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You can’t pin the source of these allergies to any single genetic quirk or environmental condition. But the uptick in pet allergies seems to be for the same reason people are more sensitive to allergies than a century ago: We’re cleaner than we used to be.

“If you contact a lot of microbes, they kind of train your immune system to recognize what is real danger and what is not,” says microbiologist Hanna Sinkko from the University of Helsinki in Finland. When we don’t encounter as many of these bugs, our immune system is more likely to mistake innocent stuff, like pollen, for the bad guys. The same is true in dogs.

A recent study by Sinkko and her colleagues found that canines with a diverse array of microbes on their skin had far fewer allergies than their cleaner counterparts. These dogs had more space to roam outside, bigger families, and shared their homes with other pets. Of over a hundred dogs in the study, almost a third living in a single-person home in a city had some sort of allergy compared to less than 10 percent of dogs in big families with more access to open space.

Dogs also make a nice model organism to study allergies in humans. The researchers in Finland want to know how someone’s environment and lifestyle affect the community of microbes living on their skin and their risk of developing allergies. But these questions are hard to study in people—our lives are messy. A dog’s existence is simpler, yet has more real-world relevance than a lab rat’s. “The trends we found are quite applicable to humans,” says Jenni Lehtimäki, another of the study’s authors from the University of Helsinki. “If a dog is allergic, the owner is likely to be allergic.”

Searching for sweet relief. depositphotos

But allergies in dogs often look different than they do in humans, and their treatment varies as well. Instead of inhaling allergens, dogs usually pick them up through their skin, so they scratch and chew and roll and rub, making them prone to secondary ear and eye infections. The antihistamines that people often take for their allergies also don’t usually work in dogs, says Andrew Rosenberg, a vet at Riverdale Veterinary Dermatology in New Jersey. Steroids are quite effective, he says, but they’re not safe over the long-term because they suppress a dog’s immune system. The best treatment is to get your pet tested and then give them personalized immune therapy, in the form of shots or drops, Rosenberg says.

Where dogs live and what their lives look like may play an important role in whether they develop allergies, but some breeds are also just more disposed to allergies than others. “French bulldogs are considered the poster child for dog allergies,” says Rosenberg. “It’s rare to see bulldogs that don’t have some allergies.” Breeds like bulldogs, labradors, west highland terriers, and golden retrievers are more likely to have genetic defects affecting their skin’s defense against allergens.

The role of the genetic risks in developing allergies is equally important in people. If you look at large populations, you can see trends showing that exposure to environmental microbes is linked to lower rates of allergies. But these conclusions don’t apply at an individual level, cautions James Sublett, past president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. Exposing any one person to more microbes won’t necessarily decrease their allergies if their genes have predisposed them to having reactive bodies. “I used to have a cartoon showing a mom putting a pig into a bed with a baby,” Sublett says. “It doesn’t work like that.”

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Do I Need A Vpn At Home? 6 Reasons You Might

What is the Risk of Not Using VPN For Home?

Using a VPN for home is one of the best ways to ensure your online security and privacy, as it encrypts all data that passes through your network. Without a VPN, your home network is vulnerable to a multitude of threats, including:

Your internet service provider (ISP) could monitor your online activities and personal data, which can compromise your privacy and security.

Hackers and cybercriminals may be able to intercept non-VPN home internet traffic and steal your valuable information.

Certain websites and online services may not be accessible, like streaming services, social media platforms, or news websites.

Governments and other organizations can censor and monitor your online activities.

An internet connection can be vulnerable to attacks, including malware and phishing attempts.

Despite the security opportunities offered by some ISPs, you don’t get the same level of protection as a VPN provides.

Unblock Geo-Restricted Content

A VPN can also be used to unblock geo-restricted content, such as streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. This is especially useful if you’re traveling or want to access content unavailable in your region.

By connecting to a VPN server in the country where the content is available, you can bypass restrictions and access content as if you were there.

