Monday, September 29, 2014

SociaBulls: On the Value of Structured Socialization

We know that it can be valuable for dogs to enjoy the company of other pups, but sometimes it's hard to find that "just right".
Especially in the city, where so many of us don't have backyards, it seems like the only option can be taking your pup to the dog park. Which sometimes can be crowded, unstructured and just not the right fit for dogs who enjoy more personal space.
One of our members was just telling us that she used to take her pup to one of the dog parks where he was injured so badly he needed stitches (he looked a bit like a handsome Frankenstein). She didn't feel comfortable returning to the dog park, and she wasn't sure how to allow her pup to socialize with other dogs in a safe way.
 One thing we really enjoy about what we've built in our SociaBulls community is that it allows our dogs to get the socialization they crave in a structured, safe way.
Our pups can get the same socialization aspects through tandem walking while knowing the other owners in the group are aware of respecting space.
 Which has been so great for our reactive dogs who are learning to stay calm around other dogs, as well as dogs who might be shy, injured, older, or who just want to socialize in a calm, non-contact way.

The Structure
Why our pups don't meet on walks
Join our Chicago SociaBulls Facebook page for more photos and information about our group.
Interested in joining? Find out about the process, here. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Pooches: On Confessions of a "Super" Food-Motivated Dog

Miss M uses hypnotism to awaken us for Breakfast.
While we always love "talking dog", the one conversation we can never participate in is what to do with a picky eater. As people share stories of how they can't get their pup to eat and how they scorn treats, we always shrink to the side listening to things we never thought possible.
Because our pups aren't just food-motivated...they are "super" food-motivated.
Where food controls everything they think and do.
The pups haunt us as we attempt to eat a Rainbow Cone.
Like the fact the pups can never sleep in.
Since they know breakfast is served in the morning, they spend all night anticipating the moment when they will arise and food will be placed in front of them.
At 5:00. Or at least that's what they think. Because every morning begins with that 'subtle' hum. Which like an alarm clock grows in volume and frequency. Except this is one that you can't turn off. Unless it is given food.
After breakfast, the pups will be satisfied for a whole 3 hours. Until they begin following us around the house giving us not so subtle hints:
Or just ravenously staring at our own food with Crazy-Eyes.
Until we finally can't stand be stalked any longer and we feed them dinner. Which really does give a new meaning to Early-Bird dinner. Yes, our dogs eat dinner at 11:00am.
Then the fact our pups have developed super-sonic hearing where any morsel dropped on the ground will alert them from a deep sleep:
And any time we attempt to enjoy a meal we know the table-gremlins will be watching from below.
Anyone else have "super" food-motivated pups?

At least food-motivation does help us with this.
And our free-cleaning help.
Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and story lines beyond the blog.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

DoggyStyle: On the Dog Bed That's Perfect for People, But Not for Dogs

While we've always been fans of using alternative decor as dog beds, as our dogs have been getting older we thought we'd invest in some good structured beds to keep them comfortable as they age.
We asked all of you for advice for good beds, and we heard so many great recommendations (here)

We will have some beds coming soon, but since our new home has 3 levels (so many stairs!) we've also been looking to have something comfortable on each level so they don't have to walk as much.
And real dog beds can be so pricy!
I thought it was my lucky day when I discovered 2 beautiful Fatboy Marimekko Doggielounge beds in just their size on Craigslist. These beds had never been used, they were only used as props in a photoshoot with children, and while they tout all this state-of-the art technology, normally retail for around $180 each (!!), I was able to get them for $50 each. 
Did I mention these beds were really beautiful?
Fatboy is an upscale design company that specializes in making really fancy--meaning expensive--human beanbag lounge chairs. The thing I really liked about their Doggielounger brand was that it uses a nylon cover that is really easy to clean and is water-resistant so we had the option of bringing them out on our deck. They are filled with beanbag pellets and the idea is that they conform to the shape of the dog giving extra support and comfort.
And have I mentioned how really beautiful they are? These are beds I don't mind leaving out.
So they had everything we wanted, but it turns out these beds are not so perfect for dogs.
The beanbag pellets actually make it hard for the pups to get comfortable. Especially poor Mr. B. He spends a lot of time trying to adjust his bed but when he steps inside the bed it becomes rock hard. Then, because it's made of the nylon material, he starts sliding off. A couple of times he ended up on the floor or just in really uncomfortable positions. Did you notice in the top photo how he's desperately trying to hold on? He did end up sliding off just after that photo was taken.
So while we were really excited about these, they turned out to be not so perfect (but still beautiful!).
Since the pellets are housed in a separate bag, we are going to try finding a separate type of insert that will be more comfortable and it won't shift as much once they climb in. 
Stay tuned as the pups try more beds to find one that's 'just right'.

