Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving with Two Pooches

We thought we would go with the Thanksgiving theme and write what we are thankful for:
E: I am thankful for my patient and understanding wife, my best friend Mr. B, the princess Miss M and my friends and family.
A: I am thankful for the ability to spend more time with my family and the supportive dog community.
Mr. B: I am thankful for the guy and the person that 'volunteers' to hang out with me in the afternoon.*
Miss M: I am thankful that I am beautiful. I am thankful that my chauffeur drives me to my red carpet events on time. I am thankful that my maid knows how to cook my food. I am thankful that my dog keeps me warm.
*Mr. B doesn't realize that the volunteer is his dog walker.
Thank you to all who have made this an amazing year.

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Friday, November 22, 2013

Pooches: Miss M The Scientist

One thing you probably never knew about Miss M is that she loves to lay booby traps around the house. She will lick one of her rat stuffy's tail for 20 minutes and then lay it where she knows one of us will step on the moist tail with bare feet, or even worse, while wearing socks. We usually jump in disgust and catch Miss M peeking around a corner.
We used to think Miss M was playing a practical joke, but now I believe that she is conducting a long-term experiment.
The part we do not see after we find Miss M peeking around a corner is her jotting down data on an electronic lab notebook (ELN). So far, I have been able to uncover a few of her on going experiments.
The rat stuffy's tail is her more obvious experiment and from a few snippets of her ELN her results state that the girl has modified her behavior quickly and subsequently does not step on the same moist rat tail, while the guy is quite slow and continues to step on the same moist rat tail and exhibit the same reaction multiple times, side note, the guy and my dog are at the same level of intelligence.
Another one of her experiment is examining our comprehension of language.
Miss M likes to stare at us and use her eyes to communicate or sometimes she will just vocalize her command. According to Miss M, the girl is very bright and she can grasp new languages quickly while the guy is not so bright and takes a lot more training and soon I might have to give up all hope that he will ever be trained.
Her favorite experiment is an homage to her personal hero, Ivan Pavlov. Miss M will sit and stare intently at us until she receives a morsel of treat. After all these years, I still have no clue when she is conducting this experiment, but A has been conditioned to give her a treat, including a high five whenever she presents the conditioned stimulus. According to Miss M, the girl exhibited the conditioned response as well as the unconditioned response within the first three trials, while all hope is lost with the guy and my dog.
Further proof Miss M is a mad scientist

Do you have any secret experiments being performed in your house?

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

DoggyStyle: When Pups Move in

Most people don't know that when Miss M and I were bachelorettes together, she was actually the 'modern girl' who decided to move in with E long before I did. (We wrote a bit more about it in this post here.)
Spending years reading girly magazines, I know a lot of people find it stressful when they are combining households. Though Miss M actually turned out to be the low-maintenence girlfriend.

Personal Space
We know how hard it can be for dogs when their routine is disrupted, and we wanted Miss M to have as many familiar things as possible. The most important thing for us was to set up her crate which gave her a familiar personal space she could retreat to if she became overwhelmed.
It was later that we discovered this Molly Mutt Crate Cover to help it blend in.

Organizing Stuff
Food and treats seem to be the second biggest change that come with a dog. To keep it from becoming overwhelming, we get rid of the original packaging and store everything in food safe containers. We made this "treat bar" and when we fed Miss M dry food we used a dog food safe (they have canned food now).
In her pre-blog days Miss M only had one coat, one extra collar and a few toys. All of her possessions fit into a single storage bin.
When Mr. B moved in, and he was able to keep his toys intact for so long, we began using this personalized bin.

Bonus: Social Dog Beds
When it was just Miss M, we only had one bed for her and the occasional floor pillow. Though when Mr. B moved in we decided to get 'social dog beds' seeing that the pups liked spending time in the rooms where we hang out. Since they are getting older, we decided to get proper beds for them which are more gentle for their joints. We even made them these twin dog beds.
What are some things you set up when your pup moved in?

