Friday, February 28, 2014

Vacation - The Aftermath

Our quick jaunt to Puerto Vallarta was pretty awesome. The weather was warm with a gorgeous ocean breeze, the skies were blue, the food was delicious, margaritas were tangy and probably too numerous, and seeing my folks was the cherry on top.

Husband walking along the beach.
After Father in-law arrived and we spent a few days with him watching him take care of Barry we really knew our Barry was in good hands. This helped in making our vacation quite worry free. I was able to really enjoy my time away instead of thinking of Barry and wondering if he was okay. There was no doubt in my mind that he didn't wonder where we were but ultimately we'd come back and all would be back to normal.

My husband received daily texts from his dad letting us know how everything was going. I enjoyed reading them knowing Barry was having fun and that Husband's dad really loved Barry. As I stated before, we felt the biggest relief would be knowing that Barry was safe and happy. An extra 1/2 pound or so would be no big deal. Though, we'd rather there be no weight gain so we can have a healthy dog. The healthier the dog, the longer they'll live - obvious math.

So happy everyone's back together. Ahhh...
Check out my new cool bandana Grandpa gave me!
We returned from our vacation feeling refreshed and slightly sunned (which is a good thing because we were probably missing that good vitamin D from the lack of sun during the winter). Barry was happy to see us, tail all waggly and he licked our faces off! It was awesome to see him. Husband's dad stayed for another day then left for home in Wisconsin.

Not fair! Why can't Grandpa live with us? I can't
even believe this right now. I have to sulk awhile.
We deduced that Barry was most likely overfed. The only proof we had was that the summer sausage we use strictly for walking treats was nearly gone (I bought a new log right before we left and 4 days later there was only the tip left) and a whole bag of brand new treats that was just bought was down to about 5 or 6 treats. Father in-law also admitted to feeding Barry a little of his McDonald's hamburger and fries, and then a little bit of pizza. I did freak out about the burger and fries, and pizza and am still a bit fumed about that because all of those things should never be fed to a dog. Never. I did let Father in-law know this, explaining how hard all of those things are on their systems. Not to mention it's sort of like giving Barry a tiny bit of poison! I know he didn't eat much of any of those things but still... Perhaps I'm overreacting?

On day two in Puerto Vallarta we received photographic evidence of Barry not wearing his PAWZ out on a walk with Grandpa.

Picture taken by Grandpa and sent to us via his old-school flip phone.
Here you can see he doesn't have booties on. It's not really
the end of the world but it is funny because he sort of told on himself.
We also have photographic evidence of Barry's harness not hooked up correctly on a walk with Grandpa.

It's hard to tell from this picture but if you have ever used a Freedom
Harness then you can see the leash is not connected properly to the
harness. Also not the end of the world.
All in all Barry was taken care of and was happy. Sure he was overfed, wasn't always made to wear his PAWZ out on walks, and probably had the leash hooked up to his harness incorrectly a few times but none of those things threatened his life and he was a happy dog during our vacation.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Training Manual - The Begining

During our second week with Barry we realized how little we knew about giving direction and keeping Barry well behaved and happy. Also, let's face it. He's a young pit bull mix with quite a lot of energy and some people find him intimidating. We had already encountered countless people and dogs. The dogs never judged him by his good looks. People, however, did, and still do. We get one of two responses when people react to seeing him (some people don't react and just walk by - which is fine): The first is adoration and the goo goo ga ga types. They want to pet him and they just think he's the bees knees. The second is shear terror or some form of fear. I have seen people jump off the side walk and into the street away from us all while staring mouth agape. I have seen people scoot their bodies up against a building or bush in order to be as far away as possible. Once a man stopped in his tracks and said, "You got him?"Another time we were all in the car picking up sandwiches from a drive-through. The girl opened the drive-through window to take my money but then quickly slammed it closed before taking the cash and pointed to the back seat where Barry sat staring out the car window. Eventually she took my money and gave us our sandwiches. Then there are those that see us coming and just quickly cross the street to the other side before getting anywhere near us, which is a more polite way of going through the terror/fear reaction in my opinion.

I'm not nearly as interested in you as I am that treat!
We never allow Barry to get close to anyone anyway. Not unless they invite us over and want to pet him. We always assume most people need to get where they're going or aren't interested in having a dog near them. Like I've mentioned before, Barry's interests mostly include other animals and always treats and food. Other animals is where we have the biggest issues. He pulls toward the other animal (be it squirrel or dog) and does this high pitched whistle whine. We pull him back in line with us and continue on our route but he's not happy about it. On some rare occasions he just walks on by while Husband and I look at one in another in silent shock and then promptly give him a treat for being good.

So combined with the fact that he's rather strong and gets all wild when we see an animal (oh, also that he's a pit bull and we have a MICROSCOPE on us) we needed to really do some training. I want Barry to be so well behaved that people just can't help but change their minds. Also, I'd love to be able to walk him and enjoy it thoroughly. Not that I don't enjoy our walks but, well, I kind of don't right now. The frigid winter temps don't help either.

