Wednesday, May 30, 2012

City Dog: Renting in the City with Big Dogs (and Pitbulls!)

 Lately we've been getting a lot of questions from people wanting to move into the city. They are curious about the availability of rentals for large dogs, and pitbull-type dogs, and if there seem to be any issues transitioning a dog into a 'city lifestyle'. These are just some experiences we've had, but we would love to hear everyone else's thoughts and experiences.

 Apartment Availability:
 We've found ourselves quite lucky that Chicago is a very dog-friendly city, and most of the limitations seem to be size and weight limits rather than breed restrictions. Miss M and I lived in two apartments before moving into our condo with E. Miss M and I lived in a building with 3 Labs, an Akita and a blind Cocker Spaniel. We've also found several neighborhoods with a large population of pitbull-types dogs; there seem to be a lot in the Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Wicker Park, West Town areas (Chicago people...what else am I missing?)
We have also heard that it's easier to rent from a specific landlord who owns the building than trying to work with a management company.

Interviewing with a Landlord:
Our first landlord was actually hesitant to allow a pitbull-type dog, so Miss M actually had to 'interview'. Ok, it was really just showing up and letting the landlord meet her, but since she can be quite charming and persuasive, that was all she needed to move in. We've heard about people putting together portfolios with letters of reference, (from foster parents, former landlords, trainers), training certificates and photos for landlords who were hesitant to meet a dog. We also read this really great article from Bad Rap with many forward-thinking ways to work with landlords.

Choosing the Right Type of Rental:
We think the hardest thing about moving into the city, especially if your dog is accustomed to their own backyard, is learning to walk in the city. There are so many other dogs and distractions in the city, that it could be difficult for a dog to adjust if they're not used to all the bustle. If you have 2-3 dogs, it would be a good idea to look for a rental with a backyard option until you and the dogs can get accustomed to walking at the same time. It took me a really long time to learn to walk 2 dogs at the same time, and I've never been able to walk our dogs plus a foster. And going on that many walks can be exhausting.

We would love to hear everyone else's experiences about renting with dogs or transitioning into the city. Has it seemed to be an issue?

PS. Ideas on 'paying it forward' to make renting with dogs a positive experience so more landlords will begin accepting dogs.
Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and storylines beyond the blog.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

SociaBulls: From Learning about Pitbulls to Developing an Ambassadog

If you've been keeping up with SociaBull's walk photos, you've probably familiar with this handsome mug; 'Perfect Attendance' Torre has been on nearly every walk since the very first day. He has even been on more walks than Miss M and Mr. B.
 But there's actually something very unique about how we met Torre's family. Though I didn't realize it at the time, I actually met Torre's people long before they adopted Torre during this 'speed dating' adoption event I wrote about here.
 We know having our pitbulls meet people and sharing stories about them changes minds, but in Torre's case, this is what led to him being adopted by such an amazing family.
I was beyond excited when I received the following email (over a year ago) to hear about such a positive outcome from sharing information:
 I just wanted to say a quick thank you for your blog and all the information you two share. My boyfriend and I met A last summer at an adoption event when you guys were fostering Wilma (I believe that was her name).  We had our reservations about pitbulls but we really interested in learning more about them.  A directed us to your blog and I have been addicted ever since gobbling up as much information as I can. 
 Well, as of this past Friday, my boyfriend and I took the plunge and we now have a new member of the family.  His name is Torre and he is a Mastiff Pitbull mix.   We rescued him from PAWS.  He was owner relinquished to Animal Care and Control and Paws went in and got him. He’s had a lot of change over the past 3 weeks but we couldn’t ask for a better dog. 
I just want to say thank you for shedding such a positive light on this breed and for educating the public on how great these dogs really can be.  
 Torre celebrated his 1-year 'Gotcha Anniversary' just last weekend, and his family couldn't be prouder of him. Now Torre too has been educating others and letting people see how amazing pitbull-type dogs are.

