Friday, July 25, 2014

Pooches: On Miss M vs. The Lawn

When I first wanted to adopt a dog, I had this idea we would spend a lot of time hanging out together in the (human) park.
I would bring a blanket. We would sit together as I read a book.
I would even use her as a pillow.
Though we all know how different the life we envision with our dogs can be.
Because out of all of the strange things I've discovered about Miss M, she absolutely hates sitting in parks. And she seems to really hate lawns.
I used to think it was just a fluke. 
Like that time we went to listen to a concert in the park and she got so frustrated she started trying to grab her own leash and simultaneously eat my picnic blanket. 
So I had to tackle her. 
And I was laying on top of my kicking dog just as a new co-worker was walking by (and recognized me).
Or maybe how every time we tried to sit in the park for an extended amount of time it ended this way.
I realized one way to work around this was to get an extra-large picnic blanket. If she didn't realize the lawn was there, she could actually enjoy sitting in the park:
Until she realized she was actually sitting on the lawn.
At which point, she tries to eat it.
Note the lawn coming out of Miss M's mouth ala Huck Finn
Now that we have our own lawn, Miss M has gone beyond just grazing and she is actually biting chunks out of the lawn and eating dirt.

Are there other dogs out there who hate the lawn? Or is this just another case of Miss M being Miss M?

So it's not just this?
Our favorite picnic blankets
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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

City Dog: On Why Our Pooches Don't Need Backyards

Living in the city, it can be a rare thing to have a backyard. Most of us lack even a small patch of grass and spend our time taking our pups on several daily walks.
Of course we all gather together to lament and collectively dream of the time where we might have that elusive backyard where we can just open the door and our pups will frolic away into the grass, all without us even having to put on shoes (or a bathrobe!).

After spending 8+ years with the daily walk routine, we finally got lucky and since we bought our new home we earned our very mini-city yard.
While we have more deck space than proper yard, we do have a "grazing" area of grass in the back, two long gangways along the side of our house for the pups to run, and a larger grass yard is in our gated front area.
We were excited to get the pups out in their new yard to watch them frolic. Only to realize, there is no frolicking and they just do a lot of this:
Perplexed by the yard, Mr. B decides to just sit in it.
While we've been dreaming of this day ever since we've had the pups, even though we have the yard we've continued to take them on the daily walks. And after trying a little experiment of mainly staying in the yard, and now seeing it both ways, this is why we've realized pups don't really need backyards:

Walks as a Way to Maintain Training:
Even though we've had Miss M for 8 years, and Mr. B for 5 years, we've realized how important it is to be consistent with their training. We have lapsed a bit in the chaos of selling our home and moving, and especially as we we've been testing out our new yard. We've realized without our structure and routine the pups are beginning to push the limits and they aren't listening as much. We've now gone back to our daily walks as a set time where we can practice our training and maintain the consistency.

Increasing Exposure and Decreasing Boredom:
Our daily walk routine has been good for exposing the pups to all types of situations. Even if we do walk a similar route, each walk is different with sights and smells and people. We know many of you have seen the videos like this one and while all dogs are different, I think it has helped our pups succeed at these types of crowded events because they are consistently going on walks and being exposed to new things.
In the short time when we were relying mainly on time in the yard, when we finally did take the pups on a walk they were amped up, lunging across both sides of the sidewalk to smell new things, and meeting people with unexplained over-enthusiasm. We've realized how important it is to keep our walking routine to keep our pups mentally stimulated.

Improving Health:
People are usually surprised to hear that Miss M is 10 and Mr. B is 11 years old. I think one of the reasons they seem so youthful is that we are always out walking. The walks give them the mental stimulation to keep their minds alert, while it's also a good low-impact exercise to keep them in shape without a lot of strain on their joints.
Our walks also help us keep an eye on the pups to notice any conditions as they might come up. This time set-aside daily lets us immediately recognize if there are any changes in their health or anything concerning from their dog poo.
In a strange turn of events, we found that Miss M is literally grazing on our lawn and has gone beyond eating grass to eating clods of dirt (?) which will eventually get vomited up. Our walks help us keep an eye on her and keep her moving so she doesn't have time to eat the greenery.

We know all dogs and situations are different, and this is what we found works best of us.
What does everyone else think, to what degree do dogs need yard space?