Wild best peering through the exotic house plant... Can it be tamed?
An obedience class was definitely in order. We didn't really know where to start. I googled dog obedience class  and checked out reviews, location, and pricing and settled on a good compromise of a the three. PetSmart was a 5 minute drive away, had some pretty good reviews and the price was right! It was a 6 week course.

Training was each Sunday evening. Our first training session was just Barry, Husband, me and the trainer. We were starting up a week after the first class started but were allowed to continue and we'd just make up the time. There were a few hitches right away - such as the fact that the lady I spoke to on the phone said class would start on Sunday but she meant Saturday. Technically we were signed up for Saturday classes but we were able to get it changed. Our trainer was great. She was amazing with Barry. The second week there was no class because the trainer was sick. The second class also included two other women and their small sweet dogs, Daisy & Madison. They were so great and didn't mind Barry getting all up in their little dog's business. He did too. A couple of times. I think it lost it's magic, though, once he's sniffed and they sniffed and they were all friends. He calmed down after those couple of times. I was just grateful their owners didn't judge Barry. They seemed to like him. The trainer seemed to like him too.

What's not to like? Look at me!
The first few sessions went well. Barry was most likely cared for and somewhat trained before he was found on the street and taken in to the shelter because he knew lots of basics. Our trainer mentioned that some of the tricks or commands might be too repetitive and boring for him because he already knows how to do them and that could be why he would sometimes zone out and stop paying attention to us during class. She told us to break it up - try a new command, use a different treat, walk him around the room and get some water, etc. Much of her advise was really helpful to us. We had no idea of some of the things she taught us and so we're glad we had the experience. We learned more than Barry did.

The last couple of classes were combined with a puppy training course. This sort of became chaos. There were probably 4 or 5 other new dogs suddenly in this smallish room all for training. The three original dogs and us, their owners, were stuck repeating old commands and working on things we'd learned. We did a couple of things to mix it up by having our dogs walk through the pet store and keep their attention when they walked by the puppies. So FUN! Barry hadn't been properly introduced to any of the puppies, and with good reason. He is 100X their size and full of energy. Because he hadn't been properly introduced he was just dying to sniff and lick each of them! Unfortunately (or fortunately?) we want to be polite to any of the dogs and their owners so we just couldn't allow Barry to introduce himself to all the new puppies - not with his typical rude behavior. The classes eventually got so boring and so repetitive (even for us) that we were just trying to get through it and trying to see that this was a good thing for Barry and good for us as well. Toward the end of the last few classes (when the puppies were brought in) Barry would start talking, well, that's what I call it, loudly over the trainer. He would be making this strange sounding yapping noise, similar to someone talking really loud in a strange language that might be drunk and/or deaf. Ya follow? Anyway, all attention was on Barry and I don't think he actually liked the attention. He would get antsy and upset and pee a little in the room. The funny thing was that there were all these small dogs, most of which were puppies, then there's the biggest dog in the room, Barry the pit bull, all excited and yappy in this small obedience training class. He was the big oaf making strange noises and tinkling in front of everyone. God, he is so lucky we love him dearly.

I am lucky. So glad you rescued me!
Anyhow, that is now over and while I'm very glad we did it I'm so glad it's over. It's so nice not to have to get out on a Sunday evening. Instead we can snuggle up on the couch with hot tea (or bourbon) and Barry and watch AMC's The Walking Dead - now that it's back on.

Next up on training: The Behaviorist House Call

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

Don't let the fact that it's sunny in this pic fool you. It's
absolutely frigid!
This winter has sort of been ridiculous. I've never known a colder winter in all my days. It also just so happens that this is the year we picked to adopt a dog who needs to go outside multiple times per day to use the bathroom. However, I'm glad we adopted a dog this year because if it had been last year or next year Barry wouldn't be around to adopt! So, essentially it's lucky...? Anyway, my whole point is that it's been really cold. No living creature can survive for long out in this weather. It's important to keep that in mind when going out in weather like this. You wouldn't go outside in little clothing and no shoes. I won't allow Barry to go out au natural either. He is a short haired dog and needs at least a layer over him. We have a number of sweaters, a red puffer coat and purple PAWZ booties for him. We choose whatever sweater is near and go with that usually. His puffer coat is uncomfortable for him and we only make him wear that on the very coldest of days. In my mind that's still not enough but he's mostly just fine. We do have to limit the amount of time we're outside, though. Not just for our sake but for Barry's. We MUST go outside to let him use the bathroom but then we head back in once that is done.

Here is his red puffer coat. It's too tight across the chest for him
but it's the warmest thing we have for him for the very
frigid days.
This goes without being said but many of our days have been spent indoors. We have to get creative on what to do with our time. There is only so much cleaning you can do, TV mostly just stinks (thank god for Netflix), and cooking & baking can be fun but being sedentary with loads of good cooking & baked goods = weight gain. Then again, it is the winter and you should put on a couple of extra pounds to help protect from the cold. Right? For Barry we have a number of things we do to keep him exercised and moving. Husband rough houses with him a little. We do a sort of agility course that we've set up. By agility course I mean two chairs, a broom stick and an ironing board. We have him sit then jump over the broom stick (which is held up by two chairs on either side), then crawl under the legs of the ironing board and back over the broom stick and jump up on the bed. We mix that up a bit and do different combinations.

