Monday, August 30, 2010

Can dogs read?

Yesterday while out on a walk, we came across a sidewalk that was covered in chalk drawings.  "A is for Apple!" one section proclaimed and there next to those words was a lovely drawing of an apple.

I continued to read.

"B is for bug!"
"C is for cat!"

And finally, of course, "D is for dog!"

The drawing of a dog was adorable and I paused in my contemplation.

Dahlia, my ever faithful companion stopped, turned around, and sat right next to that "D is for dog" drawing, proudly grinning in all of her spotted tongue glory.

D is for Dahlia, Mom.

Can she read?  See pictures?  One has to sometimes contemplate how much dogs really do know.  I always say she's at home on the "Dognet" when we're not there to watch over her.  And my partner believes she can pull off her dog paw gloves to reveal her hands below them, complete with opposable thumbs.  So maybe she can read as well!

Hey Mom, you know what else D stands for?  D stands for dog drool!!!

 Or maybe not...

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Day in the Life of Dahlia F. Beast

In one of the dog communities I'm in, we're doing a "Day in the life of my dog" thing, so here are my photos from yesterday's adventures.

The day begins curled up in her bed, sound asleep...or is she?

She soon stretches herself out and lays with her butt on the bed and her head on the floor. This is typical Dahlia sleeping position.

Next up? BELLY RUBS! No day is complete without her morning belly rub.


Then we headed off to our agility class. Here's Dahlia in the car before we headed off.

Are we there yet Mom? I wanna see Drake!


Dahlia in her crate waiting for class to start.

Toward the end of class. Mom, I'm tired!

Back in the car for the ride to my work picnic.

We arrive at the picnic site. OH BOY OH BOY!!

First thing we need to for a place to do her business!

That done, we can now head back to the picnic!

Where she will lay around like a lump of dog.

And hang out while Mommy takes pictures of the bean bag championship games.

And roll around in the grass cause it feels SO GOOD!


And play tug, of course!

She got plenty of attention from the kids at the picnic.

And begged for food...a lot.


Please feed me, for I am a starving dog.



Please note, said dog got at least 2 hamburgers, half a hot dog, a piece of chicken, and half an ice cream sandwich (minus the chocolate cookie parts). I would say "starving" is not quite accurate.

Oh wow Mom. I'm stuffed.

Maybe I should work it off chasing some seagulls?

Mom, seagulls SUCK. They fly away before you even get 20 feet from them!

Ok maybe I can have MORE FOOD. Here's my Dad feeding her one of the two hamburgers.

In the car on the way home.

Oh oh! IS DADDY HOME????!!!!


Daddy and Dahlia curled up on the floor watching TV.

And finally, flopped out on the couch for the remainder of the evening.

She eventually looked like picture #1 again, but I was too tired to get the camera and take a photo. So there you go, a very busy day in the life of Dahlia F. Beast.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Spotted Tongue (aka Is she really part Chow?)

One of the first things I noticed about Dahlia when I met her was her tongue.  It's hard to miss the fact that her tongue is not solid pink.  It is, in fact, speckled with large blue marks.


The spots on the tongue has led many who have met her or seen her pictures to say "She must be part Chow."  So is she really?

The site Chow Chow Welfare says on their page "The Truth About Those Black Tongues":

We...know that blue-black spots on tongues are very common in dogs - more than 30 pure breeds are known  to have members with spotted tongues.

Spots on tongues are simply deposits of extra pigment, like birthmarks and freckles on people.  Dogs often have spots of dark pigment on their skin, too, hiding under their coats.  These spots can be large or small, many or few.

So there's the truth.  Is your dog part Chow because he/she has tongue spots?  Not necessarily.  Many purebred dogs have spots on their tongues, including various retrievers and shepherds.  In fact, they're so common in dogs like Golden retrievers, that they are not considered a fault in conformation events.

So what is Dahlia, exactly?  That's anyone's guess, though we've seen some pretty strong indicators that she has some sort of herding breed in her ancestry, likely Border Collie though she could have Australian Shepherd as well as or instead of collie.  We've also guessed, from personality, coat, and looks, that she is part retriever, with Golden Retriever being our current #1 educated guess.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Herding insinct: She has it!

When we first got Dahlia, one of the things the foster home said about her was that she was a Border collie but had "None of the Border needs for high exercise nor herding behaviors."  We began questioning this right away.

When David and I separated on a walk, she would come around one of us and nip at our heels.

When she saw the geese out in a field she wouldn't run straight at them but instead would go around the outside of the flock.  We never got to see the end result of that as her racing toward a bunch of wild geese resulted in something that should surprise no one: They flew away.

