Thursday, November 15, 2018

Visits & a Reunion

Backseat beggar at Culver's... watching me eat lunch and waiting for his share.

Jake and I headed south on a road trip - just the two of us - last weekend. Our first destination was to my stepmom's house in Platteville to meet her new puppy, River. This would be Jake's first time visiting my family's homestead on 40 acres of rolling hillsides in the Driftless Region of the state and I was curious to see how he would do off-leash on this country property without Charlie leading the way.

VIDEO~River and Jake learning to play together (Click Link):

River is an almost 6-month-old black lab and currently un-neutered (although his surgery is scheduled soon!). Jake and River hit it off immediately and became quick friends, although Jake would soon run out of patience with River's constant humping. That was one aspect I hadn't realized would be an issue, but Jake was a very good boy and corrected River's behavior appropriately, giving him a growl and little snap when he'd had enough.

VIDEO~Inappropriate puppy behavior (click link):

It was interesting watching Jake handling a younger (and more annoying) puppy... almost like a taste of his own medicine considering how he plays with Charlie and pushes his luck with her. River also had not learned "bite inhibition" yet and still had some sharp baby teeth... Jake did a good job teaching River what was acceptable and what was not.

They played with toys well together and chased each other around the yard, always doing a good job staying close to the house and not wandering off in search of adventures on their own. I was very pleased with how well Jake stayed in the yard.

After dinner on Saturday night, Jake seemed restless and was pacing around a bit. I kept thinking he had to go potty, but then realized he was waiting to go home! This was his first "overnight" trip somewhere and he didn't know that we were staying. I used the same words I used on Charlie when she went through the same situation as a puppy... "we're staying here" "let's go nu-night" "lay down on your bed" etc. He quickly caught on and immediately slumped into his bed and passed out - he was exhausted! I think he was relieved that he could stay and just lay down and rest. River had tired him out completely.

Sleepy Jake

The next morning, we packed up the car and headed over to my sister's house in Deerfield where Jake would get to meet her dog, Bella. In addition to this next new visit, Jake's original foster parents were going to stop by and visit with him too!

Jake did great meeting Bella and they quickly warmed up to each other, romping around and playing with toys. My nieces also got to meet Jake for the first time.

Jake chilling out with my niece while she reads him a story.
VIDEO~Jake and Bella playing (click link):

When Jake's foster parents arrived, his little wiggle-butt started wagging from side to side and he got pretty excited. I don't know if he remembered them or not, but he enjoys meeting people so much! Everyone got a chance to catch up and watch Jake being silly and playful with the kids.

Sunday was a long day of driving and visiting, so Jake was more than happy to curl up in a sunspot in the backseat of the car and sleep all the way home.

His reunion with Charlie when we got home was very sweet too... you could tell they missed each other and Jake seemed relieved and happy to be back home with his pack.

Sidenote: Charlie spent the weekend with her daddy... watching football, eating treats and sleeping. According to Alan, Charlie played with her toy for about 5 minutes and then slept the rest of the time. I think it was a nice break for her to catch up on her rest and spend some quality time alternating her naps between her dog bed and Alan's lap. What a sweetheart!

If you're planning a road trip with your dog, here are some tips to help make the journey successful:

  • Secure your dog in the car.  Most people find it helpful to keep the pets secured in the backseat where they won't distract the driver. Use a crate, a harness and seatbeat combo or some other barrier to keep the dogs in the back. There are several products available these days. Luckily for me, Jake prefers the backseat so I didn't need to use anything specific for him... just made him a comfortable spot to sleep.
  • Bring comforts of home... pack their dog bed, bowls, blankets, treats, food, toys, etc. These things help a dog settle down once you arrive at your destination, giving them the security of something familiar.
  • Take a lot of breaks for walks and potty breaks. Dogs are like kids... it's hard to sit still for long periods of time. Let them stretch their legs and get some fresh air.
Safe travels everyone!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Separation Anxiety

Charlie and Jake have grown very close since he's joined our family a little over 6 months ago. I'm constantly observing their behavior and play-style to make sure everyone is getting along and also because it's just plain entertaining.

