Monday, February 28, 2011

Schwang Manor: Dogs and TV

With the excitement of the Oscars, and the unwelcoming snow and cold weather outside, it was fun to spend the weekend inside with the pooches along with some movies, root beer floats, and brownies. See, it's kind of a big deal for us to watch things because we don't actually have a television. We actually use a projector which we hook up to our computers and view on our big wall. And the pooches actually watch it.
E and I both had TV's before we moved in together, but we decided to sell them.
Part of it was a space issue. I think it's so much nicer, and conversational, to have the two couches than to have a television be the focal point of our space.
Part of it was a financial issue. We do save a lot of money each month by not subscribing to cable.
And part of it was a time issue. After realizing how I was sucked into watching terrible, awful shows just because I left the TV on (The Girls Next Door', anyone?) I thought making TV more inaccessible would cause me to make more conscious choices. Though much to my own embarrassment, I still do consciously watch 'The Bachelor'.
 The pooches actually enjoy watching the movement on the wall. When Miss M sees us setting up she settles right into a space on the floor between us and watches the movement on the screen.
I guess part of not having TV is not being able to see movie trailers, so we're super-behind on our movie viewing and we actually hadn't seen any of the Oscar contenders.We did really enjoy The Education, which was just well-acted with amazing '60's style. And we liked The Brothers Bloom which was a bit Wes Anderson-ish. We also just finished watching all four seasons of Mad Men.
We're obviously super-behind on our viewing, but does anyone else have any good movie recommendations?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Ms. M the Social Butterfly

There is such a huge personality difference between Ms. M and Mr. B and this is very apparent when we try to take a pictures of them. Ms. M will willingly look at the camera and even seems like she is posing for the camera.
This is indicative of her personality. She will freely approach new people, wiggling like she did in the Halloween parade, and making other humans feel like they are the most important people in the world.
When people have their hands out, she will run up to kiss their hands and even their face, if it's low enough.
On the other hand, there is Mr. B who is a bit more reserved. We cannot get him to look straight into the camera. We think that he is either afraid of the camera or just a shy little dog. A tries everything to coax him into staring at the camera, but it barely works. Sometimes we are lucky to catch that random shot of him looking right into the camera.
His reserved nature is apparent when we take him on walks. He will walk right past a stranger that wants to pet him. Though he will let random people pet him, pull on his ears and tail, he will not show the same affection back. However, if he has warmed up to you, he will follow you everywhere and go crazy when you come over. Our walls are scratched up, because when he sees our dog walker coming up the walk, he will jump on the door and wall, getting ready to greet her. Sometimes we wish he was a bit more like Ms. M when meeting new people, but it's probably a good thing he isn't going crazy meeting a stranger.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Pooches: "His", "Hers" & "Theirs"

People are always conscious of "His" and "Her" spaces, but we somehow forget "Theirs". I was surprised the other day when I went to hang up my coat and found my regular coat hook taken overrun with Ruffwear raincoats, leashes, and dog seatbelts. We've worked to seemlessly integrate the pooches into our space, but I'm suddenly starting to wonder if we are seemlessly in all of their spots.
Much like the movie "The Breakup", E and I each have our favorite spots to sit in the livingroom. "His":
And "Theirs":
 We have our own areas in the bedroom. "His":
 And theirs:
And areas in the kitchen.... mostly "Theirs"
 In most dog households, is there really a "His" and "Hers"? Or is there just a "Theirs"?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Daily Walk: Chicago Dog "Grime-fighting" Gear

As our snowdrifts from our Chicago Blizzaster have melted, our pooches' coats and boots have quickly morphed from snow-gear to the all important Chicago "Grime-fighting" gear. I always dread the city-thaw as all the city trash, dog poo and half-eaten food that people happily tossed into the snowdrifts are suddenly thawing and festering in puddles. And we have to trudge through this grime just to go on our daily walk. Here's an idea of what we're dealing with courtesy of Mr. B's Pet Eye Camera--but with more puddles:
So now we need to "gear up" for all of our walks We're starting to really love our PAWZ  boots which I feel were made just to combat grime. Miss M's long, curved toenails scoop up mud and I've found it so much easier to just take off the boot than trying to wipe each individual toenail. And even though it may not be raining, we use their Raincoats which cover their undersides and prevent them from huge grime puddle splashes.
We still  have problems giving the pooches baths, but we picked up this Perfect Coat Waterless Shampoo 
which is easier than trying to tackle Miss M in a tub and makes the pooches smell like apples.
The only positive thing about the big thaw, is that we're hoping spring is on the way. Anyone else have any good mud tips?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dog Training: Teaching Your Dog to Act Like When You're Home...When You're not Home

