Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Dog-related Magazines Reviewed

Intrigued by the photo of President Obama holding a small three-legged Bichon Frise on its cover I picked up the current issue of The American Dog. I was pleasantly surprised by the depth and range of content. Not only did this magazine exceed my expectations, it raised my standards.

They covered an extremely wide spectrum of subjects from snobby doggy fashions and the latest boutique designs to nitty gritty issues like fighting puppy mills and breed specific legislation. There was a touching story about that little white dog on the cover and what then-Senator Obama helped do for her, expert advice from lawyers, trainers, vets, and even a section from TV celebrity trainer Victoria Stillwell from “It’s Me or The Dog”. Major players like Best Friends, the ASPCA, PETA (boo!), and the HSUS (despite recent events, they still get a “boo!”) also had contributions. Full pages were reserved for ads from shelters, rescues, and PSAs. And NO ads from breeders! Now THIS is what I’d call a perfect dog magazine.

My lone complaint is that it’s just a quarterly. They don’t publish as often as they should.

I noticed that the news rack actually had many dog magazines so I decided to check them out and see how well they all stood up the newly-raised bar that The American Dog had set.

My basic criteria for consideration was that it could not cater to breeders. The magazines that failed that first litmus test were Dog Fancy, Dogs USA, Puppies USA, and local periodical in Hawaii called Ilio. I found that not only did these titles accept ads from breeders there were a fair share of material that promotes breed snobbery, thus further devaluating shelter dogs.

The Bark is winner. This bi-monthly is based out of nearby Berkeley and it shows. There’s a kind a middle-aged, former 60’s hippie driving a Volvo station wagon with an “I support NPR radio” sticker in the window feel to it. That’s not a complaint though. My mother lives in nearby El Cerrito so I’m familiar those folks. They make great dog owners!

There are well-written articles about the efforts of shelters and rescues and rescue efforts. There’s always very strong coverage of dog-related book releases. I found there were very few articles that failed to hold my interest. There’s even a monthly contribution from dog authority and animal behavioralist Dr. Patricia McConnell that never fails to bring up issues that warrant further thought and exploration.

The one monthly feature that really put The Bark over the top is a two-page section filled with dozens of reader-submitted pictures of their smiling dogs. Now of the features of Pit Bulls I’ve always loved are their smiles. No dog has a bigger smile than a pibble. Or so I thought until picking up my first issue of The Bark. There are dogs of every breed in this section. I’ve since changed my opinion about Pit Bulls having cornered the market on the big smiles. You absolutely cannot flip through any given issue and not stop for an extra moment or two to smile back.

Fido Friendly is really a niche magazine. Inside you’ll find standard fare like dog fashion, a vet advice page, etc. The real eye-grabber of the issue I picked up was a picture of Beth Stern, a.k.a. Mrs. Howard Stern on the cover with an accompanying interview inside.

The niche this magazine attempts to fill is for the traveler. There are extensive advertising from pet friendly hotels and other motor lodges. This is a magazine I’d regularly turn to if I traveled more often but based upon the non-travel related material here there just isn’t enough to bring me back otherwise.

If the title “Doggie Aficionado” makes you think of something snooty and superficial you wouldn’t be far off base with this quarterly. Although you won’t find any ads from breeders you won’t find any from shelters or rescues either. There were articles about the top high end products for your dog and high end dog-friendly vacation spots. Most of the ads were for expensive dog jewelry, art, clothing and beds. This isn’t one I’d recommend either.

Modern Dog was a pleasant surprise. It looked much like Doggie Aficionado until I took a closer look. Along with celebrity dog owner profiles, ads for pricey accessories, and a section for a “dog psychic” is some surprisingly gripping articles that included a look at what become of the Hurricane Katrina dogs, the profile of a cartoon artist that does a daily strip featuring shelter dogs as the main characters, and a fascinating look at a prison that has a program where selected inmates are chosen to rehabilitate shelter dogs. All in all, I’d say this quarterly is worth reading regularly.

The final title can’t really be considered a “dog” periodical. It’s the bi-monthly magazine of the Best Friends Animal Society, the largest animal sanctuary in the U.S., and home to the popular National Geographic network show “Dogtown”. Because they rescue animals of all kinds it’s about a lot more than dogs alone. Indeed, the Best Friends magazine writes about all kinds of shelter animals, cats, horses, birds, and more. No, they don’t discriminate. Not only do I wholeheartedly endorse this magazine, I’d urge anyone that has an interest in shelter animals to subscribe to it, as proceeds directly benefit them.

They also had another great suggestion that would be a good idea for any of these great magazines. When you’re done reading pass it on. Leave it at the vet’s office, or the groomer’s, anywhere where people are reading. Spreading the word is where it’s at. What a great idea.

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