Dec 112012
 

We know how important walks and exercise are for our dogs, though when it gets like this, even they don’t want to be outside. This last rainy weekend reminded us of some things we do to keep our pups from going stir-crazy indoors. Though maybe I’m the one who’s going stir crazy?

Hide-and-Seek

This was always my favorite thing to do with Miss M when we were bachelorettes together. I put her in a sit stay, pick a hiding spot, and yell “Come”! When she finds me she gets a really good treat. The funny thing is our dogs are really bad at finding us, and it’s funny to hide behind doors and watch how they can’t figure it out. Predictably, Miss M will always immediately go look in the place I was hiding the last time. Maybe she’s not so clever?

Dog Puzzles

We had always been curious about dog puzzles, so someone gave us this Nina Ottosson Dog Miracle Interactive Toy. Our puzzle has tiers and you can hide pieces of food under each bit. You can make it harder by interlocking the pieces, or requiring the pups to lift up a piece to get to the food. Mr. B doesn’t quite understand and he thinks the idea is to grab each piece and bring it back to his tepee. I think you can probably get the same type of mental stimulation from a food dispensing device.



Mental Games (While Watching the Game!)

We wrote before about how practicing sit-stays on benches and elevated boxes helps them work on willpower and it can be mentally exhausting. At least some of us can ‘exercise’ while watching afternoon football.

We know our dogs are a bit older and don’t have the endless amounts of energy that some other pups have.

We are curious to hear what other people do when you can’t go outside. 

PS. One of our friends who loves going outside on walks will be recovering from a double ACL surgery. If you have any ideas about keeping an energetic dog calm and exercised while recovering, let them know here.

Also:

Miss M’s Scavenger Hunt

How to Fully Exercise your Dog with Shorter Walks

Our Favorite Winter Ritual

Nov 062012
 

We all know how important exercise is for a well-rounded pup, and we’ve always depended on our Daily Walks to give our dogs the physical and mental stimulation they need. Though, as the weather has been getting colder, even the dogs don’t want to be outside. Here are some things that have worked for us to fully exercise our pooches even when we’re on a shorter walk.

Making the City Your Obstacle Course

Our dogs expend more energy by running, climbing and jumping, so we’re always on the lookout for standard city-fare to use as obstacles. Our pooches do weaves around trees, jumps over benches, and even just doing step ups on the raised stairs that line the sidewalks. (We do consider our pooches’ joints, and make any hops or jumps low.)We like to think of it as the pooches’ version of parkour.

Including Mental Challenges

Practicing training is always a good way to mentally exhaust our pups, and we’ve learned how practicing sit-stays and down-stays on elevated objects is a good way to give them confidence while practicing willpower. When we find abandoned benches or raised barriers, we spend a couple of minutes practicing our sit stays before moving on. The added bonus is there are so many distractions outside in the city which makes it even better practice.

Backpack Training

We love how using the backpack keeps our pups focused by giving them a ‘job’, plus carrying a bit of extra weight can be a bit more exhausting if you’re going on a shorter walk. Here are some other ways Mr. B uses his backpack. 
What are some other ways you’ve learned to tire out your pup when you aren’t going on longer walks?


Also:
How we practice mental exercises in our home
Mr. B carries our groceries
Tricks on Walks

Oct 232012
 

The very first day I had Miss M in my home, we had a dog visitor. A small, curly-haired excitable visitor who showed up with my friend unexpectedly at the door, came in and played with all of Miss M’s toys, drank her water, and ran around our small apartment. Nothing happened, but looking back I now see how it probably wasn’t a good idea to have our small dog party when I had no idea of either of our dogs’ triggers or comfort levels. Since I know all dogs are different, and have different tolerance and selectivity, here are some things that have worked for us to make sure all of our dogs and guests are comfortable:

Greet Your Guest Outside (For a Proper Introduction!):

The one thing I always remember from The Lost Boys was how I needed to be careful of who I “invited” into my home (no vampires yet!). Now I’ve learned how important it is for the resident dog to “invite” guest dogs into their home. We make sure to do a proper introduction  on neutral turf and if it goes well the pup walks back with us to our home. We make sure that our dogs lead the way, walk up the stairs first and walk in the door first. We keep the leash on the visiting dog and allow them to check out the place. We also work to keep excitement levels down and discourage any rough-housing with space.

