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Bichon Frise

This cheerful and companionable powder puff hails from the Mediterranean area; bichons traveled widely as companions for sailors, minstrels, and circus groups. Beginning in the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance, they found favor with one royal European family after another, from Spain to Italy to France (King Henry III of France reputedly carried his bichon in a basket hanging from his neck). Bichons are the star performers of the dog world. Consummate entertainers, they love attention and can play and clown around for hours. The well-socialized bichon is friendly, resilient, and quick to learn. This, combined with a sturdy build, makes him an equally great buddy whether traveling or lounging at home. Despite his classification as a nonsporting dog, the bichon is a terrific little athlete that, with training, can excel at agility, K9 Nose Work, and Rally obedience. To give a Bichon Frise a home, search online for

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Size Matters

Your Chihuahua may love Boxers and your Rottie mix may adore Dachshunds. But when little and big play together, keep close watch. Big dogs can unintentionally harm small dogs—and on the rare occasions when friendly play escalates into a scuffle, the smaller dog is at risk for serious injury or death. If you let your dog play with very differently sized dogs, supervise vigilantly. No chasing. Don’t allow chase or wrestle games between a very large and a very small dog. If you see this happening, call your dog away with a treat. At the park, seek out areas with more dogs his own size. Why is this important? Dogs love to chase things—balls, cats, sticks, Frisbees, and other dogs. They get this love from their wolf ancestry, along with the instincts to stalk, and grab and shake small prey animals. But wolves are all about the same size and

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The Afghan Hound

This sleek, silk-coated aristocrat of the canine world was originally bred for life in rough mountainous terrain, but now spends more time at the doggie equivalent of the runway: the dog show. Afghans, like other supermodels, require a great deal of grooming and maintenance. A sighthound bred to catch deer, gazelles, and leopards, the Afghan boasts a top speed of 40 miles an hour and a 270-degree field of vision. The stunning exterior and strong personality of Afghans have inspired writers and artists all through history, not least Picasso, who depicted his beloved Afghan Kabul in both paintings and sculpture. Appropriately, the human companion of Prissy the Afghan in Disney’s One Hundred and One Dalmatians is an artist. Who better to appreciate a dog as graceful as a ballet of swans? To re-home an Afghan, search online for a rescue group near you.

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The Many Benefits of Dog Sports

If you think of the practice of dog sports as a competitive and fairly serious business, you’re only about 10 percent right. Just as in human athletic pursuits, the vast majority of dog sports enthusiasts are hobbyists; happy amateurs not much interested in ribbons or plaques. So what hooks people? The numerous benefits two- and four-legged sportsmen alike reap. For starters, a quick alphabetic inventory reveals something for every ability and temperament: agility, caniscross, disc dog, dock diving, earthdog, flyball, freestyle, herding, lure coursing, mushing, nose work, rally-o, tracking, treibball, and weight pulling. An exhaustive list would be much longer, of course, and still wouldn’t include the many fun, creative activity classes trainers, dog facilities, and dog groups might offer. On the two-legged side of the benefits scoreboard, consider the ageless appeal of all this variety. We expect kids to enjoy playing sports with furry friends, but don’t underestimate the delicious

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The Cairn Terrier

This confident, active, tenacious little ragamuffin is the smallest of the Scottish terriers, and was originally bred for hunting rodents and small game like otters, foxes, and badgers. A Cairn’s paws are made to dig—literally. The front paws are bigger and flatter than the hind paws, making it easier for the dog to get into “cairns,” the rock dens where his quarry lived. Cairns also sport a weather-resistant outer coat, highly expressive ears, and enough personality to steal any picture. Case in point: the unforgettable Toto in The Wizard of Oz was a Cairn (“he” was a she called Terry). Quick to learn and always up for a game, Cairns are happiest when they get plenty of exercise and stimulation. Despite their modest size, they are terrific little athletes that, with patient training, can excel at agility, tracking trials, K9 Nose Work, and Rally obedience. To give a Cairn Terrier

