An Underdog Becomes Leader of the Pack.

The dogs at Tito’s Handmade Vodka offices and distillery are a constant reminder of the company’s mission to “unite with our friends, fans and partners to better the lives of pets and their families far and wide.”

by Anna Cooke

One of the very first employees of Tito’s Handmade Vodka was a dog named Dogjo. She was right by Tito Beveridge’s side when he started his distillery in 1997. It was the first legal distillery in Texas and the only crafts spirits distillery in the country, at the time.

During those early years, Tito’s Handmade Vodka was a one-man operation – from crafting and packaging to selling, delivering and dealing with paperwork. Beveridge and Jo often ate and slept at the warehouse. The 50-pound bags of dog food that Beveridge stored for Jo eventually attracted a revolving door of homeless pups, fondly called “distillery dogs.”

Beveridge has always said that he makes the vodka he likes to drink. “Since I was the guy making it, bottling it and selling it, I realized I couldn’t make something for somebody else. It was just fortunate for me that my palate falls into the bell curve of what vodka drinkers like.”

Taki
This is Taki, the current official distillery dog.

Tito’s Handmade Vodka grew and so did the number of dogs who hung around the distillery, as Beveridge continued to feed and take care of them. Today, the distillery is home to a handful of rescued dogs, including Taki, the current resident distillery dog who eats, plays and lives there. The dogs are a constant reminder of the company’s mission to “unite with our friends, fans and partners to better the lives of pets and their families far and wide.” Following the devastating destruction that resulted from Hurricane Harvey in 2017, it is no surprise that this dog-loving team came together to brainstorm the most effective and immediate ways to help those affected.

“When a natural disaster strikes, one of the largest groups affected is always stray and abandoned animals,” said Amy Lukken, Chief Joyologist of Tito’s Handmade Vodka. “We knew we would have to act quickly, even before the storm made landfall, in order to save as many animals’ lives as possible,” she added. The Tito’s team has an ongoing relationship with local animal shelter Austin Pets Alive! When they reached out for help, the Tito’s team provided as much support as possible, even as some of their own family members in Houston and surrounding areas would be displaced because of the hurricane.

Tito’s Handmade Vodka animal advocacy program, Vodka For Dog People, donated money to Austin Pets Alive! to help with the purchase of food, supplies and shelter for displaced animals after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas. More than 5,000 animals who were in Harvey’s direct path have been saved. Vodka For Dog People also gave locally to Wags Hope and Healing and Bailing Out Benji. On the people front, the company partnered with the American Red Cross with a dollar-for-dollar match of up.

Although Austin Pets Alive! and other Texas shelters have done a fantastic job at providing aid to these animals, disaster aid is still needed beyond the Texas border. The Tito’s team continues to help fund transportation methods for pets out of the Caribbean and Puerto Rico following Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

harveytruck
Tito’s employees and volunteers collecting donations after Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

Through the Vodka For Dog People (VFDP) initiative, more than 1,000 animal welfare nonprofits in over seven countries have been helped since its inception, six years ago. VFDP, which partners in more than 700 fundraising events each year, has been a permanent company-wide cause program for three years.

In Florida, VFDP has provided support to more than 50 different events and charities, including Vets For Pets Charitable Clinic in Tampa and Pet Pal Animal Shelter in St. Petersburg. “We expect those numbers will continue to grow as our Vodka For Dog People program gains more recognition and visibility, thanks to partners such as The New Barker,” said Beth Bellanti, Vodka For Dog People Program Manager at Tito’s Handmade Vodka. “The easiest way to get involved with Florida animal advocacy programs is by donating to local shelters and charities. We host VFDP events all over Florida,” Beth added. By the way, we saw a beautiful raffle basket of Tito’s Handmade Vodka with fun goodies at Manatee County Animal Services 4th Annual Adopt-A-Palooza  this past Saturday.

Vodka For Dog People is the perfect legacy to honor Jo, Tito’s first companion dog, almost 21 years ago. “Everyone has an incredible rescue story, including those of us who have adopted dogs from the distillery,” said Beveridge.

