Is that the “Look of Love” in Your Dog’s Eyes?

Dog Eyes

You know how some dog trainers caution to never look a dog directly in the eye – that it can be threatening or intimidating or send a negative message along those lines? And might even incite a dog to go after you?

Now this may be true if you run into a crazed-killer-mutant-mad dog like Cujo in a dark alley some night (in which case tiptoe slowly backwards, averting your gaze!), but I’ve found that confident, well-socialized dogs love nothing more than to have you gaze adoringly into their big brown peepers. The Look of Love!

In my case (with dogs whose eyes are actually the yellow/green color of a cat, because they are Weimaraners – whose eyes start out baby blue and then change around six months of age), Maisie and Wanda virtually insist that I look right at them when we are interacting. They sit and stare intently at me when I’m at the computer (for example right now Maisie’s eyes are boring a hole in my side, willing me to look at her and pat her!); then when I do stroke or scratch them, they always position themselves so they can look back right at me, as if to keep me engaged. And if I really lock eyes with them they just melt with happiness.

I’ve also noticed they are affected not just by my tone of voice, but by my facial expression – they are definitely studying my eyes and mouth. I have been curious if my expression affects them and to test it I have purposefully given them a big giant grin. It seems to me they respond in kind, opening their mouths slightly and, in Wanda’s case, becoming so ecstatic that she also makes a series of joyful, cup-brimming-over cooing sounds.

Now it turns out that our dogs’ expressions can reflect ours. The New York Times recently reported in an article that British researchers studied the facial expressions of dogs — in particular the muscle that raises the inner part of the eyebrows and makes their eyes look bigger. The study noted whether the person was paying attention to the dog or was turned away; at times the person was holding food and other times was empty-handed.

The study in the journal Scientific Reports showed that the dogs were more expressive when the person was paying attention to them, and that it didn’t seem to make a difference whether the person was holding food or not. The dogs reacted by sticking out their tongues and barking more when they did get attention, compared with when they were being ignored or given food.

“This simply shows that dogs produce more (but not different) facial movements when someone is looking at them,” Juliane Kaminski, the study’s lead researcher and a senior lecturer at the University of Portsmouth in England, was quoted in the New York Times article. There was also an opinion from Brian Hare, a professor and director of the Canine Cognition Center at Duke University (which was not involved in the study), who told The Times that these findings should be gratifying to any dog lover who worries that his dog only cares because he’s being fed.

I would add that having your dog’s full attention is actually a ”treatable moment” – something worthy of a fine little reward. Whether their attention is freely given in a spontaneous moment of trying to decipher your intentions or mood – or when you get your dog’s full attention in response to coming when called – or simply responding with a head tilt to hearing you speak her name – these are all good occasions to pull out a super dandy treat (Halo Liv-a-Littles work nicely here – my girls are partial to the liver cubes!) and reward the dog’s focus on your face. All while smiling broadly at her and gazing in mutual adoration!

Tracie HotchnerTracie Hotchner is a nationally acclaimed pet wellness advocate, who wrote THE DOG BIBLE: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know and THE CAT BIBLE: Everything Your Cat Expects You to Know. She is recognized as the premiere voice for pets and their people on pet talk radio. She continues to produce and host her own Gracie® Award winning NPR show DOG TALK®  (and Kitties, Too!) from Peconic Public Broadcasting in the Hamptons after 9 consecutive years and over 500 shows. She produced and hosted her own live, call-in show CAT CHAT® on the Martha Stewart channel of Sirius/XM for over 7 years until the channel was canceled, when Tracie created her own Radio Pet Lady Network where she produces and co-hosts CAT CHAT® along with 10 other pet talk radio podcasts with top veterinarians and pet experts.

Dog Film Festival - Tracie HotchnerTracie also is the Founder and Director of the annual NY Dog Film Festival, a philanthropic celebration of the love between dogs and their people. Short canine-themed documentary, animated and narrative films from around the world create a shared audience experience that inspires, educates and entertains. With a New York City premiere every October, the Festival then travels around the country, partnering in each location with an outstanding animal welfare organization that brings adoptable dogs to the theater and receives half the proceeds of the ticket sales. Halo was a Founding Sponsor in 2015 and donated 10,000 meals to the beneficiary shelters in every destination around the country in 2016.

Tracie lives in Bennington, Vermont – where the Radio Pet Lady Network studio is based – and where her 12 acres are well-used by her 2-girl pack of lovely, lively rescued Weimaraners, Maisie and Wanda.

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Chewy.com and HALO #GiveThanks with Lil BUB and Manny the Frenchie

Halo will donate $1 when you buy Halo dog or cat food at Chewy.com

To celebrate #GivingBack this month, Halo will donate $1 to disaster relief rescues in Florida, Texas and California for every Halo purchase on Chewy.com from November 12-22! Dog food donations will support the Manny & Friends Foundation, and cat food donations will support Lil BUB’s Big Fund for the ASPCA.

