Friday, June 28, 2013

City Dog: How to Safely Take Your Dog to a Parade

One of the highlights of our summer, especially for Miss M, is attending Chicago's Annual Gay Pride Parade. It's incredible to see the entire community banding together to support ideas of equality and gay rights. And this is an especially big year!
Since our pups crave attention, the parade is a good way to go out and meet people. Because really,  who can resist a pitbull in a tutu or fedora?
At the same time, with the parade drawing nearly 1 million people, it could become overwhelming for some pups. There are a lot of crowds, loud noises, and drunk people wanting to grab Miss M's jowls.
We had written this post about training and exposure to make your pup comfortable attending their first parade.
Here are some things we've learned to plan ahead to keep our dogs safe and comfortable at a parade.

Scout the Parade Route:
We know that different areas of the parade might be more crowded and crazier than others. We learned to avoid the areas north of Belmont on the route which has the biggest crowds and a lot of drinking in the streets. We chose a more family-friendly area near Diversey and Clark. Here the crowds aren't as big and wild.
We are also able to anticipate the area that will be shaded for the majority of the parade. When we first arrive the area where we usually stand is sunny, which causes a lot of people to search elsewhere, though we know that it quickly becomes shady for the majority of the parade.

Mark our Territory:
It is important for us to make sure our dogs have a space to themselves if they become overwhelmed or it begins to get too crowded. We bring blankets which we spread out on the ground to 'mark our territory' so the dogs have a place to lay. While people are always trying to squeeze into little spaces along the parade route, they are hesitant to actually stand on people's blankets. Folding chairs would work well also.
We also choose spots that have outlets if the dogs need to step away or go on a potty break. The sidewalk can become very crowded, but the location we chose is near an alley where barely anyone walks.

Keeping our Dogs Comfortable:
Since it can get really hot, we make sure any costume they were is breathable. Mr. B usually wears a brimmed hat--which is a benefit since he has little fur on the bridge of his nose and it tends to get sunburned. We practice wearing our costumes at home so it isn't a new stressful thing they're dealing with in addition to the stress of the crowds and noise. And if they don't feel comfortable wearing the costume for the entire time, we will remove it.
We also make sure to bring plenty of water and we are always aware of the dogs' comfort.

If anyone is planning on attending, the pups will be watching just north of the Diversey and Clark intersection on the west side of the street. Come join us, or stop by and say hi!
Also...Miss M always has a dilemma because she is unsure of what to wear.
What does everyone think Miss M should wear: ballerina, fairy princess, angel, butterfly or queen?

The parade from Mr. B's view (watch the first one!)
How we find our costumes and make them stay on
This happens too.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

DoggyStyle: Our Outdoor Theatre

When E, Miss M and I moved in together, we had to be really strategic about our furniture set up. See, it used to be just E, but then he earned a girl and her dog (and later another pup). We decided to keep 2 couches and get rid of our TV's. 
Which turned out ok because we still found a way to watch movies and our favorite TV shows:
Miss M is still able to watch The Bachelorette
We bought a projector which we are able to use on the wall above the couch. We like that it's compact and it takes up less room than a traditional television and entertainment center, and we are able to project movies and basic channels. Plus, this helps us monitor our television viewing and only watch things we really want to watch, so we have more time for things like this
Being extra large, the pups like watching the TV too:
Bears games can be tense for Mr. B
Though the best part is that the projector is portable, and we have made it a part of our outdoor room. Having survived winters like this, it's so important for us to spend as much time as possible outdoors, so we created our own outdoor movie theatre.
 We bought an extra-long curtain rod which balances on the planks of our deck ceiling. We picked up a pair of curtains from Ikea. We had to pin the middle, and we rest the gate against it at the bottom to keep it from blowing.
We use an extension cord and have the projector balanced on the back of the couch:
It's nice that we can take our television viewing outdoors, though we are always looking for good things to watch--without cable we are a bit behind.
What are some good television series we can catch up on, or some good movies we should rent?


