Less-Words Wednesday: Sharing is Caring!

Because, really, do you ever expect things to be entirely word-less around here??

We choose to feed our dogs in their kennels, in an effort to prevent resource-guarding issues before they start… but it seems like the girls were a bit confused this AM 😉 How do you prevent these issues, or how do you manage dogs who have already developed tendencies to guard toys or food or people?

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PS- Please do not judge our mess! We are remodeling the basement, which is where our dog kennels and food are usually kept. It’s made for a pretty cramped bed room! But stay tuned, we will share some photos of the upgrades in the weeks to come. It will be a new and improved dog room (and laundry room, but who cares about that??)

A Few of Our Favorite Things

The telltale sign of a household that is run by dogs? No, it’s not just the dog hair covering most surfaces. It’s the toys, strewn about from room to room, owners wincing when they step on the remains of nylabones or trip over rubber kongs.

It is no secret that our pups are a bit spoiled. There are three different rooms where the dogs are likely to be found, and in each, lives a bucket that overflows with toys. Many are simply scraps of fabric or plastic, remnants of toys that once were…. monkeys or snakes or piggies.

In a house full of three dogs, it doesn’t take long for us to determine which toys will stand up to the tests our dogs put them through. Here are our favorites, for your viewing chewing pleasure. (Many thanks to our friends Casey, Leroy, and Tofu over at Leroy & Co. for the inspiration!)

1) The Big Red Ball

IMG_0259This Paw-zzle Ball, found at Cabela’s, was such a winning purchase. If Gaige is outside, she is either chewing on this toy, chasing it, trying to find it, or trying to steal it. It is a large plastic ball, with a few holes around the outside. On the inside another ball is retained, which rolls around, enticing the dogs to try to plot its escape. This is an outdoor only toy, due to its size and weight, but it is incredibly durable. Its numerous holes make it easy for a few dogs to grab ahold and play tug. One warning: Gaige loves to hold this at the bottom, prancing around with her head high in the air (see photographic evidence, above). This creates an obstruction of vision, which may or may not have resulted in a dent to the back of Dad’s new truck!

2) Anything Nylabone

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Nylabones are a big deal in our house, but most especially for Gaige and Georgia (might it be their shared pittie heritage?) These hard plastic toys are not meant for playing fetch,  but work really well for dogs that love to chew, chew, chew. I feel comfortable leaving them with the dogs while in their crates for the day, because I know they will not break off into small, swallow-able pieces. They come in a large variety of shapes/sizes/types, but I know that the quality of Nylabone toys is always impressive, regardless of the specifics. Tonka generally prefers toys that are more cuddly, but these will last long enough to be worth the money!

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3) This Weird Cheap Scrap Toy

DSC_0039This toy was a spur-of-the-moment purchase from a Marshall’s or Ross’s or similar discount store. I didn’t expect it to last long, because it was so affordable, but it has turned into one of our favorites. You know those tug toys that our dogs love, but we hate? They are twisted and braided together with rope, which then frays and sheds EVERYwhere. Well this is nothing like those. Sure, it is twisted and knotted and works great for group play. However, this toy is made out of scraps of what is a stretchy, almost T-Shirt-like material, so there is no fraying! While this isn’t a toy that our dogs will play with on their own, it works well for fetching or tugging, and it still looks cute if it is accidentally left out when company comes over. While I can’t tell you exactly where to find it, I can tell you that you could probably make this into a DIY project!

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4) Antlers

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Have you tried antlers with your dogs? Our pups cannot. Get. Enough. These are all-natural, and you can even provide them yourself if you have access to the necessary supplies (ie a husband that hunts!) They are silly expensive from pet specialty stores, but you can also get them online through Etsy, or from private dealers (again with the Cabela’s, but there is a man who sells antlers himself outside of this store on weekends, and they are only $1.00 per piece!) Regardless of what price you pay for the antlers, it is worth it. Ours last for MONTHS, even with aggressive chewers in our house, and will not break off into shards. They also don’t smell or stain your flooring. Our dogs like antlers so much that they are the only toy we have to moderate during playtime, to make sure no one is getting too possessive. If you have tried the antlers, and your dogs didn’t take to them send them our way, please! try running them under warm water, which will release lots of smells to entice your pooch.

Look at that concentration!