Halo has now added even more WHOLE meat, poultry or fish, and use OrigiNative™ (humanely sourced) Proteins, saying “NO” to factory farming, growth hormones, antibiotics, artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. And all our fruits and vegetables are now Non-GMO – sourced from farmland that prohibits the use of Genetically Modified Seeds.

Halo feeds it forward, donating over 1.5 million bowls annually. As always, Halo will donate a bowl to a shelter every time YOU buy. Thank you for helping #HaloFeeditForward.

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Former Stray Dog Becomes an Officer for the Marquette University Police Department

Maddie the Police Dog

Photo Credit: Wisconsin Humane Society

Cinderella had a pumpkin to help her find her fairytale ending. One stray dog in Oklahoma had an amazing multi-shelter transport program to help her go from a stray to an officer of the law attending a gala.

The beautiful tan and white dog was surviving on the streets before she was found and cared for by the Central Oklahoma Humane Society. That shelter, along with several others, participates in a transport program. Allie Christman, the Marketing Manager at the Wisconsin Humane Society (WHS), explained that WHS “partners with several other shelters across the Midwest and southern states in a lifesaving transport program that is growing. Sadly, many animal shelters are overcrowded and lack the infrastructure, staffing, and resources to help the volume of animals coming through their doors.…This is where we can help. We’re very lucky to serve a community that so readily adopts, and the majority of animals transported to us find homes within just a day or two.”

It was Allie’s shelter, WHS, that took in that tan and white dog, then known as Maddie. Dezarae Jones-Hartwig, the Youth Programs Manager at WHS shared with us, “the first thing I noticed about [Maddie] was her sweet, soft eyes. Sweet is the word that was constantly used to describe her.” Because Maddie was so sweet and loving, staff thought that she would be a great fit for their People & Animals Learning (PAL) Program. In the nationally-recognized program, students work in pairs with one dog over two weeks. Dogs who participate in the program, spend their nights with a foster family. As the shelter explained on their Facebook post about Maddie, “PAL teaches reward-based dog training techniques, helps prepare shelter dogs for life in a home, and aims to increase the participants’ self-esteem and… skills like empathy and conflict resolution.” Maddie, according to Dezarae, “was so gentle that she quickly became a group favorite.”

Photo Credit: Marquette University Police Department

Photo Credit: Marquette University Police Department

Dezarae remembers “how much both kids adored her and how she provided them with such unconditional love in return.” In the program Maddie “learned and truly excelled at all the basics: sit, down, come, etc,” according to Dezarae. Nora Hart, a Program Specialist at WHS, got to spend a lot of time with Maddie, too. She described Maddie as “the perfect ‘office foster.’ She spent her afternoons with us in our office after the PAL Program and before her foster mom picked her up. We felt like we hit the jackpot as she was such a good girl, so loving and easy.”

Maddie’s overnight foster mom, Carolina Seidl, worked for the Marquette University Police Department (MUPD), and she was falling in love with Maddie. As soon as Maddie graduated from the PAL Program, the Seidl family adopted her and gave the sweet dog her forever name, Nattie. While talking with coworkers about the new addition to her family, Carolina realized that Nattie might be exactly what her department needed.

On August 18, the same day that her mom became an officer for the MUPD, Nattie was sworn into the department in a videotaped ceremony. She earned her official police vest and badge that day. Nattie isn’t patrolling the streets of Wisconsin looking for crimes. Instead, as MUPD’s “community outreach dog” Maddie is sniffing out opportunities to help students and the community have positive experiences with MUPD, as well as to comfort crime victims as needed. As part of her community outreach duties, Nattie has an adorable Instagram account with an impressive following! Dezarae shared that during PAL “Nattie learned and truly excelled at all the basics: sit, down, come, etc. All of these will help her in her new role. Not to mention the fact that she got to meet and interact with a bunch of different people and kids during PAL, giving her some great socialization skills.”

Funny enough, Nattie isn’t the first dog to graduate from PAL and find a job. Allie shared the story of Delta who came to WHS in 2012 “from an overcrowded shelter in Tennessee when she was only nine months old.” Like Nattie, Delta also went through PAL. Immediately after Delta graduated from PAL, a woman named Carol who had seen that Delta would soon be graduating from PAL “was first in line to adopt her. She knew Delta would be a perfect companion and potential service dog for her son, Nate, and it was a truly wonderful match,” Allie told us.

“All PAL dogs get adopted into loving homes and go on to be wonderful family companions – but Nattie’s story is extra special,” said Laura Nowlin, the Corporate Giving Officer for WHS. She continued, “To know that Nattie is not only in a wonderful forever home, but that she’s also out there serving our community and bringing joy to others daily is such a special thing!”

