Friday, October 14th, 2011

Poodles Can Be Mischevious

If you’ve spent much time with poodles, you know they can be mischevious. In fact, that’s a bit of an understatement.

Take this photo, for instance. I took it almost two years ago. The backstory is this: I had put my clothes for the day on my bed and then went to take a shower. When I came out of the shower, I saw my little Clayton head into the kitchen. It seemed a little suspicious, so I followed him and this is what I saw.

See what I mean about mischevious?

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Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Flirting Is Good Exercise

One of the best things I did for my boys (especially Clayton) was create a flirt pole. As a first-time dog owner, I’d never heard of a flirt pole. I got the idea from Cindy. It’s pretty simple. First, I bought a horse lunge whip.

Then I tied a small dog toy to the end. And that’s where the fun begins. You basically spin the whip in a circle and let the dog chase the toy at the end. This video is grainy, but it should give you the idea.

Flirt poles are fun. They are fun for the dog, a great way to exercise. It’s also fun to watch. Here are a few images.

If you have a dog who loves running or playing with toys (or who just needs exercise), give the flirt pole a try. Who knows; it might be the one of the best things you get for your dog. :)

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Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

The Biggest Introvert in the Family

I didn’t think it was possible for someone to be more of an introvert than I am. But Cupid is a shy dog. This is more than just the mild reserve you expect with some dog breeds or a preference for his family. He is fearful of new things and people. You may look at this photo and notice his soulful eyes.

I too see those eyes, but I also notice the tail tucked between his legs—a common sign that he is uncomfortable and overwhelmed. (This particular photo was taken at a fundraiser for the humane society, and Cupid never feels comfortable going back there.)

Cupid was two years old when I got him. All I knew about his history is that he came from a shelter in California that had too many dogs. Everything else about his past is a mystery to me. I don’t know how many homes he was in during his life or how he ended up in a shelter. What I knew was that he was so sweet and he followed me around.

I realized his shyness was something I needed to address when I took him to meet my parents. I’d had Cupid about a week. It was dark by the time we arrived, and Cupid was sniffing out in the front yard when my folks came out to greet us. What would have been an uneventful meeting for a well-socialized dog was a disaster for Cupid. He is easily startled, and the sound my parents made when they came outside instantly put him on alert.

What I remember about that visit is sitting on my parents’ porch with Cupid in my lap while he growled at them for about half an hour. I admit I handled it badly. I just sat there, stiffly, embarassed that my dog was growling at my family. Even as a novice dog owner, I knew something wasn’t right about that.

I went home and did some research. I started taking Cupid to my parents’ house for short, treat-laden visits. They were short at first, and he stayed by my side, but he did better each time. It didn’t happen overnight, but as months passed, he went from growling at them to being so excited to see them, he pulled on the leash to get inside when we arrived.

What helps Cupid best with people is for them to let him approach them. If you try and pet him, his tail will go down and he will sneak to get away from you. If you go about your business without paying notice to him, he will often ultimately approach you.

Cupid’s shyness has not been “cured.” It’s something I deal with constantly when he encounters new situations and people.

If you have a shy dog or know a shy dog, you might be interested in this website: http://fearfuldogs.wordpress.com. I found this book to be helpful as well: Help for Your Fearful Dog.

Now, let’s talk. Have you ever had a shy dog? What challenges did you face?

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Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Become Familiar with the Unfamiliar

When I get the boys a new collar, harness, or . . . ahem . . . Halloween costume, I find it helpful to get them accustomed to it slowly rather than just throwing them into unfamiliar gear.

Case in point, last night the boys tried on some new stuff. But I started last week by just putting the items out and praising the boys when they showed interest in them. Last night, I put the gear on them and gave them treats. They only kept the items on for a few minutes; then I removed them.

This process can go more quickly when it’s something the dog is already familiar with, such as a collar. But when a dog is not familiar with something, it’s best to ease him into it. Sometimes this happens in minutes. Other times it takes days, weeks, or even longer.

What do you do to help your dog become familiar with the unfamiliar?

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Monday, October 10th, 2011

I Need a Man Magnet

I hear this question a lot: “Can I pet your dogs?” When I take the boys for walks or excursions, I sometimes end up looking like the Pied Piper . . . leading a row of children behind me.

Turns out that small, fluffy dogs are kid magnets.

