Category Archives: Dogs

Bad dog mom! Forgot a dog birthday? Shame!

Hope was a really bad dog mom this week. You’d think, with only one kid to keep track of, nowhere to go, and not much to do, that she’d be able to remember important dates.

Not so much. It wasn’t until she looked at her phone Tuesday morning and saw her calendar with the notification “Torque’s birthday,” that she had any clue. Oops. As a matter of fact, she’d mentioned to someone just last week that his birthday was in November. Oops again.

Funny things, birthdays

We all know that Torque neither knows, nor cares, He has no idea what a calendar is, let alone that some dates are more momentous than others. 

It matters to us. Birthdays are more than a way of marking time. It’s a way to celebrate that one soul that matters. To let that being know they’re special, they count, their presence in our lives makes it better.

In the routine and stress of everyday life, it’s easy to take people/dogs/things for granted. Especially in 2020, we get through each day as best we can. Some are better than others. Some are truly difficult. Just like for everyone.

Birthday break

But on someone’s birthday, even a dog birthday, we get to break the routine and find a reason to celebrate. Ironically, Hope’s birthday this year was the day the pandemic lockdown went into effect here – the celebration dinner was carry-out. The first of quite a few lockdown celebrations

It wasn’t her worst birthday ever. That came quite a few years ago when she turned 26. She doesn’t know why it bothered her, but it did. Maybe passing the quarter-century mark. She was also working as a newspaper editor at the time and that was a particularly bad deadline day. And, when she got home, she found out there was fish for dinner. At the time, she loathed fish.

And she felt cheated – because on “her” day, it seemed that no one was celebrating her. It wasn’t true, of course, but it felt that way. And we learned that birthdays aren’t about presents, or cake. Not even ice cream. They’re about making that person know they’re special and enhance our lives. Because everyone needs to know they matter.

Dogs matter, too

Birthday boy Torque

The bad preparation for Torque’s sixth dog birthday has a silver lining. Now that Hope’s been reminded we have an occasion to celebrate, she’s planning a weekend bash for her boy. There will be vanilla ice cream and new toys and chews for the boys. If the weather cooperates and we don’t have more snow flurries, there may even be a meander on the local greenway so he can check out all the pee-mail. The simple joys of being a dog.

Another lesson from our dogs

Torque doesn’t know it’s his dog birthday. It also doesn’t matter to him. Any guilt Hope feels for forgetting is all hers. He does know he got to have fun playing with his mom and family. He knows he had good food, cuddles, and a comfy place to nap. And, when we get around to an actual birthday celebration, he’ll enjoy it enormously.

So, when you see notifications come up on your calendar or social media, take a minute to celebrate the person whose birthday it is. Even if all you do is post a simple “Happy Birthday!” – it lets that person know you thought of them, and they matter. 

Making the best choices for your dog

Making the best choices for your dog isn’t as clear-cut as we’d like. Opinions abound, and expertise is easy to find these days. You don’t even have to type a question – if you have a “smart speaker” you can just ask and the pundits’ answers float through the air. It’s almost magical.

But is it right? It’s one thing if you’re asking for the date of an historical event. That’s a fact not up for debate. But what if you’re looking for advice – like what’s the best dog food? or whether you should neuter your dog?

Trying to get it right

Being a responsible adult means choosing everything in your life. For yourself and for all the lives you care about, including your dog. One of the hardest parts is not knowing which is the “right” choice – we all do the best we can with the information we have.

It’s easy to get bogged down with “research” – asking Google, social groups, friends, etc. about their experiences and outcomes. Whatever question you have, there’s volumes of material to consider, on all sides of the question. 

Pulling the plug

At some point, you just have to make a choice. Sometimes it’s a matter of holding your nose while you do it – none of the options are ideal. And remember that no choice is engraved in stone. If results aren’t good, you can change your approach. That’s part of “adulting,” too.

This week in the shop a couple of customers, both with Yorkies, were comparing their experiences with dog food. One’s dog is thriving on a vet-recommended brand. The other, advised to use the same food, didn’t have the same experience. She went through several different brands, recommended by various sources, until she found one that worked for her dog. 

Trust, but verify

Social media groups are great sources for some things. We saw a great discussion this week asking for ideas helping dogs not slip on hardwood stairs. Lots of people chimed in with all kinds of links to different kinds of carpet runners, temporary carpeting stair treads, even transparent non-slip treads. That’s social media at its finest, giving people options and sharing experience.

But another discussion was more troubling. (Different group, different people.) One person posted a cute picture of his dogs lazing on a Sunday. The picture showed that his dogs were still intact. One of the very first, judgmental comments was “Why aren’t your dogs neutered?” Perhaps wisely, the original poster just said words to the effect of “I have my reasons. Thank you for your concern.” 

Choose what’s best for you

That’s all anyone can ask. We’ve always been advocates of the adage “When you know better, you do better.” Make the best choices you can for your dog. And, based on that option and your experience, you can always modify, adapt, and change. 

Get your dog to like wearing clothes

Have you heard the old adage about the cobbler’s children having no shoes? It’s kind of like that with our dogs. None of our dogs is crazy about wearing anything. Living in a cold climate, it was crucial to teach the dogs to like wearing clothes.

