Friday, January 31, 2014

Pooches: On Miss M's "Judgmental Resting Face"

I'm always joking that my dog gives me low self-esteem. Every time I turn around, I always see her staring back at me a bit like this:
But then I started reading a bit about this urban phenomena. 
Apparently, she is among a misunderstood group whose resting face naturally falls into an unpleasant, judgmental expression. 
Maybe we're unfairly seeing her natural face as judgmental:
When she might actually be quite happy and optimistic inside:
Does anyone else know a pup with judgmental resting face?

But we will always think this.  And that this is really going on.
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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Pooches: How to Make Dog Baths Easier

My fear of dog-bathing began when Miss M and I were bachelorettes together.
It was just me and my 70 pound dog. 
We became a living comic-strip; a small girl trying to wrestle her 70 pound dog into the bath tub. 
And much like any comic-strip, there were many tub-escapes, falls, and slippery dog-chasing.
Fast-forward a few years, I felt ready to tackle home dog baths again. But this time with more of a plan than just tossing Miss M in the tub. Luckily, our baths are no longer comic-strip worthy, and we even figured out how to bathe both pups at the same time.
This is what worked for us:

Training your Dog to Love the Bathtub
Given Miss M's earlier Coyote-and-Roadrunner antics, and the fact she hated even going near the bathroom, I wanted to teach her to love the bathtub. We would practice sitting together in the tub without water, and I would make it fun by giving her the best treats she ever tasted. To get her to enjoy exploring the bathtub by herself, I would randomly leave these amazing treats in the tub for her to find. This helped increase her positive associations with the tub as a good place.
Once she felt more comfortable with the tub, and she was actually in the tub with water, I would continuously give her these amazing treats as she was bathing.
After the bath, the pups are rewarded by getting a different"the best treats ever". Through these associations, the pups willingly take baths.

Using the Right Tools: 
We always loved the self-serve dog wash places because they make things so easy, so we tried to set something up similarly in our own home. We bought a removable hand-held shower hose that makes it easy to hose down all those hard-to-reach areas, and rinse them off quickly. The hose also makes it really easy to rinse the hair off of the tub, and we use a hair-catcher on the drain so it doesn't get clogged. We keep all of our cleaning supplies in one place (those dorm caddies still come in handy!) which is easy to pull out. A vet tech told us putting cotton in their ears will prevent water from getting in and potentially getting an ear infection. We also keep wipes to clean inside their ears. We still need to get some non-slip things for the inside of the tub as Mr. B tends to slide around with his stubby little legs.

Save Time
Once our pups learned to love the bathtub, and we had our tools together, we learned a couple of ways to save time. Our treat association with the bathtub taught the pups to jump right in by themselves; we don't have to worry about picking up our big dogs. Since they now enjoy the baths, we save time by bathing them together. We also make it a team effort where E and I work together as an assembly line to wet-lather-rinse and dry. Though sometimes E does most of it so I can get photos.

We tend to bathe our pups about once a month because we have learned this about Chicago Grime and Miss M starts to smell like Fritos. If they are extra-dirty between baths, we wipe them down with a waterless shampoo spray.
These are things that work for us, what are some other bath tips you use for your pups?

Being preventative
We didn't know there were other benefits to this
This is what people are always asking us about
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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Winter Walks: On Winter Hypnotism

I'm guessing people are tired of hearing us talk about our winter weather.
Because we're all really tired of living it.
We just survived our second(!) Polar Vortex, with highs in the negatives and wind chills of -40(!!).
This has been dubbed one of the Top Ten Worst Winters in Chicago measuring all the way back to the 1800's.
And it's only January.
But, the pups still need to be walked.
I read somewhere that the clothes we wear can positively impact how we think and act: if you dress up you will act more professionally. Just by wearing workout clothes, you are more prone to go to the gym.
So we tried it with the pups:
Can dressing in fun winter clothes actually convince us that we're enjoying this weather?

How to Dress Your Dog for Cold Weather
What we do.
The walk that isn't.
Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and story lines beyond the blog.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pooches: Teaching our Pups a "No Word" without using the Word "No"

While we're always working with our pups to be responsible pooches in the city, we also know that everything is constantly a work-in-progress.
Our pups usually understand the structure we have set, but much like a sulky tween our Miss M can be quite demanding. Usually she is vocally complaining that the car is not being driven to her liking, or that she must be fed at this exact moment (anyone remember this infamous video?).
Sometimes there will be someone she really wants to meet on a walk, and if we don't let her meet them she will become frustrated making her "hungry-gremlin noise" and start playing tug-of-war with her leash. And we know she always wins.
After talking to our trainer, we realized we needed a word or signal to remind her that the behavior is unacceptable. We know all dogs and training philosophies are different, but this is what worked for us:

Finding a Word that Isn't "No"
It can be so easy to just yell "no" or "stop it" when dogs are doing things that we don't like. Not only do dogs not really understand word meaning , but a word like "no" is so easy to use that it really does lose all meaning. I found myself telling the dogs no for everything from licking my toes to not eating gyros off the sidewalk.
Our trainer recommended using a specific word, that we wouldn't normally say, to let the pups recognize its importance. The word we use is "Enough".  And it is said like we mean it.

