Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Pooches: On Growing Older and Pushing Limits

It's hard for me to remember back to "Vintage Miss M" and how realize how far we've come.
She arrived as a stubborn, excited pup who needed to be entertained every minute.
She always wanted to take the leash from me and walk herself.
She knew what she wanted. And she wanted it now.
Which maybe isn't so far off from today?
One thing I did do well was set parameters and routines and create structure. I knew once I decided on something, there was no going back. (We wrote about her original "debutante training"here.)
Suddenly the pup I swore was raised by wolves was able to keep keep focus on our walks, do sit-stays with a single finger command, and lay nicely beside a coffee table holding my dinner as I left the room...without even attempting to sniff it.
And for the most part, this has worked well for the past 8 years we've been together.
While I've always known dogs are constantly a work-in-progress, and it's important to continue working on training, I have become a bit more lenient within our home.
Part of it is thinking that they are older now (10 and 11 years old!!) and we just want them to be happy and comfortable.
So maybe our sit-wait routine before they eat has become a sit and wait until Mr. B just digs in on his own.
And Miss M has been giving some not-so-polite greetings when guests come over.
And just generally pushing the limits with Miss M pushing her smooshed-up mug very, very close to our guests' food.
She plays it off as part of her charm.
Now I'm wondering...to what degree does training subside as dogs age?
Is it best to just let these small things slide knowing they are Elderbulls, they earned it, and let them be happy?
Or by being inconsistent am I just encouraging them to really push the limits and become more ill-behaved? 

This command changed Miss M's life.
Most people find this one and this one most impressive.
Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and story lines beyond the blog.

Monday, September 22, 2014

SociaBulls: When is a Dog Ready to Join the SociaBulls Group?

While we love that our group has so many different types of dogs, with different types of personalities, working on different types of skills, a perspective member just brought up the really good question: How do you know when your pup is ready to join the group?
I know this is definitely one of the biggest fears of new members.
They are always afraid that their dog will be the one to "ruin" the walks.
They predict their dog will bark and jump, maybe do circular acrobatics in the air. Or just sing non-stop for the entire walk.
Which is completely okay, because we are a non-judgmental group.
The main thing is just knowing our group isn't a replacement for training, but just a way of 'owners-helping-owners' as a type of 'after-training' to work on the things that we've learned. We just ask that the owners have owned their dogs for 3+ months so they know their dog, and they have been exposed to a formal group setting with other dogs so they understand how to best handle their pup and gain focus.
We use our application process as a way of learning more about each dog as a way to provide a positive experience within the pack and to familiarize the owners with our pack rules that have helped all of us to be successful.
Because we've all had our first walks. And we all started somewhere.
Even this city turtle who joined us the other week.


Join our Chicago SociaBulls Facebook page for more photos and information about our group.
Interested in joining? Find out about the process, here. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Pooches: On Dog Rankings

If you haven't seen, Foster dog Feeney has been adopted. He is very happy with a person who loves him very much. You can read their story on the rescue Facebook page, here.

While we always see so many adorable pups in need of homes, fostering always reminds us that we can really only function as a 2-dog household.
Though having three dogs does have its benefits.
You know, like using logic to reason with our pups.
Like when Miss M decides to give us side-face and we tell her "Wow, Mr. B is the best dog on this entire deck"
Which maybe doesn't have that much impact. Because she knows there is only one other dog on the entire deck. So if someone is the best, that automatically makes the other one the worst.
But, when we have 3 dogs, we reason these types of ratings do hold more weight.
Like when we told Miss M she was the most unappreciative pup at this year's Shakespeare in the Park play. 
It actually meant something.
Or when we told her she was being the most difficult dog sitting on our blanket at the Secret Chicago Air and Water Show
She had real competition.
There was also a category for "Worst Dog Riding in this Entire Car":
And "The Most Irresistibly Sweet Dog Sitting on Our Blanket":
Though it makes me wonder if our own parents also secretly did this?

The most representative.