Stop Bandwidth Throttling

However, some no-log VPNs prevent bandwidth throttling by encrypting your data and hiding your location. By doing this, you can avoid network slowdowns for a smoother and faster experience when streaming or downloading content.

Stay Secured From Cybercriminals

A VPN provides a secure connection to protect you from cybercriminals and potential cyber-attacks. It can help to keep your personal information away from prying eyes by encrypting your data and hiding your IP address.

Because of the encryption, the VPN hides your sensitive information, such as passwords, credit card information, security check answers, and others. So, if cybercriminals try to attack your computer and harvest your important data, they’ll have no such luck.

Safely Access Public Wi-Fi

Similar to staying safe from cybercriminals, a VPN’s encryption is especially important if you’re using public Wi-Fi networks. While getting some work done at your local coffee shop may seem harmless, these public Wi-Fi hotspots can act as beacons for hackers looking to steal your data.

Save Money

A VPN can save you money because you don’t have to shop around for expensive security software or malware defence programs. While some VPN providers cost a bit of money, you can easily find a free VPN.

Plus, by connecting to a VPN server in another country, you can access different versions of websites that may offer discounts or cheaper prices for goods and services.

What Can a VPN Be Used For?

Beyond the question of “Is a VPN necessary,” there are many different uses for one. Whether you’re looking to access company files from home, stream your favorite content, or improve your gaming experience, a VPN could be just what you need.

Do I need a VPN for my business?

A business VPN is a private network designed specifically with companies and organizations in mind. Connecting to the VPN allows employees to access a secure network from any location, as long as they have access to the internet. In addition to connectivity, your data is encrypted, which makes it difficult for hackers or other malicious actors to intercept sensitive information.

Businesses may need a VPN for several reasons, such as providing a secure way for remote employees to access company resources without compromising security. VPNs for remote workers have grown in popularity as remote workers have increased since the 2023 COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, a business may use a VPN to provide secure access to partners or vendors outside of the organization’s network.

Do I need a VPN for Streaming?

A streaming VPN is a virtual private network used to access geo-restricted content online. They allow people to connect to servers in different countries, giving them access to content that may be unavailable in their location.

For example, someone in the US could use a streaming VPN to access content that is only available in the UK. Similarly, someone traveling abroad may want to continue accessing their native country’s content and can do so safely with the same network.

Additionally, a streaming VPN can help protect your privacy by encrypting your web traffic and hiding your IP address from prying eyes.

Do I need a VPN for Gaming?

A gaming VPN is intended for gaming use. More specifically, a gaming VPN is designed specifically for gamers who want to reduce lag and improve their gaming experience.

With a gaming VPN, users can connect to servers in different regions, allowing them to play games with lower latency and less lag.

Additionally, a gaming VPN can help protect against distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, often used to disrupt online gaming.

What VPN Should I Use?

When selecting a VPN, there are several factors to consider. First, make sure the VPN offers strong encryption and security protocols. It should also have a good reputation for protecting user privacy and be compatible with the devices and operating systems you plan to use.

We’ve rounded up a few VPNs we think make the cut for VPN usage:

ExpressVPN is a highly recommended VPN provider with a 30-day money-back guarantee and compatibility with several operating systems, including Windows, Mac, and iOS.

This provider also has servers in 94 countries, providing users with a multiple options to select from for seamless connectivity. The platform offers 24-hour live chat support to assist customers without any issues or concerns they may have.

When it comes to security, ExpressVPN uses military-grade encryption (AES-256) to protect user data. Further, the company holds to a strict no-logs policy, meaning they don’t track or store your data to ensure confidentiality.

Surfshark’s no-logs policy ensures that user data is kept private and secure. Additionally, this provider allows for unlimited devices to be connected at once.

Limitations of VPN

While having VPN at home provides many benefits, you should also consider its limitations. For example:

Many VPNs are unable to bypass certain government censorship or geo-restrictions, making them less useful for users in certain countries.

