Dear Doodlebug: gourmet kongs and dog reputations

Dear Doodlebug
Hello my lovelies,

It’s time for my second weekly column! I am still receiving she-mails from many of your mamas and he-mails from your dads. Please tell them thank you, ok?

I am trying to reply to as many of your requestions as I can, but it’s hard work for only one dog. So please don’t become angered if I am delayed in getting back to you. Deal?

Let’s begin!

Dear Bug…my  name is Iris and I live in Minnesota.  I am a super chewer and my Mom likes to leave my kongs stuffed with peanut butter.  I LOVE that but now the vet says I am getting too tubby.  What does you Mom put in your Kong to keep you happy?  I love all kinds of snacks and veggies too. Love, Iris      ps.  I think you are cute.

Dear Tubby Iris,

I can’t blame a gal for loving the peanut butters, but it’s no wonder you’re getting tubby! Is it ONLY peanut butters going into your kongs, without anything else? I don’t know how to read nutritional labels or anything, but I think that peanut butters are packed with fats, proteins, and calories — all important things for us dogs, but in moderation! I am allergenic with peanut butters so I can’t eat them, but my brother can, and he says mama never gives him more than a tablespoon or two in a day!

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Luckily, there are many other yummies your mama can put in your kongs for you that are more health-like than just peanut butters. Here are some of our favorites:

  • cooked green veggies (broccoli or kale or green beans or spinach or . . .) chopped up and mixed with mashed sweet (or not sweet) potato or canned tuna or mashed beans (lentils, pinto, etc) and a little fish oil or yogurt to get it wetter, then frozen
  • kibbles mixed with canned dog food, then frozen
  • carrots or celery or cabbage or other crunchful foods diced and mashed with a little banana and plain yogurt or peanut butter, then frozen
  • frozen berries and chopped cooked greens (collards, kale, spinach), mixed with yogurt or cottage cheese, then frozen

Basically, our favorite recipes include something crunchy-not-mushy (kibbles, berries, raw or cooked chopped veggies) or something semi-mushy (potatoes, canned tuna, cooked greens) and something mushy to help it stick together (canned dog food, plain yogurt, banana, peanut butters). Tell your mama to mix it all up and freeze until it’s solid. 

If she wants to get all fancy-like, she can give everything a whirl in the food processor and stuff it into your kongs and bones that way — but it all depends on whether you’re a smooth or crunchy peanut butters kind of gal!

XO, Doodlebug

PS- Here’s me helping mama with one of my favorite stuffers, sweet potatoes!

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Dear Doodlebug, What is a “good fit” for a harness? xxxooxxx, Purl, Melo, Bounty

Dear Three Musketeers,

Here’s me modeling one of my several harnesses. Doesn’t it make me look even handsomer? 

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I’ll tell you what makes this harness most excellent. First, it does not rub me in my armpits when I walk. If yours rubs in your armpits, it’s not a good fit. Second, it doesn’t squeeze my shoulders together (like certain popular harnesses do). That makes it comfy and more orthopedically sound, since it won’t give me any muscular or skeletal injuries if I get real excited and jump toward a squirrel, yikes! Third — and this is a special thing about the way I learned to walk on a harness), it has two connection points — one on the back and another on the chest. So when mama walks me, she actually has a double-ended leash with one clip attached to each point! I don’t know why this makes me feel safer, but it does — and it helps us communicate with each other better. Mama says to think of it as walking with somebody guiding you gently holding both of your shoulders, rather than just pushing and pulling on the back of your shirt (or the front of your shirt). Much safer and more pleasant, right?

Some of the harnesses we like the best are the Control-Ease (my Chick uses this one) and the Freedom Harness (I uses this one), if you’re looking for a most excellent one!

