Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Onlookers & the Dog Lovers

When we first brought Barry home I noticed how often people would run the other way upon seeing Barry. I have definitely mentioned it in previous posts. It bothered me so much how people reacted to seeing him. I was so consumed with anger/confusion about those who were scared or just didn't like dogs that I failed to see how often people would come up to us and ask to pet Barry or make comments about him and how beautiful he is.

Now, for me, I just think Barry is gorgeous. He is well built, very healthy, shiny stark white and black spotted coat, sweet pink around his perfect snout with freckles (I call them freckles though, most would just say spots), large almond eyes, not too-droopy mouth (many pitties have that cute droopy mouth thing that I love - Barry has it but it's not as pronounced as I've seen), healthy white teeth, long strong neck, large heart shaped face, and soft pink belly. I assumed I was just biased to how lovely he is.

Lately I've come to see how popular he is. There isn't a day that goes by (no exaggeration, at least once a day) that someone doesn't say something to the effect of how gorgeous he is, or how cute, or what a nice dog, or can I pet it? People will stop in their MOVING VEHICLES to shout out the window about how nice looking Barry is. I think since we adopted Barry we've had people stop in their vehicles to say something about Barry to us or to our dog walker (she always lets us know) five times. Is that normal? I'm not sure, really. I think Barry is worth about 25 out-of-car-window compliments. Oh, I forgot about the time we were crossing the street and a guy in a jacked up Jeep was turning right (in the direction opposite us) when he popped his head out the window, nodded, and then gave us the thumbs up while speeding away with tires screeching.

We have a lady that lives in our building who has said to us multiple times that Barry is the one reason she wants to get a dog. That he is her favorite dog of all the dogs she's met in our building. I know that I've mentioned that the building we live in is very dog friendly. It's like a *dog-zoo, our building. I'm not kidding. There are easily over 100 dogs in our 189 unit building. I know of people that have two dogs so it's possible that there are quite a lot more than just 100. So, Barry above all others. To this girl. Well, to me and Husband too, of course. I could say that's impressive. Perhaps she's just being nice.

There are the people that stop us and our dog walker as we're walking Barry. They like to have short discussions about Barry and give him a quick pet. Barry is totally oblivious during the chat and pet. He's seriously thinking about that squirrel he possibly smells 10 yards away. That is the most common encounter for us. Or those that say something as they walk by with big grins and comments of adoration.

I guess I'm starting to realize that more people like Barry than are scared of him. We still get the street crossers and the looks but for the most part I hardly notice the negativity anymore. I know it's there but it seems like it's less and less noticeable.

*dog-zoo - this word is accredited to my dear husband, who has called our building a dog-zoo on numerous occasions. It just wouldn't feel right to take credit for his genius.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Maxin & Relaxin

Does that title bring back any cool 90's memories? Like an after school TV show about a family that was flipped, turned upside down? Will Smith? The Banks' family? Bel Air? If you don't remember this then you may be too young or had a childhood that was spent outdoors on a farm and have never gone inside since (so why are you reading this blog??). Fresh Prince of Bel-Air! If you don't know then please google the theme song for the show. I know every. Single. Word. My mom and I would watch the show together and I'm pretty sure she encouraged me to sing along to the theme song and I did. I still think about it and I still remember every. Single. Word.

BUT this post has nothing to do with The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. It's all about Barry, still. It's about our lifestyle. It's about maxin and relaxin. Husband and I work Monday through Friday in a typical corporate America setting. We sit at desks, do stuff on the computer, work with humans, think about retirement, and then come home around 6 PM everyday. Even though most of our day consists of sitting down, we are tired! I do work out at least four days per week plus I walk to and from work (weather permitting) which is about a mile and a half each way. I consider myself relatively active during the day. That's not including walking Barry. All this to say, we work, work out, walk, walk Barry and WE ARE TIRED. The weekends are purely all about relaxing. That's not to say we don't love doing other things besides relaxing! We love going out and having a good time. We like all of that fun stuff. However, most of our evenings and weekends do consist of us relaxing or hanging out, or maxin and relaxin.

