Chix-A-Lot Friday: Remembering Dora the Explorer (+ a sweet little bonus for you!)

Many of you remember my last foster before Doodlebug, America’s sweetheart Dora the Explorer. How could you forget? She might have been the most gorgeous dog we’ve ever laid eyes on (other than yours truly of course!), and with that silky grey fur, that sweet underbite, and those amazing ears, it’s no wonder she broke hearts wherever she went.

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She broke all our hearts again — in a sad way — when she got loose on a walk with her mama several months back and disappeared, never to be found again. To this day, she still hasn’t come home. We like to imagine that she was found by some kind family who just didn’t know how to locate her rightful owners. They fell in love, made her their own, and lived happily ever after. That’s how the story should end in our heads, anyway.

Dora-bull has been on our minds lately because we’ve just received our Yellow Brick Home Pet Shop tiny portrait of her, and we are in love all over again!

IMG_9046Dora’s portrait is our fourth 4×4 inch foster dog painting, on top of the two 6×6 inch paintings Kim has done of me and my silly brother the ‘Bug.


Since Kim’s art has become such a major presence in our home, mama asked her to document the process for us this time. We’ve been dying to know: what do these amazing mini works of art look like along the way? So today we’re thrilled to share a few insider looks!


Amazing, right?

And just for this week, as a special treat to all our readers, the Pet Shop is offering 10% off ALL products with the code DEARDORA!  This includes custom work, ready-to-go original paintings, prints, and gift certificates. Jump on it, the coupon expires at midnight on Monday, April 15!

As though that wasn’t enough of a treat for you already, we have another sweet announcement for Dora-lovers. Only the most dedicated fans will remember that when Dora was rescued, she was living in a back yard with one of her puppies, Boots. Well, Boots is now available for adoption through Love-A-Bull! He has all of her underbite, personality, and charms — plus a beautiful subtle, brindle coat.

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If you are still regretting not snatching up Dora when she was available, check out Boots on Love-A-Bull’s adoption page. Mama and dad have met him in person and can tell you with confidence: You will adore him!


Dear Doodlebug: Dog addictions, French grandparents, and being a dog model

Dear Doodlebug 2YIPPEE for me, it’s Dear Doodlebug day! Thanks for all the Very Interesting questions as usual, friends! I do feel that I have to remind you though: I am NOT authorized to answer serious behavioral questions over the interwebs. I am not a dog trainer, and even if I were, it would be reckless to answer your serious questions on the interwebs. Don’t more of you need love advice, fashion advice, or ideas about which TV show you should watch next? Those kind of questions are the reasons I really got into this business.

As always, please send any requests for advices to my secretary at info [at] loveandaleash [dot] com, and we will answer them as soon as we can!

On to it:

Hi Dude, My name is Huck and I am addicted to my mom.  I mean I love my mom so much that I will hold my bladder for a really, really long time to avoid going outside with my dad. I’m getting better with this and I mean my dad is a pretty good petter and I’ll take my belly rubs from anyone with a hand attached to an arm but I LOVE my mom.  I love her so much I only close my eyes and get my nap on only when she is in a reclined position or staying in one spot (like cooking dinner or reading her stories).  If she moves (rolls over in bed in the morning, adjusts on the couch, smiles at me, breathes, sighs, moves her hands) I am up off my bed to assit wherever I am needed.  It’s exhausting and, just between you and me, I think mom feels guilty that she doesn’t always need my services.  Any suggestions on helping me know when she really needs me?Thank you for your service to our dog community, Mr. Huck “Reporting for Duty” Spanner

Dear Huck,

I have no experiences with this first-paw, to be honest. My mama calls me a first-class whore (I wonder what that means) because I will go for a walk with anybody anytime, whether I know them or not and whether they have treats or not. My harness and leash are my biggest addiction, and whoever can deliver them to my body and then delivery me out into the world is A-okay with me!

BUT, my brother the Chick says that many moons ago, he had a foster sister named Stevie Wonder (above), and she was a little bit similar. She would only go out with our mama, and would go into a full-out panic attack when dad tried to take her anywhere. The girl was obviously quite confused! Mama didn’t know what to do, and she ended up making a blogging about it and asking our friends for their advices. You can read all about Stevie’s problem and our friends’ ideas here.

