Friday, February 27, 2015

Where the Pups Finally Reveal What Has Been Going on Behind-the-Scenes

For the past several months we've been a bit quiet as we've been working on a big project which we are excited to finally reveal.
We have just opened a unique community workshop space called The Laboratory.
It's part unique children's classes combing science+arts where you learn chemistry by making perfumes and bath bombs, and you design your own robots from scratch and imagination, and students learn science with a Frozen-theme.
We will also be having adult DIY workshops taught by local artisans and makers.
They already published a piece about us, that explains it much better than I can. You can read it by clicking here. 
It gives some of that elusive background information we haven't really spoken about on the blog. (We also didn't realize we were about to have our photo taken!)
We are still teaching full-time and running The Laboratory on weekends, some nights, and school breaks.
Of course, we wanted to include some dog-related workshops and to launch our Adult DIY classes, we are working with a local chef to have a workshop on Making Artisan Dog Treats.
And Miss M and Mr. B will be hosting.
Miss M wonders if she will be paid for her time in treats. 
Stay tuned to our Laboratory Facebook page which will have the complete details to sign up. It will likely be March 7, and we are just finalizing the time. It turns out our Chef had an unexpected event at his restaurant, so stay tuned for the new date/time.
We are really excited about teaching how we want to teach, and we would love any help sharing our space and Facebook page and just getting the word out.
And it seems like the pups have already made themselves at home.

Friday, February 20, 2015

DoggyStyle: Review of Muttluks Fleece Lined Winter Dog Boots (And a GIVEAWAY CLOSED!) with Fit for a Pit

Living through last year's Chi-beria, and experiencing the deja vu this year, we have been learning a lot about how to keep our pups warm and comfortable during extreme conditions.
Besides asking about dog-gear to fit bigger dogs, our second most-asked question is about the types of boots we recommend.
We know how tricky dog boots can be, and in the past we always referred people to PAWZ disposable dog boots. We liked how they generally stayed on, could last for awhile, and if we did lose a boot they were easy to replace. The one thing we didn't like is that if you did get a tear in the boot, the water collects inside the boot and your pup is stuck with a a cold, water-logged foot.
We had actually tried Muttluks in the past (we still have them, circa 2006!) and I always felt like they were falling off. Though when we were talking with Heather from Fit for a Pit, she thought that maybe we were using the wrong size, and that is why we were having fit issues.
So, she sent us a couple of new pairs of Muttluks to try out, which was perfect seeing that Chicago just had nearly 20 inches in snowfall.
These boots are fancy!
Muttluks is a Canadian company, so they know snow. Their boots come as a long sock; the inside is plush-lined, and they actually have leather soles. One of our favorite parts is they now come in colors: red, purple, or pink, which just so happen to match the pups' Canada Pooch coats perfectly:
I had always just thought that our pups' feet were on the larger size. Though Heather at Fit for a Pit told us how to measure the pups' foot more accurately: make sure they are standing with their full weight flat on a blank sheet of paper and mark from the longest toe nail straight back from the back of the paw.
We were surprised to see Mr. B wears a size Small and Miss M's monster paws are only size Medium. We compared our updated Muttluks with our circa 2006 Muttluks and found that even though the older pair were also a size Medium, the new style is actually a bit smaller and more streamlined to adjust to the foot better.
To put them on, it's easier to fold the sock to the bottom, put on the boot part, and pull the sock up. Kind of like putting on a pair of tights. We also made sure to flex each paw before putting them on the ground so there is a defined crease when they are walking.
We've also heard the key to making them stay is pulling the velcro tight, even tighter than you would expect. It doesn't hurt their feet, but it will help their boots stay on.
And we were off:

What We Liked:
-These boots are high-quality and really well-made. I think they might even be nicer than some shoes I own.
-We like how the sock comes up higher for more coverage and to keep them drier in snowy weather.
-The hard sole creates a defined walking spot so the boots won't twist or move as they walk. It's also sturdier on some of the icy areas.
-And of course, we love how they match their coats!

What We Didn't Like:
-These boots are so nice that our entire walk I was fearful that the pups would lose a boot. During a normally leisurely walk, I spent a lot of time paranoid, checking and re-checking their feet.
-We didn't lose any boots on the sidewalks, but we did have some boots come off in the deep snow. Which to be fair, my boots were also being pulled down by the heavy snow.
Fit for a Pit has kindly offered to give away two pairs of Muttluk fleece-lined boots to two different pups.
There are two ways to enter, and each person can enter two times.
Let us know: What would your pup be able to do with a pair of Muttluk fleece-lined boots?

