It's a Ruff Life: Is Alexandria Going to the Dogs?

Four panelists from the dog-lovers community share their experiences at Agenda:Alexandria.

Did you know that Alexandria was named one of the top 10 best places to bring a dog in 2011?

Dogs have their own page on the Alexandria Visitors Bureau website and city records show that more 40 businesses are considered "dog friendly."

Agenda:Alexandria gave the floor to four dog expert panelists during its meeting on Monday night titled: “Is Alexandria Going To The Dogs?"

Learn from local experts:

Tykie Tobin – Board Chair of the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria

Tobin spoke on the commitment behind adoption and finding the right breed for “you,” while photos of eligible adoption dogs flashed on the screen behind her. Her opening quote set the tone of her message behind this decision – “Dogs are like toddlers with teeth but without a diaper. Be ready for them to… dig up, tear up, pee on, track mud and dirt on, and throw up on…your personal possessions.”

She emphasized the importance of finding the right breed for a household and considering the owners' activity level when picking that breed. There are 123 breeds currently recognized by the Kennel Club of America and each is bred for something distinctly different. If you bring home a herding breed, such as an Australian Shepherd, expect them to want to keep track of the activity level in your house and maybe even try to control it. If you’re more of a couch potato or live in a small apartment, select a basset hound or perhaps an English bulldog that enjoys a good day of lounging.

Tobin also spoke on the process that takes place when a dog comes to the shelter. A dog usually ends up at the shelter because of behavioral problems. When it arrives, a dog is met with a four-person team of behavioral and training specialists who assess problematic behaviors and put in place a program to combat these issues. The dog is also given a physical examination, which includes treatment of any medical needs, as well as administration of necessary vaccinations, treatment against fleas and ticks, and de-worming. All of this care prepares a dog for the right start in your home.

Dr. Lisa Marsico – Veterinarian at Del Ray Animal Hospital

Dr. Marsico talked on the topic of general wellness. A trip to the vet isn’t just for shots anymore. Marsico encourages owners to take their dogs to the vet annually for check-ups. Besides the distemper and rabies shots that Del Ray Animal Hospital recommends for all dogs, the vets there also recommend regular fecal sample checks, heartworm protection and even supplements for dogs. The fecal exam checks for parasites, which can be commonly contracted, especially in younger dogs. If your dog is having diarrhea for more than three days, have their stool checked.

Heartworm protection is recommended for all dogs. Marsico recommends the "Heartgard" brand. Supplements can seem a bit superfluous for our dogs but Marsico believes in the benefits of Cosequin, which combines Glucosamine and Chondroitin for dogs with arthritis, Opti-EPA, which offers fatty acids from fish oil for brain and heart health, and FortiFlora, which is a probiotic that contains live bacteria and helps immunity and also the fight against fits of unnecessary diarrhea. As for the multitude of food options out there, she cautioned to be weary of switching over to the new high protein/grain free diets unless you’re going to be feeding your dog less food, because high protein also equals high calorie and obesity is just a common in dogs as it is in people for the same reason of overeating.

Paul Haire – Owner of Your Dog’s Best Friend

Haire spoke on the importance of socialization, which he believes is an acquired skill. “You don’t train a great dog. You raise a great dog.” He broke down the early part of most dog’s lives: Most puppies are taken from the litter at 8-10 weeks, which is unfortunate since the most important time to socialize a puppy is 5-17 weeks. From there, they are plopped into homes and expected to be model citizens, but they’ve stopped learning how while most of them sit in isolation at home while their owners go to work. The next time they meet a dog they’re on a leash and the game has changed. These are no longer the days of “Lassie’s lifestyle.” Your Dog’s Best Friend’s cageless daycare concept allows a puppy’s natural ability to socialize to come out by allowing them the opportunity to learn from other socialized dogs.

Marsico added that owners should be encouraged to expose their puppies to other well-vaccinated, mature dogs during their first 5-17 weeks. Most people think they need to keep their puppies in isolation until they’re fully vaccinated, which doesn’t always take place until four months, and by that time you’ve missed the prime “socialization window.”

Randy Plante – Resident of Old Town and Author of “My Wingman Oliver”

Plante is an enthusiast about the dog friendly offerings in Old Town. Some of his favorites include: Yappy Hour at , The St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Dog Show, Canine Cruise on the Potomac, back patio with doggie menus and Barrel Oak Winery (BOW) in Delaplane, Va. “My Wingman Oliver” shares the process of searching, finding and adopting Plante’s shelter dog, Oliver, and their adventures together during Oliver’s first year in Old Town. To follow local dog events throughout the year, visit his website at: www.caninewingman.com

If you missed this program and would like to see it in on TV, Comcast will be broadcasting it May 6 on Channel 69 at 9 p.m. Copies of the programs are also kept on file at the Charles Beatley Library. 

Agenda:Alexandria is a non-partisan, non-profit organization started in 1998 to discuss topics of interest to Alexandrians. The organization sponsors eight dinner meetings a year. Membership is $30 a year and open to anyone, whether or not you live or work in Alexandria. 

Boyd Walker April 26, 2012 at 01:39 PM
I really enjoyed this program, and dogs are good for business in Alexandria, so whether you love dogs, like I do, or not, being a dog friendly city is important to our local economy. Dog Parks make for good socializing among human and dogs, and some groups like Founders Parks Dogs are working to help imporve our parks. I learned how cruel shock collars are, and I would not suport allowing their use in Alexandria in liu of leashes. Dog training and doggy day care businesses, like Old Town School for Dogs and Your Dogs Best Friend are important parts of our communnity that make happy dogs, and happier owners. Doggy happy hours, and doggy cruises are great. Almost every door I knock on in this campaign has a dog behind it!
susan April 30, 2012 at 01:28 PM
And to give a dog a "forever home" is a noble thing. Please adopt and don't buy a dog - it's better for all of us! www.caninewingman.com


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