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

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Forbidden Indoor Lawn

When we decided to commit to buying a new home, I was most excited to have our own 2.5 car garage, not because we have room for a second car, but that I can use the 0.5 of the garage for a workshop.
Granted, I have only done small installations and repairs around our condo, somehow I knew that the workshop will be my home within a home. Much to A's dismay...or elation, I spend most of my free time in my workshop tinkering with random power tools and every so often making something worthy of leaving my workshop.
One of my first builds that was allowed to leave the workshop and be displayed around the house was the dog gate separating our rear porch from our front yard. Now the pooches are allowed to roam our rear porch and our garage deck without the fear of them taking off into the backyard and out the garage if the garage door happens to be open.
After this build, A wanted more gates to separate the rear of our home from the front yard, so we can make the pooches stay in the front yard or in the backyard. So I built couple twin gates and put them at the front part of our gangway.
The hardest part was using a post digger to dig a hole deep enough for the 4x4 that are used to support the gate.
Finally, A wanted a gate to separate Miss M from the most luxurious place of all, our lower level that is full of luscious indoor lawn aka carpeting. At our old place, Miss M had this fascination of going potty on our living room rug, which eventually became a rug covered in pee pads. It would happen in the middle of the night, in the morning, in the middle of the day, basically anytime she had access to the rug without supervision, which was almost all the time (a story for another time). Oddly, she has yet to have an accident in our new house, but we have yet to lay any rugs down. However, we are not willing to test if she kicked the potty in the house business with our new carpeting, so I built this gate using the design and instructions laid out by our good friends, CC, Jack, Kim and Scott. They did such a great job explaining everything I needed to do from start to finish on their Doggie Gate DIY post on their blog, Yellow Brick Home.
It seems like everyday, A finds new projects she wants completed around the house and I love it, because it means I can spend more time in my favorite room. It is too bad that Mr. B cannot hang out with me in the workshop, there just too many hazards around for him. But I found a way to have him in there anyway.
Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and storylines beyond the blog

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Things to Do in Chicago with Dogs: That Time the Pups Tried to Crash Riot Fest

While Chicago has a lot of really big music festivals, one thing that was unique about last weekend's Riot Fest was that it was a huge festival held in a park smack dab in the middle of a neighborhood.
Our neighborhood.
The festival brought tens of thousands of people streaming into our neighborhood, and Friday night we rushed home to hunker down knowing it might be hard to leave all weekend. We heard with the traffic and road closures it took some of our neighbors two hours to get home (normally a 40 minute drive) and they had to park as far as a mile from their home. It brought so many people to the area that cell phone service was spotty all weekend.
Though it did have a really, really good line up with Weezer, The Cure, Jane's Addiction, Slayer, The Flaming Lips, Wu-Tang Clan, just to name a few.
The pups were not so excited their favorite stomping grounds were blocked off, but they were excited to see so many people in their neighborhood.
Mr. B even tried to score some tickets.
E and I ended up going for a bit just to check it out.  Somehow they crammed 7 stages, a carnival and non-stop rows of the best-of carnival food (funnel cakes! cheese on a stick! poutine!) into our park. We saw The Nationals, Flaming Lips, and Wu-Tang Clan. We saw part of The Cure and the beginning of Weezer which was playing the Blue Album in its entirety! Though the crowds were so bad, jostling, and completely drunk by that time that we just decided to run home where we could hear everything clearly, sans crowds, from our deck.
It was kind of fun to hear everything clearly, sans crowds, on our deck.
This is what Miss M thought about the Mighty, Mighty Bosstones.
Though they weren't too impressed by Slayer.

