Thursday, February 28, 2013

DoggyStyle: How Much Stuff Does your Dog Have?

We know a lot of people--especially people living in smaller spaces in the city--think they can't have large dogs because they don't have enough space. While we had a good discussion here about the amount of space really needed, for dogs our biggest issue has always been managing the stuff that 'comes with' the pooches. Since we have two, we also have:

Twin Dog Beds
Though often they would much rather sleep like this.

Separate Crates
We know they both need their separate spaces, and the hardest part of having both dogs was always finding space for two big crates. Now Mr.B lives in a tepee, and we love this solution we found for Miss M.

Different Wardrobe
So maybe this is one area where they could really share, but don't all dog pairs need matching snoods and team hoodies? I wonder if parents of twins have this same problem.

Are you able to consolidate your pups' stuff? And how much do dogs really need?

Our current dog organization system
And speaking of the number of dog beds...
Look what else they share!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Family Walk: The Butcher, The Baker and the Coffee-Maker

Back when I was a single girl, I absolutely hated running errands. But when I met E, suddenly a standard trip to Home Depot became fun.
So imagine how much fun errands become when we can include our pooches too.
With the weekend temperatures reaching a nearly tropical 30+ degrees, we decided to load up Mr. B's backpack and run some errands while on our family walk.

The Butcher:
One of our favorite parts of living in the city is that we can support local businesses. We even have a local butcher; The Butcher and Larder is all locally sourced and cut to order. They've even thrown in some extra things (knucklebones!) when they see the pooches peering in their window.

The Baker:
For extra cold-days, we love making flights of grilled cheese, tomato soup, and lighting up the fireplace. So we were able to stop by the 'local baker'. La Farine has been considered the best ciabatta rolls in the city; we've had friends who told us they had dreams about the rolls after eating them. We also like their french bread, and what could be funnier than having french bread sticking out of your doggie backpack?

The Coffee Maker
Just like a movie where the characters leisurely stroll around, our errands are run with coffee in (E's) hand. Which is easier to do when walking just one pooch. We are lucky enough to have several local coffee shops near us, which are the perfect distance for a short trek, or a longer walk with the dogs.

As if all of this isn't enough to make us feel like we were living in a small village...we ran into some new friends who recognized our dogs from the blog. Thanks for saying hi! (Could you tell your attention totally made Miss M's week?)

We are always curious about how other people spend time with their dogs, what types of walks do you do with your pups?

European-style errands with our dogs in a wine store!
Did you know dogs can shop here?
Running errands without dog parking.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Pooches: Dogs in Germany

