Gonzo’s favorite things: romancing the kong

Gonzo loves playing tug, hanging out with other dogs, and helping out in the kitchen, but possibly more than all of these things, Gonzo loves romancing a kong. His tenacious terrier nature really goes on display when you give him a food-stuffed kong to chew on. You can almost hear his little heart sing in happiness. Even his ears are cocked in concentration:

Gonzo’s favorite things: helping

Mr. Gonzo Bunny-Ears is ever so helpful in the kitchen. He has picked this skill up from his big foster brother Chick, who is always willing to help clean up– whether the excess be on the floor, in a bowl, stuck to the back of a spoon, or dripping down mom’s leg.

Gonzo was not a natural kitchen-dweller when he first came to us, but he sure did learn fast. As long as there is a dog bed nearby from which both wonderdogs can watch all the action, both Gonzo and brother Chick will lay obediently in their assigned spot instead of getting underfoot. With one exception:

Something about the sound of the hand mixer sends a signal to their brains — and a pavlovian response kicks in, forcing them to leap out of their spot and bound over to where I am standing, butts wiggling out of control.

For more info about adopting Gonzo Bunny-Ears, contact us at DCpetographer [at] gmail [dot] com or through Partnership for Animal Welfare.

on dog puzzles and the greatest dog trainer that ever was.

Mr. Gonzo Bunny-Ears has really taken to eating his kibble and snacks out of dog puzzles. We have been feeding our own Chick in this manner for years so to us it’s second nature, but often we get questions from bloggers about the types of puzzles we use, how we use them, when, etc.

Shortly after we adopted Chick as a young chap of two or three, he developed pretty severe separation all kinds of anxiety. He would pace nervously when we were getting ready to leave. Decorate the house with the garbage while we were gone. Refuse to eat for days during car trips. Never let us out of his sight when we were home. So, we went to a trainer. A first class, badass trainer.

Lee Mannix had a way with dogs. He was one of those people who can just communicate with them, and they with him. His craft was not teaching dogs “sit” or “shake” but rather teaching owners how to understand and interact with their dogs to prevent, treat, and manage problem behaviors. And his creativity seemed limitless. Some of the tips and tricks he came up with to help us deal with silly problems – like Chick pulling dish rags off their hooks – not only worked flawlessly, but boggled the mind. The human mind, that is. Lee left this world about a year ago, but his personality, his methods, and his lessons live on. For a longer account of the magic of Lee, read here.

But I digress. The first thing Lee asked of us was to stop feeding Chick food in a bowl. Ever. From that day forward, he was to eat only through training (kibble as reward), or in various mentally challenging games (kibble as problem solving goal). The idea was, that if meals are no longer predictable and punctual and effort-free, the dog will become more “willing to please” the owner, knowing that he’d better watch carefully lest the puzzle come soon. It also helped keep the dog busy for a while, so that we could hand him a snack, leave, and he would be so busy working on it that he wouldn’t remember to get worked up and anxious.  So we went from two meals a day, in a bowl, to five or six meals a day, in all different ways.

The simplest, and perhaps our favorite method to date for its sheer convenience and free-ness, is the Gatorade bottle. Take the plastic ring and the label off, wash and dry, shake a little kibble in, and hand it to the dog. A beginner dog may take 30 minutes to get the kibble out, trying to get at it with his tongue or his claws. A veteran only needs a few minutes. As a bonus, the dog eats more slowly than from a bowl, aiding in digestion and reducing gas.

Our second favorite is the grandfather of all dog puzzles, the kong. The easiest way to kong a dog is simply to scoop some kibble in, and seal the opening with something sticky – some peanut butter or cheese whiz works well. But this is too easy for our little geniuses.

To make a kong more difficult, we started to put a little peanut butter, yogurt, or cheese at the bottom of the kong, add the kibble, then seal the top. This way, dog has to extract the very end of the goodies with his tongue. For our geniuses? Still too easy. The next phase was mixing the kibble with yogurt or runny peanut butter in a bowl, and then stuffing the kong. The whole mixture is sticky and wet, so it takes a lot more tongue action to finish the work. This is challenging enough for Gonzo; it takes him about 20 minutes to finish one of these. For Chick, though, we have to take it to the next level: the freezer. Once frozen solid, it takes even an advanced chewer a while to get all the goodies out.  Our normal filler for these kongs is a combination of kibble, peanut butter, raw veggies, cheese, and leftovers – whatever we have that is dog-friendly and not likely to be otherwise eaten.

We usee many other food-dispensing devices and toys also, as Gonzo is modeling here. But the two originals, the ones shown to us by Lee, will always remain our favorites.

For more info about adopting Gonzo Bunny-Ears, contact us at DCpetographer [at] gmail [dot] com or through Partnership for Animal Welfare.

where’s waldo?