#1 is Mr. Socs who is having a tough time with the snow and ice and will use the pair of boots to get back into regular walks, and 
#2 Evie who wants some boots for the cold. Please message or email me so we can get you your boots! And thanks again for Heather from Fit for a Pit for generously donating the boots and offering all of her knowledge about how to find boots, coats, and dog gear for our often hard to fit pups!

1) Let us know by commenting on our blog post here.
2) You can also enter by posting a photo on our Facebook page of your pooch and letting us know what you would do with a new pair of boots.

We will use a random number generator to randomly choose one winner from total blog and Facebook comments.

-You have two chances to win: commenting on the blog and posting a photo on our Facebook page
-We will use a random number generator to randomly choose the winners
-You have until Monday, February 23 at Midnight (EST) to post your comment or photo.
-Winners will be announced on Facebook and at the bottom of this post. Winners are responsible for contacting us to claim your prize.
-Winners must live within the contiguous United States.

Good luck everyone!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Pooches: Spending Time When You Just Don't Have Time

Lately, we have been working on a really, really big project. That has been keeping us really, really busy. We are hoping to be able to reveal it at the end of the week!
Though we have been feeling a lot of guilt because we haven't been able to spend the same amount of time that we normally spend with the pups.
I know time can be a big issue for a lot of dog families. I know people have even decided not to adopt dogs because they don't feel they have enough time to spend with them.
We have always thought that it was more about the quality than the amount of time, and as we've been facing this ourselves, these are some thing we've been trying:

Making Our Walks Count 
Since we lived so long without a backyard, our pups are used to going on walks several times a day. Every day.
Which means sometimes just going on a walk isn't good enough.
So, we've been adding in something extra.
We found the best use of time is going on our SociaBulls walks. This combines our daily walk with allowing the pups to socialize with other dogs, which is so stimulating they end up sleeping for the end of the day.
We've also been switching up our daily walking routine to allow them to experience new things and challenge them mentally. We especially like high-engagement areas where they meet a lot of people.

Adding Extras:
We've been working to make the time we do have with the pups count.
So we do a lot of interactive activities so when we're not home, they are tired and they don't miss us as much.
At home we have the pups practice their "Down-Stays", "Waits", and if we're needing to do a lot of things back and forth we even have them do this.
If we can't get to an engaging area for our walk, it also helps to have them practice tricks on our walk keep them mentally engaged.
Of course, this one is our favorite.

Getting Help 
And sometimes it's just okay to get help.
One of our friends wrote this really great post about being a single dog-parent and the importance of creating a community.
We also love our dog walkers, and it has been so important for us to have other people interact with the pups when we're busy with work.

We are hoping things will get back to normal for us soon, but we would also love to hear:
What are some things you do when you can't spend as much time with your pup?

Also fun on walks.
Just like dates.
Or with two.

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

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Pooches: View of a Blizzard

We had a blizzard on Sunday.
Which is funny, because we really didn't know it was going to happen until the day before.
Even then, they just told us it was going to snow.
But, that ended up being over 19 inches of snow. And ranking as one of the top 5 biggest snowstorms in Chicago's history.
And for those of you who reading this from your 70+ degree weather locales, this is what that looks like:
Thank goodness for snow tunnels!
They called off school, and we spent the day working with our neighbors to shovel out the cars that were parked on our street, push the cars that kept getting stuck, and shovel out the alley where many of the cars live.
Actually, it was E that did all of that shoveling and pushing.
I spent the day watching the plow tracker (I saw them come a record 3 times on our side street!). And trying to acclimate the pups to the snow. We even had some snow drifts in our yard and in the gangway that were over 4 feet tall.
It was nice seeing the neighbors come together. There is even someone outside right now (at 9:30 at night!) with a snowblower working to snowplow the remaining snow on our street so the cars can park.
Dibs! I think it was fair to call dibs this time.
How has everyone else been doing with the snow?

The snow was definitely better than this.
The pups are prepared with these when it all starts melting.
The pups in this one ranked third worst in Chicago history. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Pooches: On Bathing Our Pups at the Same Time

It seems like some of our most popular photos are when we become a bit invasive taking photos of the pups during their baths. (You may have seen this one, or remember this and this!)
For the past couple of years, we have gotten our routine down.
Including tossing both pups into the tub at the same time.
This is why we find it much easier:

Herd Mentality
We started out bathing both dogs separately.
And we always had so many bathtub-escapes.
One time we just decided to put them in together, and we found that they were less likely to try to escape.
Maybe it was Mr. B following Miss M's lead.
Maybe it was Miss M realizing all the good stuff was already happening here if Mr. B was with her.
Or maybe it was just too crowded in the tub to get good leverage to make the tub jump.
Since they were more likely to stay in the tub, we just kept putting them in together.

