Wednesday, January 14, 2015

City Dog: On Attempting to Maintain Dog Training in the Winter

Since there can be so many unexpected things we encounter on our city walks (Three-legged rats! Gyros in snowbanks! Drunk people trying to put sombreros on our pups!) we like to treat all of our walks like training walks so our pups are ready for the unexpected.
Over the years the pups have become accustomed to the routine. Practicing waves. Knowing to sit at every corner. And always checking in with us for directions.
Though as we've been spending our winter climbing snowbanks and navigating icy sidewalks, training has become an after-thought.
At the same time, we always regret the lapse once we remember how hard spring walking can be.
Here are some ways we're trying to keep up our training:

Focus on the Main Focus
During the warmer weather, when we can actually walk on the sidewalks, we have quite the repertoire of tricks.
They wave.
They wait.
They lay down at the raise of a hand.
Miss M even walks around me in a circle.
We do these to keep the pups' communication and focus. Which is nearly impossible to do when navigating snowdrifts.
So we just work on check-in's. This is our most important training to keep the pups' attention on us, which we can even do among the snowdrifts. We wrote more about it, here. 

Making our Treats Accessible
With the distractions of the snowbanks and narrowing sidewalks, we often need treats to keep the pups' checking in. And there has always been a conflict between keeping hands warm and dispensing treats.
I like using treats that can be broken into smaller bits for treating. Ours are long jerky-type sticks where I can just hold one stick and break it into smaller pieces for treating.
I also like walking with flip-top gloves which can make it easier to hold things.

Gearing Up
The biggest thing is making our pups comfortable in the colder weather so they do have the chance to focus. If it's too cold, Mr. B will try to sprint away (that is until he reaches the end of the leash).
We've learned the art of layering, which we talk more about in this post.
We use dog boots when sidewalks are icy and covered with salt, but we also make sure to practice wearing walking with the boots inside so they will be comfortable once they get outside. We wrote more about it, here. 

Anyone else have tips on keeping up your training when the weather gets rough?

How to exercise your pups when you can't go outside.
And with shorter walks.
Forgetting winter.
Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and storylines beyond the blog.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Pooches: How Much Are Dogs Influenced by Their Dog Siblings?

The other day, as our pups were racing around the house awaiting dinner (at 10 am!), E wondered if Mr. B might have been a completely different pup if he didn't live with a dog like Miss M.
See, Mr. B is typically laid back, but it was only after picking up on Miss M's cues, and crazy eyes, that he learned how to be over-excited.
Over-excited about breakfast.
And dinner.
And when people come to our door.
Mr. B shows his excitement by racing around with his stuffies!
But at the same time, I think Mr. B could have turned out differently if Miss M had some other undesirable behaviors.
Mr. B used to bark at all the action outside our window, and any noise from our building's hallway, but it was only because Miss M didn't react to these noises that he stopped.
He also used to give warning barks for approaching dogs when we were on walks, but Miss M's indifference quelled that too.
I wonder if it could have gone the other way where Miss M picked up on these cues and we had both of the pups becoming over-excited about noises and action.

So do our pups have the personalities they have only because of one-another? Would each of our dogs have turned out completely differently if they each lived with a different pup?
What has everyone else been noticing with their dogs?

Remember when our pups taught foster dog Wilma to do this the first week she got here?
Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and story lines beyond the blog.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Pooches: Where Miss M's Gets Her Beauty Sleep

While she may not always seem the voice of reason, Miss M is the only member of our household who follows a strict bedtime regime. 
Every night, when we're all sitting downstairs, once it hits 9:00 (because somehow, she can tell time) Miss M will steadily creep upstairs and put herself to bed.
 I'm always surprised to see her up there so early.
Completely passed out.
Though as Miss M knows, it's important to get her beauty sleep.
Because it's not easy being so beautiful.