Reflecting on those earlier days, Tito thinks about failure in terms of energy. Harkening back to his geophysics days (he graduated from The University of Texas with degrees in geology and geophysics in 1984), Beveridge said, “Energy isn’t destroyed. It simply changes forms.” He uses this knowledge to his advantage whenever he is struggling with a project. “Your first instinct is to blame everyone else,” said Beveridge. “But, don’t blame it on anyone. Wrap your arms around [the failure] and take the blame, so all the energy becomes yours. You can’t destroy energy. You can, however, change the phase.”

We’ll toast to that.

Ulele_Group_Tito
The marketing team for Columbia Restaurant Group invited Tito Beveridge to Ulele. The Tampa restaurant serves Tito’s Handmade Vodka.

The New Barker is a Florida-based lifestyle magazine all about dogs and the humans who love them. Featuring original stories with award-winning photography in each quarterly publication since 2006 – each cover of The New Barker features an original work of art by a different artist. Subscribe today. 

The Human+Dog Bond.

“Having a dog in my life completes me,” said Pam Stuart. The human+dog bond is one of the most beautiful things to stand back and observe. That’s just what we did while attending several dog agility events, recently, in Florida.

by Anna Cooke

Of all the things we’ve experienced over the last 12 years of publishing The New Barker, the bond between a dog and human is one of the most beautiful things to stand back and observe.

A few weeks ago, we checked out DACOF, the dog agility competition held at the Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee. The dogs competing were happy to be running, jumping and barking alongside their humans. People cheered each other on and there were a lot of atta boy and good girl praises, no matter the outcome of the agility run. Everyone was smiling, especially the dogs. Could it have been the bacon jerky treats?

Franklin
Marina, owner of ARTPool Gallery in St. Petersburg and her dog Franklin, were at DACOF in Kissimmee. “We closed the store to attend the event with Franklin,” she told us.

Sunday, July 29, 2018, we attended the annual Summer Games for members of the Upper Suncoast Dog Training Club (USDTC) in Clearwater. In addition to the fun and camaraderie, the event raised funds for Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), surpassing the club’s goal of $1,000. We had an opportunity to speak with some of the members and interact with their dogs.

MacGyver
Big MacGyver – His face can fix anything that’s troubling you.

Big MacGyver was heading outdoors for a potty break, toy securely in mouth, when we first saw him. The French Bulldog+Boston Terrier mix will be two in October. His human, a nurse, has been training with him at USDTC for about a year. Dressed in her uniform, she would be heading to the hospital to work the night shift after attending the Games. “I always take time out for my pup,” she told us.

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Janie_TinyTim
Janie and Tiny Tim. “He helps get me out of the house.”

Tiny Tim has titled in dog tricks, Beginner Novice obedience and Rally Novice. His human Janie has been a member of USDTC since 1981, when the club was located in Dunedin. She loves Afghan Hounds, but after her last Afghan passed three years ago, Janie realized her days running with a bigger dog were limited. But living without a dog was never a consideration. Tiny Tim, a Chinese Crested Powder Puff, came into her life almost three years ago. The career hairdresser told us, “I knew I had to have another dog with hair.” She said that Cresteds and Afghans have similar personalities. “They’re both very independent breeds.” she said. “I’m very proud of Timmy and his accomplishments. Besides, he’s going to keep me young for another 10 years.”

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Sid
Sid has earned the right to sit and observe the action.

Sid is a 15-year-old Schnauzer. The retired service dog has earned the right to be a quiet observer, lounging in his chair while his human competed with another dog. A cyst in his left eye required surgery to remove the whole eye. He now has bladder cancer, and is actually doing remarkably well. “He’s had a wonderful life,” said his human, who adopted him from the SPCA Tampa Bay. “He was just a puppy when I found him at the shelter, about to be put down because he had kennel cough.”

Lately, we’re hearing from quite a few of our readers, informing us of their dog’s passing. That’s the sad reality of having been publishing The New Barker since 2006. Sometimes, the deadlines and workload make the time seem like it’s been never-ending. But, for life with dogs, it’s never long enough.

