Monday, March 30, 2009

Vote for Princess!

This is for my former foster dog. All you need to do is to vote with #93 in the subject line to

Only one vote per email address, so please spread the word.

4th Annual 'I Pittie, The Fool' Photo Contest

April Fool's Day - A Day for Tomfoolery
Who defines being a fool better than a pit bull? To celebrate our dogs, we’ve created this showcase of jokers and jesters submitted by our supporters. Now you get to help decide which one will be crowned this year’s #1 Pittie Fool!

I promise my next blog update will be the story of Princess.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Mommy martyrs

Definition: a mommy who thinks being a mother is so hard that taking care of their pets is a source of insurmountable suffering thus they look for ways to justify their need to dispose of, get rid of, or re home their pet.

You know one I bet, I come across them all the time. Somehow these women think shooting a baby out their coochie is life's most important accomplishment. They think they practically invented motherhood and no one can possibly relate to their struggles. Well people I am not in that camp. I'm in the total opposite camp, the one that thinks my most important life accomplishment will be maintaining my own identity outside of being a mother; one that continues to honor herself daily by continuing to be all of the things that make me who I am. Because if I cannot do that, then what the hell do I have to offer my kid outside of the basic necessities? I ask why did you bother becoming a mother if you find honoring and upholding something so basic as providding food, water, medical care, and love to a dog or cat as being impossible?

Mommy martyrs you are screwed, I am onto you and I'm not the only one...

Friday, March 20, 2009

Dog pee will not kill you or the baby.

That is not to say that marking or pissing all over your house is acceptable, but it's not the end of the world. Let's take today to talk about why some perfectly housebroken dogs suddenly start peeing in the house.

1. Urinary tract infection. Yes, just as we humans are prone to them so are dogs. Any time a dog suddenly starts peeing in the house, a trip to the vet is warranted. UTI's and other issues such as kidney stones and kidney infection can be fatal if left unchecked and untreated.

2. Your dog is feeling insecure and anxious. Think about possible big changes in the house that could be causing the stress. Is it the new baby? Is it the unveiling of all the new baby gear? Did you alter the dog's schedule too much too soon? Did you move your dog's safe place (crate, ex pen, bed) etc... thus causing anxiety?

3. You never got around to neutering your male dog and now he is marking his territory.

4. Your neutered dog feels competitive with another dog in the house and they are in a pissing match for dominant ranking.

5. Your unspayed female is letting all the boys in the hood know she is available for mating. What a hoochie!

6. Your dog doesn't like the new smells on something unfamiliar so it marks it- this could be a pair of shoes you wore to volunteer at the animal shelter, a shopping bag, or new furniture.

Now lets talk about some of the possible solutions. None of these will be a magic bullet, but used in combination you can hopefully find the one that fits your situation.

1. Spay and Neuter your pets- it is never too late. In males testosterone plays a large role in marking. It most likely will not cure the marking habit, but it will make breaking the habit easier for you. If you are a parent as well, you should know that intact males are much more likely to bite than their neutered counterparts. It's also no wonder that 42.8% of dogs relinquished to shelters are not fixed and 96% had no prior obedience training.

2. To properly break the habit, a dog must be caught and corrected in the act i.e. mid stream. Yelling, hitting, and rubbing your dog's nose in it is not going to work. To do this, you must keep all eyes on fido at all times. I know you don't have eyes in the back of your head so I suggest crate training or using the umbilical method. To do this, your dog is on leash and attached to your waist at all times for constant supervision. This method of training is really effective for correcting many undesired behaviors, so keep it in mind for any other challenges you are facing.

3. Use the most effective house breaking method- praise. Become a cheerleader when your dog pees outside and in the appropriate place. Treat them like mad for "insert your pee catchphrase here" with a high value treat such as freeze dried liver. My catchphrase is "go pee, go poop" and by training and rewarding them using this phrase, mine will do their business on command. Very useful when juggling the demands of a baby, dogs, and work. It's also easy so Becks can give it to them as well.

4. Don't kid yourself into thinking that a dog marking while having the run of the house while you are gone is going to stop. For some dogs, confinement is the only answer. Mack resides in a 4'x4' ex pen daily while we are at work. While he doesn't pee, he does ingest inedible things that could kill him when not supervised (see my previous post). Trust me, it's safe and is not cruel. If it keeps your dog alive and your house in one piece then it's a win win situation. Look into crate training, it is literally a life saver.

