Friday, March 30, 2012

Mr. B, Socially Awkward

It was only when I started teaching that I realized that my social skills leave a lot to be desired. When I was in a lab of socially inept scientists, I felt quite socially adept. Poor Mr. B, but we think he might also be socially awkward. We wrote about his habit of hoarding toys and not knowing how to play with other pooches, but it is much worse than that. Not only does he hoard his toys, but he gets so nervous when another dog plays with his beloved toys that he will run up and snatch the toy right out of their mouths. This is what he does every time a new foster comes into our home:
Mr. B also doesn't understand going around barriers, pooches or people. If Mr. B wants to get somewhere and you happen to be in his way, expect to get bulldozed. His foster mom informed us that he was once adopted and returned because he knocked over the adopter's child and stepped on him. 
Every so often we will visit this secret dog park early in the morning, because it is quiet and empty. Once Mr. B is in the park, he will run a few laps at full-speed knocking over anything that happens to be in his path. A couple happened to bring in their puppy and dropped the puppy right in the middle of the path Mr. B was running. The poor puppy bounced off Mr. B like a flea and Mr. B kept running, not realizing that he ran into something. 
Even in the house, Mr. B does not realize that he shares the place with another pooch. We always kong the pooches when we leave and sometimes Mr. B's Kong will end up in a precarious spot and he will do anything to get that Kong, even if it includes upsetting Miss M. See what happens and why he refuses to go back to the scene of the crime. 
Can you believe he moved that whole crate with Miss M in it and pushed over and flipped the toy bin? He knew he was in trouble, no wonder why he scurried back like a little mouse. Miss M always finds a way to get back.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

City Dog: Packing a "City Dog Essentials" Bag

After spending 10 years in Chicago without a car, I've realized the importance of a good bag. Traveling via public transportation can take time, so I was always sure to pack a bag that could last from work to way into the night. And I developed quite the bag collection and 'packing' skills.
So when we adopted our dogs it became so much more important. I found when we go on long walk  it's not always so easy to get back home easily to grab something we forgot or even pop into stores with our pooches.We also developed an organizational system, that not only keeps our dog stuff in one place, but it allows us to grab an already packed bag without forgetting anything.
And of course, since our dogs consider themselves Socialites and are always on the go, we have a lot of bags for different reasons. Here is what we carry:

Everyday Short-Walk Bag:
Even when just stepping out for our quick morning walk, I always make sure to bring our small bag. Though it's unlikely anything would ever happen mere blocks from our home, I did have this fluke accident that landed me in the ER which taught me the importance of carrying an ID and some cab fare at all times. I also bring extra poo bags, back-up treats for on walk training and citronella spray (and now bear spray as back-up) and my phone as we have heard of people being approached by off-leash aggressive dogs.
We had a hard time finding a small bag with a cross body strap (so it won't swing when I bend down to pick up poo) and the one I did manage to find broke beyond repair. On one of our walks we happened to stop by the Chrome store and pick up the Mimimalist Utility Bag which happens to be the right small size. I also like that it's unisex so E can carry it on walks also.

Family Walk & Chicago Festivals Bag:
Our pooches love nothing more than exploring new neighborhoods and meeting people at street festivals. We learned early on that we need to be prepared so we carry a bag filled with: water and a collapsible dog bowl, sunscreen, an extra bandana, our Diana F+ mini camera, treats, extra poo bags, hand sanitizer, and a sarong for impromptu picnics. Plus room for us to pick up anything we might get along the way. We wrote more about it here.

Overnight/ Weekend Bag 
The last thing we want to worry about when planning a trip is thinking about packing the pooches' stuff. So we keep a bag pre-packed for weekend trips. We have their bowls, extra toys, cans of food, can opener, extra poo bags, treats, and polar fleece blankets for familiarity. This makes weekend trips less hectic and gives us a place to store our extra dog stuff.

