Friday, August 30, 2013

Pooches: When Your Dog is Too Clever

I know people always say they want a clever dog, but living with one now...we're not so sure. We're guessing Miss M has the same IQ as a kindergardener (which is amazing for a dog!) as we've seen her actually think and rationalize before acting. Though it's not always fun to live with a pup who is always plotting and scheming.
Like the time I decided to teach her to 'poo on command' by treating her each time she poo-ed. Realizing she would get a treat each time, Miss M learned to 'ration her poo' and she will go just a little bit, but she now goes as many as three times on a single walk.
Or the time we were bachelorettes together and I suspected that she was sneaking out of my bedroom at night to sleep on the couch then coming back in before I woke up. One night I decided to set a trap where I hid on the sofa under a blanket and prepared to jump up and scare Miss M when she snuck onto the couch. Instead, Miss M never came out and I ended up falling asleep on the couch. Though when I went back to my bedroom I did found some wrinkled bedsheets and a few tell-tale brindle hairs on my bed. But of course, Miss M feigned innocence.
Or when Mr. B first came to live with us and she saw him playing with a toy she wanted. She went to the toy bin, picked a new toy, walked by squeaking it, and when Mr B came over to see the toy she ran over and grabbed his toy. Though now she just outright grabs the toy directly from him.
Is it better to have a clever, or not so bright pup?
Remember the time she actually told on Mr B?
And she thought she got away with this?
Fooling the camera.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

DoggyStyle: Accommodating Dogs on Furniture

If we were a sitcom, all of our scenes and storylines would take place on this 'set'. Though when we go on 'summer hiatus', we move over here.
We aren't kidding when we say the winters are so horrible we need to soak up every minute of the summer. What was once a barren 10x10 deck when E lived here in his bachelor days, has now become an over-acheiving seasonal room multi-tasking as: herb garden, al fresco cafe, outdoor movie theatre, and urban lounge escape all in one. We have even  perfected the ability to just roll out of bed to begin enjoying the outdoors.
Ever since this great debate, we have decided to give the pups outdoor furniture privileges. We took your advice and we decided to use a blanket--which has also doubled as a picnic blanket--as a quick cover to make sure the space is still comfortable for guests.
Which also inspired us to change up our outdoor room this year: adding some more vibrant flowers, making pillows out of extra serapes (thanks ebay!) and adding a layered rug. Which looks so much different than it did here.
Our pooches love being outside so much, it has been hard to convince them to come back in.

Some people think this is a terrible part of living in the city, but this is what it is really like.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Things to Do in Chicago with Dogs: Miss M and Mr. B Explore their Culture at Chicago Korean Festival

While we all have our favorite festivals of the summer, I would have to say Miss M has a distinct favorite. She plays it off as exploring her cultural heritage, but we know she is really in it for the chance to scour Kalbi from the ground and a hopeful sighting of one of E's cousins.
While we have been going to the Korean festival for the past few years, this year the festival morphed to twice it's size as it took over the streets and parking areas of Northeastern with endless rows of food options and K-pop group face-offs on the main stage and traditional music and performances throughout. 
Miss M thought she saw her Halmonee (Korean Grandmother) as part of the band:

And to make things that much more exciting, the pooches even did this later that night.

Check our Facebook page for extra photos and storylines beyond the blog.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

SociaBulls: On Group Size

Since our group has grown so much, so many of our posts have been focusing on how we're learning to work with our large group.
At the same time, between the summer heat and many members away for vacations and weddings, we've been having some smaller more intimate walks which have been just as beneficial.
Even with a handful of pups, our pooches are still getting the socialization and mental exercise of naturally walking with their peers. 
We know a lot of people who wish they had a similar group in their own city, and maybe they feel overwhelmed by trying to find a large group of people and even managing a large group, but this really helped us remember that it doesn't need to be about size, but even 2 pups walking together can be just as valuable.

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.

We are still looking for winner Lisa Marie & Milo to please contact us about winning the Ruffwear  Swamp Cooler Vest Giveaway. If anyone knows them, please tell them to contact us. If we do not hear from them by Wednesday, we unfortunately will need to draw another winner. Thanks!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Pooches:Cat Calls or Name Calling

Just the other day as we were waiting to cross the street, minding our own business, when a guy in a Range Rover swerved dangerously close to us, hanging his head out the window and yelling: "Those are some beautiful dogs!"
Mr. B blushed while Miss M nodded in agreement.
The biker waiting at the light next to us and started laughing telling us "I can't believe your dogs just got cat-called".
The funny thing is, we do get a lot of drive-by compliments.
And walk-by compliments.
And stop to give the pooch a smooch compliments. Often several times during a single walk.
What is rare is for us to hear negative comments about being pit bull-type dogs. I can probably count on a single hand how many times people have said negative things.
I'm not sure whether it's because Chicago is an exceptionally dog-friendly city, because we live in a diverse part of the city, or because perceptions of pit bull-type dogs really are changing.
Though one of our SociaBulls friends just mentioned how things are still really hard for pit bull owners in other parts of the country.
So we were curious....what is the current perception of pit bull-type dogs in your area? Do they seem to get more cat calls? Or name calling?