Overall I feel that Charlie enjoys having a playmate but Jake tires her out with his constant demands. He prefers playing with Charlie over me or Alan... he doesn't quite understand how to play with humans and I think he's worried he'll get too rough. He's a very sensitive dog and is always trying to please.

Charlie's gotten skilled at letting Jake know when she's had enough playtime and she has plenty of room to go rest somewhere away from him.

Also, I've been taking them for separate walks at night so they each get one-on-one time with me and time apart from each other. Charlie really enjoys this personal time, but Jake cries like a baby when Charlie and I leave him behind with his grandma.

He's slowly getting better about being separated from Charlie for short periods of time and I think this is important so he doesn't become too dependent on her. I want him to feel comfortable in any situation and not rely on her for all his emotional support. It's important for him to be confident when he's left alone or separated from Charlie so he doesn't develop separation anxiety.

Which is why I'm taking him with me for a road trip this weekend - just the two of us! We'll be heading down to Platteville to visit my stepmom and her new puppy. I'm also planning a short visit with my sister near Madison and hopefully Jake's foster mom will be able to stop by for a visit with him.

Charlie will be spending the weekend with Alan, getting one-on-one time with her daddy. I'm sure she'll enjoy the easy restful weekend watching football and eating treats.

This will be the first time that Jake and Charlie will be separated for this long, but I'm sure they'll both do great! Jake will be so distracted playing with a new puppy, stopping for some fun hikes during the road trip and meeting new people, plus it will build his confidence being out on his own and be a good bonding time for the two of us. I'm really looking forward to a fun weekend!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Safe Hiking During Hunting Season

It's that time of year again when I have to limit which trails and parks we visit due to the busy hunting season.

VIDEO~Dogs wearing Blaze Orange last weekend (click link):

VIDEO~Dogs without blaze orange from previous week's hike (click link):

Obviously there are different hunting seasons throughout the year, but in Wisconsin, the big one is for deer and turkey hunting. Both have different restrictions and seasons, so it's important to check with local resources to find out where and when hunts are occurring.

I always visit our local DNR website to find out what types of hunts are going on and where. I also did a search of area parks and know that there are two parks in my county that don't allow hunting at any time of the year. Since Charlie is noise-reactive, I choose to stick to those parks when any gun hunting is going on, although we can't always avoid all gunshot noises since some noises carry over great distances and waterfowl can be hunted on the lakes and rivers surrounding those parks.

In any case, over the years we have become comfortable with one particular park that has everything we're looking for - secluded areas where the dogs can run off-leash, no hunting inside the park, and lots of acres to explore. It's a bit longer of a drive to get there, but always worthwhile once we arrive.

It can be beyond frustrating to hike with a noise-reactive dog during hunting seasons, as I've experienced before, but with the proper planning and preparation, you can have a great time! Don't let hunting season keep you indoors; there are almost always options to get outside.

Here are some tips to keep you safe while having fun (especially with a reactive dog):
  • Wear bright colors, or preferably blaze orange, when you are hiking during hunting season. Even if hunting is not allowed where you are hiking, it's best to be seen just in case. There are a variety of things dogs can wear to help them be seen in the woods... from expensive hiking vests to something homemade. My dogs always wear a Ruffwear harness when hiking - these can be pricey but they're so well-made that you'll only have to buy it once. Even though these are colorful, I also have the dogs wear a blaze orange neck warmer that I bought at the local hardware store for about $5.00. If you can't find a neck warmer that will go around your dog's neck, you could buy a knit cap and cut the top off it so it'll fit around their neck for a rather inexpensive way to make sure your dog is not mistaken for a deer.

  • Realize that you may have to cut your hike short if your dog hears something that causes them to react. It's no fun for anyone to force them to stay on the trail if they're too scared. Always try to make outdoor activities fun so your dog will want to go along. There have been times when Charlie and I were out in the middle of nowhere when she had an episode and we had a long and grueling hike to get back to the car; it happens. Just try to end each hike on a happy note (lots of treats and praise) so your dog doesn't get too fearful to get back out there. We have had situations where I've been forced to abandon going on certain trails because Charlie had one bad experience and every time we went back she became fearful... just from the previous memories. It's okay to put some trails "on hold" until your dog is ready to go back... and when they do, make sure you have lots of GOOD treats to make it fun again.