At least the pups were able to legally do this.
Our favorite non-dog activity that allowed dogs!
Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and storylines beyond the blog.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Pooches: On the State of the Dog-Rental Market

One of the questions we are asked most often is where to find rentals for large dogs (and pit bulls!) in the city.
I was a renter when I first adopted Miss M 8 years ago. At the time I was living in a 3-flat where the owner lived on the top floor. While my lease didn't allow dogs, the landlord didn't like going to the trouble of finding new renters so he decided I could have a dog in my unit.
He wasn't very happy to hear I was interested in a pit bull-type dog, and he said he would need to "interview" her before I could commit to adopting. Luckily, Miss M was able to fly through her interview sans songs. 
When we moved, I used Craigslist to look for dog-friendly rentals. Most of the listings I found were size-restrictive but did not restrict based on breed. Miss M and I were able to find the perfect bachelorette-pad in a Mayberry-esque area of Lincoln Square. We lived in a 7-unit building where nearly everyone had some type of pet, including: an Akita, 3 Labs, and a blind Cocker Spaniel.
We are in the fortunate situation where we have owned our homes for the past 6 years, so it has never been an issue for us, so when people ask I know we really aren't up to date with the rental market.
Though lately it seems like it is just hard to rent overall. We have heard horror stories of rents being increased hundreds of dollars, apartments sold without warning, and apartments renting in a matter of hours. With such rental demand, it seems like the easier choice for landlords is to just choose tenants without pets.

So we are curious to know what's really going on out there.
How tough is the rental market for dogs? And for dogs that might fall under the breed-restricted list?
How did you find your place? And how tough was it?
Are there certain areas or types of buildings that are easier to rent?
Has anyone had success with pet resumes? Or needed to focus on the "mix" part of your dog?
What advice would you have for people looking to rent?

On making living with dogs a positive experience for shared-wall neighbors.
And these secrets. And these answers.
Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and storylines beyond the blog.

Monday, September 15, 2014

SociaBulls: On Not "Graduating"

Lately, we've been hearing so many great stories about our SociaBulls members' experiences.
About pups who are using their experiences from the group to gain more focus on daily walks.
About pooches who are becoming more accustomed to walking closely with other dogs.
And about shy dogs who are able to walk near people in the company of other dogs. These owners keep coming to the group because they are  so proud of the positive changes they've seen in their pups.
At the same time, I was just talking to another member about why all types of dogs come and if there is ever a time when they seem to overcome what they came to work on and have "graduated" from the walks.
After thinking about our own experiences, and talking to many of our other members, we've realized even as our pups improve there are still so many reasons the walks can be beneficial.

Pups Love Socialization and Stimulation:
One of the biggest benefits we've noticed from the group is that it gives our dogs a different way to socialize. We know that not every dog is able to, or enjoys, physical interaction when socializing with other dogs. Group walking is a comfortable way for all types of dogs to socialize.
We also like how it's  both physically and mentally stimulating and a good way to keep your pups' experiences well-rounded.

We're All Always in Training:
I know there are a lot of obstacles we've overcame, but I can't say that we have ever "graduated" from training overall. I have noticed that once I think our pups are successful in one area we tend to be more lenient, but by not practicing and using what we've learned they tend to fall back into bad habits.
We love how SociaBulls walks are a scheduled way for us to remember to follow our good habits. We love using it to work on check-in's, self-control (that would be Miss M always diving for the goose poo!), and focus (we're looking at you Mr. B always begging other people for their treats).

The Importance of Supportive Communities:
Back when I first adopted Miss M, I didn't really have other dog friends and I know it really would have helped to be part of a supportive community. From being able to talk about dog coats that fit, recommendations for dog boarding, and little issues we notice, it has been amazing to hear the recommendations from so many of our SociaBulls friends. We also like that we have met such a diverse group of people, we probably wouldn't have been able to meet, and we are all brought together through our love of dogs.

The inside stories (follow the link at the bottom) about why so many of our pups walk.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Pooches: Do Your Pups Sleep in Your Bed?

We always think it's funny when people ask whether our pups sleep in our bed with us.
Because if you have ever seen how Miss M sleeps like this:
and especially this:
there is no way we are voluntarily inviting her into our bed. 
And poor Mr. B always loses by default.
At the same time, we know plenty of people who routinely have their pups in their bed.
One of our friends hilariously told us they weren't sure they could adopt a second dog because there wouldn't be enough room in the bed for everyone.
So we're curious, do your pups sleep in your bed?

Twin dog beds!
What we're hoping for soon.