Thoughts for new pit bull owners
What to say.

Winner Lisa Marie & Milo...please contact us about winning the Ruffwear  Swamp Cooler Vest Giveaway. If we do not hear from you by Wednesday, we unfortunately will need to draw another winner. Thanks!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Pooches: "Oh No, Mr. B!"

A always tells me that in my eyes, Mr. B can do no wrong.
Which is true...because he does no wrong.
A likes to say, "You wouldn't let Miss M do that", whenever Mr. B does something that A doesn't approve of and I don't mind.
I really don't think that I let Mr. B get away with more than Miss M and the best example came just this past week. A and I went out on a date this past Tuesday. We did everything like always, right before we left the pooches went out to potty and we gave them an incredible edible kong.
After our great night out, we came home to a crime scene.
Someone(s) went where they were not allowed and pulled down three full boxes of cookies and ate them all. These were no normal cookies, two of the boxes were kourambiedes (almond cookies) and melomakaronas (honey cookies) from a Greek bakery on the northside of the city and the third box was a gift and it was an assortment of cookies from Mindy's Hot Chocolate. We came home to find two boxes in the kitchen with a trail of powdered sugar leading from the boxes to Mr. B's tepee, where we found the third box and a huddled up Mr. B licking his lips profusely.
The odd thing is that the pooches had all day to steal and eat the cookies while we were at work. Luckily for the pooches, they didn't get sick from the cookies and luckily for us, this forced us to keep our diet of eating healthy. Though I was initially upset since I have been craving the cookies all day, when I saw Mr. B's cuddly face I realized that it was not his fault...
it was Miss M's.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

DoggyStyle: On Building a Dog-Friendly Rug

While it has been "The Summer of Miss M and Mr B", we were also able to spend some much needed time working on some other side projects, that also happened to be Miss M and Mr. B specific.
We've put a lot of thought into creating a dog-specific entry at the front of our home, yet our back entry leading directly outside was severely lacking. A small door mat just doesn't suffice when the snow is piled high and two pups need to come inside, remove gear and wait for feet cleaning.
While we tried to pile on rugs to fit our awkward space and two waiting pups, the rugs would just slide around and bunch up.
So we "made" this:
We've always liked how FLOR tiles are pup resistant, and how it's inexpensive to replace a single tile rather than an entire rug if part of it gets dirty or damaged.
The most practical part of the tiles are that you can customize the colors, use them to make any size rug, and they can be cut to accommodate any awkwardly shaped space. E used an X-acto knife to cut the tiles to size and make a striped design.
We thought Miss M was impressed:
But maybe we guessed wrong:

We also use a similar rug here
How the pups dry their boots
Dog-specific entry
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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Things to Do in Chicago with Dogs: Miss M and Mr B go to the Chicago Fire 'Dog Days of Soccer'

Sophisticated Miss M scoffs at Mr B's exuberance
While you may not expect it, given her sophisticated ways, Miss M is actually quite the athlete. Her webbed feet, tight grip, long arms, and hyper-focused eyes make her quite the soccer goalie. E, who has played soccer since his AYSO days, is baffled by her goalie savant skills and lighting-fast reflexes. For the longest time after adopting her, I lamented not naming her Pele.
So we were all excited to join One Tail for the Chicago Fire's first ever Dog Days of Soccer event.
The event included all types of dogs sitting in a bleacher-lined section with a perfect view of the goal. 
We met up with fellow big-dog friends Blue and Vegas.  
While E has been to every sporting event in the city (even a Sox game!) we believe the Fire staff has to be the friendliest staff in the city. So, so many people came up to talk to us and make sure we were having a good time and the pups were comfortable. 
With his first soccer experience, Mr. B was both amazed and perplexed while watching the action:
While Miss M was sulking, sure she would be substituted in as goalie.
She even protested by choosing to watch the peanut shells on the ground behind her instead of the game.
We all had such a great time, and we're hoping to make it an annual tradition!