I didn't think they were comfortable, but this is what Mr. B always lays on.
Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and story lines beyond the blog.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Things to Do in Chicago with Dogs: Miss M and Mr B go to Design Harvest Fest (and they wonder where everyone has gone)

While the entire Chicago summer is filled with tons of street festivals every weekend, we all do get to the point where we can no longer handle the backwards cap-wearing crowd and trudging through beer-strewn streets.
Which maybe makes Design Harvest Fest one of our favorites. It's set far-enough towards the end of the season, it makes us feel like we really need to get that last festival in before we're all faced with this. 
 The other unique thing about Design Harvest Fest is it's more than just the typical beer-fest, but more of an Urban Orchard meets high-end design festival. The festival closes one of the major city streets to fill it with hay-bales (topped with fancy blankets and rugs, of course!), a tractor-pulled hay ride, and pumpkins galore. In the past they even had a tent with square dancing.
Among all of this is a huge design-tent and many of the decor-focused stores on the street displaying their wares.
We thought this year would be especially relevant since we did have a new home and we needed decor. And while this had been one that we'd been looking forward to, we were sorely disappointed to see the lack of participants and just lack of people overall. You can see how the background in the photos is eerily empty.
Regardless, the pups came out, posed on a couple of hay bales, and they got to see a couple of sheep and ducks from afar. Christy Weber had a really fun set-up. People were even making scarecrows!
Though it was really unusual for a festival, and especially such a major area, to be so deserted. We're not sure where everyone was. Maybe at Arby's enjoying a roast beef sandwich?

How it used to be.
And again!
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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Pooches: On Growing Older and Pushing Limits

It's hard for me to remember back to "Vintage Miss M" and how realize how far we've come.
She arrived as a stubborn, excited pup who needed to be entertained every minute.
She always wanted to take the leash from me and walk herself.
She knew what she wanted. And she wanted it now.
Which maybe isn't so far off from today?
One thing I did do well was set parameters and routines and create structure. I knew once I decided on something, there was no going back. (We wrote about her original "debutante training"here.)
Suddenly the pup I swore was raised by wolves was able to keep keep focus on our walks, do sit-stays with a single finger command, and lay nicely beside a coffee table holding my dinner as I left the room...without even attempting to sniff it.
And for the most part, this has worked well for the past 8 years we've been together.
While I've always known dogs are constantly a work-in-progress, and it's important to continue working on training, I have become a bit more lenient within our home.
Part of it is thinking that they are older now (10 and 11 years old!!) and we just want them to be happy and comfortable.
So maybe our sit-wait routine before they eat has become a sit and wait until Mr. B just digs in on his own.
And Miss M has been giving some not-so-polite greetings when guests come over.
And just generally pushing the limits with Miss M pushing her smooshed-up mug very, very close to our guests' food.
She plays it off as part of her charm.
Now I'm what degree does training subside as dogs age?
Is it best to just let these small things slide knowing they are Elderbulls, they earned it, and let them be happy?
Or by being inconsistent am I just encouraging them to really push the limits and become more ill-behaved? 

This command changed Miss M's life.
Most people find this one and this one most impressive.
Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and story lines beyond the blog.

