Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Pooches: When I Thought Miss M was Ugly

When I first adopted Miss M I used to tell people she was a dog with a good personality.
Mostly because I never thought she was very cute.
Vintage Miss M looks like a Vampire!
Miss M was way too skinny with a huge lollypop head and pointy hips. She was missing hair and I thought her head looked like a muppet.
I tried really hard to find the perfect 'old lady name' that would suit her.
We spent a lot of time together in those first few months after I adopted her. Mostly walking.
Sometimes when we were walking, I would hear people yell out "What a beautiful dog!". 
I would always look around, wanting to check out this beautiful dog everyone was talking about, but all I would see was Miss M:
Maybe I didn't realize it at the time, but my gangly, underfed Miss M turned out to be a swan.
Or at least a dog with a big, fuzzy white hat.
 Were you drawn to your dog based on personality, or looks?

Though you wouldn't expect it, sometimes this happens.
But usually it's this. Or even this.
What I originally thought.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Pooches: How Mr. B Learned Not to Destroy his Stuffed Toys

Since we've been showing a lot of photos like this, we had an overwhelming response asking for our secret to teaching Mr. B not to tear apart his toys. When we first got Mr. B, he was a pro chewer: ripping apart baseball mitts in minutes and quickly tearing through all of Miss M's toys.
Tired of cleaning stuffing out of the crevices of our home, and knowing we couldn't afford to keep buying new toys, we decided to train Mr. B to be more gentle so he could enjoy his toys a little longer. We know all dogs are different, but this is how we worked with our Mr. B:

1) We reinforce positive toy-chewing behavior
Dogs really don't know that we get upset when they tear apart their toys, so we have to reinforce positive behavior by marking when they're gentle. We started by supervising all of his soft-toy chewing. Every time Mr. B would nibble on the toy we would associate the words "Yes gentle". When he licks the toy we say "Yes kisses" and give him lots of head rubs. This helps him mark the positive behavior of playing with a toy gently.

2) We have a signal to let Mr. B know when we're disappointed
Dogs are in-tune with us and they don't want to hurt us. Like when Miss M first came to live with me she thought she was showing affection by mouthing and chewing on me. Every time she did that I pretended to cry or be in pain, and eventually she learned to stop that behavior. We do the same thing with the toys; every time he would become aggressive with the toy we would pretend to cry and he would stop chewing it. Then when he would lick it and become gentle we would give the positive reinforcement. Eventually we were able to stop the fake-crying and insert a mournful "Oh no!" which gives the same effect.

3) We supervised toy playings and kept chewing time to a minimum
We would supervise his soft-toy chewing and only allow it for short amounts of time before taking it away. Eventually, he built up the time and we trust him to chew on his own. Sometimes we hear him getting rough with the toy and we just take it away. But now that he understands how to play with toys,  he's content just laying with them in his tepee.
We know Mr. B is sensitive, but I wonder how this would work with most dogs. Or does anyone else have some other tips?

PS. Or maybe it was none of the above and because Mr. B is actually part stuffy himself.
And, remember the rats. 
Stay tuned to our facebook page for more recent updates.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Pooches: Miss M is a Trick (aka: the snitch)

While we have taken some downtime from the blog, we have realized how much we actually miss it and that there are still some stories that we would like to tell. We are still playing a bit of catch-up, so  we will be running some of our most-requested themes along with answering some questions. 
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Also, join our Facebook page, for post notifications and extra photos.

