Friday, September 28, 2012

Miss Goofus and Mr. Gallant Part II

We recently made the revelation that our pooches were a bit like another set of similar-looking-but-not-twins characters: Goofus and Gallant. 
Just like Gallant, Mr B is kind and respectful:
While Miss M is a Goofus who does whatever she wants:
Let us show you what we mean...
Mr. B plans ahead and bundles up in weather-appropriate clothing:
While Miss M doesn't listen to weather reports but lets everyone know when she's cold:
Mr. B likes hanging out and he enjoys spending time with his people:
While Miss M is embarrassed to be seen with her Dad in public:
Mr. B likes to sit nicely and chew on his bone.
 While Miss M also likes to sit...and chew on Mr. B's bone.
Does anyone else have a Goofus and Gallant-like duo?

In case you missed it:
Miss Goofus and Mr. Gallant Part I
Miss M and McKayla are not Impressed
More of Miss M's antics on our page here.
Can you believe that Miss M smiles sometimes?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

How Mr B Never Leaves his Tepee

This is Mr. B.
Mr. B lives in a tepee.
A tepee without a door.
Each day when we leave Mr. B is sitting in his tepee.
Each day when we return Mr. B is back in his tepee.
He must have been there all day!
Sometimes, when I'm coming home, I can look up and see Mr. B like this:
I will point and wave at him.
He will look back at me. But when I come upstairs, he is back in his tepee. Like he never moved.
Poor Mr. B. He thinks that we don't know he doesn't stay in his tepee all day.
In case you missed it:
Why Mr. B lives in a tepee.
The story of Miss M and the incriminating pillow

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Staycation with Dogs: Jardin du Chicago

We've always thought the best part of travel was discovering new things from other places and finding ways to incorporate them into our every day lives so each day feels like a vacation. But a vacation that includes our dogs. We spent much of the summer recreating one of our most memorable trips, but it wasn't until the other weekend when I re-discovered one of our favorite things right here in Chicago.

Our favorite part of our last trip was spending the day in Jardin du Luxembourg. Maybe it was being among the history. Or the ornate statues and gardens. Or just the ability to stop and relax.
Little did I realize we had our own urban "formal garden" option which also happens to be dog-friendly.
Sure, our garden wasn't built for royalty but the Humboldt Park formal gardens are part of the larger European-inspired park with its circular garden, pergolas, and statues. The park is framed by two large bison statues that were originally designed for the 1893 World's Columbian Exhibition by the same sculptor who made the lions in front the Art Institute of Chicago (seen in this video here, with Boris!).
We even had a photo of Mr. B trying to 'get fresh' with the bison, here.
It is fun trying to see our city in a different way. What other types of vacation-like things do you do in your city with your pups?

Our other favorite part of the Jardin we were able to re-create and more historical urban parks.
And...Miss M stares at flowers.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

City Dog: Dog Tricks in the City

We know that too often people are quick to judge pit bull-type dogs, and some people will even judge the entire breed based on their experience with one single dog. Since I used to fall into that category too, we work extra hard to get our pooches out there and allow people to have positive interactions with the pups (sometimes it's even the first time they've met a pit bull in real life!).
I learned one way to really get people to interact with the pooches is to take the 'circus dog tricks' we learned out of the classroom and into our everyday lives. Doing these tricks on our daily walks has increased the pooches' focus and communication with us, plus we love when people come up to compliment us on how well behaved our pooches are. Here are some of our favorite tricks to draw an 'audience':

We use the 'watch me' command so the pooches are always checking in with us and paying attention. This helps with many of the distractions we find on our daily walks, not to mention the recent adoring comments from onlookers at an outdoor cafe seeing how two smaller breed dogs with 'good reputations' completely lunged and snapped at our pooches who were able to walk by without a reaction. We've also gotten a lot of people stopping us to say it looks like we are having a real conversation with our dogs.

Sit and Look Both Ways:

We have trained our pooches to stop and sit any time we stop walking and to automatically sit at corners. We have also taught Miss M a 'look' command where it looks like she is actually looking for traffic before crossing. This is another trick we love using at busy corners where there is outdoor seating (and we get great comments!).

This is one of our favorite Circus Dog Tricks that I never realized would have a realistic application. We like to use this one if kids or strollers pass by 'looking at the doggies'. They are always amazed when the 'doggy' waves back at them. It's also good to use when we're stopped at a curb with people walking towards us, or we're near a bus stop.
If people do seem edgy with the dogs, or over-react when they see us coming, I typically have Miss M over-act my completing a finish command--walking around me in a circle--and waving.

What other tricks or commands do you use to promote your pup?

Plus, the training command that changed our lives and Miss M's most notable trick yet (that also helps with the chores!)

Monday, September 24, 2012

SociaBulls: Finding our Members

 Adoptable Count Chocula was beyond excited to go to SociaBulls. Read more about him here.

We have loved hearing about so many people interested in starting dog-walking groups in their own area. While we thought we had answered most of the questions about starting a group in this post here, we realized we left out one big detail: how did we find our members?
While we were lucky enough to have a strong online community through Two Pittes that we were able to make into an in-person community, we have learned about some other ways to reach out to like-minded dog owners.

