Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Pooches: Do Your Pups Wear Costumes?

One thing we love about Chicago is there is always so much to do. And we also love that there is so much to do in costume.
Sure, I never thought I would be the one to dress up my dog. Let alone my pair of 60+ pounds dogs.
But all it took was a the discovery of winter coats to open the gateway for tiaras and top hats and even wigs.
Sure, sometimes we hear the occasional "those poor dogs" where people think all dogs are miserable in clothing. Though, as we wrote in an earlier post, there are a couple of reasons we can tell that our dogs are actually happier and safer because they are wearing gear:

Keeping Warm
I never thought I would be one to dress up my big dog, but when I realized Miss M just couldn't handle rain or any temperature below 40 degrees I realized I needed to start. Since we do live in Chicago, and we need to walk in the winter, I decided to get her a coat. And it was the coat that became our gateway to sweaters and hoodies and snoods. Knowing how miserable our pups are when they are cold or wet, I think that they are actually happier wearing things.

Getting Petted
There is nothing our pups love more than meeting people. Sure, they will meet some people when we go on our walks, but when the pups are wearing clothes or costumes it gives people even more reason to approach our dogs. Which makes our pups so, so happy!
Just see what we mean here (in the bottom video) and here and here.

I know I'm a paranoid pet-owner, but since we can never leave the vet for under $150, and Miss M is prone to letting her jowl flap in the breeze , we thought it would be a good idea to get the pups some protective eye-wear so they can enjoy looking out the window (we wrote more about it here). I think it also helps that she gets attention from the cars that pull up alongside us and squeals of delight from people walking. And we're working on less jowl flapping.

Besides the reasons above, we also use gear as training tools and as a way to disarm people and open the conversation to see what pit bull-type dogs are really like.

Do you dress up your pup?

How to make sure your dog is comfortable wearing costumes
Finding coats for bigger dogs.
This happened.
Chango is our style-icon!
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Friday, October 17, 2014

Pooches: How the Pups Trick us into Not Doing Chores

The other day we had to have a talk with the pooches. We told them since we moved into a house there was a lot more work to do. 
And they needed to help out.
They were not impressed with our request. They told us since they moved into a house there was a lot more 'laying around' they needed to do.
We decided to start by having the pups help us rake the leaves.
I would rake.
And they would stand around and keep me company.
At first Miss M was upset. And she had to complain.
But then clever Miss M had a plan.
Much like Tom Sawyer, Miss M decided to trick me by being a bad worker.
She knew if she tried to eat the leaves:
And dance in the leaf piles
We wouldn't ask her to work any more. So she got to go back inside.
So we asked Mr B to come out and work.
But poor Mr. B proved to be too delicate.
He had a fear of being touched by leaves:
All of the leaves:
And he pleaded with us to let him go inside:
So we let them go inside. Miss M who was not a good worker. And Mr. B who was afraid of leaves.
And the pups got their chance to 'lay around' more often.
Anyone else have tricky pups that get out of work?

The Ultimate Trickery
Or is it this one?
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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Things to Do in Chicago with Dogs: Miss M & Mr. B Spectate at the Chicago Marathon

While I've "retired" from my Chicago Marathon running days, every year I look forward to heading out with the pups to cheer on the runners.
The race has over 40,000 runners weaving their way throughout the Chicago neighborhoods. For 26.2 miles it's a huge party in the streets with everyone banding together with costumes, high fives, and plenty of water to cheer the marathoners on.
Our pups chose their own costumes dressing as "Dapper Mr. B" and "Grumpy Butterfly".
Each year I would remember the huge rush of excitement from the crowds in the first 12 miles, then rounding a corner and hitting that spectator lull. So we like to cheer at this spectator dead-zone where seeing a huge grumpy butterfly and dapper pit bull might just give the runners that extra push they need.
It was fun cheering on the runners, and many of them told us the pups were the best-dressed pooches on the course!
And even with Miss M's pouty mug, they were able to lure some runners off the course for some pets and photo opps. Hopefully giving that extra push of motivation they needed past the half-way point.
We know how hard running a marathon can be overall, but especially if you didn't have the race you thought you would have or you find yourself at the end as everyone is packing up and you're just trying to stay ahead of the sanitation truck. It's these back-of-the-pack runners that can be the most inspiring seeing how dedicated they are to keep on going even if they don't have the crowds and fanfare.
So we make sure to stay until the end. And Mr. B watched until the end to make sure he could cheer for each and every runner.
Congratulations to everyone who ran, and thanks for stopping to say hi!