IMG_9140_RansomBruce and his Newfoundland Ransom are regulars at a lot of dog-friendly events around the Tampa Bay area. The family’s Newfoundlands have been featured in The New Barker several times, over the years. We first met Ransom as a puppy, during a Clearwater Threshers Baseball Bark at the Park. During Sunday’s event, Bruce said, “Thankfully, for many of us, our dogs have been forever immortalized on the pages of The New Barker. I am happy to have saved the magazines over the years and enjoy revisiting them. Always good memories.”

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Callum
Callum, a four-month-old Vizsla.

Callum is Pam Stuart’s puppy. The club’s current president, Pam has been a contributor to The New Barker, writing about her favorite breed, the Vizla. Her contribution about gun dog broke dogs, was one of our most highly-commented-on pieces. She has since lost two of her own Vizslas, Monty, who passed a few years ago, and Pete, just within the last couple of months. She says of Callum, who is four months old. “I had to have another dog. I’ll always have a dog in my life. Dogs complete me.”

Pam_Stuart_Two_Dogs
Pam with Monty and Pete.

Excerpt from Broken Down Angel. Fixing The Spirit of a Broken Dog by Pam Stuart

“That dog is not gun dog broke,” observed George Hickox, a top dog trainer and handler. “That dog is just broken.” Someone yelled to Lonnie Spell, another dog trainer on-site: “Hey, Lonnie, you want that piece of crap?”

“I had to say yes,” Lonnie remembered. “It would have been easier to say no, but sometimes the easy thing is not always the right thing. And saying no would mean that pup was destined to be dumped in an after-hours outdoor run at a kill shelter with all the other dogs. It wasn’t my job to make this guy’s dump at the shelter easier, but taking that dog would be the right thing. It would save a life. And, I knew that dog.” ###

So, about those treats we mentioned before, whether they’re bacon jerky or another secret weapon handlers may use to gain a dog’s full attention. My conclusion, after observing so many dogs over the years, is that they will do anything – anything – for their humans in exchange for warm praise, a gentle touch and especially the simple gesture of companionship. Time spent with dogs is never wasted.

A few other dogs we met during the July 29 Summer Games in Clearwater.

Cruiser
Cruiser, a seven-year-old Sheltie. Crossing his legs is his favorite thing.
Lily
Lily is a Bichon Frise. She’ll steal your heart after she steals the photograph.
Star
Star is a five-year-old Jack Russell Terrier.

Upper Suncoast Dog Training Club (USDTC)  is an all-breed training facility in Clearwater, Florida. For 50 years has empowered people to become better dog owners through positive training and education. The classes are for every dog, from puppies to seniors; manners to competition. Classes offered include obedience, rally, agility, conformation, tricks and canine freestyle. They also offer therapy dog training for those who want to give back with their dogs to the community.

Dog Training Club of St. Petersburg

Dog Training Club of Tampa

Orlando Dog Training Club

Sarasota Obedience Training Club

Greater Ocala Dog Club

Imperial Polk Obedience Club

K-9 Obedience Club of Jacksonville

Obedience Club of Daytona

Miami Obedience Club

The Greater Gainesville Dog Fanciers Association

Marion-Alachua Dog Training Association

Fort Lauderdale Dog Club

Tallahassee Dog Obedience Club

Ochlockonee River Kennel Club

Dog Obedience Club of Hollywood

The New Barker is a Florida-based lifestyle magazine all about dogs and the humans who love them. Featuring original stories with award-winning photography in each quarterly publication since 2006 – each cover of The New Barker features an original work of art by a different artist.

The Dog Homefront: The Perfect Accessories for A Dog Lover’s Home.

Day trips are perks in our line of work. We meet new dogs and enjoy listening to humans tell their favorite  dog stories. Talking about dogs instantly puts a smile on everyone’s face and the room at ease. Here are some of our favorite stops over the last couple of weeks.
DUNEDIN
We recently met Charlie at Waterside Furnishings in Dunedin where “Dogs Are Allowed But Husbands Must Be On A Leash.” Charlie was born in Scotland and moved to Dunedin with his humans a couple of years ago. He has the sweetest face and the biggest Westie ears we’ve ever seen.
Charlie, the West Highland Terrier.
Our House a very fine house on Main Street in Dunedin has some beautiful treasures for the dog lover’s home and garden. Proprietor and fellow dog lover René Johnson has a special creative touch for retail. We fell in love with the outdoor accent sculptures, like this one. Cat Lovers, check out the Frida Cathlo art.
A variety of artisan dog sculptures for outdoor living rooms.
Cat lovers, you’ll find some surprises as well.