The pooches are not allowed on any of our furniture, except in the summer, when I (not A) love to let them hang out with me on the outdoor furniture. No matter how hot it is outside, Mr. B is just like me: we enjoy laying out under the beaming sun, taking in the heat and everything else associated with the summer.
Miss M, just like A, is a bit more sensitive and they enjoy a more temperate temperature. However, though Miss M hates hot weather, what she hates even more is seeing Mr. B doing something she doesn't get to do. Little did we know that Miss M is a trick (snitch).
The story of Miss M the trick aka snitch, based on true accounts.
As Mr. B and I were enjoying our afternoon nap in the 100+ weather, Miss M was secretly spying on us from behind the curtain. 
She was shocked at what she saw: she couldn't believe Mr. B was laying on furniture, without A's permission. 
So she had to run into the kitchen while A was making lunch peering around the corner 
and crying fervently, until A asked Miss M "what was wrong". Miss M led her directly to the scene of the injustice 
Mr. B laying so nicely with me on the outdoor furniture. 
Miss M, trick, snitch or whistleblower?

In case you missed it, the most requested Miss M post.
This is the one we've heard makes most people laugh out loud in inappropriate places. This is  a close second. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Thank You

Thank you everyone!!! We are beyond overwhelmed by everyone's kind words and helpful feedback. Though we will be taking a hiatus, we will be answering questions in the next few days and running all our great guest posts.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Pooches: End of Our Story?

While we (mainly A) try really hard, and spend late nights writing thoughtful and unique posts, we've been noticing a lack of conversation and comments on the blog.
We created this blog as a community resource where many of the posts were inspired by questions people have asked us on the streets, through our blog, via email and other forms of contact.
A spends countless hours writing and taking photos for the blog, and she is starting to believe that the blog has lost its value and is not informative anymore. She even thinks that we have said everything we have to say and this might be the end of our story.
While we examine the impact of the time commitment of the blog on our lives, I think that it would be useful to see if there are topics we cover that people find interesting and would like to read more about as well as learn about the topics that we have covered to no end and we really need to stop writing about.
Also in the past two years, we added Instagram, Twitter and Facebook accounts and it has been difficult to keep up with all the questions that are asked through these accounts.
We thought that we would spend the next several days answering questions we may have missed that you might have about Miss M and Mr. B and even us: A and E.
Please send us your questions and comments either as a comment on the blog or as a personal message at

And our winners from the Mercury Canine Cruise randomly chosen by a random number generator:
1) Jenna Z who will make this the next checkmark on her mode of transportation bucket list
2) Mable: Who tried to go once but just missed seeing the boat sail away. Their family loves making up for her first 5 years of neglect through family fun time.
Please contact us via Facebook or at 

Monday, July 22, 2013

SociaBulls: On Creating a Dog-Walking Culture

We are lucky in Chicago that we have a strong dog-walking culture. Since most of us don't have backyards, we need to take our pups on several daily walks for both positive exercise and bathroom breaks. Dog-walking has become a habit and the norm with pups accompanying their people allover the city. 
I think this is one of the reasons our Chicago SociaBulls group has been so popular with its ever-growing waiting list. We all need to take that morning walk, so why not do it with some friends?
Though as I've been speaking with some people interested in starting dog-walking groups in their own cities, it has been interesting to hear the challenges of getting people to commit to attending when dog-walking isn't a big part of the city's culture. 
Is dog-walking part of the culture in your city? If not, I'm curious to hear how you think more people could be encouraged to walk with their pup. Or if it is, why do you think it is such a big part of your city's culture?

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.   
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, July 19, 2013

Pooches: The Outdoor Animals

While it has been incredibly hot and humid the last few days, this is exactly the way we like it.
When I say "We" I really mean Mr. B and me.
Back when I was a single bachelor, I used to spend my time outside on the deck with a single chair, but when A (and the pooches) entered my life, she was able to convert it into a full out napping and sleeping space.
Mr. B and I can spend hours, even days, out on the deck. Since it is the only place that Mr. B can be on furniture, we can snuggle together like bros.
Even with the high heat index, Mr. B will try to spend all his time outside, even defying A when she wants him to come inside to cool off.
So we will both be outside: him panting and me sweating profusely. Happy as two disgusting guys while the fine ladies of the household play dress up and snack on crumpets and tea.
One night we almost got away with sleeping outside. That was until Miss M had to tell A that it was time for bedtime and we were still outside.
I think it was mainly that Miss M was upset that her pillow was not inside to make her comfortable.
Poor us.
We had to come in from our great outdoor adventure of listening to nature in Chicago: cars honking, sirens from passing ambulances, rats rifling through the trash, and drunk people yelling on street corners.
Does anyone else have pups who won't come inside?

