Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Maddison - Available for Adoption

Maddie or Maddison is our first foster dog and he's available for adoption from the Humane Society of Silicon Valley.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Hiking at Palo Alto Baylands

Early Saturday morning we took Abbey and Maddie on a HikeABull hike at the Palo Alto Baylands. Maddie (our foster dog) previously spent around 8 months in the shelter, since taking Maddie on as a foster we've been working really hard on his reactivity to everyday things, squirrels, cats and other dogs. After spending a few weeks walking him in our local neighborhood we started to take Maddie on group hikes with HikeABull, a local dog hiking group. Walking within a group, although hard at first has really helped Maddie with his leash reactivity.

This Saturday around 17 other dogs joined Abbey and Maddie at Palo Alto. Maddie rocked the grouped hike, he patiently waited at the start of the hike as each owner introduced themselves and their dogs. The trial at Palo Alto is quite busy with other walkers, runners and cyclists. Walking within a group of so many dogs always turns heads, and it's so great that Maddie can just disappear within the group. While we were hiking we were passed by several dogs, Maddie kept his composure and focus throughout the entire hike.

I've copied the hike information from the HikeABull meetup group website for anyone wishing to see further information on the hike and to get an ideas of the hikes organized by HikeABull.

For further information about HikeABull checkout their facebook page at www.facebook.com/hikeabulls or at their meetup.com site at http://www.meetup.com/HikeABull.

About the Palo Alto Baylands

Bounded by Mountain View and East Palo Alto, the 1,940-acre Baylands Preserve is the largest tract of undisturbed marshland remaining in the San Francisco Bay. Fifteen miles of multi-use trails provide access to a unique mixture of tidal and fresh water habitats.

For further information, check out the official website


The Palo Alto Baylands hike is a there-and-back hike that meanders along the baylands. Although, the trial is open to hikers, runners and cyclists, the trial is wide enough to allow all users to pass one another without a problem. While on the hike many different forms of wildlife can be seen including: -

  • Great White Egrets
  • Humming Birds
  • Gulls
  • Avocets

Here are some photos from recent HikeABull hikes

The trail surface is primarily dirt / gravel and so can be hiked all year round. At the trial entrance you'll find bathrooms and a place to fill up with water. Trash cans can be found in several locations along the trail. The Palo Alto Baylands has no shade cover, and in summer the temperature can rise quite early in the day. It's therefore important to bring water (or other refreshments) for yourself and water for your dog(s). Sunscreen is also a recommendation. The path been a dirt / gravel combination can be quite hard on dogs paws. If your dog hasn't hiked on this surface before periodically check your dogs paws for signs of wear.

Distance : ~5miles - there and back.
difficulty : easy
Elavation : ~0
Time : 1.5 - 2hrs
Trail Surface : dirt trail (gravel)

A detailed (satellite) map can be found at: -

Satellite view of the Hike

Sunday, May 29, 2011

No Petting....I'm working!

We’re currently a semi-permanent three dog family, two of the dogs are our own, we're currently fostering the third. Each of them has their own personality and responds differently to strangers. Abbey (our first dog) is the classic ‘party girl’ who loves to meet new people; but has problems controlling her excitement. Jake (our second) is shy and takes a little time to warm up to strangers. Maddie (Maddision) is our foster dog, he’s been with us for a little over a month. We’re still getting to know Maddie, but so far he appears to be confident around strangers.

We take great pride in how our dogs are seen and perceived in public, and spend considerable amount of time training ourselves, in addition to our dogs. We don’t do the typical obedience training; our training is based on making sure all our dogs behave in a socially accepted manner. One aspect of training that we find particularly difficult is making sure that all three dogs behave and control themselves when meeting strangers. 

With Abbey, training is concentrated on ensuring that Abbey stays calmly sitting when being petted by a stranger. Jake can be a little timid when meeting strangers and so training is centered around making Jake feel comfortable when a stranger approaches. We often ask if the person approaching can approach from the side and/or let Jake approach them.
With Maddie, because he’s a foster and hasn’t been with us for long, we’re a little cautious when meeting strangers. Like Abbey, Maddie can be a little excited and so we’re also training Maddie to stay calmly sitting when a stranger approaches.