TAMPA’S HYDE PARK

Pottery Barn Old Hyde Park is having a Summer Sale and look what we found. Bulldog Bookends and a dog statue.

DADE CITY AND SAN ANTONIO
We’ve been traveling to and from Dade City for years, and enjoy our shopping visits at the always-evolving Dog Mania & Cats. On a recent visit, instead of heading straight out of town, we made a left at the light towards San Antonio. An old red brick building caught our eye, as did the sign of one of the businesses: Tangerine Hill – Red Dog Designer Home. The shop’s proprietor, Rose, is a dog lover and full of colorful stories, so naturally, her store has some surprising dog-themed finds. Afterwards, she insisted we visit with Uncle Johnny, next door, at San Antonio Antiques for some more surprises.
Fun signs and yard art at Tangerine Hill – Red Dog Designer Home.
Paper Towel Holder for Cat Lovers.
Porcelain dog figurines and cast iron dog candle holders.
Life size Standard Poodle glass statue at San Antonio Antiques.
Our new Wiener Paper Towel Holder from Tangerine Hill. Perfect!

 

Meeting Fellow Dog Lovers

Waiting (not patiently) for the newest edition of The New Barker dog magazine to come off the presses, it seemed like a good idea to attend a couple of dog events. Listening to what other people are dealing with, especially in the world of animal advocacy and dog rescue, puts things back into proper perspective.

First stop of the day: Heritage Park in Land O’Lakes, Florida for Woofstock, an event co-hosted by Friends of Animal Services. 

Koda_TheNewBarkerKoda’s Story (above), as told by his humans: As a puppy, he was left outside with his litter mates to fend for themselves. “Our dad found him on the side of a busy road. He was the only puppy alive. The others died while trying to get across the road,” said one of the two sisters with Koda. They nursed the pup, a Lhasa Apso mix, back to health. “And, 13 years later, here he is,” they said.

K9KnoxK9 Knox and Deputy Wilkins (above): Tracking is tough, as evidenced by the swamp track work done last month by K9 Knox and Deputy Wilkins. A vehicle, traveling southbound on US 41 at a high rate of speed, was the subject of a case in Hernando County. When the vehicle slowed, the driver jumped out and fled on foot into a densely wooded, swampy area. Pasco Sheriff’s K9 Knox and Deputy Wilkins, along with Corporal Andrew Denbo, tracked the subject through the swamp and located the suspect, who was almost entirely submerged in mud.

K9 Knox has been working on the department’s K9 team since November. “He’s an incredible tracker,” said Deputy Wilkins. “So, tracking with him is really fun.” At home, Knox is the family pet, receiving lots of love and attention from everyone. “But, as soon as his harness goes on, he knows he’s going to work. And he’s ready,” said Deputy Wilkins.

Here is a link to a video of K9 Knox during some down time Deputy Wilkins. We love the hop, hop, hop…and that tongue!

We met Scarlett, below, an adoptable with Skyway Dachshund Rescue…

PCAS_TheNewBarker_CPartner Rescue Groups: The rescue groups are vital to any shelter, as they help to reduce crowding, by pulling dogs.  We said hello to the volunteers at several of the rescue groups participating at Woofstock: Florida Cocker Spaniel Rescue, English Springer Spaniel Rescue Southeast and Skyway Dachshund Rescue, who had the most adoptables on-site, with one wanna-be Doxie, Ms. Scarlett.

Volunteer Stephanie was picking up a Dachshund at Hillsborough County Animal Services (HCAS) when she saw a very pregnant black dog named Scarlett. She was also heart worm positive. “We rescue Doxies, but I’ll take pregnant dogs and any dogs in a desperate situation, if I’m able to,” said Stephanie. So, Scarlett went home with her. Only one of the two puppies Scarlett delivered lived, and eventually adopted. Then, HCAS helped with Scarlett’s heart worm treatment and she’s now ready for her forever home. She is a very sweet, well-mannered dog, greeting people, who came to the booth, with a wide grin and a happy tail.