Please Note: As the weather has warmed up, bikers, runners, dogs, and kids have come out in full force in many of the areas that we walk. While we had previously been introducing new members a few at a time to each walk, we've decided that in order to continue to keep our group safe and make our walks a positive experience for everyone, we are putting new members "on hold" for the summer. You can still submit an application, and it will go on our wait list in the order it is received. Once things quiet down a bit more in the fall, we will resume introducing new members a few at a time to each walk, and will be contacting people on the wait list in a first-come, first-served manner.

Friday, May 25, 2012

How to Be a Tourist With Your Dogs: Chicago in the Summer (And Views from Your Hometown)

I know a lot of people think it's hard to find things to do with big dogs, but we've been finding plenty of things we can all do together. As the weather is heating up, Chicago has come alive and we're all excited to resume our favorite activities.
Some of our favorite things we're looking forward to this summer:

Chicago Canine Mercury Cruise:
 Living here, we don't always appreciate everything that lures tourists in from all parts of the world. Chicago has a lot of amazing architecture, which is even more amazing seen boatside. And with your pooch. We've gone on the Mercury Canine Cruise the past few years, and we've never seen the pooches smile so big. Here is the recap from our first year.

Outdoor Movies in the Park
At first we were all upset when they got rid of the Grant Park movie series due to budget cuts. But now, they offer outdoor movies in local parks all summer, and we can bring our pooches! We bring our big comfortable 'picnic blanket' that fits all of us, sandwiches from the Italian deli, freshly-baked Polish pastries and some Orangina. Last year even Miss M had a good time.

Making Like a European Vacation:
Last summer we were lucky enough to actually go on a European vacation. While we had an amazing time, we think the true value of traveling is discovering something valuable and interesting from another culture, and learning to integrate it into our daily lives. So every day becomes a vacation. And we can include our dogs! We learned to replicate some of our favorite activities with our pooches, like: Pier Picnics, Shopping Local with the Pooches, Desert-filled Walks, and Having Conversations at Cafes (without our computers!).

Chicago's Annual Gay Pride Parade:
This is the thing both humans and pooches look forward to all summer. We're still trying to figure out what the pooches can wear to top last year. The prior year Mr. B even matched many of the parade marchers. Costume ideas anyone?

Last year we also LOVED reading about what everyone else does with their dogs in their hometown. And we would love to hear more! Show us around your hometown and let us see what pooches in other areas do. You can  see the examples and read all the incredible ways to be a Tourist in Your Own City here.

What other big summer plans do you have with your dogs?

PS. In case you missed it, our recommendations fo\r being a tourist with your dogs in summer and in fall.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

DoggyStyle: Kissed by a Pitbull

I often write about how I never wanted to adopt a pitbull; I too used to believe all the hype.
My biggest revelation was when I actually met my first pitbull. I realized, I only believed everything because I'd never met a pitbull in real life. I didn't know their true nature:
So this became one of the reasons for starting our blog. We take every chance for our pooches to meet people around the city so we can show everyone how great pitbull-type dogs are. Sharing our experiences online allows people to 'meet' our pooches virtually and hopefully they can share with someone else who has never met a pitbull. It's always funny to see other people's reactions when they first meet our pooches:
(This girl was so excited she threw her purse and beer to the side and Miss M climbed right into her lap.)
Then Mayzie's person came up with a really great idea: since we meet so many people at festivals and parades, we should make pitbull stickers. So now we're not only influencing the people we directly meet, but wearing a  "Kissed by a Pitbull" sticker will allow them to open the conversation with everyone that they meet.
We decided to use Moo again and here are samples of the stickers we made.
 Pride Parade edition:
Which one is your favorite?

