Dear Doodlebug: A Snifferiffic, Rainy, Raw Cat-Chasing Naptime Extravaganza!

Dear Doodlebug 2Oh boy, I have been waiting all week for my favorite day of all, Dear Doodlebug Day! Lots of fun questions and answers today, including several from our fellow celebridog friends. Keep the questions coming, folks — just pee-mail my assistant at info [at] loveandaleash [dot] com with the words “Dear Doodlebug” in the subject line, and we will do our best to answer your request for advices as soon as we can!

On to today’s musings . . .

Dearest Doodlebug, I think “going on a walk” actually means “go on a sniffing adventure.”  We live in the city, so there are lots of stop signs, mailboxes, bushes, trees, stairs, buildings, and other smelly landmarks. Once my nose is in full sniff, my mom has a really hard time to get my brain to focus on her.  I am wondering if you have any advices on how to help me to keep my nose out of the bushes and focused on my mom. Love, Athena from Pitlandia


Dear fellow Celebri-dog Athena, 

You’re going to have to break this news to your mama softly, because she’s not gonna like it: she just isn’t very much fun on walks. The Freedom Harness you’ve just gotten is our very favorite, but won’t fix everything on its own. It will only help with the work that you and your mama have to do anyway!

I never got to meet legendary Austin dog charmer Lee Mannix, but my brother has told me stories upon stories. One of them was that every time he got a case of the sniffs, Lee would yell something at mama and dad about “You’ve gotta be more fun than the goddamned dirt!” Incidentally, “More Fun Than Dirt” has since become the motto of the Canine Center where Lee taught and where we now work and play. It’s the key to everything, it turns out!

Mama and dad often remark upon how very super tuned in I am every time it’s time to work, and how my brother still sometimes gets the sniffs or acts like he doesn’t hear our peoples. They speculate that it’s because from the very beginning, they taught me that there is nothing in the world more magical, wonderful, fun, and in possession of everything I love, than my mama and dad. So if I’m off in the world with them, how can any sniffs compete?

But it’s not too late for you to learn also! Make sure that next time your mama heads out with you, that she brings ALL of her funs. I don’t just mean treats, although she should certainly bring a variety of your favorite smelly treats too. I mean her good mood, her best petting hands, her winningest smile, and her quickest reflexes for telling you what a good girl you are every time you get it right. The more fun and exciting your mama is, the more likely you are to pay attention. Then, focus on mastering a very short distance. Your first walk might only be up and down your driveway 30 times. And that’s ok — 10 minutes of concentrating, pull-free walking will tucker you out WAY more than 30 minutes of doing whatever you want. You’ll see! Once that gets easy, go a little further. Then, a little further. Eventually, you’ll be walking everywhere, and only sniffing when your mama gives you her special release word. 

And what you may not notice but your mama will find is that she will start to be able to anticipate when you are feeling sniffatory and learn to time her upping of enthusiasm, petting, and treats to change your mind about which way you want to go. Pretty soon it’ll be second nature!

If all else fails, find a good, seasoned dog trainer in your area who can help your mama work on her timing. It can be tricky on your own out there!

XO, Doodlebug of the Disciplined Sniffer

Dear Doodlebug, What can I do to make my dog like the rain? When it gets rainy like has been the last few days in Austin, my Doobie refuses to go out! Signed, Rain Rain Go Away


Dear Rain Rain,

First of all, don’t you know it’s bad karma to wish the rain away if you live in Central Texas?  We are in a drought! Don’t you want more waters for swimming in? I know I sure do.

I am not sure why Doobie doesn’t like the rain, but here’s a little test you can run to figure it out: how often do you go out and play games when it’s raining outside? How many extra long walks do you go on when it’s raining? What about swimming, and kayaking? How often do you go swimming together in the rain? And play nosework games in the rain? And practice agilities? 

Maybe that’s your first clue. If you want your dog to like the rain as much as the funshine, think about doing more fun things in the rain with him. Or at least get him a mighty-fine rain coat like my brother and I have!

XO, Rain Rain Keep It Going

Dear Snicker-doodlebug, Do you have any advices on transitioning to raw? Me knows you have the allergies like me (and my somewhat-annoying brother) and we heards that you do raw and my mom likes the ideas of getting me off some of my allergenic medications.  The one things we know for sure is that I cants have the chicken (the bird, not your brother, I would never eat him…unless he was covered in peanut butter).  My mom seems confused about meat to bone to grosser meat ratio.  Math is not her strong suit (actually she’s a girl so she does not wear suits but whatever). Love (and I mean that literally), Melvin (and sorta Jake) 


Dear Fellow Celebridog Melvin,

We were both eating raw for a while, but only while mama worked through my allergies via allergy-curing voodoo. You see for a while, all I could eat (literally) were ducks, sweet potatoes, green beans, lettuce, and broccolis. That’s it. I was even allergenic to some of the components of those yummables, like various vitamins, minerals, and sugar. Heck, I was even allergenic to dogs and humans! My allergies are much more controlled now, and we have treated enough substances through AAT that I can now eat a high-quality kibble (only one, but still . . .). Mama loved some things about feeding us raw (we loved ALL of the things about it), but in the long run, it just wasn’t working for us. We still do get a raw bone every now and then as a treat, but our days of 1.2 pounds of raw meat per day are gone!