That other time we let them pick.
Miss M's personal marathon.
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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

City Dog: On Why Our Pups Don't Greet On Leash

One of the best parts of having a dog is that everyone (and their dog!) wants to meet you.
But one of the most conflicting things is trying to explain to people why you don't want your dog to meet their dog during your walk.
Most of the time, when we decline to meet other dogs during our walk, people will say things like "Oh, because your dogs aren't friendly". Which is not why we're not stopping to meet your dog.
Though in the 3 seconds I have to interact with people, I can't really explain all these reasons:

Walks are for Business
Living in the city, most people don't have a backyard and we all depend on walks for bathroom breaks and exercise.
And we're all out there. I typically see as many as 30 dogs on a single walk.
Which means, if I stopped and interacted with all of them we would never get anywhere.
And if I stopped and interacted with any of them, the pups would be accustomed to wanting to meet every dog we saw, we really wouldn't get anywhere. And they would probably stop listening on our walks as they anticipate meeting the next dog.
So our pups know our daily walks are for business and not interacting.

A Quick Greet is Not Socialization
I know a lot of people think that their dogs need to interact with the other dogs they see because this is a way to 'socialize' them. Though Our Pack does a really good job of explaining how these types of forced interactions are unnatural and can actually set up dogs to fail. (You can read their really great article here). We keep our walks to work on our training and we have other positive ways we socialize our pups.

Staying Safe
Even when dogs do greet on leash, it is very, very rare to just have the dogs walk up, sniff, and calmly walk away. Usually there is a walk up, one dog initiates play, then the pups play on leash. Besides the reasons above, playing on leash can become really dangerous. The pups can get tangled in the leashes. The people can get tangled in the leashes. Anyone tangled in the leashes can become scared and redirect. Leashes can be dropped. We just avoid this entire scenario by not having the greeting in the first place.

It's more important for us to advocate for our pups' comfort than to be forced into a greeting just so they don't think we're "not friendly".
Though does anyone have a 3 second quip you use to let people know the other side?

Ways to Socialize without Interacting
The Sidewalk Dance
How Dog Walks are like Dating
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Thursday, October 9, 2014

A Memory Home

A and I never thought that we would ever be able to buy a house in the city.
Especially a house that no one else has ever lived in.
Now that we have been here for a few months, the beauty of a flawless, untouched home is slowly fading away. And this is in large part due to the pooches.
Our once flawless floors are now riddled with scratches.
Scratches from the pooches going crazy for breakfast.
Pushing their claws into the floor as they're stretching.
Going crazy for their walks with their Dogwalker.
Running with toys.
Going crazy for dinner.
Stretching some more.
Going crazy for SociaBulls.
Going crazy for friends coming over.
Stretching again (Why do they need to stretch so much?)
Besides the floors, we have scuffs all over our walls from Miss M using our wall as a pillow, Mr. B running into a wall after snatching his stuffy from the ground, Mr. B running into a wall while going crazy for a walk.
Plus, little drips of blood from Mr. B's happy tail, and all sorts of smudges from dirty noses and toes.
On top of all that, our newly designed entry-way, courtesy of The Yellow Brick Home, has scratches from both pooches jumping up and down in excitement whenever our dog walker come for their walk.
We first thought of all the marks on our floors and walls as blemishes.
And A spent a lot of time trying to paint over the scuffs.
Magic Eraser the smudges.
And even file Miss M's nails so they wouldn't scratch as much when she stretched.
But then we realized, that these are the memories that we are all making together in our new home.
And it shows that our home is well-loved.