P.S. Our favorite video of former foster dog SuperLevi's first day meeting people (a wedding party!) and we can't get enough of seeing how well-loved our pooches are here.
P.P.S Pitbull Kissing Booth (with Pittieful Love's former foster!)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Enjoying a City Park

Due to the NATO Summit, we decided not to have a SociaBulls walk this past weekend. This gave us a great opportunity to check out a new walking route and lucky for the pooches they got to catch up with their longtime, good SociaBulls friends, Petey
and Lily.
It is a shame that this is the first time we visited this park, even though it is only a couple miles from our place. We pride ourselves on being quite knowledgeable about the city, especially since we have lived in our neighborhood for over 15 years and we teach/taught in both inner city and magnet city schools. Even though Chicago is such a large city, our city has been called one of the most racially and socioeconomically divided city. There are so many neighborhoods that we have only visited due to volunteering obligations or functions that involve our students and their parents, and even then we didn't spend the time to explore the neighborhood.
So it is nice that searching for new stomping grounds for SociaBulls have taken us to so many different types of neighborhoods in our great city and every neighborhood we have visited so far have been very inviting and it is such a pity that we needed SociaBulls to really explore our city and dispel any misconceptions we had about our own city. Hopefully through our group walks, we introduce others to all the amazing neighborhoods in Chicago.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Pooches: Expectations vs. Training Realities

Before I adopted Miss M, there were only 2 things I wanted from a dog: a pooch who would run with me and a pooch who would hang out at me with at the park while I read books.
I quickly found out, that among many other behavioral things I hadn't expected, Miss M is definitely not a runner, and she has too little patience to actually sit still and hang out in a park.
Maybe she couldn't fulfill my original expectations, but I soon found out Miss M is quite talented in many other ways. She can do an unlimited down-stay with food in front of her and in the middle of a Chicago street. She can help me with the chores by putting her own toys away. And she can be quite entertaining.
Though I've always wondered if maybe with patience and training, Miss M could have become my running partner. And if I was really consistent, and worked with her daily, could Miss M enjoy her time at the park?
To what degree does a dog's personality trump training? And to what degree have we just learned to manage our own expectations?

Monday, May 21, 2012

SociaBulls: Location, Location, Location

Our SociaBulls group has proven its street cred by walking through the entire Chicago winter (with only 1 weather cancellation!) which according to Chicago code gives us "dibs" on our locations.
But unfortunately, this is not the case. We only began our group at the end of August, so now we're facing all new challenges as people are thawing out, taking to the trails, and overtaking our spots.
Especially if you're thinking of starting a walking group at this time, here are some things we've learned about choosing spots to help all our dogs be successful:

Finding an Escape Route Out (Saying no to Bikers and Runners):
While we had the luxury of spreading out during the cooler months, our favorite spots have been overrun with runners running in tandem and bikers biking at full speed. Even if we stay on our side of the trail, there are areas where bikers and runners bunch up, trying to pass each other, and come into our space. We know all of our dogs have different socialization levels, and this could be very uncomfortable for the pooches to have runners running at them, and bikers coming so close.
Now we're looking for spots where we don't need to be on a trail, and we have enough space that we can veer off if bunches of people come at us so the dogs can always feel safe.

Keeping the Rhythm:
 The most important part of the walk is keeping a continuous speed and rhythm. The dogs become anxious when we need to stop at traffic lights, and sometimes we lose half the group at a crossing. We look for spots that offer a continuous path with few stops.

Accessibility and Parking
Our city is big and people come from all parts to join (even the suburbs!). Parking in the city can be hard, so we need to add accessible parking or easily walkable to our long list of location needs. Plus, with so many races, festivals and parades during the summer, we always have to plan ahead to determine if street closures will impact getting to our site.

Sound challenging? We do have some ideas up our sleeve and we're excited about some other locations we can explore.
What does everyone else do when the summer craziness takes over your favorite walking spots?

And if you're planning on starting your own group:  Setting a Structure for your Group, Navigating in Densely Populated Areas,  How to Successfully Integrate New Dogs into the Pack, How to Manage Your Growing Group,

Friday, May 18, 2012

Pooches: The Softer Side of Mr B

He might be our Mr B, but we know to other people he might find him intimidating. With his huge head, bulging biceps, and steely gaze that some have compared to a shark.
Though Mr. B thinks it's more "Blue Steel".
Good thing for Mr. B, he works to defy misconceptions for pitbull-type dogs everywhere and show his true softie persona.
By embracing floral decor in his tepee:
Carrying his pink stuffy around town:
And wearing his a bow!
Mr B working to change the way people see him.
How else does your pooch change stereotypes?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