Mr B's personal space is a tepee
But is it really personal space?
Apartment dogs!

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Daily Walk in 10 Pictures for 11.20.13

Despite the horrible weather over the weekend, we found a small window of not so inclement on Saturday to take the pooches on a nice walk to explore the first annual ChillFest. The pooches pulled out their rain coats from their closet and we ventured out to listen to live bands while taking our daily walk. 

At most stores we had to watch the bands through the window, but it was fun to see the crowd move to the music as they walked around and shopped. Luckily Justin Ruff was performing at Doggy Style Pet Shop and we were able to catch part of his set and the pooches were completely entranced by his voice.
After all the excitement the pooches had to take a break and watch volunteers decorate the fountain at Wicker Park for the holidays.
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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Pooches: On Socializing with Dog Friends

When I first adopted Miss M, I thought that as a dog she needed to run, wrestle, and tumble with other dogs in order to be happy. Miss M became a regular at a local dog park where she would romp and roll. Though after Miss M was attacked by another dog, and I had this fluke accident, I soon realized there were better options for us.
As we learned how to fully exercise our pups without a yard, and as our dogs have gotten older, we also realized that not all dogs need to physically interact with other dogs in order to socialize.
And not all dogs feel the need to closely socialize with other dogs.
Here are some ways our dogs have been socializing without physically playing:

Tandem Walking:
Sweet Bessie-Belle always fit in so well!
At first I used to think it was a good thing to allow Miss M to randomly greet other dogs when out on our walks. Besides the injuries dogs can get from playing on leash, many dogs aren't comfortable with head-on greetings; it's more natural for dogs to "meet" by showing their sides. We have found that our pups can have as much of a social experience by merely walking with another dog. We use this type of introduction, and after they begin walking together, they don't feel the need to jump or play with one another and they are happy just strolling. Miss M even has a best walking friend.

Fostering has been a positive way for our pups to socialize with other dogs, and we like that we are the ones managing their interactions. With foster dogs they all get to walk together, and often lay together. We work to choose dogs who are compatible for our pups, our home, and everyone's energy levels. We wrote more about it, here.

Group Walking
We love how our SociaBulls walking group allows dogs of all tolerance levels to socialize without interaction. Pack walking is natural for dogs, and once they fall into the continuous rhythm of the walk it becomes a positive socialization experience.
We know not everyone has a group walk in their area, and neither did we. We decided to start our own walk, and we wrote more about it here. Several other groups have shared their experiences about how they started walks in their areas, and they wrote about it here (more links on the bottom).

What are some other ways that your pups socialize with other dogs?

How we prepare to invite dog friends over
The other kind of exercise

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Monday, November 18, 2013

SociaBulls: The Value of a Free Walking Group

We all know how expensive it can be to own a dog, and that is why it was especially important for us to have something that dogs and their owners could do together with fellow responsible owners.
Something that is free.
While we aren't a training group, we know many people who wanted a way to put what they learned in training into practice, but all of the training classes were becoming too expensive. Especially with multiple dogs.
We even had someone tell us a trainer in their area led a pack-walking group and charged $25 per walk. It was $50 to bring both of their dogs for a single walk.
While we do have a lot of people working behind-the-scenes, and often spending their own money, we just ask that members use a 4-foot leash, carabiners, a colored bandana and follow the set procedures.
It's nice that we were able to build this resource in our community, though I'm also curious about other resources people use.
What are some free or low-cost options that other people use to continue their training?

To learn more about our group, join our Chicago SociaBulls Facebook page for more photos and updates. And check out the Hikabulls page where we first learned about the benefits of group walking.