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Things to do in Chicago with Dogs: Pride Fest

We joke that the Pride Parade is the pooches' favorite event of the year. Since pets are not allowed to march in parades in Chicago, we have to participate on the sidelines.
This year they decided to stretch out the Pride festivities having the Pride Fest street festival last weekend and the big parade this coming weekend.
Then we discovered that Miss Foozie hosts a mini-Pup Parade during Pride Fest which occurred this past weekend, she also hosts the Pup Parade that the pooches participate in during Halloween.
This was a good chance for the pups to practice in some costumes before their big debut this weekend. Mr. B wore his favorite fedora and some beads as he documented the Pup Parade with his camera.
Miss M couldn't decide between dressing up as a fairy or a ballerina, but she remembered that she could  go as a ballerina for the Pup Parade and dress up as a fairy for the Pride Parade.   
Miss M was so excited that her current boyfriend, Vegas (unbeknownst to Vegas), was able to join her in the Miss M Pup Parade.
For her dog's hard work filming her parade, Miss M purchased ice cream for her and her dog.
Here is the video Mr. B took from his perspective:
In case you missed it:
Remember how excited Miss M was to march in this parade?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

City Dog: What to Know When Moving your Dog to the City

Before adopting our pups, I was always curious whether there was anything different about owning a dog in the city compared with where I grew up. We've been learning a lot as we go along, and trying to share what we know, and we just received this really interesting question:
What are some things a country or suburban dog can plan for when moving into the city?
Here are some things we've learned while having our dogs in the city.

Become a Walking Pro:
Living in the city can be challenging and our walks often feel like an obstacle course. From dodging food left on the ground--a disproportionate amount which seems to be chicken bones--, the sounds of the raging el train overhead, fireworks year-round, squirrels, rats, and feral cats, and crowded sidewalks filled with dogs and people.
Before moving to the city, we recommend beginning to take your dogs on regular daily walks around your neighborhood. This will give you a chance to begin working together in a comfortable and familiar environment, and you will also begin to understand your dog's triggers. Once you have identified your pup's distractions, you can also try changing up your walks so you can practice working in different settings. We've found it's helpful to treat every walk like a 'training walk' to make sure our dog is focused on us. We work on focus through regular check in's, and we wrote more about it here and here.

Start a Bathroom Routine:
With most of us living in multi-unit buildings, we actually need to prepare and take our dogs out for something as simple as a bathroom break. We developed a regular feeding routine, that has helped us with our bathroom routine. Our dogs eat twice a day: breakfast and dinner. We take them on their walks after they've eaten those meals (with a 20 minute digestion period). We don't leave water out, but they drink during their meals, and of course if it's hot outside they drink more and we take them outside directly afterwards. Besides the two food potty breaks we have a mid-day break and a before-bed break. We would recommend slowly transitioning your dog to a bathroom schedule before you move so it's more comfortable and less stressful later. We wrote more about the bathroom habits of city dogs, including what to do for late night emergencies, in our post here.

Finding Alternative Exercise:
Most city dogs don't have backyards, which can be a huge transition for dogs that are accustomed to having a lot of space and playing fetch. We have just become more strategic with the ways we tire out our dogs using a combination of physical and mental exercises.
We wrote about ways to get the most exercise on a shorter walk here.
And some mental stimulation to supplement or use during bad weather days in our post here. 
We also know a lot of city dogs that go to doggie daycare, go running with their people or hired dog runners, and walking groups. There are some dog parks in the city, though we don't like going to them for these reasons.

