Energy Management

The first day after I brought Johnnie Cash home I thought, “What did I get myself into?” I came back from work and she started flying around the house doing zoomies until I was dizzy. For over an hour she would bounce around excitedly trying to play. I took her on a walk that night and couldn’t stop shaking my head at the little firecracker I had chosen to take home. “I’m active, but I’m not this active,” I thought. And then Johnnie & I returned home from the walk and she completely passed out in her bed around 8 pm, sleeping through the night. I realized she was a little more on my level than I thought.

That is the key to it all: using up Johnnie’s energy in intentional bursts so that she’s laid back the rest of the time – or, as Mark calls it, energy management! I’m sure a lot of you are rolling your eyes at me right now because – duh – you all have to do this with your dogs. But since I haven’t had a very “energetic” dog in a long time, I wasn’t sure if she’d have an off switch. Luckily Johnnie certainly does.  I generally take her on one hour-long walk in the morning and one-hour long walk in the evening – along with some games of tug, fetch and clicker training in between – and that pretty much does her in.

My point is that instead of saying, “This dog is nuts!” and dealing with her being generally active all the time, we experimented with different exercise amounts and mind games that fit both her needs and my capabilities to create a happy, settled dog pretty. Sure, it took a few days for me to get used to the fact that I need to spend a decent amount of time exercising her, but our walks together have become routine, pleasant and a de-stresser for both of us. They make me feel a lot better because I know she’s walking out any pent up heebie-jeebies, and they make her feel a lot better because, well, she’s walking out any pent up heebie-jeebies!

Another important part of Johnnie’s exercise needs is keeping her at a safe, productive level of excitement and activity. For the first week and a half I had Johnnie I would take her into the backyard and chase after her and we’d do glorious zoomies for a half hour, but when I wanted to be done, she most certainly did not. She would come back into the house, still in zoomie mode, and not settle down for another half hour. It got to the point where I was letting her get entirely too riled up and she was reverting back to her old bad behaviors because she was just too stimulated.

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I learned very quickly how important moderation is with J. When she gets too wired, it’s like her brain turns off. So we work on ways to keep her brain on. When we go to play in the backyard, I’m sure to bring a clicker and treats with me to practice sit, touch and other focus activities in between running around like a goofball. When we’re playing inside, I always practice impulse control with her toys, just to keep her mind working. Little J is such a happy puppy, but that can get the best of her sometimes. If I notice she’s getting too worked up, we stop the game and chill out on the couch. She’s very receptive to your energy levels, so when you stop moving around, she usually does too. . . eventually.

I let her be a dog. I let her bounce around and I play with her when I know she has energy to burn off and I give her expectations I know she can meet. I wouldn’t ask her to be calm at the end of the day if I hadn’t exercised her at all, you know? The more we figure her out and can tell when she just needs a little jog, the more understanding we are of her behaviors. Usually we both end up heavily snoozing at the end of the day and I have to drag her out of bed in the morning (which, by the way, is the cutest thing ever).

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If you’re interested in adding a mostly sleepy and snuggly, but sometimes bouncy, Johnnie Cash to your family, email peacelovefoster@gmail.com.


Running with Friends & Dogs

While I would consider myself a runner, I am probably about as slow as they come. I prefer distance over shorter, faster runs so I’ve gotten really used to relaxing long runs at my own pace. Whenever someone asks if I want to run with them, I usually come up with some excuse as to why I can’t. The thought of running with another person and the pressure to keep up with them, even if they say, “Don’t worry, we’ll go at your pace,” is totally daunting to me.

When I went to take Charlie for a run the other day, Mark asked if he could come along. Now, running with Fosterdad is a big NO THANKS for me because he’s about as fast as a gazelle and his “Juliana pace” is usually still entirely too quick for me.  But this night I let him come along, and we discovered a good system that allowed us both to exercise with Charlie without the pressure of running at each other’s pace: sprints!

Speed training is phenomenal exercise. A high intensity sprint workout can be more beneficial for you than a longer, slower run because of how hard you work in those short bursts. There are all sorts of physiological benefits to it that I won’t get into, but just know that running as fast as you can for short periods (anywhere from 30 seconds to a quarter mile depending on the type of workout you’re doing) does the body some serious good.

What Mark and I did was start with a short jogging warm up with Charlie, then one of us would take him, pick a spot in the distance, and take off sprinting towards that spot and back. Charlie loved it! He immediately sprung into that speedy gallop you see dogs doing when they’re happily bounding around.   When Mark and Charlie would return, we would swap and I would take off running while Mark walked and rested, then we’d switch again – which is the way interval speed exercises work: sprint, rest, sprint, rest.  Before we knew it, all three of us were exhausted and exercised – check and check!

There’s no doubt that running with your dog is both fun and beneficial for the two of you. Now maybe you have a new way to enjoy exercising with your dog – and a friend!

If you’re interested in making Charlie your forever running buddy, email me at peacelovefoster@gmail.com or fill out an application on the Jasmine’s House website.


Find it!