Keeping his eyes on the prize. 
He has no problem clearing the broom stick.
 I wish I had better pictures for you. These two pictures just don't capture what's really happening. I'll post a video soon so you can see. It's really cute and we have a lot of fun. It takes quite a bit to wear him out. Eventually he starts panting and showing off that cute pit bull smile. He also loves the flirt pole. This wears him out pretty quickly and he needs a water break shortly after we're done. All in all, we do what we can to give him plenty of exercise. If you don't know about the flirt pole and you have the same issues as we do (frigid cold, your dog can't get enough exercise outdoors), you should look into it!! This is a great indoor exercise option for your active dogs! Check out the one we got here.

When it gets later we wind up sitting in front of the TV and relaxing. Barry promptly jumps onto the couch with us and lies lengthwise on his back so we can rub his belly. Many times he'll start dreaming when he's asleep. He must be running and chasing squirrels or playing with dogs in his dreams. His paws and back legs are moving and he just sort of looks like a spaz with his eyes closed. When he really gets into the dream he'll start dream barking. It's not like a regular bark. It's like a puffy closed mouth high pitched yelpy bark. It's actually quite hilarious and I've tried a few times to get this on video but have been unsuccessful so far. Every time I reach for my cell phone to capture these moments he either stops or wakes up from me moving so quickly to reach for my phone. I will get this on video and I will share it with you. It is one of the funniest things I've ever seen!

I have to say, I cannot wait until the weather starts to warm a bit. It will be so nice to be able to take Barry out without wearing my dexterity-killing gloves (so instead of picking out one treat for him I give him a whole handful because I can't feel the difference), getting on my huge oversized coat, and putting booties on Barry. It's all so time consuming and annoying. Also it's cold outside.

Watching TV with Dad is nice when it's too cold to stay out long.

Monday, February 17, 2014

We Need a Break

Last year, long before the thought of adopting a dog was on our radar, we planned for a vacation with my folks in Puerto Vallarta. Husband and I got married there and it's such a beautiful spot. The ocean, the mountains, the Malecon. It's so laid back and beautiful. We all wanted to go back because of how nice and fun it was. We purchased a deal for a hotel and now we are set to go. This week.

Sleeping sound in my lap. He doesn't have any idea we're going to be leaving him for 4 1/2 days.
At first I was nervous about this upcoming vacation. When we first brought him home Barry didn't like when we left and would hurt himself. I imagined that Barry would escape and we'd never see him again. Or that we'd board him and he'd hate it and that he'd be heart broken and miss us the whole time. I googled options and what other people had done in a similar situation. The stress of having a new dog and knowing we'd be leaving the country for a long weekend was nerve wracking! For both me and my husband. We had this crazy dog that would escape and hurt himself trying. He was displaying some signs of separation anxiety and now we had this vacation already planned and paid for.

I then thought of a friend that might be able to watch him. She works near where we live, is single and she could stay over at our place (very ideal) but she goes every day during the week as we do so I would have to show her all the ins and outs of coming and going. I invited her over. She came one night. We didn't really get to connect and show her much about Barry. It just didn't work out that night. No big deal. Except that Husband I were taking this really really seriously. Like he is our child. He's precious to us and we wanted to find someone to love him as we do. We felt like my friend might not be very into it - perhaps she was but that night it just didn't work. I'm glad we started thinking all of this over as early as we did. I'm not sure what we would have done had we waited until the last second. Then Husband's dad was suggested as our dog sitter as he wanted to come to Chicago and visit us anyway.  The timing was perfect for his visit and this seemed like a perfect fit. Maybe. We'd still need to show him all the ins and outs.

Okay, Grandpa, I need da following: summer sausage, canned lamb, bison, and duck.
I like da canned stuff mixed in with my kibble. If you give it to me straight
out of da can dats okay too. I need all dose treats Mom & Dad lock away
in dat cabinet to be more accessible. I like long walks in da park with treats
along da way. I will need you to wub my belly and talk to me. I also need to
sleep with you at night so we can cuddle.
He had walked Barry's cousin, Paxton, plenty of times and seemed to just love animals. Plus, he's retired and has all day to just hang out with the dog. While it was fine to have someone take care of Barry that worked each day, it was even better to have someone take care of Barry that could just hang out all day. Way better. So we invited him to watch Barry during our vacation. Let me just say - he was so excited to be invited for such a thing. He was ecstatic!

This was such a good feeling. To have someone that loves dogs and animals to be watching our baby - well, what a relief. Even if Barry is spoiled and gains weight from extra treats or food then that's fine. We just want him to be happy, exercised, and safe while we're gone. We want to come back from our vacation and have Barry still be here. Do you even know the feeling? If so you'll get this.