5. Thoroughly clean any areas with an enzymatic cleanser. I blot the area first, flood it with enzymatic cleanser, re blot, then re flood the area and let the enzymatic cleaner air dry. If for some reason I can still smell pee, I repeat the process but use my steam cleaner loaded only with enzymatic cleanser to soak and then suck up the mess. Using products like carpet shampoo will only mask the smell since your dog has a nose 100x more sensitive than yours, not to mention they leave a sticky residue that will trap dirt and create a whole new stain. To seek out old and hidden stains use a blacklight. You can find black light bulbs at most home improvement warehouses or online places that carry hand held devices like this:

6. When all else fails, there are prescription medications than can ease anxiety in dogs. These are also not a magic bullet, but could help smooth things over enough to make training easier on you all. Examples of medications are Amtriptyline, Buspar, Prozac etc... Be your pet's advocate and ask your vet about them. Many vets are not up to speed on their uses as they fall into the realm of behavior and most vets are busy staying on top of more health related subjects such as heartworm treatment. If your vet doesn't consider them an option, find a new vet, perhaps one that specializes in behavior and or one that has a holistic practice. Information on these medications and more can be found here:

Lastly, for anyone who freaks at the thought of their baby maybe crawling over some random wet pee spot in the carpet, urine from a healthy animal is sterile. It is only as the urine sits that it turns into alkaline salts feeding bacteria and thus giving off an odor. If you think that's nasty, just wait until your kid comes down with Rotovirus...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I'm human, my dogs are beasts, and we all need some work.

In the spirit of total honesty, enjoy! This was my evening.

So, my beasts have not been walked lately. Bad weather for the little man, dark too early, etc... so tonight I took them for a spin individually with DS. Big boy sent across the street neighbors running into their house despite the fact he did't bark and was obviously baby safe. Whatever. Later we came across a neighbor lady all while DC didn't want to ride his bike like he said he did, so I was stuggling to contain big boy while holding the ride on my hip while trying to keep DC from exploring traffic. Big boy in his enthusiasm bucking like a mad fool then knocks DC down and out of his shoe. Tears ensue. Great.

Get back to the house, damn DH set the sprinklers for this random evening time and we get soaked trying to get back into the house. More crying.

Go to get big girl and realize when I had DH alter the pinch collar, he did it wrong and the ends won't connect. Can't find the part to fix it. Put her in a choke chain but think to myself, this not good, she freaking weighs more than I do.

Take big girl out, she flips out at bike passing by. Ugh. We are calm and carrying on until we come across freaky neighbor and his little girl- the ones that like to spy on us and freak out big girl. They start walking towards us and big girl then goes apeshit. I proceed to tell him that she won't let him get near us because she hates strange men. DC is refusing to walk this entire time, so I am also wrangling her while walking with him on my hip.

Get home, finally, and the damn sprinklers are still on. Me thinks I'll be paying someone to get them reacquanited with leash manners/strangers because I physically cannot. Ugh. I hate being a quasi single parent on nights like this the most. Goes to show you why training never tops!

End of vent. Phew. Thank god for dog walkers and trainers for professional help!

Does your dog know you are pregnant?

With pregnancy comes many changes- new smells from the hormones coursing through your veins, ever changing moods, changes in appearance, extreme exhaustion, constant puking and nausea. Don't think for a second your dog doesn't know big changes are in the air, he/she might even know before you ever pee on a stick. Some dogs adapt well to these changes, though some more sensitive dogs might show some anxiety.

Bell, my strong alpha dog sensed I was weaker and took it upon herself to become more protective of house and home. To keep her in check, we had to keep clear boundaries and use commands and obedience as a gentle reminders I was still in charge and a capable leader. One key technique is called Nothing In Life Is Free aka NILIF. Essentially asking her to perform her commands as a way to earn rewards such as food and affection helped keep her from staging a coup against me. It also helped us identify the commands she needed the most brushing up on which is another critical element in preparing dogs for baby. Examples of commands to practice: sit, down, stay, leave it, wait, and gentle.

Mack is my sensitive jock. While I spent the better part of oh, say, 34 weeks of non stop nausea and puking so did he on occasion. If I closed the bathroom door, he would whine and cry right along with me. More than once I swear he puked out of pity. I eventually learned that if I left the door open, he would lay down outside the door to watch over me and once done, he would escort me back to the sofa. He was the perfect nurse maid who always stuck close to me and not once did he get mad at me for having hardly any energy for a walk or a game of ball.