Look at that concentration! There is an antler under there somewhere…

We are very lucky in that, for the most part, our dogs are pretty good about sharing their toys with one another. As I said, particularly high-value toys (like the antlers) can cause a grumble, so we make sure to moderate the pups when they are out. We try to dictate the “finder’s, keeper’s” rule, meaning that if one dog has a toy, they are to retain possession of that toy until they drop it of their own volition. Furthermore, if two dogs are tugging on the same toy, we make sure that their body language is light and happy, or the game ends and the toy disappears. Gaige is not always good about taking the other dogs’ signals seriously, so we must sometimes reinforce their growls by removing Gaige from the room, or putting her in a down-stay with a different toy.

Georgia and Gaige have a funny little routine that they have worked out when it comes to sharing toys. If, for example, Gaige is chewing on an antler that Georgia wants, Georgia will come up to her, playing animatedly with a different toy (typically one that is obnoxiously squeaky). This will entice Gaige to drop the antler, at which point Georgia will drop her squeaker toy. Once Gaige goes for the squeaking toy, Georgia is able to steal the antler, and head off to an undisclosed location. What a sneak!

Wanna play??

Wanna play??

We still have a few awesome giveaways leftover from 2 Hounds Designs! For a chance to win a collar or a collar/leash combo, leave a comment with a suggestion for a post topic 🙂 Thanks!

 

 

Soul Mates

Call me crazy, but I believe, in my heart of hearts, that we meet people for a reason. Some may just be shooting stars; a fleeting glimpse of ideals, meant to remind you of the things you needed to remember. Occasionally, these people may stay for a lifetime, a constant source of inspiration or drive. Rarer still, are the people that are our soul mates. It’s not often that I find people that remind me of myself, while still inspiring me to reach for more. In fact, up until this point, there was like one, one other person in the entire world that reminds me of myself. (She knows who she is!)

Anyways, as crazy as it might seem, I kind of have come to the conclusion that our three dogs are soul mates. We have three pups, whose backgrounds are all a little bit different, and yet they get along perfectly. There’s Tonka, the happy-go-lucky people-pleaser (and they say dogs are like their owners… psh.) Anyways, he was a dog park-dog, one that could make friends with even the most impolite of pups. Then, he was attacked by a male labrador three times in one summer, and he started to be tense and defensive around all dogs. It took us a while to get him to be calm and relaxed around other dogs again. While I know he will never be as carefree as before, I can trust him to be the mediator in dog groups, and know that he loves nothing more than a good romp in the yard with other well-mannered dogs.

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Then came Gaige, who probably had little to no socialization before I found her. She has great manners within the hierarchy of our dogs, but can be a wild-child (read: annoying) when it comes to playing with new dogs. She gets way too wound-up and excitable, and loves to play rough. For those reasons, she typically only gets to play with our dogs, or other dogs that I’ve slowly introduced her to, and that have complimentary play styles. She and Tonka grew into great friends, who were never far from one another.

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Finally there is Georgia. Most of you know her story, but after a troubled past, she was not fond of other dogs. She would wag her tail from afar, seemingly wanting to join in on the fun, but if they came close, she would sometimes snap or growl. Even given perfect opportunities, Georgia never actually tried to bite other dogs, but she was careful to remind them to keep their distance. Everyone told me that she would be best in a home without other dogs, but I just knew that if we could show her that our dogs would not harm her, she might just gain confidence from a relationship with them. After months of slowly reinforcing her positive associations with our dogs, we finally began to see sparks of companionship between the three of them.

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For the longest time, we were most concerned about the females getting along, but it has come about that the two girls are pretty much inseparable. They sleep curled against one another, share toys, and are a speedy team on adventures through the woods in search of moles sticks. I’ve never had a sister, but I am so enjoying watching the bond these two share. For as many times as we have grown frustrated with Gaige, while playing rough or being demanding or getting into everything, she has been a wonderful playmate for Georgia… slowly pulling her out of her shell, all the while reading her body language and responding accordingly. More importantly, even when Georgia occasionally ‘shot her down’ with a growl or snap in the early days, Gaige would respectfully give her some space, only to return a few hours later to delicately try again. I think I have something to learn from her indomitable spirit…

"There is nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it is sent away." - Sarah Kay

“There is nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it is sent away.” – Sarah Kay

What is one of the most lasting lessons your dog(s) has taught you? Another giveaway is in the works for your response 🙂 Jennifer Jacobs Scarry, please email me at sel1490@gmail.com to claim your prize from the last giveaway! It might look something like this…

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Many thanks to Two Hounds Designs for their generous contributions!

