A Look at Wunderdog

Wunderdog is ‘for underdogs and wonder dogs’, by which it means rescue dogs. But it doesn’t only highlight the rescue dog but also brings the rescuers themselves into the picture, because often they provide half the story.

In this respect it’s not unlike the marvellous Four and Sons which takes a wide, societal and even art house view of dogs and the place they’ve made for themselves in our lives. But rescue dogs are a sizeable subject; if you mix or acquaint regularly with other dog walkers you’ll be aware that owning a rescue dog is a culture to be reckoned with. Wunderdog provides practical and psychological advice, product and book reviews. It even coaches on getting your dog to swim. If it stopped here it would be a more mainstream dog magazine, but it is positioning itself as a trusted indie with all the trusted hallmarks – higher production values, strong photography, no advertising and, to a degree, a lifestyle element.

It certainly roams the global neighbourhood of rescue and working dogs. The centrepiece of this second issue takes us to Canada to focus on sled dogs, hazily configured as ‘huskies’ in the common imagination but not, we learn here, are an actual breed but mixed-breed ‘mutts’ that appear in all shapes and sizes. They’re not always found in snowbound locations and they carry out all kinds of work, but are afforded only minimal protection from animal welfare legislation – culls are common.

In California the Wallis Annenberg Petspace incorporates facility houses for up to 40 dogs (and 40 cats) who are provided either with their own rooms, complete with enrichment toys and pet TV, or ‘well-appointed shared space’ to condition them in order to succeed in their forever homes. There’s another sanctuary visit in Costa Rica, a dogs-eye view of Hamburg, dogs being used to rehabilitate prisoners in Romania and a missing rescue dog in Bermuda that came to inspire a musical. Closer to home but deliberately off the grid is a sojourn in Skye.

As someone who travels with my own dog to any place that will have us I've noticed the proliferation of ‘dog-friendly’ signage. But there is, as this magazine points out, a distinction to be made between ‘dog-friendly and ‘dog-tolerant’. There’s a discussion here that is focused specifically on the workplace, and how it might be designed to enhance the wellbeing of both employees and their pets. A former worker describes why the dog friendly policy didn’t work at Google, contrasted with the experience of working at The Dogs Trust where the same dogs attend most days and subsequently become part of the furniture. It’s the occasional visiting dog, she says, that proves disruptive and an unhelpful distraction in the workplace.

The workplace article derives from increased dog ownership in the UK; this issue went to print before the pandemic and with work patterns now certain to change, there will have to be more thinking around how we manage space, children and dogs to effectively work from home. More and more people are reportedly taking on puppies to beat lockdown, and of course it’s already being said that ‘dogs are not just for lockdown, they’re for life’.

I can’t imagine Wunderdog will ever struggle for material.