A chat with the author of 'For the Life of Your Dog'
His faultless, breathtaking dives at the Olympics won him four gold medals and made him a household name; his life story startled a nation, leaving it concerned for the champion athlete who had seen more than his share of heartache. After the publication of his candid autobiography "Breaking the Surface", Greg Louganis has been mostly out of the limelight, leaving the public wondering about his health and future, and curious about what he has been up to.Since he was a boy, Louganis has found unequalled friendship, comfort and loyalth in his canine companions. Since retiring from diving he has bred and trained dogs including Harlequin Great Danes, a championship Jack Russell terrier, a best-in-breed rhodesian ridgeback, and a best-in-show Pembroke Welsh Corgi. In his new book, "For the Life of Your Dog: A Complete Guide to Having a Dog in Your Life, From Adoption and Birth Through Sickness and Health" readers will find that Louganis has been thriving, doing what he loves best -- spending time breeding and training dogs. He decided to write this book as a way of giving back to the animals who have come to mean so much to him, with the goal of helping people become the kind of dog owner any pooch would be proud of. Greg Louganis was our chat guest from on Tuesday, February 23. Below is an editded transcript of a chat about the love of his life -- his canine friends.
Chat Participant: Greg, tell us a little about your book.
Greg Louganis: Basically it goes through the entire life cycle of a dog. There are some good references for training books that are in the back of my book. They all deal with positive reinforcement and training techniques.
Chat Participant: Greg, why did you decide to write this book?
Greg Louganis: I stayed in touch with my editor from "Breaking the Surface," and he had a wire-haired Fox Terrier named Finnigan. We would talk dogs and he would ask advice on behavior and grooming issues, and I did my best to answer him. One night he said, "You should write a dog book." And it went from there. That was two years ago.
Chat Participant: What is your favorite breed of dog, Greg?
Greg Louganis: I don't think they (my dogs) would like it if I said I had a favorite...
Chat Participant: Is it true that large dogs don't have as long a live span as small dogs?
Greg Louganis: Generally large dogs won't have as long a life span as small dogs.
Chat Participant: Greg, do your dogs ever swim with you?
Greg Louganis: I don't exactly have a water breed...but I did have one Great Dane who would get in the ocean with me and he would body surf...
Chat Participant: Sounds wonderful. My partner and I have two Border Collies and we just discovered one of them has developed a disease that is similar to Hip Displasia in her front paw. We are thinking of doing chiropractic care instead of surgery. Have you ever thought of using alternative treatments?
Greg Louganis: Yes. On a couple of my dogs I have used acupuncture. Did it work? Actually, yes. On one of the dogs his ears were crumping and the acupuncture was to boost his immune system so that his ears would go up. After the acupuncture his ears went up, and I'm sure it was the acupuncture that did it.
Chat Participant: Are certain breeds easier to train than others?
Greg Louganis: I actually go through that in my book. I go through the difficult time I had with my Jack Russell Terrier. And I almost gave up on her. Contrary to most people's assumptions, smart dogs are the most difficult to train, because they tend to train you before you train them.
Chat Participant: Which are the "smarter" dogs?
Greg Louganis: Border Collies, Jack Russell Terriers - those are two that come to mind.
Chat Participant: Greg, do you find when a TV show or movie highlights a specific breed of dog, it can hurt those types of dogs because people may get those breeds expecting to have what they see on TV or in the movies?
Greg Louganis: Definitely. That's obvious when you go to shelters and see lots of Dalmatians as a result of "101 Dalmatians." Then you see Jack Russells as a result of Moose, who plays "Eddie" on "Frasier."
Chat Participant: Mr. Louganis, how is your book selling?
Greg Louganis: I haven't talked to my editor or publishing house so I haven't heard.
Chat Participant: Greg, what kind of dogs do you have now?
Greg Louganis: Currently, I have a Bouver named Speedo, a Border Terrier named Mikey, a Jack Russell Terrier named Nipper, and Freeway is still with us - he's my Great Dane.
Chat Participant: Greg, what dog breeds do you feel are best suitable for families with children?