Some VPNs have slow speeds and unreliable connections, which can cause disruptions while streaming or browsing online.

A few VPNs collect and store user data, which goes against the main purpose of using a VPN in the first place.

You shouldn’t have a problem finding a safe and reliable VPN as long as you make sure they check off all of your boxes and provide complete transparency with what they offer.


Yes, a Home VPN is safe as long as it’s legal where you live. It’s actually safer than a basic connection because it provides several security benefits to protect your web browsing activities and personal and financial data.

Start by selecting a VPN with an intuitive user interface. A VPN that is easy to use will make configuring your network across multiple devices more straightforward. In addition, you’ll benefit from having access to 24/7 customer support and live chats. The latter feature can be convenient, as you won’t have to wait for a response sent by ticket or email.

Supporting multiple devices with a VPN can help save money because you won’t have to pay separately. Indeed, many VPNs will support up to five devices at a time, while a few providers allow you to select a specific server that enables you to share the same IP across devices.

Final Thoughts

Adding a VPN to your computer can increase your online security by encrypting your data and activities and even allowing you access to geo-restricted content, all you need to do is decide which provider best meets your needs.

7 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do With Your Email Inbox

You might be tempted to dismiss email as obsolete because it is no longer as popular as instant messaging and other types of online communication. But there’s more to email than receiving weekly newsletters and spam or managing business correspondence. With an email account you can send text messages, upload files, update your social media, and even control the smart technology in your home.

1. Send Text Messages

The person you’re messaging gets a text with your email address as the sender.

2. Post to Social Media

Websites like Facebook and WordPress give you a special email address when you open an account. You’ll usually find it listed on your account’s settings page. You can update your blog or status by sending an email to this address, which can be helpful if you can’t log into your account.

Depending on the platform, you may need to change additional settings before you can use this feature, but the process is similar to texting by email. Just start a new email draft and input the address in the “To” field. You can also post photos and videos by adding them as email attachments.

3. Upload Files 4. Start a Video Call

In addition to sending text messages and updating your social media accounts, you can use email to video call your friends, family, or business associates. If you have a Gmail and a Google+ account, you can launch Google’s communication platform Google Hangouts right from your Inbox.

5. Recall an Email

If you’ve ever accidentally sent an unfinished email, noticed a typo after you pressed send, or just sent the wrong message to the wrong person, you’re not alone. Perhaps one of the most valuable things you can do with an email account besides sending emails is un-send them. Google added email recall functionality to all Gmail accounts back in 2023. Microsoft enabled their own undo feature, which gives you the option to recall and replace any email that you send, the following year.

6. Store Your Files

Your email account probably isn’t the first place that comes to mind when you’re looking for somewhere to store things online. But it’s a great option when you’re in a hurry and need a quick, reliable way to access files later. Moreover, email accounts have a lot of space. Google gives Gmail users 15G to share across their Gmail, Google Drive, and Google+ accounts. Microsoft offers 15GB of storage space for free Outlook accounts and 50GB if you’re an Office 365 Home or Office 365 Personal subscriber. Yahoo Mail grants its users 1TB of free storage.

7. Control Your Smart Home

Believe it or not, you can link Internet-enabled devices like smart outlets, light bulbs, and locks to your email account. The free web service, IFTTT, which allows you to connect various services using applets, makes this possible.


Email might not be the fastest way to communicate over the Internet, but it’s one of the most reliable. Whether you have one account or several, the various uses of email extend far beyond just sending and receiving mail. Some benefits, like controlling smart tech with your email address, may not be practical, but they certainly showcase how versatile email can be.


Ernes is a technical writer and a freelance content writer based on the West Coast of the United States. He loves to create how-to guides, blog posts, and articles about various topics, but his passion is writing about technology.