We happen to be lucky that Barry enjoys this lifestyle as well. He doesn't mind sitting around and lounging with us. He likes to be with us, doing whatever we do. I know he'd prefer being outside a lot more. We take him out as much as is reasonable to us. I think that's why he's cool with maxin and relaxin. He is so good at it too! I think he's better at it than we are. He really knows how to chill...

Sometimes I feel bad that we don't have a yard for him to run around in at will. Then I realize that he's totally fine with it. It's very possible that he gets more exercise than some dogs WITH yards. So he does enjoy downtime with us.

Don't worry - those grapes were only eaten by us. Barry is picky, remember? He
could have cared less about those grapes. Now the Lomo Curado we were eating?
That's a different story, hence his huge tongue taking over his whole snout.
This is what we do. We take nice fulfilling strolls outside with Barry and we relax a lot. It's just the way it is. Husband and I have very similar outlooks and interests. We also both like down time. We're so happy that Barry likes down time too. I think he fits very well into our life and we fit into his.

Friday, April 25, 2014

What a Dog Wants

Barry has a pretty great life in my eyes. He gets high quality, organic, natural treats. He has dog food that even smells good enough for me to eat. We keep the balcony door open (only when we're home of course) for him to go in and out as he pleases. He wears an American made leather collar and his harness is also American made, crafted with thick metal clips and sturdy woven fabric that is nearly indestructible. I must also mention that this harness has velvet under-straps so that he doesn't chafe. He gets a lot of attention and tummy rubs. He always gets at least 4 walks per day and on the week days in the middle of the day he gets a dog walker who occasionally bakes him special treats. Every day people stop us or the dog walker (she texts us to keep us in the loop) to let us know how beautiful Barry is and to ooh and ahh over him. Every night he hops into bed in between husband and I and gets to sleep on a thick and fluffy, luxurious comforter that sits atop a one of the most comfortable mattresses you've ever laid on.

He has all of those things, and more! Does Barry care about any of that? Besides the food and belly rubs of course? Nope! Do you know what Barry wants? What's at the top of his list? OUTSIDE! He knows that word too. If we don't stick to our normal schedule or if Barry starts getting bored he'll let us know he's ready to go into the great outdoors for another adventure. I can chop up full fat mozzarella string cheese, all beef hot dogs, summer sausage, all natural sliced turkey meat and he could leave it all behind for a peek at the squirrel down the alley. Yes, he loves all of those high value treats. He prefers to feed his prey drive, though.

It takes some stubbornness on our part to get Barry's attention and to draw him in with those yummy treats. Eventually it works. Then he realizes he gets treats when he's next to us as well as being OUTSIDE!

I think it's funny all the strides we take for Barry to give him a good life when all he really wants is to be outdoors hunting squirrel and rabbit. He loves getting his belly rubbed too but that's for indoor time.

If Barry had it his way we wouldn't go to work. He'd get a gazillion walks a day. He'd be off leash and get to play with every single dog he saw and he'd get to chase after that rabbit and squirrel FINALLY! We'd still come back inside after our hours long walk to rest a spell, drink some water, and have a snack. We'd all lay together piled on the couch and snooze a bit then we'd do it all over again and go outside once again to play and hunt.

THAT is what a dog wants.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Training: On Our Progress

“Discontent is the first necessity of progress.”
― Thomas Edison

As I've mentioned a few times, we've taken Barry through a little professional training. The first was a basic obedience class along with a handful of other dogs at Pet Smart. The class was helpful and informative. It was a good foundation for two people who had no clue. We took the basic training class (giving treats to reward good behavior, how to hold the leash, etc.). We really didn't get that we would reward Barry with treats or show him how to do stuff for treats. I think we thought we knew but until it was shown to us, we just didn't know. We also learned how to better hold a leash. We learned repetition and consistency is key.