The after-training group.
By the numbers
Our members.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Pooches: Mr. B's Whole New World

Many people who meet Mr. B on the street cannot believe that he is over 10 years old, but it is easy to see why so many people are in disbelief.
He doesn't understand the meaning of walk.
He is so excited to be on the walk, that he must sprint across every street to get to the other side where the world is full of new and exciting smells.
He sees every ledge as a whole new world that is shining, shimmering and splendid
and every obstacle an opportunity to gain a new fantastic point of view.
Mr. B enjoys soaring, tumbling, freewheeling through the endless grime filled city streets.
Perhaps Mr. B realizes that he is in his golden years and he must spread his joy as much as he can as long as he can.

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

DoggyStyle: Making Sports Team Hoodies

When researching ways to make the pooches' Thing 1 and Thing 2 couples costume, we made a wonderful discovery: iron ons. We had been looking for some sports gear to fit the pups, and I realized this was one way to help the pups show their team pride in their size.
With her long, lanky arms and tight grip, Miss M is our home's diehard Chicago Bulls fan. If she wasn't the princess of our home, she would be  the starting power forward for her hometown team.
Mr. B, with his bulldozer moves, is our home's biggest Chicago Blackhawks fan. He cannot wait to become a defenseman for the his beloved Hawks.
Both hoodies are the basic dog hoodie from Zack and Zoey in x-large. We printed our images using an ink jet printer on iron-on transfer paper for dark fabric. We made images for both the back and the sleeves, so their loyalty can be seen from all sides. 
We edited all pictures on Adobe Photoshop and we kept a small white trim around the image, so the black on the image can be seen as being separate from the black of the hoodie. We recommend washing and drying the hoodies before applying the iron ons, because the iron ons wrinkle when the hoodie shrinks in the dryer.
Has anyone else been trying any dog hoodie hacks?

Making these retro gym-wear hoodies for the pups
When they want to be ironic
Or as a costume
Can this couples costume also double as casual-wear?

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Daily Walk in 10 Pictures for 11.13.13

Now that our days are getting colder and shorter and we are much busier, we do not get to spend as much time out and about with the pooches. I have decided to revive the Daily Walk in 10 Pictures, because we took the daily walks for granted during the summer, and now they are a cherished family event.
Though foliage is quite sparse in Chicago, we are lucky to live in a neighborhood full of trees, where we can enjoy the beautiful colors of fall without traveling out to the suburbs.
Too bad fall is such a short season in Illinois, a few days after these pictures were taken, it snowed and now the pooches wear their coats and snoods for our daily walks. Poor Miss M, she is not a big fan of wearing a coat, but then she is not a bigger fan of walking in the cold.
According to the forecast, the weather will be back up in the high 50s by this weekend and hopefully we can enjoy our walks unencumbered with coats and snoods.

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

City Dog: Walking like a City Dog

There is so much that we love about living in the city, but at the same time, sometimes it can be frustrating to be surrounded by so, so many people.
The good thing is that there are some understood rules to help us all get where we need to go.
The bad thing is that not everyone understands these rules.
Which can get frustrating after missing train stops because people don't move away from the doors in time, not being able to get onto buses because people think moving to the back of the bus means only moving to the back exit, and literally walking into people who stop suddenly in the middle of the sidewalk to point up at a building.
Having experienced so many of these obstacles, I've become more aware of how my actions can impact so many other people.
And we've become more aware of not becoming an extra obstacle with our pups.
We aren't perfect, but these are some things we've learned about not becoming an obstacle in the city with our pups:

The Fast Lane
One unspoken rule about the sidewalks is that slower walkers walk to one side to allow room for faster walkers to pass. And to never take over the whole sidewalk.
We are conscious of keeping our pups by our side, and not drifting to the side, allowing people to easily pass. We also never walk 2 across on our family walks, which is also why you'll see so many of these back photos of Mr. B and E.

Respecting Space
We know that people have different tolerance levels around dogs. Some people don't like dogs. Some people are afraid of dogs. Some people might like dogs but they might not want to get close to dogs when they're wearing their nice work clothes.
We work to keep our pups close to our side when walking, and we have our dogs walking on the outside so people don't need to get close to the pups if they are uncomfortable. When we're stopped to pick up their poo we keep our pups in a sit position near us not blocking the sidewalk.