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17 Dog Gifts To Ring In National Dog Day

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Today, the powers that make up fake holidays have given unto us National Dog Day, a time for us to go on extra long walkies, give belly rubs, and otherwise show the best member of our families how great they are.

Line their bed, food bowl, and toy basket with treats, techy accessories, and chew toys to keep them busy while you’re away. They might not always be perfect—chewing up your apartment molding or peeing all over the rug—but you could never deny that they are, indeed, Very Good. Onward to our favorite wag swag.

These natural chicken dog treats by Whole Life Pet Products are freeze-dried to maintain the flavor and nutrients of the meat. The treats rely on all-American ingredients and are totally grain-free. Give the treats to your dog right out of the bag or soak them in water for a softer treat.

Since you can’t always be around, the Petcube Bites two-in-one treat dispenser and HD camera is a clutch item for any pet owner. You can watch your pets on your smartphone with the 138-degree, 1080p camera. You can talk to them using two-way audio and feed them treats. The device holds two-pounds of treats that can be tossed on your phone through the app or with Amazon’s Alexa. The Petcube features 3x digital zoom, night vision, and both motion and sound detection. It comes in carbon black, matte silver, and rose gold.

The PetSafe automatic pet feeder allows you to keep your pet’s belly full even when you can’t make it home in time to feed them. The smart device connects to your phone over Wi-Fi, sends you notifications once the food has been dispensed, and can hold up to 24 cups of chow. In the smartphone app, you can choose how much food you want to dispense—between 1/8 of a cup and four cups—and schedule up to 12 feeding times a day. Also, if your dog eats too quickly, you can use the Slow Feed feature that will dispense the food at a slower rate. It can be powered via an outlet or with four D-cell batteries.

On your next hike, film the trek from your dog’s perspective. The padded GoPro Fetch dog mount is attached to a harness that comfortably fits dogs that are 15 to 75 pounds. It mounts on your dog’s chest or back, allowing for multiple angles.

For a no-tech, no-fuss eating option, let your dog feast like royalty out of a stainless steel elevated watering bowl. The lifted bowl helps with posture and digestion.

Collapsible, silicone dog bowls are great for taking food and water to the park. They fold down into flat discs—meaning they don’t take up a lot of room in your bag—and are dishwasher-safe. They come with carabiners to attach to your bag if you don’t want to put a wet or dirty bowl back inside with your clean items.

My dogs have always slept in the same bed as me—and it wasn’t my choice. They’d jump up while I was sleeping, disrupting my sleep. It changed, though, when I got a nice bed for my dog. This one is made of memory foam, with a fur-resistant, machine washable cover made of a microfiber suede.

Who am I to say that this is the best dog toy? All I can tell you is that that my dog loves it. If yours can’t stop chasing squirrels, give them the option to do it indoors. This interactive, squeaky dog toy comes with three squirrels and a log for you to stick them in.

Hide treats inside Outward Hound’s Hide N’ Slide dog toy to test your dog’s cognition and sniffing abilities. Pup has got to figure out how to slide the puzzle pieces in order to reach the yummy stuff.

This USB-rechargeable LED dog collar will make your dog more visible on night walks. The collar charge lasts five hours and has three different light settings—steady, fast flashing, and slow flashing. It’s available in six colors.

Here’s a compact way to transport your pet’s food and keep it fresh. For the sake of your backpack or pants pockets, don’t use easily-ripped plastic bags. The Vittles Pet Food travel container is airtight, has built-in food and water bowls, and comes in two colors.

The Whizzotech pet carrier works as a front carrier (with the dog looking forward with you) or as a backpack (’90s Volvo style). It’s got four holes for their legs, a slot for their tail to fit through, and both zipper and velcro closures to keep them secure. The carrier has adjustable straps and comes in small, medium, large, and extra-large and in five styles—black, pink, purple, rainbow, and stripe. A built-in leash attachment also helps keep your pup secure when you’re taking them out of the carrier.

