Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Details of Their Perfect Diet

A couple weeks ago I wrote about the pooches' perfect diet and my new meal plan. Since then, we have had numerous questions asking for specifics of the pooches' actual diet. At first we were hesitant to detail our specific diet as these are the things we have found to work for our dogs, but we do know all dogs are different and we want people to understand the mix that works for our dogs may not be perfect for all dogs.
We only feed the pooches twice a day: once in the morning (around 6:30 am during the week and 8:30 am on the weekends) and once in the evening (around 4:30). 
During the summer we realized Miss M was a bit rotund and their kidney levels were dangerously high.
We wanted to add whole fruits and vegetables, but honestly, we didn't think we had the time or patience to actually "cook" for our dogs. And by 'cook' I mean cut up stuff.
We were lucky to discover Sojos Grain-Free Dog Food Mix which is largely a blend of dried veggies and fruits. We had tried some other dehydrated veggie mixes, but we really liked how Sojos had the larger chunks. It almost looks like a type of casserole we would eat ourselves. Since Sojos should be rehydrated overnight in the refrigerator, we have set off a whole shelf in the fridge just for our pooches' food, but you can also just rehydrate Sojos in water for at least 1 hour.
We also started using a high-quality meat. We rotate between Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diet canned formula and raw food nuggets or patties; we vary this up based on the price and availability, brands include Northwest Naturals, Nature's Variety, and Stella & Chewy's.  For each pooch in their morning meal, we use a half cup of Sojos Grain-Free Dog Food Mix, a half can (6.5 oz or 185 g) of the Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diet (we vary the formula every meal), a cup of the raw food nuggets or a half patty of raw food, a splash of goat's milk, a tablespoon of probiotics and a can of water. We prepare this each night and store it overnight in the refrigerator.
Though we would like to use the raw food for both their meals, but due to the cost of raw food, we just add another half can (6.5 oz or 185 g) of their canned diet in lieu of the raw food for their afternoon meal. Since we were so excited about Miss M's healthy weight loss, which we largely attribute to Sojos, we decided to use add Sojos to Miss Bessie Belle's diet.
For each meal, Miss Bessie Belle has a whole cup of Sojos Complete Food Mix with Raw Turkey with a cup of her kibble (and splash of goat's milk and a tablespoon of probiotics). With this healthy diet and long walks, in the short time she's been with us Miss Bessie Belle has lost over 8 lb. and now has a renewed pep in her step and is very lively!
Recently, A had a discussion with a representative from Sojos and raved about the great success we have had with their products and they have offered to "sponsor" both the bigger gal-pooches of New Leash on Life, Miss Bessie Belle and Miss Claudia to regain a healthy weight as they search for their forever homes.
Miss Claudia, who would not eat a bite of her kibble in boarding, now thoroughly enjoys her kibble with Sojos Grain-Free Dog Food Mix and a splash of goat's milk in her foster home.

Monday, January 30, 2012

SociaBulls: Izzy and Her Pack

I'm always amazed at the variety of reasons people chose to join SociaBulls and how different their goals are. So we've decided to highlight some of our SociaBulls members to show their varying experiences with the group.
This gorgeous brindle gal with the crazy ears is Izzy! We first met Izzy's mom through SociaBulls; she was one of the very first emails we received when we announced we were forming the group. Since then they have been very dedicated members and her mom has been instrumental to organizing and growing the group. Izzy is not only her first pitbull-type dog...but her very first dog!
Here is their story about trying to remain good pitbull ambassadors while working with an energetic dog.

