Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sweet Home Chicago

On one of our shows, they focused a lot on a couple that moved to the suburbs but longed to move back to the city. Every so often, family members and such try to pressure us to move to the suburbs, but we can only picture raising our family in the city. We are constantly amazed by how much Chicago has to offer, even during the winter months. Though I have lived in the city for several years before meeting A and the pooches, I have never experienced so much of the city until I had pooches to walk. This mild winter has allowed us to enjoy many aspects of the city including leisure walks to the park for
  people watching, hanging out on park benches with the pooches and

checking out and posing in front of holiday lights.

Especially in our neighborhood, we can enjoy local art on the walls of numerous buildings, street signs, dumpsters, mailboxes, etc., and even on sidewalks and
enjoy all sorts of different cuisines, which are just a short jaunt from our home, plus we can pick up dinner while on our daily walk.

We love how our neighborhood is so vibrant and colorful and there are so many different cultures intertwined in such a small area. Also, even in the winter, we love how we can run into many of our old friends and meet so many new people just walking down the street, including

a whole bunch of tourists visiting our neighborhood or even visiting the city on a pub crawl trolley.

When it is just the four or sometimes five of us, the city offers us a place to take some family photos.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

City Dog: On Walking a Dog in the City

It seems like the simplest thing: if you have a dog, you can walk it.
Which is how it always works in the movies.
But then we have real life where the most minor thing like a walk can become unfathomable. Even the most well-behaved dogs can lose all focus the moment they get outside. For some dogs it's just so exciting to check out squirrels. Or maybe they really want to meet that other dog across the street. Or maybe they're just not used to this thing we call a leash. When I first adopted Miss M she would be so wonderful in the house, but then the moment we got outside there was so much going on she wouldn't listen to me. The worst part: she would even think the leash was a toy and she would keep grabbing the leash and to play tug. And guess who wins a tug contest with a 70lb excited dog?
Since we live in the city, and most of us don't have backyards, we are forced to take our dogs out several times a day from the moment we get them. And this can honestly be a struggle with all the other dogs, squirrels, loud noises, and people that come with living in a city. At the same time, we really do enjoy our walks and we know how important it is for our dogs to get out, get exercised, and meet other people (and dogs!). Lately we've been getting questions about how our dogs walk nicely with us in the city We know all dogs are very different, and have different sensitivities, but here are some things that have worked for us.

Our Dogs Walk "With Me"
 When we first adopted Mr B, he was a 'dog at large' allowed to run around Kalamazoo, Michigan at whim. His owner chose to relinquish him rather than pay the many off-leash fines he accumulated. So basically, Mr. B had never been on a leash before. He would try to lead the walk, pulling, with little me trailing behind him like a cartoon. When we talked to our trainer about it, the answer became so obvious: the dogs need to realize we choose the walking route and that they need to pay attention to us to know where to go. He suggested always taking different routes so they couldn't anticipate our route and take charge. We also used a "with me" strategy where the moment he began to pull we would shout "with me" and suddenly, and unexpectedly change directions. Even after all the training and year's we've had him, he still tends to walk like a jackrabbit.
We also loved hearing about SociaBulls members Willie and Nabi's amazing guest post (if you haven't read this before, you seriously need to see all the great advice they have) about just taking 'one step at a time' and 'not cheating' and 'checking in'.

Give your Dog a Job
 Another thing that really worked for Mr B was wearing his backpack. When he puts his backpack on, he realizes he has a job to do and he becomes more focused. When he carries things he also has to work harder, which makes the walks that much more beneficial, and leaves less room for jumping running and misbehaving. We always do make sure he's not carrying too much to be a strain, and that we balance each side of the bag. Added benefit: so many more people want to meet a pitbull wearing a cool backpack!

Choosing Training Gear Appropriate for your Dog
We know so many people have very strong feelings about specific training tools, but we believe that each owner knows their situation and dog best and can make the best choice after researching options. It might take time trying a variety of tools before finding one that works for your dog. We've used a variety of martingales, prongs, and easy-walk harnesses for our own dogs.
At the same time I do want to mention we have been getting disparaging comments from people making judgments about the gear dogs have been using in our photos.One thing we like about the community we have built here is that it’s owners sharing information with other owners to help us have positive relationships with our dogs and our community. While we all have preferences about training tools we use, we didn’t think it’s fair to make judgments about people’s choices of gear while not understanding their experiences. .We all know that long-term behavioral training takes time. Additionally, we do know that there can be damage from all types of walking gear. Even flat collars can cause severe neck and disk damage.
We have found this link from Bad Rap about proper fit and use of prong collars to be a useful source about prong collars.
And just be aware to properly secure whatever you may be using. We've know prong collars to open unexpectedly, clips on leashes to come loose, and dogs to slip out of collars.

