Thursday, October 31, 2013

Things to do in Chicago with Dogs: Miss M and Mr. B go Dog Trick-or-Treating

Being a city that loves to extend its celebrations in the streets, this entire weekend was filled with Halloween-happenings allover Chicago. You could barely turn the corner without bumping into a Where's Waldo or Miley Cyrus like-alike.
The pups tested out their Couples Costumes, Thing 1 and Thing 2, as we headed out to a new-to-us event: Dog trick-or-treating by Be Fido's Friend dog rescue. The pups' were able to wear their wigs the whole time, but with the wind sometimes it became a bit more of a Flock of Seagulls look:
This was one of our favorite events that we've been to, because it really did have it all. It started at North Community Bank parking lot where they had dog-centric festival activities: bobbing for hotdogs (and apples), toy puzzles, a Photo Booth area, raffle and we were given a big reusable bag.
Then, the pups actually got to go trick-or-treating. Nearly 30 local restaurants, bars and shops participated in dog-trick-or treating. Dogs were invited into their stores where the were handing out dog treats and often people treats and samples.
It included a lot of petting and handing out of treats where ever they went. It was Miss M's dream come true.
We liked that everything was at your own pace, so we didn't even have to arrive at a specific time and we could choose to make the walk as long or short as we wanted. The walk spanned about 2-3 miles so it was nice that all the dogs were spaced out, but it was really fun to so all of the dogs on different parts of the street decked out in their gear.
The sponsors were beyond nice as they welcomed the pups into their stores. Some of the restaurants even had mulled wine, lemonade, falafel and pizza for the people. We are excited to go back to support them. The event was really well done and the organizers did an amazing job.
The pooches got quite a lot of treats; enough to fill up 2 treat jars. We asked Miss M if she would like to donate her treats to dogs at the shelter who might not have gotten any treats for Halloween. Can you guess what she said?
Happy Halloween!
What plans does everyone have for with their pups?

Also:
How we made their costumes (and wigs!)
What we've learned about costumes
We are hoping to go to this tonight!

Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and storylines beyond the blog.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Dog Gear: Cold Weather Dog Gear

Dramatic Miss M is Always Over-Prepared
Since we have so much fun doing things like this, I have become one of those people trying to hold on to summer and living in disbelief that it it nearly winter. While it's practically November I am the one still wearing my pink skirts, sans tights, and dutifully watering our slowly wilting geraniums.
The onset of winter always catches me by surprise, especially that first winter when I adopted Miss M.
It seems like many of you are much more forward thinking, and since we have made it through 7 winters, and one Blizzaster, with dogs here are some of our recommendations:

Dog Coats
Like many urban teens, our pups layer hoodies under their puffy coats
I never knew how cold our pups would get and how difficult it would be to actually find something to fit our large-chested dog. Our first winter, Miss M refused to go outside once temperatures dipped below 50 degrees. I picked up the first cheap dog coat that I could find, which was so ill-fitting it wouldn't button up the front and she was busting out. She spent the winter looking like a Saturday Night Fever extra.
That next winter we invested in a Ruffwear Canine Overcoat which has lasted the pups for the past 5 years. I was initially unsure because the coats were so pricey, but then I realized that I had actually spent more money replacing cheap dog coats than buying a good coat in the first place.
These coats are especially designed for active dogs so we would recommend them for dogs who will be outside running and playing while wearing the coats. We were able to try out both the newly designed K9 Overcoat and the Quinzee. You can read our review of each coat, here. 
Last winter we tried out RC Pet Products Skyline Puffy Vest. These are less expensive than the Ruffwear coats and more of a fashion coat; they are reversible so it's like getting two coats in one. These coats use velcro instead of buckles, so they won't be as long-lasting and they aren't as durable for active pups. They fit Mr. B perfectly, thought they were a bit long on Miss M. They worked well for our daily winter walks and we preferred the colors and how they photographed well. You can read more about these coats, and see how our pups wore them 5 different ways, by clicking here. 

Dog Boots
The first time Miss M ever saw snow she looked at me like I was playing a bad joke on her. She spent the entire walk prancing around like a 3-legged dog. Anticipating an entire winter where I might have to carry my 65+ lb dog on my walk,  I ran down to the pet store to figure out what to do and in my desperation I spent $60 on dog boots. We lost one of the boots on the very first walk.
Since then, we have tried several types of dog boots and our favorites have been the least expensive: PAWs Disposable Reusable Boots. We have also realized that it's hard for dogs just to wear boots out for the first time and we had to do indoor training. We wrote more about wearing snow boots for icy sidewalks, here. 