PCAS_TheNewBarker_BSweet Reese (above): She is also available for adoption through Skyway Dachshund Rescue. The group pulled her from Pasco County Animal Service when she was also very pregnant. All of Reese’s puppies were healthy and have since been adopted. Now, it’s Reese’s turn to find her forever home.

Before leaving the event, we met with Abby Cox, president of Friends of Animal Services; Michael Shumate, director of Pasco County Animal Services and Spencer Conover, the newly-hired Assistant Director of Animal Services at the shelter. They’re excited to be participants, once again, during this year’s Just One Day event on June 11 with The New Barker and Morgan Auto Group. We’re doing something a little different. Stay tuned for the announcement, this week.

Our next stop: Asturia for Dog Day Afternoon: Co-hosted by David Weekley Homes with proceeds benefiting Vets4Pets Charitable Clinic. Residents came out to support and learn more about what the clinic is doing.

TheNewBarker_Asturia
Travis and Buddy the Beagle take a break with their human during Dog Day Afternoon at Asturia in Odessa.

The Tampa non-profit is providing medical care and food for the pets of those citizens on limited income. This is not a service provided to people who want to pay less for veterinary care. This is a service for those who have little to no means of treating their pets.

Earlier this week the clinic assisted a man and his dog who are homeless. Standing on a corner in downtown Tampa, the man was asking for money to pay for veterinary care for Karma, his dog. Tampa Police Department’s MPO Bart Wester watched the man panhandling and instead of arresting him, he put the man and his dog in his police car and drove them to Vets4Pets. Then, he paid the entire veterinary bill. Wester, who has been with the department for 10+ years, responded to the outpouring of kind words in response to the Vet4Pets social media post:   “I would like to thank the staff at Vets4Pets for their service to the community and for taking care of Karma. I would also like to say “thank you” for all the kind words said in this post. When I chose a career in law enforcement I never expected recognition for doing what is right. With sincere appreciation, I thank you.” – MPO Wester

Karma_Vets4Pets
Karma at Vets4Pets Charitable Clinic, brought in with his human by MPO Bart Wester of the Tampa Police Department.

Suds On Sunday, a benefit for Vets4Pets, will be on June 3rd at Ferg’s Live Tampa. The fundraising event, co-hosted by Tito’s Handmade Vodka and The New Barker, will be for Tampa Bay area first responders, in honor of Karma and MPO Wester. We’ll see you there.

Chloe_PCAS
Chloe, a happy dog, with her human during Woofstock for Pasco County Animal Services.

 

A Beautiful Dog, Each & Every One.

by Anna Cooke, Editor In Chief, The New Barker dog magazine.

After the winter 2017/18 edition of The New Barker was released in December, Aimee Sadler, founder of Dogs Playing For Life, gave us a call. We had interviewed her as part of our feature story on the Ontario 21, the dogs confiscated in a dog fighting ring in Ontario. (click here to see digital article on page 30). 

#SaveThe21 campaign supporters from around the world included actress Maggie Q, Sir Richard Branson and our own Angel.

The dogs, Aimee told me, were ready to be adopted. She asked if we would like to meet and help photograph them as part of their adoption process. Within days, arrangements were confirmed, and I was heading to Wellborn, Florida for the assignment. Later that day, I would continue my travels to Tallahassee to attend Humane Lobby Day, which was the following day. It was a life-changing 48 hours.

Here is my album of the Ontario 21. What a transformation, thanks to Dogs Playing for Life. Special thanks to all of those who rallied for their lives, around the world, including Rob Scheinberg, co-founder of Dog Tales Rescue and Sanctuary in Ontario.

DPFL_Logo

Let’s Go Global.

by Anna Cooke and Heather Schulman

Even with a concise list of manufacturers to visit, we managed to get sidetracked at Global Pet Expo, last week in Orlando. The industry trade show for pet retailers is sensory overload with miles and miles of displays and products. Thank DOG for the various canines walking the floor, who helped bring us back down to earth on several occasions. There was Indie, catching the show from a backpack. And a sweet Pup In Pink Polka Dot whose name we did not catch. Then, there was Seamus. Oh Seamus, you stole our hearts. The Pyrenean Mastiff was part of the booth display at All Four Paws, makers of The Comfy Cone, The Chill Collar and The Wipe It Drool Towel (which Seamus was wearing).