In the end, here’s how my mama and dad solved it with Stevie. Dad started being the Producer of All Funs and Other Goodies (PAFOG). Mama had been the primary PAFOG in our family before that, and once things changed and dad was the one bringing all the walks, all the dinners, all the pettings, all the trainings, and all the praise, things started to get better. At the same time — this was the really hard one for mama — mama had to quit being a PAFOG. For a week or two, mama had to cold-heartedly ignore Stevie’s requests for pettings, attentions, treats, and other forms of loving. It was heartbreaking for mama at first, but she knew it was for the best for Stevie. And you know what? It worked! 

Best of luck to you,

Your Doodlewhore

Dear Doodlebug, I am writing for some very important advice… I need help with my modelings.  I can’t help but notice your awesome snaggle tooth pose, and your brother’s perfect pouty face.  What is your secret?  The reason I ask is, my mama has plans to take some family portraits this year.  You see, my rude parents went off and got married last year and didn’t even invite me for one picture!  So, to make it up to me, we are going to take some snappies with the 3 of us around town.  I am a pro when it comes to modeling for Instagram, but I’ve never been ‘on location’ for a photo shoot.  Any advice for a first time dog model? Ringo


Dear Aspiring Dog-Model,

Have you ever wondered if there was more to life than being really, really, ridiculously good-looking? Well it turns out that there is — even if you are ridiculously good-looking, it takes more to be a dog model. Most of the magic tricks simply take practice, so you’ll have to learn as you go.

But there are two tricks that will be absolutely essential for your preparings for your shoot-about-town. First, make sure your photographer is comfortable with dogs and willing to make friends with you, handle treats, etc. You will be able to tell if the person is not that impressed with your handsome, handsome self, and it will make you not want to work it for the camera.  A tragedy!

And second, practice, practice, practice! In the days leading up to your shoot, have your people bring you to the exact spot where they plan to do their photodogging, and let you explore. Make sure they don’t have an agenda and that they can let you sniff, sniff, sniff to your heart’s content. Do this multiple times. On another visit, have them practice some basic skills with you in the same place — sits, downs, recalls, tricks, leash walking — whatever they’d like. The goal is to get you used to being in the place but not being totally distracted by everything going on. Once you can both easily focus and easily relax at your photo shoot location, you know you’re ready.

Good luck!

Doodle Zoolander

Hi Doodlebug!  My Mama also takes me to the Canine Center for help with my re activeness and I’m getting better ~ I passed the Vet visit this year with flying colors per my Mama…..but I got a problem with my older brother Merlin…see if loves those flying disks (frizz bees) to the point he won’t share…he’ll hog them and thinks he’s gotta hoard them…..Mama tell him to drop them, but when he doesn’t she just walks away….then I don’t play with those flying disks….but when I get the chance oh boy ~ I have fun….Mama used to put my big brother in the house and just play with me…..guess I gotta remind her to do that again.  But is there any other way for Mama to teach my big brother to let loose those flying disks? -Fun and Sassy in the back yard

Dear Fun and Sassy,

Next time you’re out at the Center, ask your trainer for their best advices. Guarding of objects is one of those things that seems so simple, but it can actually have a lot of different causes and motivations. I could offer you my guessings, but what if I guessed wrong? I wouldn’t want to set you and your brother Merlin down the wrong path.

Your mama’s instinks to put your brother in the house and JUST play with you are good ones, though, and can’t hurt. Tell her that you should each have individual playtime with those frisbees, and while one of you is playing, the other one can be inside working on some kind of fun puzzle.

Be sure to say hello to us and our mama next time you’re out at the Center!

Love, Your Doodle

Dear His Excellence Mr. Dude,You offered me wonderful advices when you first started your column about my crazy brother Wiley Coyote, but I have another problem I’m hoping you can help me out with. I recently got a new cousin, Finn, who is a beagle/jack russel mix. When we first met I liked him a lot and we would play and cuddle for hours, but recently he’s been driving me CRAZY. He won’t stop doing his humpty dumpty dance, licks my paws, and licks my private parts any chance he can get. No correcting from my uncle can make him stop. 😦 

I’d really like to be able to keep hanging out with my new cousin, but I’d rather he keep his tongue to himself and quit his annoying dancing routine. 

Do you have any advices? 