(Less-Words Wednesday) Cleaning With Dogs

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I have to admit, this graphic perfectly sums up my life! I can’t count how many times I’ve started to clean our house, realized that resistance is futile, and resorted to cuddling/playing with the dogs instead! For us, the two biggest issues are lingering dog hair (I swear, it’s everywhere!) and muddy paws on the hard floor surfaces. The other problem is that no matter how many times I pick up the dog toys, they seem to find themselves scattered all over the house seconds later.

Our dogs know how to party... they make custom confetti!

Our dogs know how to party… they make custom confetti!

I try to put the dogs out from under foot when I’m cleaning, but most of the time, their faces remind me what a mean mommy I am!

How could you do this to us?

How could you do this to us?

Do you have issues with a messy house that you can blame on your dogs?

(Not Really Ever) Wordless Wednesday: What You’ve Missed!

Have you been missing our pups’ sweet faces?! I hope so, because today I will catch up with you through a photo montage, showing some of what we’ve been up to over the past week or so. You’re welcome 🙂

She loves him, but only a little bit ;)

She loves him, but only a little bit 😉

With his baby girls

With his baby girls

 

 

 

It is impossible to have a bad day, when you get to wake up to this!

It is impossible to have a bad day, when you get to wake up to this!

Our dogs know how to party... they make custom confetti!

Our dogs know how to party… they make custom confetti!

She fell asleep in the sunshine

She fell asleep in the sunshine

 

Sharing a stick

Sharing a stick

And just a few days later…

My favorite way to spend a day :)

My favorite way to spend a day 🙂

Those ears! Get me every time

Those ears! Get me every time

Thanks for stopping by everyone! Have a great day 🙂 Tune in tomorrow for info about the giveaway, including the closing date. If you haven’t donated yet (what, are you crazy?!) head here. Remember, every $10 increment of your donation, earns you another entry for one of 11 amazing prizes! Many thanks to all who have donated thus far. Your chances are looking REALLY good, which is great for you, but not quite as great for all of the needy pit bulls LCPO wants to help out this year.

Warming Up

I wish I could say that I am referring to the weather here in Pennsylvania, but in reality, there is still a lot of this…

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and this…

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and this…

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Which has all resulted in a lot of this…

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and this…

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and this…

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Wait… what?!

If you are very observant, you may notice that the last photo shows three… count them, THREE, pups all cuddled together indoors. If you are even more observant, you may have recognized that such a photo has never graced the pages of our humble blog! What must this mean??

The frigid temperatures have kept us largely indoors. Because of that, the dogs have been extra cuddley, and needed even more attention than usual. You may remember that while Georgia has been integrated with Tonka, the male, indoors for a while now, we have closely monitored her indoor interactions with our female, never letting them off-leash inside, unless closely monitored or behind respective baby gates. The nasty weather has relegated us indoors, and forced me to focus on proceeding with their integration. While working with them off-leash this past week, Gaige and Georgia both finally decided to break down their barriers… with a BANG! Not only were they interacting indoors, but they were playing, cuddling, wrestling, and even sharing toys! We could not be more impressed or surprised by this sudden transformation.

Every pittie's favorite game: bitey-face

Every pittie’s favorite game: bitey-face

The swiftness of their friendship had us scratching our heads a bit, so we were cautious to take things slowly at first… they still were never together while unsupervised, and still required some direction from the two-leggeds. However, after a solid week of playing and cuddling and learning one another’s limits, with no arguments in sight, we think it is safe to say that they are total BFFs.

All four of our "dogs" waiting (patiently?) to go outside.

All four of our “dogs” waiting (patiently?) to go outside.

You can check out a funny video of the girls here. This was the very day, the very minute, that they decided that playtime was a better option than being constantly separated. Therefore, you can hear the surprise (anxiety?) in my voice. Please ignore my excessive verbal input, but enjoy their friendship. They are now absolutely inseparable… can anyone imagine how this has Georgia’s foster parents feeling?! Ugh… let’s just say, the idea of giving up our baby girl gets more bittersweet with each passing day!

Three’s a Crowd… Or is It?