Cleaning Up and Removing Temptation:

Sure we do a quick-clean when we invite human guests over, but I’ve found it even more important to do it for dog guests. Knowing all dogs have different tolerance levels, we make sure to pick up all toys, bones, food and water bowls to eliminate any chance of resource guarding.

Mr. B even helps out by hiding his beloved stuffies.

Being the Good Host Dog

 Before we invite a guest dog over, we make sure that we do have a ‘back up space’ in case the chemistry isn’t right. If any of the dogs are uncomfortable, we just remove our own dogs from the situation. Sure Miss M will sing and complain, but we know our guest dog is in a new environment which could be stressful to them, plus, Miss M will get over it.
What other things have you done to successfully integrate pups into your home?
Also:

 

Oct 152012
 

For everything that Miss M can do well, she does have one kryptonite: people. She loves people so much that every time she sees them she gets so excited; it’s almost like she’s about to burst! The problem is, we live in the city and we are always seeing people. So this will happen a lot. She has come a far way from launching herself like a stallion and making hungry-gemlin noises, but for some of you who have met her in person know: she is a work in progress. Here are some things we learned to keep our excitable dog calm when meeting people:

Practice Sitting in Squares:

When I first adopted Miss M we would practice going to busy areas where we were just on the edge of the action. Our favorite haunt was the main square in the Lincoln Square neighborhood where we could just hang out and watch the people. While initially Miss M was so excited to meet people, she would eventually calm down and get used to being around the people without being excited. She would eventually associate it as being a calm area, and she was allowed to have people approach her without being too excited.


Reinforce in a Controlled Setting (And no Treats!):

Since it can be so hard to control strangers’ interactions, I used to stage set-ups where I would have friends meet up with us, but they were only able to reward her with petting if she was behaving appropriately. I also started a rule that other people weren’t allowed to give her treats. She was already so excited meeting people, when we allowed other people to treat her she thought ALL people were going to treat her. For her the petting was enough of a reward, and treats would only make her more excited.


Make Their World Big:

We take our pooches out to Farmer’s Markets, street festivals, parades, stores, and parks. We expose them to a lot of experiences so they become accustomed to all the strange sights, sounds and people in the city. We can walk under the thundering El train, have gotten caught in a zombie walk, and even had drunk people try to put sombreros on the pooches. Exposing them to everything helps them stay calm in all kinds of situations.

We are lucky Mr. B is always so calm, but Miss M will always be a work-in-progress. What are some other things you’ve found to work with your own pups?

Also:
Sitting in squares with dogs
Our favorite example of Miss M behaving appropriately (watch the 1st video!)
Visual image of over-excited Miss M

Sep 272012
 

This is Mr. B.
Mr. B lives in a tepee.
A tepee without a door.
Each day when we leave Mr. B is sitting in his tepee.
Each day when we return Mr. B is back in his tepee.
He must have been there all day!

Sometimes, when I’m coming home, I can look up and see Mr. B like this:

I will point and wave at him.
He will look back at me. But when I come upstairs, he is back in his tepee. Like he never moved.

Poor Mr. B. He thinks that we don’t know he doesn’t stay in his tepee all day.

In case you missed it:
Why Mr. B lives in a tepee.
The story of Miss M and the incriminating pillow

Sep 112012
 

I know a lot of people have the misconception that it’s really hard to be a single dog-parent, and for that reason they wait to adopt. Though there really is a special relationship between a single person and their dog (Miss M and I have so many Bachelorette memories together!).
We love how Stanley’s person has put so much thought into how to be a successful dog parent. Here is their fantastic guest post, and some things that work for them:

Having a dog by yourself is an entirely different world than having a dog with another person.  The sole responsibility falls on you.  It can be tough.  There isn’t that other person that can take your pup out when you are stuck late at work, or want to go to an impromptu dinner with friends.  The financial burden is yours alone to bare if something unexpected happens.  You have to get the struggling pup, covered in mud, into the bathtub on your lonesome.  It makes sense while people often wait until there is another person around to share this responsibility.  It can be a lot by yourself.  Even though I would strongly caution to think in depth about whether or not you can manage a dog on your own, it is entirely possible.  Tons of people do it and do it really well!

In June I adopted my dog Stanley from New Leash on LIfe. Over the past few months, I have quickly learnt some crucial steps in puppy singledom. I have outlined some things below.  They are things that I have found that work for Stanley and me in our particular situation.  