When we’re out walking our dogs, we often get people sneaking up behind us trying to pet our dogs. This may not sound like a big deal. However, if Alzbeta is walking Jake and Abbey together, Jake will try and move away from the stranger and Abbey will rush towards them. There have been times when the only direction available to Jake is into the road. So this simple act of trying to pet our dogs can be very dangerous. Especially if you take in to account that Jake is 60lbs of muscle and can quite easily pull Alzbeta of her feet.

We don’t mind people wanting to pet any of our dogs; it’s just that we’d like to have control of the situation, for the safety of all involved. The simple act of asking either one of us if it’s ok to pet our dogs goes a long way. By asking, we’re able to tell them that Jake is shy and needs time to warm up, that Abbey can get over excited and jump up. We’re always trying to create an environment for success rather than failure. Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to get jumped on my any dog, big or small (clean or dirty). So I’m always amused when some says “it’s ok, I don’t mind” when we tell someone that Abbey can get bouncy and don’t pet her until she is sitting calmly. I wish people would listen and would appreciate what we’re telling them (it doesn't take much to undo months of training!). There are reasons, and very good reasons why we don’t want Abbey (or any of dogs) to jump on strangers. Imagine if all 50lbs of Abbey were to jump on a small child, the child would go flying (literally) and they’d be another report in the local paper of a pit bull attack on a young child.

I do wonder if petting a dog is similar to a drug addiction for some people?

I mean they want to pet your dog(s), yet aren't prepared to wait to hear or obey the ground rules that you set for them. It’s as though they want their (quick) fix and then move on. It can take Jake five minutes before he’s comfortable with someone. We find very few people who are prepared to wait five minutes before they get their dog fix. So they either rush the greeting, in which case Jake could back into road, or simple walk away.

We're interested in hearing feedback on other peoples experiences...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Living with two "boring" dogs

I've been thinking hard about what to write lately. Even though Abbey and Jake are always an endless supply of entertainment (through their play antics or simply goofing around), they have not done anything extraordinary to write about.

We've been working hard on training them to be calm and relaxed in public and at home. They seem to be settling into a  daily routine - breakfast, nap, playtime, nap, afternoon walk, nap, playtime, nap, dinner and clock out at 6:30 on the sofa until we ask them to go inside their crate at night.

As they mature they appear to be getting calmer and mellower. Jake is training for a career as a professional couch surfer. Abbey is trying her best to keep calm under pressure and being well behaved in public.

Abbey waiting for me at the Optician, while I was picking up my glasses. So proud of my girl waiting calmly and not begging for attention from strangers.
Abbey even managed to show off her polished play skills to her pit bull friends. We still look like mean parents constantly reminding Abbey to stay calm and not get overly excited. I see it as a part of growing up and learning how to play nicely. She appears to be better at reading other dogs body language and understands when they don't want to play with her, at which point she'll walk away and leaves them alone. I'm very proud of her remembering her manners around mature and well behaved dogs and giving them the respect they deserve (if you watch the video, around 15 seconds into a video an older dog checks on the rowdy bunch and Abbey acts all submissive...." I'm good!").

I guess being "boring" is a great thing, we have two well behaved dogs that we can be proud of and show them off to people who don't believe in good pit bulls. I almost forgot the best part, couple of weeks ago a policeman pulled over to compliment me on our dogs - he commented on how well behaved and good looking they are.

Whenever we can we attend the Our Pack training group, over the last several weeks Jake and Abbey have been acting as mentors to another pit bull who needed help to calm down around other dogs. Over the course of several weeks, Violet has progressed from spending the majority of class confined to a car to been able to participate in class. It's feels like an overwhelming achievement to be able to 'pay forward' all the help we received when Abbey's behavior severely regressed when she was around nine months old.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Two pitties strolling downtown Willow Glen

The weather changed this week, we're officially back to the rainy season. I'm not really complaining about the weather, as it's still pretty mild compared to Europe. Too bad that I can't explain it to Abbey, she's not happy about the rain. After all she's a Californian girl and she loves the sunshine.

I love that the weather forecast here is quite accurate, unlike in England! Where you always have to be prepared for rain, wind, snow, hail in one day....you get the idea....as the weather the forecast is never quite right.