Monday, September 22, 2014

SociaBulls: When is a Dog Ready to Join the SociaBulls Group?

While we love that our group has so many different types of dogs, with different types of personalities, working on different types of skills, a perspective member just brought up the really good question: How do you know when your pup is ready to join the group?
I know this is definitely one of the biggest fears of new members.
They are always afraid that their dog will be the one to "ruin" the walks.
They predict their dog will bark and jump, maybe do circular acrobatics in the air. Or just sing non-stop for the entire walk.
Which is completely okay, because we are a non-judgmental group.
The main thing is just knowing our group isn't a replacement for training, but just a way of 'owners-helping-owners' as a type of 'after-training' to work on the things that we've learned. We just ask that the owners have owned their dogs for 3+ months so they know their dog, and they have been exposed to a formal group setting with other dogs so they understand how to best handle their pup and gain focus.
We use our application process as a way of learning more about each dog as a way to provide a positive experience within the pack and to familiarize the owners with our pack rules that have helped all of us to be successful.
Because we've all had our first walks. And we all started somewhere.
Even this city turtle who joined us the other week.


Join our Chicago SociaBulls Facebook page for more photos and information about our group.
Interested in joining? Find out about the process, here. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Pooches: On Dog Rankings

If you haven't seen, Foster dog Feeney has been adopted. He is very happy with a person who loves him very much. You can read their story on the rescue Facebook page, here.

While we always see so many adorable pups in need of homes, fostering always reminds us that we can really only function as a 2-dog household.
Though having three dogs does have its benefits.
You know, like using logic to reason with our pups.
Like when Miss M decides to give us side-face and we tell her "Wow, Mr. B is the best dog on this entire deck"
Which maybe doesn't have that much impact. Because she knows there is only one other dog on the entire deck. So if someone is the best, that automatically makes the other one the worst.
But, when we have 3 dogs, we reason these types of ratings do hold more weight.
Like when we told Miss M she was the most unappreciative pup at this year's Shakespeare in the Park play. 
It actually meant something.
Or when we told her she was being the most difficult dog sitting on our blanket at the Secret Chicago Air and Water Show
She had real competition.
There was also a category for "Worst Dog Riding in this Entire Car":
And "The Most Irresistibly Sweet Dog Sitting on Our Blanket":
Though it makes me wonder if our own parents also secretly did this?

The most representative.

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

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Forbidden Indoor Lawn

When we decided to commit to buying a new home, I was most excited to have our own 2.5 car garage, not because we have room for a second car, but that I can use the 0.5 of the garage for a workshop.
Granted, I have only done small installations and repairs around our condo, somehow I knew that the workshop will be my home within a home. Much to A's dismay...or elation, I spend most of my free time in my workshop tinkering with random power tools and every so often making something worthy of leaving my workshop.
One of my first builds that was allowed to leave the workshop and be displayed around the house was the dog gate separating our rear porch from our front yard. Now the pooches are allowed to roam our rear porch and our garage deck without the fear of them taking off into the backyard and out the garage if the garage door happens to be open.
After this build, A wanted more gates to separate the rear of our home from the front yard, so we can make the pooches stay in the front yard or in the backyard. So I built couple twin gates and put them at the front part of our gangway.
The hardest part was using a post digger to dig a hole deep enough for the 4x4 that are used to support the gate.
Finally, A wanted a gate to separate Miss M from the most luxurious place of all, our lower level that is full of luscious indoor lawn aka carpeting. At our old place, Miss M had this fascination of going potty on our living room rug, which eventually became a rug covered in pee pads. It would happen in the middle of the night, in the morning, in the middle of the day, basically anytime she had access to the rug without supervision, which was almost all the time (a story for another time). Oddly, she has yet to have an accident in our new house, but we have yet to lay any rugs down. However, we are not willing to test if she kicked the potty in the house business with our new carpeting, so I built this gate using the design and instructions laid out by our good friends, CC, Jack, Kim and Scott. They did such a great job explaining everything I needed to do from start to finish on their Doggie Gate DIY post on their blog, Yellow Brick Home.
It seems like everyday, A finds new projects she wants completed around the house and I love it, because it means I can spend more time in my favorite room. It is too bad that Mr. B cannot hang out with me in the workshop, there just too many hazards around for him. But I found a way to have him in there anyway.
Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and storylines beyond the blog