Networking and Facebook:
We know there are a lot of new dog owners with recently adopted pups who are looking for ways to socialize their dogs. If you are looking to start a group, you could align with some of your local rescues to share on their facebook pages or invite fosters or adoptable pups to walk.
We also know we have received members who heard about the group through friends at the dogpark, friends in training classes and even trainers themselves.
We also started our own Chicago SociaBulls facebook page to give everyone information about the page, and even communicate with some of these groups online.

Using Our Cards:
We run into a lot of other dogs on our daily walks, and sometimes we strike up conversations and realize they could greatly benefit from our group. Remember this story of how SuperLevi introduced us to Zoe's person?  Zoe's person is now one of our New Member Coordinators and we are so lucky to have had this chance encounter.
We have also met people who have seen the group walking, and they were interested in being a part of it.
We carry these cards, and are looking to have something more group specific in the future

The Power of 'Meet-Up':
We realize we are lucky Chicago is so densely populated, and people in other areas may not have the chance to run into as many other dogowners on their daily walks. We know Meet-Up is a great way to connect with like-minded people in your area. Plus, a meet-up page is a great way to keep all the walks and member information organized. I know a couple of the groups I've spoken with have been using it.

For those of you who have started dog-walking groups recently, what are some other tips you have for attracting new members?

Also: The amount of members we had on our first walk.

Plus, join our Chicago SociaBulls Facebook page for more photos and information about group walks. And check out the Hikabulls page where we first learned about the benefits of group walking and this link from the DINOs (Dogs in Need of Space) group to read the discussion and see if there is a group in your area.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Socially Awkward Mr. B

From our videos, it is clear to see that Miss M and Mr. B love giving smooches, but Mr. B is very particular and mainly likes to give smooches on faces. Miss M also loves to receive smooches as much as giving smooches.
She will gladly receive a smooch on her lips, while Mr. B will show all sorts of calming signals like flicking his tongue and yawning when you try to kiss him on the lips.
A hates getting smooches from the pooches, I actually love the extra attention in the form of smooches...sometimes. I enjoy naps, and they typically are at face level with the pooches, which is usually on some floor pillow and in the summer on the outdoor furniture (which I let the pooches on, whenever A is not around).
Miss M usually takes this opportunity to nap with me. Mr. B, on the other hand, believes that this is the best time to give smooches. At which point, I'm so groggy that I'm telling him to stop to no avail. I have even tried the same calming signals that he gives me,
but the lip licking calming signal ended in an uncomfortable tongue to tongue moment and the time I tried the yawning calming signal ended with him licking my teeth and the roof of my mouth.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Things to Do with Dogs in Chicago: Open Streets and Walkable Cities

 One of the best parts of living in a big city with a pup is that everything is very walkable; we have plenty of wide sidewalk spaces, crosswalks, and interesting places to visit along the way. We've learned first-hand how being able to walk to more destinations allows you to meet more people, creating closer communities within a huge population.
Driving does disconnect you from your immediate community (not to mention frustration with traffic, and road rage!), and we love that Chicago is working on eliminating car traffic by creating safer walking options and more protected bike lanes. Last weekend we even had the chance to stop by an Open Streets event.
This event closes a major street to car traffic encouraging people to walk and bike and create a healthier, more environmentally friendly, and vibrant community. I guess this has been going on in communities for awhile; for the past 20 years Bogata, Columbia reportedly blocks off streets each Sunday to create a car-free public space for everyone to enjoy. This has been spreading to other cities, and you can read what the Active Transportation Alliance has been doing with this concept, here. 
The event encouraged walking, and biking, playing, and meeting neighbors. Wouldn't you know it, we ran into our friend Pip:
Though we do have to drive many places just to transport our pups, we dream of one day eliminating our reliance on our car and owning a Nihola cargo bike to bike with our pups (complete with Doggles!).

Has anyone else noticed how the walkability (or lack of walkability) in your area influences your interactions with your community? Or do you have a similar open streets concept in your area?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

City Dog: On Running Errands without "Dog Parking"

I used to have a completely different perception of city dogs before I adopting my own. I thought every dog could frolic comfortably at the dog park.  That if you took your dogs out for a walk, they would just walk. And that your pooch would be perfectly fine if you tethered them while you ran errands.
Posing for a photo, the pooches don't realize they're not being held by a real human 
A lot of the stores here even promote 'dog parking' where they provide a tether and a bowl of water, and it does seem like a great way to couple a dog walk with errands.
When I became a dogowner in the city, I became more aware of reasons where I realized this wasn't a good choice for us: 

Discomfort and Inability to Control Meetings:
Even the most well-behaved pooch can become uncomfortable, and even territorial, when left unattended. Even if you just step inside and you're watching from the window, it is also difficult to control how passing people, children, and other dogs will interact with your dog when left unattended. A child could sneak up on your pooch, or an unfriendly dog could approach, and the unfortunate outcome would be your responsibility since they were left unattended.

Dog Thefts/ Escape:
There is actually a big problem in the city with dog thefts. People take unattended dogs from backyards, and it's even easier to take them when left unattended on the sidewalk. With all the people who tell us we have beautiful dogs, and in the next breath ask us to breed our dogs, we never take the chance leaving our pooches unattended. 