Creating a Canine Community

 One of the most important things I was able to do with Stanley, from the beginning, was to create an extensive canine community.  I suckered people into being really invested in him.  I talk about him all the time, update pictures on facebook constantly, have play dates, etc.  Basically, I network my dog.  Stanley has an extensive community of chosen family, many of which have keys to our apartment and know how to walk him/feed him.  This is crucial in moments when you can absolutely not get home on time.  Stanley has a handful of uncles, god-parents, emergency contacts, best friends, and kinships.  Fortunately for me, I have a very people friendly dog who will let anyone walk him.  I also am lucky to have close reliable (dog loving) friends who live nearby.  Find those people who want dogs and for some reason or the other can’t have them.  In my experience, they get just as much out of having a dog around as you do by having the extra help. 


Planning Activities 

 Not only am I a single parent, but I am also a single parent that works ALOT.  Which means after I work I want to come home and hang out with my pup.  It is difficult to balance still being social and not feeling guilty for leaving Stanley at home all day and then at night.  Occasionally, this has to happen, but I try to avoid it as much as possible.  I have tried to integrate Stanely and my social life as much as possible.  I shamelessly am that person who asks, “Can my dog come?”
  1. Hosting: I try to host as much as possible.  If I have volunteer meetings I try to get people to come to my house (by enticing them with snacks and beer).  This way I still get to do the things I need to do, but also get to hang out with Stanley– and he loves having the company because of all the attention he gets.
  2. Dog Friendly Activities: Thankfully I have a lot of friends with dogs so we will try to plan doggy dates as often as possible which accomplishes many things; dog socialization, puppy time, and friend time!  
  3. Suggesting Dog Friendly Places: Try to suggest dog friendly places as often as possible.  Restaurants with patios.  Dog friendly bars.  Long walks.  Movies in the park.  Hiking expeditions. This is a lot easier to accomplish in the summer since there are so many more outdoor activities.  
  4. Dog events: Join and go to dog specific events.  Groups like Sociabulls is really helpful for this.  Dog specific environments have been really helpful for Stanley and I.  It is a concrete time that we have together every week that I know to schedule around.  Stanley gets to see other dogs and I get to see other people.  Also, it tires Stanley out and he sleeps the rest of the day which allows me to do chores, laundry, grocery shopping, etc.  

Training

I know people always harp on the importance of training.  The idea of training can sound totally exhausting and can be frustrating at times, especially if you have just worked all day, walked your dog, cooked dinner and you just want to sit and have a minute to yourself.  Yet, training has such a great long term reward.  The training process has been a great bonding time between Stanley and I.  Learning how to communicate with one another has made us closer, more efficient, and our time together more enjoyable.  Although our training is still a work in progress, having a trained dog is a lot less work than an untrained dog.  Instead of spending my time cleaning up after him and disciplining him, we can spend more time doing enjoyable things together.  

Budget

As a single parent and a non-profit worker, I often feel restricted by my budget.  Unfortunately, it is not in my budget to have a dog walker everyday or take Stanley to doggy day care.  This would be an easy solution for people with the financial capability to do this.  Stanley does have a dog walker once a week (on the day I work a really long day) and who can serve as a backup in case I do get stuck at work or want to do a dinner date after work.  For me, this is more manageable than trying to afford someone to come everyday.  Stanley is not lucky enough to be able to go to doggy day care either.  I try to compensate for this by doing those free doggy activities I have mentioned previously.  Doggy play dates, walks with other dogs and their people, sociabulls, etc.  We try to find as many free doggy activities as possible which allows me to save more money to put in Stanley’s emergency fund.  Additionally, Stanley also has puppy insurance in case something ever does happen to him.  

Being a single puppy parent can, at times, be difficult and feel totally overwhelming.  However, adopting Stanley has been the most rewarding experience.  My quality of life has sky-rocketed.  Stanley has brought so much joy and happiness to my life.  I truly can not imagine going back to being dogless.  

What are things that other people have figured out? 
Sep 072012
 

When we are out and about, we are usually with both pooches. Sadly there are times when one has to be left behind, which is always Miss M. It is funny that in the many years that Mr. B has been in our lives, he has never been left home alone, even when it is just Miss M with a vet appointment, Mr. B is there giving her moral support or maybe it is Miss M giving Mr. B comfort.
So when we are in a position where only one pooch can come along, it is Mr. B putting on his leash and Miss M going to bed, but don’t feel sorry for Miss M, the days she spends alone are dreams come true.
Miss M has a first love and it isn’t meeting new people, it is her love of food, actually her love of things she deems edible, which is almost everything. Now whenever we leave, including when we leave with Mr. B, she is more than excited to go to bed.
In bed she gets her incredible edible frozen Kong, but the excitement does not stop there. A and I go through painstaking lengths to hide treats as well as all the other treat filled Kongs around the house. Miss M’s day alone becomes a grand scavenger hunt finding treats all around the house.
Now not only does Miss M love when we leave for work, but she is more excited when we leave with Mr. B. She will run to bed and even start complaining until we give her her most favorite thing, her incredible edible Kong.