DoggyStyle: Personalized Toy Bins

Whenever people ask about new dog essentials, I've always thought that dog toy bins should be on that list. Sure toy bins within reach aren't a great idea for younger dogs, or dogs with low attention spans, but seeing as Mr. B just wants to horde his toys it became a good storage solution for us. 
 We've been using one of E's old storage boxes as a toy bin, and I was thinking of getting something more attractive, when I spotted this personalized toy bin idea on an Apartment Therapy home tour.
Fun Fact: I later realized the pooch featured in the tour was at the very same adoption event where I adopted Miss M 6 years ago! Seeing how they do have amazing style, we adopted the idea for ourselves:
Though Miss M was not too pleased to realize the toy bin was 'marked' by Mr. B:
Just curious, do most other people have dog toy bins? And what types of bins do you use?

P.S: How we trained Miss M to put her toys away in the toy bin.
P.P.S And a video of how Mr B's not-so-secret love of stuffies makes packing difficult.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Things to do with Dogs: City Explorers

One secondary side effect of owning dogs: we've become city explorers. Since we don't have a backyard, and we have to be out there so much, this is the perfect excuse to explore different parts of the city. Did you ever imagine seeing something like this smack dab in the middle of Chicago?
Somehow taking a stroll with our pooches, and finding photo shoot opportunities, is much more interesting than hanging out in one place with a book. Plus we meet more people.
 Has anyone else found owning dogs has caused you to become more of a city explorer?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

City Dog: The Taboo Habits of City Dogs

Maybe it's considered a bit of a taboo topic, but it seems most questions people email us 'offline' involve the bathroom habits of city dogs. People often wonder, how do we take city dogs for emergency bathroom runs when we don't have a backyard?  How our dogs know where to go to the bathroom when there aren't trees or grass?  How do we have bathroom breaks in inclement weather? What is the best way to clean up poo?
These are our experiences in a walk up unit without a backyard, but fellow city dog owners feel free to jump in with your experiences...especially those of you in in high-rise buildings.

Making Bathroom Breaks Routine
A couple of people have asked us what we do when the pooches need to go to the bathroom at odd hours. Actually....we have our pooches on a routine, so I can count the rare number of times they have ever needed to go out in the middle of the night (7!). We have them on a schedule where they have walks after breakfast and dinner and have a bathroom break before bedtime. We don't leave our water bowl out, but they have plenty of water with their meals and their diet is well-hydrated.
In the rare instances we do have to run outside, I happen to have a pair of slip on shoes waiting at the door at all times, along with a long coat. We even have a neighbor down the street who we often see in her bathrobe.
We also know some people who have pee pads out on their balconies which they used to potty train their dogs or just use when they don't want to go all the way downstairs.

Learning to Pee on Cement
The lack of grass hasn't actually been a big issue for our dogs. There are so many dogs that live in the city (we've counted 30 on our block alone!) that so many other pooches have peed on everything, our dogs are also just peeing on cement. Through there are plenty of hydrants, poles and sidewalk trees for Mr. B to water. Just check out this view from Mr B's camera where you can see most of the photos are him scouting out his next place to mark.

Going for Bathroom Breaks in All Weather
 Despite the weather, our dogs still need to go out. And since we don't have a backyard, we're right out there with them. Here we wrote about what we do in the rain, and here are tips on keeping dogs warm in coats and with sweaters, snoods, and hoodies.

Picking up Dog Poo
 Fun fact: Did you know dog poo is actually like caviar for rats? So besides being disgusting, when people don't pick up their dog poo it is actually helping increase the rat population. I will admit when I first adopted Miss M I was very squeamish about picking up the poo and I envisioned getting all kinds of rakes, and scoopers and gloves so I wouldn't have to feel like I was actually picking up poo. But then, after doing it just a few times, you get used to it. We have a waste bag dispenser attached to our leashes and just buy the rolls of bags (cheaper via ebay!). It would be nice to have a more eco-friendly option, but it just doesn't seem practical at this time. (Anyone else find one?)

So, how does everyone else manage your dogs' bathroom habits?
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