XO, Doodlebug

Today, I was browsing online for local, small, pet care shops to bring my 3 month old puppy to for socialization and found one, that in theory I should love. The shop itself is close enough I could walk, the owner is the guardian of 2 pit bulls and they carry some really high quality food and treats. My issue, is the public image the store itself gives. I’ve enclosed a photo of the “Bully Section”, which leads to my question/need for opinions. Is categorizing all of these items and labeling them “for bullies” perpetuating the negative stereotypes we fight so hard every day to destroy? Am I over judging appearances myself? This person identified themselves as a “breed representative” and owns 2 title holding weight pullers, so obviously this stuff is specialized to their “niche”. When I asked if they were worried about what the general public might think of looking at the display they pretty much told me it didn’t matter. But it does, doesn’t it? Aren’t we all responsible to showing the diversity, and good nature of our dogs?  Thanks Bug! Opie & Gemma’s Mom
Pet Barn bully display

 

Dear Opie & Gemma & Mama,

What a most excellent question you are asking me! It was so interesting, in fact, that my brother, dad, mama and I thought and talked about it for a long long time. We have many different kinds of feelings about your question — some of which are conflicting — but in the end we came up with a bottom line, and it is this: the most important thing to us is that everybody be proud of their dog and treat it with love and respect.  People who take pride in their dog (often via an activity) are probably more likely to feed it well, take it to the vet, and form a strong, trusting relationship with it. At least, that’s our opinion. And if a variety of activities and types of “image” help more people find healthy ways to be proud of their dog, then we think that’s great! For us, our mama and dad’s love and respect means agili-dogging, hikes, lots of snuggles, learning tricks, and plenty of dog modelings. And it’s easy for us to assume that everybody who loves a pit bull dog loves it for those kinds of reasons. But that would be kind of narrow minded.

There are as many types of excellent dog owners as there are spots under my brother the Chick’s white furs. Some take pride in their dog by dressing it up in tutus, others by maintaining its natural beauty, others by making it a therapy dog, others yet by helping it to excel at a dog sport like frisbee dog, and still others are very, very proud of their champion weight-pull dog. And we don’t think we have a right to believe that the pit bull dog owners who work hard to build their dogs’ muscle mass and use weight pull training as their primary form of excercise are any less excellent, as “breed ambassadors,” than those whose dogs wear tiaras and tutus and swim for exercise.

Here’s another thought: all kinds of people are drawn to dogs like me and my brother (and those dogs with many more toughnesses in the photo you sent us). Some people do want to portray a “macho” image with their large and muscular dogs, and that’s ok, right? And isn’t it even better if they do it via a positive means — like organized weight pull competition — than something abusive or illegal? Let us know what you think!

XO, Doodlebug

Dear Doodlebug, I live where it gets very cold and snowy and, even worse, the roads are heavily salted to melt the ice. This makes my pads burn and I don’t like to go outside, and I frustrate my mom by removing the boots she puts on my paws (this girl likes to be freeeeeeee). Mom already makes me work for my food–sometimes I give her the stink eye because of it. But I need other ways to get my crazies out. So, any suggestions on indoor activities to help exercise/exorcise the mind and body?  Thanks, Shelby the Wonder Dog

Dear Shelby the Snowdog,

I myself am a native Texan, but my brother once told me tales of snowy lands where your paws get froze and you actually wish you were wearing more than one sweater. I can’t imagine it! But here in Texas it sometimes gets most very hot — so hot that you can burn your little pads on your tootsies if you walk on the street while the sun is out, can you believe it? And so, I think I know about the need for exercise/exorcise that your writings are about.

Here are some thoughts on how to keep yourself busy during those snowish winters. First, mental exercise is even better than physical exercise for getting the sillies out and exhausting a dog. A three-mile run may take the edge off, but 10 minutes of trick training, a 10 minute puzzle game, and a 5 minute game of fetch (with rules!) will make you dog-gone pooped!

In our climate-controlled house we play all kinds of physical and mental games to keep me and my brother nappish all day long. Those include:

  • Fetchings (which I just learned last week and am loving very much!);
  • Trick training (we like this book for new trick learnings);
  • Scavenge (where mama puts me in the sit-stays and hides kibbles or other treats all over the house, then releases me to scavenger hunt for them);
  • Mini agilities in our living room (using benches, brooms, and chairs);
  • Hide-and-seek (where mama puts us both in the sit-stays together and then goes and hides and releases us and we have to find her);
  • and of course many puzzles of different kinds — frozen kongs and bones, other kibble-dispensing puzzles, and sometimes kibble puzzles made of non-dog-things like a pile of towels with kibbles hiding all throughout them or even a big box with paper inside and kibbles. Check out how many funs I had and thinkings I had to do to get the kibbles out of this box the other day:

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Enjoy your indoor adventures!