This morning I was woken by heavy rain and strong winds. I really wasn't looking forward to getting up and spending the day inside the house with two crazy dogs. Abbey and Jake are not super high energy dogs, but they still need their daily exercise to burn off their excess energy. They go out once a day for a walk and than they play in the garden at least twice a day. That way they're nice and calm inside the house.

Luckily we caught a break this morning when it didn't rain for couple of hours. I put the waterproof jackets on the dogs and myself and off we went. This was our third day walking together. I wanted to walk them downtown Willow Glen (WG) today. I was hoping that all the small yappy dogs who browse downtown Willow Glen wouldn't be there today as it was windy and grey outside. As it turned out, we were the only people walking in WG, until we reached the downtown area.

I couldn't take photo of them downtown WG, so I photographed them next to the sculpture in WG. They look so happy posing in the rain, don't you think so ;o)?
One thing that I didn't account for in this windy weather, was that lots of shop signs were flapping in the wind. It was scary for Jake and he was hesitant to walk forward. It was really helpful to have Abbey by his side, she walked confidently and showed him it's nothing to worry about. They really are such a great couple, they help each other in so many ways. Jake calms down Abbey when she becomes too excited  and she calms him down when something scares him. I think by walking them together more often, we'll have two confident and calm dogs in no time ;o).

I tried my best to walk them by my side today but some paths were so narrow that we kept bumping into each other and stepping on each other toes. From time to time when nobody was around I let the dogs walk in front of me. It was quite cute watching them walking side by side with each other and their synchronized tail wagging.

People find it amusing that our dogs were jackets in the winter. Well, they get cold and wet just like we do. Plus they look great in their matching coats. 

It was a great walk today, despite the rain. I'm looking forward to our next adventure. The dogs are worn out and sleeping soundly on the sofa and I'm listening to the rain outside.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Two for one!

Even though we've been training our dogs for a while and they're well behaved. We've always made sure that when we took the dogs for walk we had one person per dog, so they had our full attention and we were able to train them well. 

I still remember the first time we took Abbey and Jake for a walk. We didn't even make it a block from our house. The only thing that the dogs were interested in was playing with each, and dragged us all over the place. It was so embarrassing, we made a quick return home, thinking this is going to be a hard work.

Eight months later, both dogs are able to walk civilized next to each other in the public without causing a scene. We're still polishing some areas of obedience training with them, but they're improving all the time. 

The other day, when it came to take our daily walk, I didn't want to go out twice. I was going '"Eeny, meeny, miny, moe..." which dog shell I take out first. Both dogs looked excited and eager to go outside. On the spore of the moment I decided to take them both, I put a Halti collar on each of them, connected two leashes together, put the backpack with water on Jake and stepped outside of our house... 

Than it hit me "Am I crazy! They're going to take me for a walk and you'll look like a crazy lady flying behind them..." I tried to calm myself down "Don't let them to smell your fear!! Keep it under control and it will be fine". 

To start with, I took them for a short walk around the block to see what they would be like together. I quickly realized that they couldn't walk side by side. Jake was using Abbey to rub his nose on her body in attempt to remove the Halti or bumping into her with his backpack (he doesn't realize that he's wider with it). So I switched and had one dog on each side of me.

My favorite moment was when they did a synchronized 'crocodile death roll' on the grass, to show me there displeasure about the Halti collar. I thought, okay have your tantrum now and see if you want to move forward or not. Once they got it out of their system they walked by my side and listened to me.

This is Jake head butting Abbey and rubbing his nose on her. As if Abbey was any better off than he's or could help him  
For our fist walk together, I chose a quiet part of our neighborhood and covered about three miles. Jake was happy to have Abbey by his side, it gave him the confidence to pass people who would normally intimidate him. The traffic noise on the busy street didn't seem to bother him either. If you saw him, he could have passed for a confident pit bull, walking with his back pack and looking proud. Abbey was my star pupil and looked for my direction. I was very proud of them and for me for taking this step and walking them together on my own.