 

Beds – There were lots of fun novelty items, like these Disney-themed beds and pillows (below). We loved the look and feel of the faux fur dog beds from Baylee Nasco, designed and manufactured out of Hialeah, Florida. That’s Chai Latte sitting on a pile of their beds at the show. One Lucky Dog in St. Petersburg carries the Baylee Nasco line. Feeling is believing.

 

Our favorite beds, paws down, are the ones made by Bowsers Beds. We have some throughout our home, and they still look brand new, after years of machine washing and drying. Now, it’s time to make an investment on some new ones. The dogs love them. The new, soft neutral colors are fabulous and will look good with any home’s color scheme or decor style. Fluffy Puppies Dog Store & Salon will be our go-to for our next round of Bowsers Beds.

Bowsers_TheNewBarker

Travel – Luggage can be a fashion statement. For those of us who love taking trips with our dogs, The Pet Collection from Chariot Travelware is the hound’s bow WOW! The hard side cases are fully lined inside and feature a high quality telescopic handle with push button locking system. They are gorgeous. If you order online, tell them THE NEW BARKER dog magazine sent you.

 

Unleashing The Power Of Play – We enjoyed meeting the new team at Planet Dog. This Maine company continues to impress us with their innovative creations of tougher toys. They don’t forget to include puppies and seniors in their plans when thinking up new product designs. And, the toys are all 100% guaranteed. You can’t beat that. We’ll be heading to Pet Food Warehouse in St. Petersburg, BarkLife Market & More in Seminole and Dog Mania+Cats in Dade City for our next toy supply. Our dogs can’t have too many, right?

Planet_Dog_TheNewBarker.jpgNeat Stuff – It’s always nice to put a face to the months of email correspondence. We met Jane with foufouBrands, creators of foufoudog designer wear. They also make Vegalicious, a 100% natural vegan treats for dogs, made in the USA. We also met the exuberant Kevin Roberge, who was passionate about the new product lines being created by ThunderWorks, inventors of ThunderShirt. #ThunderShirtYourself Although we missed seeing our contact Andrea Friedland with PAWZ, stay connected to THE NEW BARKER, as we’re planning something fun with them, later this year.

 

Friends and Associates – We ran into a longtime friend of THE NEW BARKER, Tom Brennan at the American Pet Nutrition booth. We said hello to Dr. Marty Becker at the Media Roundup Luncheon and ran into his daughter, Mikkel Becker, on the showroom floor. We saw Kris Logan, then said hello to the Pasadena Pet Motel and STK9 Training teams. David Fine of Bark N Bag regaled us with a Bernadette Peters birthday story. We said Aloha to Kelly Ison who was introducing a new line of treats at Einstein Pets. The Luau Time dog treats are handcrafted from natural and nutritious, premium raw ingredients in the USA. The treats are produced in small batches with only seven ingredients: Oat Flour, Coconut, Pineapple, Honey, Pork, Ginger, Chia Seed. BarkLife Market & More in Seminole and St. Pete carries the Einstein Pets line of treats. By the way, Abbey the Westie takes her job as taste tester serious. She remained at the Sarasota headquarters, working her little wiggle butt off. Way to take one for the Einstein Pets team, Abbey.

Curious Puck, our canine traveling companion, was a trooper. He allowed exhibitors to treat him, pet him and try some things on him. He didn’t turn his nose up to anything, even bravely pulling a bone out of a basket at one of the booths. Special thanks to Puck’s human, Heather Schulman, for bringing him along.

 

We loved hearing about companies donating a portion of their sales to various animal advocacy programs – especially the smaller businesses. Found My Animal is one such company out of Brooklyn, New York who, over the years, has supported Austin Pets Alive, Best Friends Animal Society and Bully Breed Rescue, to name a few. We were first introduced to their gorgeous line of collars and leashes by Rene of Hyde Park’s Downtown Dogs, many years ago.