As for how to transition, we just went cold turkey duck. One day we were eating kibbles, and the next day our kibbles were replaced with glorious, glorious raw animal parts. Neither of us had any issues with the switch, although we have heard some people prefer to switch more slowly to avoid potential tummy rumbles. Our vet recommended we just go for it, and we jumped right in!

Our vet recommends a ratio of 40% raw, 30% (cooked) veggies/fruits, and 30% starch like (cooked) potato, sweet potato, or whole grain (never white rice or anything like that). We have heard other raw feeders swear by 100% meat with no other components, except maybe as snacks. Others still use dietary supplements. As for the meats-to-bones-to-organs ratio, we have heard 80-10-10 is the way to go. But it’s all enough to give a dog a headache! 

When we were eating raw, we used a great local service that delivers nationally, ReelRaw. They are of the 100% meat camp, which we didn’t follow, but we found them to be very helpful and knowledgeable. They also have a good FAQ!

Boy, you’re making me wish mama would switch us back to raw feedings. We still dream of the days of whole quarters of ducks or glorious sets of beef ribs . . . ahh, the good old days . . .

Good luck and let us know how you do,

Doodlebug the Kibblehog

Dear Doodlebug, Have you ever met a dog that got nightmares?  For the last month or so I’ve been waking up nervous and needing my mama in the middle of the night.  Sometimes 4 or 5 times a night!  I’m not a baby (I’m 5 years old), and nothing weird has happened that would explain my sleeplessness.  We tried a crate, but that only worked for one night.  I think my mama’s going a little bonkers.  Do you have any ideas on how to help me sleep better? Thanks, Denman Dawg, Official Mascot for WendyWorks Realty


Dear Denman the Realtor,

Do you think maybe your job as a realtor has you too stressed out to sleep well at night? Sometimes when my dad is working extra hard and has a lot going on at the place he goes away to for 10 hours every weekday, he doesn’t sleep too well. Maybe you ought to take a vacation!

You can tell from the above photo that I am a very serious sleeper. Although I occasionally have dreams of running through a field chasing the Easter Bunny, I usually just sleep peacefully all through the night, without any troubles. For your problem, I’d offer the following advices: go see your vet. Have them run the standard tests do a full blood panel and see if there’s anything amiss. You could be dealing with any of a zillion non-serious or serious medical issues that are messing with your tranquilo, and chances are that whatever is going on can be regulated easily. In the meantime, have you ever tried Rescue Remedy? It works great for some dogs in just chilling out the brain and helping relaxation take effect. In other words, Rescue Remedy is like a White Russian for a dog. It’ll help you channel your inner Dude.

Nighty night, Your Sweet Dreamer

Dear Doodlebug, My eight year old, four legged daughter killed a cat in the backyard. It makes me feel weird and bad, and it makes me worry that her varmint-chasey behavior will get worse now that she’s been “rewarded” for it. She is a well mannered lady but loses all focus when any tiny creature comes onto the scene. Should I be worried? Should I take her in for critter-desensitization training? Or is this sad thing actually pretty normal for a doggy who’s never known small animals in a home setting? Do I chalk it up to animal nature and move on? For the record, the cat had no collar and didn’t belong to any immediate neighbors. I have been sick wondering whether it was a stray or somebody’s pet. Can you tell me if there’s a way to keep this from happening again, Doodlebug? Sincerest thanks from a big fan of yours, Cat Lover

2008 12 NO & BR_0048

Dear Cat Person,

Even though it is my official position that your dog did a Very Bad Thing, I would like to personally, secretly, and inappropriately offer her a virtual high-five. I have often fantasized about catching a cat, I’ve just never had the opportunity. I’m not sure what would happen if I caught one, but boy oh boy do I think it would be glorious.

Now, moving on. Murder is a Very Bad Thing, and sadly, chasing and catching small critters is a normal dog behavior. Your dog has a chase-drive. It doesn’t make your dog a bad dog. It just makes your dog a dog with a chase drive. Which is normal. Are you catching my drift?

About a year ago, my mama went to a dog behavior seminar, and one of the things she found the most fascinating was the idea that you can’t control *whether* your dog chases, but you can control *what* your dog chases and *when* your dog chases. Same goes for other normal dog behaviors — biting, wrestling, stalking, etc.

If you haven’t already, start working on your fetch game. Your dog needs a good outlet for that chase-catch drive, and taking down neighborhood cats probably isn’t the best use of that energy. Give your dog a good, structured way to burn that desire to chase, and you might see less of a drive for critters. If cats are frequent visitors to your yard and neighborhood, you can also work on some basic training exercises in the presence of cats, where your lady-friend gets rewarded for being relaxed and calm around the critters.