We are lucky to be involved with LCPO, the rescue that saved Miss Gia from certain death. We foster through their organization, and they in turn offer us endless training advice, in addition to other crucial resources. LCPO brings a lot of experience to the table, and therefore they require that each dog placed into a new home, whether as a foster or a permanent family member, completes the two-week de-stress upon entering the new home. To put it simply, this is a process in which the new pet is kept separate from any other pets for at least two weeks. Sounds fun, huh? It may not be easy, but this is to help ensure success and happiness for all family-members; both two and four-legged! Utilizing the advice from LCPO, as well as tips we’ve picked up along the way, we wanted to share our experiences in achieving peaceful interactions in a multi-dog household.

1. The first step to happy interactions in a multi-dog household is to understand your dogs’ personality and tolerance levels. Every dog is different! It is vital that we be receptive to our dogs’ reactions around other animals, even when it comes to the most subtle body language!  This bell curve, designed and described by BAD RAP, is used to show the varying tolerance levels of the pit bulls that they encounter while rescuing. However, in truth, it can apply to many breeds of dog.

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  • “dog-social” : These are dogs that truly enjoy and seek-out the company of other dogs, including housemate dogs. These pups are very easy-going, willing to forgive even the rudest of dog manners, and are often happiest when in the company of other dogs. This category would include most puppies, and a smaller percentage of socially mature dogs (14 months+).
My sweet boy Tonka falls into this category

My sweet boy Tonka falls into the first category

  • “dog-tolerant”: These dogs are typically non-reactive on leash, and either indifferent or friendly to other dogs. They show relaxed, easy body language in the presence of new dogs. While these pups may not ‘love’ dogs that they don’t know, they would have decent tolerance for rude behavior (a long fuse). It can be gathered that these types of dogs enjoy known dog friends when properly introduced, and in general, succeed with housemate dogs.
Gaige's designation can vary, but she is mostly dog-tolerant.

Gaige’s designation can vary, but she is mostly dog-tolerant.

  • “dog-reactive”: In this case, the dog would likely have some dog friends, but be more selective in their pairings. He or she may dislike certain ‘types’ of dogs (male/female, large/small, hyper/mellow) and be easily offended by rude dog manners. Can be described as grumpy or sassy, dominant. This dog likes to be in charge and dictate the rules during playtime, and must be reminded by their human to use good manners during play. This dog can succeed with housemate dogs, with supervision.
Because we manage Georgia carefully, she probably can also be placed in the same category as Gaige. However, without careful training, she could fall into one of the latter categories.

Because we manage Georgia carefully, she probably can also be placed in the same category as Gaige. However, without careful training, she could fall into one of the latter categories.

  •  “dog-aggressive”: These pooches may have a limited number of dog friends, or even none. They may be leash reactive if the opportunity arises (weak handler, no training). This dog may have a short fuse during play, even with dogs that it knows. This dog requires heavy supervision during player, and a good leader when out on leash. Many live successfully with housemate dogs (typically opposite sex) with proper supervision and management.
It can be easy to read these descriptions, and draw hard conclusions. However, it is important to note that with proper training and management, which includes structured and slow introductions, most dogs can still be safe members of multi-dog households; it just requires more knowledge and effort on the part of the owner. A dog that has been dog-aggressive, may be managed to be dog-selective. Also, as dogs age and their environments change, so to may their tolerance classifications. Additionally, these traits only apply to interactions with other canines, and in NO WAY guarantee a dog’s attitude toward children, small animals, or people. Those are all separate traits, and must be evaluated separately, in order to set the dog up for success. It cannot be assumed that a dog that is aggressive with dogs will also be that way towards children, and likewise, a dog that behaves well with other dogs should not be guaranteed to be gentle with small animals.

When looking at our own dogs, it can be difficult to place labels on them, but it is imperative for the sake of peace. For example, I would probably put Tonka in the first category. He enjoys the presence of other dogs, has excellent manners around them, and is willing to overlook almost all negative behavior. However, there was a period of time where he was twice attacked by a male labrador. It took many months and positive experiences before we were able to build his confidence back to a friendly level.