Courtesy to Others:
We do realize a lot of people who are afraid, or just don't like dogs; we think it's only fair to respect everyone's space. We've had several encounters where dogs had free-reign of the whole sidewalk making it difficult for us to pass. Even more frustrating is encountering dogs who are frustrated or territorial of their space, and trying to walk by with our own dogs (especially when dodging into a busy city street isn't an option!).

At the same time, we have figured out a couple of ways where we can still combine errands and dog walks:

Call Ahead
When I call for carry out, I also mention I'll be walking my dog and ask if I can call when I arrive and they can bring the order outside so I don't need to leave my dog unattended. I've found people are always helpful and accommodating. I also make sure to give a bit of an extra tip.

Look for Accommodations
Most stores that don't serve open food will allow well-behaved pooches. Our dogs have been invited into both Noble Grape and Lush wine stores. Mr. B frequently shops at Home Depot. We have also seen many walk-up windows, food carts and food trucks making it easy to grab a bite when with your pup.

Make it a Family Tradition
We found 'family walks' a good way to spend quality time together. Mr. B brings his backpack and one of us will always wait with the pooches while the other goes inside. It makes running basic errands that much more fun. 

If it does come to a point where none of these ideas is an option, we do make sure to leave the pups at home, or delay our errands until another time when we don't have our dogs.

What are some other ways you incorporate running errands and walking your pooch?


Monday, September 17, 2012

SociaBulls: Creating a 'Real-life' Community

One of our favorite things about our SociaBulls group is that our virtual community became a real-life community. Through our Two Pitties blog we felt we were part of a strong online community, but we didn't really have many real-life friends with similar dog situations.
The first person we ever ran into in real life, who knew us through the blog, was Maize's person.  We slowly started running into more people: Maple and Daisy's people, Nala's mom before she even adopted Nala, and this happenstance meeting with Torre's family
Starting SociaBulls became our opportunity to turn our online community into a real-life community.
And while I only knew 1 other member before we started the group, it has been so great meetings so many like-minded people who also come from such a wide-range of backgrounds. Not to mention all the great advice about local dog-resources and training experiences. We even celebrated little Silly Buddy's birthday on our last walk together as his mom was nice enough to bring homemade yogurt-dipped treats. 
We do feel very lucky to be part of such a great group!

Plus, join our Chicago SociaBulls  Facebook page for more photos and information about group walks. And check out the Hikabulls page where we first learned about the benefits of group walking and  this link from the DINOs (Dogs in Need of Space) group to read the discussion and see if there is a group in your area.  

Friday, September 14, 2012

Pooches: Scenes from a Kissing Booth

Last weekend Miss M's rescue group had a huge alumni & supporter appreciation party. Her group is a 100% volunteer rescue, and they were so excited to celebrate their 500th dog (he's the little guy below who looks like a fox). It was a fun afternoon at a dog-friendly bar with an outdoor space for grilling and hanging out. We loved seeing foster families reunited with pooches, dogs adopted several years ago happy and in their prime, and people learning more about the group. Plus, did we mention there was a kissing booth?
Mr B had a great time in the booth which made the pooches a bit higher than the people who came to see them. Though the power went to Miss M's head, and she was often very excited being so high up. Anyone recognize the familiar faces that joined in the kissing booth?
Also: Details on How to build a Doggy Kissing Booth
Dog Rescue Family

Thursday, September 13, 2012

DoggyStyle: Pooches & Parties

Miss M is the hit of the party
We always joke that if Miss M were a human, she would be the Paris Hilton-esque social butterfly always needing to be out and about meeting people, but never sticking with one person too long. Miss M even knows the word "party"which causes her to stand at alert, and she even knows to start checking the front window when she hears me talking on the phone (apparently I'm so predictable I only talk on the phone when people are coming over?). 
I think it was Rescued Insanity who started a discussion about having parties when you have pups. Here are some things we've considered when having people over:

Lowering Excitement:
Since Miss M loves people more than anything, she has been conditioned to nearly explode each time she hears the doorbell. Hence the "Crazy Eyes". We started asking people not to ring the bell and just text when they're here so she doesn't get overly excited. She loves being the welcome committee at the door, and if she is too excited we also have her stay in her bed where she can only come out when she is calm.

On Food & Wine:
We are really lucky that are pooches are respectful and they won't eat food off the tables or off of people's plates, which are often left at eye-level during a party. We actually practice the "wait" command each day before they're allowed to eat, which has translated into respect for our human food. The one problem we do have is the pooches is 'happy tush'; they are so excited to meet people, their wiggling can translate into spilled wine glasses. Now we always make sure to use stemless wine glasses which are a bit harder to topple over, and we like these.

Party & Dog-Friendly Furniture:
We realized the furniture we chose for being dog-friendly also doubles as party-friendly seating. We have a series of lightweight ottomans and stools that double as side tables and foot rests and are easy to move for vacuuming and clean-up. The best part is they are easily moved around to create more conversational seating.

What are some other ways you have successful parties along with your pooches?

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