I think I got off pretty easy in this department. I hope you do too, but here are some other examples of how your dogs could react to your pregnancy:
1. Marking/peeing in the house. If this occurs, get thee to a vet to rule out kidney stones or a urinary tract infection first. Then, if your male dog isn't neutered, correct that immediately. Not only will it help cur marking, but statistically intact male dogs are more likely to bite. Stock up on an enzymatic cleaner and be sure to revert to crate training if the housebreaking continues to regress.

2. Becoming more aloof to you. You look like my mom, but you sure as heck don't smell like her. Give the dog the time and space to adjust, he/she will accept your new scent.

3. Becoming more velcro like. You are my mom, and I love your new smell, so I must follow you everywhere you go and protect you. Be sure to keep the house rules clear and maintain your place as the leader as this will help your dog relax.

Good luck and enjoy the ride with your furry babies.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Anyone out there?

Hi readers. As you know, I'm new to this blog thing. So far I have really enjoyed the outlet for talking about the loves of my life- my mini human and my beasts. While I could ramble on endlessly on the topic, I'd like to know if there are any topics you all would like to see addressed? Please feel free to chime in and leave your suggestions in the commments section. I look foward to reading them.

- PittieBoo

Monday, March 9, 2009

Service Dogs

Yesterday Becks had the pleasure of meeting 3 new dogs. We met 2 up at the local park, a sweet nippy little puppy and a sweet adult golden retriever. It always makes me chuckle that the minute he sees a dog he grabs my hand and we make a beeline to ask if we can pet them. The highlight of the day however was meeting Joey, a service dog, at the grocery store. I saw Joey hard at work but know that service dogs are working and aren't to be approached and loved on while doing their jobs. It wasn't until a little girl, probably about 7, screamed at the sight of Joey that I figured it would be ok to pet him. Joey's poor owner tried to reassure her that Joey was the "nicest of nice dogs" but this little girl was having none of it. I thought about how sad it is that she probably isn't exposed in a positive manner to dogs and most likely has never had the joy of being raised with one. Beckett did his part by practically leaping out of the shopping cart, grinning ear to ear, ready to love and dote on Joey. We spoke with his owner for a few minutes and he was thrilled to have someone recognize how special Joey was.

Did you know that service dogs:
Cost approximately $20,000 just to train
Only 6% of dogs tested make it into a training program
Of those in the training program, only 1 in 8 go on to perform as service dogs
Are often adopted from local shelters based on their special temperaments
Are every variety of pure breed and mixed breed dog
Many institutions are using inmates to care for and train service dogs
Can assist the blind, hearing challenged, provide independence for the disabled, monitor those with neurological disorders, and work as socially therapeutic animals
for those with psychiactric disabilities
Can be fostered by someone as awesome as you?

Friday, March 6, 2009

Older dogs and younger kids

My dogs are both large breeds, 7 year old Mack weighing in at 90 pounds and 6 year old Bell weighing in at 125. With their size and advancing ages, they are technically speaking seniors. Being seniors, their bodies are ever so slowly starting to wear down. When Mack was 3, he blew out both of his CCL ligaments (aka ACLs in human terms), and we endured two rounds of TPLO to put him back together with titanium plates and screws. Given those injuries, Mack's knees developed arthritic changes in them at a young age. Bell had her hips x-rayed while under for a teeth cleaning last year and we discovered she is severely dysplastic in one of her hips. Needless to say, my beasts are not getting any younger. As a result, they both probably have varying amounts of discomfort daily based on the weather and their weight.

As a means of fighting the good fight, they both are kept as lean as possible so as to avoid any added stress on their joints. Did you know obesity is one of the leading diseases in veterinary medicine today. Be kind to your dogs and give them added years on their life by keeping them slim and trim. To further enhance their quality of life, they both get human grade fish oil pills (a natural anti inflammatory) and a giant glucosamine/msm/chrondroitin (helps cushion their joints and rebuild cartilage) pill tossed in at dinner. I also invested in some nice orthopedic beds from Orvis and they have never seemed happier. Their post sleep limps are almost nil.