Real nature.
Remember Country Mouse?
Deck Dogs.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Doggystyle: How do you Integrate your Pup's Stuff into your Home?

We just had a friend visit who mentioned how nice it was that even though we had our two pups, it wasn't like they really took over much space in our home. Which is kind of funny because looking back, when I first adopted Miss M her big crate was prominent in the middle of my living room and her toys were scattered in every room of the house. It was always a big deal to have visitors. I think we've come a long way, and here are some things we've learned since then:

Use Human Products:
We found that the biggest way to hide our dog things is to not buy specific dogs things but to buy human products that we use for the dogs. Instead of beds in our living room we have nice floor pillows where the pups lay, we use Serving bowls as dog bowls, and we make our dog treats look nicer with modern storage canisters. And it actually saves money.
We wrote more about it here.

Have a Designated Space for Everything:
Miss M wonders why she doesn't get a personalized toy bin
While each of our pups have their own raingear, coats, hoodies, and toys, we've learned to keep everything hidden away, but still easily accessible. We use stackable bins to store the pups' gear, but still keep everything within reach. Mr B has this personalized toy bin. And we keep all of our dog-walking gear organized in our front entry. We wrote about it here.

Integrate the Crates:
The crates have been the hardest thing to work with, but we know it's important to keep them because they provide the pups with a safe private space. Having a dog who is able to be crated also makes it easier if you need a friend to watch your pup while you're away. Since Mr. B has crate anxiety, we actually traded his crate out for a tepee. We wrote more about it here.
And while it took us awhile, we finally realized that Miss M's crate could like nicer for us, and be more fun and den-like for her, when we got a Molly Mutt crate cover. We wrote about it here.

These are things that work for us, what are some ways you integrate your pups' stuff into your home?

The well-scented dog home
Easy cleaning with pups
And we always have this secret cleaning weapon

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Things to do with Your Dogs in Chicago: West Fest Neighborhood Festival

While Chicago is filled with all types of neighborhood streetfests during the summer, our favorite one is West Fest. Maybe we're biased because this is our neighborhood festival, but this is also the most pet (and pit!) friendly festival we've been to. Besides the two music stages it also has breakdancing, graffiti exhibits, and a separate dog-themed area complete with dog baths and treats. 
Miss M can only take baths in the most dramatic fashion:
Afterwards, the pups were excited to spy the Fido to Go dog treat truck. They even got to eat it twice: lamb asiago flavor and bacon cheeseburger flavor. We found out Miss M's favorite flavor was whatever Mr. B was already eating.
As always, the pups were so excited to meet people, and they even met a lot of people who only knew them from the blog (thanks everyone for saying hi!). We also were able to spend some time with adoptable Ruby from Project Rescue (lower corner photo!). If you know anyone looking for a sweet, laid back pup, she would be a great fit!
Has anyone else been out at the street festivals? Or do you have other summer traditions with your pups?


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Win a Date with Your Dog: Chicago's Mercury Canine Cruise tour GIVEAWAY!

We have found that one of our favorite ways to spend time with our pups is to play "Tourist in Our Own City". It can be so easy to overlook everything our city has to offer, so we have found some activities all of us can appreciate like exploring historical parks, taking art-filled walks, and having traditional holiday strolls.
It turns out that the #1 thing we always recommend to out-of-town visitors also comes in a dog-friendly version: The Mercury Canine Cruise.
This 90-minute boat tour highlights cruises down the Chicago river and part of Lake Michigan. We like hearing the stories about the buildings and history of Chicago. The pups like hanging their heads out the 'window' like it's a car.
There is one boat tour every Sunday morning from now through September 29th. We like that it is not overcrowded and there has always been enough space on board that we always get our own row or two. Miss M prefers getting the window seat while Mr. B is happy just sitting in E's lap.You can read more details about one of our past trips here.
We have been looking forward to going on another tour this summer, and the Mercury Canine Cruise contacted us and they would also like to generously give away Canine Cruise tickets to 2 lucky winners. Each of the winners will receive tickets for 2 humans and 2 pups. Winners will be able to choose the date of your cruise, though we would love to coordinate and meet up if it works out!
Why would you be interested on going on the Mercury Canine Cruise in Chicago with your pup?