They don't know they're being watched
That time I thought my dog was ugly.
You will 'get it', here. 
Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and story lines beyond the blog.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Pooches: On Dog Sweaters in the Neighborhood

After years of walking our pups through Blizzasters, Chi-beria, and general Chicago weather, we've tried out a lot of dog gear.
While it's our dog coats that get us through the really rough weather, we do love that small window of time when the pups get to gear-up in their dog sweaters.
Our sweaters are heavy-duty, much warmer than our hoodies. Which gives us a mere few weeks to wear them in the colder weather just before the snow hits--we know these probably would just become uncomfortable and weighted down among the snow drifts.
We did learn that dogs in sweaters score huge points with the neighbors. As the pups were clad in their sweaters on our latest family walk, nearly everyone we passed cracked a smile, with a couple pulling out camera phones for paparazzi shots. 
Our pups each own two sweaters (matching of course!).
One of our first purchases for our pups was the matching pink and black skull sweaters from Chilly Dog; a lot of our local pet stores seem to carry this brand. These sweaters have a tight-weave and come up higher at the collar like a mock-turtleneck. While they fit our pups well in the chest, they are actually very long and we ended up needing to fold over the back and pin it in place with safety pins. We've seen a couple of different styles on some of our Chicago SociaBulls friends; they've even come out with a fair-isle pattern!
We've since ordered custom-made sweaters from our friends over at Tiennot Knits. We like that these are sewn to our pups exact dimensions (not too long!) and we asked for a tighter fit to keep the front side well-covered. We also liked being able to choose the colors. Miss M specifically asked for pink.

Sweaters happen to be the one piece of dog gear our pups will wear inside. Especially at family parties which make them look a bit more gussied up and harder to get angry with them if they are over-excited.

These are the sweaters that have worked for us.
Anyone else out there have sweaters your pups love wearing? And any sizing tips?

For hard to fit.
Just starting out. 
Using human gear!
Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and story lines beyond the blog.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Pooches: Where We Discover the Secret Lives of Our Dogs

We've always wondered what the pups were up to when they were home alone and left to their own devices.
So much so, that we even figured out how to do this.
Over break I was out with the flu, which really meant I got to stay home undetected to the pups. (They kept forgetting I was sleeping in the bed.)
And I discovered they had a bit of a secret life that the cameras couldn't capture:

Yes, Miss M Really Does Talk to Herself
Whenever we're home, Miss M likes to follow us around and "talk" to us (we shared her vocal talents in the video in this post).
I always wondered if this was something she always did, or if it was completely for our benefit.
Does the Miss M make a sound if there is no one there to hear it?
And as I discovered as I was home sick hiding in the bed, yes, Miss M is the type of pup that walks around mumbling to herself.

The Pups Have Their Own Routine Without Us
The pups know they're on a different routine when we're not home.
Mr. B had a set time where he went to lay by the front window anticipating the Dogwalker's arrival.
Miss M apparently has a special talent of telling time where she would get extra mumbly summoning the Dogwalker to come feed her dinner.

They Have Their Own Friends We Don't Even Know About
When we're on break and we're able to walk the pups during the day, we meet a whole slew of people who know the pups. 
People we have never met before but they have met the pups when they're with their Dogwalker.
I guess at our old place our pups had a great relationship with the school crossing guard, which we never realized because we were always at school at the same time.

Is anyone else discovering secrets from their pups' lives when you're not watching?

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

Monday, January 5, 2015

SociaBulls: The Dog Club for Dogs

While I usually think of SociaBulls as an activity I'm doing every week, so often I forget that I'm just the accessory and it's really the dogs' club.
As our little pack has grown and walked together so much, they dogs themselves have instituted their own set of rules beyond what we have in place:

So many members have told us that their dogs seem know when they're going to SociaBulls, and they adjust themselves accordingly.
Dogs who are normally excited at the glimpse of another dog aren't jumping towards other dogs. Dogs who might be vocal don't bark as much. 
Dogs who might be slow or hesitant to walk, keep up with the pack. 
Through the structure we've set up, and the rhythm of the walking, the dogs develop the expectation of the group as a comfortable place where they are able to socialize in a natural way.

The Pack Mentality
The dogs have developed an understanding that they are a group.
Besides the initial walk or two when a dog is still learning about SociaBulls, dogs typically don't bark at each other within the group.
But, if they see another dog walk by the group, vocal dogs might react to that single dog outside the group.

The Buddy System
While we have a no-greeting policy, the pups definitely have an awareness and recognition of other dogs in the group. 
We create a pack order to help our dogs of all levels feel comfortable, and often they begin walking near the same dog on a weekly basis. 
And even if all they see is the backside of a dog the whole walk, they do develop a comfort and recognition of other dogs in the group.
It's funny, because sometimes we see some of our SociaBulls friends when we are just out on our daily walks and we can tell that our pups know who they are.