If only Abbey knew how much extra attention Jake was getting for wearing his backpack. People kept commenting on how nice looking the dogs are and they especially loved Jake's backpack. Poor Abbey was getting overlooked. She loves to meet new people but refuses to be used for carrying the water on her back. Last time I put the backpack on Abbey she sulked and scowled for four miles and looked so very pitiful. 

I do realize that using a Halti is not the best way for the long term. It doesn't teach a dog to walk loose leash or the etiquette of walking in the public. It's just temporary quick fix, until I'm sure that they'll not take me for a ride.  

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Bath time

We can usually tell when the dogs need their bath judging by their collars. Their collars start to look dull and muddy. Luckily we have two sets of collars (check out http://www.siriusrepublic.com),  so whenever we bath them we also change out their collars.

Today was D day for their monthly bath, once they were squeaky clean and toweled dried, I couldn't resist taking their photo. They're too cute for words.

 I love them even more, since they smell clean... until the next time they wrestle and roll around in the garden!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Checking out the competition

It's been a while since we've taken the dogs out hiking, so on Sunday off we went for a nice long hike around The Palo Alto Baylands. It must have been a good hike as both dogs were still  tired the next day. Rather then take them out walking, I was looking for an activity around the house to keep them occupied. Poor cats draw the short straw! I decided desensitizing the dogs to the cats would be a useful activity. Both dogs get excited when they come face to face with the cats.

We're fortunate to live in a town house and are therefore able to split the two levels. The cats live upstairs, while the dogs live downstairs. The cats can only come to the bottom of the st airs before they hit a baby gate. The only real time either cat bothers to come downstairs is to remind us that they exist and that need feeding from time to time. Due to these living arrangements Bailey, Percilla, Jake and Abbey rarely see other and haven't ever spent any amount of time in the same room.

My plan was simple, take the dogs upstairs and let them hang out in the office with the cats, of course I would be acting as hall monitor to stop any unwanted behavior. Due to the size of our office and the difficultly in training/managing Jake and Abbey side by side, I restricted myself to taking one dog at a time to meet Bailey and Percilla. Equipped with lots of treats, a spray bottle full of water and a leash off I went...

Both dogs loved the adventure of discovering uncharted territory and visiting our other little squeaky creatures. The cats didn't appreciate the surprise visitors! 

The visit to the office went more or less as I had imagined. I gave Abbey firm instructions not to mess with the cats. So, she sat there whining and looking pathetic. I was worried that she would trip over her bottom lip she was sulking so much. All Abbey wanted to do was to play with the cats.

Bailey was acting as he normally does, absolutely fearless and was doing his best to tease Abbey. While Abbey was doing her best to stay calm Bailey decided to go for a stroll around the office. When Abbey gets excited her head starts to bob around like a little 'bobble head' toy. As Bailey strolled around the office Abbey's head starting to 'bobble' in excitement and the volume of her whining increased ten fold. Abbey was hopping that she would be given an opportunity to play with Bailey.

Jake had been lucky boy and had already visited the cats on two previous occasions, and so he already knew the drill. Jake was a perfect boy and was nice and calm when he entered the office. On his third visit to the office he was more interested in my treat pouch than the cats. From time to time he would check out the cats and see if they were any friendlier. I'm sure Jake is a little disappointed as neither of the cats wanted to play with him or let him sniff them. Percilla being the grouchy girl she is, had a bit of hissy fit and swatted and anyone who came close to her (including me!). Percilla looked more than a little worried that her space had been invaded and would do whatever it took to win back the advantage. Jake seemed to take Percilla's correction (a swipe across his nose) well as he backed away and hid behind me.

I had to laugh as I thought taking the dogs would upstairs would be a nightmare. Rather than trying constantly to interact with the cats, both dogs were far more interested in checking out the office space as a possible summer (or winter) retreat. I'm sure they saw it as an upgrade to the current living arrangements.

Both of the dogs were impressed with the views from the office. They could see the whole street and the people passing by. Abbey had the idea to see if she could scramble up the cat tree for the better view (you can see the cat tree in the photo with Jake, on his left side). I would have loved to have a photo of 55lbs pit bull siting on top of the cat tree! Although I'm not sure it could take her weight. I am curious what the people passing by would think if they knew they were being spied on by two pit bulls :-)

I think both of dogs would be great at The Neighborhood Watch Program. Abbey is good at alerting me that somebody is behind our door or when she thinks that somebody is too close to our house. We also have a squirrel highway running outside our house, squirrels run up and down on the power lines that run along our house (just don't tell that Abbey, as she hasn't discovered this yet!)