1) Let us know by commenting on our blog post here
2) You can also enter by posting a photo on our Facebook page of your pooch and letting us know why you would be interested in going on the Canine Cruise together. (Remember, we always love seeing photos of your pooches!)
3) Winners will be chosen at random using a random number generator

-You have two chances to win by commenting once on the blog and posting a photo once on our Facebook page.
-We will use a random number generator to randomly choose 1 winner from blog comments and 1 winner from the Facebook page.
-You have until Sunday (July 21) at Midnight (EST) to post your comment or photo
-Check our Facebook page and blog the following week for the announcement of winners. If you are a winner, please contact us, so we can get your information.
-Winners must come to Chicago to attend the cruise

1) Callie: Ms. Callie and her new pup Gus would love to go hiking and be able to take a break eating Frosty Paws! 
2) Rachel: We'd have to tote puppy supplies with us for weekend treks through our new town - with stops at the bakery, park, and local shops! 
3) Kelly Ross and 3 Pups: We go on great dates every weekend with our 3 pups and would love a back pack:) 
4) Cary and Gracie: Gracie, our 10 year old avid hiking pooch loves Frosty Paws!!! Recently we took her on canyon hike and she decided to lay in the river since it gets pretty hot here. I think a Frosty Paw pack would have been the perfect cool down compliment for her and for future hikes! :)
Congratulations to the winners! Please make sure to message us using the 'Contact Us' button on our sidebar so we can ship you your prize!

PS. We only offer giveaways for products we would actually buy and use ourselves and that we think would be valuable for dog owners
Dog-friendly Chicago in 1 day
Or 36 hours
Why it's important to schedule dates with your dog

Monday, July 15, 2013

How to Start a Dog-Walking Group in Your City: Guest Post from Positive Pittie Pack Walk in New Jersey

One thing we've learned since beginning our Chicago Sociabulls group is that there is never one set formula for success, and we are always learning and improving as we go along. Since we have been getting a lot of inquires from people interested in starting dog-walking groups in their own cities, we thought it would be best to showcase some of the other dog-walking groups to see what works well so we can all learn from one another. 
Positive Pittie Pack Walk is a group based out of Hoboken, New Jersey. In the beginning I had several email conversations with the co-founders discussing and sharing ideas, and it's very impressive to see how their group is so enthusiastic and well-planned! Now, 140 members later, here is the story written by the 3 co-founders of the group sharing how they started the group, the mission behind the walks, and several tips for starting a group in your own city.
"As three responsible dog owners living across the river from Manhattan in Hoboken and Jersey City New Jersey, we started Positive Pittie Pack Walk (PPPW) in February of 2012 with the fairly simple goal of wanting a new way to exercise our dogs aside from the congested dog parks in our area.  If only we had known then what we know now: that it is so much more than that.  In retrospect, we started this group not quite knowing what to expect.  We started a meetup page and spread the word to everyone we knew with a dog, and next thing we knew we found ourselves at Liberty State Park in Jersey City with over 20 dogs rearing to go.  That first walk was so exhilarating but we recognized we had so much to learn!  I remember emailing A from Two Pitties in the City and saying "how do we keep the pack together?" and "what do you do when people don't show up?" or "what should we do about the dog that can't calm down?"  It was soon after these first few walks that the three of us PPPW co-founders got together "just for a beer" and ended up staying at the bar until the wee hours of the morning writing all over our paper table cloth brainstorming ways to make PPPW the best it could be.  From there our mission statement was born: 