Learn more about the idea behind SociaBulls here, and join our Chicago SociaBulls Facebook page for more photos and information about our group!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Pooches: Miss M as Elf on a Shelf

I had all these ideas for other posts I would write, but I'm down with that flu that's been going around school. This is one of our favorite holiday-themed posts:
Maybe we're behind the times, but it was only last year that we learned about the phenomenon that is "Elf on a Shelf".
The elf is a little figurine that parents hide around the house. Its location changes every day, so you never know where it is. So not only is it spying on the kids...but each night it goes and tattles to Santa if the kids have been naughty.
When I first heard this it sounded kind of frightening, until I realized how poor Mr. B has been living with his very own Elf on a Shelf:
Just like the elf, Miss M can pop up anywhere:
She will uncomfortably watch you:
And she has no problem tattling:
Does anyone else unknowingly have an "Pup on a Shelf" in your house?

Stay tuned to our Facebook page for more updates during our holiday.
Did you know Miss M and Mr B are sharing their thoughts on Twitter?

The true story.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Things to Do in Chicago with Dogs: Favorite Holiday Walks in the City

With everything we have going on, lately we couldn't be more excited for our upcoming break.
As busy as we've been, it will be good to spend some quality time with the pups, and we've created a tradition of going on a couple of walks, that are worth it, even in the colder weather.

Taking Advantage of a Deserted Downtown:
The city completely empties out on Christmas and Christmas Eve, so we like to take this chance to take the pups downtown to look at the sites. Chicago has a traditional Christkindl market that is always way too busy, even when we're not with the pups.
So we like to walk around outside and see the tree and let people meet the pups (they become quite the photo opp!). Downtown we tend to run into a lot of tourists who have never met pitiful-type dogs before, and they are often shocked that they are just like any other dog (though it is often followed by comments that their own dogs at home would never be as patient or calm in a crowd).

Visiting Marshall Fields (Macy's) State Street Windows:
We love outdoor activities that we all can enjoy, and it's fun to see the decorated windows. Before Christmas State Street is really crowded, so we make this part of our Christmas Eve walk where everything is empty and the pups can even go up to see.

Amped up Neighborhoods:
As long as it's dark and cold, it might as well look pretty. We've been at Wicker Park when they had the fountain decorating event, and it's always nice to see the the neighborhood stores and homes all lit up and decorated.

Anyone else have favorite holiday walking traditions?

How to be a tourist with dogs during a Chicago winter in 1 day.
Or in 36 hours. 
No such thing as bad weather.

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

Friday, December 12, 2014

Pooches: The Dogs They Were Meant to Be

Sometimes we get frustrated with our pups.
When they think that every "walk" should really be a "run":
When they are always following us around, stalker-like:
When they are so excited to wake up an hour earlier, when we want to sleep in an hour later:
By not acting like the dogs we expect them to be:
But then we remember there might come
A time when our daily walks are no longer a grand adventure, and they are just a walk.
A time when being our best friend is too much work, and all they want is their personal space and alone time.
When they are no longer excited about life to wake up an hour earlier to live an hour more
And eventually life might not be worth waking up to at all
A time when we finally realize that the way they always were was just perfect.
Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and story lines beyond the blog.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Daily Walk: City Walk in Photos

As much as we are tempted to start our winter hibernation now, we know how important it is to keep our pups on their daily walking routine. As the pups have been getting older, we know the longer, low-impact walks are a good way to keep them fit while also keeping them mentally stimulated.
Here the pups take you on our city-dog walk:
The pups primp in our entry mirror before heading out. (We still barely recognize reflection Miss M!)
Miss M visiting her pet ducks.
Great check-in's Mr. B!
We saw a couple of families toting Christmas trees home. It's hard to see, but that pup in the photo is wearing antlers.
Miss M and graffiti.
The pups always seem to know where to find the free dog treats.
Mr. B gets extra exercise by treating the city as his obstacle course.
This weekend was also Toys for Tots Motorcycle Parade where an estimated 70,000 motorcycles ride through the city, up Western Avenue, with their toys to donate. At first we were conflicted because they ride straight through and it's really easy to get stuck on one side for a really long time. Then I was excited and I thought it would be fun to see them. Though somehow, except for the random motorcycle here and there, we seemed to miss them all. Though we did read allover Facebook about everyone who was stuck in the traffic.
Even with the cold weather, we still have a lot to see on our walks. Is anyone else still getting out there?


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