What are some of your other 'must haves' you pack for your pooches?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Staycation with Dogs: 'Graffiti Safari's' and Street Art Walks

When E and I went on a big trip over the summer, we realized one of the real values of traveling is finding something interesting from another place and incorporating into our daily lives.
Just like being Tourists in our own City. But we always wanted to find a way to incorporate our favorite things with our dogs.
When we were visiting Portugal, France and Italy we realized how prominent the street art really was:
Which you might recognize if you've seen the documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop (also available on Netflix 'Watch it Now'.)
We even found Space Invaders:
Since we walk so much on a daily basis, we thought we'd all make like tourists and incorporate 'graffiti safari's' into our Daily Walks:
We do have a lot of permission walls within our neighborhoods, perfect for the pooches to pose in front of.
 Even former foster Bessie-Belle made like a model posing in front of her favorite wall.
 Plus this makes our daily walks so much more interesting!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Pooches: On Quality v. Quantity Dog Time

I'm always interested in hearing all the misconceptions people have about not being able to own pets. Recently I was speaking with someone who said he just didn't have enough time in the week to devote to a dog. That it didn't seem fair to a dog to just sit around in a crate all day.
 We also work. And our dogs do stay home all day. Miss M is in her crate and Mr B is in his tepee. But at the same time, I think our pooches have a good life and I'm pretty sure they're happy.
I think a lot of it is just our own human guilt and perceptions of what our dogs need. I know we all have images of how our dogs would love to have exciting days every day, but I don't think that's reality. Dogs still need time to sleep (I've heard they sleep as much as 14-18 hours a day!) and as long as they get exercise in the morning and evening, are mentally stimulated and properly socialized, we shouldn't have to feel guilty about leaving them while we're gone. We make sure the time we do spend with them is quality time.
I know a lot of us sometimes use dog walkers and doggie daycares for extra energy mid-day breaks, and I'm always partial to adopting a mellow Elderbull who would love the time alone during the day to sleep.
Though if you don't have other time in the evenings and weekends to really work with and spend quality time your dog it might not be a good fit.
 What does everyone else think? How much time does a person really need to make sure their dog has a fulfilling life?

Monday, March 26, 2012

SociaBulls: Learning to Be Social and Have Dog Friends

We've been noticing that while we've been making friends and meeting so many great people through SociaBulls, our dogs have also been flocking to specific dogs. Mr. B is part of an 'inner-circle' of dude-dogs: Boomer, Jack, Torre and Gordon. We especially love seeing how Mr. B and Gordon are friends because Gordon's family was initially unsure if Gordon would ever have friends. Gordon is an adorably-smiley pooch--you may have spotted him in SociaBulls photos--that was unfortunately horribly abused in his past. Since he spent much of his youth healing at the vet, he missed the chance to socialize with other dogs and he was unsure what to think of them or how to react. Read Gordon's story below along with photos of our last walks:
Fun-loving, muscular, snuggly Gordon came into our lives last May through One Tail at a Time. It took me years to convince my husband to get a dog and when I finally convinced him, the first website I went to was One Tail’s, and the first dog I saw posted was Gordon-and I fell in love.
Gordon had a bit of a rough start-he was found on the side of the road in Kane County, with chemical burns covering most of his body. Thankfully, One Tail at a Time was contacted and through their rescue program Gordon was able to receive the fully-funded medical attention that he needed.
Although Gordon’s back is mostly bald with some random patches of fur here and there, his skin has fully healed! He has become quite the fashion model, having to wear t-shirts and clothes to keep him from scratching his back.
When we first got Gordon, we were unsure of how he would interact with other dogs. He spent a good portion of his puppy years healing at the vet and did not have the opportunity to socialize with other dogs at a young age. During our walks, it seemed that he didn’t know how to react to other dogs that we saw-he would bark, growl, and make insane screeching noises that led us to believe that he might not ever be a social dog.
On one of our morning walks last summer, Gordon and I passed Lola and Franklin’s person out for a run in our neighborhood. She stopped to pet Gordon, and told me about SociaBulls. It sounded like just the group for us-a way to allow dogs to be around each other, working on behavior/training, but without dog-to-dog interaction.
We’ve been walking with the SociaBulls pack since last summer, and have gotten so much from the experience. We have learned that Gordon can be a part of a pack and be around other dogs in a positive way. Although he still pulls on his leash like crazy and likes to be the pack leader, he has been able to walk side by side with other dogs-something that seemed unlikely a year ago! It’s been great to get to know other responsible dog owners in our city as well. We’ve been able to swap stories, tips, and advice-all the while walking with a pack of beautiful pooches! Thanks SociaBulls, for helping us realize our dog’s potential :)
You can also read about more SociaBulls Members: Nabi (A Shy Dog Making Sense of a "People World") Sprocket (Teaching a Dog When it's not Time to Play), Lola (Living in the City with a Dog who Fears Strangers),  Zoe (The Dog who "Loves Too Hard")Izzy (Being a good pitbull ambassador while working with an energetic dog) and Maize (Being social with an unsocial pup).
Plus, join our Chicago SociaBulls  Facebook page for more photos and information about group walks. And check this link from the DINOs (Dogs in Need of Space) group to read more about the benefits of dog-walking groups and to see if there is a group in your area.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Miss M: The Over-Confident Dog