Gaige and Georgia (typical women!) can be a bit more difficult to categorize. Gaige enjoys other dogs, but has terrible manners with them. She likes to be in charge, but is submissive to Georgia. While she treats Tonka like she rules the roost, often stealing his toys or chewing on his limbs, she defers to him when he does stand his ground. I would probably consider her to be dog-tolerant. Georgia, on the other hand, is even more of a challenge to define. She is not aggressive, but has a low-tolerance for lack of manners (ahem, Gaige!) She is happy to be around other dogs, and cries when separated from ours, but doesn’t seek out the company of new animals. She is not leash-reactive, yet will defend herself if she feels particularly threatened. However, when she ‘defends’ herself, it is nothing more than a retreat, loud growl or snap… she never tries to bite or fight.

2. The next step in dog-integration is a slow introduction. In the case of multiple puppies, this may be as slow as a few minutes, but when it comes to mature dogs, it may take months! We are in the latter category. Why so slow? When integrating dogs, prevention is key. What I mean by that, is that once dogs have had a serious altercation, it can be very difficult to repair the relationship. Most pups aren’t big on ‘forgive and forget’. If two dogs have had a rough introduction, you may not be able to achieve successful interactions without lots more effort, and perhaps some professional intervention. For us, we decided that it was better to be safe than sorry, and have decided to take things as slowly as possible.

  • The first step to dog introductions is for each dog to have a ‘safe’ place. For most homes, this is a room or secluded kennel. It should be comfortable, and free from many distractions (a sheet or blanket over the top works well). Most importantly, the dog should be allowed to be somewhat protective over this space… it is theirs, after all. Children and other animals should never be allowed play near or inside your dog’s kennel. When not together, the dogs should be placed in their respective kennels. This shows them that while their crate is safe and comfortable, it is not as much ‘fun’ as being social around the other animals.

OUTDOOR INTRODUCTIONS

  • The next step to the introductions, occurring once the dog has begun to feel comfortable in the new environment, would be group walks. These walks should begin by walking the dogs parallel, with humans and a significant distance, placed in between. This allows the dogs to get used to the sight and scent of one another, without the pressure to interact. As the dogs become more comfortable, the distance between them will decrease. Any positive behavior, such as calm tail wags, should be praised by the handler. It is important to be aware of subtle cues of stress, such as yawning. These signs can vary between dogs, but a low tail with a steady stare can indicate aggression. In this instance, you should redirect the dog without rewarding their behavior, perhaps by turning them in a circle, or stepping in front of their stare. These walks may need to continue for a few days or a few weeks. They can be considered successful when neither dog is overly-excited at the presence of the other, nor aggressive or fearful.
  • Following the group walks, it is important to again evaluate your dogs’ comfort levels around other animals, before proceeding. At this point, we had learned that Georgia liked other dogs. She was not aggressive with them, but was also not completely comfortable. We knew that if she was faced with an uncomfortable situation, she would first try to flee (the term fight or flight is important here!). Gaige had no discomfort with other dogs, but lacked proper manners. Therefore, we decided to keep Gaige leashed while walking, but allow Georgia to be loose. If the dogs were to get stressed, Georgia could retreat, while we retained control of Gaige’s behavior, and could correct her whenever necessary. (Of course, evaluate this step at your own discretion. It is ideal to be in a fenced area for this step, or at least to have a strong recall cue on both dogs.)
All three pups collaborate for group 'hunting' in the bushes.

All three pups collaborate for group ‘hunting’ in the bushes.

  • Once you can be sure that all dogs are comfortable in the presence of the others, and that you also have retained control over the animals, it may be time to graduate to off-leash interactions outdoors. During this time, it is important to watch for warning signs, and manage triggers. For example, many dogs will display issues when another dog tries to take their toy, eat something yummy, or approach their favorite person. You can manage these interactions to avoid confrontation (hello, put the toys away!). We know that Georgia becomes uncomfortable when Gaige rushes toward her, and so we try to manage Gaige’s behavior in approaching Georgia. Not only does this show Georgia that we will protect her, allowing her to let her guard down and not stand in defense of herself, but it also is teaching Gaige how to have more polite interactions with other dogs.

We will be back to continue this subject, and discuss integrating dogs indoors! If you this subject is interesting to you, check out the blog written by Debby McMullen. She is a positive-reinforcement dog trainer who specializes in multi-dog interactions, and has given us a lot of insight and tips toward integrating our household.

A successful multi-dog (and cat-dog?) household

A successful multi-dog (and cat-dog?) household