Allie agreed about Nattie being special. “Nattie is a true ambassador for shelter dogs everywhere and she’s a walking reminder of how many incredible companions are waiting at your local shelter,” she said. “I immediately followed her on Instagram (@mupdnattie) and I still get that burst of pride each time I see a new photo of her surrounded by smiling students. She brings so much joy and unity everywhere she goes and she’ll never know just how incredibly valuable that is to our community,” Allie added.

Allie also shared that Nattie will be attending WHS’s Paws & Claws Gala on October 21 and shared that the staff “can’t wait to catch up with her and hear all about life as a gainfully employed pup!” From stray to gainfully-employed and attending a fancy gala, it sounds like a happily-ever-after ending. We’re thrilled that Nattie is proving how capable and amazing shelter pets can be. It’s obvious from everything that the staff at WHS shared that this special dog is going to be a fantastic community outreach dog.

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What Do You Think About Paid Leave for a Sick Pet?!

Dog Sleeping

An article in the New York Times recently told of a woman who works at Sapienza University in Rome who asked for paid time off because her 12-year-old English setter needed surgery. “My dogs are my family, I had to be there for her,” she argued, when she was docked vacation time. With the intervention of an Italian animal advocacy group, the woman’s employer changed its mind and gave her paid leave to care for the dog instead.

Could Paid Leave for Pets Happen Elsewhere?
The New York Times article reported that paid leave for new pet owners, or those who need to care for ailing pets, has become part of some companies’ benefits programs. The Scottish company Brewdog allows one-week paid leave for employees who adopt a puppy. Several American companies offer bereavement days off when an employee’s pet dies, like the Seattle-based pet insurance company Trupanion, which gives a paid day off for pet loss as part of its benefits package.

What Do American Companies Offer?
ABC News did a piece on paid leave and pet needs and found that in addition to Trupanion, the pet-friendly Kimpton Hotel company offers paid pet leave for up to three days, for both salaried and hourly employees. While many companies don’t specifically have a pet bereavement policy, they do offer alternative ways for employees to manage mourning the loss of a pet. ABC News found that the software company VMware allows salaried employees to take days off to “unwind, unplug, and take care of themselves and their loved ones,” which can be used for pet loss. Mars Incorporated, which owns the pet nutrition company Mars Petcare, offers a paid day off for those who have lost a pet: the company told ABC News that they also selectively offer “pet-ernity leaves” for those who have added a new pet to their family. Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream company was quoted as saying that although the company doesn’t have an official policy, “if an employee needed a few days off for bereavement, it would be granted.” The same is true for the cloud computing company, Salesforce.

A Global Elevation of the Status of Pets
Many of us take for granted the emotional importance of the pets in our lives, and the world at large is catching up with our personal experience. There is growing awareness of the importance of pets in society, with ongoing worldwide studies about the emotional and intellectual abilities of dogs and cats and the value of our relationships with them. Now this topic of paid time off around the issue of pets is a real game changer. The power of that relationship becomes truly validated when you get down to the financial nitty-gritty of companies that are forfeiting productive work days for their employees – and in addition paying them for that lost time – so they can be with a pet or mourn his loss. Let’s be grateful that pets have reached a new high in the eyes of societies around the world – officially acknowledging what we’ve all felt for such a long time.

Tracie HotchnerTracie Hotchner is a nationally acclaimed pet wellness advocate, who wrote THE DOG BIBLE: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know and THE CAT BIBLE: Everything Your Cat Expects You to Know. She is recognized as the premiere voice for pets and their people on pet talk radio. She continues to produce and host her own Gracie® Award winning NPR show DOG TALK®  (and Kitties, Too!) from Peconic Public Broadcasting in the Hamptons after 9 consecutive years and over 500 shows. She produced and hosted her own live, call-in show CAT CHAT® on the Martha Stewart channel of Sirius/XM for over 7 years until the channel was canceled, when Tracie created her own Radio Pet Lady Network where she produces and co-hosts CAT CHAT® along with 10 other pet talk radio podcasts with top veterinarians and pet experts.

Dog Film Festival - Tracie HotchnerTracie also is the Founder and Director of the annual NY Dog Film Festival, a philanthropic celebration of the love between dogs and their people. Short canine-themed documentary, animated and narrative films from around the world create a shared audience experience that inspires, educates and entertains. With a New York City premiere every October, the Festival then travels around the country, partnering in each location with an outstanding animal welfare organization that brings adoptable dogs to the theater and receives half the proceeds of the ticket sales. Halo was a Founding Sponsor in 2015 and donated 10,000 meals to the beneficiary shelters in every destination around the country in 2016.

Tracie lives in Bennington, Vermont – where the Radio Pet Lady Network studio is based – and where her 12 acres are well-used by her 2-girl pack of lovely, lively rescued Weimaraners, Maisie and Wanda.