The purpose of Positive Pittie Pack Walk (PPPW) is to create a structured environment to exercise and socialize our dogs. We recognize the importance of being responsible dog owners in order to raise confident, stable dogs, while working towards improving the image of pit bull type dogs. We welcome all types of dogs, and encourage owners who are working on reactivity and socialization issues to join us. Our dogs are always in training, and PPPW strives to be a constructive experience for every dog and his owner, regardless of what issues they are working through.
Now, since our humble beginnings seventeen months ago, we have accepted 140 members and hosted 70 pack walks at 10 different locations.  When one of us moved to the suburbs we took that as an opportunity to expand our geographical reach so that we now do walks throughout more of Northern New Jersey, and we are always expanding both our membership base and our geographic reach.  We accept new members when they complete a one-page questionnaire about their dog so that we can get to know them a bit before their first walk.  We call this a "questionnaire" rather than an "application" because so long as the dog is spayed/neutered he or she will be accepted.  Once we've received this document, the new members are approved to RSVP for walks.  We limit each walk to twenty dogs, one handler per dog, and close our RSVP's 24 hours before the walk.  The reason for this is so that we can set our pack order prior to the walk based on which dogs are coming.  We alternate our walks between urban walks and hikes so as to try to keep things interesting for both dogs and humans.  Each one is between 3 and 4 miles long, which usually lasts about an hour to an hour and a half.
To an outsider, PPPW is just a dog walking group.  But for the members, it is so much more than that.  PPPW is a community of dog owners free of judgment, preconceived notions, or bias.  We accept dogs ranging from happy-go-lucky "dog park dogs" to dogs that have never had a positive experience with another dog.  PPPW serves as a forum where dogs can just be dogs, and owners can find other like-minded owners who "just get it."  There's no better feeling than seeing a new member come to their first walk feeling apprehensive and nervous, and then leaving saying things like, "my dog did so well, I can't believe it!"  Just as rewarding is overhearing conversations between owners about the issues they are working through with their dogs, and recognizing the trust and humility in that conversation because the owners know they are not being judged.  As one of our members once said, "Planet Fitness isn't the Judgment-Free Zone, PPPW is!"
At this point, we can't imagine our lives without PPPW.  All three of our dogs (whose issues have ranged from leash reactivity to fear of strangers to aggression towards skateboards) have benefited tremendously from the weekly walks, and we can't even count how many times we hear the same from other members.  Knowing this, we are always so excited to hear from friends in other cities who are thinking about starting their own walking group.  The following is some advice to anyone thinking of going for it.  Some of these tips were given to us before we started PPPW (thank you A!) whereas others we figured out "the hard way."
1. Delegate.  Don't be a hero.  In order to make the walks successful you're going to need a group of people who are as committed to the group as you are.  In our group we have us three organizers (we take turns leading the walks each weekend) plus a new member coordinator and a social coordinator.  Quite honestly, we could probably delegate more!  It really helps our members take ownership of the group and maintain a strong retention rate.

2. Don't be afraid to make rules.  When we first started our walks they were kind of a free for all, and we found ourselves feeling out of control and a bit nervous.  Because of that we wrote down rules that each of our members now signs off on so that everyone is on the same page.

3. Enforce those rules.  No one wants to be the fun police, but that's the only way you're going to have consistency.  Of course, with this comes the requirement of a thick skin when people push back.

4. Set a pack order.  We will never forget when A told us that Chicago Sociabulls sets their pack order before their walks.  It was such a lightbulb moment!  Up until that point we had hosted a few walks with the "free for all approach" and we usually ended up with what was essentially three different packs, all spread out, with no structure whatsoever.  The pack order sets everyone up for success from the very first step of the walk.