Max the Wonderdog

Dear Victim of Finn,

Sounds like your cousin needs to learn some impulse control! If your uncle will listen, tell him to enroll Finn in some private lessons or a class where a major component is relaxation and control-based exercises. Practice is the best way for a dog to learn that he can’t *always* do exactly what he wants! And as far as the humpty dance, Finn is going to need a consequence to his actions when he breaks a rule. If humping is against the rules, why should Finn care? What happens if he breaks the rule? In our house, rule-breaking earns us a time out, which we think is just terrible, because it takes us away from the action. It works for us. You’ll have to find something in your house that works for you — and for Finn!

Rock it, DB

Dear Doodlebug, 

I’ve been with my forever home for about five months and it’s going great! However, I’m having a teensie, tiny problem when I see other doggies when I’m walking. I don’t try to touch them with my teeth or anything like that, but I do what my mama calls my “tiger walk” where I walk really low to the ground and stare when they come toward me. When I get to them, I pop right back up and trot on my way — I’ve never lunged/jumped/tried to touch any dog, ever, even when they bark at me! But, my mama says that it scares doggies and their moms and dads because they don’t know that I’m not going to hurt them. Also, sometimes I just stop walking and stare at the doggies until they pass, which disrupts people walking and makes the owners scared to pass me. I just want to say hi and maybe guard my mom against vicious Chihuahuas, but she doesn’t want me to do this anymore. How do you react to dog friends on the street? Can your wise, handsome brain help me fix my jungle cat ways? 



Hey . . . are you the same Finn as the cousin Finn in the question I just finished advising about? You Finns are everywhere today!

Anyhow. The short answer is, you are being kinda rude, Finn. Direct eye contact is especially rude in dog-dog language, so even though you may not realize it, you are accidentally challenging the other dogs when you stare the way you do. I’m not hating on you or anything because I also have a very intense and rude natural stare, and mama has worked very hard to teach me NOT to whip it out on every dog we pass on the streets. I am much, much, much improved, but sometimes my eyes still do wander and get stuck on another dog. I just can’t help it.

The thing that helped us the most was Canine Good Citizen Class, which took our polite leash walking to the next level. We really had to challenge ourselves and our politeness and got LOTS of practice passing by dogs the right way, even at a close distance. We mostly focused on It wasn’t easy at first, but lots and lots and lots of practice made for a tired — and more polite — ‘Bug! The real trick is learning what you should be doing instead of focusing on the other dog, and practice doing that — first at a Great Big Distance that is easy for you to handle, and then gradually closer and closer, until you can pass dogs on the street without a care in the world. See what kind of advanced obedience, CGC, or leash walking classes are available in your area, and sign yourself right up!

Your ‘Bug, who blames his single French Bulldog grandparent for his inappropriate stare

Dear Doodlebug,  
My humans have decided to stop renting and they’re buying a house just for us doggies (I assume).  We’ve lived where we are now for 5 years so moving isn’t something my 12 year old sister, Jasmine, and I have to deal with in awhile.  Jasmine is already getting a little stressed with all the boxes everywhere and the strangers coming in the house to see if they want to rent it next.  Personally I love the new humans coming in and I think cardboard is quite a delicacy but Jasmine isn’t on the same page.  I do tend to get a bit wired when going to new places though so the humans are worried about both of our stress levels when the big day comes.  Do you have any advice to help minimize our stress during the moving process? 
Love and slobber, 

Domino from Paints for Pits

Dear Domino,

Your name has quite a ring to it, just like mine — Dear Domino, Dear Doodlebug, maybe we could team up on something someday!

Anyhow, back to your questionings: My brother wrote a post about the art of moving a while back. Ironically, it was in celebration of his first year NOT moving in his entire life! But maybe you will find it helpful?

XO, Your co-DD in Chief

Ready for Baby Mini-Series: Resources

Well, our puppy was supposed to arrive this past Saturday, but she or he is a total slacker and hasn’t even showed up yet! So we’ve got plenty of time to wait around, filling our days with agilities, walks around the neighborhood, and naps.

We’ve also had plenty of downtime to catch up on our reading. Mama has been reading lots of very boring things to us, which is just fine by us, because she lets us nap snuggled up with her, and she is quite comfy as a headrest.

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We’ve already spent the last few weeks telling you all of the ways that WE are getting ready for our future two-legged sibling, and we hope they’ve been helpful. But we also know that every family is different, and every dog has different needs. In addition to our ideas here, you may need other tools as you navigate your own journey. To that end, here are some resources to help:

Our favorite book on the subject is Your Dog and Your Baby: A Practical Guide. It’s easy to read, well-organized, and thoroughly addresses various common (and uncommon) situations involving babies and dogs.

