Dislikes: Nuns, most children and other dogs of competing jauntiness.
Hangs out with: The other office old-timers, Bauer & Waldo
Like any typical small terrier, Widget believes he is actually a mastiff. He plays with the big dogs every day at work and holds his own. Small but proud, his stature is definitely to his advantage when it comes to sneaking into the conference room: he sits on the chairs, puts his paws on the conference table and before you know it, he’s running the show. Or at least he thinks he is. He’s a little dog with big dreams.
Our creative director, Brian, picked him up from a breeder in Michigan and drove all the way back here to Minnesota with Widget sitting on his lap – with no accidents by either of them! Ever since then, Widget has been a great travelling dog.
He loves going up to the cabin on weekends, running through the grass, going into the water and getting dirty. But he’s equally happy lying on one of the office reception area chairs, watching for the UPS guy (and nuns). As long as Brian is nearby, Widget’s world is complete.
Therapy dogs: Getting in touch with your inner canine.
One of the best things about dogs is their unconditional love and companionship. So what happens when you have a dog with extra love to share? They go into therapy, of course. (So many jokes, so little time.)
What makes a good therapy dog? According to Therapy Dogs International (TDI), a therapy dog is one with an outstanding temperament. A dog that wants to visit with people. A dog that loves children.
Our merchandising director, Ken, took classes with Bauer seven years ago to certify him as a therapy dog. It seemed like a natural fit: Ken loves helping people; and Bauer – well, he just loves people.
In order to become a therapy dog, each dog must pass a temperament evaluation, which includes the American Kennel Club’sCanine Good Citizen Test (CGC). Bauer was exposed to different challenging scenarios, to help train him to maintain a level of calm throughout.
The class also taught the owners to recognize when their dog was becoming stressed and how to react. “It surprised me to learn how much of a dog/owner team effort therapy work actually is,” Ken explains, “If Bauer’s stressed out, he’ll lean into me a little, and I know it’s time to move on to the next patient.”
So what do therapy dogs do? Hang out, mostly. Their job is simple: make people feel better. Because of Bauer’s size, he can’t get up in patient beds, so instead he visits outpatient cancer care units, hospital common spaces and waiting rooms, interacting with people and sharing that unconditional love.
One of Ken and Bauer’s best therapy experiences was working in a hospital behavioral health unit. Bauer would get down on the floor with patients in a common space (kind of like being in someone’s living room!) so they could pet him – and some of their responses were astonishing.
“People who were literally catatonic – they didn’t speak and hardly moved – would start to express themselves and even talk when Bauer came around,” Ken says. “The macho patients would soften up when they saw him and older patients would talk about the dogs they had when they were growing up. It’s amazing how dogs can provide that connection.”
San Francisco tries to curb panhandling with puppies
When it comes to tackling San Francisco’s entrenched panhandling problem, City Hall has tried just about everything: laws banning aggressive panhandling and sitting on sidewalks, teams of service providers who attempt to get beggars off the streets, and an employment program to get them hired at nearby businesses.
During the summer months, we’re more likely to spend time with our dogs outside. Our friends over at Sidewalk Dog have a great post on how to keep your pup on his best behavior while out and about. Check it out!
Dog Days: When you’re a pooch, school’s not out for the summer
On Walking: To really enjoy summer walks with our dogs, we need to polish up their leash manners and ensure they aren’t pulling our shoulders out of their sockets or trying to assault oncoming walkers or their dogs. I always take along a large supply of treats and my clicker when I take my dogs out for a walk. If I’ve got a young or untrained dog, I click and treat when they are walking next to me with some nice slack in the leash. What if there’s no slack? Then I change directions and click when they come up next to me. If I come upon a distraction such as some kids playing or a game of Frisbee®, I’ll do what’s called “upping my rate of reinforcement,” meaning I’ll click and treat like crazy.
On Aggression: If people have reactive or leash aggressive dogs, I recommend owners address that with a qualified trainer or behaviorist. With persistence, patience and guidance, there’s a lot that can be done to help these dogs.
On Greeting Friends: I like my dogs to be polite when I visit with neighbors, and sometimes I ask a friend to help me practice. I ask her to walk slowly toward me. With each step my friend takes, I give a corresponding click and treat to my dog to reward him for sitting quietly at my side. I instruct my friend to turn and walk away if my dog gets up to greet them. That way my dog learns that the quickest way to greet people is sit quietly at my side. I do this exercise a lot with my clients’ dogs.
On Coffee Shop Manners: I love seeing well-behaved dogs at the coffee shops and cafes. To get dogs ready for their coffee shop debuts, teach them to lie on a small mat or bandanna. You can use that object to help keep him anchored in a relaxed “stay” while you read your newspaper or visit with friends. To teach him to stay put, drop treats between his front feet. Of course, before you take him to an outdoor restaurant, you’ll want to teach him the cue “leave it” so that he isn’t grabbing everything in reach! I teach “leave it” by offering the dog a closed fist full of treats. At first he’ll lick and chew at my hand to get to the treats. As soon as he stops trying to eat through my knuckles to get the treats, I click (or say “good”) and hand him a treat. He quickly learns that if he wants a treat he needs to leave them alone. We call this “doggie Zen”: To have it, you must let it go. Next I use treats either under my foot or on the ground past my dog’s reach. When he stops trying to chew my shoe to get the treat or he stops lunging for the treat and instead looks at me, he gets a treat!
Did we mention we have up to seven dogs in our office at pretty much any given time? Yep. Our Beast Friends spend their days running, playing, barking at delivery guys and having the occasional unmentionable accident on the conference room rug.
But it’s not all fun and games: one of the dogs’ most important responsibilities (ok…their only important responsibility) is testing our products. We give our dogs a chance to try them out before we share them with you. A product may look cool, but that doesn’t matter if it doesn’t work, right? That means our office has lots of toys, bowls and gear lying around…and (oh yes) poop bags for those random “cleanup in aisle 5” moments.
To say our workplace is dog-friendly is a bit of an understatement. But one thing is for sure: the place wouldn’t be the same without them.
Today, meet the office dog with the most seniority: nine-year-old golden retriever, Bauer.
Not crazy about:Mack, Birdie and generally any other dog that gets all up in his “business.”
A service dog dropout with a heart of gold, Bauer loves people and would do anything for a tummy scratch. He’s proven his compassionate side as a longtime therapy dog and has modeled for Mpls.St. Paul Magazine.
Bauer’s got seniority over the other dogs and isn’t afraid to show it. At the office, he’s put every dog in its place at one time or another. One word: Alpha.
He loves chasing squirrels and rabbits and even went through the ice on a creek in pursuit of a duck. He occasionally gets skin allergies and must sport the cone of shame.