We're always so interested in hearing about how other dogs live in other cities, so you can imagine how excited I was to 'meet' Stef who is currently living in Berlin with her two pups: Aoki and Snoop. Originally from Germany, Stef lived in Fort Huachuca, Arizona with her pups before bringing them back to Berlin. We had a lot of offline conversations where the love and devotion she has for her pooches is so inspiring, and all she has done to keep them together, (including 40 hours of traveling to get them to Germany!) I begged Stef to write a post to share her experiences.  
From hearing about how dogs are welcomed on public transit, in restaurants and even the zoo(!) to the discrimination based on how a dog looks (crazy stories about neighbors!). Plus, I knew how charmed everyone would be by Aoki and Snoop and her amazing photographs, here is her story:
Let me introduce myself real quick."I'm Stefani, aka Stef, and am the proud owner of two loving quirky dogs, Aoki and Snoop.
The dogs and I live in the big city of Berlin, Germany.  We moved here three years ago. Before Berlin we lived in Fort Huachuca, Arizona. 
Snoop is a good-spirited and humorous Rhodesian Ridgeback mix. While he is great with most people he is also dog reactive.
Aoki is an almost 5 years old sassy Great Dane princess. She is my right hand gal, my once in a lifetime dog.
And then there is Tigger, Snoops ‘brother’ who now lives in New Jersey.
I grew up with dogs, but honestly - growing up with them doesn’t automatically mean you have knowledge. 
Rewind - I’m shopping at Walmart. In the parking lot I see a guy offering puppies. He claims they are pure bred Pit Bulls. He is about to sell them to someone that is holding a puppy like it‘s a piece of meat. I walk up to them and end up with two puppies on my lap and no clue what I’m in for. 
Back then I didn’t know anything about backyard breeding, about puppies sold in stores and all the odds that come with having a ’Pit Bull type dog’.
Soon afterwards another dog  joined our family. The beautiful Aoki. She was given to me by my ex-partner who knew that I had a soft spot for Great Danes.
Truth to be told, I'm not proud of having dogs from backyard breeders but back then I was young,  impulsive and guilty of ignorance. Honesty is always better but not always prettier. My dogs are no rescues, they don‘t come from a shelter or a breeder. There is always the easy way of not talking about it but would that be right? I did the wrong thing, I wouldn‘t do it again but I still love my dogs with everything I have. 
I've since learned a lot and I‘m providing my dogs with the best life possible. 
I started off blindly.  Fed random food, chose random gear, random toys, did some random ’training’. Then I got stung by the research bee. I read a lot, joined forums, watched videos and talked to as many experienced people as possible. I slowly realized that I had made my fair share of mistakes. I switched to a grain-free high quality food, started  positive reinforement training and made sure my dogs had everything they need and more. 
I was dazzled by all the information. A whole new world opened up to me. 
While I’m far from all-knowing, I still want to share our story with you. 
Between dealing with dog duvets, learning about the joys of martingale collars, spending my life savings on holistic supplements I was also forced to read into the issues of BSL. Clearly it affected us. We were living a military life, moving every couple of years was inevitable. One thought led to another, one question to another. 
Why are so many dogs in shelters?  Why are so many of them ‘Pit Bull type dogs‘? Why BSL? What if we move to a city that has BSL? What if I need to go back to Germany? What kind of future are we facing?  Will my dogs be safe? I realized BSL is everywhere and affects everyone.
Fort Huachuca tightened its laws while we were living there, the dogs got grandfathered in. 
I found out that most military bases have restrictions & unfortunately so has Germany. 
Living in Fort Huachuca was still a good life for the dogs. They had private playdates, went on hikes and enjoyed the nature Arizona had to offer. The house was always full of furry friends. Snoop grew into looking like a Rhodesian Ridgeback and our vet eventually decided to  register him as a Ridgeback Mix. This change made things possible. Aoki grew into a sock and shoe-eating machine that ended up on the operating table. 
Tigger became very uneasy in Snoops presence and eventually snapped at him. Both males were neutered and well-socialized but no matter what we tried Tigger did not approve of Snoop. Managing those two was hard but doable with a solid routine.   
Many dogs were living on base but only a few of them were properly taken care of. Maybe the owners didn’t break the law but they certainly didn’t really care.
Craigslist was always full of ad’s. ’Dog to a good home, we are moving…’. 
Why get a dog if it’s only temporary? Bringing a pet into your home should be a  lifetime commitment and if you can’t keep that commitment you better make sure you are doing everything in your power to find a safe solution.
Soon life would throw rocks at us. 
To make a long story short - My partner and I were no longer together. Things changed and I wanted and needed to go home to Germany.
By law dogs are considered  property. All three of them belonged  to him. In order for them to be transferred to my name I had to agree on giving up all financial rights and most of my material possessions but those were just ’things’.  Aoki and Snoop were officially my dogs. Tigger was never an option. He was more drawn to my ex and by importing a ‘Pit Bull type dog’ or cross you can face jail time. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss him or look at his pictures.
Meanwhile I was making arrangements for our flight. I was stressed and scared beyond words.
Preparing your dogs for such a long flight takes time and costs a fortune. 
In late September of 2009, after 40 hours of traveling we set paws and feet on German ground. 
Welcome to a whole different dog culture. 
We actually have two homes in Germany. 
There is Berlin with it’s 3.5 million citizens and 100.000 dogs. 
There is also the small village near Berlin where the dogs ‘grandparents’ live. 
Big city and endless forest, best of both worlds.
Germany welcomes your dog. Bar, restaurant, mall, train, taxi, .. you name it.
A law says that if you don’t want a dog in your establishment you need to put out a sign that specifically says ‘No dogs allowed’ or ‘dogs wait outside‘. 
If there is no sign you probably won‘t get asked to leave if you have your buddy with you.
It‘s common that water (and treats) will be provided. 
Supermarkets and drugstores are an exception but generally speaking you can say that Berlin is very dog-friendly and kind of laid back. 
They ride on public transportation.
They dine with you.
They can go to one of two zoos.
They can be found everywhere.
Not far from us is a huge dog park we like to enjoy on quieter weekdays, Aoki loves it there and since Snoop isn’t the most social, it’s a great way of meeting up with friends.  
Berlin is a great city to live in for dogs like Aoki. She gets along with everybody, she is calm and confident. The options are endless.
Dogs like Snoop have a tougher time. In a perfect world all dogs would be on leash but the reality is different. We have to deal with off leash dogs that don’t know the meaning of recall.
Living in a tight space with irresponsible dog owners is annoying and dangerous. 