We've always considered ourselves lucky that we have confident dogs.
Confident that they can walk the city streets without problem.
Confident they invite foster dogs into their home without caring.
And confident that they're unfazed by random drunk festival-goers who over-excitedly grab at their lips.
But then we have Miss M who is Over-confident.
Over-confident in her athletic abilities
 Over-confident that other dogs want her to use them as furniture
Over-confident that everyone she meets will want to meet her even more.
Miss M is over-confident in herself.
Even though I know she lacks in athletic skill (and apparently direction).
That when she's with a group of dogs she's really "that dog". The one trying to keep up with the gaggle all playing together and being left behind.
And the thing I remember the most, is when we were in another neighborhood, and there was a little fluffy puppy tied up outside the coffeeshop. Nearly every single person who walked by stopped to pet that puppy. And Miss M would get so excited that they'd come pet her next. So excited that she would begin curling her lip and wiggling her entire body in anticipation. But no one stopped to pet her. Not a single person. Each time she would swivel her head to watch them pass by, but instead of being sad, she would just swivel her head back start curling her lip and wiggling her entire body. I still remember it. And it made me a bit sad.
Though Miss M has never been sad for herself. Miss M is over-confident.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

DoggyStyle: Having Pets in a Smaller Space without Sacrificing Style

One of the biggest misconceptions we always hear is that you can't own a big dog in a city condo. There are obviously so many of us in the city owning big dogs, and we've always been particularly impressed with Yellow Brick Home blog. Besides creating a gorgeous home--under 700 square feet!--it is also home to their pitbull Jack and 2 cats: Libby and Maddie. After stalking their blog for awhile, we were so excited to be able to meet them in real life; they were on our inaugural SociaBulls trek, and you may also recognize Jack with his infamously stylish Bomber Jacket. Since they create everything themselves, and they have such a beautiful home, we asked them to share some tips about integrating pets into a small space while maintaining style.

Scott and I love our home. It's not big (coming in at under 700 square feet), but it's where I work, where we play and where we raise three very hairy, wet-nosed kids. I say this with complete adoration, as our kiddos, Jack, Libby and Maddie, are of the four-legged variety.
In our virtual corner of the web, Yellow Brick Home, we write about all things DIY and making our city condo so very us while not sacrificing style (in a such a small home, no less!) with five warm bodies in the mix. With every design decision we make, we must take into account how the whole family will react. Will the girls claws get caught in this fabric weave? Will the natural fibers in this rug make Jack think it's suitable for lunch?
As much as we might love a certain (insert home accessory item of your choice here), we won't spend the money or waste the time if we know it's not a good fit for all of us. One question we hear from our friends and readers is this: how in the world do you maintain your small home with two cats and a big dog? There's no one answer, but there are plenty of ways that we integrate our favorite little dudes into the home we all share. 
1. Just because Jack is a slobbery, excitable, muddy-pawed (and adorable, awesome and too cute) pup, this doesn't mean we can't have items we love. We purchased our sofa off of Craigslist - a steal after the seller realized the Room & Board design didn't work with her vision. We're a no-dog-on-the-furniture household, and after repeated failed efforts of finding Jack cuddled on the couch, our veterinarian recommended this solution: when we're not home, place an upside-down office mat (spiky side up) on our cushions. When not in use, we tuck the plastic pieces under our couch, out of sight.
2. Because we like to keep our home style more personal, we try to think outside the box when it comes to pet toys and furniture, rather than purchase pet specific items. The felines in our home don't seem to enjoy fake mice or feathers on string, but they do love to chase the laser pointer. This cuts down on toy clutter, and when not in use, we tuck their "toy" in a drawer! And for Jack's naps, we use an oversized Ikea floor pillow that doesn't scream dog bed!
3. We vacuum several times a week, and we lint roll small areas in between clean ups. This seems obvious, but all hell breaks loose if we skip these simple tasks too many times in a row. Remember, our home is small. This affords us the luxury of tag teaming a 10-15 minute clean up three times a week. Once or twice a month, we'll do a larger clean up (such as washing the dog "bed", throw pillow covers and using vacuum attachments to de-fur curtains and furniture), but staying on track with multi-week mini clean ups make all  the difference.
4. We furminate. I kid you not, the Furminator has changed our lives. The kiddos love their brush-time, they lose about 5 lbs of hair in the process (an instant slim-down!), and our home stays cleaner in the process.
 5. While we love fresh flowers in our home, it's more of a luxury than the weekly (or bi-weekly) treat that we wish we could do. This is for a couple of reasons: 
1) Maddie and Libby love nothing more than a lunch of leafy greens; leaving plants/flowers on a table out of sight results in the plant's untimely death (not to mention, some greens can be poisonous for cats), and 2) Jack's happy, heavy body with a mind of it's own can knock a vase off the coffee table with just a flick of his tail. We do pick up flowers here and there, but we have to be very strategic in their display. So to quench our need for a little continuous plant life in the home, we've taken to terrariums. Not only are they fun to make, but you can personalize them with trinkets and toys - and the vessel shape deters kitty paws and curiosities.
Like I mentioned earlier, it's important for us to remember that everything we bring into our home has the potential to affect our pets, too. Jute rugs are off limits (they too closely resemble scratching posts), wool blankets are a no-go (Jack loves to nibble a natural, yummy throw) and we're big fans of modular Flor tiles (for an easy swap if needed). But with some creative thinking and easy every-other-day maintenance, your home can still have style - even with a big ol' pup in tow. For more info, you can read an in-depth discussion for our hairy situations, see our house tour or visit our pet portraiture shop. Thank you A and E for having us stop in!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