What we all think about but don't talk about.
What really happens on a daily walk

Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and story lines beyond the blog

Monday, July 21, 2014

SociaBulls: On Warm Weather Walking

Since we made it through this, you'd think we would be prepared for anything, though this summer has brought on new challenges with the summer heat kicking in and making walking hard for many of our pups. Our city dogs are used to walking through all types of weather and challenges, here are some things the group has been doing to keep things comfortable for everyone:

Gearing Up
We've become experts at gearing up for cold weather, and many of the pups have also found gear to help keep cool. We've tried Ruffwear's Swamp Cooler Jacket that we wrote about here which has kept our pups a bit cooler. We've heard it really helps the dark-colored dogs who normally get so hot in the sun. We also know a lot of members have been wetting the pups' bandanas to keep them a bit cooler.

Water Breaks
Our water breaks are a formality during the colder months (and during the really cold walks we skip them altogether), though they are a necessity for this warmer weather. We let the pups linger a bit longer, and in the warmer weather we might even take two water breaks.

Early and Slow
Just like when I was in marathon training and we need to plan around the heat of the day, for SociaBulls we plan our walks earlier before the heat has really reached its peak. Extra bonus: less people and dogs are out so there aren't as many encounters.
We will also choose shortened routes and make sure we aren't walking on as much hot pavement which could hurt the pups' feet.

What are some other things you do to plan for walking in warmer weather?

This is what also happens at water breaks
Join our Chicago SociaBulls Facebook page for more photos and information about group walks. And check out the Hikabull page where we first learned about the benefits of group walking.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Pooches: On Dogs and Minimalism

As we were getting rid of things when we were getting ready to sell our condo, we had to make some difficult decisions about what to do with the pups' things and be really selective about which things would stay and which would be sent to storage.
We knew we had to pack up much of Mr B's collection of stuffies, but we weren't sure how he was going to feel about it:
We let Mr. B decide which stuffy he wanted to keep in the house. Characteristically he choose the giant pink heart. While we thought he would miss his other toys, Mr. B seemed fine just carrying his one toy. He was always searching it out and carrying it around with him.
So when we moved into our home we thought Mr. B would be excited to be reunited with all of his toys. But we realized, he doesn't really need all of his toys. He just grabs whichever one is closest, and loses interest so now we have toys scattered allover our house. 
Which made us realize that maybe we should be more minimalist.

Maybe we just keep buying Mr. B toys to make ourselves happy while Mr. B is happy enough with just his one toy?
How many toys do you think a pup really needs?

Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and story lines beyond the blog

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Things to do with Your Dog in Chicago: Dog-Friendly Summer Activities

While we spent this entire time scheming about what we'd do once warmer weather struck, we have been so distracted from our move that we've barely had time to do anything. Looking at the calendar, I realized that summer is slowly slipping away and there are so many things we still want to do.
Here are some of our favorite must-do things we still want to do with the pups this summer:

Impromptu Picnics
During the summer I always carry some type of light blanket or sarong during our daily walks so we can have the chance to grab any food that looks good, find a space in the park and have a pop-up picnic. Somehow the food always tastes that much better when eaten outside.

Go on a Boat
We always tell anyone visiting Chicago the only thing they really have to do is go on one of the architectural boat tours. These tours travel down the Chicago river (and part of the lake) letting you see the amazing architecture of Chicago from a completely different view. They even have the Mercury Canine Cruise which lets you experience this with your pups. It's one of our favorite annual summer traditions. Here we wrote about the first year we went.

Alfresco Theatre
We think everything is better enjoyed outside, and Chicago has set up a full line-up of outdoor movies in the park all along the local neighborhood parks. Everyone just pulls up a blanket and brings snacks, so it's something you can enjoy with your pups too.
The Chicago Shakespeare Theatre is also having traveling performances of Shakespeare in the Park at many of the local parks. There will be a showing at the park that is mere blocks from our home.
Last year, Mr. B even got to be an unsuspecting part of the play.

Go to Farmer's Market (and make dog treats from the things we buy!)
The pups love coming with us to the Farmer's Market and even carrying a backpack to help out and carry the groceries. I've been trying to cook more often, and I think it would only be fair to try buying some things at the market to make some treats for the pups.
Does anyone have any good dog treat recipes from things I could get at the market?

So, what is on everyone else's must-do summer list?

Our favorite impromptu picnic. Or maybe this one.
Maybe some of this.
Remember this bad memory?

Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and story lines beyond the blog

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Pooches: How to Sell Your Home When You Have Dogs

One of our biggest concerns when we were starting the process of selling our home was that it would be even harder to do as dog owners. Besides keeping our home spotless, and looking as if no one lived there, we also needed to make it look like no dogs lived there and find places for the pups to go during all of the sometimes impromptu showings.
We are definitely not experts, but these are some things that worked for us and some things we would do differently if we had to sell again (which we are never planning on doing because we love our new home!).

Preparing Ahead
We knew our home would be easier to sell if we did everything right up front and it spent less time on the market. Plus, it would make all of our lives less stressful if it just sold quickly. In the Chicago housing market there are a lot of 2 bedroom/2 bathroom condos just like ours, and we're competing with all of the new construction condos being built. At only 10 years old, we learned many of the features of our home were already considered dated.
At first we were hesitant to spend the extra money to hire professional painters, but then we realized we just needed to get it right the first time because the longer our home sat on the market it would become harder to sell. Plus, if it didn't sell quickly we would still end up paying extra money by continuing to rent storage, sending the dogs to boarding/day care if we had showings during the day, and potentially having 2 mortgages. Not to mention the emotional stress of always needing to have our home showroom ready, living with half of our belongings in a storage locker and not really being able to cook in our kitchen, and disrupting things for the pups.
While it was hard to swallow at first, we ended up having our entire place professionally painted including painting all of the woodwork white (we didn't understand this either, but I guess it's what all of the new condos have now) and adding some wider trim in the main room.
We also took the pups to get fulminated so they wouldn't shed as much, hired a really good house cleaner, and invested in some fancy diffusers to eliminate any potential odors.
While I think a lot of it was based on luck and an intense local housing market, we got the offer we wanted a mere 4 days after listing our home. Even that short amount of time was stressful and completely disruptive, so we were glad we did choose to spend the extra money up front to make things easier for all of us.

Where to Go When They Can't Be at Home
One of the hardest parts of putting our home on the market with dogs was finding places for the pups to go when we had showings. On the first two days we had about 6-7 showings all spaced out at different times. It was nice that we already had a relationship with a doggy daycare where we could send the pups during the day so people could come see our home. We also ended up sending the dogs there for boarding when we were having our home painted.
When we needed the dogs out of our way when we were coming in and out of our house moving things to our storage locker, we sent them to Petsmart to get baths (and furminated!). It's nice because they take the dogs for about 3 hours so we were able to get things done. Plus, they came back clean.
During our Open Houses on the weekend we needed to find longer activities to keep the pups out of the home. We were lucky it was warm and we had nice weather so we were able to do things outside.
We also know there are several indoor places that are dog-friendly that we wrote about, here.

Keeping Dogs Comfortable by Creating Routines
Looking back, this is one thing I wish we had done better. We are lucky that Miss M and Mr. B are both really resilient and adaptable, but I know this must have been a really stressful process for them. We had to take away a lot of their beds and toys (even Mr B's tepee!) to make our home look more marketable. In retrospect, I wish we had done this more slowly. I have one photo (I just can't seem to find it right now) where both of our pups are huddled together trying to sleep on the painter's drop cloth because we had to move their beds.
We also know it must have been stressful because each time we returned home after a showing, they could probably smell all the strangers who had passed through our home.
We tried our best to keep things normal because we know keeping routines is the most important thing for dogs.

These are just some things that we experienced, but we would love to hear if anyone else has more tips on how to sell a home with dogs. 

We've been here almost a week, and so ghosts!

Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and story lines beyond the blog.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Pooches: The One Where Miss M and Mr B Move (But Still Live in the City)

 This past month we've taken a bit of an unexpected hiatus as we've been caught in a whirlwind of paperwork, misplaced cameras and unplugged internet as we've managed to sell our condo and buy a new place.
Just last week it all ended as we were able to pack up our pups and move into our very own single-family home (without shared floors or walls!) in the city.
While we only moved a mere mile north and west, neighborhoods vary a lot in the city. We're excited to be part of our new community where many of our neighbors have lived for decades. There are a lot of pitbull-type dogs, and our next door neighbors even have a Mr. B look-alike.
The pups are still getting used to the changes like having 2 sets of stairs
And a new window to people-watch:
Miss M has adjusted quite well and has already found her favorite places to sleep in the house.
While poor Mr. B is still a bit confused, and he has decided to live in the bathroom.
It has made us confused too.
We are beyond excited to be in our new home, but we are still unpacking, getting settled, and helping the pups adjust by creating routines.

Anyone have any tips to share on helping pups adjust when you move?

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