Crampons
With all of the people out walking in the city, nearly any sidewalk that doesn't get shoveled immediately gets packed down and turns into a pure sheet of ice. After E fell on the ice when walking the pups and I became a 'sled master' trying to handle two 65+ pound dogs running down icy sidewalks we did some research and we decided to buy crampons. But, by the time we figured everything out, they were all sold out. We highly, highly recommend buying crampons for anyone who is out walking pups during an icy winter. Now I am more of a water glider than a sled master.
We wrote a bit more about our crampon choice here. 

What other advice do you have as we all prepare for winter?

Also:
How to winterize your dog and Elderbull 
Finding sweaters and hoodies for large-chested dogs
How long it takes.

Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and storylines beyond the blog.

Monday, October 28, 2013

SociaBulls: Halloween-themed Walk

Since we all know Halloween can't last for only a single day here in Chicago, many Halloween-themed festivities already began this weekend. Including during this weekend's SociaBulls walk. 
Pups who were comfortable walking in costume suited up. The people we passed were quite impressed with our pop-up parade.
Extra bonus that it was also pit bull awareness month and it's always nice for people to see so many pit bull-type dogs, and their allies, spending a morning hanging out and walking with their families.
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.
Also:
Remember this one and this one?
On walkable dog costumes.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Pooches: Our Pitbull-ometer

We know a lot of people who rely on Tom Skilling, the Farmer's Almanac, or even groundhogs to tell the weather. Though we consider ourselves lucky: we have are very own pit bull-ometer.
Each morning we awaken to see the type of weather the pups have predicted for the day.
When it's too hot outside to even think of touching:
That warm-enough weather where you can just touch a little bit:
When it really becomes fall-like and you need to share a single bed:
Or a single crate:
Until it's just cold enough to sleep tightly packed together:
Or it's so cold it's necessary to sleep jowl-to-jowl.
Does anyone else have pups who are weather predictors?

Also:
What we think they're relationship is
What Miss M thinks her relationship is
Who Mr. B would rather be sleeping with


Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and storylines beyond the blog.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Halloween Costume Guide: Making Dinosaur Costumes from Dog Hoodies

After seeing how many people love meeting our pups when in costume, and how it opens conversations on the true nature of pit bull-type dogs, we have taken every opportunity we can to attend costume-required events. 
When we first entered this world of dog costuming, we were disappointed seeing how hard it was finding costumes for larger pups. Through some trial-and-error, we were able to figure out ways to outfit our larger dogs (we wrote about it here!).
We also figured out the hoodies, sweatshirts and coats the pups are accustomed to wearing to keep warm can make easy costumes. We had written how we used their sweatshirts to make Thing 1 and Thing 2 costumes; here is another idea we had to transform their hoodies:
 We originally made dinosaur hoodies last winter after seeing a little boy in our neighborhood sporting a similar spiked hoodie. We wrote about how we made the spikes along the back, and how everyone in the family helped, in the post here. 
After seeing a dragon dog costume, we decided to take our hoodies up a notch and add some felt spots along the sides and google eyes on the hood.
The pups are accustomed to wearing hoodies, so we like how these costumes were easy and comfortable for them to wear. And they make good couple costumes.
Has anyone else been coming up with ideas for dog hoodie hacks?

Also:
Our other hoodie hack  And this one.
The most important thing to remember
The gateway and why we dress our pups


Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and storylines beyond the blog.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Halloween Costume Guide: Using Existing Dog Gear to Make Costumes for Larger Dogs

The pooches 'stay in character' while wearing costumes
I never imagined I would want to dress up my dog, but as soon as we realized that dogs in costume are that much more inviting, and it allows people to approach, start conversations, and understand how amazing pitbulls are as family pets, we've taken every opportunity to deck out our dogs. 
We are lucky that our dogs are very tolerant and comfortable wearing gear, though we know many dogs might not be comfortable in costume, or they might be too large for the standard dog costume options.
Here is one idea we had to use our existing dog gear to create an easy "Couples Costume" for larger dogs:
The pooches try out Thing 1 and Thing 2 antics

How we made Thing 1 and Thing 2 Sweatshirts:
Our pooches already had these sweatshirts (at 65 lbs they wear size XL), so we just needed to find a decal to iron on. We found a template through this great post and we used her basic process.
We bought ink jet iron-on transfer paper for dark shirts. Our decals have a bit of red showing through, but I like the ombre effect. 