Check our Facebook page for more photos and story lines beyond the blog.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Things to do in Chicago with Dogs: Best Summer Activities with Dogs

While we have been a bit quiet on the blog lately, along with our whirlwind of a summer selling, buying a home,  and moving, we really were out there with our pups taking advantage of everything summer has to offer.
We've been way behind on posting and sharing our photos, but as we were sorting through everything  we found these 5 highlights of our favorite dog-friendly summer activities.

Gay Pride Parade
Chicago's Gay Pride Parade has always been the highlight of our summer. We love that the entire community comes out to celebrate ideas of equality and gay rights with a multi-mile parade and celebration complete with thumping music, beads and feathers.
The pups join the crowds bedecked in rainbow beads, tiaras (Miss M!) and cowboy hats (Mr. B!) and also make quite the impression showing how pit bull-type dogs are just like any other dog.
One of our favorite videos ever was showing all the people the pups met from their view in this first video in the post here. 
And Miss M's tiara debut.

Taste of Latin America
While a lot of people seem to think Taste of Chicago is one of the best events in the city (though once you live here you realize it really isn't) we think Taste of Latin America is the best food festival we've been to yet. This is a new-to-the-city festival that we first found out two years ago, and I was beyond disappointed when it was cancelled last year. This year we were excited to go with all 3 pups who had an amazing time meeting people, and staring at the food we ate. We even had our Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel cut in front of us at one of the booths and he only turned to ask "Are the dogs enjoying this festival?" (huh?)
Though I think they enjoyed the tasting a bit more here.

Shakespeare in the Park
We were able to make it out to this year's Shakespeare in the Park at our very own brand new neighborhood park. This year they brought out A Midsummer Night's Dream and though we came late and were a bit further from the stage it was nice to be able to sit outside with so many other people enjoying the play. I think it was Foster Dog Feeney's first cultural experience.
And Mr. B was still laughing about how he unexpectedly got to be part of the play last year.

Renegade Craft Fair
We know summer has really come to an end when it's Renegade Craft Fair (which annually coincides with the first Bears game of the season!). It's the weekend when a slew of Etsy-vendors converge on our city stretching out for a half-mile (on both sides!). We ran into a series of SociaBulls members, a couple of people who knew the pups from the Internet (thanks for saying hi!), and we got to see the booth of the talented and creative La Familia Green who uses her own pups as inspiration to create clever cards for your favorite pet-lover.
And in case you were ever wondering, here Miss M shares what Renegade looks like from a dog's view.

Ubiquitous Neighborhood Street Fest 
I'm not really sure which of the neighborhood festivals this was at, but it seems to have everything Chicagoans have come to expect from most street festivals.
Mr B as one of the bros? Check.
Our dogs participating in a random hook-up? Check.
Pigs in strollers? Check.
And drinking a beer? Just kidding...our pups only eat dog ice-cream.

So these were all the things we were doing when we weren't here at the computer.
Anyone else have any summer highlights with your pups?

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

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

DoggyStyle: On Entryway Makeovers

Miss M is shocked speechless during the final reveal
While we have been lucky enough to know our friend over at Yellow Brick Home for the past few years (remember how their pup Jack was one of the first SociaBulls members?) we were even luckier that when we moved into our new home we became real-life neighbors. 
In the entire city of Chicago we now live mere blocks away where impromptu dinners and rendezvous (Miss M considers Jack among one of her favorite boyfriends) have become a reality.
We are always marveling at Scott and Kim's creativity, and we were beyond excited when they offered to help us makeover our entryway.
With all of our daily walks with the pups, our entryway is key. We need it to hold our slew of dog supplies: leashes, towels, dog raincoats, and towels. As well as being a place for us to shed our coats and take off our shoes. 
We were always focusing on the functional, and we never thought an entryway could actually be beautiful. 
Until they made it that way.
We are still shocked and excited each day to come home to the amazing transformation. We can't believe we actually get to live here!
And you can see how it turned out on the Yellow Brick Home blog, here.

SPOLIER ALERT: The pups' "Bachelor/Bachelorette" Glamour Shots even got to be part of the design!
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