Our sweet and strong pup needs to be taken very good care of. We couldn't have it any other way. So currently my father in-law is with us learning the ropes. We've pretty much shown him all there is to know to make Barry a happy pup. He knows how to fill a KONG should he leave during the day for anything. He knows how to walk Barry, how to get around, and how often Barry needs a walk. He knows what Barry can and cannot eat and how much. In general, he loves Barry. A lot. That is the one thing I am happiest about. Even if he over-feeds Barry or isn't as consistent with commands then that's okay.  He'll make up for it by walking him more often than normal and on longer walks probably (from what we've seen so far). I'm just happy that Barry is in capable and loving hands.

Go on, get outta here, and have fun.  Grandpa will take good
care of me. See ya later!
So far I've been super OCD and controlling over this whole thing. I'm trying so hard to just let my father in-law take over and do his thing with Barry because I can see that he's really good with Barry and Barry likes him a lot. There is this strange dichotomy of taking care of Barry with my husband and then relinquishing that care over to anyone else. It doesn't matter that he's capable. It's just strange and I need to chill. I realize this.

I have even gone so far as to create a Word document that includes 4 pages of everything from basic daily needs, to tips and things to look for. I also have included emergency phone numbers, a color print out map of the area we live in and I've marked where the vet clinic is as well as a few other possible need-to know places. I've printed out a list of acceptable foods and toxic foods.  I also have two pages with color print outs of our remote controls and how to use each one.

So, we'll be leaving in a few days and I'll be busy half worrying/half dreaming of sunny Puerto Vallarta. And also packing. This will be my last post this week due to just being too busy.

Have a great week and we'll try to send the warm and sunny weather your way if it's cold where you are like it is here in Chicago!

Til next week! And don't worry about me! I promise not to get into
any mischief while you're gone.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Bed Time With Barry ~ Revisited

I posted recently about how we allow Barry to sleep with us and nothing has changed, he wasn't acting out, etc., etc. Well, it has come to pass that Barry has started sort of taking over. Not taking over the bed but kind of taking over a few things. Like the back room. He has continued to use the back room as his bathroom - taking it over essentially, and also GROSS. When we walk him he is taking over the walk. We can redirect him but all in all he is leading us during our walks. It's even getting to the point where he is not enjoying his walks at all. If there is a dog around in eye sight he is done. This has suddenly gotten worse. He was doing better for a bit but it has gotten bad again just recently. He is so focused on the other dog that nothing else around him matters. It doesn't matter if he needs to use the bathroom. It doesn't matter that we wave summer sausage in his face to get his attention. It doesn't matter that we're holding the leash and trying to redirect him. He's whining and his whole walk is ruined. It's kind of sad actually. Then he doesn't go #2 outside due to being totally obsessed and distracted by the other dog and guess what happens to our back room?

Boundaries? I don't need no stinkin' boundaries.
Cause just look at me.
So, Husband and I discussed, maybe we aren't giving Barry enough boundaries. He needs boundaries and guidelines. We haven't given him many. He's been a pretty good dog thus far and haven't had the need to give him too many boundaries or rules. Now that's coming back to slap us in the face. We should have laid down the law (so to speak) from the start. I think if we had established the boundaries right off and showed him what we allow and what we do not allow then this wouldn't have spiraled out of control. It's our fault. Barry needs those rules. He thrives and works best under healthy boundaries and rules.

Therefore we're starting with bed time. We will make him sleep in his own doggie bed and will only be allowed in our bed upon invitation. This will break my heart. It will probably also beaks Husband's heart. Barry can really do a number on our emotions but in order to make him the happiest and most well behaved dog that he can be we need to set these rules. This will benefit not only me and my husband, but Barry too. Eventually it will come to be that he will enjoy his walks again. Where he won't get so upset about seeing another dog that he can't even go to the bathroom.

I'm gonna take over everything now, okay?
Having a dog in your home is a continuos learning experience. We've learned a lot during our short time with Barry so far and I have feeling that we'll continue to learn even more. Even though, Barry has been with us for 2 1/2 months we are still getting to know him! He's wonderful and fun and I love his personality. We can always improve our relationship with him and we will work to do so.

I think this is a good example of how delicate the decisions about your pooch can be. Literally days ago I made this gushing post on letting Barry sleep with us because he's so well behaved... Now we are having to take that decision back. Our original decision to allow him to sleep with us wasn't a wrong one. The circumstances have changed and so we need to rearrange the situation a tad in order to get him back in line with what's healthy and good for all of us.

When my husband said to me that we need to make him sleep on his doggie bed and regain control again I first thought of the blog. I thought how strange it was that I had just written about this and now I would have to be honest and share the experience of it all. I have no regrets with the decisions we've made so far. I think we could have been a little more strong-handed (not physically of course) with Barry but everything that has happened has been something we are learning from. This is simply our path to discovery and it's not a smooth ride but we'll continue to stick with it because eventually things will even out and it's totally worth it. Barry is totally worth it.