XO, Doodlebug

Dear Doodlebug, My mom has been on this thing called a sabbatical for the past several months, which was great because we got to hang out a lot more than usual. Now, although I have separation anxiety, mom gives me a few toys stuffed with food (kibble, apples, pumpkin, yum) around the house, and I am good. I am afraid that my mom is going to have the worse separation anxiety when she has to leave me more often now. What can I do to keep my human’s separation anxiety at a minimum (I don’t think her colleagues will like if she chews their books like I used to do)?  Signed, Concerned Canine

Dear Concerned,

Well aren’t you full of thoughts for your mama, worrying about her being separationally anxious about you when she goes back to the Workplace to stare at a glowing rectangle all day! Here are a few things you can do to help her not be so anxiousful. First, make sure she brings lots of snacks to chew on so she doesn’t chew on her colleagues’ books. Second, maybe you can pack her a giant paper box full of paper and kibbles to work on when she starts to feel worried? Would it fit in her car? Third, tell her that she can take Rescue Remedy. Many people give it to their dogs to help with the anxieties, but people can take it too! Mama’s boss swears by it. May be worth a try! And fourth, if she has an iPhone and a computer with a camera in it (most macs do and many PCs), she can download an app to her computer and phone that makes her computer into a webcam that she can watch on her iPhone! My mama and dad did this when I was new and doing my magical crate-destruction-and-escapism-routine, and also the first few times they left me and my brother alone together. It helped make them feel better knowing they could always check in and see what I was doing at any moment. And know what? Most of the time I was just stone cold sleeping!

All my love, Doodlebug

Chix-A-Lot Friday: Wintery Winter Give-Away!

Hello friends, and say hello to my new puppies! That is, my ten very temporary foster puppies. Don’t they look like tiny Chick proteges?

Chickerdoodles-130124-10I will only have them for a short while so I am doing my best to teach them all about Chick-ness as quickly as possible, before they move on to their new homes — with you!

You see, a while back the nice people at Frosty Paws sent mama a pee-mail asking if I would like to do a give-away for them. As a prize, I would get my very own puppy to keep, as well as two packages of Frosty Paws (though mama is a health food nut and doesn’t let me and Doodlebug eat things like Frosty Paws because she says they’re junk food and make us allergenic).

But we talked about it, and we decided that it would be worth it just for the chance to share some winter frostiness with you and for my very own new puppy, Frosty!

So who would like to win two free packages of Frosty Paws frozen dog treats and their very own Frosty the Pup, fostered lovingly by yours truly? We have ten prize packs to give away, so your chances are very good! Here’s all you have to do:

Leave a comment on this post with your dog’s name(s), type of dog(s), and favorite treat. If it’s a homemade treat, give us the ingredients/instructions and you’ll get TWO chances to win!

My litter of puppies and I will be picking our ten winners next Wednesday, and will contact all winners by pee-mail. Can’t wait to hear from you!

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**We in our household are big supporters of healthy, additive-free food for dogs. Given this, we feel it is our responsibility to say that Frosty Paws are a treat and should be considered one — like human ice cream, cheetos, or twinkies. Any of these things are fine now and then, but maybe not as an every day part of your diet, especially if you have a sensitive tummy like me and the ‘Bug. So enjoy your Frosty Paws in moderation and savor them for the rare treat that they are!**

Chix-A-Lot Friday: Come see me at my office!

 

 

Guess what, Austin area friends! I’m having an office party, and you’re invited!

Ok ok, it’s not really my office, but it is my place of business. And I do not just mean the place where I do my business, if you know what I mean. Every year the Canine Center for Training and Behavior, where mama, my ‘Bug and I work, hosts a big fun party day that lasts all afternoon and has great things to do like Agili-doggin,’ relaxing while your human makes pretzel shapes out of their body in yoga, lovely fashions to buy –including our dear friend’s beautiful Sew Olive custom tags and martingale collars, and plenty of new friends to meet! Oh, and of course my party will have food (for humans and dogs) and maybe even a bonfire. Sounds like a good time, right?