I often walk to the park with my sister and niece. Each time we go, little kids come running toward us. By “us,” I mean Cupid and Clayton. For Clayton, my extrovert, this is great. He loves the attention. My shy dog, Cupid, has other ideas. His response could probably be summed up with one word, “Ack.”

Some kids are great at asking if they can pet my dogs and waiting to hear my response. The majority, though, don’t wait for my answer and in some cases, don’t ask. I don’t blame them for this—if they are anything like me, they spent little time with dogs and therefore don’t know how to approach them. As a new dog owner, I’m still perfecting my approach, but I usually step between the child and the boys and tell them that Cupid is shy, so he might not come to them. I tell them to hold out their hands for the boys to sniff. Clay will always approach. Cupid sometimes does.

Then comes the next step. This is where I could use some work, as this sometimes disintegrates into a frenzy of hands reaching for the boys with me saying things like, “Don’t pet him on the head; he doesn’t like that,” and “He’s too scared right now; let him come to you if he wants.” There’s got to be a better way to do this.

And every now and then, I wish my little cuties weren’t kid magnets. Don’t get me wrong—I love the boys, and I love it when other people love them. But what I really need are man magnets.

No, I’m not talking about getting a new dog. I want to keep the ones I have and still draw men to my side. Like this, for instance, which I found courtesy of The Poodle (and Dog) Blog.

Love it.

Got any tips on how to facilitate good greetings with children? Or on how to turn small dogs into man magnets? Please share in the comments.

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Friday, October 7th, 2011

Napping Is More Fun in Pairs

Friday is photo day. :) Today’s pic is of my dog Cupid (on the right) and a friend’s dog Nickey, shortly after we adopted them. We went to the humane society and adopted our dogs on the same day.

Love these guys. Good memories.

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Thursday, October 6th, 2011

One + Crazy Poodle Puppy = Insanity

Meet Clayton, my crazy two-year-old poodle in a 10-pound package. He is named after a character from a Kelley Armstrong novel. Naming a fluffy puppy after a werewolf may seem peculiar, but my Clay is absolutely gorgeous and larger than life, so it’s a good fit for him.

His middle name, Copperfield, is a tribute to the main character of the Dresden Files and to his ability to surprise me with apparently magical feats. He is still able to squeeze into small places. I still vividly remember the time he went under my bed to poo. Ha ha.

He is super active, loves all people and small dogs. (He’s had a few negative experiences with larger dogs, so he is more wary about them.) Playing with the flirt pole is his absolute favorite activity. Running is a close second. He’s a fun combination of active and cuddlebug.

I decided to get a second dog four or five months after I brought Cupid home. Initially, I was looking for a compatible female dog. I met a few but it didn’t work out for one reason or another. Not deterred, I kept looking.

Finally I heard about a little male toy poodle puppy and decided to go and “just look” at him. I should have known better. Clayton (AKA Tumbles) was beyond adorable.

I was ready to bring him home after spending five minutes with him. Cupid’s reaction was more complicated. He’s not real fond of playing with other dogs, so he didn’t interact much with the little guy, but his tail remained in a relaxed position. I took that as a good sign and after some debate, decided the little guy was coming with us.

I brought Clayton home on April 15, 2009, when he was 12 weeks old. He was about four pounds, and I called him my little ball of fluff.

Half an hour after bringing him home, I was panicking again. What had I done? Could I really handle two dogs? Did I know what I was getting myself into? But there was always the underlying feeling that this was the right match for the family. So even when Cupid struggled to accept him and when I had my moments of panic, I was determined to make it work. And I’ve never ever regretted it.

As a pup, he loved to wrestle and would do what he could to get Cupid to play with him. Even when Cupid joined in the fun, he was still very careful with the little guy. Clay has always loved squeaky toys. His current favorite is a long fox.

Raising Clayton has been an adventure: he loved (and still loves) chewing, so there were more than a few casualties among my belongings. Shoes, bags, even a bobblehead—they’ve all been the victim of his chewing. At two, he has matured some but still seems like a puppy at heart. He loves equal doses of activity and affection.

I wouldn’t trade my little handful for the calmest, most docile dog around.

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Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Going from Zero to One in 5.5 Seconds

Cupid is my four-year-old Lhasa Apso/miniature poodle mix, and he’s a big part of why I started this blog. He is my first-ever dog, my sweetheart, my little rascal.