Another of the main problems is the amount of dog poop, if people could just pick up after their dogs..

Sadly the stories about toxic bait have increased. There have been fatal accidents including dogs eating sausage filled with razor blades, nails and rat poison.

There is NO way to defend this cruelty. That being said I wish owners would step up and show a little more respect to the public. Maybe following the rules would have a positive effect.

Speaking of rules, BSL plays a big role in Germany. There are 16 states, each one has a different take on it. There are so called ‘list dogs’ aka ‘dogs on a list’. The list is divided into two categories. Category 1 contains all breeds (and mixes) that are considered dangerous without a chance of proving otherwise. As far as I know not even passing a test like the CGC makes a valid difference.
It’s either forbidden or complicated to adopt a category 1 dog.  There is a lot of paperwork involved.
The dogs have to be muzzled, period. 
Category 2 dogs are considered dangerous but have a chance of proving otherwise. If they do so no muzzle is required. 
I’ll share this link with you. It shows the breeds, the states and the category. Green means no restriction. As you can see some states don’t have a list,  therefore no BSL.
The amount of illegal ‘Pit Bull type dogs’ is insane. Shelters are full with non-adoptables. It’s a frustrating circle. Often dogs are secretly brought in  from Poland. The conditions are horrible, the dogs physically and mentally ill. Usually they are seized by the police because of missing paperwork and neglect. The story of the criminal with his tough looking dog is not over but there is a big wave of hope. People finally speak up. There is political talk about removing the list and judge a dog on it’s personality, not breed. I hope one day soon more responsible people will see ‘Pit Bull type dogs’ for what they are.  Just dogs. Well, maybe a bit more special. 
If there is something we thrive for it’s acceptance and tolerance.
Living in an apartment building has its downsides. In our case the downside lives below us. The dogs never suffered from seperation or isolation anxiety, ever. Apparantly the ‘Rottweilers’ were too loud and barked when left alone. We didn’t know any of this until the day the police was waiting for us. The neighbors were determined to get us out of there. They knocked on the walls and rang the bell whenever we were gone, they literally provoked a problem. Our solution was to keep the dogs in the living room, as far away from the hallway as possible. We bought rugs for damping, let the tv or radio on and shut the blinds. Every possible trigger was considered. Healing, or should I say, working on seperation anxiety is a long term progress. All the training tips we found were appreciated and molded into our lifestyle. The neighbors still complain about every detail but they see the effort we put into fixing this problem and making life better for all of us. As of right now Aoki and Snoop are fine by themselves for 3 hours. There is still a long way ahead of them.  An easy-going, quiet dog should not be taken for granted.  On rainy days we tire them out with mental games and interactive toys. 
If you have any advice for dealing with loud dogs and louder neighbors please share it. I would appreciate it.
If we need a break from the city we visit my parents. They love to doggy sit and both dogs equally enjoy the countryside. There is a big yard for Snoop and Aoki to play in and their personal heaven - the forest. Snoop has more freedom and space. He feels safer in quieter surroundings.
He has come a long way and so did I, we learned how to manage with the help of bach flowers, thunder coats, positive reinforcement training and patience. Patience is always the hardest. He has good days and not so good days but that’s okay. He is living a good life filled with love, treats and walks. A goal for 2013 is to make a few more doggy pals.
Aoki is living to the fullest, she has never been super healthy but with the right supplements and organization her arthritis is kept in check.  I pray she will stay with us for as long as she can.
I can’t imagine my life without them. No matter what happens I’m up for it. I’m proud of what they have accomplished and will accomplish. Anything is possible (:
I know our story is flawed, I’m far from being a hero in the dog world. Aoki and Snoop don’t hold any titles nor are they the easiest and healthiest dogs but we never gave up on each other, worked through our problems and moved overseas.

Much love,

Thank you so much to Stef for sharing so much of your story with us!

Monday, February 25, 2013

SociaBulls: How Long can a Dog Walking Group Walk During the Winter?