There are several websites that offer webinars, articles, and other resources about issues related to dogs and children. The most prominent is Family Paws. Family Paws also offers a location-based search for trainers who offer their specific dog-baby preparation protocol, here.

As wonderful as books and websites can be, sometimes nothing beats a real-live trainer. Luckily, many training centers around the country offer  special classes, seminars, or private consultations about preparing for life with a baby and dogs.

In Austin, we recommend the Canine Center for Training and Behavior, of course, where the next Babies & Dogs seminar is coming up on Saturday, April 27 at 5pm.

In other areas, we’ve heard of the following classes from some of our readers. We can’t vouch for the training methods or quality at any of the centers below, so please do some independent research before signing up:

And finally, a few words about behavior issues. If you are experiencing behavior issues with your dog and aren’t 100% confident how to proceed, please seek out a seasoned, reputable trainer in your area, especially if you are preparing to welcome a baby or child into your dog-filled life. Most of these issues CAN be resolved with proper instruction and enough time. Do yourself a favor and get started NOW! For more info on picking a quality trainer in your area, see this post.**
To catch up on the rest of our series, check out the following links:

Chix-A-Lot Friday: Brothers are for Thunderstorms

Ok, I’ll admit. I’ve always been a scaredy-dog when it comes to thunderstorms. One rumble of thunder and I’m looking for the nearest armpit to wedge my face under. There’s just something downright unsafe about thunderstorms.

And this is one of the Very Best Things about having a brother who has, inexplicably, no fear of the thunders. The yoga ball, yes, he fears. The sound that a cork makes as it’s coming out of a bourbon bottle, scary. Yes. But thunderstorms? He doesn’t think so.

And this is great news for me, because his snuggly fearlessness makes me feel cozy and safe. Thanks, little Doodlebug. I guess you’re not so bad after all.


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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

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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

Doodlebug’s Challenge: Work your dog!

Doodlebug had a fun day yesterday, and came home totally pooped. After a nice long nap, though, he woke up with an idea: he wants to issue a fun work-your-dog challenge to all his internet friends! Here’s what sparked the idea:

Over the last few weeks, our dog activities beyond neighborhood walks and puzzles and games at home have dwindled to none. It’s understandable, we like to think, since we’re in the final stretch of pregnancy, and both time and energy seem scarce.

Chickerdoodle-130219-24But sticking to the same routine — neighborhood walks, playtime in the yard — leave us with some restless dogs. We can go out for a 45 minute stroll and the boys are both ready for a nap, but after a short while, they’re ready to party and looking for the next thing. Simply put, the daily routine only gets us so far.

Yesterday, I went to work and brought Doodlebug. It was a warm day, and we decided to take a walk with our good friend / fellow Celebridog Olive, who also works at the Canine Center. That is — Olive is my friend. Doodlebug has been around Olive before, but not much. They have never “met” nose-to-nose or even nose-to-butt, and that’s mostly because our ‘Bug is still working on being relaxed enough in the presence of dogs to be capable of a polite greeting (the only type we allow).

For 15 minutes, we walked around the Center’s wooded trails, both dogs walking politely on loose leashes, about 5 or 6 feet apart. Don’t get me wrong — this was a challenge for the ‘Bug at first. When he comes close to another dog, his instinct is to stare, pull or lunge, and sometimes to growl. He just doesn’t know what to do with himself. But with Olive, I asked him to mind his manners and reminded him of the rules for the first minute or two of our walk, and just like that — he settled in. It was clear that he was not entirely at ease from his occasional sideways glances, subtle lip-licks, and extended, boisterous dirt-kicking session after going potty. But, he was working hard, keeping his cool, and making me proud. Just 15 minutes, and he was exhausted.


He got a nice long rest while I worked, and before we left, another short session — this time, agility! Since the beginning of his agili-dog days, Doodlebug has struggled with jumps. He was either too weak, too uncoordinated, or too distracted to get over even a very modest 10″ jump. Or, we speculated, he just wasn’t putting it together. He didn’t understand that it mattered whether he went over the jump or bowled right through it. We worked hard on this skill, and after several weeks, he was usually getting the gist. But when the bar was higher, he’d just knock it off with his back legs. Every. Single. Time.