City Dog: How to Have a Good Time at the Parade with Your Dog

 Besides hearing "Is that a camera?" and "How does he get his hat to stay on?", the other biggest question people always have is how our pooches are so well-behaved despite all the chaos around them. St. Patrick's day is always crazy in Chicago. This year the holiday being on a weekend, coupled with insane 80 degree weather,  had a lot of people out, many who were very excited to meet the pooches:
Luckily we've done a lot of work with our dogs where big noises and crowds don't phase them. Last year we wrote this post about "How to Prepare to take your Dog to a Parade" detailing some of the steps we took to prepare them. Since we learned some new things this year, here are some tips about what to anticipate when bringing your dog to a parade.

Anticipate Triggers and Advocate for your Dog:
 Parades are filled with all kinds of scary noises, people acting erratically, and food on the ground. Miss M is a very confident, but she has a strange fear of cigarettes, fiddles and bagpipes. When someone approaches us, I make sure to have her step back and explain to the people that these things scare her. Mr. B was happy to step in and take a photo with the bagpipers, and luckily, these are things we only see once a year.
We also know there will be a lot of drunk and really excited people who will just make a grab for our dogs. We always make sure to act in the best interests of our dogs, so if our dogs seem uncomfortable we don't hesitate from asking people not to grab at them, and we show them the proper greeting of putting your hand out, backwards, so our pooches will give them kisses.

Be Prepared: 
 We make sure to bring extra supplies for the pooches and even have a pooch specific bag. They tend to get worked up from all the excitement, so we make sure to bring a collapsible bowl and water, a bandana we can dip in water if they get hot, sunscreen, extra poo bags, hand sanitizer and a sarong for us to sit on. Though from the photo above you'd guess Mr. B is drinking green beer.

Practice Wearing Costumes:
 We know if dogs are already nervous or uncomfortable wearing a costume will just compound that. We've always been mindful of the gear our dogs wear, and we're careful to introduce it slowly with positive associations in our house. Luckily our pooches have become more accustomed to wearing things, but here's an earlier post we wrote about dressing your dog for parades.
 For more photos of the dogs at the parade, plus a video taken from Mr. B's point-of-view, be sure to check this post.

 These are things that work for us. Does anyone else have any advice for successfully bringing your dog into a large crowd?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Things To Do in Chicago with Dogs: Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade & Dog Paparazzi

Our pooches love meeting people, so we always take advantage of any opportunity to get them out there. Especially if it involves wearing costumes. So living in Chicago, where it's an annual tradition to dye the Chicago River green for St Patrick's Day, we knew this unseasonably warm March was the perfect chance to head downtown to meet a lot of people. A lot of people.
 Much like when the pooches attended the Pride Parade, they were surrounded by 'paparazzi' eager to take photos and meet them.
 Miss M is always eager to pose for photos, striking her signature Zoolander look.
We were always curious how this all looked from the pooches point-of-view, so Mr B decided to bring along his camera and take a video showing what it feels like to be a celebrity surrounded by paparazzi.
We weren't able to get far. See what the pooches see in this video from their perspective. (Mr B even has a kissing scene!)
You can see from the video how happy they are to have the attention, but at the same time we're always aware of their needs and watching whether they may need to rest away from the crowds.

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