Category Archives: Dogs

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.

Dogs who hate belly rubs

It’s an almost universal truth – dogs love belly rubs.

Except when they don’t. Only one of ours truly enjoys belly rubs. Only Tango, Fran’s 11-year-old Brussels Griffon, will roll over and present his tummy for petting. 

Booker rarely is calm enough to try. When he is asleep on the couch next to you, he will stretch out on his side and let you rub his flank. 

Simon is another on-the-go boy, although not at Booker level. We knew what we were getting into when we decided to add Boston Terriers to the family. Simon is better at “chilling,” and you can pet him anywhere when he’s in that mode. But he never rolls over and says “Pet my tummy.”

A different level of loathing

Torque, Hope’s French Bulldog will never, ever enjoy a belly rub. He’s the dog that, no matter how relaxed he is, will never, ever sleep on his back. If he’s deeply asleep and rolls into a crack between cushions on the couch, winding up even close to upside down, he wakes up in a panic.

Teddy another Frenchie in the family, was fantastic at the trick “roll over.” He’d do it either direction, at Hope’s signal. Torque has such an irrational fear of being on his back that Hope’s given up trying to teach him this one. 

Building toward belly rubs

Frenchies aren’t really the most flexible dogs around, so we guess that, in a way, Torque’s reluctance is understandable. He didn’t have to wear a cone when he was neutered. He can’t reach back there. 

French Bulldog doesn't like belly rubs
Torque won’t roll over for belly rubs – he’s afraid he’ll fall off the floor.

To work on his flexibility, Hope holds a treat by his shoulder and has him “reach” for it. She started teaching it while he was lying on the floor, figuring that he wouldn’t be as frightened because there was no where to “fall.” She was wrong.

Now she has Torque lie in a dog bed with big bolsters, so his back and shoulder are supported while he “reaches.” He’s still not crazy about it, but he does it. If she asks him to reach a bit farther than he’s comfortable, he’ll still get a little panicky.

Let your dog decide

There are only a few things we absolutely insist our dogs do our way – we talked about the three absolute commands on our training site;

Tummy rubs, or letting us pet them where we want, isn’t a must. Even if popular opinion says “all dogs like this,” it’s okay if your dog doesn’t like belly rubs. 

Does your dog have strong opinions about stuff that “everybody says” about dogs? We’d love to hear about the endearing qualities that make up your dog’s unique charm!

3 Inside Dog Games to Play at Home

If you and your dog are a little bored, we have some ideas for inside dog games you can play at home, no special “stuff” required!

Life has a way of falling into routine. For us, and our dogs. Especially since the pandemic has restricted the way we do things, it’s easy to fall into a rut. Just taking a few minutes to try a new game with your dog can bring smiles to both of you and help energize your day.

If you have more than one dog, play these games with only one dog at a time. Everybody gets a “turn,” and it’s each dog’s special time to play with you and get all the attention. None of the games take very long, and each dog loves having you to him/herself for the duration.

Inside Dog game #1: Kitchen chaos

All you need for this game is a muffin tin, tennis balls, and treats. Simple enough – put a treat or six in the bottom of each section of the muffin tin. Cover them each with a tennis ball. Put it on the floor. Let your dog have fun. 

Muffin tin with treats for inside dog games

If your dog is a tennis-ball maniac, you may want to use something else to cover the treats. One of ours is, and he’d much rather run away with the ball than pursue the treats. For him, we put little paper cups over the goodies. It works for him, and when the cups are destroyed, it’s not a great loss.

Inside Dog Game #2: Sniff for it

One of the most popular and growing dog sports is scent work. In the version we know about, dogs learn to distinguish several different aromas, anise, birch, clove, and cypress. Then they find scented items that are hidden, buried, inside, outside, etc. There are lots of levels of difficulty which we’re not sure of, we haven’t really explored it completely.

But you don’t have to know all the rules of the sport to enjoy playing it. Hope thought it would be fun to teach her French Bulldog Torque to use his nose, instead of just barrelling into anything around. She also had some clove essential oil, so started there.

At first, she just put a drop of the clove oil on a cotton pad and showed it to Torque. As soon as he sniffed it instead of trying to eat it, she rewarded him. Then she had two cotton pads, only one with oil, and let him choose. When he picked the scented one, he got a reward.

Dogs learn what gets them rewarded really quickly. In almost no time, Torque was choosing the scented pad, rather than just grabbing everything in front of him. 

To “step up” the game, Hope enlisted Fran to help out. While Hope had Torque with his back to the room, Fran “hid” the scented cotton pad. She was the only one who knew where it was, so she had control of the “clicker” to mark when Torque found it. 

We were pretty amazed at how quickly Torque started scanning the space, his little nose sniffing a mile a minute. He loves this game and gives a Frenchie “wiggle” when we sees us reaching for the cotton pad.

Speaking of which, we keep the pad in a plastic sandwich bag between uses, and refresh with a new drop of oil on the days we play. 

Inside Dog Game #3: Hide and seek

For this inside dog game you need either a very reliable “stay,” or another person. It’s easy – just grab a few treats and go hide from your dog. It’s the leaving the dog that’s the tricky bit. All of our dogs seem to follow us from room to room wherever we go. We never have to go looking for our dogs – they’re always with us. 

On the other hand, a friend of ours with Shiba Inus knows where her dogs are because they have favorite spots in the house – not always with her. It’s a different dog mindset, and one we’re not accustomed to dealing with. But it would make “Hide and Seek” easier to start. The hard part would be getting her dogs motivated for the “seek” part.

With your dog on a “stay,” or being held by someone else, go “hide” from your dog. You can really hide behind something, or you can just go into another room. After a countdown from 10 (or more, if you have a lot of ground to cover), release the dog. Until your dog understands the rules of the game, you can call the dog’s name and, when he/she finds you, celebrate with lots of praise and some treats. 

When your dog understands the game, you’ll no longer need to call – just release from the stay or tell the other person to say “find So-and-So!”

Play away routine

Dog games break the monotony of an ordinary day. It’s a simple, fun thing you can do with your dog. Let us know your favorite inside dog games!