Until today. We got out to the agility field, and I could tell that Doodlebug was ready to work. He really wanted to work. Seizing upon his motivation, I tried a few new tricks to encourage him to clear higher jumps, and just like that — it clicked. I saw the gears in his head turning, and it was like a lightbulb went off and he finally understood. We celebrated with a few rounds of jumps at 16″ and then a few at 20″. Perfect execution every time. I was a proud mom.

photo 1We only spent about 10 minutes on the field, but we made the most of our time. I gave Doodlebug precise direction on what I expected, raised the bar (both literally and figuratively) only as fast as I was certain that he would “win” the majority of his attempts, and we had a boisterous celebration every time he executed. It was beautiful teamwork, and it paid off. We got in the car to go home feeling happy, proud, and tired.

photo 2Doodlebug almost fell asleep in the car on the drive home, and took an epic nap once we arrived. All through dinner, he didn’t move an inch. He was completely sacked out — and after only about 25 minutes of active working time, separated into two short bursts!

So that got us to thinking: what is so magical about what we did today, that made Doodlebug so much more satisfyingly exhausted than our normal routine of puzzle toys, bones, and long neighborhood walks? We boil it down to a few things:

1. Changing up the environment. The ‘Bug is a seasoned veteran of the Canine Center but he hadn’t been in a few weeks, so it still made it a more exhausting training environment than our own back yard. But the environment there is comfortable enough for Doodlebug that we can sail right past the basics like loose leash walking, sit/stays, and proper meet-and-greets with people. On the other hand, if we’d gone to our local Home Depot, the running trail by the river, or one of the dog-friendly bars around town, we would’ve had a much bigger challenge. In any of those locations, our training session would have probably focused on polite walking, sits and downs, and maybe some short-distance recalls. Just because our ‘Bug can execute any of those skills perfectly at home, at our neighborhood park, or at the Center, doesn’t mean he can do them everywhere. In a new environment, we start with the basics. And they are a challenge!

2. Exposure to a challenge. For Doodlebug, walking with Olive was challenging because he has a hard time being a gentleman and keeping his cool in the close proximity of new dogs. Our walk was only 15 minutes long, but the whole walk long, ‘Bug was concentrating on doing the right thing, and not just tuning out and walking mindlessly along. There are, of course, critical success factors involved: (1) we gave him enough distance that he was still capable of making good choices (rather than reacting); (2) I reminded him of the rules ahead of time and anytime he seemed to forget; and (3) I gave him constant feedback for his good choices, like walking on a loose leash, looking away, and offering calming signals. For some dogs, an appropriate challenge might be another dog at 50 feet away. For others, it’s the mailman. For others still, it’s their own canine sibling that they love to play with.

3. Active training. On a regular basis, Doodlebug and I hit the agility field and cruise through his favorite contacts and pieces, and this exhausts him for a few minutes. But what exhausts him much, much more, is learning. So rather than assembling a quick course and letting him run it a bunch of times, we spent our ten minutes actively training one particular element that is especially challenging. By keeping the session short, the increments small, and the payoffs for success big, Doodlebug had fun and learned something new.

photo 3

So here’s Doodlebug’s challenge to you: instead of heading out for your next 30 minute walk with your dog, think about how you can use the three items above. First: What new environment can you visit? It doesn’t have to be fancy, it might just be the parking lot of your local bank or grocery store — just someplace new that might serve as a challenge to your dog’s concentration. Remember, don’t try to get all fancy in your first minutes, just focus on a basic skill. This will probably be something your dog knows at home but has trouble with in public. Think: playing fetch, walking politely on a leash, sit/stay, or waiting to be released to eat a treat or bowl of food. Bring plenty of treats and make it fun! Second: What kind of challenge can you subtly expose your dog to? Be careful to limit the exposure to an intensity and distance that your dog can succeed in — if your dog has a meltdown, give more time and space! And third: don’t forget to be actively working your dog during your short session! It’s easy to hit the town and let your dog do what she wants while you text or check Facebook, but resist the urge. Instead, put all of your energy and concentration in your session with your dog. Give lots of good feedback on when she’s doing what you like, and help guide her away from doing what you don’t like. Bring treats and don’t be stingy with your emotion. If you’re fun, your dog will stay engaged and have fun, too!

After you’ve headed out into the world for 15-30 minutes, come back and tell us how it went, and whether you noticed a calmer, more satisfied dog at day’s end. In our household, these tricks are a magic combination. Are they in yours, too? We’ll be waiting!

To see a video of Doodlebug showing off his new 20″ jump, click over to our Facebook page!

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