Once Upon a Time, the Felix believed that the camera would steal his soul.Does anyone else remember the year that our Christmas Card shoot was a total disaster? This is just one, of many, times that I tried to create a nice photo memory and failed. My iPhoto library is a testament to how many crappy photos I have taken of this dog. Thanks a heap, Felix. Do you know why our blog is called ‘Kol’s Notes’, even though it was inspired by sweet Felix? He was the WORST dog to get a picture of. He wouldn’t sit still. He wouldn’t look at the camera. All attempts at a successful photo shoot were thwarted by Felix’s own refusal to co-operate. I tried begging, pleading and bribing him to work with me, but as it turns out, none of those things are successful dog training strategies. If I couldn’t get a half decent photo of him, I knew he couldn’t be the spokesdog for our blog.
Lately, though, I’ve been noticing that Felix is much more relaxed in front of the camera.… [read more]
When you have a dog-reactive dog, you spend a whole lot of time avoiding other people.I don’t want to brag, but over the years, I have become a dog walking ninja. I have an excessive amount of practice darting around corners, criss crossing the street, and walking faster or slower to avoid crossing other dogs on the street. If you’re like me and you also happen to suffer from Bitchy Resting Face this can lead to a whole lot of people thinking that you are deliberately avoiding them just to be rude. This is my cross to bear.
The weird thing about Felix is he wants to meet those other dogs, he just lacks the necessary social skills to do so appropriately.We’ve been working on Dr. Sophia Yin’s foundation exercises for leash-reactive dogs since September and I’m pleased to say we’ve made a lot of progress. Not enough that we’re ready to try on leash greetings with other dogs though. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I consider it a pretty woofing amazing day when we see a dog across the street and Felix keeps his cool. Getting within a half-block of a dog on the same side of the street is a great day and when a dog popped around a corner, out of nowhere, last week and all Fe did was one indignant bark it was cause for excessive and over-the-top celebration. I may or may not have danced in the streets.
I wish things were different and that my dog was ready for normal social interaction, but he’s not.He’s the strange kid on the playground eating paste. He’s the awkward teenager, creeping in the dark corners at the dance. He’s the adult making weird jokes because he’s nervous. He’s a good dog who was never taught the skills to excel at on leash interaction. His humans failed him once. I won’t fail him again and so, we walk, keeping our distance. Slowly, gently creeping towards the ultimate goal of a day when I don’t have to practice constant vigilance, scanning the horizon for real or perceived canine threats.
Until that fine day, if I pass you in the street, look a bit panicked and dart in the other direction as fast as I can, take pity on me. I’m not a bitch; I’m just looking out for my dog.To the women and the cute pit bull that live at the other end of our street, I totally hear you when you shout that your dog is friendly. I know you think I’m scared of her. I’m not. She’s beautiful. To the elderly lady who walks her chihuahua with her walker, I see that look in your eyes when we cross the street to avoid you. I would love to chat and hear all about your dog. I love love love that her leash matches your coat and that the flower on her collar matches the one on your walker. To the cute guy and the Shiva-look-a-like that waved from across the field last week, oh man, I really wanted to come talk to you. How you doin’? Would it be weird to hand around the dog field without my dog, hoping he comes back? (Probably, right??)
And yet, I’m not alone.Last night on our walk, we suddenly found ourself barely 20 paces from a woman in blue and a little grey terrier. For a split second, the owner and I locked eyes, both a little panicked. As quickly as it happened, we both snapped out of it. She did a 180. I crossed the street. We headed in opposite directions, breathing a sigh of relief that no chaos had ensued. I glanced back over my shoulder, one time and she was looking back to. She smiled and nodded. I waved. It was a moment of shared understanding between two dog owners that are used to being looked down on and feeling like we haven’t done enough to correct the behaviour of our “poorly trained” dog. That may be as close as we ever get to one another, but last night I made a friend.