I posted her pictures on Border collie sites and asked if they thought she had collie in her (I fully admit I really wanted her to).  Some said they thought she might; many did not believe she did.  She's clearly a mutt.  A 50 pound black furry mutt of unknown origin.  It's pretty clear she has retriever in her, though she's not a dog who retrieves.  But still, I was sure she had collie in her.  I saw it in her face, in her coat, in her tail.

And recently, I saw it as her herding instinct came out strong and clear!

She met goats.  This is the first time I've seen her actually come into contact with livestock.  There were just two of them, but she was very interested in them from the start.

Oh hi there Miss Goat.  May I come in?

That's right.  She crawled right underneath the fence.  We had to stop her from going all the way under and right into the pen!

But the next day, she faced down the goats outside of the pen, with them free to move around as they wished.  She was fascinated by them.



But then, all, of a sudden, it's like a light clicked on up in her doggy brain somewhere and she realized what she should be doing with those goats.  What should she be doing?  This!


That's right folks!  She gave those goats the eye and stalk posture and they began to move.  Now granted, she put way too much pressure on and they ran away from her, but she went after them, cut them off, tried to get them to move, well, somewhere.  I have no idea where, but it was clear she was trying to herd them somewhere.

So there you have it.  Dahlia is most definitely a Border collie mix and it looks like the Border collie side is much stronger than the retriever side as she has no interest in retrieving whatsoever.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Moving with a dog

I see a fair amount of posts on Craigslist from people looking to rehome their dogs, cats, even rabbits and fish because they're moving and "the new apartment doesn't allow pets."  If you read over Craiglist you get the distinct idea that there are no places out there and many people automatically move to taking their pets to shelters or trying to rehome them on CL and other similar places.

At some point in time, I'm going to have to move.  This means the entire idea makes me very nervous.  Will I find a place?  Well, I have to.  There is no doubt in my mind.  Dahlia is part of our family and you don't just dump a member of your family.  I would rather not move and not take a job than leave my girl behind.

Here are a few of the resources I found while doing some research on moving with pets:

1. On Craigslist you can check off "dogs" or "cats" in your search for apartments.  This probably means a lot less will appear, but you're likely to find a number who do allow them.

2. Another site to look on is:  Again, you can find dog or cat friendly housing.

3. Here's yet another:

This, of course, doesn't mean they'll accept your dog. Some places have weight limits.  Some places don't allow dogs of certain breeds.  If you have a larger dog (mine is 50 lbs) or a pit bull or other "banned" animal, you'll have to do some calling around.  Narrow down the choices to the places that look best and then get on their website or contact them about your dog.

The Humane Society has a great list of what do when looking to rent with pets.  The best suggestion there is give yourself time.  A lot of people start looking in the last few weeks.  I knew I was going to be moving back in April when I was hired.  That gave me 4 months to find that perfect pet friendly rental.  Plenty of time!

Another important aspect of this is something most people never think of: Talking to the landlord, especially people who rent out houses or apartments in duplexes.  The place we're renting from is a duplex.  Our landlord owns two rental properties, both duplexes.  He is not part of a company and we aren't going to be living in a complex.  He did have an unofficial "no dogs" rule, but rather than simply walking away from what was a very good apartment at a very good price in a nice part of town, I opted to talk to him.  Here's what I did that won him over:

1. I asked him what it was that caused him to have the "no pets" clause.  In this case, it was destruction and noise.  He was more concerned about the noise and complaints from neighbors about a noisy dog.  He was also concerned about dog excrement ruining his yard.

2. I addressed each of his concerns.  Our dog is quiet.  Our dog is an adult and does not destroy things.  I offered to let him meet her so he could see that she was calm and well-behaved.  I agreed to crate her when we were out if need be.  I also agreed to only have the one dog, though our landlord is so absentee that we could have 6 llamas living there and he'd never know.

3. We agreed that we would find a new place (or "get rid of the dog," though that would not be happening!) if there were numerous complaints about her.  Two and half years on and there have been none.  In fact, our mail man didn't know we had a dog and our landlord, who had dropped by to mow our yard during the first summer we were there, thought we didn't actually bring her until he met us while we were returning from a walk one day.

A couple other things you can do:

1. Create a "pet resume."  Include your dogs picture, information about your dog, and any training your dog has had.  Our dog has had classes at various places, has her CGC (Canine Good Citizen) certificate, and is currently in training for agility.  You can also include letters of reference from current landlords, vets, groomers, and trainers that speak of your dog's nice temperament and your ability to care for him/her.

2. If the landlord you're speaking to sounds like he could decide to allow you to rent with pets, offer to allow him to meet your dog.  Give him a chance to discover how well-behaved your dog is.  You can offer to show how your dog knows basic obedience, greets properly, or is good with children or pets.  Of course, this is all contingent on how well-behaved your dog actually is.  If you think you may have to move into a new apartment sometime and your dog could use a brush-up on manners, please do take a positive reinforcement training class!  Perhaps even try for the CGC certificate.  Anything you can do to make your dog as good a citizen as possible will help you in your move.