Despite the small size of the room, they tried their best to fit in and tested all the creature comforts that were available to them. They both loved how sunny and warm the room felt.

Jake curled up in the armchair and was ready for his nap.

Abbey tried the large cat bed.
Both dogs discovered the Drinkwell Pet Fountain and emptied it between them. They kept coming back for more water, I think they liked the running water.

Percilla kept a close eye on the dogs and made sure they didn't cross the line, Bailey took a nap, the excitement was too much for him. 

Both dogs thought that the cats were a bit stuck up for not playing with them and found them very boring. As you can see from these photos the dogs made themselves at home and would love to come back soon again.

The visit went better than I thought, after a short time everyone was able to relax in the same room. The best thing is that the dogs know the 'leave it' and 'wait' commands. So I didn't have to hold onto the dogs' leashes for very long as they were both well behaved. 

I wasn't able to do this with Abbey when she was a puppy, she used to run around barking in excitement whenever she saw the cats. I think if we keep on introducing the four of them together (slowly) then maybe they could eventually learn to coexist. 

Do you have cats and dogs living peacefully together? 
Did you find it easy or not to integrate these two species together?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Running with my dogs....

I'm starting to think that Jake could be a great running buddy. He loves to run and it seems to give him a boost of confidence. When he runs, he actually look like a proud confident pit bull, holding his head high and tail wagging.

Initially when we adopted Abbey, I thought that she could be my running buddy. I started training with her when she was around eight moths old. We would run short distances on our walks, but Abbey was overly confident and goofy. It was like she was mocking me! She would run to the end of the leash, and then turn around and run back to me; she would then jump at me (occasionally mouthing my hands). It was a was a fun game for her, and one that I didn't enjoy. I stopped running with Abbey while I waited for her to mature and for me to improve my handling of her. Later on we found out that Abbey has bad knees (luxating patella in both back knees). So the idea of Abbey being my running buddy never really took off. 

I don't understand how can Abbey carry around that much muscle and isn't able to support herself on those thin spindly legs. Abbey weighs roughly the same as Jake, but her legs are much thinner and bowed at the back.

What I like about Jake, is that he's a nice calm boy and can run at your pace. He seems to be well proportioned and has stronger legs than Abbey. I was thinking about starting interval running with him in the spring time and see how he does from there. It's been a while since I was running and I would have to ease myself into it, it would be nice and easy for Jake too. 

I guess my personal battle is that I don't want to injure either of our dogs. I'm worried about wearing out their joints prematurely and cause them problems later in their life. On the other hand, I'm hoping that because we feed them a good diet, with additional joint supplements that Jake could enjoy going on short runs. Who knows, he may not want to run as he likes to stop and sniff every corner, he may prefer being a couch potato. 

Either way it will be his choice...

Do you run with your dogs and do they enjoy it?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

This seat is already taken... or not!

There's two things that I can't imagine, Jake as a single dog and Abbey without Jake. They've been best buddies from the start and they're still going strong.  

Jake loves to snuggle up with Abbey and goes everywhere with her. I think he's a perfect fit for our (somewhat nutty) girl. We wanted a dog that would play with Abbey and keep her  company. Jakes does this perfectly! Although, sometime he takes it a little too far and tries get as close as possible to Abbey, even if it means sitting on her head. We keep joking that he should have an alarm to warn Abbey that's he's reversing into her. 

He doesn't seem to understand the concept that sometime too close is too close. We noticed that he keeps trying to go over her head and sit on top of her (when he's playing with a toy or is ready for the nap). Even though that they are the same size, Abbey doesn't always like it when Jake sits too close to her, and often walks away. Personally I don't really blame her.

There's nothing better than cuddling up to your buddy after a good play.

She used to have a sofa to herself and now she has to share it with Jake...

... but it has it's advantages as the two dogs can keep warmer together in the winter.

Jake making himself comfortable while waiting for his dinner.