Be Considerate of Shared Wall Neighbors:
It could be confusing for dogs to move from a single-family home to a multi-unit building in the city. They might bark and react to the noises and sounds of other people constantly walking in the hallways. We are lucky our dogs have never been barkers, but we did have some visiting dogs that would bark at every strange sound they heard. I'm not sure if this is something they get used to, or if there can be some type of training (anyone?).
It's also important to be aware of any extra noises your dog could make and be respectful of the neighbors. It can be difficult to find dog-rentals in the city, so all of us dogowners should work to be respectful so people think well of owning dogs in apartments.
We wrote about some considerations when sharing walls with neighbors in our post here. 

Developing a Routine for the Humans:
I think the hardest transition might be getting the people accustomed to the routine. Every day we need to wake up a bit earlier to go on a morning walk, and we need to make sure we return in time to complete an evening walk. We also need to remain diligent about our training and be prepared to be outside in all types of weather.
Here are some ways we make our before-work walk quick and easy.
Here are some ways we prepare ourselves to walk in cold weather. And in the rain.

These are just our experiences, but I know there are a lot more things that we're missing.
What are some things you would recommend for country or suburban dogs moving to the city? 
Or any other questions about dogs in the city?

Renting with dogs
The most important training used for everyday city life
We don't mind not having a backyard because things like this and this make it all worth it.

Monday, June 24, 2013

SociaBulls: The 'After-Training' Experience

We've been realizing a lot of the people who see us on our walks think we're a training group.
Which we're not.
The unique thing about our group is that we are really an 'after-training' group.
We aren't trainers and we don't allow trainers on our walks. Though our group is a way to put our training into action and continue working on what we've all learned in our previous classes.
Our members have gone through classes, know their dogs' quirks and understand how to handle their dogs. And this knowledge is what makes our group possible.
We like how our group walks have become a way to continue working after the class ends or between classes with like-minded owners.
Beyond a walking group, what are some other ways people work on 'after-training'?

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.   
Please Note: As the weather has warmed up, bikers, runners, dogs, and kids have come out in full force in many of the areas that we walk. While we had previously been introducing new members a few at a time to each walk, we've decided that in order to continue to keep our group safe and make our walks a positive experience for everyone, we are putting new members "on hold" for the summer. You can still submit an application, and it will go on our wait list in the order it is received. Once things quiet down a bit more in the fall, we will resume introducing new members a few at a time to each walk, and will be contacting people on the wait list in a first-come, first-served manner. 

Owners helping owners
Exposing our hidden world
What they see

Friday, June 21, 2013

Common Things Heard at Home

I was just reading in a magazine that 94% of pet owners speak to their pets.
In our home, we speak to our pooches all the time. Much to the dismay of A, I'm usually singing to the pooches. I usually make up my own lyrics to random songs that happen to be in my head. Since we have NPR on a lot, most of my songs are based on the NPR jingles played before and after shows.
Though we like to believe that we have deep conversations with the pooches, in reality they are just a few phrases that we ask or yell at the pooches. Here are some of the more common things heard in our home:
Oftentimes when we are getting ready for bed, we find Miss M laying comfortably on one of the beds in the bedroom, but Mr. B is no where to be found. 
On these nights, you can hear us yelling, "Let's go to bed, Mr. B!" If we do find him, there have been times that he just looks at us and continues to lay in Miss M's crate
and other times it looks like he just awoke from deep slumber with his ears all crooked.
Rarely do the pooches interact, but when guests are over, it is a completely different story. This is when Miss M decides to grab one of Mr. B's stuffy and start thrashing it all around as Mr. B stares in horror.
We start yelling at her to remind her that "that is Mr. B's toy" but she doesn't care. When she gets distracted, Mr. B takes that opportunity to run and grab his stuffy, but then Miss M thinks that he wants to play tug and soon the stuffy is being tugged and torn.
We often have to grab the stuffy out of Miss M's mouth and remind her that "that is Mr. B's toy" and he is off taking the stuffy into tepee for safe haven.
Right before we go for a walk, Mr. B decides that it is the best time to run around the house and grab a stuffy to take on the walk.
He will grab the stuffy and run at full speed towards the leash, which is usually held by one of us humans. For some reason he hasn't gotten the handle of hardwood floors and he will try to stop just short of bowling us over, but all he does is slide into our legs and then bowl us over.
A few times when I have been sitting, he have tried to hop over my legs only to land on my lap. As you can imagine, we are yelling "STOP running, you can't bring the stuffy on the walk!!!"
The most common phrase heard in our house is "What, Miss M?!"
For unknown reasons, Miss M will walk around the house verbally complaining. We ask her that question and she looks at us as if we should know the answer. 
There are other times when she is praying on the ground or staring at us just looking miserable. 
During all of these times, we cannot help but as her "What, Miss M?!"
What are some common phrases heard around your home?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