Treat Every Walk as a Training Walk
 I've realized how much our pooches thrive on consistency and discipline, so we're consistently treating every venture outside as a 'training walk'. We bring high-value treats, encourage the pooches to check back at often. Miss M is extremely food motivated, and loves to perform, so I quickly learned one way to keep her interested is bring the treats and allow her to practice the tricks she's already good at on our walks. It started with 'sit' where I would randomly have her sit whenever I stopped. Then she automatically started sitting at every corner. We would randomly practice 'waving', 'finish' (walking around me in a circle) and 'down stays'. The extra mental stimulation is extra exhausting, plus imagine how many people you meet when your dog waves at them?

These are things that work for our dogs. And we also love this guest post from Maize about managing a leash reactive dog in the city, and Willie's guest post about walking two dogs at the same time.
What other things have seemed to work for everyone?

Monday, February 27, 2012

SociaBulls: Teaching a Dog When it's not Time to Play

 If you've been reading closely, you may have recognized a cameo appearance from current SociaBulls member, Sprocket, when we first met him in this post. Since then, we've been so happy to have this handsome guy with the funny ears, and great sense of style, as part of our group. Sprocket is a true social butterfly who wants to meet other dogs so badly, it can often be misinterpreted. We've been amazed with how great Sprocket has been doing, and what a great breed ambassador he is. You can read more about his progress, and see photos from our latest walk here:
 When we first adopted Sprocket, I clearly knew the importance of being a good ambassador for his ”breed”. It seemed that the secret to a well balanced pup was socializing, so I made this my mission.
It did not take long to understand my dog had a serious case of leash reactivity. The tantrums were obviously not aggression, but anyone witnessing this were only seeing a dog barking, lunging and screaming at other dogs and not the social butterfly Sprocket really is. I also might have made things worse as most of his interactions with other canines were through play, it seemed so much easier finding play groups than walking partners. You can imagine my excitement when introduced to Sociabulls.
The first few minutes of our first walk were embarrassing and frustrating but I was motivated to not let Sprocket miss the opportunity to find his place in a pack so we kept on walking. He gradually settled down, relaxed and we got to this magic moment when we finally walked peacefully with each other. I then felt we could work through anything.
We have really come a long way, with the help of a great trainer and a Sunday walk among awesome dogs and people, our outings have become so much more enjoyable and Sprocket has becoming a great ambassador!
 And you can read about SociaBulls members: Lola (Living in the City with a Dog who Fears Strangers), 
Zoe (The Dog who "Loves Too Hard")Izzy (Being a good pitbull ambassador while working with an energetic dog) and Maize (Being social with an unsocial pup).
You can also stay up to date with updates on our SociaBulls facebookpage here. And check out more photos of our fashionable group of pooches, like these 3 ladies with different takes on the same hoodie.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Living as Three Pitties in the City

Miss Bessie Belle fits so seamlessly into our Two Pitties in the City household. She requires very little maintenance, never had an accident in the house and she loves laying around the house as much as I do. We love spending countless hours together just hanging out on the floor and napping the day away.
I now feel like we have a his, his and hers dog. Though A is always convincing me into fostering, she is also the one that is convincing me that we can only be a two dog (plus one foster) household.
A reminds me that our income and our time can only properly raise two pooches, and it is nice that we can provide a foster pooch a warm home with plenty of love and food until they find their perfect home. Because of all these reasons, I do understand why we will can only be Two Pitties in the City with the occasional foster.
Now, I'm just wondering if anyone would notice if we swapped out a brindle American Bulldog mix with a white American Bulldog mix.
It could be Two Pitties in the City, chronicling the adventures of Mr. B and Miss B.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

DoggyStyle: The Quest for Inexpensive Fashionable Food Bowls

When we got our dogs, we also got a lot of stuff.
Maybe I am becoming the 'crazy dog lady'...but I don't want to look like it. So to keep our home from looking like an aisle of Petsmart, we try to find things that naturally fit into our decor The only problem is most of the really cute things made for pets can be really expensive.
We've realized one 'secret' is to find everyday things that we would buy for our home anyway that can double as dog products, like these canisters for our home dog treat bar, floor cushions as multi-room dog beds, and of course, Mr. B's tepee instead of a crate.
When we switched the pooches over to their new diet, with Sojos and raw canned food, things became a bit messier than just feeding kibble. We found we needed heavier bowls because they were pushing everything around as they ate, and we wanted a placement to catch the drippings.Each of our dogs is served their meals individually in their own crates. When we were looking at ceramic bowls I just wanted something simple, but everything was either crazy colors or outrageously priced. It was only when we stopped into CB2 looking for something for ourselves that we realized these modern bowls
were big enough and are a mere $7 each. At the same time we were able to pick up these easy-to-wipe  placemats that are now on sale for only $1 each. Even Miss M seems shocked about that.
Eventually we would like to try a raised feeder, so our pooches won't have to strain as they eat, so maybe we will rig something up to raise these bowls.
Anyone else have any good feeding tips?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pooches: On the Dangers of a Good Reputation