In case you missed it:

Also, we used a random number generator to chose the winner of our Ruffwear Swamp Cooler Giveaway:  
Milo and Lisa Marie who said they would: Definitely go on a hike! In California it stays pretty warm through Sept & Oct. So we have plenty of time to put it to good use :) 
Lisa Marie: Please email or message us on Facebook so we can get you your vest!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

CityDog: The Two-on-One Walking Date

Perhaps I've been watching too many episodes of the Bachelorette, but after we wrote about how dog-walking is like dating we realized how much our own walks are like the 2-on-1 date. On the show it is the dreaded episode where the two suitors are pitted against one another on a single date to win the Bachelorette's attention. The stakes are raised because they know that she only has one rose and the other contestant is heading home in the mini-van.
This is exactly like our morning walks where I'm walking our two pups at the same time. They each have separate needs and I need to figure out how to give them both attention for different reasons. Though I have plenty of treats and no one is going home in the mini-van.
It has become a bit of a delicate balance as we spend the time working on each of their different needs.
The funny thing is that each pup is a 'savant' in the area that the other pup is working on.
On our walks, we are working on getting Miss M to pee and poo on command. She has a problem where she has to over deliberate, and she can often spend an entire walk without peeing. Each time she pees or poos, we mark the behavior with a treat so she learns to do it more often. And each time Mr. B pees or poos, we will also mark that so Miss M can learn from his example. The only problem is that Mr. B is an expert pee-er lifting his leg for every weed, corner, branch, piece of trash, or blade of grass that we pass.
At the same time, Mr. B is working on focus. He is afraid of small dogs, tall dogs, dogs barking behind windows and the feral cat colony on our street, and he tries to bolt with the speed of Scooby-doo cartoon legs whenever we encounter them. We have been focusing on getting him to do check-in's so when we do see any of his phobias, he won't notice because he is too busy focusing on us. Every time he makes eye contact and checks back with us, he gets a treat. The only problem is there is a certain someone else who has an over-attention problem and every 'look at me' intended for Mr. B involves the ever-widened eyes of a certain someone who does not need to work on focus and takes it all a bit too literally. 
It involves a lot of balance and the hope that they are actually improving in their deficit and not over-improving in their savant skill.
How do other people manage the needs of walking multiple pups at the same time?

Learning to walk two dogs at the same time.
Dog Speed dating
Did you know a certain 2 familiar pups are going to be Mr. and Miss July in the Unexpected Pitbull calendar? All proceeds go to rescue and you can get 15% with pre-order (and see our calendar page!) here.
Stay tuned tomorrow where we will announce the winner of our Ruffwear Swamp Cooler Vest Giveaway.

Monday, August 19, 2013

How to Start a Dog-Walking Group in Your City: Guest Post from Seattle WalkABulls

Since we started our Chicago SociaBulls group, we've been getting a lot of questions from people about starting groups in their own areas. While we are definitely not experts, and we are always learning as we go along, we decided to ask some successful dog walking groups from other cities share their experiences.
I had become email buddies with Sandra and I was so excited to hear about the success of her Seattle WalkABulls group.  Here she shares the inspiration for the group, finding members, and some advice she learned along the way!
Seattle WalkABulls was founded in January of 2012, shortly after I (Sandra) adopted a pit bull dog named Shiloh from the Seattle Animal Shelter.  I sometimes had a difficult time while walking Shiloh for a few reason.  The main reason was that Shiloh was reactive towards other dogs.  Although his reactivity was friendly, people who witnessed Shiloh’s antics (lunging, screaming) AND already had misconceptions about boxy-headed dogs, would see his behavior as negative and perhaps a negative representation of other dogs that looked like him.

I began to wonder if there were others out there like me – dealing with a reactive pit bull dog, and with a desire to create more positive perceptions for other block-heads.  This questioning led to researching and somewhere along the way I learned about Chicago SociaBulls.  I read one "Two Pitties" blog on the SociaBull’s group structure and how they helped and supported one another.  This was exactly what I was looking for!  With Shiloh as my inspiration, and Chicago SociaBulls as my guide and mentor, Seattle was well on its way to having a community, social dog-walking group of our own! 

