Tuesday, April 30, 2013

City Dog: Navigating Crowded City Sidewalks with Dogs

After spending all winter walking like this, you can imagine how excited we were to get out in some nicer weather.
I think the entire city of Chicago was too.
While we always love the energy of people flooding the parks for impromptu picnics, restaurants opening their alfresco dining spaces, and seeing everyone out and about, this also makes our routine family walk an obstacle course as we need to dodge dogs darting out from behind patios, adolescent pups rushing to eagerly meet our dogs, and afternoon drinkers rushing to pinch the pups' cheeks.
We were a bit out of practice, but this is how we've been picking up our Spring Training:

Treating all Walks as Training Walks
We are consistent treating all of our walks as training walks. Our pooches have focus, they walk at our side, they sit at corners, and we bring treats to mark positive behavior. We don't allow our dogs to meet other dogs during walks because it can be too exciting and it can be dangerous to play on leash, not to mention the importance of positive dog introductions!  Since our dogs know the routine, and our expectations, they remain calm on walks.

Working on Check-in's
We spent the winter working on check-in's with our dogs where we would bring really good treats that we would give them each time they would look back at us while we were walking. Though they sometimes take it too literally, and you can see Miss M nearly moonwalking as she just wants to look at me the whole time to earn more treats, this has been really helpful during distractions. These are really helpful when working with distractions. We associated barking dogs with a check-in, so instead of getting excited the dogs look back at us and we are able to pass by without  problems. This has been especially helpful as we've been walking by many outdoor dining spaces with barking dogs darting out of the patio.

Mixing it Up
Our pooches still get a bit excited by the people (Miss M loves to get petted!) and other dogs (Mr. B gets a bit nervous). To desensitize them to distractions we continually practice our training in these crowded areas. Each time we try it a bit longer, but it helps our pups focus on us even with all the excitement going around.

These are some things that have worked for us.
How do you adjust your walks as things are getting more crowded outside?

It took us a long time to be able to do this and this.
But now they're able to do things like this.

Monday, April 29, 2013

SociaBulls: The All-Dog Walking Group

Maybe it's because there are a lot of pit bull-type dogs in our group.
Or maybe it's because of our name.
But many people think we are a pit bull-only group:
We know all dogs can benefit from positive, structured socialization, and we love having all types, sizes, and breeds of dogs in our group.
Our members range from a 7 lb Chihuahua to an extra-large Great Dane.
As pitbull owners, we know what it's like to be excluded. We love how our group is so inclusive.
And our dogs are just dogs walking together.
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.

Who we are.
Small guy.
Owners helping owners.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Pooches: The Rat Problem

Several months ago, A and I went on a little road trip to Ikea to buy cabinets for the office.
When we were about to leave the kids section, we heard a husband yell to his wife, "who would buy these rats?!" The cheap little rats sounded like the perfect new friends for Mr. B. Thinking that they were about to be sold out, we quickly turned around and zigged and zagged with our cart through multiple families to get to the enormous bin full of rat stuffys. 
Though A has an issue with our numerous rats in the alley, she has no qualms about finding random rats laying around our home. Everyday, we will find one hanging out in a different part of our home telling where the pooches have been.
The only disgusting thing is that Miss M loves chewing and licking the rat tails, so if we step on rat tails the bottom of our sock or bare feet will be soaked in cold Miss M saliva.
Despite this fact, we know how much Mr. B loves his new friends, and endure the wet socks for his happiness.
Plus, they are the perfect friends for both Miss M and Mr. B, though sometimes they want to love them at the same time.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

DoggyStyle: The 'Not Fun' Side of Dog Organization

Sometimes it can be a struggle to keep my own stuff in order, let alone managing things for the pups. We're always so busy thinking about the fun side of dog gear, that sometimes it takes things like this to remember the not so fun things we need.
Here are some things we've learned about keeping dog paperwork, medicine and daily safety essentials in order:

Dog Paperwork
Mr. B takes baths more than he does paperwork
I remember signing up for a training class and being asked to supply proof of spay neuter (from the rescue group), current vaccinations (from the vet), rabies (from a different vet), proof of prior training classes (certificates) and scrambling to find all these different documents and make copies.
So we made it electronic.
We just scan all of our documents and keep everything online. It's much easier to be able to email the documents, print everything out from one electronic file, and keep it with us at all times via our iphones.

First Aid Gear
Ever since this happened, we became painfully aware of how we need to stock up our dog first aid supplies. We now have an entire drawer devoted to hemostatic bandages (to stop bleeding), gauze, antiseptic spray, Neosporin, Benadryl, and Gas-X.
We have also realized that not all cones are made alike and we keep 3 different types of cones so we're ready for whatever type of wound they might need to be protected from. We wrote more about it, here.