Giving the Word Meaning
Miss M found that being vocal and playing with the leash worked because it gave her the attention she wanted. We needed to show her that these behaviors were not rewarding in this way. When she began complaining in the house we had to mark the bad behavior by yelling the word "Enough". Then we gave the word meaning by removing her from the fun situation, where she thought she was in charge, and isolating her to a not-fun situation. For us, we associated the word with putting her in a dark bathroom, with the door shut,  for 10 long seconds. Miss M quickly associated the word "Enough" as something not fun. She learned the complaining behaviors brought on the word "Enough".

Using it Sparingly
We know if we over-use the word it will lose its meaning so we only use the word for the most important situations.

This has worked well for Miss M, though it hasn't worked as well for Mr. B because he isn't as demanding and it's harder to catch him doing undesirable behaviors inside.

The dog-rules we never go back on
Don't forget this
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Monday, January 27, 2014

SociaBulls: On Dogless Walkers

When we were first thinking of staring a dog walking group, we weren't sure if this is something that could work in such a crowded city; besides all of the planning we might do within our group, there are just so many external things we can't control.
While we were still figuring things out in the beginning, we quickly realized how important it was to have walkers in the group, walking without dogs. And the idea of the "Dogless Walker" emerged. Here are some things our Dogless Walkers do to keep the walks successful and low-key for all the dogs.

Keeping us Aware:
The Dogless Walkers help by keeping a lookout and making us aware of things that might frighten or alarm the pups. While our eyes might be on our pups to keep them focused, Dogless Walkers let us know if there are runners, bikers, or kids about to enter our path. They help us walk safely as a group giving us a heads up if we are getting too bunched up, remind us not to drift over on the path, helping us watch for broken glass, and serving as pseudo-crossing guards at intersections. They keep the group together by spreading out among the group helping the first dog navigate and staying with the last dog to make sure no one gets left behind.

Serving as Communicators:
So many people who see the group are curious about what we're doing. And since we all look so peaceful walking, people assume it's just ok to approach the group and allow their pups to meet our group. Our Dogless Walkers do a great job at intercepting curious onlookers before they approach us; this helps our dogs of differing socialization levels always feel comfortable. They will give them a simple hello, compliment their pup and strategically position themselves so they need to stop and talk and they can't just approach the group. This helps prevent dogs or people approaching the dogs in our group who might be shy or fearful.

Integrating the Group:
Since we have specific spots on our walk, and we're often so focused on our own dogs, it can be hard to have conversations and meet many of the other people in the group. Coming as a Dogless Walker allows people to meet and talk to people they may not have had the chance to talk to before which can be extra helpful if they have dogs working on similar things. These connections help build our community and keep our group connected.

Sharing the Responsibility:
Sometimes we have enough pairs or couples come that we have our Dogless Walker spots covered, though people do realize the importance of coming dog less to help the group. If we are low on dog less walkers for the week, we will send out an email and usually people will step up.

More thoughts on starting your own group.
The best benefit.
Appointment Walking.
Check our Two Pitties in the City Facebook page for further comments.
To learn more about our group, join our Chicago SociaBulls page for more photos and updates. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Little SupaBed on the Praire

To much of A's dismay, the pooches and I have discovered the best place to hang out in subzero weather, our bedroom. Despite sealing all air leaks, covering drafty windows, using our ceiling fans and even installing a Nest thermostat, our heater has been working overtime just to maintain a decent temperature in the house.
Lucky for us, our bedroom tends to retain heat fairly well and now, just like the Ingalls family from Little House on the Prairie, we all live in one room. To maximize our only feasible subzero living space, the pooches moved the huge Molly Mutt from the living room and into the bedroom.
Using all the dog beds, the pooches and I have created the SupaBed for us to lounge and lay. A, on the other hand, believes she is above it all, or actually enjoys the plushness of our (human) bed.
It appears that we will be in this bitter cold streak for quite sometime, so that means that A will have to get used to the clutter of Supa-Bed. The pooches and I have even written this beautiful note to SupaBed. "SupaBed, we love you so much. Sincerely, Miss M, Mr. B and E"

