Short Dogs and Blizzards

Colorado was slammed with a spring blizzard on Wednesday … not unusual for Colorado but certainly not welcomed by humans or dogs alike.  To be sure, we need the moisture so won’t complain there. However, the driving snow and 50-mph winds did little for dogs or trees in our neighborhood.  Four of our trees sustained significant damage from the snow caking on branches.  The weight eventually snapped the limbs off completely or split the trunks.  A maple, two crabapples and a hawthorne all lost limbs … time will tell as to if the trees will make it or not.  The top of one crabapple was completely snapped off.  Bummer.

We set up a dog run of sorts in the winter for a couple of reasons … one, it makes a smaller footprint to have to scoop for the dogs and, two, it keeps the dogs from accessing areas which have not been scooped so they don’t come back in looking like a giant snow ball (see last photo).  Unfortunately, even having a dog run that had been scooped twice didn’t help with this blizzard.  The potty run filled up quickly and it’s hard to potty in 6+ inches of snow when one is less than 11-inches tall at the shoulder!  All told, we got 18+-inches of snow out of this storm in less than 12 hours.

Dog yard 2016

Soooo, what’s a small dog to do?!?!?  Thankfully, I’ve trained my three to potty in an exercise pen (x-pen) from the time they were small puppies.  Dante and Jentry are old hands at it … Teller was a bit confused by it all.  I set up a small x-pen in the garage, lined it with potty pads and everyone was able to relieve themselves until we could dig out.

Let’s talk about equipment … in my book, x-pens are a “must have” for the dog owner. They come in different heights and I use 24″ or 30″ depending on the application. Definitely prefer the 24″ as I can actually step over that one.  At 5’3″ and a 28″ inseam, a 30″ pen is out of my reach, both to step over and to lean over to pick up a dog.  Those of us who are height challenged have to consider all the angles, literally.  If you have a dog that can jump/climb 24″ you’ll probably want a 30″ pen.

One x-pen will make a four-by-four pen (I prefer the Midwest brand of pens, without a door).  The pens are open ended so you can add extra panels to make a larger pen or connect two pens together for a substantial space.  We use several pens connected together for a dog run during the winter as we have a large patio to cover to get to the grass. The pens make good markers as to snow fall since the sections are set up in vertical increments of six inches.  We’ve used the pens when camping as an area for the dogs to hang out so they’re not constantly on a leash.  Throw in a bed, toys, coop cups for food/water and they’re all set.  Drag up a comfortable chair, an adult beverage and you’re all set.

As all of my pens were out in the yard, I used a small fold-up pen that I keep in the grooming room and/or take to dog shows.  Dog shows typically have outside areas for potty runs (this works if a small venue and one can easily get to “outside”).  However, if the weather outside is bad, toileting can be an issue.   In the case of the large Denver shows, they set up penned-off areas inside, full of sawdust.  Not good for dogs in full coat … and can be a source of disease/germs.  So, we use a lightweight six-panel pen made by Mardel that’s easily transported and set up (scroll down to find the mini-exercise pens).

Potty pads … given that I don’t use them all that often, I buy Assurance underpads  from Wal-Mart. While they cost more than the pet-specific pads, they absorb more and come in a 30 x 36 size (two will cover a small x-pen nicely, for about .52 cents each). The boys are sent out first with belly bands so they’re not peeing out the sides of the pen, solid wastes are bagged and set outside (use of the belly bands also keeps the pads clean so the boys are not walking in urine).  Jentry is then “exercised” in a basically clean pen.  Depending on what’s going on and where we’re at, I may cover her pee spot with newspapers so she’s not walking in urine and the pads are good for a second use.  When done, it all gets bagged up and put in the trash bin outside so we don’t have to worry about odors.  I have also used this set up in a hotel room — a heavy-duty sheet of plastic is unrolled in an area and then the pen and potty pads are set up.

Flying with a dog and can’t get to the potty area?  Pack along a potty pad and then take the dog to the restroom (easier if the dog is a male so you can use a belly band as well). All good reasons to train your dog to:  (1) potty on command and (2) potty in an x-pen as it gives you and the dog more options when nature calls.

Belly bands … having used several different types over the years, I’ve found Playapup to be the most comfortable for the boys.  They are narrower on the ends and the neoprene material has some stretch to it.  This brand doesn’t tend to bunch up because of excess material as with other bands. Line it with an incontinence pad and it can be used for potty runs as noted above or used in conjunction with training for males that mark indoors.  They wash up easy/dry quickly and I always have at least two on hand so they can be changed out on wash days.