City Dog Walking Essentials 
With so much going on in the city, I find I need supplies even for a short jaunt outside. We have gotten things down to a science where we keep supplies in separate bags for our separate types of walks: an Everyday Short-Walk bag, a Family Walk/ Festival bag, and an Overnight/Weekend bag.
We wrote more about it, here.

I know we're still missing a lot.
I'm curious to hear how everyone else organizes their essentials. And especially, what do you keep in your dog first-aid kit? 

Fun Dog Organization!
Who knew car safety could be so hilarious?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

How to Be a Tourist with Dogs: Chicago "In One Day"

We've written before about how E and I aren't really museum people, and most of our vacations are spent walking around, eating, and exploring the city we're visiting. We always talk about how much more fun things could be if we included the pooches, though we suspected some things might be limiting. On our latest downtown adventure, we found the perfect balance of exploring Chicago with our pups. In true Frommer's style, here is our version of the "In One Day" tour:

Hotel Home Base:
When people asked us about dog-friendly hotels in Chicago, we never really knew what to recommend. Though after a recent experience with the James Hotel Chicago, they have become our go-to dog-friendly hotel. The gladly accepts all sizes and breeds of dogs and the staff is beyond friendly always giving the pups a friendly pat and running to grab the door for us. They provide dog beds and food bowls. The hotel is also in a really convenient location near north Michigan Avenue across from the Trader Joe's (perfect for picking up extra dog treats, people snacks, and inexpensive late-night bottles of wine). It's also near Chicago Avenue which is the entrance to the lakefront path and within short walking distance to all the activities described below so you can always make quick trips back to rest at the hotel.

Morning Walk to Navy Pier:
Start with an early morning walk to Navy Pier. Since things were less crowded downtown at this time, you can walk down Michigan Avenue taking the Illinois underpass over to Navy Pier. Usually Navy Pier can be unpleasantly filled with crowds, but if you go in the early morning you will be able to beat the crowds with plenty of photo opps and views.
You can pick up an (overpriced!) Chicago hot dog from a cart and check out some of the best skyline views in the city. See more of what our pups did at Navy Pier here, including a video from Mr' B's camera. 

Lakefront Walk:
After spending the morning at Navy Pier, take the lakefront path back towards your hotel. The lakefront spans over 18 miles passing along several neighborhoods along with skyline views. If the weather is nice out, you can even plan for this. 

Mag Mile Shopping:
If your dogs are tired, spend some time resting back at the hotel. Otherwise, you can do some dog-friendly shopping along Michigan Avenue. The Nordstrom's building is dog-friendly (with the exception of the 4th floor with the food court) and it even has a water bowl and treat stand in the back near the Nordstrom's entrance. We've also seen dogs walking through the Bloomingdales building at 900 North Michigan, we just need to doublecheck their dog policy.

After all of the new experiences, walking, and mental stimulation, our dogs were exhausted and they were happy to eat in the hotel while we went out to dinner by ourselves. If you aren't comfortable leaving your pups alone in the hotel room, head over to Portillio's for the best Chicago-style hotdogs, or  M Burger . Knowing how dangerous it can be to leave our dogs outside a store unattended, one of us always stays with the dogs while the other picks up food. (We wrote more about it here).
Or it's always fun to stay in the hotel with movies and room service.

City Lights:
Head out for one last night walk with the pups to see the city all lit up. Stop by Ghirardelli's for some caramel salted hot chocolate or ice-cream and check a less crowded Michigan Avenue. If your pups are interested in meeting people, walk by the Rush and Division street area. At night the area is known for drunken debauchery; someone even tried to grab Miss M's tush when she was walking there!
We also wrote more about nighttime adventures, here.

These are our recommendations for a 1-night downtown stay with your pups.
What would be your favorite part? And any locals have any other must-see's?

What we learned about staying in a hotel with dogs.
If you had a second day... 
Winter (with hats!)
We always love these staycation ideas

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Pooches: Is There a Certain Age?

Miss M has always been a bit excited.
When I first adopted her, she wouldn't just pick up a toy to play with, but she had to leap across my apartment like a puma.
Every attempt to give her a bath became an episode of the roadrunner and coyote.
And she just couldn't handle....everything:
Though routine and training classes young Miss M became manageable.
Though she still had that youthful overexcitement.
Seeing how young Miss M had the personality of 2 dogs, when we were looking to adopt our second dog we decided to go older. At 5 years old, Mr. B was just Mr. B.
I think it was after Miss M turned 4 that she lost that adolescent edge. She stayed still long enough to give her a bath. Now they both stay still long enough to take baths together.
The other day one of our SociaBulls friends, who has been dealing with a similar case of excitement, asked if there was a certain age when dogs lose that adolescent energy and just become calm.
We know all dogs are different, and even at 9 years old Miss M still can be a bit too excited at times:

Have you found there is a certain age when your pup becomes less excited?