Having a hard time understanding why I can't sleep with
Mom & Dad right now. I don't wanna get outta bed.
**Last night we started our new bedtime routine. I wondered if it would go well or if it would be hard since he's so used to jumping into bed with us every night. We did not let him in our bed ~ at first. We made him lay on his own bed. That took quite some coaxing. He was just staring at us with his big brown eyes. I could see he was totally confused and upset. We made him lay down - he got back up. We had him lay down again, putting a couple of toys in his doggie bed (which is in our bedroom at the foot of the bed on the floor). We pet him and let him know we were very happy each time he got onto his bed. He wound up laying in his bed for about 30 minutes then I heard him get up and walk to my side of the bed. I told him to lay down. He walked to Husband's side of the bed. Husband told him to lay down. We quickly discussed a new strategy. As it was getting late and we had to work in the morning I suggested that we allow him in bed so that we could get some sleep but that it would be on our terms. By inviting him into our bed that meant we were the ones that decided he could come into bed with us. So that's what we did. He was only allowed in once we told him it was okay. We'll need to work on this and soon I think he'll understand that he's not allowed in our bed unless we invite him. It's a start!**

So Fresh & So Clean

See that look of concern? He's hoping all doggie parents clean and groom their sweet pets often because he knows how important it is for their health! Actually, he always seems to have that look of concern on his face. He's in the moody teenage years and he gets concerned and moody a lot. Not bad moody. Just concerned moody. For example, he's concerned that we only gave him one bowl of food in the morning and then another one in the evening. He's concerned that we only take him outside four times per day. He's concerned that he only got one treat when he did his down-stay. He's concerned that he isn't allowed in the trash. There are things in that trash that he could use/eat/tear up/sniff/scatter.

For real, though, let's talk grooming. That is everything from eyes and ears to teeth and coat. Paws too. Let's not forget the paws. How often are you brushing your pooches coat and teeth? Each type of dog has different needs so I'm only getting into Barry's needs for his breed and his specific needs.

For pitbull types, such as Barry, it is recommended to brush his coat at least three times per week. Everyday is ideal. We don't brush him everyday - I'd say 4 times per week is what we do. The more you brush them the better, though, as this enables you to go longer between baths. Brushing also helps remove the shed hair from his undercoat and it circulates the natural oils to assist in keeping their coats nice and shiny, and helps keep their skin from getting dried out. Barry likes to be brushed. He sits nicely for it and cranes his neck with delight.

Yeah, that's the spot. Right there. Don't stop.
After we have brushed him thoroughly we either take a lint remover roller all over him or the vacuum. He doesn't mind the vacuum as long as there are treats involved. We put the brush attachment on the hose and get the shed hair off of him. Not only is this process good for his coat and skin, it's good for our furniture too. We use the Kong Zoomgroom. This was recommended to us by an employee at PetSmart. She said it works great for short haired dogs like Barry. So far it's been just fine. We love that it doesn't have any metal bristles or sharp pieces. One day Barry got ahold of it and chewed it a bit. We have about 3/4 of the brush left in one piece and it is still totally usable. So we'll keep using it. Overall a nice and easy to use brush that seems to really do the job well.
So far we've only given him one bath. We will probably only bathe him 3 or 4 times each year. For Barry he doesn't really get dirty, not yet at least. He doesn't have a yard to roll around in or anything like that and being a short haired pittie he isn't very odiferous and stays relatively clean, especially with frequent brushings. Another thing about Barry is that he has sensitive skin. We can't give him frequent baths or he would dry out and be all itchy and scratchy. Even for myself this is true! I shower frequently but I find that the more I shower (like if I work out I have a 2nd shower during the day) the dryer my skin is. It's the same for your dog. We use John Paul Pet Oatmeal Shampoo. It's got a natural scent of sweet almond. It's great for dogs with dry and sensitive skin like Barry. Being that we've only used this once and have never given him another bath, I like the stuff so far. The bottle is large and will probably last us for years to come.

We also wipe him with unscented baby wipes if he gets a splash of muddy snow on his legs, paws or belly. We don't want to leave him with muddy stuff on his sensitive skin. It's a nice alternative to frequent baths as well. I think we probably wipe his legs down about twice per week if we see that he got a little messy outside. The first time we brought Barry to the pet store we bought him these. Each sheet is very tiny - like the size of those shine blotting papers. They are also very thin. we went through that pack fast even though there are 100 wipes in the package. We had to use multiple wipes for each use. I thought they smelled great, though. That was the only thing I liked about them. It was like perfume wipes for Barry and his legs smelled amazing afterwards. Once the pack got low I decided I'd just buy unscented baby wipes from there on out. First of all, the baby wipes are cheaper, bigger, and thicker than those pooch wipes. Second, they are good for use on sensitive skin! Being that they are baby wipes I figured that these would be better for Barry. He never seemed to have any reaction to the other wipes, I just wanted to use something gentler. I picked up a pack of unscented baby wipes, generic brand, 30 pack (big, thick wipes) for $1 at Target. Even if I wanted to get 100 wipes it would still be much cheaper. Just a tip!!