Read more about the components that make up SupaBed:
SupaBed Part 1
SupaBed Part 2
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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Doggystyle: Inside a Winter Home

Every winter we try our best to 'live in denial' surrounding ourselves with sun, flowers, and bright colors to convince ourselves that spring is just around the corner. Even when it isn't.
This year the Polar Vortex is making things especially difficult.
Even with our heat turned up, our floors are completely freezing. We pulled our (Huge!) Molly Mutt into the front room once we realized it is perfect for extra insulation.
With all of the extra snow, we have found a couple of extra pairs of "boots" have become a permanent fixture in our boot tray.
Besides his previous lights, we added extra Valentine's Day decor to Mr. B's tepee. 
Though maybe we're the type of people to leave this decor up year-round...which consequently makes us look extra prepared when Valentine's Day really does come.
This has always been our favorite change.
Fall Cleaning!
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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Things to Do with your Dog In Chicago: Dog-Friendly Shopping

The hardest part of the Chicago winters is that the pups go from having daily adventures, meeting crowds of people, to walking the streets in isolation.
Miss M especially thrives on human attention and will often seek out that other lone person trudging through the streets hoping that they will pet her. You can probably imagine how over-excited she becomes once everyone digs out of hibernation and she is able to see people again.
To ease the transition, and keep up our city skills, we have learned about several indoor dog-friendly  areas where the pups can ease their cabin-fever and we can stay consistent with training.

Even with these stores being dog-friendly, we are always aware that some people just don't like dogs and we need to be considerate to them. We don't allow our pups to approach people unless the people ask, and if the space becomes to small, they are not behaving, or it just doesn't seem appropriate for them we will leave.
Here are some of the pups' favorites:

Home Depot:
It seems we've been needing to go here a lot, and it's nice that we can run this errand even with the pups. Home Depot is an easy indoor place to take the pups, even if they've never been inside before,  because there are few things to break, aisles are extra wide and there is just a lot of space.

Shops at Northbridge (aka: The downtown Nordstrom's Mall):
I never would have expected these stores right downtown would be dog-friendly, but as we were walking by with our pups the Security Guard told us we should come inside. Dogs are allowed in all of the areas with the exception of the floor that has the food court. They even have a dog treat dispenser and water bowls near the customer service area. We also heard it rumored the Bloomingdales building is dog-friendly. Is it true?

Local Stores on our Walk:
We joke that when we walk through Wicker Park (which has made its way into many guidebooks) Miss M thinks its old news saying "I've been in that store, and that store, and that one...". While it depends on the store owners, in Chicago dogs are legally allowed in any store that doesn't serve food. Often if we're walking by, or window gazing, stores will encourage us to come inside with the pups, and the pups have hit many of the destination spots in the Wicker Park area. The pups are frequent visitors at Chrome store (they know them there!), Lomography store, Nike, St. Alfred's and even wine stores Lush and Noble Grape.

Where we don't go:
Strangely enough, even though they sell dog-gear, REI is not pet-friendly. Even if you want to try on any of the dog coats we've needed to work with a salesperson allowing us to take the merchandise outside to try on. Also, when we were fostering little Jack Frost I used to carry him in my bag and when I tried to go into Joanne's Fabric, I was asked to leave.
The one dog-friendly place that we try not to take the dogs: pet stores. With all of the food, smells, and other dogs, it's just too distracting and over-stimulating.

What are some other experiences people have had with dog-friendly stores?

City Dogs in Training
After the thaw
Mr. B helps out with the groceries
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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

City Dogs: How to Prepare Yourself to Walk the Dogs in the Winter (Update!)

It's not that the weather in Chicago is really that much colder than anywhere else, it's just that we have to be out in it more.
So many people need to walk, wait on windy El platforms, or stand at unheated bus stops just to get places. And since most dog owners in the city don't have backyards, we all need to accompany our pups daily on their walks.
We wrote earlier on how we keep our cold-prone pups warm during these walks.
Here's on update on things we do to prepare ourselves to head outside with the pups:

Preparing for Icy Sidewalks:
Both E and I have wiped out on icy sidewalks, and even Miss M did her own interpretation of Bambi with her legs sliding out from under her. While it can be hard enough to navigate icy sidewalks on our own, it can resemble a mini-Iditarod when you're holding a pup or two.
It took us a few years to realize we should really be using Crampons, which have made a huge difference in our not-falling-down percentages. We used Icetrekker Diamond Grip Crampons.
We made an important discovery this year: salt can rust and deteriorate the crampons. When E took was heading out one day he realized his had rusted through and the chains had broken.
Ours lasted about 2 years, but now we're making sure to rinse them off so they won't be ruined by the salt.