Assembly Line
With the two pups in the tub, we have an assembly-line system that seems to save so much time.
E gets in the tub with the pups and he washes their backsides.
I stay on the outside and I wash their faces and their fronts.
When they're done, we take them out and we each take an end to towel them dry. 
I clean their ears and E cleans the tub.
It really seems to work much more quickly, and there is a lot less separate bending down and getting back up.

The After-bath
The pups' favorite part of the bath is that at the end they know they get a handsome reward.
Something like a meaty bone. Or an apple. Or even coconut oil (they love it so much!).
It's easier if they are both released at the same time to get the handsome reward because if one of them gets to go earlier, they get excited. Which makes the other dog excited and more likely to make a tub jump.

It has just become easier for us to toss them both in at the same time.
Does anyone else wash multiple pups at the same time?

Training your dog to enjoy the bathtub
Where it began.
This happened

Monday, February 2, 2015

SociaBulls: Reinforcing the Human-Dog Connection

While we all having different reasons for walking with our SociaBulls group, we love hearing the individual stories from each of our members. 
You may recognize this handsome face as Vegas: one of Miss M's many boyfriends (remember their date, here?)
When Vegas and his person moved to Chicago, they joined the group to make friends. Though after a few unsettling incidents at the dog park, and the deflating feeling of 'breaking your dog', Vegas and his person were able to use the structure and non-judgmental environment of SociaBulls to rebuild their confidence and reinforce their human-dog connection. You can read their story below:

I always knew I wanted a dog, but I waited patiently until my life was stable.  I'm a logical research-minded food scientist, and I approached finding my companion that way.  For almost eight months, I poured over literature/web articles/vet advice about choosing the right breed for your lifestyle, using a breeder/shelter dog/rescue (I actually didn't know what a rescue was when I started), adopting a puppy/adult/senior, etc.  I finally decided on a Doberman and started searching shelters, stumbled onto a Doberman rescue, and picked out my buddy.  I remember walking into this huge barn lined with crates on both sides, each with a dog.  As the door was opened, the dogs all started barking like crazy, except the first crate-- the dog in that crate stood up and moved to the front with his nose pressed against the bars, calmly trying to sniff me. That was Vegas, and I took him home that day. 
Soon after, I moved to Chicago.  I found Chicago Sociabulls while searching for like-minded dog people.  I joined to make friends because my dog didn't really have behavioral problems. It helped that I could identify with the "bully breed" reaction after seeing countless people cross the street rather than walk near Vegas.  I liked the idea that we could be a part of a group that provided a judgement-free, no pressure environment that helps change the perception of an often maligned breed.  Since Vegas and I were going to walk anyway, I thought that we may as well explore parks in the Chicago area and maybe make a few friends along the way.
Our first year in Chicago, Vegas was bitten by other dogs four times, two of which required surgery. All of the bites occurred inside dog parks, with only one or two dogs present. I started skipping the dog parks.  The more I avoided dog parks, the less time Vegas spent around other dogs.  The less time around dogs, the more reactive he became when we encountered one. He started growling if a dog spent too much time sniffing him, and would occasionally bark if an approaching dog made hard eye contact.  I was afraid he would become more and more reactive, and he's 80lbs of muscle (for perspective, you should know I'm 5'4" on a good day).  Because of the research I did, I was aware that his reaction was probably because I was tense, but I struggled to relax nonetheless. 
During this time, Sociabulls was critical in getting us through the rough patch.  I knew I could go and not have to worry about explaining to someone why I would prefer they not let their dog meet mine, which helped me relax. There is some inherent feeling of embarrassment in admitting that your dog has "issues". For me, it was worse because I had a well-adjusted dog to begin with-- I felt like I broke the dog. 
 I could count on Sociabulls members to listen to my concerns and stories without judgement, and with a sense of humor that can only come from a place of camaraderie and empathy. While avoiding dog parks and other dogs, Sociabulls became the only dog-dog interaction Vegas had, and since these walks were consistently a positive experience, I built up my confidence again, and Vegas regained his calm, cool demeanor. I learned to read my dog's posture and body language so I can control his environment to avoid negative experiences, and as a result we learned to trust each other more.  He knows I will remove him from situations he doesn't like, and I know that he will give me time to do so before resorting to growling or barking.  Now we sport that blue Sociabulls bandana with pride and Vegas can do things like go on doggie dates and host other dogs on overnight stays without issue.  
Every day brings new experiences, and each new experience shapes us and our pups.  Sociabulls is our "home base", a place where we can reinforce the human-dog connection that is so crucial to how we cope with these experiences... after all, we are always work in progress.
Thanks for sharing your story!

Plus, join our Chicago SociaBulls  Facebook page for more photos and information about group walks. And check out the Hikabulls page where we first learned about the benefits of group walking.
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