We also brush his teeth!! Yes, this mean pitbull gets his teeth brushed and there hasn't been nary a bite. It is recommended to brush your pooches teeth every day - just as you do. Dog's teeth are similar to human teeth in that they need care just like yours do. Admittedly, we do not brush his teeth everyday. Every few days is about the schedule we're on now.

We use these finger brushes for best control. Also they were relatively cheap. We didn't know how well Barry would do when we started brushing his teeth but he does really well. He lays still and seems to kind of enjoy it. Maybe it's the meat flavored tooth paste.

The toothpaste works fine. It doesn't actually do anything to freshen Barry's dog breath but it makes the process better for Barry. I'm sure in the end it's all about the brushing action and less about the toothpaste itself. As long as his teeth and gums can stay healthy I'm not going to worry about his bad breath.

For his paws and nails it's good to keep them clean too. When he goes outside in the cold we always use Pawz rubber booties. He gets the large size and each bootie lasts four days to a week. They are a little tricky to put on but once you've got the hang of it you can pop those suckers on pretty quickly. The booties not only help keep his feet clean but help keep out the snow and ice which can slip in between his paws and cause a lot of discomfort. The biggest reason for us using these is that the snow/ice melt salt that is used on the sidewalks and streets is awful for doggie paws. It can cut into their pads making them bleed and crack. It's just all around bad for them as the stuff is like acid even on the thick skin of their pads.

Here is Barry sporting his Pawz booties. The large size only comes in
purple but he's secure in his masculinity and the color doesn't bother him.
When it gets warmer we'll have the pleasure of just taking him outside without putting all this stuff on him! Those booties are awesome but it's just another step in the process that is already a long one. When that time comes (how I long for warmer weather) we'll start using Musher's Secret. We have a container of the stuff now and have used it a few times but for the winter we feel like nothing compares to the pawz booties. When it's nice out and there isn't any snow or ice to speak of the Musher's Secret will help protect his pads from getting cracked and raw on the cement sidewalks. I've heard people rave about the stuff and since Barry's a city dog he gets more walks on sidewalks than your typical suburban/country dog. In fact it's pretty much just all sidewalk. There will be the occasional park but there are certainly more sidewalks than parks. We will strive for parks and trails and many breaks from the city, not just for Barry's sake but for ours, as much as possible. It may seem silly to use this stuff for their pads but if you have a city dog that walks on hot, hard cement multiple times each day you'll understand.

Now as for his nails. Those nails. The torture Barry has put them through. Eeesh. When we first brought Barry home his nails were quite long. Not unhealthy long, but longer than they should have been. He was in the shelter for about two months and his nails grew. If you recall, he had taken issue with being left at home alone, being put in a crate, being placed in the bathroom, and being left at Grandma's alone. Each instance damaged his nails. From scratching at the door too much, to digging his way out of the crate, to eating/digging the wall in the bathroom, and finally to scratching and pounding Grandma's door until the eye hook latch came undone. Every one of those occurrences damaged his nails to the point of bleeding and cracked nails with exposed quick. We took care of him by cleaning his paws in warm soapy water with a few drops of tea tree oil. Then using a cleaning spray that also helped ease pain, putting Bag Balm over his exposed quicks and wrapping his paws. The wrap never stayed - no matter what method we used. He would expertly get the wraps off - no matter what material or method we used. In the end we just had to keep his nails clean so there would be no infection and put ointment on the exposed areas to keep out bacteria. His nails healed up quickly each time.

Now they are growing back in but the quick is so long (seen in the picture above) that we'll have to wait to trim them. Typically, you won't need to trim your dog's nails at all if they are getting adequately walked. The walking on hard surfaces files them down eliminating the need for you to trim. I do, however, understand there are different circumstances for each pooch and pooch parent. For example, during the winter months we'll need to trim his nails as he'll be wearing the Pawz booties outdoors and that won't allow his nails to get nicely filed down. I imagine by next winter we'll have to start the trimming process. For now, though, he's done quite the job getting his nails far too short than they ever should have been so it will be a while before any trimming is needed and by that time he'll be walking around on cement sidewalks.

For his ears it's good to just take a look inside to make sure there isn't any build up or dirt anywhere. So far his ears are super clean. Nice and pink and shiny inside. If there is building up taking a damp towel or washcloth and wiping out should be just fine. Also, when bathing him it is recommended to put cotton balls in his ears so that no water gets in. Pitties are supposedly prone to ear infections so water will just make that worse. I have noticed that he probably has allergies of some sort. His eyes water a little and can be red (just slightly) and when we go outside in the frozen tundra this seems to exasperate the watering eyes. He will do the doggie body shake (because it's fareeeezing outside) and that water from his eyes just flies all over and gets on his face. I always wipe this off for him once we're inside. I also check him frequently throughout the day and wipe his eye boogers off.

Cleanliness is next to dogliness!