On Sidewalk Dog Parking
The pups peek inside the restaurant window
We've written before about problems with dog 'sidewalk parking' and why this isn't a good choice for us. While we know people will continue to tether their pups, we just hope they are respectful of other people's space when they do this and they tie them securely away from the sidewalk. Many tethered dogs become frustrated, scared, or territorial and it's not fair to frustrate them further by encountering so many people and other dogs walking so closely. And it's not fair to people and other dogs to be forced to walk so close to an unattended dog, especially when so many people are afraid of dogs.

We know how important it is to promote responsible ownership as we work to keep and grow more pet-friendly opportunities in the city.
What are some other ways you model responsible dog ownership when in crowded spaces with your pups?

How we taught our pups to navigate crowded sidewalks
These leashes.

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Friday, November 8, 2013

Warm Fuzzy Pooches

Though the weather has gotten a lot colder and days a lot shorter, I am not dreading the winter as much as I did in the past. In these past several years, fall and winter has become a time where we spend our days and nights together as a family.
In the summer, A and I spend so much time out and about. Though we do spend a lot of time with the pooches during the day, the pooches cannot attend many of the places we visit in the evening. Now that the weather is colder and our outdoor open concerts have ended, we spend a lot of time in the warmth of our home.
I enjoy pulling out the large dog bed from the office and laying out with Mr. B in the living room. This always results in some sort of hijinks with Miss M. A enjoys watching Miss M wedge herself in between Mr. B and me. Though I act as if I am annoyed, I actually enjoy getting squished by the two pooches as all three of us try to fit on the dog bed. 
While the walks in the dark and cold are unpleasant, the warmth of laying in the bottom of a Miss M and Mr. B pile makes it all worth it.
What are some things you enjoy about the winter that makes dark, cold nights enjoyable?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

DoggyStyle: The Other Benefits of Wiping Paws

We know so many people think that owning dogs means you are constantly cleaning, but we have realized just the opposite: it has just made us more aware of keeping a clean home. Our home is definitely cleaner now that we own dogs.
While I wouldn't say we are actually spending that much more time cleaning, we do take preventative measures so things don't really get that dirty.

The one thing that has seemed to make the biggest impact, is that we wipe our pooches feet each time they come back from being outside. While it may seem a bit excessive, it is kind of like a person who takes their shoes off when coming inside.
And while we were wondering if we were being a bit intense, lately people have told us some other benefits of consistently wiping paws:

Preventing Health Issues: 
Some of our dog friends who are prone to having itchy feet have mentioned how important it is to consistently wipe feet to prevent dogs chewing on their paws. Our friend Melvin, also dubbed "World's Most Allergic Dog", uses sensitive baby wipes after each walk to remove any allergens before they can come inside.
Maybe a little less common, but wiping their feet before they come inside helps remove any toxins they might have walked through. With all of the outdoor rat poison, fertilizers, construction, and general debris it just made more sense to wipe their paws so there isn't a chance they might lick their feet and ingest something toxic.

Make Handling Easier:
While it may not be true for every dog, we noticed consistently touching their feet has made them more accustomed to handling by other people, and especially to having their nails cut.
Miss M especially anticipates each paw that needs wiping and she will actually hand us her feet. Even shifting her weight for her back legs. (You can see it here in this 'vintage' video)

Chicago Grime:
Thinking about all of the mud, dog feces, uneaten food, spit, and worms found on Chicago sidewalks, it makes me a bit queazy to think of it all getting tracked into our home, rugs, and possibly furniture. When we were having our sofas cleaned, the upholstery cleaners even told us that it's also common for dogs to encounter squirrel, and other animal, feces and bring it into the home, and this can cause flus and illnesses in humans.
Has anyone else been doing this too?

Have you met our secret cleaning weapon?
Making cleaning fun.
Our Dog-Entry Rug

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