I've recently recognized one positive thing about owning pitbulls was their negative reputation really scared me into becoming over-responsible.
 I adopted Miss M on a fluke, and I didn't know anything about owning a pitbull-type dog. This was enough to move me into training overdrive where we immediately enrolled in a slew of training classes--even walking 2 miles (each way!), having strict rules around the house, and consistently making sure our dogs are well-behaved in public.
As a pitbull owner, I was quick to realize I had a responsibility to show our dogs in the best possible light because people will often judge the entire breed based on what they see from our single dogs. And I have found many other pitbull owners who work hard to show this also.
At the same time, I know if I had adopted any other type of dog I wouldn't really have put this much time and energy into training. In this way a positive reputation can work against a breed. So many people believe positive stereotypes of specific breeds and their specific dog will be just like that positive stereotype.
But we all know it doesn't work this way.
People always bring up the idea that it's only certain dogs that bite, but as I was sitting around talking with friends we could all recount times we were bitten by dogs, even needing stitches or leaving scars. And every single one of these dogs was on the stereotypical 'family-friendly' list.
These stereotypes have become dangerous as it seems people aren't taking the proper precautions just because they do own a certain breed of dog.
Just curious, how have positive or negative stereotypes impacted how much you train your dogs or the precautions you take?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

SociaBulls: Living in the City with a Dog who Fears Strangers

As we've been recapping our SociaBulls walks, we've been featuring different members and how the walks are working for various dogs. Lola is a gorgeous pitbull-type dog (also from Miss M and Bessie's rescue group!)  who we first 'met' when they shared their dog-friendly trip to Harbor County, Michigan; we were quite excited to meet them in person. Since then, her mom has stepped up as Event Co-Cordinator, with Izzy's mom, helping arrange and coordinate the walks. As her mom explains below, Lola has severe stranger fear, which can be hard living in a big city where nearly everyone is a stranger! Read below to see how SociaBulls walks are giving Lola the confidence to meet new people, and see photos of last weekend's walk.

Like most of the 2011 SociaBulls, I first heard about the group via Two Pitties in the City. I'd followed Mr. B and Ms. M's adventures for a few months, and was totally smitten with them and the blog, so when they announced the group walks I knew we had to join just to meet the celebs in the fur. We missed the first few walks due to other commitments, but Lola and I joined the pack in September.
Lola is a middle-aged (4-5 year old) American Bulldog/Pit/?, who has a split personality. She excels in training classes and is great one-on-one, but can get over-excited around other dogs, and has serious stranger anxiety. I figured that exposing her to lots of dogs in a controlled environment, and taking advantage of access to dog-educated, friendly strangers would only help her.
She cried and pulled and whined for the first part of her first walk, then something magic happened. She became a part of the pack. The leash loosened. She became calm and focused. She still gets excited when we get to the walks, but now usually quickly settles into her groove, especially when she's walking near one of her pals.
Each week, I try to have someone she doesn't know come talk to me, and pet her at the end of the walk. She's becoming more comfortable and accepting of strangers.
I'm starting to see this new confidence and sense of security where it's most important. At home. Until just recently, guests did not receive a warm welcome, but as she's getting more exposure to strangers and getting more confident, the barking and freakouts are becoming shorter and shorter, and recent guests have commented on what a great dog she is.
I love being a part of this mass of people and dogs walking without incident through the city, showcasing what great dogs look like. I love seeing the faces of people as they watch this pittie parade pass them by. And I love the dogs (and their people) that I've met on weekend mornings.

You can also read more about Lola, and her adorably small muppet-like brother, on their blog A Franklin a Day. And you can read about SociaBulls members: Zoe (The Dog who "Loves Too Hard")Izzy (Being a good pitbull ambassador while working with an energetic dog) and Maize (Being social with an unsocial pup).
We have been astounded with all the new member requests, and we are working on a process to responsibly integrate everyone into the group. You can also stay up to date with photos, updates, doggy snow fashion and announcements on our SociaBulls facebookpage here.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Stuffy Named Mr. B

Several people have mentioned that Mr. B reminded them of a stuffed animal and just last month we wrote about Mr. B and his stuffies, but now we are thinking that Mr. B might actually be a stuffy. In his winter hat he looks a lot like Paddington Bear 
and just like Paddington Bear he is a member of his adoptive family, but unlike Paddington Bear he does not have a love for marmalade, but a love for easy cheese. Akin to Paddington Bear, Mr. B wears his hat and has adventures in the big city, not London, but Chicago. A has written how he looks like the lovable Baloo from Disney's adaption of The Jungle Book.

I  like to think of him more like Winnie-the-Pooh, having adventures all around the city and sometimes in our home with
his stuffies; Piglet, Tigger and crew.
can even picture him adapting this quote for his favorite stuffy “We'll be Friends Forever, won't we, Pooh (Mr. B)?' asked Piglet (Stuffy). Even longer,' Pooh (Mr. B) answered.” 

So that would mean that I'm Christopher Robin 

and this would be my sentiment to Mr. B.
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