Archive for the ‘pets’ Tag

Canine Communication   Leave a comment


A few weeks before my birthday one of my sons asked what I’d like as a gift. I gave him a very specific idea, which he pointedly ignored. Instead he gave me How to Speak Dog: A Guide to Decoding Dog Language. Written by Aline Alexander Newman and Gary Weitzman, a vet and president of the San Diego Humane Society, this fun, informative manual actually helps me to better understand my dog.

I spend a lot of time with my dog, Jackson, so I have always felt in tune with his actions. After reading this guide, I realize I was off-base on some points, but on the mark for others. For example, tail wagging. I erroneously thought all wagging tails were signs of dogs’ playfulness and excitement. This isn’t necessarily true, according to the authors. Occasionally it indicates fear. The way to tell is if only the end of an otherwise high stiff tail wags. The happy wag, on the other hand, is rapid and usually a large sweeping arc-like motion.

History of dogs, attributes of a variety of breeds, different types of barks, movement of ears, yawning and other forms of nonverbal communication are all addressed. Photos, illustrations, scenarios and resources help round out the content. This is a fun, easy-to-read book that most dog owners should find useful.


This probably is not a book I would have chosen on my own, but this time I appreciate that my son decided to ignore me – please notice that caveat: this time.

How to Speak Dog: A Guide to Decoding Dog Language
Three Bookmarks
National Geographic, 2013
176 pages


Who Walks Who?   3 comments

Dog NationI confess, my dog has me tied around his leash – literally and metaphorically. I love my dog; my kids love my dog; the jury’s still out on my husband, though.

I’ve had three dogs in my adult life. All hold special places in my heart, but with Jackson, my German Short Haired Pointer mix from the humane society, I feel something different. I think I know more now, and I should. Afterall, I’ve spent more time, more money, more efforts to train him and more affection on him than I like to admit. As Michael Schaffer points out in his book, One Nation Under Dog, I am not alone.


Schaffer examines the emotions and economics of dog ownership in the U.S. The two factors are closely aligned but it’s clear Schaffer puts emotions in the driver’s seat, why else would we dog owners be part of a $43 billion industry that continues to grow, and in some ways, has evolved as somewhat bizarre?

In a conversational tone, Schaffer recounts the many ways humans and their pets (primarily dogs and cats to a lesser extent) cohabit. He shares his personal experience as a dog owner, provides anecdotes from other owners, and interviews professionals: vets, trainers, dog walkers, breeders. He addresses everything from food to pet accessories. His research also includes legal concerns, dog parties, and dealing with the loss of a pet. The details eventually begin to bog down. Fortunately, Schaffer’s point of view includes a sense of humor and irony.

One Nation Under Dog
Adventures in the New World of Prozac-Popping Puppies, Dog Park Politics, and Organic Pet Food
Three-and-a-half Bookmarks
Henry Holt and Co., 2009
288 pages, including notes