So there you have it … tricks of nature, nature calls and traveling with small dogs.  What tricks have you utilized for inclement weather or while traveling?

Snow pants

Have a Heart …

… literally!  A beef heart, to be exact.  Besides work and rescue activities, I’m also in conformation training with the puppy, Teller.  Well, not so much a puppy anymore as he’s now 14-months old but I suspect he’ll be known as “the puppy” around our house for quite some time to come.  Getting — and keeping — his attention at class can be hit or miss depending on what’s going on and how many dogs are in attendance.   While he’s greatly improved in the past month, it’s time to step our game up.  With a recipe for microwaved braunschweiger (thanks, Deb!) and the most recent find … baked beef heart … we have his mostly-undivided attention.

After several phone calls to the meat department at King Soopers, the two half beef hearts arrived in vacuum-sealed packages.  Not a stranger to the meat industry, opening the first package brought back a flood of memories … on smell alone.  I have a twin brother and every summer my father, a commercial meat salesman, would take one of “the twins” on his three-day out-of-state sales route.  More than just time spent with Dad, it was a break for my Mom who apparently didn’t want to listen to the twins bickering and/or whining all summer.  So, for years, part of my summer was spent being schlepped from grocery store to butcher shop to meat market.  The smell of fresh meat is unmistakable and, in my case, unforgettable.  Know how to cook kidneys?  Boil the piss out of ’em!!  Haha … sorry, inside joke.

With recipe in hand and a two-pound chunk of beef heart oozing blood on the cutting board, I put aside my disdain for the organ meats.  Or anything that even remotely resembles organ or “offal” meat (a totally appropriate name in my book), i.e., heart, kidney, liver, tongue, tripe, etc., etc.  Supposedly, beef heart is making a culinary comeback but I’m not buying — or biting — into that trend.

First step is to slice the heart into 1/8″ slabs.  Easier said than done as the heart wants to roll with each slice, leaving a much Heart on cutting boardthicker piece than what’s needed for even baking.  I quickly figure out that squeezing and compressing the heart while slicing results in thin, uniform slabs.  Dad would have been proud … and prouder still that my knives are always razor sharp and made quick work of the slicing.  Know the most dangerous utensil in the kitchen?  A dull knife.  If nothing else, I did learn proper knife use and care while on the perimeter of the meat industry.

Lay the slices on cookies sheets lined with parchment paper and sprinkle with crushed rosemary and a little garlic powder.  Bake at 350 for 35 minutes (325 if using a convection oven).  About half way through baking, dab with paper towels to remove excess liquid.  At 35 minutes, I removed the cookie sheets from the oven (now turned off), turned the slices over, dabbed again with paper towels and put back in the now-cooling oven for another 10 minutes or so.  Remove from oven and cool completely.  When cool, slice into very small cubes and package for freezing.  During the baking/dabbing process, Teller got a bite.  Evidently it was pretty good as he kept going back over to the oven door and looking in at the still-baking treats after that bite.  Once completely cooled and cubed, I kept some out for this week’s training treats and stored the rest, about three cups worth.  For storage, I opted for freezing and used the FoodSaver with the wide-mouth jar accessory to seal in pint jars.  Vacuum sealed, the treats will stay fresh longer and won’t form ice crystals.

Now the answer to the question that’s sure to be on your mind … does it smell??  Yes, but not nearly as obnoxious as liver that’s being cooked (I’m *very* aware of cooking and dog odors in the house).  The odor dissipated fairly quickly once I opened the house up to air out.  Given the first run, I will make this again but with more rosemary added and the house windows open at the start.  At some point, I’m going to try the dehydrator so (1) it doesn’t have to be under refrigeration at all times and (2) so I can set it up in the garage for volume production.

In any event, the homemade treats are definitely a hit with my four-legged crew!!  Hubby … not so much  lol.

UPDATE:  Hold the rosemary!!  Evidently there is a connection between rosemary and seizures in dogs.  Guess I’ll be using parsley next time around.

Ready for freezing
FoodSaver w/wide-mouth jar attachment
Top – braunschweiger treats; bottom – baked beef heart

The Golden Boy …

TodayKalsang we have an update on Kalsang (now known as “Biscuit”) from his owner, Mary.  Picked up as a stray by the Larimer Humane Society, we were called in when it became obvious the boy needed a major dose of TLC.

“It’s hard to describe the bond between Biscuit and me….we are so in tune with each other. He is the most perfect dog and we couldn’t have a better life. I still think it was a miracle finding him sitting at that booth, after falling in love with him on the internet, thinking he was probably already adopted. I had never been over to the animal house and certainly didn’t know you would be there. It was divine providence and we needed each other so much.