We’ve talked before about why the Center is such a best place. It’s covered in fun and the best sniffs this side fo the Mississippi, that much is for sure. But that’s not all. It’s also the place that hosts the Schrodi Fund — the training scholarship fund we told you about in December, that helps dogs who need help with their behavior but don’t have the dollars to pay for top-notch training. It’s the place that taught me how to be a more confident dog, the place that taught the ‘Bug how to be a Canine Good Citizen, and the place where we both first learned to Agili-dog, kayak, and play with toys. Not a bad track record, eh?

If you’ve been thinking about starting up your training again, or trying something new, or just wondering why it is that my mama, the ‘Bug, and I love our job so very much, here’s your chance. All of the funs will be there! Just to prove it, look at all the Center-related funs I’m having here:

photo (34)Chickerdoodle-120329-322010 09 fall fun_0014

Here are the details. Come to my party on Saturday, February 2, anytime between 1 and 6pm. The party is at the Canine Center, at 6901 Old Bee Caves Road in Austin. Don’t worry, I won’t be mad if you’re late and I won’t be mad if you do or don’t bring your dog — I’ll only be mad if you don’t stop by to say hello!

Open House Flyer 2013Hope to see you there!

 

Dear Doodlebug: eat your veggies and pick the right collar!

Dear Doodlebug

Dear Friends,

I am beside myself with excitement about my first block blog party advices column today! I have many advices to offer you, but first, mama, Chick and I agreed that we have to have a little bow-wow about something. Many of you dear friends of mine sent me she-mails asking for advices on behavioral issues you are having. I would super very much love to help you with your behaviors (and your dogs’ behaviors), but I am not able.

Wanna know why?

Contrary to what many humans think, we dogs communicate many many informations through our body language. We do it all day long. And we are complex animals with nuanced motivations, feelings, and behaviors. The problem is, many of our persons see us performing a behavior and assume that they understand all of the factors involved. But they are often wrong. Seasoned (and I don’t mean yummy and covered in duck fat and oregano) dog trainers with a focus on behavior issues can deconstruct a behavior by observing us dogs in person — they often see things that our people can’t see. And so offering advices on the interwebs is dangerous. Not only would I be going only on the information that your person provided me (which may or may not be all of it), but I also would not be observing on my own. Oh, and there’s the little issue of me not actually being a dog trainer myself, but only a dog. And even my mama, she is very new to learning how to be a dog trainer and is in no way ready to give advices on your complex behaviors.

So if you are having troubles with barking, growling, hiding, getting over-excited, or general misbehavement, do yourself a favor and ask your person to find a reputable, experienced dog trainer and meet them face-to-face to talk about your troubles. It will be worth the investment. Next week I will give you my advices on how to find a trainer, so stay tuned!

Now, on to this week’s questions!

What fruits and vegetables can dogs eat? Which ones can’t they eat, and why? -Michele & Karley

Dear Michele & Karley,
Well I was looking through my favorite culinary book to help answer your question, and here is what I came up with: the best kinds of fruits and vegetables to feed your dog are meat. I personally prefer raw ducks, and also meaty cow bones, but any meats will make your dog very vegetablishly satisfied. What’s that you say? Meats are not fruits and vegetables? That may be true, but don’t many meats eat fruits and vegetables before they become my dinner? My mama (who is a vegetarian) might say otherwise, but I say that eating vegetarians is almost the same thing as eating vegetables!

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But if you insist on feeding your dog fruits and vegetables (which my mama does, and honestly, when I get a whole pile of broccoli in my bowl with my kibbles, I always eat all the broccoli first and then the kibbles!), here are some guidelines:

