Wednesday, February 15, 2012

SociaBulls: The Dog who 'Loves too Hard'

Since we’ve started our SociaBulls group, a lot of people have been asking how the dogs benefit from the experience. We have a wide-range of dogs who join for different reasons, so we thought it would be interesting to highlight different member's experiences.
Zoe is an adorable pooch we met in our neighborhood back when we were still fostering SuperLevi. We were all heading to a rally to save our local police station when Levi literally stopped dead in his tracks and wouldn’t move. Short of dragging SuperLevi across the concrete, his reluctance to move was the serendipity allowing us to meet the amazing Zoe and her mom. They have since become integral members of the group: never missing a walk, always dressing in the latest doggy style (just check out all her 'costume changes below', and her mom has even become New Member Co-Coordinator .
Here is Zoe’s story, along with photos of last weekend’s snowy SociaBulls walk.

Adopting Zoe
The first time I saw Zoe, I knew that she and I were meant to be.
When I first saw her at PAWS Chicago, she was cuddling in a room with a little German Shepard puppy and a Rhodesian Ridgeback mix. Though I was immediately drawn to Zoe with her soulful eyes and heart-shaped nose, the PAWS volunteer showed us the Ridgeback mix first. To be sure, she was a beautiful dog, but I just couldn’t get that little brindle puppy out of my mind. So, I asked to see her. We were taken to a room where we could play and toss a ball around for her. Instead of playing with the ball, she ran from person to person, butt wiggling and tail wagging. She was just happy to be alive. After much wrangling with my landlord and my husband, we took Zoe home less than a week later. It truly was one of the happiest days of my life. Zoe walked out of PAWS with us, hopped into our car, and never looked back. Neither did we.

Working with an Energetic Dog in the City
At five months old, Zoe was a ball of energy who required daily 4-5 mile walks. Though time-consuming, I looked forward to our adventures. It was like experiencing Chicago as a tourist, as Zoe and I visited new neighborhoods and explored previously overlooked sites. While this was great exercise and lots of fun, I longed for other like-minded dog owners to join us.

Finding SociaBulls:
Fortunately, Zoe and I ran into A. and SuperLevi in the neighborhood when our dogs literally brought us together. Zoe and I were walking behind A. and SuperLevi when our dogs caught sight of one another. SuperLevi started to pull A. backward toward us, while Zoe began to drag me forward toward Levi. Before we knew it, A. and I were walking side-by-side, commiserating over our dogs’ boundless energy. After describing my lengthy daily walks with Zoe, A. mentioned this dog-walking group she had just formed called Chicago SociaBulls. The instant I heard about a group with a philosophy of “owners-helping-owners,” and a commitment to pit bull type dogs, I was on board. Within an hour of meeting A., I had emailed her and requested to join the group. Before we knew it, Zoe and I were on our way to becoming part of the pack.
Even on our first walk with SociaBulls, I realized how much this experience could help my excitable Zoe. As a dog with the attention span of a peanut and the strength of a horse, Zoe desperately needed to become a more attentive and restrained walker. In her excitement to meet new people and dogs, Zoe had a tendency to throw herself at the nearest person or dog in sight, going into what we refer to as “bucking bronco mode.” As my husband’s friend describes Zoe, “She loves a little too hard.” Walking with 

Fortunately, SociaBulls has been a place where Zoe and I could work on those behaviors without judgment or embarrassment. After her initial excitement at the beginning of walks, Zoe has learned to settle into a rhythm with the other dogs in the pack. She does especially well when walking next to Mr. B, whose calm demeanor is a positive influence on her.
Because our dogs are not allowed to directly interact, Zoe has learned that she does not need to greet every dog she sees on the street. Additionally, she has become much calmer when walking in large crowds – something that is essential in a busy metropolis like Chicago. Finally, Zoe has become much better at paying attention to me with lots of distractions around her. While we still have more to work on, we have come a long way.
Indeed, SociaBulls has not only improved s Zoe’s behavior, but it has connected me with a group of dog owners whom I not only respect, but consider dear friends. I can say without irony or exaggeration that I feel I have become part of a community that has changed my life. And as the New Member Co-Coordinator, I hope to offer this experience to other interested dog owners. As our group expands each day, I cannot wait to see what awaits us next.
You can also read more about Zoe’s adventures in Chicago with her feline siblings by visiting their blog 'Two Kitties, One Pittie'. And you can read about SociaBulls members 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 photos, updates, doggy snow fashion and announcements on our SociaBulls facebookpage here.


Two Grad Students and a Pittie said...

LOVE Zoe! What a great story - its amazing what a few like-minded people could do.

Froggy said...

it's no secret that I ADORE Zoe. I love hearing about all of her adventures. She is one cutie patotie

Sarah Loves to Bake said...

Okay where did Zoe get her amazing outfits from? I love it! Socia-bulls is such a wonderful group, y'all are very fortunate!

Christine said...

Amazing story! Zoe is so adorable!

Keri @ Trinitys Love said...

Yay for Zoe!! Her mom & dad take good care of her!

Tucker The Crestie said...

What a great story! I wish we had something like this here in Tampa ... perhaps that is something we should work on ...

Two Kitties One Pittie said...

Thank you so much for featuring us!!!! We are so honored. :)

kissa-bull said...

zoe is most beautiful she reminds me of a rescue i had a long time ago that was eventually adopted out. same markings and colors...her name was fee-fee
thanks you for letting us in on their stories

Two Pitties in the City said...

Zoe is definitely a fashionista, and I always love seeing what she's currently wearing (we all have to keep up with the doggie trends!). I didn't realize you were doing 4-5 mile walks; no wonder you know so much about Chicago!

Two Kitties One Pittie said...

Yeah! She requires a TON of exercise, which has allowed me to get to know all different parts of the city. Anytime you want to come exploring with us, let me know! :)

Jaime said...

Awesome story. Izzy too requires a ton of stimulation, but mental and physical. We have our second Positive Pittie Pack walk this weekend and hope to see an improvement. Izzy was so pumped at the last walk, I don't think she ever walked straight. She was sideways the whole time!

Jenn said...

I love to see the training aides come off a dog!

The Halti should not be a lifelong accessory. I have a photographer friend who does portraits, and it's very sad to see a dog that wears a halti - you take it off and can see the way it changes your dogs face... sad.

The front clip harnesses are an aide that needs to be removed over time, too. They will stress your dog's joints and cause early arthritis. (as will any repetitive and unnatural stress on a body) You need to be esp. careful when you use these on growing puppies.

People aren't told these things in the store, and we all want easy fixes. If you love your dog, go for the long term behavioral change, and not the easy fix. You'll feel better about yourself in the end.

Two Pitties in the City said...

Jenn--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. All dogs are individuals and respond to training tools differently.
Living in the city we don’t have the luxury of having our own backyard, or even private areas to practice training. From the moment we adopt our dogs, we are forced to be out there confronted by other dogs, walking among lots of people, squirrels and loud noises.
It isn’t a matter of ‘looking for a quick fix’ because all of our dogs are constantly a work in progress and it’s something we work on every day. 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.
With that said, please do not judge the amount of love we have for our dogs, or draw conclusions about the amount of time we put in for behavioral training. We just recognize that we all know our dogs best and make the best choices on the types of training gear to use.

Sara Grace said...

aww Zoe is adorable! Dutch has her issues, too!

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