Enjoying company while chewing on their nylabones

Abbey loves to sunbathe, but sometime her buddy doesn't understand the point that the seat has been already taken and flops himself right on top of her...

Abbey makes a great pillow anywhere.

Another attempt at sitting Abbey's head failed...

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Leave The Cat Alone!

In addition to our two dogs (Jake and Abbey), we live with two cats Bailey (smoky black) and Percilla (grey & white). We live in a townhouse so we're able to divide  the house in two by using a baby gate at the bottom of the stairs. Upstairs is for the cats and downstairs is for the dogs. We didn't want to put our cats through the stress of living with the dogs, we also wanted to keep them safe when we weren't in the house. Cats are very finicky creatures, they don't like change and they love to lounge around the house in peace. We also had to take into consideration that Bailey and Percilla are strictly indoor cats and have never seen dogs in their life. Both cats are seniors, Bailey is almost twenty while Percilla is (around) twelve.

Percilla is a scaredy cat and she won't come close to the dogs. She will stand on top of the staircase and yell at us when she's hungry and wants to be fed. The dogs sit at the bottom of the staircase and watch her. Bailey is a stubborn, needy cat, whose not afraid of anything. So when he's in need of attention he will come and find us wherever we are in the house. Even if it means going downstairs between the dogs.

It was easier to train Abbey (when she was the only dog) to leave Bailey alone. Even then she was eager to meet Bailey 'up close and personal'. Bailey did't want to do anything with Abbey, and didn't appreciate her being so close to him, he would hiss and swat at her. Abbey never laid a paw on Bailey, and simple followed him around. From time to time, Abbey will give Bailey play bows to invite him to play, but in cat language a play bow will mean (something like) 'I'm going to attack you!'

When we adopted Jake, we gave up completely with integrating the cats with the dogs. Jake has a strong prey drive, and wasn't used to living inside the house, he also had limited training. We also had to retrain Abbey around Jake, otherwise so she would goof around with Jake and wouldn't listen to us.

It would be also nice if Bailey would give us some warning when he's coming downstairs instead of popping in unannounced. He comes downstairs whenever he pleases and demands our attention. Bailey will prance around the dogs, like they aren't there and isn't fazed by them at all. Jake and Abbey probably see Bailey as a squeaky toy when he meows and is fun to chase.

Yesterday when Bailey came downstairs, we had both dogs in a sit position and waiting. We were asking them to 'leave' Bailey and keep checking in with us. After couple of minutes Abbey just laid down and gave up all the hope of getting close to Bailey. Jake just stood there whining from time to time, but still sitting in one place. Bailey was a big tease, walking between the dogs, chirping and meowing like it was no big deal. I swear he is either fearless or clueless.

Some days I wonder if we were too overprotective of the cats, if we didn't separate them, they might be used to each other by now. But on the other hand, I worry that the cats are barely ten pounds (in weight)  and that the dogs are fifty something pounds and have quite a strong prey drive.

I wonder if the dogs will ever leave Bailey alone or will keep trying to meet him.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

I'm trying my best not to be superstitious today, which is hard after having a strong family influence. I was born and raised in the Czech Republic. My mom and her mom were very superstitious and have their traditions. I still remember lots of the traditions surrounding Christmas day and New Year's day. As the younger generation I don't want to be superstitious. At same times I feel I shouldn't tempt fate and jinx my luck for the rest of the year.

According to the old tradition, I should behave today the way that I would like the rest of the year to be like. Supposedly what ever you do today will set the tone for the rest of the year. Also you shouldn't eat anything that has feathers, as it's bad luck. Its believed that if you eat meat that has feathers (i.e. chicken), your money will fly away and you'll be poor for the rest of the year. So today I'm going to be a good daughter and a good wife and will not yell at my dogs.

I should take the example set by our cat Bailey, keep it nice and relaxed today. Except that he'll sleep the day away and only wake up for his food, that part is too lazy for me.

I don't set any new year resolutions as I never stick by them. I'm just looking forward to the new year and hope it will be as good as the last one, if not better.

This is how we said good bye to last year... not much of the celebration, just chilling with my family and waiting for the firework to be over. So we could put our dogs in their crates.