker nanny dogs. In the 1980s, they became the dog of choice for drug dealers, dogfighters, and gangs, living in deplorable conditions and becoming aggressive as a result of their circumstances. Much of their …

When a Pet Dies

When I was little and didnt have a sister yet, my best friend was a brown, wire-haired mongrel named Mitzi. We shared joyous times, exciting times and sad times. We got scared together when there was thunder and lightening, and together we crawled under the bed until they went away. When I wasnt scared of them any more, Mitzi still was, so I comforted her and felt all the braver.

When Youre Done with Sit, Stay, and Down, Theres Brain Games for Dogs

Many people will teach their dog the basic commands and then declare him trained, says zoologist and applied animal behaviorist Claire Arrowsmith. But, she adds, I often think how frustrating it would be for us if our education ended when we were still in childhood. If we had to keep on repeating the same lessons over and over again, we would all soon get bored….Think about how many limitations that would put on your lifestyle and your ability to interact appropriately and cope in this world.

Off the Leash: A Year At the Dog Park

Matthew Gilbert, by his own account, was that guy who rolled his eyes at people who treat their dogs like children. Dogs were dirty and scary, he says in his recently released book, Off the Leash: A Year At the Dog Park (Thomas Dunne Books). He even once spent a night sleeping in the bathroom, using a roll of toilet paper as a pillow rather than facing his college roommates dog, who was hankering for a play date with him on the other side of the door.

How Do Dogs Love Us?

Youve got to like a guy who asks potential employees whether theyre a dog person before hiring them to work in his lab. (Second best is a cat person, he says, and an answer of neither is worst of all.) Youve also got to like a guy who decries what he calls the disgusting industry of breeding dogs solely for the purpose of using them in research experiments and who in fact will enroll…