Moving with pets is not the easiest thing to do and it takes some planning, but it can be done.  So please, before getting rid of your pet, please just get out there and look.  Don't be afraid to talk to the landlord about your pet!  And if you may move in the future, get yourself together: get some training, get those references, and be prepared in case you have to move.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Dahlia: A digital portrait

I commissioned someone to do a digital portrait of Dahlia. She did a fabulous job!


Saturday, August 7, 2010

When good dogs go bad!

Dahlia's such a good girl here, posing in her new bandanna from the Stephen Huneck Gallery. And look, there's butter in front of her...awww!




What Mom? Dad said I could have it, I swear!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Play styles and realization

Before I got a dog, I had very specific ideas of what a dog was. One of the major ideas I had centered around play: Dogs like to play fetch. Period. Tennis balls, frisbees, sticks. Anything you could toss a dog would chase after. As far as I was concerned fetch was the number one thing dogs loved to do.

So when we were planning on getting a dog and I went to Petsmart to get treats and toys and beds and all the other paraphernalia one needs for a new dog, fetching toys were high on my list. I came back with a frisbee and tennis balls galore. I was all set for my marathon fetching sessions.

One of the first thing I did when I got Dahlia was show her the ball and toss it out into the yard. At this point, I expected the typical dog reaction: an excited and somewhat frantic race to the ball. Instead I got this:

Mom I do not understand what it is you have done...

She watched the ball fly away from me and then turned to look up at me with this sort of bored and confused look on her face. I could almost hear her thoughts: Mom, why did you throw that thing?

A dog who doesn't fetch? No, this isn't possible, right? Even if she doesn't bring the ball back to me, surely she would show interest in getting the ball, chasing the ball, right? But no. Not even a movement toward the ball. Not even a muscle twitch that told me she was interested in going after the ball. I found that utterly unbelievable. How does a dog not learn how to play fetch in the first two years of her life? I was sure she was play deprived and I would have to show her how to be a proper dog. I swear my motto when it came to dogs was Dogs Fetch.  That would be Canis Fetchis in Latin.

I spent many months getting her interested in toys and then pulling hard to get her to let go of them so I could toss them. Eventually, she started to get it.

Look Mom, I can fetch!

But still, I would have to tug on it to get it out of her mouth and throw it again. I didn't want to teach her a drop it command only because I was afraid doing so would make her lose interest in the game. I wanted her to play and playing should be on the dog's terms, right? So I would tug and tug and finally get the toy and throw it. She'd fetch it and the game would begin again.

Except she would lose interest after about 3 or 4 tosses of the toy and just lay down. I started to believe my dog was just not playful.

But then I began to realize something else. The times she was really playful and really got into the playing were the times when I was tugging on the toy. And I began to realize how many photos I had of her playing tug.




Dahlia loves tug. Loves it. I don't know why it took me this long to figure it out. Maybe it's because I was so locked into fetch as the ultimate in dog games that I didn't take the time to really watch her and realize that, while she enjoys fetching to some degree, she really lives for tug games.

Of course, there's the other side of this: A lot of people used to proclaim tug "dangerous." The reasons ran the gamut from making your dog more aggressive to making the dog dominant (especially if they're allowed to "win" the game). Many people have come up with very strict rules for tug games. You are only allowed to play the game if...If you don't let the dog win... If you teach them to drop the toy...If you don't let the dog leap for the toy. The list goes on and on.

I admit to playing this game with no rules. In play, my dog has leapt for the toy and has even made contact with my arm once when she miscalculated where the toy was. Dahlia is usually a quiet, calm dog, but we're working on agility now and I'm trying to build up some drive in her. Tug seems to be the way to do it. It really amps her up and I'm thrilled to see such excitement and drive coming out of her. I feel no need to put rules on it. Rules may end the play quickly with a dog like mine.

So we play tug with complete abandonment. She loves it. It's become a huge reward for her and I'm using it as a reward more and more. She greets someone nicely and relaxes while I chat with them? She gets to play tug afterward. I used to redirect her to fetching, but I'd throw the ball and end up having to get it myself. I've taken to letting her play tug with the leash on walks or bringing a toy and letting her tug on that. Recently, I've obtained a leash specifically meant for tug games. It's made out of braided fleece and has sheepskin woven into it. It's perfect for the dog who loves to tug!

Tug toy and leash were obtained through Tillie's Tuggies. A portion of the proceeds go to Glen Highland Farm, a local Border collie rescue. After having the leash and tug toy for only a couple days, I can honestly say that I highly recommend them for dogs who love tug games!