It also can’t hurt to see a trainer — find one who uses positive, rewards-based methods, and has experience with this sort of thing. Your mama will want to bring you in for an evaluation to confirm that your incident was just a part of normal dog behavior and not something strange and troublesome.

Good luck, and paws off the cats! -Doodlecatlover

14 responses

  1. Mushroom here! First, lemme say the meats that your brother is eating look DEEEEEELISH! I also wanna make a suggestion to Cat Lover’s question. I am a cat lover too! What I mean is, the one time I saw a cat, I dragged my humans off the sidewalk and into the street in order to get a better look at it. I also like to do the same for birds, squirrels, and rabbits. But the trainer lady told the humans that they should use the clicky thing and then give me a treat every time I see one of these delicious (er… adorable) animals. And the best part is, I’m still always on the lookout for birds and such, but if, instead of pulling and chasing, I just sit and look at my humans, I get a treat for it! It’s a win-win situation if you ask me, which of course you didn’t, but I gave my opinion anyway, so there.

  2. For Cat Lover – invest in a flirt pole, and practice, practice, practice! It is such great exercise and perfect for a dog with high drive. That said – there *must* be rules in place, like drop or leave it. Bad Rap has a great tutorial on how to make your own flirt pole and then demonstrates it. Good luck!

  3. I’m realizing that my favorite part of Doodlebug’s columns is realizing that my dogs have so much in common with other dogs 🙂 We have to get working like Athena on those walks and maybe someday we’ll have a fenced-in yard where we can practice redirecting Lily’s chase drive.

  4. On our morning walk, I have discovered that I can be more interesting than the goddam dirt. However, I apparently pale in comparison to a flock of seagulls fighting over a slice of bread (actual seagulls, not the guys with funky hair, although I would pale in comparison to them as well, especially if they were fighting over a slice of bread.)

  5. My goodness, Doodlebug, Athena and I have a lot of work to do! I really appreciate your very quick response to Athena’s question and we will be sure to update you on our sniffer progress! Thanks for being the smartest dog around!

  6. I look forward to your blogs, Doodlebug. You are the wisest pup I know. My daughter, Aeryn, also has a high chase drive and has supplied me with many little “surprises” throughout the years. However, she lives with seven cats and had to learn what was prey and who was “pack”. Now she helps me with the challenging task of herding the cats back into the house. Pups and Kits can be the best of buds but it takes some work!

  7. Doodlebug, I have been trying to track down the Freedom Harness for a year. A wonderful trainer in Portland had recommended it for my pup and while she does well with a regular Easy Walk I know my foster pup (Boots from Love-a-Bull, your mama and dad know him) will benefit from the Freedom Harness. I actually ordered two because I don’t want my pup to feel left out. Do you have any problems with it chafing your sensitive pibble armpits? I’ve had to put special fleece covers on my pups’ Easy Walk harnesses.

    • Hey! I was JUST thinking about Boots the other day! A friend of mine paints pet portraits and I am having each of my fosters done, and Dora was just completed. I’m excited!

      We sell the Freedom at the Canine Center in Oak Hill (close to L-A-B’s vet), and they also carry it at several Tomlinson’s locations. If you happen to have trouble with the size, keep that in mind for ordering.

      No, we don’t have the armpit problem at all. That’s one of the great things about the Freedom — it is designed to not pinch in the armpits, and even if it did, the piece that goes under the arms is covered with a velvet layer so it’s nice and soft. The Easywalk pinches under the arms by design, since it is meant to squeeze the shoulders together and make it uncomfortable to pull. The Freedom operates on a totally different principle. One thing to note, though, is that while you are learning to use the harness, you might need to walk the two dogs separately. It works best two-handed (since it uses a double-ended leash), at least while you’re learning the ropes. Let me know if you have trouble figuring out how to work it, and we could organize an informal mini lesson 🙂

      Good luck! Aleks

  8. Thanks so much, Aleks! I should have waited for your reply before ordering from Amazon (I prefer to buy locally), but was so excited to finally find it. I had previously tried ordering direct from the manufacturer and they were supposedly out. Anyway, I’m trying to find something to help while I work with Boots on his leash reactivity. He also isn’t great on the leash overall, so I’m hoping for a win-win with the Freedom. He’s made a great deal of progress, but I’m still working to find the best collar/harness. I’ve previously used two leashes with him (one on his Easy Walk and one around his neck), which helped some. The Easy Walk just doesn’t fit him correctly, so it isn’t as effective as I’d like. I’m also trying to work from a purely positive perspective, so it’s a bit of trial and error.

    Thank you again for the helpful information. That’s such a cute idea to have portraits made of your fosters! Have you seen LAB’s Daisy? She looks so much like Dora. When Boots first saw her he really took to her. 🙂 I’ll be sure to get in touch if I have any questions/problems with the new harness.


  9. I’m at a loss for words due to all the love and gratitude I feel! Thank you for answering our question and I am clicking like mad on all those links and seeing if we can perhaps reach the success that you’ve had! To that end, I cheered REALLY loudly when I read that your allergies are improved!!!! Pure joy over here for you!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!

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