Keeping fingers warm:
The worst part of each winter walk is fumbling with the poo bags and needing to expose ungloved fingers just to open the bag.
We prepare by opening up some of the bags while we're still inside (it really does make things that much quicker!).
We also recommend using flip-top gloves so you can still use your fingers without needing to remove your whole glove and possibly leaving it behind. In extreme weather like this I layer mine in bigger mittens.

Preparing Warm Clothes:
Like other Chicagoans outside in these conditions, we dress in puffy coats and tall boots. We like Burton snowboarding jackets which are warm without being bulky, and we've both liked wearing Sorel boots. We picked up some fuzzy Ugg inserts to put in our boots so we can go out quickly without needing to find socks. And we save time by having our scarves, hats, and gloves in a single place by the door.

These are some things that have worked for us.
What are some other ways you keep yourselves warm when out walking your pups?

This helps us remember to bring everything
Dogs in Boots!
What we always try to tell ourselves
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Friday, January 17, 2014

Mr. B Cuddles on His Own Terms

Though it is even hard for me to believe, there was a time that I was afraid to get close to Mr. B. When I first saw Mr. B on Petfinder I knew we were going to be best friends forever, well somewhat, luckily I was with A who ensured that we became best friends forever.
Even though Mr. B was part of our family a month before we started the blog, a part of me believed in some of the stereotypes about pit bulls and I was wary around him. Eventually, I realized my fear was irrational and Mr. B became my favorite pillow pet.
Apparently Mr. B believed in some of the negative stereotypes about humans. Though he would reluctantly get cuddled by me, he would not initiate the cuddle session. Overtime, Mr. B has realized that his fear was irrational and now whenever I am laying on the huge Molly Mutt bed he will snuggle up close to me, even though he has so much space, and now I am his favorite pillow pet.
Are you someone's favorite pillow pet?

Our Aggressions Towards Cuteness
My Favorite Room in the Winter
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Thursday, January 16, 2014

DoggyStyle: On Mopping a Dog Home

Miss M lies in apprehension of what is coming at her
I've realized a lot of people think owning pets means you can never have a clean home. Though embarrassingly enough, my apartment was much, much dirtier before I had our dogs. Living with the pups has given me more self-awareness to prevent messes in the first place and to find easy ways to clean.
We had written here that one way to stay on top of cleaning is to find good cleaning products that can be "fun" to use. Though I still hadn't found a solution for mopping our hardwood floors; which according to many people doesn't exist.
So you can imagine our excitement when our favorite "fun" vacuum  came out with a hard-floor version: The Dyson Hard DC56.
The idea is that it combines a handheld vacuum with a Swiffer-like mop head, so you don't need to vacuum to get rid of the dog-hair ahead of time; it makes things easier by vacuuming and mopping at the same time.
It is a bit pricy, but we had some gift cards so we decided to splurge, and I thought it would be worth it if it actually did make our cleaning much easier.
It turns out, that I have been using it every day...though not for the reasons one would think.

What we Liked:
-It's lightweight and it doesn't need a plug so it's really easy to carry around your whole home.
-The mop head can come off and it becomes a really powerful handheld vacuum with long reach. I was able to use it to catch all the crevices and angles that I'm often to lazy to get when I'm doing the regular vacuuming.
-It takes up little storage space and it lives in a holster in our closet.

What we Didn't Like:
-It uses wipes so you need a constant supply of wipes on hand if you are going to clean. You also have to shop at stores that sell these types of wipes.
-The wipes kept running out of moisture. I had already used up one wipe when I was only half-way through cleaning our main room.
-It does pick up the hair as you're mopping, but sometimes the little holes in the mop get jammed with the hair, so you need to keep cleaning it out.
-Since it's cordless, it only stays charged for 15 minutes. I didn't realize this the first time, and I ran out of power half-way through (and I had just put on a new wipe that dried out as I had to wait for it to recharge). It also takes awhile for it to recharge.
-You have to press down hard to make sure the wipes pick up the dirt. It hurt my arms.
-It's pricey.
So, we wouldn't recommend it as a mop.
But....I really liked it as a cordless vacuum, more than I expected.
I never realized how convenient it was to have a cordless vacuum, but I have literally been using it every day to pick up the dog-tumbleweed that has been making it's way into the corners and baseboards. Since it doesn't have a cord, it's really easy to just grab it and go from room-to-room, which is so much easier than taking out our canister vacuum and using the attachment.
It also has come in really handy that time we saw one of those furry-centipedes on our ceiling. The arm was long enough to keep the perfect distance. It is a bit pricey, but we did end up keeping it just for the cordless vacuum convenience.
We are still on our search for the perfect mop, though we think we might have another contender.
Has anyone else stumbled upon that perfect one?