 Last summer I came across Two Pitties in the City blog and immediately became enamored with Mr. B and Ms. M.  And as I spent some time reading about their daily adventures, I also realized that Mr. B and Ms. M’s parents were providing an honest insight into the challenges of being a dog owner, the quest for finding new resources and ultimately wanting to show how wonderful pit bulls and pit bull type dogs are.
 See, Izzy is my very first dog and the day she came into my life I embraced the responsibility of providing her with the best quality of life possible.  And I also recognized that I was responsible for being an ambassador for pit bulls.  Many a day I questioned (and still do) whether or not I was doing a good job.  Why can’t I get her to stop pulling when we walk?  Why must she annihilate every soft plush toy I give her?  Is she getting enough exercise?  Was it my fault her toenail split?  Is she being socialized enough?  Sometimes I felt like a lone dog owner, wondering if there were others out there that had just as many questions as I did. 
 Izzy is a very good girl.  At just over 2, her energy knows no bounds.  She is quite intelligent and a little bit wily, but is over the top generous with her affection and desire to follow me from room to room as I go about my day.  And she loves, LOVES to meet other dogs and people.  So, when Two Pitties introduced a pack walking experience, I knew Izzy and I had to join the pack.
 Chicago SociaBulls has brought a positive dimension to our lives.  Through our weekly pack walk, Izzy is learning that she can be around other dogs without screaming “HI!  FRIENDS!  LET’S PLAY!!” Now, though she does get excited when the pack gathers, she is able to remain calm, and keep focused on me and the commands I give her.  When we gather each week, Izzy greets her pack with “Hey pack!  Let’s walk!”  And so we walk.  Through pack walking Izzy has been able to walk side by side with other dogs, even creating the perfect trifecta.  Her focus is sharp and she is increasingly less distracted by the random chicken bone on the ground, or the renegade squirrel.  On our solo walks, her pulling has decreased significantly and she is more adjusted to walking at the pace I choose, rather than forcing me to move at a faster clip.  Her dog greeting manners have improved tremendously and we can now walk through the neighborhood and pass other dogs without Izzy stopping in her tracks and pulling to get over to meet the other dog.  For me, the pack has allowed me to become part of a community of like-minded dog owners.  I don’t feel alone anymore in my quest to be the best pit bull owner I can be.  Izzy has a pack, and now, so do I.  
 Since this, we have had an overwhelming response from other like-minded dogowners looking to join the group. If you contacted us previously, we are currently working on a new member enrollment system and you should hear from us soon. If you are interested in joining the group, please email us at chicagosociabulls@gmail.com.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Miss M being Miss M

We are very lucky that Miss M is not much of a barker. We have only heard her bark to correct, and that is ironic since it is Miss M that should be the one getting corrected. However, that does not mean that she is not a vocal pooch. Most of the time, Miss M is quite the lazy pooch, enjoying her 23 hrs of shut eye moving from one comfy spot
to another.
However, she becomes quite a vocal pooch when she wants something. On the weekends, if we happen to stir at all, this is a signal for the pooches to freak out. First I am woken up by Mr. B's gigantic face licking my nose.
Then comes Miss M's melodic singing. We first thought that she had to go potty, so we would take her down, but that ended up with her running around the backyard and then running back up the stairs and crying to get back in to the house. Eventually we learned that her melodic singing was for her breakfast.
Poor Miss Bessie-Belle, she still has not gotten used to their routine and one time she got caught in a Night at the Roxberry moment, with Miss M on one side and Mr. B on the other side knocking her back and forth.
FYI:The gate we have up, blocks Miss M from sneaking out in the middle of the night to scope out any food that is unaccounted for, to go potty on the living room rug or to do some random mischief.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

DoggyStyle: On Sweaters and Hoodies and Snoods

Even as the temperatures dip, and Chicago winter is in full swing, we still need to walk our dogs. But like many pitbull-type short-hair dogs, our pooches absolutely hate the cold weather.
Finding ways to keep our dogs warm had become our mission--not to mention our 'gateway' into costumes. We have been getting a lot of questions about our recommendations for keeping larger 'chesty' dogs warm. Here is Part I: Sweaters, Hoodies, and Snoods. (We will cover coats and inclement weather items in an upcoming post).

Sweaters are good because they can transition from inside cold to outside cold without a wardrobe change. Plus sweaters are usually our go-to's during the holidays when we're trying to convince our family that our dogs will actually behave this time. We initially had a hard time finding sweaters that fit, and weren't too expensive. We do like our matching black and pink skull sweaters; these were actually our first 'dog clothes' purchase and they were a bit pricy, plus the fit is a little off.
We also ended up ordering some custom dog sweaters from friend Our Waldo Bungie whose mom knits and gives part of the proceeds to help dogs.
 We bought these sweaters which were a mere $30 each, and we like that they are customized to our dogs' size, plus we could choose the colors (though choice can be so overwhelming for me!)

Our dogs didn't really need hoodies, but at only $12-14 we thought they were good for a laugh. They are Zack and Zoey from Amazon, and you should always order a size bigger. Our dogs wear Large, SuperLevi was a Medium, and Big Bessie wears XL...but it's a bit big on her. Oops...I wrote that really late at night. Our dogs are XL, Bessie is XXL, and SuperLevi was Large. The tight arms and chest make them look hilarious
 Miss M was able to wear the green one for St Patrick's day. We have noticed a lot of Sociabulls members wearing them, and especially having the great idea of using them as a layering piece.