Another tip I have for your animals is to use Bag Balm on their wounds. The stuff is thick and while it's not the germ fighting ointment you would use on your cuts it still works as a good barrier from bacteria getting in. It helps soften and cover the wound when a bandaid can't be used. We have used bag balm on the tip of Barry's tail when he was afflicted with 'Happy Tail' and on the tips of his ears. Everywhere we've used Bag Balm he has healed up very nicely. We're pretty sure it's because he's a particularly healthy dog and because the Bag Balm was able to cover his sores allowing them to heal up quickly.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

On Bed Time with Barry

I've heard differing opinions on having/allowing your dog to sleep with you in your bed. Everything from, "If you allow your dog to sleep with you he will think he's alpha dog and will run the show," to, "They need comfort like humans too!" I think you go with what works for you and your dog. If your dog starts acting like alpha dog and starts commanding that you do this and do that (and you actually listen to him) then maybe set some rules for bedtime. If you enjoy sleeping next to your dog and he's not bothering you or your partner and he's well behaved then keep on keepin' on.

Let's talk about a part of Barry's personality. He's lovable and affectionate. He needs to be held and touched. It's true that many dogs do not like being touched really or held much, if at all. Many dogs can be fairly affectionate. For the most part, though, they don't enjoy tons of hugs and being pulled into your lap constantly. That's okay, that's normal and there's nothing wrong with that. Barry cannot help himself. He loves being touched and near us pretty much at all times. He wants us to rub his belly. He licks our faces. He crawls onto our laps. He sleeps next to us at night. He's not needy, though. It's a good balance of looking for attention from us and playing in the back room with his toys by himself. 

If you recall when we first brought Barry home we attempted to have him sleep on his own doggie bed. As we've gotten to know Barry and his personality over these last couple of months we've quietly decided (and by quietly decided I mean that my husband and I haven't discussed this) that his sleeping in our bed isn't a bad thing. It hasn't affected the fact that we are the leaders in the home. He listens to us and knows that we are in charge. He's not suddenly turned against us or become aggressive (as I've heard this opinion stated as well). We get 6-8 hours of sleep each night, depending on what time we go to bed. Barry's presence in our bed at night doesn't affect anything negatively. I love him sleeping next to me and my husband. He's super sweet and mostly sleeps well through the night. That's it. There's not much more to it than that. He does occasionally hog the foot of the bed but that is quickly remedied by one of three options: change your sleep position, lay your feet directly over the dog, or physically move him parallel to your body thus allowing you to stretch your legs out.

If you are against having dogs sleep with you in your bed that is fine and I respect that. You probably have a good reason for your choice. For my husband and I we just don't have a reason to not let Barry sleep with us at night as he's not a bother to us and we like it. Do what's best for you and your animal!

If you like to let your dog sleep with you then my only recommendation is to wash your comforter and sheets much more frequently and make sure your dog doesn't have parasites! Other than that, enjoy their warm bodies and don't take them for granted.


Friday, February 7, 2014

Wisconsin: It's Like This

A whole yard to romp and play in. A yard, sticks, and snow are the best!
See the burrs on his sweater? He gets into everything outdoors. He loves the tall burr patch. He runs into it and watches us from the inside. He becomes a wild animal hiding in the bush of the Wisconsin woods watching his predators and prey from the inside. He only comes out when the stick flies across the yard!
 There's no stopping him! Look at that determined and fierce face! He is on a mission, even if his sweater is loaded with prickly burrs!
Victory belongs to Barry! He will take the stick with him into the prickly burr patch!
Here he comes! What is it about dogs and sticks?
 He loves the freedom of not wearing a harness and leash and I don't blame him.
Ahh, Wisconsin...

We all traveled to Wisconsin to see the family this past weekend. My husband's family lives in Wisconsin. The yard seen above is my mother-in-law's yard. It's a large yard that backs up to a small stream (currently frozen and covered in snow) and a small wooded area. Barry will go nuts when it warms up. Not that he didn't go nuts with the snow but I have a feeling he will never want to go inside when it gets warmer. Which is good because we like to do outdoorsy things as much as possible when the weather is nice.

Barry was pretty good on the ride from Chicago to Wisconsin. It's about an hour and a half to my husband's mother's home. We'll probably have to get some sort of seat for Barry that might be more comfortable for him. I'll have to look into it and let you know what I find but after a quick search for dog booster seats for traveling they don't really offer them for large dogs. I may have to get creative. Or look harder. You might think it's unnecessary to get a dog Barry's size a booster seat but my back seat sits low and Barry had to stand the whole time to look out the window which means stopping, accelerating, and turning would throw him off balance a bit (imagine yourself standing in the backseat while someone was driving). I want him to enjoy the ride and be safe as we often go to visit the Wisconsin family and in the summer we take road trips. If he can lay on said booster seat then he can safely be in one spot and also be able to enjoy looking out the window. He got antsy towards the end of the trip. We were sitting and waiting for sandwiches to be put together and he started whining a bit. It's something we'll have to work on but I think a good start would be a nice seat for most of his ride to be comfortable.