5. Have a questionnaire.  In order to set a pack order, you'll need to know something about the new dogs before they first come.  If there's one thing we've learned from having a questionnaire it's that people love to talk about their dogs, just like us!  The information that we get from reading this is incredibly valuable.  Plus, since it's confidential and only read by us, people are not afraid to admit certain issues that their dog might have, or request certain accommodations, whereas at the beginning of the walk they might be embarrassed or apprehensive.

6. Make time for the humans.  Every few months we try to have a humans-only social event for our two-legged members to get together and hang out without holding a leash in one hand and a poop bag in the other.  (Let's be honest, though, almost all we talk about is our dogs!)  This turns out to be great for the dogs, as well!  Out of new human friendships have come smaller weeknight pack walks outside of PPPW, private doggie playdates, dog-sitting, and foster adoptions!

7. Keep an open mind.  We have learned so much from PPPW, and we're learning more and more as we go.  Sometimes this has meant reevaluating a well-intentioned rule, or completely modifying a pack order that isn't working halfway through a walk, or accepting a member's training technique or tool that is unfamiliar to us.  

Ask us a year or even a month from now and I'm sure we'll have some additional or different advice.  That's the beauty of PPPW: it is defined by its dogs and strengthened by each and every loyal member's perspective.  We can't wait to read the rest of the guest posts from other groups throughout the country to see what we might be able to do better!"

Thanks so much to the Positive Pittie Pack Walk (PPPW) for sharing your group!
You can learn more about their group, located in New Jersey, on their facebook page by clicking here.
Please let them know what you think, or feel free to ask them any questions in the comments section.
I especially like their consistency with human socials, their Pack Walk bandanas, and hearing about their member feedback.

You can read more starting a dog-walking group from our mentor group Hikabulls here and our thoughts on making a walking group work in a crowded city here.  You can also read all walking-group related posts through this link here. 
Stay tuned for more stories of groups who have started walking groups in their own cities.
If you have a dog-walking group, and you would be interested in sharing your story, please email us using the Contact Us icon on the side of the blog.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Pooches: Social Lessons from Miss M

We know most of our photos and stories about Miss M show her a bit like this. Though when we were talking to our friend Kim she said we really need to show more about the true nature of Miss M:
Miss M as the outgoing social butterfly who absolutely loves people.
Despite what our photographs capture, Miss M is the most outgoing member of our family. She spends every moment possible trying to meet new people.
It's really Mr. B who does not seem to understand social cues. People will excitedly run up to meet him and he will often seem disinterested, walk away, or give better eye contact to a pizza box.
While A and I are both shy people, we have been observing and picking up some tips from Miss M our very own social butterfly:
Always meet strangers as if they are your long lost best friend: Whenever anyone wants to meet her, Miss M's lips will curl in preparation for a kiss, her hips will wiggle with excitement and she will rush toward the person. She meets everyone as if they are best friends she have been waiting to meet her whole life.
Be completely engaged in whatever the stranger is saying or doing: Once she has met her 'new' best friend, she is completely engaged in whatever the person is saying or doing. It is almost impossible to continue our walk, because this 'new' best friend has become the most interesting person in the world.
Accept compliments with sincerity: More often than not, the 'new' best friends will compliment her beauty, personality, softness of her fur, etc. and you can just see Miss M graciously accepting the compliment and saying, "I know".
Don't get discouraged if people do not say hi back: Sometimes, Miss M will try to meet people that somehow have not fallen under her charm and rather than getting upset, she will move onto to the next stranger until someone becomes her 'new' best friend.
Don't be self-conscious and just say hi: Possibly the best lesson, is that she is eager to say hi to everyone. She is unabashed and loves meeting new people and the only way to meet new people is to say hi to a complete stranger.
I guess we are lucky to have Miss M to teach us so much. 
Is anyone else getting social lessons from your pup?

If you don't believe us, see it in action at 1:07 of this video. (Can you believe they have never met before?) And the bottom video here. 
So we always need to remember things like this.
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