Even with all I do, I cannot stop the ever present march of time. Some of my new challenges as a parent involve an overenthusiastic toddler who can sometimes pet a little too hard which can hurt their aching bodies. Becks has also fallen on Bell a few times when going balls to the walls. In both instances, he has been given a correction by the dogs- a growl, a yelp, and an open mouth on him a time or two. I try hard to keep my calm and carry on as they say, but I know it will only get more tricky as they get older and crankier. Becks and I have a lot of little talks about how that hurts and he is giving them a boo boo. Luckily, as they age, he does too which makes these life lessons easier for him to understand. I know one day they will teach him the hardest lesson of all by exiting this world as we know it, but I know in my heart he will be a better human being for it. I wish all kids were this blessed.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A Boy and His Dog

A Boy and His Dog

A boy and his dog make a glorious pair:
No better friendship is found anywhere,
For they talk and they walk and they run and they play,
And they have their deep secrets for many a day;
And that boy has a comrade who thinks and who feels,
Who walks down the road with a dog at his heels.
He may go where he will and his dog will be there,
May revel in mud and his dog will not care;
Faithful he'll stay for the slightest command
And bark with delight at the touch of his hand;
Oh, he owns a treasure which nobody steals,
Who walks down the road with a dog at his heels.
No other can lure him away from his side;
He's proof against riches and station and pride;
Fine dress does not charm him, and flattery's breath
Is lost on the dog, for he's faithful to death;
He sees the great soul which the body conceals--
Oh, it's great to be young with a dog at your heels!
~ Edgar Albert Guest (1881-1959)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Your dog is not a monster, it is a dog

Dogs can reasonably be expected to do any of the following in the presence of a small child (all in my opinion of course):
* Growl
* Snap
* Place an open mouth on their skin
* Wag their tail way too high
* Have their hair stand on end
* Bark
* Excessively lick their lips
* Refusal to make eye contact

Guess what? These are normal communication skills for dogs. They are used in place of the English language since dogs have yet to master it. Now, what do these warnings tell us? That we as the human protectors of our dogs and our human babies need to step it up in the boundaries department. I find from speaking to fellow dog/baby moms these occur most often when the baby is newly mobile. If you stop to think logically and rationally about these behaviors, they are all what an older and wiser dog might do to a small puppy or in the presence of a perceived threat. Sure, you thought by bringing home baby that your dog automatically put two and two together and realized it was a small human. I think quite the opposite. I think a lot of dogs see a newly mobile baby and think it's the world's strangest looking puppy.

So, how can you teach your dog that your baby is in fact not a puppy and therefore not for them to correct them as they would a puppy? Boundaries, lots and lots of boundaries. We have them with co workers, lovers, in laws, so why is it when we become parents so many of us forget how important they are in the lives of our dogs and babies? I know all too well it is easy to fall into the trap of being a little too comfortable when letting dog and baby interact. How? Mack snapped at a newly mobile Becks and got him on the face with an open mouth. Ack. And yes, he left a small mark when in the heat of the moment I stupidly snatched my baby up and grazed him against Mack's teeth. No people, this was not a bite. There was no pressure applied and therefore no puncture wounds. Given that Mack pops regulation sized basketballs for fun, I knew this was not Mack aggressively going after Becks. It's been one of my dirty little parenting secrets because I know 99% of the population would be screaming for Mack to be immediately killed for something that was 100% my fault.

What I learned that day and in the following 24 hours of soul searching and a visit to our trainer, I saw the error of my ways. Mack had never been around a baby before and definitely not a small crawling one. Even though I was 2 steps behind Becks as he scooted along the floor, why did I think Mack's constant shadowing was a good thing? In hindsight I allowed too much interaction to the point that Mack thought Becks was a puppy. When Beckett approached some tennis shoes I wore frequently to volunteer at the animal shelter, Mack let him know he did not approve. Why he felt the need to guard them I will never know. Maybe he was in some weird way protecting Beck from them? From then on Mack and Bell were not allowed to share the space Becks was crawling/cruising/pulling up on/practicing walking in. I created dog free zones using baby gates so they could observe safely from a distance. When I did allow them to interact it was seated with them laying down and lots of treat for me to dole out. When Becks needed more room to roam, the dogs were put into their safe spaces, either crates or a closed bedroom, along with a special treat or toy. This reinforced this was in fact not punishment, but a reward. Many times they looked at me with appreciation for the break from the baby. A frozen peanut butter stuffed Kong and or a Buster Cube was our choice of reward.

Was it a huge pain in the ass? You bet. Was it worth it? You bet. Once Becks became a stable walking magic treat dispenser they got it. He was a mini me and was the bearer of good things. Not only does his treat them daily, he also helps with their meals. It's given me lots of time to also teach him when and when not to approach a dog and how to ask for mommy's help. I'd like to say we have had no incidents of growling or snapping since then, but accidents do happen, especially when your toddler accidentally falls on your severely dysplastic (hips) senior dog. Trust me, Becks now knows how to give her a wide berth and she returns the favor when he is in the mood to go balls to the walls. It's how you navigate these challenges and grow from them that matters most, not to mention the foundation of some very important life lessons for your human.