  • Keep your dog ON-LEASH when hiking in hunting zones. Even if they are visible, they could disrupt wildlife and hunters causing a bad experience for everyone. It's just plain polite to keep your dog on-leash if there is a chance they'll run into other hikers, hunters or wildlife. I make sure that the trails where Charlie and Jake are off-leash are secluded non-hunting zones and we're not bothering anyone else (we have secret side-trails we use to get off the main trails). Since Jake's recall isn't that great yet, I sometimes keep him on-leash and let Charlie off-leash if I can't handle both of them myself.

  • If you have a reactive dog, know the trail and what to expect ahead of time, even if this means going there by yourself to scout it first. Just because something looks good on a map or website doesn't always mean it'll work for you and your dogs. This is a worthwhile time investment to ensure you all have a good experience.
What other tips or tricks do you have for good hiking experiences with your dogs? Have you ever had an issue hiking during hunting seasons?


Sunday, November 4, 2018

Finding Time for Everything

The past couple of weeks have been a blur... and all of a sudden October is over and November is here! How did that happen so fast?

Our weekends have been filled with chores like getting the house/garden/yard projects done before it starts snowing while trying to fit in time to exercise the dogs along with some "down time" to relax before we head back to work on Mondays.

This past week was Halloween, so I had some busy nights making treats for a work potluck and getting ready for trick-or-treaters. Halloween was a night that I couldn't walk the dogs because there were a lot of people out in our neighborhood and Charlie would have been too reactive, so we set up a good place for them to watch on the porch and put them in the house when things got to be too much for them.

Evenings are so short now that it's getting dark earlier and I've been spending more time walking the dogs after dinner than previously since we're not getting out to parks or hiking trails anymore. The evening dog walks have become very time-consuming but also very necessary - for both me and the dogs (more on that in a future post).

In all honesty, the dogs haven't been getting regular walks at all over the summer. If I'm not taking them somewhere where they can run off-leash, we pretty much stay in the backyard to play. With Jake gaining a pound a week since I adopted him, they've become too much for me to physically handle on leashed city walks. If Charlie gets reactive while we're out, Jake follows her lead and having TWO reactive dogs on leash is just too difficult for me to control.

My cuties in the background behind me.

For a while, I stopped walking altogether. I felt guilty if I went for a walk by myself to get some exercise, I couldn't take them both along and I figured it would take too long to walk them separately. But when I realized how much weight I've gained over the summer from inactivity and how sore my body was from sitting at my desk job all day, I decided it was worth the almost 2-hour time commitment to walk them separately so we could all get some fresh air and exercise on weeknights.

That's the thing though. If you want to be healthy and have healthy dogs you have to commit to the necessary time it takes to make that happen. I'll admit it takes some pre-planning to make sure you have time for everything that needs to be accomplished in a regular week, but you can do it!

This is what a typical week looks like for me:
  • Monday thru Friday I wake at 5am, shower, feed the dogs, get ready for work and do light chores like dishes, putting away laundry, vacuum one room a day. I make old-fashioned oatmeal with blueberries every morning and always make a little extra to share with the dogs. I also drink almost a pot of coffee throughout the morning, but stop by noon so it doesn't interfere with my sleep.
  • I take about 15 minutes to lift some handweights or do sit-ups each morning (alternating different target areas for different days). 
  • Then I'm off to work from 8am-5pm. I come home at lunch to play with the dogs and eat a healthy lunch (usually salad, which I also share with the dogs so they can get some veggies too).
  • After work, I feed the dogs, change my clothes and then take Jake for a 45-minute walk and when I return, Charlie gets her 45-minute walk. Charlie always goes second since the neighborhoods have quieted down by then and there are less people/dogs out to trigger her reactivity issues.
  • When I return, I maybe watch t.v. for a little bit or read a book in bed. Then I'm in bed asleep by 9pm. I'm the kind of person who needs 8 hours of sleep each night or I'm a complete wreck the next day!
You'll notice that I don't eat dinner. Because I sit at my desk all day, I'm prone to snacking a lot. I try to keep my snacks healthy - fruits, veggies, whole grains, etc. So by the time I get home, I'm not really hungry for a heavy meal. If I feel too hungry, I have a glass of chocolate milk or a cup of tea and that usually takes care of any hunger pains. I actually sleep much better when I don't eat dinner. 