Cool Find – PillStashios is a company that makes an edible pill stasher for dogs. You’ll find it at Pets Life Naturally in Palmetto and The Doggie Bag in Lakeland. The product, inspired by nature, looks like a pistachio. You insert the pill inside the edible stasher, snap it shut and serve it to your dog. We were given some samples for Dougie, our Scottish Terrier, who is on medication for skin allergies. It’s a dream to use and he loves the taste. The PillStashios product is 100% natural, free of gluten, wheat, corn and soy. This was a fun product and great group of people at the booth.

PillStashios.jpg

Raising the Woof – Food and treats were a big part of Global Pet Expo. It was good to see so many new products offering a variety of options for the consumer and their pets. We LOVE Pawsitively Pure Dog Food, a Central Florida company offering a line of products that include dog food, dog treats and bone broth. They use only the finest, freshest and purest human-grade ingredients. “We are committed to replacing conventional ingredients with certified organic alternatives whenever possible,” said Carole Brooks, the Founder and CEO. Carole started her company in 2007, after that year’s major pet food recall. The company’s mascot and taste tester is Ryley Jones, a Weimaraner. Carole gave us a sample of the fresh-made bone broth after we told her about Rita, our MinPin who has arthritis. She is digging the broth on top of her kibble.

Paws_Pure_DogFoodIt’s A Wrap – The work that all of these companies put into their products, then the time they take to travel, display and talk about them is impressive. Equally impressive: the number of pet retailers walking the floor looking for the most innovative products to bring to their customers. Check in with your local independent retailer and find out what new goodies are in store for you and your dog. Until next year, #GlobalPetExpo. We were doggone tired and our feet were definitely barking by day’s end.

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Stop Stereotyping Dogs

In 2014, Orange County Animal Services in Florida took all breed information off their kennels. Not only did adoptions of dogs that would have been labeled pit bulls go up, but adoptions for all breeds improved.

By Clive D.L. Lynne and Lisa M. Gunter

This reprinted article (from June 2017) is part of Future Tense, a partnership between Slate, New America, and Arizona State University.

Boris and Brendan could be twins. Both are on the short side, with brown hair and small gleaming eyes set into broad heads. Both wagged their tails excitedly when someone came to their kennel and yapped sadly when that person walked away.

Yet the fates of these two dogs, both up for adoption at an open-admission shelter in Florida, were very different.

Boris found a new home in just a week. Brendan stayed two months before someone took him in. He would almost certainly have been euthanized—as nearly a million dogs are each year in the United States—had the shelter not adopted a “no-kill” policy shortly before his arrival.

So what was it about Boris and Brendan that led to such different outcomes?

Boris_Brendan
At the shelter, Boris (left) was labeled a Labrador/German short-haired pointer cross. Brendan (right) was labeled a pit bull.

It was all in the labeling. Boris had been marked as a “Labrador/German short-haired pointer cross,” Brendan a “pit bull.”

The distinctions between dog breeds might sound as solid as car marques and model numbers, but the latest behavioral research indicates they don’t tell us much that’s useful about dogs. With man’s best friend, just as for his master and mistress, stereotypes based on perceived heritage are often misguided or just plain wrong.

For one thing, “pit bull” isn’t even a recognized breed—it’s just a grab bag of small, squat, wide-faced canines that got a bad reputation in the 1980s when they became the young male urban underclass’s preferred projection of strength. A study that thoroughly investigated all fatal dog attacks in the United States over the 2000s showed that many other factors were more important than breed in determining when things went bad. Factors such as whether the dog was male or female, sterilized or not, and evidence dogs had been abused or neglected all played a bigger role than the dog’s (often inaccurately reported) breed identity.

For another, character, in dogs as in people, is a complex mix of genetic and environmental influences. Just as jumping to conclusions about people because of their ethnic background has many negative consequences for all concerned, breed stereotypes have led to pit bulls being overrepresented in many American animal shelters. In fact, some shelters won’t even put a dog up for adoption if it is believed to be a pit bull.