Then we worked with Barry on our own for a while with the tools we were given from the trainer at Pet Smart. We streamed YouTube videos on how to get your dog to walk with you and how not to be so reactive. We queried our neighbors, friends, and dog walker on their opinions about certain behavior. Progress is slow and brutal at times. I mean most all types of progress. Think about moving up in your job, losing weight, saving up enough for retirement, women's rights, etc. Those are (and have been) slow processes that we can all relate to! Just like training a dog. It won't happen over night. We are still working with Barry and it's been over four months.

I know what this must look like but before you say anything I just need to tell
you that the paper attacked me first!
Anyhow, you know how it is. You get frustrated with the process. Things are taking too long and you get lazy. What is the easy way out? Buy what you need and it will be the answer you've been looking for. The quick fix. The easy way out.
“Progress isn't made by early risers. It's made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something.” ― Robert A. Heinlein
I don't necessarily totally put my faith in that quote as Mr. Heinlein was a science fiction writer (albeit a very good one). I just think it's funny and definitely has some truth to it, no? It does make you think that perhaps being lazy isn't too bad sometimes? Sometimes? Okay, whatever...

Circling back to Barry; We plateaued with training. We weren't progressing quickly enough and began looking into trainers, more obedience courses, behaviorists, etc. I've already written all about that process here.

The trainer that we went with was recommended to us and she has been fantastic. I mean it.  Barry has responded so well to all that we've learned. She has taught us so much and recommended to us things that we will take with us for Barry's lifetime. With all that said, hiring a trainer to come to our home and work with us and Barry wasn't the quick fix I might have ignorantly thought it was going to be. I do not regret hiring her to help us. She has been the best asset to us for understanding Barry and progressing with him during training thus far. So this progress thing isn't going to be easy. There is no easy way out or quick fix. We can be lazy if we choose and progress will stall, nothing will change.
“People who want a cure, provided they can have it without pain, are like those who favour progress, provided they can have it without change.”
― Anthony de Mello, Awareness: A de Mello Spirituality Conference in His Own Words
 I think in the end, all this training talk aside, we want the best life for Barry and we want to thoroughly enjoy our time with him. He means the world to Husband and me. We want to take him everywhere, show him off, and be near him. There are sprinkles of moments each day that we have individually with Barry where we see how much he loves us. He is quite the unique soul and we love him for it. We feel one of the best ways we can incorporate him in our life as much as possible is to show him what we need of him (walk next to us, less leash reactivity towards other dogs, etc.) so the training part is necessary but it is secondary. It will be a process that will be slow but he's already made leaps and bounds of progress in such a short time. This has all been worth it.

I wuv you daddy.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Reactive or Just Misunderstood?

I recently read a blog post from that really hit home with me. I love reading up on stuff about Barry or other dogs. I like to learn what I can when I have the time. I've learned a lot about humanity (believe it or not) since adopting Barry. Many things became less important in my life and other things had greater significance.

The article I read can be found here. The post is appropriately called 'Leash Gremlins Need Love Too'. It's super informative and links to other very very helpful articles, blog posts, and information.

I can't add much to what they've put out there. Here is a section that I've copied straight from their post (with their permission of course). Read it and go to their blog.