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The Best (and Last) Dog Bowl You’ll Ever Buy

I had a “light bulb” moment recently about the cleanest, most comfortable and healthy way to feed my dogs – one of those “Ah duh!” moments where you hit your forehead with the bottom of your palm and say, “Why didn’t I think of this sooner?!”

Like me, you may be one of those dog owners whose house (and basement) are full of many different styles and types of dog beds your dog doesn’t really like – and just as many types of rejected dog bowls, too. It’s my belief that many dogs would lodge a complaint about their feeding bowl if you put up a Suggestion Box.

Do You have a Pug or Bulldog?
If you have one of the bracephalic breeds – a Boxer, English Bulldog, Pug or Puggle, French Bulldog or an Affenpinscher – those short-snorted dogs have additional challenges in trying to get their flat little faces into deep bowls with high sides. And my dog bowl solution suits them best of all!

The Long List of Discarded Bowls
Do you have bowls which are gathering dust under a cabinet because your dog wasn’t all that comfortable using it – or you weren’t?

The too-light aluminum bowls that skitter around (and the dog’s collar tags jangle against it bothering you and him) (plus it turns out a lot of stainless bowls were made unsafely in China and have some sort of toxicity)?

Or the heavy ceramic bowls you need two hands to lift once filled, plus they are shaped like a casserole baking dish, with an inner shape that bears no resemblance to how a dog’s snout and mouth function, so she has to travel all around the bowl to get at the food stuck in the crevice…or just give up?

Or a plastic bowl that has gotten scratched over time and now you cannot reliably get it really clean because bacteria lingers in the scratched surface?

Or one of the many variations on raised feeders in decorative platforms – only to discover that raised feeders can actually be dangerous to proper digestion because it interferes with the way a dog naturally eats, putting her head down to the ground, the way a horse and many other animals naturally eat.

So What’s The Magic Solution?
You may laugh when I tell you what I figured out – because it seems too easy and obvious. Buy an ordinary glass pie pan! It can be Pyrex or another brand; it can have a plain edge or a fluted one. Every supermarket or kitchen store sells them and it will cost under $10. Get a size that is appropriate to the size of your dog – anything from small (intended for making individual quiches or tarts) to the large circumference for big pooches like my Weimaraners. And glass pie pans are indestructible: I have a soapstone sink and even if the dish slips it doesn’t break. You can see perfectly when they are clean – and every so often they pop right into the dish washer where their agreeable shape fits nicely. Your dog will find the pie pan’s flat surface lovely for comfortably slurping up food, and if your dog is a wolf-it-down type, the spread out surface actually can slow them down.

Best Dog Bowl

My Dogs’ Dinner
Maisie and Wanda each get a smorgasbord for their meals. The basis of their diet starts with a scoop (or 1 1/12) of their Halo kibble (they appreciate the earth and animal friendly new recipes!) and then there is a scoop of low fat cottage cheese (or sometimes it is scrambled eggs instead) and a spoonful either of home-cooked ground turkey or chicken, string beans and oats (as you see here) or for their second meal of the day I use a big spoon of canned Halo food – the salmon (wild caught), chicken (cage free) or (hormone-free) beef.

Get yourself a glass pie plate and it will be the last “dog bowl” you ever need to buy!

Tracie HotchnerTracie Hotchner is a nationally acclaimed pet wellness advocate, who wrote THE DOG BIBLE: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know and THE CAT BIBLE: Everything Your Cat Expects You to Know. She is recognized as the premiere voice for pets and their people on pet talk radio. She continues to produce and host her own Gracie® Award winning NPR show DOG TALK®  (and Kitties, Too!) from Peconic Public Broadcasting in the Hamptons after 9 consecutive years and over 500 shows. She produced and hosted her own live, call-in show CAT CHAT® on the Martha Stewart channel of Sirius/XM for over 7 years until the channel was canceled, when Tracie created her own Radio Pet Lady Network where she produces and co-hosts CAT CHAT® along with 10 other pet talk radio podcasts with top veterinarians and pet experts.

Dog Film Festival - Tracie HotchnerTracie also is the Founder and Director of the annual NY Dog Film Festival, a philanthropic celebration of the love between dogs and their people. Short canine-themed documentary, animated and narrative films from around the world create a shared audience experience that inspires, educates and entertains. With a New York City premiere every October, the Festival then travels around the country, partnering in each location with an outstanding animal welfare organization that brings adoptable dogs to the theater and receives half the proceeds of the ticket sales. Halo was a Founding Sponsor in 2015 and donated 10,000 meals to the beneficiary shelters in every destination around the country in 2016.

Tracie lives in Bennington, Vermont – where the Radio Pet Lady Network studio is based – and where her 12 acres are well-used by her 2-girl pack of lovely, lively rescued Weimaraners, Maisie and Wanda.

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