He is spoiled rotten but is still very much the little gentleman. He is doing well physically, thinks he’s a pup, albeit a couch-potato pup, and it’s comical how we communicate. I talk to him like I would anybody and he knows just what I’m telling him. He cocks his head and stares at me and he listens and he just knows. That took a while and I love it! We seniors get along just fine! He is always close to me, even comes down to the basement when I practice clarinet. That’s true love!

I have seen the recent pictures of dogs you have placed in homes and God bless you for your work. These dogs have so much affection and companionship to share and it’s your work and dedication that saves them. Hope you are keeping cool in this humid weather. We are doing as little as possible. Try it, it works. Love and best wishes, Mary”

What a delight to hear that he’s doing so well.  And I’m sure he believes Mary set the moon and stars just for him!  Given his condition when he arrived at the shelter, it was obvious he had long been neglected.  Golden years for the golden boy.

Biscuit is, no doubt, having a better summer than our household.  Still in the midst of the home update, I’ve decided that as long as I have:  a shower, a toilet, and some place to wash my clothes, everything else is just white noise.  Seriously.  As with most major home projects, we’ve had some unexpected issues crop up.  Like a leak in the pipes underneath the sink and going down an exterior wall.  Which means we’re without water in the kitchen or a dishwasher until it’s repaired … sometime next week.  In any event, I’m keeping my sights set on Labor Day to be moved back in.  Or at least moving back in.

The dogs have been troopers throughout the whole ordeal … watching the furniture disappear … seeing all the carpet in the house walk out the door … moving into the unfinished basement … moving into the brother-in-law’s house for eight days while the floors were being sanded/sealed … moving back in.  With still no furniture on the main floor.  Given that both Frankers and Dante are crate trained, they settle in wherever we happen to land, finding “normal” in the familiar.  Having a crate handy — and a dog that willing goes into his crate — is also a boon when it comes to the various workmen traipsing throughout the house.  Keeps the dogs calm (read that “quiet”) and out of the way … definitely appreciated by all involved!

To Crate …

… or not to crate, that is the question!  And one frequently discussed when it comes to housetraining issues or adding a new dog to a household.  Many folks view them as “cruel” but — when used properly — they can be your best friend’s best friend.  Seriously. 

Dogs are hardwired with an instinct to “den.”  In the wild, a den (often dug underground) is a safe place … one used for sleeping, raising their young, and protection.  That instinct can be shaped to an owner’s benefit and, at the same time, provide the dog with an area they can call their own.

The canine is an innately clean creature and will generally avoid soiling in the place where it sleeps.  A crate, used in conjunction with a consistent housetraining program, teaches the young dog — or an adult — what is and what isn’t appropriate toileting.  Use of a crate also allows the owner to monitor the dog’s progress more closely and make adjustments accordingly. 

Another aspect of crate training that is often overlooked is the safe haven it provides for the dog.  They view it as their own personal den — a safe place — where they can go to nap or remove themselves from situations which make them uncomfortable such as a very active house, holiday gatherings, small children, thunderstorms, etc.  A crate-trained dog also undergoes less stress at the vet’s office or the groomer.  What’s the first thing the vet or groomer does when you leave your dog there … put them in a crate!  A dog comfortable with a crate will usually settle down quickly.  One that’s not familiar with a crate undergoes a much higher level of stress and anxiety in an already stressful situation. 

Nap time!

A crate-trained dog is easier to travel with as well as being safer in a vehicle.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard stories recounted of a person traveling with dogs loose in the vehicle.  An accident occurs and the dogs are: (1) killed outright from being thrown around the vehicle or ejected from the vehicle; (2) they get loose and run off, never to be seen again, or (3) shot by the highway patrol because they’ve become a danger to other traffic on the roadway when they can’t be caught.  My dogs settle down and sleep in their crates when traveling, making me a better driver as I’m not distracted by them.  Once you arrive at your destination, a crate can be used to keep them comfortable in the hotel room … their home away from home, if you will.

I didn’t use to believe in crates.  Indeed, my first Apso never saw the inside of one and slept with me nightly.  It wasn’t until she was gone that I realized how disrupted my sleep was — I no longer woke up many times during the night to see where she was before turning over or moving in bed.  Ali arrived as a crate-trained adult with the instructions to give crating a try.  Okay, easy enough to set up a crate (or three) in our bedroom.  We’ve never looked back and all dogs, whether mine or a foster, are crate trained.  Indeed, my dogs will put themselves to bed (crate) at night on their own and I often find them napping in them during the day.  Nor is it unusual to find the resident feline curled up in a crate, sleeping.  Ali has a “nite-nite” routine … she’ll run around the house looking for just the “right” toy.  Once found, she comes to the doorway of the front room and stands there, looking at us with the toy in her mouth.  We’ll wave and say “nite-nite” and off to crate she goes, putting herself to bed.

