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.