 When we're home, our dogs are perfectly respectful and restrained. We can leave delicious food in front of them for 10 minutes and they wouldn't dare touch it. They don't get into trouble.But when we leave, it's just like an incident from Toy Story where they come alive do things they can't do when they know we're home.Like sit on the couch.
The worst part is Miss M knows it's wrong, yet she is being bossy and decides to do it anyway. Knowing she'll keep pushing her boundaries, we knew it was time to start our retraining and recondition her to stay off the couch and stop being a bully.
 It's hard to reinforce rules and authority if you're not there to do it. So, one trick we've learned is to not let your dog realize when you're home and when you're gone. Our dogs have been conditioned to know that when the door shuts--we're gone. So we had to work on reconditioning that. One way is to put on your coat to pretend you're leaving, shut the door, and hide. When we did this the dogs came out of their beds and made themselves comfortable. And when we popped out, and they realized we really were home, they were back to their good behavior, though a bit surprised.
 If you don't want to be so dramatic, there is another method we learned from our trainer when we were working on Mr. B's "isolation distress". Mr. B was fine sitting in the crate when we were home, but once we left he freaked out and would bark. Our trainer had us go to the back door where Mr. B couldn't see us, and shut the door while remaining inside. Once he started barking we yelled "Quiet", and he was actually quiet. We did this a couple of times where we would randomly open and shut the door, to the point that he never knew if we were home or gone. And when he started thinking we could potentially be home, he stopped being anxious.It's funny how something that seems so commonsense--telling him to be quiet--actually worked.
This might put us one step ahead of Miss M, at least for now.

Friday, February 18, 2011

DoggyStyle: More About Mr. B's Tepee

We get a lot of questions about Mr. B's tepee. People are always curious where we bought it, how the dogs like it, and if there are any problems with them destroying it.
Originally, Mr. B had a big, blocky crate, and it looked like this:
We later realized he had crate anxiety where he would use his head as a battering ram just to escape. We kept the crate around just so he could have a place to den, but having 2 huge dog crates in our living room also made me feel like I was living in an aisle of Petsmart. I wanted to find a more attractive alternative, and I kept seeing photos of these tepees. So I thought it was worth a try to turn our former eyesore, into this:
We originally bought our tepee at this shop. Though if you google "6 ft Great Plains Tepee" you can find it at a variety of online stores for a bit over $100. I was originally concerned it would be too big for our space, but the base does not have to extend the full length. I also liked how it added height and interest in our living room, and how it was so sleek and white to blend in.
Originally the dogs were a bit wary of it, and it wasn't their favorite place to go. Even now, they would still rather barricade themselves in Miss M's crate.
I think they like having the crate walls to lean on. Despite their original hesitation, since it was something new, Miss M decided to take it over.
pushing Mr. B out of his own tepee.
The biggest problem is that bottom of the tepee will still move around and collapse into itself. We added some Flor Tiles to make it more secure. Though Mr. B has a tendency to run into his tepee, like he's sliding into home plate, and we have come home to this. Our favorite part is that he just lays on his bed like there's nothing wrong.
Though we did have an incident where Miss M thought the sticks of the tepee were a toy and she chewed on one of them.We would be interested to hear if anyone does end up trading out their dog crate for a tepee. Or if anyone has other creative solutions for making dog crates more attractive.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Dog Training: The Bad Party Guests

While most people think of our dogs like this:
You might be surprised to hear Miss M has officially been banned from all family parties and holidays. And Mr. B is banned through association.
Despite how well we have trained our pooches, we have found it's hard to be consistent with training outside of our home. The first time Miss M went to E's family for the holidays, she had the best time of her life. She was so excited because everyone was petting her. People were slipping her food under the table. And she was allowed to sit on the couch at whim. Though we tried to reinforce our rules with her, everyone loved her and thought our rules were mean and that she should enjoy the holiday. And any time we weren't looking they'd slip her a snack.
Because of this, Miss M was conditioned to become a bad party guest. We'd see her begging for food. Discovered her rooting through the trash to eat watermelon rinds. And despite her restraint and ability to stare at food without eating it
The last straw was when Miss M  stuck her head in a the platter of potato salad and actually ate straight from the bowl.
It's not only family parties, but it also happens when we're on daily walks. Someone will go to pet Miss M, and all of a sudden she's learned how to jump. We correct her, because we don't want her jumping on people, to which the person says "Oh, it's ok with me" and reinforces the jumping by petting her.
For some of these small instances, we don't want to come off as rude, or over-reactive. Plus, it's hard to correct things when people just think they're doings something nice for the pooches. At the same time, they're now being conditioned to learn bad habits. How do you balance training and manners when people just want to spoil your dog?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Pooches: Daily Walk in 10 Pictures 2.16.2011

This past weekend was warm enough for us to go on several errands with the pooches. Mr. B had on his coat, backpack and purple boots.
Ms. M is too good for a bag and wore her coat and green boots.
The following pictures were all taken with Mr. B's camera.
Now that the weather has gotten warmer, the pooches can actually see crosswalks and can find where to cross.
It is nice not having to climb over snow mounds to cross the street.
However, there are parts especially near our neighborhood that still needs to go through a deep thaw.
One problem with the deep thaw is
that all the debris, dog poop and such that was buries under 2 feet of snow is now coming out and littered all over our walks.
Hopefully all this dirty snow will be gone in the next two weeks.
A and I took turns going into The Butcher and Larder and Mr. B got a nice shot of A ordering some pate
and me buying steaks and sausages for our dinner with our camera tutor, M.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Story of Miss M and the Sofa Part Trois

When I got home yesterday, I looked up to find Ms. M and Mr. B staring out the window.
I noticed right away that Ms. M was a lot higher than Mr. B and she was way to the left.
But when I entered the house, Ms. M and Mr. B were already in the beds acting like they have been in there all day.
After their walk, I started preparing for the next day and then I looked up to find Ms. M laying very nicely on the sofa.
She allowed me to snap some photos, before she realized that I was using this as evidence to show A that she was on the sofa.
Before I knew it, Ms. M was off the sofa and in her bed, trying to prep herself for A.
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