This was the training command that changed my life!
We are so glad we learned this secret.
Our most popular aging post.

Monday, April 22, 2013

SociaBulls: On A Dog Support System

I always talk about how when I first adopted Miss M I felt like a failure.
I couldn't figure out how to walk her.
At least a couple of times during a walk she would turn around and start playing tug with her leash.
And she would usually win.
Plus, I couldn't figure out why she was always looking at me like this.
It is always hard to admit when things aren't going well, and at the time the only dog friends I had seemed to have it all together.
 I've realized one of the most positive parts of our Chicago SociaBulls group  is that it has become a way to meet so many like-minded owners. Especially since city-living can offer so many obstacles, it has become a positive resource meeting people who have gone through something, or know something.
Plus all of those other conversations about food, trainer recommendation, boarding options, and dog clothes (of course!).
What are some ways you've become a part of a dog community? 

This is her latest struggle.
This happens too.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Pooches: Miss M Wears a Cast

We were all excited to see Miss M coneless, though not Miss M.
Miss M enjoyed all of the extra pity-attention she received when she had her large plastic cone on short walks and the pillow cone on our longer walks. She was happy to see people run up to her and offer pets of comfort all because she had a little bump on her tush.
So she decided to break a nail. And only Miss M can break a nail in such a dramatic way to end up in a leopard-print cast.
And fainting was involved.
In her excitement for breakfast, Miss M decided to do a 'twirl of joy' before trotting down the hallway. Next thing we know, there was a trail of blood in the hallway.
Then when we reached the main room it looked more like a murder scene.
It turns out, Miss M snapped her toenail clean off. And since the quick is connected to the vein, it was bleeding everywhere.
Lucky for A, she is married to a man with nerves of steel, who works closely with blood, dissections, and even teaches a whole blood spatter unit.
A was holding Miss M still, so she could put pressure on her paw to stop the bleeding, and she was also trying to catch Mr. B who was still excited about breakfast and running in the blood puddles, I ran to our bathroom to find some hemostatic gauze or something to cauterize the wound. 
On the way back, I found her nail on the floor.
All 1.5 inches of it.
It felt kind of like finding a finger that was cut off.
Upon finding the nail, the world started turning pitch black and I started sweating profusely. Before I know it, I'm laying on the ground in Miss M's blood. Meanwhile, A is putting pressure on Miss M's paw to stop the bleeding and holding Mr. B's collar to stop him from running all around the blood, and she is calling out to make sure I'm okay.
After all of this, Miss M was not quite pleased with her tiger-print cast, she thinks it clashed too much with her brindle coat:
and she preferred the cheetah print much more:
Which she even let me sign:
We didn't realize that losing nails were so dramatic, or so common! Has this ever happened to anyone else?

Because Miss M is adaptable.
She just can't handle it.
Sometimes this happens.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

How to Be a Tourist with Dogs: City Poses

Anytime E and I go on vacation, we spend most of the time just meandering around, taking photos, and eating. Which is actually the perfect type of vacation to take with pups. While we've been wanting to take a city vacation with the pups, we realized it's just easier (and within our budget!) to meander 2 miles down the road to the heart of downtown Chicago. Where there are plenty of photographable locations, and models to pose in front of them:
Because don't the typical buildings look that much better with a cute pup in front of them?
This and this are what we really can't wait for!
Of course, we love to put it all here.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Pooches: On Stuffy Carcasses

When we first adopted Mr. B, he loved to tear up his stuffies and we had to live with random stuffy carcasses around the house. At first it was out of control. We would have random legs, heads and sometimes destuffed whole bodies strewn across our living room and bedroom.
Finding random stuffy parts dropped significantly when A taught Mr. B to be gentle with his friends.
During our training, sometimes Mr. B will go through spurts and he would start destuffing his stuffies. One issue we face is knowing when is it time to throw out the random parts of stuffy that we find around the house.
Several years ago I bought Mr. B a stuffed spider on a whim and it lasted only a few minutes. The bad thing was that the spider was a bit more than we typically spend.
Since it cost so much, we could not part with the body parts.
The good thing was that one stuffy became a set of 9 new stuffys: 8 legs and 1 body.
But after that we would randomly find stuffy spider legs in our bedroom. Much to my dismay, A decided to start throwing out the legs and after a number of years, she finally threw out the body. Just like Mr. B, I cannot imagine parting with any stuffys, but according to A there comes a time that we must all part with things, including Mr. B and his destuffed stuffys.
How do you know when it is time to part with a stuffy carcass?