Greg Louganis: Some of your herding breeds, some of your working breeds. Generally Labs and Goldens are very gentle. I like the Portuguese Water dogs. They remind me of clowns. They're not real overbred.
Chat Participant: My dog, Baby South, has a question: "What the heck is wrong with mutts??"
Greg Louganis: That's something I talk about in the book. When you go to a shelter and pick out a mixed breed be sure to check the temperament of the dog. Looks can grow on you.
Chat Participant: Greg, of your dogs which one is the "top dog" in your family pack?
Greg Louganis: Probably Freeway, my oldest, because everyone treats him like Buddha. The toss-up for second would be my two bitches, the Jack Russell and the Bouver.
Chat Participant: Greg, explain the name "Freeway"
Greg Louganis: When I got him, he stayed at the breeders until I got a new house. I thought it was better to call him Freeway than 405.
Chat Participant: Do any of your dogs dive?
Greg Louganis: No, none of them dive. I think that's the reason my friends want me to get a Portuguese Water dog.
Chat Participant: Greg, besides training have you been involved in dog shows too?
Greg Louganis: Yes, I showed one of the Pembrooke Welsh Corgis to a group-one as a puppy up in Canada. He was the dog I had showing at the Garden.
Chat Participant: Do you find the public's view of animal welfare improving?
Greg Louganis: We need some laws passed in some states so that dogs are looked at not just as possessions, but as living things.
Chat Participant: Do you take your dogs with you when you travel?
Greg Louganis: Yes. I travel with Nipper. She's been everywhere: France, New Orleans, AIDS walks. She's with me now.
Chat Participant: Greg, what arrangements do you make?
Greg Louganis: I call in advance. She goes in a Sherpa bag and sits under the seat in front of me. She has a health certificate. Most airlines charge $50, but that can go upwards of $70. It's funny because I'll be three-fourths of the way to my destination and I'll unzip the bag and people freak out and say, "She's been there the whole time?" I say, "Yeah." She's a good traveler.
Chat Participant: They charge $50 even if you carry a pet in a box and fit it under the seat?
Greg Louganis: Yes, $50 as far as I know.
Chat Participant: Greg, how do you get through customs with her?
Greg Louganis: I make sure that I fly into either Germany or France because they don't have quarantines.
Chat Participant: Do you have the bag x-rayed on the way in?
Greg Louganis: I have the bag x-rayed, but take her out of the bag and walk through the x-ray. But I have seen some people put their dogs through the x-ray! That terrifies me!
Chat Participant: Greg, are there areas of the country that are more sensitive to animal welfare than others?
Greg Louganis: Regarding animal welfare, in just about any city, you usually can find an area that is more dog friendly than other areas in the city.
Chat Participant: Greg, does your book address locating dogs for people with disabilities?
Greg Louganis: Actually the book doesn't go into locating dogs for people with disabilities. I recommend people who don't want to go through puppy training get on a list for a companion dog.
Chat Participant: Are you suggesting in your book that laws be passed for the sake of dogs?
Greg Louganis: Not in the book. The book goes through the entire life cycle of a dog, so that when people do get a dog, they can plan for that dog's entire lifetime.
Chat Participant: Greg, you said not in the book. What laws do you think should be passed for dogs?
Greg Louganis: Something that is just real basic. Some states treat an animal and the loss of an animal as a loss of property and not that of a living thing.
Chat Participant: Greg are you suggesting dog life insurance or something?
Greg Louganis: No, I'm not suggesting dog life insurance. If a dog is poisoned or killed by another dog, it is treated as destruction of property. It is not treated as loss of a living thing, which I would prefer.
Chat Participant: I'm waiting for my cat to give me the same status it has.
Chat Participant: Any recommendations regarding doggy-diet?
Greg Louganis: The biggest problem our dogs face is us loving them to death, giving them extra treats and not adding that to their caloric intake of their meals.
Chat Participant: Greg, so you're sort of a Dr. Spock for dogs now? LOL
Greg Louganis: Sure!
Greg Louganis: I have time to answer one last question.
Chat Participant: Worst name you ever saw for a doggie?
Greg Louganis: I think the funniest name was a bulldog named "Blanche."
Greg Louganis: Goodnight and thanks for coming!
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