Making the Wigs:
We like how the sweatshirts are a perfect costume alternative for pups who may not be comfortable wearing costumes. Though since our pups are tolerant, we decided to try wigs.
I started with a circular blue piece of felt; I used a round plastic container lid as a pattern. I sewed a loop of elastic to the felt so the felt became a type of hat on top of their head being secured by elastic under the chin. I got the idea to use a blue feather boa from this post here and I wrapped it in a spiral on top of the felt. I wasn't sure about using a glue gun, so I did my best to sew the wrapped boa on top of the felt. It's not that secure, and it does shed a lot. I also have to be careful that the feathers don't irritate the pups faces. It has been raining outside so we haven't had a chance to test it on a walk, though they have been comfortable wearing the wigs around our house.
I never thought I would be crafting costumes for my pup. 
Has anyone else been making costumes?

Also:
Keeping pups safe and comfortable in costume.

Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and storylines beyond the blog.


Monday, October 21, 2013

SociaBulls: The Issue None of Us Knew About

Before joining our group, many of our new members are often worried about how their dogs will react walking so closely with other dogs.
Though it turns out, many of the pups don't even realize other dogs are there because there is something else they are way more interested in: goose poo.
One of our members was just saying they didn't even know that her dog liked goose poo or that her pup, who is always very interested in other dogs, would find goose poo that much more interesting.
While Miss M usually spends her walks focusing on me like this I have found SociaBulls walks to be much different where she views it more like a goose poo hunt set to lunge when she finds a piece within reach.
We have also realized how the dogs view squirrels as a novelty. Since most of our walks are in more park-like areas, and most of us don't see that many squirrels around our homes in the city, many of the pooches are much more interested in the squirrels than in the pooches around them.
I wonder what else we don't know our pups would find interesting?

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.

Also:
I guess that's why we should be doing more of this
Weird Duck!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Pooches: Miss M and the Silver Balloon (Le Ballon argent)

Miss M was on her way home last weekend when she noticed a big herd of silver balloons following her.  At first she was unsure of these balloons following her every move:
Though once she realized she could use them to gaze at her own reflection, she was a bit more accepting:
Miss M enjoyed playing with her balloons in the streets of Chicago, but she quickly realized they had a mind of their own wanting to be close to her at all times:
She begged us to be able to take her balloons home with her:
But then quickly regretted her decision:
Annoyed, she thought perhaps they could take her dog, Mr. B, away in a cluster balloon ride over the city of Chicago. Ready to say au-revoir, Miss M severely under-estimated how heavy Mr B really is and realized they were both here to stay:

Also:

Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and storylines beyond the blog.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

DoggyStyle: On Walkable Dog Costumes

While traditional trick-or-treating may be rare where we live, we more than make up for it by living in a nearly week-long Halloween sitcom-esque state where it is completely normal to walk around city decked out in full costume. Even for dogs.
Knowing that our pups will be marching, and literally walking miles in their gear, we've learned how important it is to keep them comfortable and feeling safe. 
After some trial-and-error, here are some things we have learned about finding costumes that are comfortable and don't disintegrate as we walk:

Preventing Wardrobe Malfunctions:
We know how distracting it can be for the pups to wear a costume that's falling off. Plus, we're not so fond of chasing hats and tiaras flying off mid-walk. We keep our hats, headbands, and tiaras in place by securing them with elastic under the chin. We custom measure it for each pup to make sure it's not too tight; to doublecheck we make sure we can fit our palm comfortably underneath the elastic.

Non-Restrictive:
We are always looking for costumes that are easy for them to walk in. Mr. B usually sticks to hats and bowties, while Miss M wears elastic wings. We always check that the elastic is not restricting and that it won't rub against her arms while she walks.
While a lot of people stopped to give their beads to our pups during the Pride Parade, they mostly wear the beads when they are sitting and watching the parade or posing for photo opps. 

Weather Considerations:
Back when I was marathon training, people used to say you should prepare the clothes for your run by estimating 20 degrees higher than the actual temperature. I always keep this in mind for our pups when we're walking. I don't think we're walking intensely enough that I should estimate a full 20 degrees, but we are always very conscious of keeping them comfortable during the warmer weather. Usually Mr. B will just wear a hat--bonus: it helps shade him from the sun! While Miss M can stay cool with a tutu or wings.
At the same time, we have learned to layer for the cooler weather.
Our pups' short-hair doesn't keep them warm enough, so they like to stay warm by wearing hoodies, jerseys, and jackets. I remember how disappointed I was on Halloween when I needed to wear a coat over my costume, so we try to make it match.

