Wednesday, January 30, 2013

How Old is Mushroom?

The short answer: No one will ever know.

Mushroom: International Dog of Mystery

The long answer: We asked our vet earlier this month when we took her in for her shots. He said that while it was possible to tell a dog's age by their teeth as a puppy, the older a dog gets, the wider the range of ages. So the earliest estimate is usually the most accurate.

The earliest estimate of Mushroom's age came from a shelter in North Carolina and listed her birthday as October of 2010. Her intake date was sometime around June 2011. In November of 2011, she was rescued and arrived at her foster home in New Hampshire. Her foster mom estimated her birthday as February 18, 2011, and that is the date that is listed at the vet's office.

Based on the fact that Mushroom has had a litter, presumably before she entered the shelter, and the assumption that shelter workers would know the difference between a 4-month-old puppy and an 8-month-old puppy, it seems that the most believable estimate is that Mushroom was born around October 2010.

The vet also said, though, that it was rare to see a dog going grey at the age of 2 - his own dog started graying at 5. Add to that our personal observation that Mushroom is significantly calmer now than when she first entered our home, and the sometimes-true myth that dogs "click" into a calmer mode when they turn 3, and she may be even older than the shelter estimate.

To add to the confusion, the reason that Mushroom's foster mom estimated her to be younger was because she came from the South, where heartworm is widespread, and was only in the early stages of heartworm. So if she is significantly older, it may mean that she was previously someone's pet, even though the shelter took her in as a stray.

If only dogs could talk.

She'd just pester us with requests for food all the time

What do you wonder about your dog's past?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Mushroom's Gotcha Day

We're sharing Mushroom's gotcha day story as part of the Ray-Ray Gotcha Day blog hop!

Around this time last year, we started looking for a second dog to add to our family. We made a list of traits we were looking for:
  • Female
  • Adult
  • Good with dogs
  • Larger than Badger (not actually possible because of apartment rules)
  • Pit bull-type but not listed as such (apartment rules, again)
  • No major medical issues
  • No bite history

Armed with this checklist, we browsed Petfinder. The first dog we were interested in didn't get along with other dogs, so we were immediately turned down. The second dog we were interested in was a little brown dog named Samantha. Samantha was a little on the young side, but we went ahead and e-mailed her foster mom. This is the reply we got:

Thank you for your interest in Samantha.  She is a sweetheart!  She is still available for adoption.  She is currently staying at my home in foster, so will be able to tell you all about her and answer any questions  you may have.
Looking forward to chatting more about the gal.  You can mail me back or call.  I am at work during the day tomorrow, but should be free after 5 PM.

Samantha sticking her tongue out at her foster home

Our first meeting between Badger and Samantha didn't go as well as we'd hoped. Samantha barked at him from a distance. After a few walk-bys, we brought the two dogs together, and she swatted him in the face. She jumped all over the humans in her attempt to get treats. Her foster mom told me how only one other family had been interested in Samantha, but they backed out, saying she looked too much like a pit bull.

When we went home, L and I had a long discussion about whether Samantha was the right fit or whether we wanted to meet more dogs. We finally decided to go forward with adopting Samantha (who we renamed Mushroom). She arrived at our apartment one day before Super Bowl Sunday. However, I continued to have second thoughts throughout our one-month foster-to-adopt period. 

The very first picture of Badger and Mushroom together

Looking back, I sure am glad we adopted Mushroom. Because of her, we were forced to learn more about dog behavior, from leash reactivity to appropriate play. Because of her, Badger was forced to learn calmer behavior and the "leave it" command. She loves everyone she meets, and they all love her back.

Mush-dog, we're glad we took a chance on you.

Also check out Badger's story here.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Power Chewers: Supervision and Sizing Up

Despite being a petite pocket pittie mix, Badger is a power chewer. When he chews on stuffies, we blink, and he's already eating stuffing. One time, he cracked an antler in half, lengthwise (and ate all the marrow, making himself sick). Another time, he chewed through to the hollow center of a Nylabone we thought was solid. Over Christmas, we had a problem with Badger quickly eating the marrow out of a deer antler and then crunching the rest of the antler into splinters.

This means that we have to keep a close eye on him whenever he is playing with his toys. We also have to inspect his toys frequently to make sure he won't bite off any large parts and eat them. And when a toy starts to show signs of wear, whether it be a stuffy with a hole in it or an antler with a large piece of exposed marrow, we retire it or relegate it to "Mushroom only".

When we choose toys for Badger, we tend to "size up". We almost always buy a size larger than the one that Badger's weight falls in. (For example, Badger uses an XL Kong made for dogs in the 60-90 lb weight range, and he weighs just under 45 lbs.)