  • Apple seeds and seeds of other tree fruits (pears, apricots, peaches, cherries) are danger-mouse to dogs, because they contain cyanide, which is poisonous! All of those fruits themselves are ok, but no seeds, ok?
  • Onions are bad not only because we dogs don’t like them, but also they can cause upset tummies, deplete iron stores in the body (contributing to anemia), and kill red blood cells. Yipes!
  • Grapes, raisins, and prunes are no good either. Apparently nobody knows why these are so bad, but even in small quantities they can cause kidney failure.  Uh, and dad, that goes for raisin bread too, so don’t leave it out on the counter!
  • Cooked veggies are more digestible to dogs than raw. This means that your dog will get more nutrients and more calories out of them if they are cooked than raw — though either are fine to feed. Chopped up raw veggies mixed with kibbles are especially good for dogs who are starving all day long. The veggies can help you feel full without making you into a teletubby!
  • Fruits and veggies do contain calories, especially fruits and cooked, sugary veggies like carrots and sweet potatoes. So if you start eating them, you might find that your mama reduces your kibbles. Try not to get mad!
  • Some fruits are extra magical — bananas and can’t-a-lopes. They are known to stimulate the brain chemicals that promote relaxation. They’re really nice for nervous dogs — but only a couple of tablespoons, ok?

XOXO, Your culinary genius the ‘BugChickerdoodle-130115-3

Do you or Chix have any suggestions or porters for teaching “leave it”. I have a very smart pup who is great with sit, down, paw, wait and roll over – but drop it… no chance, especially when it’s a tennis ball. She doesn’t understand we will throw it for her a lot more and quicker if she will let go of it. I try not to tug and pull, I don’t want to encourage her that it is game, and i haven’t found anything more enticing then that ball for her to drop it in exchange. You and Chix are such good pups – what would you suggest we try? Thanks Doodlebug!! Erin & Evie (the tennis ball hog)

Dear Ball Hog,

My brother has been through this. He is a big-time toy hog and never used to want to give mama his tennis ball. Mama thought it was because he was stubborn, but then she learned that in reality, it’s because he was just scared that she was gonna take it away! The more she tried to take it, the more worried he got and the more he didn’t want to give it to her. Mama thought he was being stubborn, but in reality, he was just worrying about his stuff! 

So try this — I learned this in my Class On How To Be Basically Obedient: have your mama offer you a ball, and then just pet you on your body for as long as you’re willing to hold on to it. Have her not let you lay down, but instead stand or sit and hold it or chew on it to your little heart’s content. When you drop it, have her just put it back in your mouth. Keep doing that – it will be her new way of saying “I don’t want your ball, Evie, you can keep it whenever you want to!” and you will feel safer knowing that she isn’t trying to steal it — and you may eventually become more willing to share! After practicing that for a while, have her throw it for you — but only after you have dropped the ball yourself. When you bring it back, have her pet on you again until you get tired of holding it and drop it. Etc. It may take some time, but eventually it will get faster, and you will be fetching!

XOXO, Your ball ‘Bug who always shares his ball

My daughter, Aeryn, loves to eat pigs ears. Is it okay to give her a pigs ear every day?

Dear Aeryn,

I am no dogtor, but here is what I do know about pig ears. They are downright delicious. But also, they have a very high fat content, which makes them maybe not the best treat for every day. Mama and I don’t know much about whether they are treated with icky chemicals (like rawhides are) or anything like that, but the fat can be hard on a dog’s system, turn you into a tele-tubby, and possibly — from what we’ve heard — cause troubles with your pancreas (whatever that is!). If your mama is looking for an alternative treat, tell her to think about hollow bones stuffed with canned dog foods and frozen. These are yummy and nutritious, and your people can reuse the bones over and over again!

XO, Your Foodie Friend the ‘Bug 

I noticed the pups’ beautiful Sirius Republic collars and wanted to purchase one for my very own Honey Bear (Rose). I was wondering which style you prefer and why? I seem to be leaning towards the Limited Slip but wanted to get your opinion. Thank you so much, Jamie

Dear Honey Bear,

What a great question! Tell your mama that she should get not just one beautiful collar, but several. Don’t you need one to match every season at least? And what about holidays? I personally wouldn’t be caught dead without my special patriotic Sirius Republic collar for Texas Independence Day!

As for style, we like the Limited Slip (also called a “Martingale collar”) variety and use it every day for our walks. Here’s what makes it so great: properly fitted, it will tighten around a dog’s neck enough to prevent you from slipping out of it if  you’re startled or just trying to get outta there, but will not tighten so much that it chokes you. Also, it’s a nice flat fabric collar so it doesn’t put any pokey things in your neck. And it’s super stylish to boot! 

At the training center where mama, Chick and I work, we actually require that all dogs come to class in a Martingale collar or a properly fitted harness. That’s how important we think they are!