Not playing dress-up

When we say clothes, for us it’s pretty limited to necessities. Warm coats in the winter, boots so their paws don’t freeze or get salt burns. The only time we have them wear other “stuff” is just for the time it takes to snap a cute picture, and a “stay” command works for those. They don’t like it, but they’ll do it because they know a treat is coming.

French Bulldog Teddy didn't like wearing clothes

It’s a different story when you expect your dog to actually move around wearing a coat. Not to mention doing his/her “business” while dressed. Teddy (Hope’s French Bulldog) was infamous for hating wearing his coat. He’d stand still to put it on. Walk around, bark, look cute, etc. But if you wanted him to actually get down to “business,” you were in for a long wait. When we were in a hurry, we have to admit he “won” the battles – we took off the coat just to get him going, so to speak.

Key to success

We’d recommend that all small dogs have at least one “go-to” coat. Where we have seasonal changes, the need is obvious. In warmer climates, dogs, like people, become acclimated to their surroundings. A sudden change in temperature that a Chicagoan may not notice, say down to 50 degrees, would make a Miamian shiver. We know, because that’s when our grandmother would pull out her ancient and venerated fur coat. Dogs feel the same way. If you’re used to 80 degrees, 50 is pretty darn cold.

The first step to getting your dog to like wearing clothes is to “add value” to the garment. If your dog really hates clothes, take your time with this step. Just take out the coat and when your dog shows any interest in it, give him/her a treat. Pretty soon your dog will associate the coat with good things. 

If the coat has Velcro, open and close it while giving treats to the dog. Some dogs are unfamiliar with the sound and it can be startling. We know the aversion can be overcome. At one point we had treat pouches that had Velcro. It didn’t take long for all of our dogs to recognize the sound and come running – they knew it meant “COOKIES!”

Step by step

Once your dog is used to the sight of the coat and finds it interesting or even good, it’s time to touch it. If, like the Highline Fleece, it’s a step-in style, try putting one leg in a sleeve. Give a treat, and take off the coat. When your dog is okay with one leg, move on to the other. The whole idea is allowing your dog to become familiar with something that’s new and different. When he/she realizes there’s no threat, that it’s actually a good thing, you’re, quite literally, good to go.

Dogs who like wearing clothes

If you’re one of the lucky ones whose dog just adores playing “dress up,” that’s terrific. For those of us who struggle with it, knowing our dogs need the warmth, but that the clothes make them miserable, it’s more difficult. It’s worth taking the time to teach your dog to like wearing clothes. Fortunately, it’s also like riding a bike, you only have to learn once. Your dog will remember next winter that the coat is a good thing. 

Getting dogs to get along

We have a friend who is constantly “managing” her dogs. She has six and not all of them get along with each other. And the groups aren’t consistent – individual dogs who were buddies yesterday can’t stand the sight of each other today.

It must be exhausting. One of the absolute “musts” in our house is that all the dogs get along. It’s not that we don’t have occasional spats. Of course we do. Some days the dogs are like three-year-olds: “Mom, he looked at me!”

“He looked at me first!”

“Tell him to stop looking!”

“I’m not! Tell him!”

At which point we calmly, hands over our ears, leave the room.

Tempers can flare

Dealing with the occasional brother battle is different than bringing a new dog home for the first time, especially if the newcomer is a puppy. Monitoring all interactions with a new dog is crucial. And a good familiarity with dog body language is a big help.

Once we know that the resident dogs aren’t planning to physically harm the new dog, we pretty much let them sort out their relationships for themselves. We try to step in only when one of the dogs seems out of control, or someone else is tired of being harassed.

Get along, little doggie

The hardest case we’ve ever seen was Dax, Hope’s first French Bulldog. Dax wasn’t the sweetest dog, but she wasn’t particularly obnoxious, either. When Hope brought Teddy home as a puppy, he instantly adored his big sister. Followed her everywhere. Grabbed her face and hung on. 

She completely and totally ignored him.

It was months before she even acknowledged his existence. And even then, it was to tell him to “knock it off!” – she’d finally had enough of him chewing on her face. It was probably about the same time he reached more than half her weight and his “attentions” really started to hurt.

Teddy was thrilled! His idol was finally paying attention to him. It didn’t matter that the attention wasn’t “good.” His persistence paid off. They became great friends and playmates for the rest of her life. 

Persistence pays again

Our current cast of characters is pretty interesting, too. Simon just turned two years old this Summer. Tango is 11. Simon is a fire plug of a Boston Terrier, 18 pounds of muscle. Tango is a long, skinny, bendy Brussels Griffon. They adore each other.

getting dogs to get along - Boston Terrier and Brussels Griffon lying side by side

Watching them, you’d swear we just lied. Every time Simon walks by Tango, Tango jumps up and yells at Simon. And Simon will deliberately rush at Tango and bop him with his paws, just to annoy him. Their interactions are incredibly loud, sound horrible, look nasty, and they both enjoy them enormously. 

Watching what matters

It took us a while to recognize that. Both of the dogs were having fun. At first, we thought Tango needed protection from the younger, stronger, heavier Simon. Then we noticed that it was Tango initiating the fuss-fests at least half the time. It’s how these two dogs’ relationship has developed. They understand it and it works for them. The other two dogs stay out of it. Smart pups!

Just like little kids, unless disagreements become violent, it’s probably best to let them work it out on their own. There’s no guarantee that they’ll be friends for life, but you’ll have a chance for peace.