We were eager to try out moose antlers from Acadia Antlers because their website says that moose is the hardest antler. We purchased two of their XL antlers (for 70+ lb dogs), and the owner, Carol, even allowed us to specify tynes as opposed to splits.

Not to toot my own horn, but I'm pretty awesome

So far, the moose antlers have held up much better than the deer antlers have. They've held up so well, in fact, that poor Mushroom hasn't been able to make a dent in hers. She'll just lie forlornly next to Badger and clean up any marrow crumbs he leaves behind. We do have a stash of "Mushroom only" toys, but as we're transitioning to having both dogs out together, they now spend more time in the closet.

Excuse me, I can't even fit my mouth around this

Do you have a power chewer? What toys do you give him/her?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Is Mushroom Secretly an Elderbull?

Look at this picture of Mushroom, taken at her foster home over a year ago.

So comfy in my bed

Now look at this picture of Mushroom, taken around Christmas. Notice any differences?

So comfy in my sunbeam

If you answered "She's going grey", you're right. But how can this be? We were told that she was only about a year old when we adopted her.

We did some Googling and found that muzzle greying is not a reliable way of telling a dog's age. Just like people, dogs can go grey earlier due to a combination of stress (*cough* Badger) and genetics. A better indicator is whether a dog's bottom row of teeth are jagged or smooth. Jagged would indicate a younger dog, while an older dog's teeth would have smoothed out. We weren't able to get a good look at her teeth, though, because she kept trying to give kisses. Mushroom already has a vet appointment this week, so while we're there, we'll also ask them to reevaluate her age.

Has your dog started to go grey? If so, at what age?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Supporting the Team(s)

I insisted that we watch the Texans vs. Patriots game yesterday, even though I was conflicted. You see, I was born and raised in Houston, but I've spent the better part of the last decade in the Boston area.

To make things less weird when two of "our" teams are playing each other (or perhaps more weird, depending on how you see it), we assign one dog to support each team. Then, we project our thoughts onto the dogs. "Badger's pretty happy about that touchdown." We celebrate with the dog who supported the winning team, and we console the dog whose team lost. (They consist of the same thing - belly rubs and ear scratches.) So who was the winner last night?

Hey Badger, TV's the other way

I knew they'd pull it off

Do you have any sports rituals that involve your dog?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Pet Bloggers Challenge 2013

We're taking the Pet Bloggers Challenge today!

1. When did you begin your blog?
Summer of 2011, but didn't start posting regularly until Jan 2012.

2. What was your original purpose for starting a blog?
Video games and food! But now it's all about Badger and Mushroom.

3. Is your current purpose the same? If not, what’s different?
It's a completely different blog than the one we intended to have. We had some semblance of our previous dog-less lives when we just had Badger, but once we adopted Mushroom, our lives basically became DOGS, DOGS, DOGS.

4. How often do you post?
I try to post at least twice a week.

5. Do you blog on a schedule or as the spirit moves you? If you don’t publish on a schedule, why? How do you think your decision affects your audience? How do you know when a topic is “post-worthy?”
I wish I could publish every day, but some days I just don't have the time. I don't screen ideas, I just post whatever comes to mind, but I do try to put it in a positive light.

6. How much time do you spend writing your blog per week? How much time visiting other blogs? Share your tips for staying on top of it all.
Each post probably takes me half an hour, including taking the photos. I go through my entire blogroll almost every day, so that actually takes longer than posting. I have no tips for staying on top of anything.

7. How do you measure the success of a post and of your blog in general (comments, shares, traffic)?
I consider the most successful posts the ones that get great comments.

Do you look strictly at the numbers, or do you have a way of assessing the quality of those interactions?
It's quality over quantity. I enjoy reading comments about others' experiences.

8. If you could ask the pet blogging community for help with one issue you’re having with your blog, what would it be?
I've already asked for help for several issues! I asked for help with Mushroom's reactivity. We've been working on it for over 6 months, and she's now completely manageable around other dogs. Lately, I've been asking about camera stuff, and I've received a lot of helpful advice on that as well.

9. What goals do you have for your blog in 2013?
For Badger and Mushroom to get their CGCs!

The first picture I ever took of Badger (June 2011)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Value of Toys

We live in a small apartment with a lot of electronic equipment, so it's important that Badger and Mushroom have something that they can chew on. Therefore, our floor is strewn with antlers, Nylabones, and Chew Gourmet bones. Walking through our living room without stubbing your toe on something is quite an achievement.