We've always loved the quote "There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes". Though E was just telling me of another quote "There is no such thing as bad weather, only soft people". 
Which reminded me of our Chicago SociaBulls group.
Last winter was the first winter for the group, and we weren't quite sure what we would do once winter struck. We planned for taking a hiatus, for certain times when it would just be too cold to walk.
Though we did have a mild winter, we only canceled one time for cold weather.
And this year we had no cold weather cancelations.
We do have smaller groups, but we have kept walking. Most of us don't have backyards, so we need to take our dogs out for walks anyway, which is more fun to do with a large group.
We do make accommodations bundling up our pups and ourselves: we don't stop for water breaks and we often create a shorter path if it's really cold. Plus, once you start walking, you stay a bit warmer.

How long do your pups usually stay out for walks?

Group Weather Watchers
How they bundle.
What gets us out of our warm beds.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Pooches: Miss M Wants

Even though our pooches have their very own dog treat bar and they get to try a variety of other stinky treats, unbelievably Miss M has a different favorite treat: Apples!
Miss M can be in a deep slumber at the other end of the house, but she will jolt awake and come running the minute she hears me bite into an apple. She will proceed to hover over me until she gets that one morsel of apple.
We couldn't understand where this addiction came from, until I received this video from my brother. When we had gone out of town awhile back, Miss M spent the weekend at my mom's house where she had the time of her life being able to sit on the couch and eating pear-apples from my mom.
Just watch how tempted she is in this video my brother took titled "Miss M Wants":
Is it really possible for dogs to have food-associated memories?


Thursday, February 21, 2013

DoggyStyle: Saving Money by using Human Products for our Dogs

When I first adopted Miss M I was overwhelmed by some of the things I thought I needed: stuff for her to eat from, stuff for her to sleep on, and stuff just to hold her stuff.
And I was overwhelemed by how much some things cost.
 I quickly realized that some things were much more expensive because they were made specifically for dogs. Since then, I've learned how to save money by buying human things and using them for the dogs. Here are some things that have worked for us:

Using Serving Bowls as Dog Bowls:
We wanted to find a large sturdy bowl that wouldn't move when they ate, but all of the cute ceramic dog bowls I found were really expensive. It was only after a visit to CB2 that I realized we could just use one of their serving bowls as a dog bowl. Plus, they were only $7! We have the older version, but the Frank Serve bowl seems similar to the ones we've been using.

Using Floor Pillows as Dog Beds:
I was shocked to see how much cute dog beds cost, but seeing that our big pups naturally loved curling themselves up into tiny pittie balls I realized they were fine with 20 inch floor pillows. We've been able to pick up some inexpensive floor pillows from Ikea and we have them scattered around the house so they always have a place to sit. We've also realized how sometimes our pups actually prefer the $15 floor over their more expensive dog beds.

Storage Canisters as a Dog Treat Bar:
We've seen a lot of fancy and expensive dog treat canisters made just for dogs. Though we were able to buy three canisters for the price of one dog-specific canisters. Which is good news for Miss M because we were able to make a home dog-treat bar we wrote about here.

Child's Puffy Vest as Mr. B's Coat:
We had been searching for a dog coat with a furry hood (because that's what all the 'cool kids' in Chicago have), but we couldn't find anything to fit our large dogs. We saw a child's Columbia puffy vest on super-sale, and we realized the kids' size 10/12 fit Mr. B perfectly. We did have to make a slight alteration, pinning up the bottom so he wouldn't pee on himself, but it fit him perfectly otherwise. The hat was also bought from the Kids' Department at Old Navy.

What are some other ways you've been able to use 'people products' for your pups?

Mr B's (cheap!) personalized toy bin
Getting 5 looks from one dog coat

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

City Dog: Budgeting Time for the Before-Work Daily Walk

We know many people on the brink of dog-ownership--especially living in the city without a backyard--question if they can commit the time for daily walks.
Especially when these walks involve snow and ice and sub-zero temperatures.
We have been learning a lot about how to gear up to get us all through the winter. Here are some things we've learned to make our walks more time-efficient, especially for those before-work walks.