Let me know if you need help picking out your fabric, width, and size, mmkay?

XO, Doodlebug the Fashionista

Deer Doodlebug, What is you thinks ’bout dogs wearin’ stuff like glasses and ties and swetters and stuff? I don’t likes it, but it looks like you do. Da hoomins likes it, so can you helps me tell dem dat I would preffers to be nekkid? Kisses and butt sniffs, Mushroom

Dear ‘Shroom,

You not liking to wear glasses and ties and sweaters just means that your person didn’t introduce them right! Whenever our mama surprises us with a new outfit or accessory, she lets us meet it very slowly. We have a long courtship involving some coyness, lots of sniffing, and many treats. Before you know it, we’re fast friends!  But I guess not every dog has to like dressing up — what makes us most special is that we’re all different, right?

XO, Your Clothes Horse Bug

Well that’s all the space we have for this week, friends. My brains hurt from using all of their clevers! If I didn’t get to your question this week, I will do my best to get to it next week. If it’s about a behavioral problem though, all I can do is try to help your person find a good trainer, which is better than my advices anyway.

Please keep the questions coming by pee-mail at info [at] loveandaleash [dot] com. I can’t wait for your correspondences!

XO, Doodlebug the Very Clever Dog

Chix-A-Lot Friday: Fostering as a New Years Resolution

Earlier this month — could it have even been the last day of last year? — my mama and I were featured on the Facebook page of My Pit Bull is Family, a very popular organization that promotes the image of dogs like me and the ‘Bug as dogs like me and the ‘Bug (that is, as normal family dogs). The message was clear: “2013 Resolution: FOSTER. Before, as, and after you party tonight, think about a gift you can give this year that will save a life and bring you boundless love in return.” And this mandate was followed by this photo of my mama and me goofing off, and a little snippet of our story together and how we started fostering dogs.

Only the thing is, we’re not fostering anymore — at least, not right now. We fostered and fostered and fostered all the way up until we met my ‘Bug, and then we had to quit. In our home, two dogs is enough dog. Some families can only handle one dog, some families (who I don’t understand) can only handle no dogs, while others can handle three, or four, or even more. Those are some brave families. And they must have some very good dogs.

But the truth is, everybody has their own limits. My mama and dad sometimes say that my brother and I are enough or a project for the two of them, and they wouldn’t be able to handle a third dog. I don’t know what she means, because we are most definitely not a project. We are two dogs. But still — she says that we are still working on our Canine Best Behaviors, and because of this, she doesn’t want to bring more dogs in. On top of that, mama is busy with her job helping other people with their dogs, so more dogs at home sure won’t help that much. And on top of all that, we are going to be adding a new two-legged puppy to our family in a few months, and from what mama has told me, things are going to get real busy for a while after that happens. So for now, we’re not in the game.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be. Ever since my brother started his advice column, we’ve gotten a number of pee-mails from people wondering if maybe they could start fostering too. Even though I should let my brother answer them, I’m gonna call seniority on his junior self and answer this ponderance for myself. So if you’re thinking about fostering this year, here are my advices on how to get ready:

1. Come up with a plan of how to separate your household.

This could entail a system of dividing your house into two houses, or it could involve a “crate and rotate” system where dogs swap spots every couple of hours. Even if you plan to integrate your dog and the foster dog, you won’t want to do it right away — trust me. And the better you’ve thought through your separation plan, the less you’ll be tempted to rush the dogs together because of convenience. You’ll be more willing to wait until the dogs are actually ready– which is a very good thing.

In fact, many folks foster without ever integrating dogs in their house. I bet you didn’t even know that, huh? When we were fostering, I never even met Little Zee, the apple of my mama’s eye. Other dogs — like Lollie Wonderdog and Dora the Explorer — I got to go for walks with and hang out with supervised sometimes, but for the most part we were separated while at home. Those broads were just too pushy for my tastes, and mama figured out early on that everybody would be happier, the house would be calmer, and there would be less stress if we just took turns. And it worked!

There is a bonus to this plan component too: if it turns out that — despite your best intentions to integrate — you have to keep dogs separate (because they don’t get along, because one is sick, etc), you already know what to do — and nobody gets bounced out of a foster home!