However, apparently not all chew toys are created equal. Even when I give Badger and Mushroom each an antler, they will decide that one of the antlers is clearly superior. They will race to the superior antler, knocking aside any humans or furniture in their way. If Mushroom gets it, Badger will grab another toy and chew on it enthusiastically. When Mushroom comes to check out what the big deal is, Badger will sneak behind her and grab the antler that he wanted all along. Then Mushroom will come over to the couch and sulk.

This big noggin is also full of brains and scheming

The game of finding the highest value chew toy is a funny one. On various occasions, we have confiscated toys because the dogs were getting too possessive. Immediately afterward, they would simply find a new "highest value" chew toy. Sometimes I wonder if a toy is only high value because the other dog wants it.

Though we have stuffed squeaky toys, we rarely take them out of the closet. Although Mushroom plays appropriately with them, Badger gets overly excited. One time he jumped over our couch while trying to get a squeaky toy.

He also gnaws excessively on them. As I was editing pictures for this blog post, Badger ripped open a squeaky toy and was eating the stuffing. We've tried teaching him appropriate toy playing skills, but every time we let him play with his stuffed squeaky toys, we'd have to take them away because he'd chewed a new hole in one.

I love you to pieces, squeaky shark! (Literally...)

I keep letting Badger have one last chance, but perhaps we really should write off stuffed squeaky toys for good.

What toys do your dogs like the most?

P.S. Thank you for all the suggestions on our previous post. We finally found the CD that came with our camera and installed the post-processing software. These photos were taken in RAW, and then I twiddled with some sliders.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Camera Question: Post-Processing

So far, we have not been doing any post-processing with our pictures. We shoot them in JPEG, upload to the blog, and we're done. On occasion, we'll use the camera's built-in editing tools, but as you can see from the picture below, it doesn't always work.

Red eye correction forgot about Mushroom's right eye

Do you do any post-processing on your photos? What program do you use?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

How the Internet Led Us Astray

If you're like us, you ask the internet for advice on everything. What's a good pasta recipe using peas? When is the Super Bowl? How do I train my dog?

With food, of course

It turns out that last question isn't such a good one to ask the internet. There are as many dog training opinions as there are people with dogs, and not all of them will work for your dog. Today we'll be sharing the two main pieces of internet advice that have not worked for us.

Squirt your dog with a spray bottle as punishment.
We used this on Badger for about a day before we realized that he actually liked being squirted. No harm done, but definitely no problems solved either. And since we don't have any plants, we never used the spray bottle again. Instead, we've found that short time-outs are the best way to calm Badger down and "reset" his behavior.

Badger wants to make sure everyone knows this photo was staged for blog purposes

Let your dogs fight it out to decide who's "alpha".
This one is a lot more potentially dangerous, not only for the dogs, but for any power cords, furniture, and bare human feet that are in the area. We are fortunate to never have had any serious injuries, but Badger and Mushroom have moved couches, broken a laptop, and scratched up my feet (L wears socks). We still don't know who's "alpha", but we decided that having peace in our apartment was more important. We are now vigilant about preventing scuffles before they happen. Even if they're just playing, we make sure they don't get too excited.

Peace at last

We love the internet, but if we could do it all over again, we would have chosen to ignore the above advice.

Have you tried dog training advice from the internet? How did it work?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Ahead of the Curve

It seems like we've been celebrating all our holidays early. We bought ourselves "Christmas presents" in November and opened them on the spot. Then, at the beginning of December, I started on my "new year's resolution" - to take the dogs for more walks. Hmm... That sounds familiar.

But this time around, I was inspired by Bird from Queer Skies Ahead, and I bought a wall calendar and some stickers as motivation. Now if only I could celebrate Groundhog Day this week and bring an early end to winter.

Groundhog? Sounds delicious!

*sniff sniff* Smells like 3 more months of winter...

Did you make any dog-themed new year's resolutions?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The First Rule of Badgershrooms

Since we stayed home for the holidays, we decided to spend the time working on getting Badger and Mushroom to coexist peacefully. L and I finally agreed upon the first rule of Badgershrooms: Don't let them get excited in the first place. It's not as easy as it sounds. Here are some changes we made:

  • Badger and Mushroom always get excited when we come home from a walk, so instead of letting them loose in the apartment, we crate them and wait for them to calm down.
  • Another difficult time is when they are released from their crates. We prepare to use body blocks or long stays if they start getting excited.
  • They also get excited if we get up and leave the room, because they want to run and follow us. We try to have one person stay in the room with the dogs.
  • Finally, if they are so excited that we cannot calm them down either verbally or with body blocks, they get a short time out in their crates.

So how did that work out for us?

Mushroom snoozes while Badger chews an antler

Badger snoozes while Mushroom uses him as a pillow

Do your dogs get overly excited? How do you calm them down?