Comfort and Safety:
We know wearing costumes can be an added stress for dogs in addition to all of the other noises, obstacles, and commotion out on the street. We always spend time testing our costumes at home and creating positive associations. We wrote more about it here. If it ever seems the pups are uncomfortable, we do make sure to remove the costumes.

Also:
What is your 'go-to' dog Halloween event? This has been our favorite thing to do every year. 

Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and storylines beyond the blog.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Things to Do in Chicago with Dogs: Miss M and Mr B Cheer on Runners at the Chicago Marathon

Even though I have retreated to retirement, I still miss my Chicago Marathon running days. Each year we pack up the pups and head out in the wee hours of Sunday morning to cheer on the runners.
As a runner, the crowd support is beyond amazing. An estimated 1 million spectators line the 26.2 mile course with clever signs, costumes, and singing Elvis to cheer the marathoners along.
So we decided to add two pitbulls in Superhero costumes to the mix:
The beginning of the race course is densely packed with the neighborhoods coordinating costumes, cheers and screaming fans. It was always so hard turning that corner after the halfway mark to a less lively street. We decided that 14 mile mark is the best place for our pups to park and use their superpowers.
With their serious mugs, they were able to lure some of the marathoners off the course for some smooches. We were able to see Medgar and Blue's mom run by, and several people who knew the pups waved as they ran by.
We know it's often the runners at the back of the pack who might need the encouragement the most, so we made sure to stay out until the very end. Even as the final sanitation truck was rolling by, we wanted to make sure to cheer on the runners that were still determined to make it all the way through.
Though we don't know if Miss M was all that encouraging. Apparently, it was just too exhausting to sit and watch people who had just run 14 miles (and had 12 more to go!) and Miss M had to remind them of that by collapsing onto the sidewalk.
Was anyone else out there running or watching this year?

Also:
Wonder what really goes on along the race course? Here are my photos when I ran the marathon with a disposable camera. 
How the pups tracked me during my last race.
Deja vu with another superhero. And when they picked their own costumes.


Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and storylines beyond the blog.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

City Dog: Focusing with Check-in's

We have found that the best part of being out and about in the city is that we get to use the skills we've learned in our training classes in real life. One skill that our pups have been over-using lately is the check-in.
The idea is that our pups remember to voluntarily check back with us, giving eye-contact, to communicate and get directions from us.
During our class, we would bring high-value treats and as we walked each time they would check back with us we would treat them. At first it was like an ATM machine, where they would immediately get fed a treat each time they made eye contact. Then we would stretch the time out between treating so it wasn't immediate. As the behavior became more automatic, we were able to increase the amount of check-ins before getting treated and eventually work on eliminating treats overall. We still bring treats on our walks as a reminder because our pups are so treat-motivated and we work on our other training.
This is why it has become one of our most used skills:

Keeping Pace
With so many interesting things going on, it can be so easy for our pups to get ahead of us or to fall behind. Check-in's remind them that we are working as a team and we all need to walk at the same pace. This is especially important when we are walking both of our dogs at the same time.
Our friends also wrote about using check-in's to walk two dogs, here. 


Avoiding Triggers (and Chicken Bones!)
We have been using this eye contact as a way to keep their attention as we navigate around some of the obstacles on our daily walks. If we spot skateboards, an overly-excited dog, a grumpy cat behind a fence, or the ubiquitous chicken bone, we can capture their attention long enough to navigate around the obstacle. Just the other day we had a young, large dog lunging at them trying to play but our pups didn't even notice because they were too busy focusing.

Navigating the City
In the city, so many things can happen at a moment's notice...like that time we were caught in a zombie flash mob. With check ins we know pups have learned to check back with us for guidance and direction if things get uncomfortable. Mr. B especially gets nervous when he hears dogs barking in cars like they're trapped. While he used to get excited and spring in the air on all fours, now he will look back at us for direction.
The funny thing is our pups take it very literally, and oftentimes they will spend an city block without breaking eye contact for the chance to get a sliver of a treat. Especially Miss M who has fallen off of curbs and walked into parked bicycles as she lets me know she is watching me so intently. She has become quite the source of comedy for people we pass. While it's hard to explain unless you see it, here is a video (with accompanying music!) showing Miss M's crazy eyes and bowlegged stance as she walks trying to keep eye-contact. Plus, a cameo by a bouncing Mr. B who is a bit more jovial:
video
Has anyone else been using this on their walks?

Also:
The training command that changed our life.
Who knew we would use this simple skill so much?
Parlor Tricks!

Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and storylines beyond the blog.

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