2. Get a really good recall on your dog.

If you’re like most foster folks, you probably want to integrate your new foster dog with your own dogs. That’s great! Dogs can learn all kinds of wonderful things from each other and many enjoy the company, too. But before you take this step, you’ll want to take at least one precaution — train a really good “come when called” with your dog. I’m not just talking about when you ask him for a “sit” and then walk 10 feet away with a piece of rotisserie chicken and then call him. No, I’m talking — teach your dog to come when you call him even if he’s in the middle of playing with a buddy or stalking a cat or rolling in a particularly yummy piece of dead animal in the grass.

Wanna know why? Your foster dog may not come into your home with the best habits, and you don’t want your dog picking up on any bad habits from your foster. So if your dog and your foster start playing a particularly rough game of bitey-face, you will want to call your dog out of it without any drama. Or if you end up with one dog getting into the personal space of another dog, you can get one dog to move without rushing over and grabbing any collars. A good recall will help keep everybody safe.

3. When it comes to integration, you’ll need a helper.

Typically, it took me about 3-5 weeks to integrate fully with foster dogs. Those first few weeks were spent very deliberately building my foster sibling’s basic skills, his relationship with my people, and slowly increasing our exposure to each other. We’d go for walks together, for example. But at first, we’d walk across the street from each other, with different handlers. Eventually, we’d walk side by side, still with two handlers to move us apart if anybody got too excited. Over time, we’d be able to walk together with just one person like my dad, below.

So at first, a second walker was super helpful for us. We got to have all of our fun times together without any of the stress of being forced together before we were ready, see?

4. Have a support network ready.

Speaking of helpers. Fostering is mega-fun, but it’s hard work, too. And it will teach you more than you even realized you didn’t know about dog behavior. But to do all that learning and give your foster dog all she deserves, you’ll need a support network — at least 2-3 people you can lean on when things get hard or when you have questions. These can be me and my ‘Bug (even though we are dogs and not people), folks from your rescue group, your local dog trainer, or just good friends who like dogs and are willing to come over to give you a hug and fix you a strong margarita the first time your foster dog pees on your couch (which may or may not happen).

5. Set your expectations and have lots of patience.

Although I kind of dreaded fostering at first (new dogs in the house sharing my space, my toys, and my peoples? NO way!), mama thought it would be all sunshine and lollipops. Boy was she wrong. In reality, being a good foster family takes a lot of hard work. It takes sacrifices in time and space, it takes a lot of creative thinking and hard work, and it takes a willingness to learn a lot and be flexible. But here’s the secret: we found that with every dog we fostered, it got a little easier. Our expectations became a little more realistic, we got the hang of it a little more, and we gained a sense of humor about the whole thing. By the time we fostered the Little Zee / Curious Georgia flurry, we felt like old pros. After all, those two lived with us while we were selling our house and getting ready to move across the country!

6. Enjoy!

This one might be the most important of all. Yes, fostering is hard work. If you stick with it long enough, then yes, you’ll have to clean up poop inside the house. Yes, you’ll occasionally take an extra long walk in the morning before dawn when it’s freezing outside. Yes, you’ll jump too quickly from one step to another and end up with a disagreement between dogs or a misstep in training or trust. Yes, you’ll have your heart broken by would-be adopters who seemed perfect but disappeared. Or by ones who adopted and then returned. All of these things happen.

But in the grand scheme, these inconveniences are just a drop in the bucket. You will save lives. You will give dogs a chance who wouldn’t have had one. You’ll learn and stretch and grow and cry and laugh. And you’ll fall in love over, and over, and over again.

So what do you think? Could 2013 be your year?

Dear Doodlebug: a new blog feature

Last week my sweet, sweet brother the Chicken gave me the most glorious I-Am-Saved-A-Versary surprise — he gave promises of my very own regular block party blog party! I was like, Whoa Chickyou should not have have! (Even though in the realities, he really should have. Did you know that for a hundred bazillion years he has already had his own weekly block blog party? And if you knew, why didn’t anybody tell me??)