Our group initially took form by way of my own friends, acquaintances, and clients who had dogs.  We also kicked off with several staff and volunteers from the Seattle Animal Shelter that were there with their own dogs or adoptable shelter dogs.  The group continued to grow - social media and word of mouth played a huge role in spreading the word about WalkABulls.  We also had (and still have) "business" cards – in the beginning our initial members would hand out cards to local vets, dog walkers, daycares, or anyone we may have noticed that looked to be in need of a supportive dog-walking group.  By March of 2012 we already had 75 dog-members in the group!  Then in April of 2012, the Seattle Times newspaper heard about us and printed a short, yet sweet article about WalkABulls - things really took off after that!  Now one newspaper article, a couple magazine articles, and several dog-related newsletter and blog write-ups later, we are at just under 320 dog-members!    
Now, get out there and walk (some advice)!   
1.  I (Sandra) ran the group on my own for the first ten months, and am SO thankful to now have help with organizing walks and managing the group in general.  We are now six organizers strong - thank you so much to Jenny, Kate, Kristen, Tanya and Chris for sharing the responsibility and the fun!  If I were to do it all over again, I would have not waited ten months to ask for help!  Also, each of our organizers live in very different parts of Seattle, offering us more opportunities to host walks in about a dozen, varying locations from week to week.

2.  Once you have a strong team, even more community involvement is possible!  In addition to walking every weekend, we also do outreach with the Seattle Humane Society.  Each year our kid-loving pit bull type dogs visit the humane society’s kids’ camps - we help change perceptions about pit bulls and educate about dog safety.  Once you have a successful group going, the possibilities of what you can do with your group are pretty unlimited.  We also attend various dog and pit bull related events in our city to both spread the word and to educate the public.

3.  We do have people "apply" for our group, but this is just to ensure that they've read the guidelines and understand our group structure.  We have a strict, no-contact rule and people must commit to always be out there representing a responsible human-and-dog relationship.  The "application" also allows us to learn more about the dogs and their humans - having information like this on file allows us to put together the best possible combination of dogs. We also close the group to new applications now and then, especially after sudden growth-spurts, to ensure that our current members are getting the very best experience. 

4.  Dog-less walkers are KEY to our group's success!  Depending on our walk location, we require one dog-less walker for every 3-4 dogs (and for manageability, we usually limit each walk to ~20 dogs total).  Our dog-less walkers are there primarily to allow those of us walking with dogs to focus on our dogs.  They help to keep the group safe, as well as to keep us well represented by answering the public's questions during walks.  It can be difficult to deal with off leash dogs, wandering children, and to answer questions while also managing a dog.  We depend on our dog-less walkers for group support.

5.  Take the time to determine a successful "pack" order for each walk!  Within our group, determining which dogs attend each walk is based on both RSVP order, in combination with knowledge of each dog's individual needs.  We have at least a couple stable/neutral dogs on each walk as they make great role-models for some of our more reactive or fearful dogs.  Also, we have a few dogs that can only handle the very first position within the "pack."  In this case we take turns and rotate through to give each dog with this need an equal opportunity.  Always set each dog up for success!

6.  Don't be afraid to stand up for the group and the dogs within the group.  If someone does not have the group's, or a dog’s, best interest in mind, they should be reminded to be positive, non-judgmental, professional, respectful, and to be patient.  Some members do need to be reminded of the group guidelines and structure that they signed up for - that is okay.  You are out there setting an example for boxy-headed dogs and their humans all over the country and around the world - always keep that in mind. 

7.  Bring extra equipment!  Our walk leaders, as well as some of our dog-less walkers, bring extra leashes, harnesses, carabineers, poo bags, etc.  My personal “must have” item on all walks is Spray Shield™  – this is a non-harmful, citronella based animal determinant spray.  Although I have yet to really need to use it, it is a safe way to stop an off leash dog, for example, from making contact with any of our dogs. 

8.  We believe that the best way to show the public that pit bulls are just dogs is by including dogs with any look, size, shape, personality and sociability.  Our dogs range from a nine-pound chihuahua to a 180 pound mastiff, and everything in between.

9.  A very important focus of our group is to help those dogs in shelters, rescues and/or foster homes to get more exposure through our group, as well as to help those dogs become even more adoptable by working on leash manners.  Contact your local animal organizations, dog rescues and shelters - create partnerships.  You may find that we all have similar goals – by working together we can accomplish even more. 

10.  Get feedback now and then from your members!  Every so often we reach out and ask for advice from those who walk with us and have received some great, new ideas.  For example, we now include not only maps on how to get to a walk location, but also a map of the walk itself, to include duration, elevation gain, and trail substrate.  Also, we now do shorter, slower walks that are geared towards our older, smaller dogs, and/or their humans that may not be able to do the usual, fast-paced walk.  If you ask your members for constructive feedback, you are sure to get some helpful hints as to how to make walks more enjoyable for everyone

In conclusion, don't forget to have fun out there!  If things become more difficult than rewarding and fun, take a step back and you may find that you need to tighten up some rules, add to your organizational team, or reevaluate your mission.  Never quit - if you are already thinking about starting a social dog walking group, then you are already on your way to doing great things for our dogs

We moved from a website format to organizing walks through meetup - as we grew, we found that meetup was an easy way to keep track of walks, member profiles, and a great place to share pictures.  You can find Seattle WalkABulls on Facebook or on meetup at  Our structure, liability info, and guidelines are public information - feel free to read through and utilize any information that may be helpful in starting your own group. 