I feel you lady in blue. Our dogs may not have social skills, but they are good dogs and we’re trying to get better.That’s what it’s all about folks. Trying to get better. It may be slow. It may not be easy, but it’s progress and that’s all I can hope for.
Does your dog need a little WOOF Support in dealing with their fears and phobia like my Felix? Check out Oz the Terrier’s post today and all the great posts linked up to the WOOF blog hop. Each one has wisdom, knowledge and most of all, understanding in dealing with fearful and reactive dogs.
When you have a fearful dog, making sure they have a refuge or a “safe place” to go to when they’re feeling stressed is an absolute must.For Felix, that place has always been a small plastic crate with the door off. It’s long been the place he heads to when he’s overwhelmed, when Kolchak is driving him crazy, when I am driving him crazy and when he wants to have a nap. Part of making him feel secure in stressful situations in ensuring his crate is in an accessible location, close enough to the action that he still knows what is going on (and so that it doesn’t aggravate his separation anxiety), but removed enough that he isn’t right in the thick of it. Generally, his crate is tucked into a corner of the living room. That’s where it needs to be and I hate it.
This crate is not doing anything for my living room decor.It’s an ugly colour. It’s cheap plastic. It looks totally out of place. We tried a wire crate, but Felix didn’t care for it. It was too open and airy. Part of what Felix loves about his crate is the “den” aspect. He likes his crates small, compact and dark. Despite the fact that it doesn’t nothing for the look of my home, I respect his wishes. I long ago resigned myself to having a lovely living room with a really ugly crate in it.
Lucky for me, Felix is an evil genius.For months, I’ve been searching for the perfect end table. After our move last fall, I still haven’t fully furnished the new place. I’m fussy and I refuse to buy anything that isn’t perfect. Last weekend though, you guys, I FOUND IT. From across the Target (say it with me, in your best snooty accent please: “Tar-jae”. We have class, yo.) I spotted this super gorgeous metal basket weave table and I swear, I could hear an angel chorus sing. Obviously, the stars were all aligned because when I ran over (possibly shoving people in my excitement) I found that it was on sale for less than $25. It was like the Holy Grail of shopping finds. I brought it home and laid it on it’s side while I scrubbed the price sticker off it and a funny thing happened.
Felix stole my new end table.
No seriously! He stole it! He’s a rotten little sneak thief! He crawled inside, turned around twice and laid down. He stayed there for three hours. I tried coaxing him out with treats, but he’d go right back in after. I tried luring him out and then flipping it right side up, but then he’d sit there, pawing at it and with every swipe, I’d have a heart attack that he was going to scratch it.
As I watched how much he wanted this thing, I came to thinking… it kind of looked good down on it’s side like that. Certainly better than the cheap plastic crate did.
I decided to let Felix keep it.I put his crate pad in the bottom. I tucked it in beside the couch and I wished him a happy nap time. Small dog owners are actually really lucky. We can skip the pricey designer dog beds and DIY our own solution with totally unexpected containers. Anything could be a unexpected dog bed that works with your decor. Imagine it: dog dens made from a wicker laundry basket, an end table, an outdoor planter or even a a hearth rack. Big dog owners have a tougher time, but non-conventional beds can be found. I’ve always really admired Mr. B’s rockin’ teepee. If your goal is to have a dog friendly home that doesn’t look like it’s gone to the dogs, some times you have to think outside the box.
Do you have anything in your house that isn’t meant for dogs, but works for you?We’d love to hear about your creative solutions.