Aug 072012
 

When I first adopted Miss M, we were lucky enough to have an entire summer together before I started my new teaching job. This was a summer spent of numerous daily walks, farmers markets, and lots and lots of quality time. Little did I realize how this would be a problem when I started teaching and I would be gone all day.
Since then we’ve been very aware of balancing spending a lot of time with our pooches and making sure they independent on their own. So even though we do love showing all the things we can do with our big dogs, here is a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the not-so-exciting things we do to make sure they are still comfortable on their own.

Establish Routine

This is something we make sure to do with all of the foster dogs we’ve brought in. Even if we’re home, we keep the routine of eating breakfast, going on the morning walk, then each pooch goes to their separate crates for bed. We hide in another room so they get accustomed to being on their own and not having us there.

Loving when You Leave

 Miss M actually loves when we leave and is always trying to make us go away if we’re taking too long. We have conditioned her giving her an ultimate kong  when we leave for the day. We go through the routine of having them go to their beds, we give them the frozen kongs which take longer to eat, then we slip out the door unnoticed. The frozen kong is like a mental puzzle which does leave them tired by the time they’re finished and ready to sleep.

An Unexciting Return 

 Whenever we come home we completely ignore the dogs for at least 10 minutes and go around doing our typical things. We don’t want to get our dogs overexcited for our arrivals and departures and just make it a normal thing that we’ll be coming and going.

These are just some things that have worked for our dogs, but we know some dogs do have extreme anxiety when left alone. What are some other things you do to make your pooch comfortable on their own?

PS. Making former foster  Little Red Wilma comfortable in her crate

Jul 102012
 

Awhile ago, we were having a conversation with some high school friends who were telling us it was an inevitable cycle that once people have kids, the pets who were once the center of their lives are ignored and regulated to the basement. A mini-argument ensued that this isn’t always true, and there are always ways to prepare and make a smooth transition. So, we started talking to some of our dog friends to see how they made it work.
Gorgeous brindle Lily is part of our Chicago SociaBulls group (and Miss M’s fellow alumni!) who just welcomed her own adorable baby. We loved hearing their experiences, from ‘Lily days’, positive associations with the baby, keeping a routine and ways for Lily to be involved as she became a big sister:

When my huband and I first learned we were pregnant, we laughed, and then talked about how to tell our parents, our friends, or jobs…and our dog.

Lily (a mastiff/boxer mix) had been the center of our lives for the last 4 years. When we got married the first thing we did was seek out a rescue dog to adopt. Lily found us; we like to say, since her overall persona was WAY more than we thought we were looking for at the time. (AKA-lacked training, social skills, or restraint of ANY kind) We were that family who took our dog everywhere and couldn’t wait to get home from vacations because we missed her so much. And in return, Lily gave us unconditional love and freely shared her slobbery kisses with anyone who would give her the time of day.
Since it was us who decided to throw this monkey wrench into our relationship, we started researching heavily. Since my husband and I would scoff at those people who gave up their dog due to issues surrounding their new children, this became incredibly important to us.
How could we integrate our dog with a new baby?
 
Disclaimer: We are not experts, merely researched and tried with positive results

During the pregnancy, we would purposely do the following things:

 
1) Have Lily meet other children and babies alike. We wanted to see her reaction to little squirmy ones up to four years old with no fear. We enlisted the help of family and friends and those bacon treats she loves so much. We enforced the word gentle with her actions and treats. We gave her ample time and taught the older children how to approach her slowly. We tested her as often as we could and gave loads of praise whenever possible.2) We mentioned the baby’s name often when she was around, letting her get used to the sound of a new name in the house. We would say the baby’s name and then give her a treat if she wagged her tail or looked to be paying attention. We wanted her associating the baby’s name with positive things.

3) We kept her involved in changes. Like when we put together the crib and re-arranged a familiar room.

4) Two weeks before our due date, we had a “Lily” day-where we took her to get a bath, and cruise a few of our favorite dog stores.