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The Many Benefits Of Agility

Think agility is only for serious dog sports enthusiasts willing to spend every weekend on the obstacle course? Think again. Agility can be enjoyed at any level—all the way from the World Championships to low-key backyard training—and you and your dog still reap the many benefits of this fun, bond-building dog sport. For example: Dogs of all sizes and breeds can participate in and enjoy agility. Yes, Border Collies and Australian Shepherds excel at it, but titleholders also include Yorkies, Papillons, Spaniels, and Boxers. You can work the obstacle course at the pace that’s right for you, meaning agility can provide gentle, moderate, or strenuous exercise. Training your dog to navigate agility obstacles using only hand signals and voice cues is a terrific way to improve communication—and further strengthen the bond—between you. Best of all? The fun you’ll have together and the confidence boost you’ll likely see in your dog.

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Getting Real With Your Dog

One of the most frequent sources of frustration in dog training? Unrealistic expectations. Dogs’ intelligence shines through in so many ways that we tend to ascribe them decidedly human cognitive skills, such as the ability to understand complex sentences. It’s what some dog trainers refer to as “the Lassie syndrome.” If you often find yourself frustrated with your dog, here’s a primer on what it takes to create a Lassie: Patience. One basic training class won’t do it. The calm, attentive pooches you see on TV picking up slippers and opening doors? They have spent years in training. You wouldn’t expect a child to become a piano virtuoso after one semester of classes, right? Repetition. Dogs don’t generalize well. This means they need to learn the same lesson—don’t jump on people, for example—in many different settings before they grasp that we’d always prefer them to greet visitors politely, not just

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Maternal Altruism In Dogs

Human beings are capable of and often display maternal altruism well beyond our own species. We adopt other people’s children, yes, but we also adopt dogs and cats, even trees and roadways. Viewed through an evolutionary lens, this is interesting. Why aren’t we focusing on the survival of our own species—even our own tribe—instead of wasting precious energy and resources on stray cats or endangered fungi? Scientists explain this peculiarity by pointing to our sophisticated cognitive equipment. Because we can project thoughts into the future, we’re able to see the long-term view. The bigger perspective. We understand the principle of goodness and know that caring for others not only makes us feel good, but also sets a standard for kindness that strengthens our community and the potential for reciprocal help. In other words, what goes around comes around. But if that explains why humans show maternal altruism, what about dogs

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The English Cocker Spaniel

This dapper little gun dog was originally bred for flushing and retrieving small game. Don’t be fooled by her melting spaniel eyes and soft, feathery coat: the Cocker is an all-terrain dog and can be a handful to live with. Exuberant, strong-willed, and energetic, she needs lots of exercise and careful training. Cockers love having a job—something scent-related, preferably, otherwise anything demanding will do: agility, obedience, flyball, canine disc, etc. The well-socialized Cocker is affectionate and wants to be part of all family activities. Beware the noise, though, she’s quick to alert to doorbells. (A Cocker Spaniel holds the world record for the most persistent barking: 907 times in ten minutes.) With her soulful expression, the Cocker is popular in arts and entertainment too, most famously in Disney’s enduring 1955 animated classic, Lady and the Tramp.   To give an English Cocker Spaniel a home, search online for nearby rescues.

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Arson Dogs

  For more than 12,000 years, dogs have worked alongside humans. They have herded our livestock, hunted with us, and pulled us across otherwise impassable frozen expanses. Most modern dogs are companions, of course, but those who do work have ever more extraordinary job descriptions. Accelerant-detection is one example. Arson dogs work with fire investigative units to sniff out minuscule amounts of anything from lamp oil to lighter fluid (they can detect more than 60 different ignitable petroleum-based hydrocarbons) in scenes flooded with water or covered in snow or mud. They use their 200 million scent receptors (compared to our 5 million) to help investigators accurately assess the flammable products present at a fire scene and increase the chances of collecting a positive sample. This can help rule arson in—or out. With billions of dollars in property and hundreds of lives lost every year as a result of intentionally set

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