After I had seen a couple of snoods on people around town, I thought they would be the perfect cold-weather accompaniment for our pooches. The snood can serve as a type of turtleneck, or be pulled up like a hood, which makes our pooches look like otters:
They fit perfectly in the gap between the pooches neck and coat, and I like that they can cover prongs or training collars. They also keep their ears warm without having to wear a hat. We got ours from one of our SociaBulls members who started a dog scarf Etsy shop, just as I was searching for some snoods.

These are some of the non-coat items our pooches wear on colder days. You can also see quite the array from our SociaBulls walks and a great writeup by fellow Chicagoan, and SociaBulls member, Zoe which details even more options.
What do your pooches wear when it gets cold?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Pooches: On The Secrets of Elderbulls

 Having foster dog Bessie-Belle in our house has let us in on a secret: Elderbulls are basically move-in ready dogs. And after paying our dues with crazy Miss M, it's nice to know there are options to be able to enjoy dogs with less of the craziness and excitement.
I really wish I had started this blog when I had first adopted Miss M, because people don't realize how much work I put into her. When I wasn't taking her on one of many, many long walks a day or tackling her when she tried to take the leash from my hand, she may have been home chewing one of my heels, or even her own bed. But we all expect that from a younger pup.
 For some reason, when we were looking for our second dog, we automatically looked younger. For a time we were even in a foster-to-adopt with a pooch Miss M's same age and energy level. We would awaken to them playing. Need to go on even more walks a day. And put up with dogs leaping over our furniture (yes, that really did happen). We realized we really weren't up for going through all of that again. So we thought we needed to put our search on hold. Until we realized...we should just adopt an older dog.
Mr. B was 5 years old when we adopted him. We did find that, unfortunately, it is often harder to find the older dogs. Our search for Mr. B took us all the way to Kalamazoo, Michigan. Maybe that's part of the secret? We didn't have to go through training class again.We didn't have to deal with endless energy. He didn't chew things he shouldn't. And he fit in with our lifestyle; even going skateboarding with E.
Now we've realized just how move-in ready foster Sweet Bessie-Belle is. She hasn't destroyed anything. Hasn't had a single accident in the house. Doesn't need to go on countless long walks each day. Basically perfect! And the perfect anecdote to being able to adopt a second dog without starting over with the craziness again.
Plus we really appreciate how easy our life is now that our dogs are a bit older. I sometimes wonder if I would trade in all the years of agony working with Miss M if I could have just adopted her as she is now?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

City Dog: Shopping and Winter Socialization

During the summer, our pooches are accustomed to being out and about, meeting different people, and exploring different places. But once winter in Chicago hits, we all head inside to hibernate. And we quickly learned last spring that when we stop exposing our pooches to new things all winter, spring-time becomes a tedious reteaching process. So we've been trying some new things:
 I didn't think we had many options to take them places during the winter, but when we heard Home Depot allows dogs we thought we'd give it a try.
We did make sure to ask the employees in advance, and Mr. B had a great time walking through the aisles with his 'tool backpack' and helping E get supplies. Plus I think he was happy to have some away time from all the ladies in the house.
I guess it isn't very often that you see a large dog in a store. Especially in a backpack. And with his own camera. Curious how Home Depot looks from a dog's perspective? Here are some of Mr B's highlights:
When we originally posted this on our Facebook page, people mentioned a lot of places where they were able to take their dogs. What are some unusual places where you're able to take your pooch?

Monday, January 23, 2012

SociaBulls: Navigating a Dog-Walking Group in a Densely Populated City

 We are so excited to hear about so many people who have decided to start own walking groups in their own city, and we've been hearing many questions about how to do this within a densely populated area.
Last week Lark from HikeaBulls shared some great tips about the importance of creating structure to set all the dogs up for success. To add on, here are some things we've learned about managing walks within the city:

Explore Beforehand and Choose a Continuous Route:
 The key aspect of the walking is developing a rhythm for the dogs to walk as a pack. The hard parts are when the dogs are stopped because they usually get anxious, or may react to other dogs' hard stares. So it is really important to find routes that don't involve a lot of traffic lights or stopping. We have gotten very creative with our routes, and after learning more about our local Park District we've found many park-like areas which allow continuous walking. We also choose areas with ample or easy parking.