Dear Doodlebug

Probably it’s because I have so many clevers, but my sweet sweet brother decided to gift me my very own advices column! (For a minute I was most flummoxed — but only for a minute because after a minute it became so very clear). He thought that his ‘Bug (that’s me, by the ways) would be a good advices-giver since I am a Canine Good Citizen, I have much much dogtor-experiencement, I have played many many sports, I have passed his mandatory one-year trial of adoptedness, I enjoy a fine scotch, and I love to read. Boy am I well rounded (and I don’t mean fat!).

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So starting next week, my interwebs family, I will be offering you my very best advices. As you can see, I am very well-read. So I can give you my best advices about all kinds of things — from dog things, to what to buy your dad for Texas Independence Day, to what is the most efficientest way to tie a butterfly knot, to which charity you should donate your green papers to. And here’s the best part: my advices will be absolutely FREE!

So please send your questions to my mama. You can leave them in comments on this block blog party, or you can she-mail them to my mama at info [at] loveandaleash [dot] com. Just make sure you put “Dear Doodlebug” in the subject lines so that we know that your mails are for me, ok?

See you and your burning questions next week!

XO, the ‘Bug
Chickerdoodle-130108-10

Chix-A-Lot Friday: My One-Year-Saved Brother the Bug

Just look at this dog:

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And also look at this one:Snickerdoodle-120306-7

Was there ever really any doubt that we were never gonna let him go?

My brother the ‘Bug came home a year ago this week — on January 2nd. We spent about two months pretending we were just fostering him, but when we talked about it the other night, we pinned the timing as about 10 days before we all kind of knew but wouldn’t admit that he was with us for good.

And can you blame us?

Chickerdoodle-120309-11

My brother the ‘Bug has been through a lot in his first year with us. Just after the stress of being uprooted from his home at the Arlington, TX slammer animal shelter, Doodlebug was hit with a superscary incident: the morning we awoke to him coughing up big puddles of blood. We knew he had those nasty worms in his heart, but we just had no idea how badly they were trying to kill him until that day. So he started his treatments. A couple of days after his first shot for the worms, I took advantage of his weakened state and got him in trouble with my dumpster-diving trashcan-diving escapades. I couldn’t resist– it’s what big brothers do, right?

Well I guess my escapades were just what the ‘Bug needed to lift his spirits, because just a couple of weeks later, he was feeling awesome, and totally confident that he was going to whoop those nasty worms right in the butt!

Not long after, Doodlebug started school — first Basics class (where he learned that I am the ruler of the universe how to be basically obedient), then Canine Good Citizen class, where he had to learn how to be masterfully obedient.

You might think that learning to be masterfully obedient is hard, and yes, you would be right. It absolutely is. Especially when you are faced with all of the other setbacks that my poor ‘Bug has had to deal with this year! First there were the worms in his heart, then there were some worms in his ring. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he had to be dipped in some rotten-egg-smelling yellow water every week for what seemed like a very long time, to help him with the worms in his ring. And on top of that, he had some kind of bacteriums in his poopie hole. Yuck!

That’s enough, right? How much can one poor dog deal with? Well, there’s more. Throw in some of the worst allergies our dogtor has ever seen (that made him have to wear a t-shirt all springtime and go almost totally bald) and a terrible, frightful, no-good, very bad Grand Mal seizure that led him to be diagnosed with hypothyroid disorder, and you’re getting close to understanding all my poor ‘Bug has been through.

But of course, we’ve had our fun too. Doodlebug got to go with me and mama and dad to Canine Camp in the spring, where he learned lots of agility, got to run a lure course, and went kayaking for the first time.

And speaking of agility, the ‘Bug has become quite the agili-dog. He and I went through a class, and although I thought it was ok, the ‘Bug totally loved it!

And then there are the trips out of town — to backpacking places and to the Turkeyman’s house. Yeah, I’d say my brother’s first year has been a pretty good one. And the icing on the cake, of course, is his CGC — which he earned fair and square last month. I have to admit, I’m proud of the kiddo!

So now that he has been with us a full year, mama and I have put our heads together and come up with the perfect Gotcha-Day present for him: his very own blog feature! I have my own Chix-A-Lot Friday, and that won’t ever change. But now my brother will have his very own thing, too!

Stay tuned next week and he’ll tell you all about it.

Happy Saved-A-Versary, Doodlebug!

 

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