My darling Lhasa boy

I got him at the local humane society. His calm demeanor there belied the fact that he is a fetchaholic, a dog who can out-retrieve most retrievers. He’s shy with people he doesn’t know but incredibly loyal and loving to those he does. He’s a devoted food fiend who is super resourceful about getting into things he shouldn’t. He prefers action—AKA fetching—to cuddling, but he does enjoy having his back or tummy rubbed when he’s feeling mellow. Here’s his backstory.

When I woke up on November 13, 2008, I had no idea I would come home with a dog. That day I went with a friend to the humane society. She had moved into a condo and was now looking for a small dog to love.

I took several dogs out of their cages and took them for walks. One, a rat terrier, took me for a walk. Another, a little white Chihuahua mix puppy, shook so hard and just wanted to be held. I bent down to look into a cage on the bottom row. What I saw was a fluffy (and scruffy) tan dog that was curled up in the corner looking sad. I noticed two things: the cage smelled funny, so I thought he weren’t housetrained; and he looked like he was asleep, and I didn’t want to wake him up. So, though I cringe now to think of it, I passed him by.

My friend ultimately did something that would ultimately change my life. She took that scruffy dog out of his cage. We went out to the lobby where it was a little quieter. I sat and held the Chihuahua puppy, and she sat with the tan scruffy dog. After a few minutes, we switched dogs.

This fluffy dog sat quietly next to me. I remember two things about that time—his hair was so, so soft. And his eyes . . . his eyes spoke of his beautiful spirit.

 

My friend asked if I was thinking of getting one of the dogs. I said I was interested in the fluffy one. She was interested in the puppy. So we applied for the dogs, and after the applications were reviewed, we left with our dogs.

It was primarily an impulse decision on my part. (I don’t recommend getting a dog on impulse, by the way.) It was both exhilarating and terrifying. I brought home this dog . . .

. . . and everything changed. I kept his name—Cupid. Nothing else seemed to fit. His middle name is Blackstone after the title character of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. This boy has a magical ability to get in and out of things, and I wouldn’t have him any other way.

So that’s Cupid. I’ll share more about him in blog entries to come. But first, come back tomorrow to meet Clayton.

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Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

I’m a Doggy Drug Dealer

I’m devoting Tuesdays to training tips, questions, and other training topics of interest. Keep in mind that I’m not a dog trainer. I imagine I will learn as much or more from blog visitors as you will learn from me.

Today’s tip: Experiment to find what foods really motivate your dogs. It needs to be a small snack, one that can be eaten quickly, not something you would give for the dog to chow on for a while.

For the boys, that food is this.

To say they love it is an understatement. Clayton will automatically sit to try and get me to give it to him, and his tail wags even as he sits. I kind of feel like a doggy drug dealer when I pull out this treat. Ha ha.

What foods motivate your dogs? Share their favorites in the comments.

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Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Going from Dog Fearing to Dog Owning

Growing up, people in my neighborhood just let their dogs roam. Consequently, my trips through the neighborhood were as carefully planned as a game of Battleship. As planned as a kid’s mind can be, anyway. Would I hit the target or miss? My goal was simple: reach my destination without being followed by one of the self-appointed guardians of the area—large, hulking dogs with booming voices. Sometimes I achieved that goal. Hit. Other times the hulking figures followed (or chased) me. Miss.

When that happened, these neighborhood watchmen were not deterred by anything I did. They just stayed with me, mostly at my heels, until they were satisfied that I was well on my way. In the meantime, my heart pounded and I sweated all the way home. More than once I feared bringing a bite home with me.

It’s safe to say my childhood experiences with dogs were largely negative.

As I grew older, I met other dogs. They were always jumpy, slobbery, and a bit too earnest. And what was up with the barking?

By the time I graduated high school, I was well established as not being a dog person.

So everyone (myself included) was surprised when I went to the humane society with a friend who was looking for a canine pal and came home with a dog of my own. At thirty-something, I was a first-time dog owner who knew next to nothing about dogs.

It hasn’t been an easy journey. For the first month, I felt like I was in well over my head. But my friend helped me through that rough period. I also did a lot of research plus a good deal of dog training, where I discovered that I needed people training as well. Three years after I brought Cupid home, I still do not consider myself a dog expert. I’m just someone with two dogs who is proud to say, “I’m a dog person.”

Eat, Sleep & Be Doggy is for longtime dog owners, recent coverts to dog ownership, or people who just plain love dogs. Please join me for photos, product reviews, and fun discussions about the crazy and rewarding world of dog ownership.

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