DoggyStyle: Making Cleaning more Enjoyable

I know a lot of people think dogs cause more messes in the home, but we've realized having pups has actually made us cleaner. Before adopting Miss M, I never had an awareness of cleanliness. And since it was just me, I could keep putting it off. This actually meant I never cleaned. But, having our dogs I've become more aware of hair, dust, and general grime. Since we have to clean up anyway, we've learned more ways to actually enjoy cleaning (if that is possible).

Getting Vacuums that Do all the Work
I used to dread cleaning and vacuuming because our vacuum was so heavy and hard to maneuver. We decided it made sense for us to invest in a good vacuum cleaner to make our weekly cleanings easier. We bought a Dyson DC15 Animal which can get pricey, though we rationalized that many people spend money on a cleaning service, and we would actually be saving money because we would always be doing it ourselves. We found it a bit cheaper by getting a prior model online, though you can also use the infamous Bed Bath and Beyond coupon to get 20% off. The best thing about the vacuum is that it actually makes vacuuming fun. It has a clear canister so you can actually watch the amount of hair you're collecting. It's really motivating because you can actually see your work paying off as it all gets sucked up. It's also really lightweight, easy to maneuver and it has an extra long cord. The attachments are also really easy to use so you can get in the corners.
We also decided to get the Bissell Spotbot Pet Deep Cleaner in case there are any accidents on the carpet. It's really easy because you just fill it up and set it on the stain and it does all the scrubbing for you. The only negative thing we've found is that it makes one circular spot really, really clean, almost like a pet crop circle. Though it does go away after a few vacuumings.

Enjoyable Cleaning Products
Last summer we had my niece and nephew stay with us for a few days, though when my sister came to pick them up they were having a big fight; they were fighting over who would get to clean the kitchen. See, we started using non-toxic Method and Mrs. Meyers sprays which smell so good that my niece and nephew would fight over who got to use which scent. We even ran out of surfaces to clean! We also found it easier to use microfiber cloths, which according to the kids, are more fun to clean with. 

Having our dogs gives us a greater awareness of needing to clean, though I realized having flowers in the house makes me want to keep things clean. I always rationalize that it is a waste of money if everything is cluttered and we can't enjoy the flowers. Even Miss M appreciates a good bouquet.

Being Preventative
We found it's much easier to clean because we do take so many preventative measures to keep things from getting too dirty.
We wrote about how to minimize shedding and dog dirt in this post here. 
We also wrote about how we keep all of the pups' gear and toys organized in this post here.

One thing I still haven't figured out is mopping. At least with the tool I'm using, it's been difficult and miserable.
What are some recommendations people have for easily mopping hardwood floors (and how often should you do it?). 
And are there any other tips about making cleaning more enjoyable?