 Have a Dogless Leader (or a Few!):
The problem with finding these great uninterrupted park-like areas is these areas are usually the spaces where people like to go off-leash. Knowing how on-leash dogs can get over-excited, or even defensive, when approached by off-leash dogs, we are very careful to intercept these dogs as often as possible. We have members who will volunteer to attend the walk, without their dog, to help intercept other dogs approaching. We try to have a leader in the front, back and middle; members walking at the front of the group will yell back if a dog is approaching. Usually people are a bit curious, and with a wave the leader is able to explain to the approaching person or dog that our dogs are 'in training' and they need to focus and not interact with other dogs. People have been really nice about it, and in many cases people will even step to the side. The leaders also carry extra supplies: water, bowls, poo bags, extra leashes (we had one break!). We are working on making cards and informational material for the people who stop us and ask about the group.

Create a Pack Order:
 Knowing our dogs all have different socialization experiences, we create an order within our group to allow dogs to feel confident during the walk. We usually have our most excited, or leash-reactive, dog in the lead. We have several confident dogs we use as 'buffers' between over-excited dogs. We are aware of dogs who might be afraid of men, and pair them with a female walker, or allow them to walk in the back at their own pace. Before joining the group, members let us know this type of information about their dogs, so it helps us create 'walking buddies' We also do introductions at the beginning of each walk to make sure everyone on the walk is aware of  dogs who might need extra space.The dogs themselves also seem to find friends within the group. We had written before about Maize, who started in the front and became more confident as Izzy and Lola walked behind her. Eventually they became a trifecta. Mr. B's BFF's are Jack, Torre, and Gordon.

Respect! And Set Rules
We make sure that all of our new members are understanding of our rules and structure knowing all dogs have different socialization levels and we want to make this a positive experience for everyone. We discuss our structure through email, and now an application where they indicate that they have read and understood the rules. We are an 'owners helping owners' group and we create a positive supportive environment for other owners to work with our dogs. We think having trainers on the walk would be kind of like having a personal trainer join a fun-running group, so we don't have trainers on the walk or align with a single trainer.
We want our group of responsible dog owners to be seen in a positive way and we are very respectful of the neighborhoods we visit. The group makes sure to walk to one side, and if there is a runner coming we yell back to the rest of the group so we all give them space. We all bring poo bags and clean up after ourselves. We also cap our walks around 23 dogs so we won't take up too much space in a densely populated area.
We also know that many people who see us will judge all pitbull-type dogs based on what they see from us, so we always want to be seen in a positive light.

Pick your Own Name
 Having your own name defines your identity as a hiking group. We all have different philosophies and rules we will follow in our groups, but if something happens with another group that shares a common name, this automatically creates a connection and damages your reputation. So it's just best to choose a name completely different than any other group.

For all of those who have emailed (and so sorry for the slow response...this has been an incredibly busy time with work/school), I hope these ideas have been helpful. We would love to hear about the progress of your groups, or any other questions.
PS. My camera stopped working mid-walk so luckily for smartphones, and a great pack leader, we were able to get these photos!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Mr. B, Lifestyle Photographer

Mr. B has been a developing photographer for sometime now, and just like A the developing photographer, he upgraded his camera to the GoPro HD Hero. To make the camera accessible to Mr. B, we created a collar mount for the camera. The supplies you would need include: a clip from a skirt hanger (we snapped off one the clips from a plastic skirt hanger), flat adhesive mount that comes with the GoPro camera, and a hair band. 

As shown in figure A, we attached the flat adhesive mount to one side of the clip from the hanger and we wrapped the hair band around the GoPro mount and clipped the clip with mount to the collar as shown in figure B. To secure the mount, I pulled the hair band under the collar as shown in C and D and secured it around the other side of the clip. This is actually pretty secure and prevents the GoPro from falling off the collar, even if becomes unclipped. 
Finally make sure the GoPro is taking pictures or videos in UpD (upside down) mode. Here are some of Mr. B's photos from this past year: Costumed twin 
Drop some food
Blogging SociaBull Members: 
with best friend, Jack
Other best friends, Torre
and Gordon
Smooches from pooches 
Smooches for pooches from Miss M the kissing bandit
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