The other night, after staying up late and watching a movie, I was closing crate doors and neglected to shut Franker’s door.  The only reason I know that is because finally, at around 6:00 a.m., he jumped up on the foot of the bed and snuggled in.  His choice was to sleep in his crate rather than our bed the majority of the night.  Ali flat refuses to sleep on our bed despite coaxing on our part.  The lights go out and she’s off the bed, headed for her crate.  That’s her bed … no bones about it!   If the boys get too rambunctious in their play, she goes to her crate removing herself from the chaos.

I also crate my dogs when I’m not at home for longer than an hour or two.  I don’t have to worry if Ali is eating something inappropriate … the boys haven’t injured themselves or broke something with their boisterous wrestling … and the foster dog hasn’t toileted inappropriately.

Kennel up!

Nice Dog, but …

daily-rover-newspaper1I get a great deal of email most days between my personal contacts, what’s generated by the various lists of which I’m a member, and what comes across for rescue. Every now and again, something is actually worth passing along. Today’s entry is just that …

Bob McMillan of the Herald-Citizen in Cookville, TN has written an great article on dogs, our relationship with them, and the need for training …

Nice dog, but you have to train him

Snakes ‘n Snails …

Frankers gardening ...
Frankers out for a morning stroll ...

… and puppy dog tails!  Or, more to the point, why one should consider adding a male dog instead of insisting on a female.

Growing up in a pet-friendly family in the late ’50s, the mindset was you always wanted a female because the males “marked.”  I’m sure they did as neutering, training and responsible pet-ownership (including not allowing the dogs to run the neighborhood at large) were not the norm.  Vaccinations were not widespread and distemper claimed many a pet.  What a difference 50+ years has made in companion animal care!

“Marking” is the act of releasing small amounts of urine to claim an area as their own.  Both males and females will engage in this territorial behavior; however, it’s with intact males that it generally becomes more noticeable … and especially when they bring this behavior into the home.  Basically, they’re saying “this is mine and I’m willing to fight for it.”  And when one considers the focus of an intact male dog — food, fighting and, ummm, well, fornicating — they generally don’t make good pets for the average owner.  Take away the last two parts to that equation … fighting and fornicating … by neutering and you have a dog that’s focused on you.  One that’s not climbing over the fence at the first whiff of a female in heat.  One that’s totally content being your velcro dog, following you from room to room.  Some females will do that as well, but the males are just … sweeter.  And, let’s face it.  They don’t call ’em “bitches” for nothing.  Their job, if you will, is to raise the pups and at all costs. 

Many of the male dogs arriving in rescue are intact and with little or no housetraining.  First order is business is an immediate neuter.  During the recovery period, they’re enrolled in Housetraining 101.  We also utilize a tether (a 4-6 foot leash) and belly bands if the dog arriving was previously neutered.  Why belly bands?  For several reasons — (1) you know exactly if they are “getting” the concept of housetraining (the incontinence pad in the band is either dry or wet), (2) it protects your furnishings during the training period, and (3) many dogs do not like the wet feel and that’s a deterent in and of itself.  The tether is used as a means of supervision (he’s right there with you) and as a means of issuing a correction (short, sharp jerk of the tether and a verbal command “no mark!”).  With consistency, patience and clear guidance on what is and isn’t appropriate behavior, most males quickly adapt to toileting outside. 

Another “tool” for training is the crate.  Dogs are innately clean creatures who will not usually soil their eating and sleeping areas.  That hardwired behavior can be used to your benefit when housetraining by confining them to a crate when unable to supervise and giving them ample opportunity to toilet in a designated area (with lots of immediate praise/treats for appropriate behavior).

Regarding the belly bands at the link provided above … I find the adjustable bands are much more comfortable for the boys.  Just the shape alone is more form fitting and allows for greater freedom of movement.  One of the straps is adjustable so it can be used on dogs close to the same size in diameter (for multiple male househoulds).  I also find the buckle easier/quicker to use on dogs with longer hair.  Velcro and longer hair do not mix.  The only “issue” with using belly bands:  one must remember to remove them prior to sending the dog outside to potty!

So, if you’re seriously thinking about adding an Apso to your household, don’t rule out a male based on gender alone.  They truly are delightful little creatures who easily adapt with consistent training and the right tools … and will become your best buddy in the process.