"Date night" with the dogs... eating popcorn and watching them play.

A couple nights a week, I either stay over at Alan's house or he stays at mine, which always changes the schedule a little bit. I'll sometimes eat dinner on those nights since I'm not walking the dogs, and we play and wrestle with the dogs inside to get them exercised. Our "date nights" consist of trying to watch a movie or t.v. show, but almost always we end up watching the dogs play instead... they are WAY more entertaining! I also get the dogs some new toys once in a while so they have something fun to do if we're not going to be walking or hiking. Any kind of enrichment activity like this is a good substitute for occasional days off from the routine.

Weekends are a time to do errands, meal prep, bigger chores around the house and typically a trip to a hiking trail or a park to run off-leash.

I find that sticking to a routine like this helps me stay on-track health-wise and gives the dogs something concrete to look forward to. Obviously things come up and not every day can be this tightly scheduled, but overall, this works for us.

If you're struggling to find time for healthful activities like walking, hiking or eating right, I urge you to take a look at your week in advance and find the pockets of time that are available. I'm notorious for making excuses not to do the weight-lifting and strength exercises in the morning... I would rather read a book with my cup of coffee... but it's really quite reasonable to take 10 minutes to do something each morning and it's amazing how good you'll feel after doing it for a week or two.

Also, when I find that I'm comparing myself to everyone else on social media who seem to have time for everything, including posting fabulous pictures of themselves with their dogs in stunning locations, I take a deep breath, close the apps on my phone and snuggle with the dogs in bed and remind myself of all the things I have to be grateful for.

Time spent with those I love is always more important than competing with virtual strangers for the best Instagram feed. And seriously, if you are a regular person like me, there is NOT enough time in the day to do it all!
So send your love, gratitude and inspiration into the world to help others and then step away and appreciate the ones you love that are right next to you. And remember that you are providing a warm, safe, loving home to your fur-baby and whatever little things you can do to brighten their lives is enough. You are enough.

Happy Halloween!


Sunday, October 21, 2018

Birthday Weekend Hike

Despite the 35 degree temps and blustery winds this morning, I was determined to get outside with the dogs for a hike today!

Alan and I have been working on house projects for the last few weeks, getting ready for winter, so the dogs have been getting a bit of cabin fever waiting for some good weather to hike. I owed them something fun since it's their birthday month and the "nice" weather will be gone soon.

With the sun shining on our faces, we headed out to one of our favorite parks for some off-leash time. The dogs had a blast! We saw hawks, several deer and an eagle! The dogs even had a fun time chasing a deer that happened to cross our trail... although it was rather short-lived since both dogs were already pretty tired out by then. They both trotted slowly back to me after only a minute or two of chase.

VIDEO~Jake watches an eagle take flight (click link):

When an eagle took flight from a nearby branch as we approached the water's edge, Jake watched in awe as it flew across to another island. I love watching him experience things for the first time... Charlie has already seen tons of eagles in her 8 years, but to Jake, this was the first one.

VIDEO~Exploring the trail (click link):

A thin layer of ice had begun to form on the ponds and along the shallows. Jake crunched through and then started eating the pieces that floated away. Too cute! It reminded me of his first hike... just 6 months ago, when there was still a thin layer of winter ice on the water at this same park. Crazy how the summer went by so fast. Soon enough it'll be winter again and Jake will get to go snow-shoeing for the first time.

VIDEO~Sharing a stick (click link):

Tired pups loaded into the car for a sleepy drive home. Jake laid in the backseat in a sun spot and Charlie was in front with her head resting on my lap. I cranked the heat and cracked open a few windows so we could have fresh air while staying warm... something my dad used to do on road trips when we were kids. I always think of him when I do this. He said the fresh air helped keep him awake on long drives. I do it just because fresh air is awesome and I'm sure the dogs like it too.

Afternoon was spent doing chores while the dogs snoozed in sun spots. It was a good weekend with a lot accomplished, but hiking is always my favorite part.