How to teach your dog not to destuff stuffies
Stuffies on a walk.
Stuffy doctor.
Here is where they stay.

Monday, April 15, 2013

SociaBulls: Derby Has Always Been a Flopper

We really love how our Chicago SociaBulls group has so many different dogs that walk, for so many different reasons. Though so many times when people see the dogs in the group, they don't realize the stories behind the pups who walk with us. Derby is a gorgeous white pup, with a glamorous pout, that you may have noticed in so many of our walk photos. While she is always so happy walking with the group, while speaking with her person, we learned about the many challenges she'd had just getting Derby to walk. Derby used to spend half of her walks just flopped on the ground. While her flopping was what caused her family to fall in love with her, it soon became a problem on her walks. See how Derby evolved from a flopping dog who needed to be carried, to happily walking among the group. 
Derby has always been a flopper (wet noodle) since we adopted her at 6 months old.  She flopped onto my lap in the adoption room at PAWS and made it impossible to not want to bring her home with us.  On our walks she would flop if she didn’t want to go a certain direction and would not move until she was ready.   Not even treats could get her to budge. 
More often than not she flopped because she had seen another dog.  She would flop so she could try to meet any dog she set her sights on. This was cute when she was still a puppy and she was still light enough that we could pick her up and go on with our walk.   
It is important to note that flopping generally only occurs when I walk her and not my husband. 
As she grew I looked very funny trying to carry a dog that weighs half my size just because she wouldn't walk.   
Most people would stop me and ask me if she was sick or tired when we were only a few blocks into our walks.  On some occasions I have been stuck in one spot with her for a good 20- 30 minutes.  This would lead to me having to call my husband or a friend to come to wherever I was so she would finally move when someone she knew approached.   If I was lucky a dog would walk by that Derby would want to follow so I could at least get her moving in any direction.  Often it was in whatever direction didn’t lead towards home and there was still the risk of her flopping again.
When she turned two things got worse. People had told us that sometimes dogs change when they turn two.  We experienced these terrible two’s with our dog Derby for over a year.  She went from flopping because she wanted to meet other dogs to flopping and lunging at dogs she didn’t care for.  She would also try to jump on runners. I dreaded every walk because they were so unpredictable.  She became leash reactive to dogs and runners.  Anytime I took her on a walk I prayed we wouldn't see people, dogs, or people with dogs.  This was very unlikely in most neighborhoods in Chicago.
We had no idea where to turn because we didn’t want to admit we were having such problems with our dog.  In the safety of our own home she was just a big cuddlebug and lap dog who loves people. My husband started reading Two Pitties and also applied for Sociabulls.  Before our name came up on the wait list, things got even worse and we sent Derby for a two week board and train at Found. The trainer explained that Derby was flopping because she viewed seeing the dogs as a special event and was focusing more on the world around her than on her owners. She needed to be provided with more mental stimulation, more exposure to dogs, and needed to work on focusing on us instead of everything else on her walks. We saw a lot of improvement after those two weeks at the board & train. We were hoping to use Sociabulls walks to continue our training with Derby and were lucky enough to have her name come up on the waiting list after her training ended.  The hope was getting Derby more socialized would help her on our daily walks.  
Our very first Sociabulls walk we asked to be placed in the back because we were certain she would flop when she saw all the other dogs around her.  We have been pleasantly surprised since joining; Derby has been able to be in the middle of the pack without flopping and she usually barely pays attention to any of the dogs.  Derby has not had any jumping incidents with runners since we joined.  While Derby is still far from perfect, we've learned so much about what she needs to make her successful on walks and the importance of meeting new dogs the right way.
Sociabulls has given us so much more than a weekly walk to help socialize our dog going through the terrible two's.  We have gotten a place to share Derby's successes and also people to commiserate with without judgment about our dog's worst days.  Derby has gotten to be a pitbull embassador and hang out with Ms. M & Mr. B at festivals (photo here!). We were lucky enough to have Stickers owner, from La Familia Green,  make the table numbers for our recent wedding that were Derby’s likeness. 
The group even brought us together with Derby’sfoster mom and we got to see pictures of her right before we adopted her. We feel so lucky to be part of such an amazing community.
Thank you so much to Derby's people for sharing her 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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