When you are loved for a long, long time.
And squeezed.
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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Things to Do in Chicago with Dogs: Miss M Explores Dog-Friendly Logan Square (with her boyfriend Vegas)

During one of our last trips we made the revelation that we spend a lot of money to traveling far away just to spend our time walking around and eating.
So now we just try to do this around our neighborhood, and we're able to include our pups.
Since we've moved we're still learning about our area, and it's only now that I realize how centrally located our home is. We are pretty much right on the border of 3 great neighborhoods.
We now live really close to one of Miss' M's favorite boyfriends, Vegas, and we were excited to join Vegas and his person to explore the Logan Square neighborhood on a typical Sunday afternoon.

Walking the Square and an Outdoor Brunch 
I've heard that Logan Square is one of the neighborhoods with the fewest actual parks, which is hard to believe because everything is so green. They have a huge boulevard system running straight through the streets. We love that it has that real-neighborhood vibe with so many locally owned shops and galleries. Many of them are even dog-friendly. They have plenty of outdoor dog-friendly dining, and we stopped at Reno's for some brunch (savory bread pudding!). The pups spent the time lounging on the ground next to a huge water bowl. They got lots of pets, and Miss M even met one of her fans (thanks for saying hi!).

Logan Square Farmer's Market
Every Sunday morning Logan Square has a big farmer's market where the highlight is actually the prepared food. Even for Miss M. A kind woman offered them both part of her sausage. The market itself can get really crowded and there are always a lot of dogs.

Miko's Italian Ice
I've always loved Miko's which is literally a walk-up window so you can order without leaving your pup unattended. And can you tell how much the owner loved seeing the dogs?
You can get two flavors in a cup. My favorite has also been half coconut, half chocolate so Miss M is just looking on without being able to eat any.

While Miss M was out on her date, any guesses what E and Mr. B were doing on a Sunday afternoon?

Hint here.
Our other favorite Staycations here and here. 
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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Pooches: How Often do You Bathe Your Dog?

Since we've gotten our pups, we've developed a consistent bathing routine. About every 3 weeks, just before they start smelling like Fritos, we toss them into the tub together where hilarious antics ensue:
At the same time, when I was growing up I think our dogs were washed only once a year.
And it was a huge ordeal.
We have heard that washing pups too frequently can cause skin irritation (though our pups have been fine). And we also know some pups who were like my childhood dogs that get washed on a yearly basis.
And since we get this question a lot, we'll leave it up to you to see what the range of answers are.
So, how often do you wash your dogs?


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Monday, October 6, 2014

SociaBulls: On Handling the Dogs and People Who Want to Approach the Group

While I can't always capture it in the photos, our SociaBulls walks are big. With 15+ mostly big dogs, we're hard to miss.
A lot of people are curious.
And a lot of people want to come up to meet us.
Though some of our dogs are shy, scared of people, and scared of people approaching with their dogs.
And since we live in a city and we're bound to meet people, here is how we counteract the curiosity to keep all the pups happy and comfortable.

Meeting Off-Leash Dogs (or dogs on really, really long leashes):
The biggest thing we had to consider when starting the group was how to handle off-leash dogs, or people walking dogs who want to approach us. Some dogs in the group are fearful of other dogs. And even just having that extra energy can impact the comfort level of all dogs in the group.
But, we are prepared.
We quickly figured out the concept of Dogless Walkers. Just like it sounds, these are people who attend the walks without dogs who are available to intervene if other dogs get too close to the group.
So far we haven't had a dog outside the pack approach....but there have been some close calls.  So we have a system.
1) If we see a dog near the group, someone calls it out to the rest of the group.
2) The Dogless Walker is proactive and gives a friendly wave to the person, standing in such a way that their body blocks the direct path to the group.
3) We know sometimes people can be defensive, so we always make sure to give a compliment about their dog first (Because really, all dogs are cute!)
4) Then we ask if they could just hold onto their dog since our dogs are in training and they cannot meet any other dogs right now. 
Usually people are just curious and end up asking more about the group. 