Waldo (aka Gonzo Bunny-Ears) likes to hide at the top of the steps and peer curiously down at us when we go into the basement to fetch the dog food. I can’t say that I blame him . . . those stairs are steep, and there are spiders!

For more info about adopting Gonzo Bunny-Ears, contact us at DCpetographer [at] gmail [dot] com or through Partnership for Animal Welfare.

 

our very own CAFO

I don’t often joke about factory farming because it is not at all funny, but last night was just too ripe with opportunity.

Lollie Wonderdog has become quite the stern farmkeeper in her time with us, never afraid to put a stuffed animal in its place or zing it with her teeth for falling out of line. (As an aside, this is a big change from her first days with us, when the mere sight of a stuffed animal would send her into a fearful tremble.) And when its use has expired but it is still taking up valuable floorspace, selfishly breathing our air and soaking up our dust? She finishes it off at the end of its usefulness and sends it to the trash pile.

Last night was a prime example. We had a slaughter, and the victim was poor Mr. Piggy. Lollie was doing a concentrated animal feeding operation on Mr. Piggy’s extremities. Those are the tastiest bits after all, just ask a hotdog lover. I turned around a minute later, and poor Mr. Piggy had lost an ear.

Lollie as not always been such a heartless farmer (she is normally very sweet with stuffed animals), and truth be told, she seemed to regret her harsh punishment afterward, snuggling up with Mr Piggy and asking for forgiveness. Fosterdad and I are hoping that she learns from this experience and becomes an anti farm animal cruelty spokesmodel.

For more info on adopting Lollie, contact us at DCpetographer [at] gmail [dot] com or 301-520-7123.

gifts from a handsome suitor…

… or so Lollie would have you believe. Fostermom had the pleasure of photographing Vicktory dog Handsome Dan and his family a few days before Christmas Eve for StubbyDog, and as an incredibly sweet gesture, Dansome got a box of doggie Christmas cookies for Lol and Chick. Lollie has a big crush on Handsome Dan of course (what ladydog wouldn’t?) so she has been shamelessly pretending that the cookies were a gift of love (not friendship) and only for her (not also for Chick).

Here she is with their box of cookies, showing Dansome her most winning “come hither” look: 

Dansome is a real role model for dogs like Lollie, because he has overcome such cruelty and adversity and become a wonderful and gentle family member to Mark, Heather, and their two kids. Dansome is quite shy and wary of strangers– which is understandable after everything he went through at the Vick property– but he doesn’t have a mean bone in his body, and as time goes on, he is learning how to trust and love. He is worlds from where he was.

It was especially moving for me to meet Dansome because I had been following the Vick dogfighting drama from the start, and almost obsessively tracked the progress of the dogs at Best Friends and BAD RAP. I still remember the overwhelming emotion that washed over me each time I read a newspaper article or saw photos about the unfolding case or what was happening with the dogs. I remember seeing the Best Friends article about Dansome being adopted, and thinking how kind, gentle, and warm Heather, Mark, and their son Cam looked in the photos. I remember thinking how stark of a contrast his future life was going to be from his dark beginnings.

Well Heather, Mark, Cam, their new baby Josephine, and Handsome Dan himself all easily lived up to my imagination. Here are a few photos from our session:

A Fun Surprise + Kibble for Comments

***For every comment* left on Love and a Six-Foot Leash posts from December 15th-December 31st 2010, we will donate one pound of high-quality dog food to Lollie’s sugar daddy, the Montgomery County Humane Society. Together, by spreading the word about adoptable Lollie Wonderdog, we can find her a forever home. We are up to 162 comments / pounds of food already!***

Friends of Lollie, you’re going to have to wait an extra day for her second open-forum Q&A session. Thank you to all who have submitted questions; she is working out her responses right now. It’s hard to hold a pen, you know, without opposable thumbs.

The reason for our delay is that something very cute happened last night and we wanted to write about it right away. I came home from work, and was delighted to find a package on our doorstep. It’s a holiday gift from Flash! (For those of you who don’t already know Flash, he is our neighbor’s lovely yellow lab and a key subject of Lollie’s affection.) 

It turns out that Flash, possibly with help from his human siblings, baked doggie treats for Lollie and Ty. Check out these dog biscuits and doggie “chocolates” made of carob (don’t worry, it’s dog-safe). Beautiful, right? 

Well as you can imagine, Lollie was thrilled to sniff this package. 

She could hardly contain her excitement, giving me The Look that Chick has taught her over the past few weeks. 

After a few minutes of posing with her present, she just couldn’t bear it any longer—check out her squirmy “mom, pleeeeeeeeease!!” look: 

Needless to say, she loved the treats. She sampled a cookie and a bit of the “chocolate,” and when I put it away to save for later, she sat by the cabinet for about 15 minutes, willing the door to open itself and present the treats to her once more. 

Thank you Flash, for your very thoughtful present!

*limit 250lbs of dog food

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