People looking for new canine companions often ask, “What kind of dog is that?” This question makes shelters feel compelled to answer with the name of a breed—even when the vast majority of their dogs don’t come with papers or printouts from genetic testing. The breed labels that potential adopters see on the cards hanging on a dog’s kennel, and on which so much of a dog’s fate depends, are just guesses based on the dog’s appearance. Since there are more than 200 known breeds, which can be combined in up to 55 trillion different ways, we shouldn’t be surprised that these guesses are usually wrong. Shelter dogs have far more complex breed heritages than we could have ever imagined.

Arizona State University Canine Science Collaboratory tested the reliability of shelters’ breed assignments using DNA analysis to uncover the heritage of nearly 1,000 dogs at two shelters in the western United States. Of the dogs tested, only 12 percent were purebreds or a straight mix of two breeds. Small wonder, then, that staff only correctly identified all the breeds in a dog’s makeup in just a 10th of their animals. Most of those were the handful of purebreds in their care.

Presumably people ask for breed information because they think it will tell them something about the character of the dog they plan to adopt. However, the evidence for personality differences between breeds of dogs is surprisingly weak. Two studies, each involving over 13,000 dogs, found that the personality differences within each breed were as large or even larger than the character differences between breeds. And the available data don’t back up long-held expectations of the behavior of different dog breeds. English springer spaniels, for example, which the American Kennel Club describes as “friendly” and “eager to please” consistently show up in studies as at an elevated risk of owner-directed aggression.

And if the dog isn’t a purebred, all bets are off. Mixing genes isn’t like mixing paints. A dash of border collie with a helping of Labrador doesn’t automatically produce a dog that likes to swim and herd sheep.

Yet despite all that is misguided about jumping to conclusions based on (usually inaccurate) breed identification, we found that these labels influence people more strongly than the behavior of the dog in front of them. It’s not just Boris and Brendan. We set up a study in which we showed 51 people visiting a shelter brief videos of dogs reacting to a stranger walking up to their kennels. One set of recordings showed dogs that the shelter had designated as pit bulls. The other showed dogs we thought looked very similar that had been given other breed designations by shelter staff. We called these dogs “look-alikes.” All our participants had to do was sit at a computer and watch the videos one after the other, answering a range of questions to gauge their interest in adopting each dog.

When we hid the breed labels from viewers, people actually told us they thought the dogs that had been originally identified as pit bulls were more attractive than the look-alikes. However, if we put the labels back on, the pit bulls’ popularity plummeted. This backs up the findings from a study carried out by researchers at the University of Louisville. They tracked nearly 10,000 dogs entering a large municipal shelter in Kentucky over a two-year period and found that fully three-quarters of all pit bulls were euthanized.

So how do we prevent these unhelpful biases from affecting the dogs that don’t deserve them? In 2014, Orange County Animal Services in Florida tried a brave experiment. It took all breed information off their kennels. Not only did adoptions of dogs that would have been labeled pit bulls go up a massive 75 percent, but adoptions for all breeds improved. Overall, the county found homes for 30 percent more of their dogs. This isn’t a little bijou shelter either—it’s a major animal control operation that takes in every unwanted animal in the greater Orlando area, to the tune of 8,000 dogs per year. And it’s sustained that improvement in adoption rates for over two years now.

Orange County offers a model for other shelters for getting rid of unhelpful identifiers. Just like their owners, most shelter dogs are rich mixtures of genetic influences, and just like us, their personalities are not dictated by the race of their ancestors. So it makes more sense to treat finding a canine life partner more like finding a human companion. See past labels and seek real compatibility, go out on a couple of dates, try a weekend sleepover. Let’s not fret over finding “golden retrievers” or “pit bulls.” Let’s talk about “beer buddies,” “fitness fanatics,” and “canines to curl up on the couch with.” Dogs that fit these job descriptions can be found in just about any breed or mix.

Behavioral science cannot solve pet overpopulation or save every mutt that ends up at a shelter, but we believe it can guide people toward smarter choices. Like the members of the species that cares for them, dogs deserve to be known as individuals. Get out to your local shelter, see past the labels, and start a beautiful friendship.

Clive D. L. Wynne is director of the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University, where he is also a professor of psychology. Lisa M. Gunter is a Ph.D. candidate at Arizona State University in the department of psychology and conducts her research under the mentoring of Clive Wynne.