Meeting Curious People:
It's important for us to be respectful of the people spending time in the parks as well as showing responsible dog ownership in a positive way.
The group will routinely wave and call out "Good Morning" to the people we pass, who are usually receptive and excited.
Some people treat it like a parade and it's funny to hear their comments about each of the dogs as they walk by (usually nice things and about which dog they "want").
Sometimes we meet people who want to approach the group, so we use the same proactive system where we go out to them before they can approach the group. In this case we don't always need the dog less walkers, but dogs that are comfortable with people can step out to answer any questions just standing in a way that we are using our bodies to block the path to the group. 
We've noticed children can sometimes want to run out towards the dogs, so we are always proactive about stepping out first and blocking just in case.

Meeting Police Officers:
It has been nice to see our walking areas so well-served, as we routinely encounter Police Officers.
And they are among our biggest fans!
Usually they are curious about what we're doing, and if it's some kind of event. (During the winter we were even asked why the dogs were in costume). Then they almost always tell us how this is such a positive way to demonstrate responsible dog ownership. Many also have their own stories about pit bull-type dogs they often encounter, rescue, and even adopt.


Friday, October 3, 2014

Mr. B Feels Right at Home

We have shown so many photos of Mr. B with his big heart stuffy, because we just have a lot of pictures of Mr. B with his big heart stuffy in our new home and neighborhood.
Right before our move, we pared down the number of Mr. B's stuffy and only kept the ones that were not too frankenstuffy like. Mr. B still has plenty of stuffys to pick from, but his best friend since moving into his new home has been the big heart stuffy.
At all times, he is carrying his big heart stuffy from one sleeping spot to another. He will carry it up and down all of our stairs and one time he even tripped on his stuffy while coming down the stairs causing him to stumble and run at top speed trying to catch himself down the stairs but luckily for our walls, he collided into A's waiting arms.
For every walk, he will do a quick search for his stuffy and grab his heart stuffy to take on his walk. Most of the time, we pull the stuffy away and hide it while we put on his leash, but we gave in once and he carried the stuffy for almost a half mile.
Though the stuffy went through four surgeries needing well over 75 stitches, the heart is here to stay, because it is one of the things that make our new house a home for Mr. B.

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

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

City Dog: Using Our "Secret" Recall Word

While we knew there would be a transition period for the pups when we moved, we hadn't thought about how we would need to have new training and routines just because of the space itself. 
The biggest thing we're realizing right now is how living in a single-family home our front door leads directly outdoors so the pups have more potential to plan an escape:
In our old place, our front door led to the stairs in the hallway which was closed in by the main building door. So even if they left our unit's front door, they would just be trapped in the hallway.
So we got a bit lax, and we let the pups step out in the hall to welcome people into our home.
Which now means they think they can still leave our front door and step directly outdoors to welcome people into our home.
We do have a front gate, but we've noticed that sometimes when people come to visit they haven't closed the front gate completely or they are still coming in leaving it open enough for an escape. 
We also know much Mr. B loves to run:
During one of our training classes long ago, we learned how to create a secret emergency recall word. The idea is once the pups hear this word they will forgot whatever urge they have to run off and they will turn back, robot-like, and return to us.
We use a word that is "special" that we would not use in normal conversation around the dog, but is also something we could easily yell out in an emergency.
We chose the word "Yikes!".
It takes a couple of months to embed the word. We start out by yelling "Yikes" followed by "Come" and when the dogs come running they are greeted by the best food ever. And we make sure to praise them heavily.
Eventually we are able to eliminate the "come" and just use the "yikes" with further distances within our home. And we always need to make sure to have the best food.
We've been consistently reinforcing it, and we've also heard it's important to only practice when we know they will come to make sure it really would work in an emergency.

The pups are really enjoying the extra treats that come with this type of training.
Has anyone else been working with potential escape artists?

Bringing back the stay space.
We did develop this gate system so the pups are always in sight whether we let them out front or back.
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