A BIG thank you to A and E of "Two Pitties in the City" and Chicago Socialbulls for the tremendous guidance and support in our endeavor to do great things for pit bulls, and friends of pit bulls, in Seattle!  
Thank you to Seattle WalkABulls for sharing!
Please let them know what you think and feel free to ask any questions in the comments section below.

You can read more starting a dog-walking group from the Twin Cities Pack Walk in Minnesota here,  Positive Pittie Pack Walk in New Jersey here,   Hikabulls in the Bay Area here and our thoughts on making a walking group work in a crowded city here.  You can also read all walking-group related posts through this link here. 
If you have a dog-walking group, and you would be interested in sharing your story, please email us using the Contact Us icon on the side of the blog.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Pooches: Miss M's FOMO

While so many have jumped on the YOLO bandwagon, it seems FOMO is the latest Urban Dictionary acronym craze. We imagined there should be a photo of Miss M next to the definition, because this "Fear Of Missing Out" defines her personality so well.
As an only dog, Miss M seemed to believe she had the perfect itinerary, but once we adopted her pet Mr. B she realized that maybe there were some things she was missing out on.
Her first big outburst of FOMO came when Mr. B and I were skateboarding and we happened to pass by Miss M walking A and her friend. As her head swiveled and she realized Mr. B was doing something she wasn't invited to do, she just could not contain her FOMO and was leaping and barking to join us. Miss M rarely barks, and this was one of the few times that we have actually heard Miss M bark when not sleeping and dreaming. 
After this realization, her FOMO became full blown. Miss M is always suspicious that we are out there doing fun and exciting things. Each time A and I come home, she will sniff us for several minutes to make sure we weren't doing anything better than her daily itinerary of eating a treat filled kong and laying out in the sun. 
If we happen to have shopping bags or boxes, she will inspect each one carefully, making sure nothing in them is better than her treat filled kong.
It is even worse if we go anywhere with just Mr. B, she will inspect him carefully, sniffing every inch of his body, especially his mouth to detect where he may have been and what he may have eaten.
The worst is when she comes home from somewhere and Mr. B was home with one of us. She will go all around the house, peeking in rooms searching for clues of the great adventures that she missed at home. 
In her old age, it appears that she is always aware of what she might be missing out on.
If she hears us talking on the phone, she needs to run over to the window to see if she is missing a person who might be visiting. If a random stranger on the street is talking on the phone she will even head swivel and stare to make sure she isn't missing out. 
Lucky for us, she doesn't know that she could be missing out on all sorts of things online...or does she?

Because his is always better
Not missing out
Make sure to join our Facebook page for extra photos and story lines.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Pooches: How Do you Balance Discipline with Pet Happiness?

When it comes to our pooches, A and I have completely different styles.
A is all about routine and enforcing rules. She gets to be the 'bad cop'.
But I really believe it's important for the pups to always be happy. And as the 'good cop' I'm the most fun to be around.
A always keeps strict rules and is consistent about not letting the pups on the furniture. She believes that letting them on the outdoor furniture is a 'gateway drug' for the pooches to start laying on our sofas and eventually onto our beds without permission.
But in the summer, I love laying with the pups on the outdoor furniture. I think it makes us all happier, and they wouldn't possibly abuse this privilege at a later time.
Miss M is very treat motivated, which makes her fairly easy to train, but since she is so treat motivated, she gets too excited and becomes pushy and mouthy when taking treats from people.
For these reasons, A will not let Miss M receive treats from anyone. I, on the other hand, love to make Miss M the happiest princess around and let anyone and everyone shower her with treats, which probably reinforces her bad behavior.
In the past I bought the pooches antlers to chew on because they enjoy them. Though on our last vet visit we realized it wasn't the best idea because the pooches chipped several of their teeth. Ever since the antlers, A is against giving the pooches anything to chew on, including beef knuckle bones that our pooches love so much.
Much to A's dismay, I let the pooches chew on a beef knuckle bone for a few minutes here and there when A isn't around...well not anymore since I will be found out in this post...
I think the issue is at what point does our pooches' happiness outweigh the detrimental effects of something, especially in senior dogs. 
Also, do most homes have a good cop and a bad cop?

Remember this "controversy"?
But can she ever be happy?
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