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Things to Do in Chicago with Dogs: That Time the Pups Tried to Crash Riot Fest

While Chicago has a lot of really big music festivals, one thing that was unique about last weekend's Riot Fest was that it was a huge festival held in a park smack dab in the middle of a neighborhood.
Our neighborhood.
The festival brought tens of thousands of people streaming into our neighborhood, and Friday night we rushed home to hunker down knowing it might be hard to leave all weekend. We heard with the traffic and road closures it took some of our neighbors two hours to get home (normally a 40 minute drive) and they had to park as far as a mile from their home. It brought so many people to the area that cell phone service was spotty all weekend.
Though it did have a really, really good line up with Weezer, The Cure, Jane's Addiction, Slayer, The Flaming Lips, Wu-Tang Clan, just to name a few.
The pups were not so excited their favorite stomping grounds were blocked off, but they were excited to see so many people in their neighborhood.
Mr. B even tried to score some tickets.
E and I ended up going for a bit just to check it out.  Somehow they crammed 7 stages, a carnival and non-stop rows of the best-of carnival food (funnel cakes! cheese on a stick! poutine!) into our park. We saw The Nationals, Flaming Lips, and Wu-Tang Clan. We saw part of The Cure and the beginning of Weezer which was playing the Blue Album in its entirety! Though the crowds were so bad, jostling, and completely drunk by that time that we just decided to run home where we could hear everything clearly, sans crowds, from our deck.
It was kind of fun to hear everything clearly, sans crowds, on our deck.
This is what Miss M thought about the Mighty, Mighty Bosstones.
Though they weren't too impressed by Slayer.

At least the pups were able to legally do this.
Our favorite non-dog activity that allowed dogs!
Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and storylines beyond the blog.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Pooches: On the State of the Dog-Rental Market

One of the questions we are asked most often is where to find rentals for large dogs (and pit bulls!) in the city.
I was a renter when I first adopted Miss M 8 years ago. At the time I was living in a 3-flat where the owner lived on the top floor. While my lease didn't allow dogs, the landlord didn't like going to the trouble of finding new renters so he decided I could have a dog in my unit.
He wasn't very happy to hear I was interested in a pit bull-type dog, and he said he would need to "interview" her before I could commit to adopting. Luckily, Miss M was able to fly through her interview sans songs. 
When we moved, I used Craigslist to look for dog-friendly rentals. Most of the listings I found were size-restrictive but did not restrict based on breed. Miss M and I were able to find the perfect bachelorette-pad in a Mayberry-esque area of Lincoln Square. We lived in a 7-unit building where nearly everyone had some type of pet, including: an Akita, 3 Labs, and a blind Cocker Spaniel.
We are in the fortunate situation where we have owned our homes for the past 6 years, so it has never been an issue for us, so when people ask I know we really aren't up to date with the rental market.
Though lately it seems like it is just hard to rent overall. We have heard horror stories of rents being increased hundreds of dollars, apartments sold without warning, and apartments renting in a matter of hours. With such rental demand, it seems like the easier choice for landlords is to just choose tenants without pets.

So we are curious to know what's really going on out there.
How tough is the rental market for dogs? And for dogs that might fall under the breed-restricted list?
How did you find your place? And how tough was it?
Are there certain areas or types of buildings that are easier to rent?
Has anyone had success with pet resumes? Or needed to focus on the "mix" part of your dog?
What advice would you have for people looking to rent?

On making living with dogs a positive experience for shared-wall neighbors.
And these secrets. And these answers.
Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and storylines beyond the blog.
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