To effectively work on reactivity with your dog, you need a solid understanding of three things:
-Threshold.  This magical little word is used a lot but not always accurately understood.  The best explanation we’ve seen comes from this post by Suzanne Clothier on understanding the stimulus gradient and keeping your dog in the “think and learn zone.” For those who like a visual illustration, Doggie Drawings created a good one.
-Dog Body Language.  You can’t effectively use threshold if you don’t understand how your dog is feeling.  Understanding and accurately reading dog body language is a critical missing component from a lot of training.  Turid Rugaas’ book On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals is a good place to start, as is Brenda Aloff’s Canine Body Language – A Photographic Guide.  As for many things dog, Lili Chin of Doggie Drawings offers some adorable illustrated cheat sheetsincluding one specifically on calming signals.
-Motivation.  What is your dog reacting to and why?  If you have not specifically and thoughtfully identified this, you are not ready to begin in earnest. Is your dog scared or threatened by another dog, person, or object?  Is it a very specific subset or behavior from other dogs, people, or objects?  Or is your dog friendly but frustrated at his inability to rush up and investigate?  Is it a prey driven reaction?  Does it only occur in a certain context?  What role is the handler playing in the reaction and how is that impacting the dog? What is going to be rewarding for your dog in this training scenario and what skills can you offer him so that he can navigate the situation safely and successfully?  The right trainer or behavior professional can help you answer these questions and put them in perspective regarding your dog.

This might not be very exciting if you don't have a dog with this particular difficulty. At this point Barry is doing amazingly well. We've worked with him and have given him so much patience that he's naturally just responding to our love and good handling.

Here Barry is with his new buddy Teddy. They hung out Easter weekend and Barry was amazing and mostly gentle with this little guy. Barry doesn't understand that he weighs 60 lbs more than Teddy but Teddy did well and held his own!

Give your dog lots of love. As much as you can! To you your dog might not be your whole life because you've got work, family, friends, etc., but to your dog YOU are their whole life. You are all they have. Be patient with them, love them, and care for them in the way they deserve no matter their disposition.

Thank you to those at Dogs Out Loud that allowed me to talk about and link to your post. I think it's important for pooch parents to read and understand a little more about their fur babies!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Eggy Easter

Happy Easter everyone! 

A park near where we live had a Dog Easter Egg Hunt.

We didn't know how Barry would do. If he was going to be wild and crazy and rude. Or if perhaps he was going to enjoy it and be happy to meet new dogs and be cool.

He did really well. He still got a bit excited but for the most part his greetings were calmish and we could keep his attention better than we thought.

There was the incident where a sweet girl was able to sneak some of Barry's Easter eggs while Barry wasn't looking.

Barry quickly refilled his basket, though. 

Then he got a taste for the Easter egg. It became quite addicting.

We didn't realize how in deep Barry was until later on at home. 
Brace yourself for what you're about to see. The consequence of Easter egg addiction is serious.

We will need to watch out for Barry and the Easter egg issue but we think we can keep it under control. He might have a new addiction.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Home Renovation & Decorating Ideas - By Barry

As you may or may not know (depending on how closely you follow the blog) we will be getting new flooring in our back room and in our master bedroom. In a few weeks the work will begin. It will probably take about 3-4 days to install the floors, stain, varnish, etc.

New floors? Without my permission or consultation?
Upon sharing this news with Barry I think he got a little jealous. Jealous that we thought of it before him. He likes to be the one to make all the decorating decisions around the home.

Like the time he chewed the wall and door frame.. He likes the shaggy chic look.

And how he prefers that worn in front door look.

On Monday evening I came home to a usual happy and excited pup. He wanted love and kisses and lots of attention. Then he got up and walked to the living room while I was busy putting a few things away in the bedroom. When I finally went into the living room this is what I saw.

Is this not awesome?
At some point during the day he'd pushed out the middle cushion along with the blanket we keep over the couch (to help with the dog hair situation). Notice the tag on the couch? He doesn't chew furniture, just tags left on furniture - for some strange reason.

Then he promptly laid down in his new couch nook.

Look! I can even lay down in it... Fashionable and functional .
Last week I came home to the couch pushed back several feet and turned facing the windows. I didn't get a picture of that, unfortunately.

Barry likes to spruce things up around the home to his taste. Sometimes his taste can be questionable.

Like the time Barry went through his grunge phase and wanted to redecorate Grandma's back entryway. Very questionable taste. After this fiasco he soon learned that the grunge look is best left in the 90's. 

We love him anyway. Good taste or bad. Happy Friday!