Less fur!
Did you know Miss M moonlights as our maid?
"Fun" Cleaning products 
Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and story lines beyond the blog.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Winter Walks: Creating a Walk When they Won't Walk Outside

Even with all the terrible weather here in Chicago, our pups still need to get walked. 
While our pups have been through a lot, once"Chiberia" hit, and temperatures in Chicago dipped below those at the South Pole, they had enough.
Miss M completely boycotted potty-breaks.The moment E opened our door to take her into the hallway of our building, she made like a donkey bracing herself.
She had to be physically carried outside, set down, and back inside, each time she needed to go potty.
While we semi-solved the issue of bathroom breaks, we knew this wasn't enough and sitting around in our home the pups would begin developing cabin fever. 
So we added some indoor 'exercises' to our walk. We had written about some of the things we do in this post here
With limited time as we're getting ready in the morning, we exhaust the pups"mentally": practicing elevated sit-stays and down-stays on our benches and ottomans. We wrote more about it here.
These exercises help the pups practice will-power and self-control, which can be exhausting. 
They can even do it as they're watching TV.
What has everyone else been up to as the cold weather has been keeping you inside?


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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Pooches: How to Dress your Dog for Cold Weather

As survivors of the polar vortex here in Chicago, we can now check off that we have had to walk our pups through nearly every type of weather condition.
Lately we've been getting a lot of questions about the type of gear we use to keep our large, short-haired, cold-prone pups warm; it really depends on the type of cold weather we are experiencing.
We know all dogs are different, but these are some things that have worked for us:
The Basics:
We have found a combination of a waterproof dog coat, a basic dog sweatshirt, and a dog snood can be used alone or together to help your pup stay warm in all types of weather.
If you choose to have just one item, we would recommend a waterproof dog coat. We wrote about coats we found for larger dogs here and here.
Our pups have several Zack & Zoey sweatshirts which are only about $18. Our 65lb pups wear size Extra-Large. We really like that we can customize them like we did here, here, and even here.
Snoods are like scarves for dogs, and they can be used for layering, or worn alone for a similar type of 1/2 coverage you might get from a puffer vest. Our pups' snoods are from here and here. 

Layering for the Cold and Windy Weather
For bitterly cold and windy weather our pups wear a combination of the above. Like urban teens, they layer a hoodie under their puffy coat. This eliminates gaping and keeps their core extra warm.We also add a snood which can be pulled up over their ears for more coverage.

Cold and Wet
We know it can be uncomfortable, and actually much colder, when cotton gets wet, so we don't have our pups wear their hoodies when it's raining or snowing hard when we leave the house. We usually just have them in their water-resistant coat  to stay dry. We also like how the Sirius Republic snoods are double-lined polar fleece which doesn't absorb wet snow, and they can be pulled up over their heads.

On Dog Hats & Snoods
We are often asked about the dog hats our pups wear. They are human hats from the kids' section at Old Navy. The hat Mr. B is wearing in the header photo is actually E's human hat.
The pups wear the hats for fun; they make for fun pictures. Though they are a bit unpractical for everyday wear. I don't know if dog hats really do make the pups any warmer, but if are you are looking for something cute that is still practical, we like the animal-themed snoods from Snug-A-Bulls. (More photos of the pooches in their mouse and gorilla snoods, here).

Too Hot
While we would gladly welcome warmer weather right now, during the summer we had to limit much of our walking for the extreme heat. While it seems counterintuitive to put them in gear during such extreme heat, we tried the Ruffwear Swamp Cooler cooling vest. The vests use evaporative cooling technology to mimic sweating and cool down your pooch. It's also really nice reflecting the sun from dark-colored dogs who naturally absorb heat. We wrote more about our experiences here.
We also found Musher's paw is a good resource for walking on extra-hot asphalt that might burn their feet.

We know all dogs have different needs and tolerance levels, and some dogs don't mind the cold and they don't want to wear gear. We know how important it is for dogs to be comfortable, and we wrote more about how to make sure your pup is comfortable wearing dog gear, here. 
Again, these are just things that have worked for us, but we would love to hear from everyone else:
How do you keep your pup comfortable in cold weather?

How the people prepare for cold walks
Our thoughts on Dog Boots
Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and story lines beyond the blog.
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