Husband's mom calls Barry her grand-dog so we'll refer to her as Grandma in this blog. She loves Barry and I can tell he loves her. I'm glad she loves him because he's done a bit of damage to her back door area. We all had to leave for a few hours and knowing we needed to leave I prepared Barry's KONG with treats. Even though he loves that KONG he didn't touch it while we were gone. Instead he was busy doing this...
He tried to dig his way out. Luckily the damage looks worse than it really was. He did tear up the draft guard but that was easily replaced and inexpensive. Grandma has carpet squares in this part of her home so the bare spots you see in the floor were the squares that were pulled up. We were able to place the squares back into their spots. He still just doesn't like being left alone! He's gotten used to our weekday routine at home but Grandma's house is still new to him. I could tell he was so stressed out when I got back. I cleaned up the mess and vacuumed up the salt since I was cleaning up his mess anyway and then we both sat down on the couch where Barry fell asleep and immediately started dreaming.

Dreaming away his stress.
This trip was the second time Barry's been to Wisconsin. The first time was slightly more dramatic. That was Christmastime and we stayed at Grandma's for the whole week! It was a really nice stay and I know Barry loved every minute of it. Except the time we left to go to CVS.

Picture of Barry during Christmastime. This sweater has since been claimed by the burr bush at Grandma's house.

Knowing that Barry was (is) as escape artist we had some clever ideas to make sure Barry wouldn't escape Grandma's house. She has a lever type door handle, similar to ours, which Barry can open and then close behind himself as he leaves and probably lock it on his way out too. < Just kidding of course. Mostly.

The idea was to use an eye hook latch. Looking back on it I can't believe this is what we settled on. I mean, this dog broke through metal posts in a reinforced crate so that he could then let himself out of our unit to find us. What made us think that an eye hook latch would hold him? Oh yeah. He was totally getting out.

See that doohickey there? That's an eye hook latch for those that don't know.
Husband put the eye hook latch on the outside of the door so that Barry couldn't reach up and just unhook it that way. So we thought attaching it to the outside was clever because when we'd leave we could just hook the latch and he wouldn't have anyway of getting out. Then when we'd come back we'd unhook it and let ourselves in - ta da!

Our trip to CVS and to see Grandma's mom (Husband's grandma) took a total of 45 minutes. I had this knot in my stomach. I knew it before we pulled up the driveway that he was gone. I found out that my husband had the same feeling as I did. We pulled up and the door was wide open. I flew from the car and started screaming Barry's name. I howled at the top of my lungs and ran into the street. I ran down the street and back. There was a moment where I thought I'd fall to my knees in the middle of the street and cry - I'm glad I didn't do that. That's a bit dramatic but I was feeling really dramatic in that moment. I decided I would see if we could track which way he went by checking the snow. There were no distinguishable tracks to my untrained eye. I ran into the back yard and yelled Barry's name some more. The neighbor said he'd seen Barry running down the street and could tell he was well taken care of (probably because of the red sweater). I shouted more and then I heard jingling tags. I could see Barry running toward the house in the street. I saw his red sweater and heard his jingling tags. That was the best feeling! I ran into the driveway and shouted his name again and he ran into my arms! I get emotional just thinking of it. The whole thing lasted about 5 minutes but it felt like so much longer. I truly thought for those five minutes that he was gone and I'd never see him again. Even though he is microchipped and has tags. You just never know. Barry escaping Grandma's house and running off is a lot scarier because that means he's out in the big wide world by himself. If he escapes our condo he's walking the hallways on the 5th floor of our building.
Cheeky boy. Walking the hallways of the 5th floor like he owns
the place.
Then came time to meet his cousin, Paxton. Paxton is a 90 lb Golden Doodle. Pax has a lot of energy and can be very vocal. Barry can match that energy - no problem - but he's not a very vocal dog, except around Paxton. Husband's brother brought Paxton over to Grandma's. The two began play fighting immediately. Lots of barking and slobber, and nipping and rolling and mounting. Ugh. Super annoying and stressful. We brought them inside and the play fighting ensued. They continually just barked and mounted and pawed at one another. Grandma got annoyed and told us to control our dogs. I felt bad. I didn't know how Barry would act around Paxton. They were both feeding off one another's energy. Barry, at that time, was just a few weeks new to us (I guess he is still new to us). We shouted for Barry to stop. We lured him to us and made him calm down a bit. Paxton was also made to calm down a bit. It didn't last long for either dog. Paxton has a lot of energy and didn't take his eyes off Barry. Barry was ready to play.

We tried that a couple more times during our first visit at Grandma's but each time was just as annoying and just as stressful. We changed locations to see if that made a difference but it didn't. We will try again some other time but we'll wait until Barry is better behaved and listens to commands immediately. We need him to know when to stop and when it's okay to play/rough house.
Begging for Grandma's pepperoni pizza. We don't allow him to do this in our home
but Barry gets away with a little more at Grandma's house.
By the way, for Grandma's door Husband installed a padlock latch to the outside of the door. At first we thought of going with a deadbolt but that requires tools that, as I mentioned before, we don't have. So when we have to keep Barry at her house and leave him we put the padlock in the latch and it holds him in. It's worked well the few times we've needed to use it.