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.

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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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