These waterproof and flexible QUMY dog boots will have you cleaning less and will protect your dog’s paws from possibly painful things on the ground like snow salt during the winter. They have velcro straps for a snug fit, anti-slip soles, and come in sizes for all dogs.

This seat cover is made of a strong, waterproof polyester material that buckles into the headrests of your car, protecting the interior from a barrage of hair, dander, and scratches.

This is a no-brainer. Unless you have a hypoallergenic dog that floats 3 inches off the ground, you’ll want a vacuum to suck up dirt, fur, or kibble bits your dog can track around the house. Leave the full-sized vacuum in the closet and opt for a quicker clean with this hand-vac. It’s bagless, with a 16-foot power cord and two different kinds of nozzles—one for removing hairs from fabrics and a hard nozzle for hard surfaces.

Did you know that dogs won’t always do what they’re supposed to? Sometimes they make a mess and sometimes it stinks. Grab some Angry Orange odor remover to keep your home free of the smells that will cause you to think ill of your pets. It is non-toxic, smells like oranges, and can be used on wood and carpet.

Do You Check For Understanding Often Enough With Students?

Blogger Elena Aguilar reminds us why formative assessments are important and offers strategies to use during a lesson or topic of study.

A few months ago, I wrote for chúng tôi about the power of focusing on a few, high-priority standards as a strategy to improve student learning. Many other elements also need to be in play in a classroom in order to produce the results that we all want to see for our students.

To name just a few: The learning environment needs to be one in which students feel respected and safe to take risks; kids need to feel that their learning has a purpose and that the curriculum is relevant to their lives; and students need feedback on their progress — they need to know what they’re trying to accomplish, where they are in relation to the goal, and what they need to do in order to get there.

It is the teacher’s role to make sure this happens.

The Multi-Tasking Teacher

Although to be an effective teacher it often feels like you need to be one of those Hindu gods with a dozen arms, I believe that educators do need to hold standards and objectives in one hand and formative assessments in the other. We then need to juggle them back and forth. It’s essential to break down a high-priority standard into bite size learning objectives that are measurable and then it’s absolutely critical to have a way to check, every single day, on how well students mastered that objective.

Having a well-written learning objective, in student-friendly language, is not enough.

This isn’t easy. In fact, there’s nothing easy about teaching. But it is essential that every time students leave our classroom, we ask a number of questions:

How do I know that they learned what I wanted them to learn?

How well did they learn the objective?

Who mastered it and who didn’t?

Which parts of the objective did students struggle with? What misconceptions did they have?

If we don’t answer these questions, all of our careful planning and breaking down of standards and creating a positive learning environment and making curriculum relevant is useless.

As educators, we are responsible for learning, not teaching.

So how do we do assess every day how well students mastered the objectives?

The Key: Formative Assessment

A lot has been written about on-going, formative assessments, but my favorite resource is Checking for Understanding by Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey This book is a quick and easy read, very accessible and full of dozens of ways to thoughtfully and systematically monitor student learning.

Fisher and Frey define a formative assessment as one that serves to improve instruction and provide student feedback and which is administered throughout instruction. Students use the results to monitor their own learning; teachers use the results to check for understanding and then to plan their next instructional moves.

In contrast, a summative assessment is administered at the end of a course or unit, and is used to measure student competency. Teachers use these results for grades.

If formative assessments are used consistently, and used well, neither a teacher nor a student should ever be surprised by his/her final grade, and I would argue that the great majority of students should be successful.

A Few Examples

Formative assessments can be:

Questioning strategies that are used with the whole group or individuals

Think-pair-share, during which the teacher circulates and listens to students sharing

Individual mini-white boards for ongoing assessment during a lesson

An “exit ticket,” which is a quarter or half sheet of paper where students write about their learning for the day, or answer a brief question or two

Hand signals, as a quick and easy way to check for understanding

I imagine that most teachers are familiar with these strategies and many others.