Dressing the Dogs Quickly:
Our dogs won't go out in the cold unless they're all bundled up. And seeing how we're often layering hoodies with coat and snoods and boots, it can take some extra time. 
Our pups definitely need the layers for our longer family walks and SociaBulls, but for our quick before-work walks they are fine just wearing a coat. (Though I will add a snood for subzero temperatures). We make things easy by having a really organized system we wrote about here. 
If it's just snow out, the pooches don't need their boots. But we need to put boots on them if it's icy outside. A lot of people don't shovel their walks and the ice and salt hurts the pooches' paws.
 It takes a bit more time to put the the boots on both of the pups (we wrote about teaching our pups to wear boots, here) but it makes things quicker when we get back since we do wipe our dogs paws each time they come in. We don't need to really wipe their feet if they've worn the boots.
We also think the boots are much quicker than using Musher's Paws which seems to get messy.

Preparing for the Elements:
One big thing that slows us down is navigating over the ice, especially since a lot of people still don't shovel their sidewalks. After a couple of slow walks, and falls, E and I both brought crampons which allow us to walk over ice as swiftly as water spiders. We like the Icetrekkers Shoe Diamond Grip Crampons which are a bit more, but we have never had a fall.
The other thing that slows us down is trying to get the poo bags out of the dispenser, even with my flip-top gloves. I've learned to pull out a few bags and open them when we're still inside, which definitely does save a lot of time and involves less exposed skin in cold weather.

Preparing the People:
I do miss our warmer weather walks where I can just slip on a pair of flip-flops and head out the door with the pups. So we also prepare to bundle ourselves.
For our before-work walks, we each have a specific pair of boots by the door that we can slip on easily and wear without searching for socks. 
We have a system of keeping our coats, flip-top gloves, and city dog bag right next to the door with the leashes.

With all of this preparation, our morning walks are only about 30 minutes.
Just curious, how much time do you spend getting your pups ready in the morning before work? And does anyone else have tips to make it quicker?

In case you missed it:

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Pooches: On Winterizing your Dog (and Your Elderbull!)

Lately we've been realizing our Chicago SociaBulls Group is almost like a real-life Pinterest board; so many of our dog friends have such great snippets of information. On a recent walk, we overheard the people of Maria and former foster dog Boris (now Radar) talking about some extra things they do to prepare the pups for winter--especially since Maria is an Elderbull. Of course we were intrigued, and we begged them to share.
As long time pet owners in our Chicago tundra, here are some extra things they do to prepare their pups for the winter:
In addition to dressing dogs and people appropriately for Chicago winters, here are some winterizing tips and tricks we've learned over the years to keep our pups more comfortable during cold weather. 

- Keep their nails short to help pups maintain traction on slick surfaces 
-Trim the fur between their pads to minimize snow and ice build up between their toes 
-Use paw wax to help protect the pads of those pups who insist on going barefoot on salty, slushy and icy sidewalks. In a pinch petroleum jelly or baby oil can be used as a (slightly messy) substitute. 

In the home 
-Use humidifiers in the home to prevent dry, itchy skin. This is something many bullies are particularly prone to. 
-Adding fish body oil* to their diet may also help to keep their skin healthy in a dry environment 

Diet and Exercise 
 -Check you dog's waistline frequently to make sure that no one is getting tubby from more limited exercise or losing excessive weight due to the cold 
-Maintain a regular walking schedule. Our pups need exercise and mental stimulation regardless of the elements. 

For the Elderbulls Among us 
 At thirteen-ish, Maria's joints can be a little creaky some days. Cold weather can aggravate this, so we've developed a few different strategies to keep her feeling good:
-Better living through chemistry*. We've been using a few different joint supplements for a number of years, in order to offset the effects of aging. More recently, we've also added prescription pain-killers to our routine, and it's made a world of difference to her overall enjoyment of life. 
-Massage helps to loosen and warm up joints and helps with pain and mobility. It's also a great way to bond and get pups used to handling. 
-Warmth. Due to the layout and age of our home, finding a draft-free area for the pup's beds has been a little challenging. Instead we added an electic, pressure activated, heating pad to her bed to keep her joints toasty. Although this has been a great solution for us, we would caution that for dogs who cannot move if they get too hot (i.e. crated) or those who are prone to chewing on inappropriate objects (like electric cables) this may not be the best option. 

*Please consult with your veterinarian before starting your pet on any medication, including supplements. We are not a vet, and don't even play one on TV.

It was so great to hear what worked, plus so many things we had never thought of ourselves.
What are some extra things you do to prepare your pooches for the cold-weather?

How Elderbelle Maria doesn't let age be a limitation
Notice how all the photos of Boris/Radar show him jumping excitedly at my camera? Do you think he remembers us from these days.
When we knew Maria and Boris/Radar were destined to be
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