Right after our baby Amelia was born we followed these few guidelines:


1) My husband brought home some of the blankets she slept in so that Lily could get her scent beforehand. 

2) We also were lucky enough to have her stay with the owner of the Dog Daycare that she was most familiar with. (Tip: If you don’t have someone that they are comfy with to stay while you spend 2-5 days in the hospital, start taking her somewhere now!) Our daycare even offered to take her whenever my labor started…which happened to be at midnight. Lily got to go somewhere she already knew-even when the chaos of us leaving that night could have easily overtaken her. 

3) My husband picked up Lily a day early from daycare and spent some time with her as a break from the hospital. (I was in 5 days due to a C-section) Then she spent the last night with friends who had a pug that Lily loved. All familiar things, all fun to her.

 Living with Baby:

Then came the longer haul. After we were home and everyone started to get settled, we noticed that Lily was pouting. Big time. She was spending a lot of time curled up in a ball and giving heavy sighs as we walked around the house. Or for lack of a better scenario, she seemed totally depressed and displaced at times. So, we compensated.

1) We made sure to always pet her when we had a free hand. We had her come with us when we took our baby anywhere in the house. She came with us for diaper changes and wherever the baby slept (which is where mommy slept), Lily slept there too. (In most cases, it was in our bed while Amelia slept in the portable crib next to the bed)

2) We tried very hard to not disrupt Lily’s schedule. Although that was impossible when she thought those 3am feedings signaled the first walk of the day and breakfast. So, we would take her out and give her a treat after the baby went back to sleep. 


3) When she would come near Amelia, lots of praise. Even when she decided to start sharing her slobbery kisses with her little bitty head.


4) We always use caution-after all, Lily is an animal. Ear tugging may be in the future, so we watch their interactions very closely for now!


Overall, these small things are what we did to make sure that both of our ‘kids’ feel comfortable and happy.  After all, we believe strongly in Amelia growing up loving animals like my husband and I did-so anything we can do to start that process from the beginning-we see as a win/win for both of their lives. 

We loved reading this and seeing all the research and effort made to make all the family members comfortable with the big change. How has everyone else’s experiences with dogs and children worked?

PS. Another friend’s experiences with two pitbulls and a new baby here.

Jun 292012
 

One of our all-time most popular posts was this one about Mr B who tries so hard. Unlike Miss M, who could run away to become a circus dog, Mr. B really isn’t the brightest pooch.
When we first adopted Mr B he took a 101 class. It took him almost all the class sessions to learn to lay down. And we knew Mr. B was satisfied just being Mr. B.

I saw that Miss M’s former training group was offering the CGC (Canine Good Citizen) class and test. The test evaluates whether a dog can be good mannered in a variety of situations. It’s something nice to have because it gives them official status for being an overall good canine ambassador. The test covers:
Can they remain calm if a stranger comes to pet them?
Are they comfortable being brushed and handled by a stranger?
Can they meet another dog and handler face-to-face without reacting?
Can they walk comfortably on a loose leash and in a crowd?
Can they be left alone while their handler leaves the room without showing anxiety?
Do they have a reliable down stay and recall?
How do they handle unexpected noises and distractions?
Sure Mr. B does well in crowded and crazy situations (have you seen this video!),but I wasn’t sure how he would do in an actual testing situation where you aren’t allowed to use treats.

We took a 3 week practice class with the final week being the test. Taking the class was helpful because beyond practicing the elements, it gets the dogs accustomed to the classroom which is full of all kinds of interesting dog smells. Luckily for us, Mr. B’s calm nature led him to do well. Our most difficult task, ironically, was the loose-leash walking. Which was actually my fault. The evaluator gives you instructions to walk and turn around (left turn, about turn, halt) and I was actually the one who couldn’t figure out the walking directions.

The other difficult part of the test was that we were testing with many other dogs in a small classroom, and all the other dogs were along the perimeter of the room. There were a couple of dogs who came just for the test, and one dog who came just that day was super-amped giving play bows, vocal cues, lunges, and hard stares to the other dogs in the room during the test, especially when they had to pass by him as they were testing. It was just a bit frustrating because we had seen how hard all of the dogs had worked during our class sessions, and it was clear this dog was an unanticipated distraction.

We are just very proud of our Mr. B, and excited that we all have letters behind our names now (Miss M became CGC a few years ago).
How has everyone else’s experiences been with CGC? Is it something you’ve taken? Or are you thinking of taking it in the future?