In an attempt to make my house look less “Playskool Chic”, I recently made these No Sew Fabric Baby Gate Covers.And by recently, I mean “way back in the Fall when we moved.” I’m the worst. Baby gates are an eye sore, but a necessary part of life at Casa de Kolchak. We’ve talked about how Felix has some reactivity issues, and we’ve shared some of the ways we’re combating them. Baby gates are an integral part of my behaviour management strategy. Once something has set Felix off, one of the most effective ways to calm him is to gently lay my hand on his butt or his back. I don’t know if it’s my presence or that the touch just snaps him out of the moment, but it is *extremely effective*. It’s my Felix-y kryptonite. The only problem is that this is a rather large apartment and often, by the time Felix has been aggravated by keys in the hallway or the cleaning lady vacuuming or whatever the woof is setting him off this time, are you kidding me Felix?, he’s already taken off at a dead run to the source of the noise. I can never stop what I’m doing and get to him fast enough. Breaking the house into smaller areas and gating them off means that I am never too far to comfort my boy if he’s having a melt down. Gates are also super handy for keeping the dogs in the kitchen while they are chewing raw meaty bones, in the bathroom while they are wet after a bath and in my bedroom at night (I hate sleeping with the door shut). I also use ours in the sliding glass door, so that I can let in fresh air, but still keep Felix off the deck (where he would like to bark at all the passersby.) When his torn ACL was at it’s worst, we used gates at the Daddy’s house to keep him from going up & down the stairs. edit: I’m told that parents of tiny humans have the same challenges containing the loveable little maniacs and keeping them safe. What I love about these covers for tiny humans is that you could spray them with stain blocker (or make it of laminated table cloth material or that great water/stain repellent material designed for deck use), make a few spares and just toss them in the wash when sticky jam fingers have mucked ’em up. So much easier than constantly scrubbing down the gate!
Baby gates are almost the solution to all my woes. Too bad they’re so darn ugly.I don’t care what anyone says, a baby gate isn’t doing anything to enhance the look of my apartment. They’re useful and practical and totally unattractive. (Sure, you can get some nice ones, but holy woof! Are they ever pricey?) I’m not alone. Way back when we made our DIY Designer Toy Box, Kimberly from Keep the Tail Wagging admitted that she wanted to cover her gates too.
I decided that if gates were necessary, the least I could do would be to make them a little stylish.BEHOLD: the no sew baby gate cover:
- Fabric – Measure the width of your opening + 4″ x 2 times the height of your gate + 5.5″ (Always check the discount bin at the fabric store. You can get small pieces of really nice fabrics for dirt cheap. Another place to find cheap heavy weight fabric? The window hanging section. I happened to snag another one of the curtain panels I used in my living room, on closeout for $5! I was lucky – the panel was already the same width as my doors.)
- Hook & Loop Adhesive Strips – I used about 18″ total, for the whole project.
- No Sew Tape – You could also use heavy duty double sided carpet tape, but I like that the no sew tape is washable. Fabric gets dirty, yo.
- Office Stapler – This part is totally optional, but I find the hook and loop comes off fabric after a while. A staple will make sure it stays in place.
- Staple Gun (or Crazy Glue) – I have these cheap wood gates, so I used a staple gun, but if you’re working with a plastic gate, Super Glue will get the job done.
- Measuring Tape
- Prep the Gate – Cut hook & Loop into 1.5″ strips and place as marked by the x’s below.
- Staple (or SuperGlue) into place. Flip over the gate and repeat. (Make sure you use the same side of the hook and loop for every strip. I used the hook side.)
- Prep the fabric – Fold over 1″ on each side and iron into place. (Make sure you measure and do not fold over too much fabric, otherwise your finished cover will not be wide enough.)
- Hem the Horizontal edges. Fold over the bottom horizontal edge of fabric another inch and apply the no sew tape between the two layers of fabric. Set the no sew tape according to package directions (Generally, you place a hot steam iron over it for a set amount of time without moving it. ) Repeat with the top horizontal edge.
- Add the hook & loop – On the patterned side of your fabric, place your hook and loop and stick in place, using your measuring tape to ensure you are placing the strips the same distance apart as on your gate.
- Staple the Hook and loop in place. I used one staple in each corner of the strip.
- Flip the Fabric over and apply the no sew strip. Fold the right vertical edge of the fabric over by 1″ and place the no sew strip between the two layers of fabric. Set the no sew tape according to package directions. Repeat with the left vertical edge.
- The iron is out anyways, why not iron the whole thing? I wish I had! That wrinkly photo is cringe worthy! I’ll be ironing it tomorrow.