If you've never seen this, we actually taught Miss M how to clean up after herself
Keeping our dog-home smelling nice

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

City Dogs: Unexpected Places in the City

Most people don't realize this, but even though we live in a city with millions of people, all stacked up in the tall buildings, there are still so many quiet hidden gems in the city.
I've lived here nearly 15 years (E for longer), but it has really taken having dogs to get out and explore all the pockets of our city. Sure we love being in a crowd, but sometimes it's just nice to have some quiet, nature-filled walks. After seeing this from our friends over at  Peaceful Dog, we thought we would share some of our favorite unexpected places in the city:

Humboldt Park
Around the turn-of-the-century, the city designed a series of parks to create a refuge from hectic city life. The park is over 200 acres which includes a boat house, lagoon, butterfly and bird gardens, a small beach, tennis courts, several baseball diamonds and a lot of walking paths. The wide open spaces and boat house feel very Gatsby-esque, and it's a fun place to explore with our pups. We tend to go earlier in the morning as it has become a popular place for off-leash dogs.

North Channel Trail
Even though we have 18 miles of beautiful lakefront trails, those can become extra crowded. We like this stretch of the Northshore Channel Trail which snakes along the river and has so much foliage you forget you are smack dab in the middle of the city. The area where we start has a dog park, which means we often encounter the off-leash crew that plays outside of the designated dog park. Though we really love taking this walk during the winter where it all seems extra quiet.

Milton Lee Olive Park
So much of the lakefront trail is congested with bikers and runners passing and weaving through, it can be difficult and scary for dogs. We discovered this scenic path by chance when we were on this vacation. It's located downtown behind Oak Street Beach and it's the perfect blend of scenic views without the crowds. We were out walking during the day, and we were basically the only ones out there despite being located right on the edge of downtown.

Have other people found unexpected places while out exploring with your pup?

If you happen to have 36 hours...
Making the park like our vacation
Learning to walk in the city

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Pooches: On Off-Leash Dogs and Speaking Up

Since adopting our pups, we've realized there are all kinds of challenges and considerations when owning dogs in the city, and the other week we wrote about the 'unspoken rules for dog owners' to be  considerate of others in our community.
After that post, we received an interesting question from a reader:
"How do you guys deal with other dog owners that don't respect the actual (leash) law, let alone the "unwritten rules" like you wrote about for today's post?  
At some point, you have to walk away, but how can we all as a community keep each other and our four (or three) legged friends safe?"
The reader then went on to detail a horrific interaction she had with a woman busy on a cell phone with 2 unleashed dogs.
This is one of the most frustrating things for us because when people disobey the leash laws and give themselves extra rights, they are actually taking rights away from other people.
They are taking away the rights of people who are afraid of dogs to feel safe in their own community.
They are taking away the rights of small children, older people, people with disabilities or unsure footing to do something as basic as securely walk down a sidewalk.
They are taking away the rights of fellow dog owners who for several reasons--working on training, needing space, needing to get to work, having an older dog or a dog with an injury, not wanting to get tangled in their dogs leash. etc--just don't want to interact with uncontrolled dogs on their walks.
Just like the reader who wrote to us does, we always try to make a point to speak up and represent those who can't speak for themselves. Maybe it's because of language issues, cultural fears, or just not knowing what to say.
Though at the same time, speaking up can make people defensive and hostile. We have an on-going issue with some neighbors, who despite our explanations, continue to allow their dogs to barrel down the sidewalk in front of them. It has gotten to the point where the guy even yelled at me for 20 minutes, as I stood in the street with our foster dog to avoid them, telling me things like nobody likes me, nobody likes my dogs, his dog is more popular than our dog, and the only reason we had the foster dog was because something was wrong with it and nobody wanted him (seriously...who makes fun of homeless dogs???). Despite having many other neighbors approach us with these same frustrations, they have never said anything to the off-leash people, so the off-leash people seem to think we are the only ones with an issue. We understand it can be difficult to speak up, especially when it can become a hostile situation, though DINOS wrote this really good article about standing up for your dog.

So what does everyone else think:
"How do you guys deal with other dog owners that don't respect the actual (leash) law, let alone the "unwritten rules" like you wrote about for today's post?  
At some point, you have to walk away, but how can we all as a community keep each other and our four (or three) legged friends safe?"

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Why we need these
Comfortably introducing dogs
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