Recently I observed a fantastic first grade Sheltered English teacher who used a variety of formative assessment techniques to ensure that students mastered their objective (to analyze characters and identify the setting in a picture book).

As the teacher read the story, she instructed students to use specific hand gestures when they heard repetitive phrases and to repeat those phrases out loud. This engaged students, assured that they were following the language patterns, and allowed the teacher to check that all students heard and understood a repeating phrase (important oral language development for English Language Learners).

Then she had students talk to each other about the characters and share their ideas with the whole group. Finally, she distributed three response cards to the children: one card said “who,” another said “when,” and the last said “where.”

The teacher named a character or aspect of the setting, such as “sheep,” and students had to hold up the card that identified the literary element. In this way, the teacher was able to immediately see who was struggling with the concepts and to provide corrective feedback.

Planning is a Must

When I write lesson plans, I have a column in which I write the activity that students will do or where I detail my instructional moves. Next to that is another column where I identify the formative assessment strategies that I will use during those activities.

In order for my checking for understanding to be as useful as possible, I need to carefully plan and consider which strategy will be most effective with the planned activity. If I don’t plan, I tend to use a few strategies over and over, or I don’t get the most accurate data. This doesn’t mean that I don’t throw in a spontaneous strategy now and then, but it assures me that I’ll get the student data I need by the end of that lesson.

What have you learned about formative assessments from using them? Do you have a strategy to check for understanding that you find effective? Please share your ideas and expertise with us!

What To Give Your Very Good Dog This Holiday Season

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Written By Sara Chodosh

Updated Nov 23, 2023 8:31 AM

Good dogs deserve good presents, and Christmas morning is so much better when there’s a happy dog running around with a new toy.

Shelters aren’t great at identifying breeds for the pooches in their kennels—it’s difficult to do on sight alone. But if you’ve ever wondered what your pup is made of, you can buy this DNA kit and figure it out for sure. Purebred dogs are massive inbred, which makes it easy to identify which traits come from which lineages, plus you probably don’t have to worry about privacy issues with this one like you would for a human DNA test.

Keep track of your dog while you’re away or just when you’re too lazy to get up and see where they’ve gotten to with this GPS tracker. More seriously, if you’ve got a pet that loves to run off this could be an actual life-saver. The collar will send you updates if your pooch has strayed too far, so you can go out after them before they’ve gotten away entirely.

Note: Whistle’s version requires a small monthly fee (many others do too) to give cellular service to the device—that’s so it can tell you where your pet is from anywhere, not just within Bluetooth range.

“Industry experts” call this doggie ball the best in the world. It floats, bounces, and tastes like mint, plus it’s super durable. Fair warning: you may end up hating it because your dog won’t let you stop playing fetch.

Amazon/Big Dog Antler Chews


Give this to your big dog to make him feel wild. Or give it to your tiny pup and giggle as he tries to drag it around. Either way, it’s an excellent chew toy for pals who rip up every gift you’ve ever given them.

Help your pup get smarter by teaching him or her how to solve puzzles. You can start with beginner level if your doggie is kind of an idiot, then work your way up. Or jump right into the intermediate level if your pooch is a genius. Either way, she gets treats!

It wobbles. It’s bright and adorable. It dispenses food. It’s everything your dog wants in a toy. You can put treats in here or an entire meal’s worth of kibble and watch your puppy bat it around trying to get that last morsel out. Hours of entertainment for all.

Really a gift for you and your dog, because with the Chuckit you’ll be able to throw that tennis ball farther for longer. It’s basically a long flexible arm that increases your chucking power—plus it grips the slimy ball for you, so you don’t have to touch a bunch of drool.

Okay, so your pooch may not actually enjoy this shower tool, but he’ll sure appreciate when he’s clean enough for people to want to pet him. The attachment fits onto your shower or a garden hose, for indoor/outdoor rinsing, and it even has a hook on top so you can hang it nearby instead of throwing it on the ground.

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