- Set up your gate in the chosen doorway. Match up your velcro pieces to place the cover over the gate.
- Stand back and admire how woofing crafty you are!
Do you use baby gates in your house? Why (or why not)? Do you like them?
Kol’s Note: This post includes affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase at Amazon, we will earn a small commission. Your purchase price will not change. Money earned through sponsored posts, advertising and affiliate programs allows us to buy supplies and materials to keep making great projects. Thank you for your support!
I am in love with the holidays.
The hustle, the bustle, the singing, the bells and the wrapping paper!The cookies and the hot chocolate and the special festive cocktails! The company and the events and so much going on!!
It’s magical, unless you happen to be the owner of an anxious dog.All the chaos and excitement of the holidays tends to leave Felix feeling a little bit like this: For a dog like Felix who has some general anxiety issues (separation anxiety, sound reactivity, and a bunch of other stuff), the added activity of the holidays can be overwhelming. Our neighbours have an animatronic Santa that moves and says “HO! HO! HO!” in a creepy robot voice. That thing scares me, so it’s no surprise Fe thinks that guy is highly suspect. Festive parties mean there are more people coming & going in our hallways than usual and my own penchant for holiday festivities mean there is more going on inside out apartment too.
Helping your dog keep calm when the Holidays get a little crazy.As a responsible dog owner, I understand that my action affect Felix’s anxiety levels. Here are some of the ways we’re helping Felix keep his cool this season:
- Calming Sounds – Some dogs respond really well to calm melodies, like those found in classical music. Keep it festive and calm by playing classical Christmas tunes at a low volume. Some dogs (like mine) prefer the sound of speaking, so they find comfort in Audiobooks or talk radio.
- Calming Touch – TTouch (or Tellington Touch) is a massage technique that is said to help relieve anxiety. Since I have only a basic understanding of TTouch (and what I know was trained on my horses, not on my dogs), I feel pretty confident that Felix isn’t getting the full benefit of this method, however, I will say that trained or not, taking the time to sit down with your dog and give them a calming, gentle massage can go a long way to easing anxiety.
- A Busy Dog is Calm Dog –When the house is a bit crazy, I like to give my dogs food puzzles, like Kongs, Nina Ottosan toys or a stuffed trachea chew. Givin your dog something to focus on, other than the activity that is making him anxiety is a huge stress buster and can even help create a positive association with what is going on. For example, my friend B brings bully sticks every Sunday when she comes to watch the Walking Dead. The stress of having campany pales in comparison to the joy of a bully stick and now, B might be Fe’s favourite person.
- Provide Sanctuary – When the going gets tough, the tough get going! Sometimes, Felix just needs to take a time out. We’ve put his crate in the spare room, with a black out drape over top and I put his favourite Harry Potter Audiobooks on to play. He loves it.
Some dogs need more support: Calming Chews can help.To be completely honest, we use a lot of those tricks year ’round, so this time of year, it’s not always enough. This year, we’ve turn to Calming Chews by Pet Naturals of Vermont to help us ease Felix’s fears. The little bite sized chews contain a colostrum calming complex and L-theanine. Colostrum is a form of milk that can support stress reduction and cognitive function. It works together with the L-theanine, an amino acid that helps the body create dopamine and GABA, to help curb destructive behaviors associated with stress. This is the kind of chew that you can give every day to support an anxious dog or you can give it every now and again, when you know you’re going to be putting your dog in an anxious situation.
For Felix, one chew is not enough to completely curb his anxiety, but is is enough that we can work through it together. After all, if I’m stressing my boy out with my holly and my jolly, then it’s only fair that we move past it together too. Two chews are a great help and are often enough that he’ll lay down and play with his toys instead of stressing out. That really is a Christmas miracle.I can see this being a great help to a dog who doesn’t have a general anxiety issue, but who is just a little anxious with the added bustle of the holidays or really, any time life makes us a little crazy.