After many months of medical procedures and recovery, Joanie is getting her spunk back as she continues to feel better every day.  While walks are great to tire her out, she can only handle so much physical activity – so she needs another outlet for her energy.  From the three days I’ve had her, I’ve found that Joanie really benefits from using her nose to exercise her brain and wear her out (like all dogs!).

The easiest and most fun way for us to do some informal nose work is playing “Find it!” in the backyard. Using string cheese, I throw little pieces all over the yard and send her sniffing after them. I try to put them in a pattern so that she can find her way to the next one (she’s got a good sniffer, but it’s not that good if the treat is too far away). Because she has to root through the grass a bit, it’s not a super easy find and usually takes some effort – which is great since I want her to work those brain muscles!

We even tried a few times where I was up on the deck and she was down in the yard. The string cheese is bright white so she can see sort of where I throw it, and the rest is up to her nose.  This also helps to get her down the stairs to the yard without me taking her down there. She’s not really needy, but she doesn’t particularly care to venture down on her own – which is sort of inconvenient when you’re a lazy FosterMom!

“Find it!” is a great game. Ten or fifteen minutes of this is equally as tiring as probably a thirty minute walk. The thing about physical exercise versus mental is that when we’re done with a walk, Joanie’s brain is still ready to go. She still wants to sniff and investigate everything. But after a walk and some nose work, she’s out for the count.

It’s been fun learning what helps Joanie relax around us and what she needs to keep her happy. Watching a dog settle down right before your eyes is really rewarding, especially when you’re not sure they’re going to get there initially (more about that later).  Joanie is just another perfect example of how enrichment can be helpful for any dog!


Lessons from AFF: The Joys of Enrichment

I’ve always been a fan of kongs and toy puzzles and nose work, but I never truly realized how they fit into the bigger picture of enrichment. Enrichment is so essential to a dog’s happiness and mental well being because it allows them outlets to use their doggy senses. I learned that it doesn’t only encompass the taste and smell senses in the form of food games, but also visual, hearing, and touching exercises. Enrichment can be fun, easy, and cheap – and for what a dog gets out of it, the extra effort is one hundred percent worth it.

In shelters, dogs are often so bored, overwhelmed, and stressed that they can quickly start displaying negative behaviors that are unfortunately sometimes a poor representation to the dog’s true personality. Enrichment activities help to postpone or prevent the onset of these behaviors by stimulating the dog’s senses and wearing them out mentally.  The dogs then in turn show better to adopters because they are either preoccupied working on their puzzles and therefore not barking, or they’re just so tired from all their work to get the treats or whatever that they’re mellow in their kennels.

At Animal Farm we learned about all kinds of different enrichment activities.  The most well known ones are the kinds involving food that are supposed to be tricky and keep the dog busy for a while, including frozen stuffed kongs, busy buckets, and ice treats. Frozen stuffed kongs are self explanatory, but remember that you can stuff them with all sorts of different foods and treats (just make sure you’re not feeding your dog three meals in the process). Busy buckets are small pails that you fill with different things to do, smell, and taste. The point is to stuff them very tightly so that it’s a challenge for the dog to get each fun object out – try to flip your busy bucket upside down without anything falling out! Ice treats are also pretty self explanatory. Fill a bucket with different bones, balls, treat toys, etc. then add a little bit of kibble – fill with water, freeze, and you’re done. All of these toys can include your dog’s normal meal contents to make dinner a fun and difficult exercise! Busy buckets were a total blessing with our energetic housemate Birdie; they would keep her quiet and still for more than thirty seconds!

Smell is also, as expected, a very good way to engage dogs. In shelters, simple PVC pipes with holes drilled in them can be a world of smells for a dog. Fill it with something smelly, like dirty hamster shavings (gross for humans but jackpot for dogs), and close the endings to create an interesting activity for the dogs. You can hang them around their kennel or you can put them in the exercise yard where the dogs are walked to give them something to investigate while they get their potty break. Even short, simple activities like this can make a big difference in a dog’s mental well being.

I could write forever about other ways to help make a dog’s living environment – home or shelter – more positively stimulating, but all of this and more is on AFF’s website. There you can find a plethora of information about enrichment, including step-by-step instructions and explanations about the benefits. Remember that these are not just beneficial for shelter dogs, but for your own pets as well! All dogs can use an excuse to work their sniffer, tongue or noggin. A tired dog, whether mentally or physically, is a happier dog!


Grand Prix Jumper

Check it out! Fostermama thought it’d be fun to put my outdoor energy to good use. I totally impressed her!

I can’t do it very often ‘cuz I’ve got a funky hind from spending so much time in a cage when I was a pup, but I sure did enjoy myself! I love running around, so when mama is on the other side of the fence from me (and the fence is really little) I’ll hop right over it to go see her! Just like those horses that I don’t like.

Have a great weekend!

For more information on adopting Honey Bunches of Otis, go to his Adopt Me page to learn more about him and how to get in touch.


The Kong Dilemma

Otis can be hard to figure out. Sometimes I think he was deprived of oxygen as a pup or something (just kidding) because he can be a little… slow, but other times he catches on and figures things out quickly. I just don’t get him.

When he finally stopped being finicky about his meals, I started introducing the Kong in hopes that fishing for the kibble would give Otis an outlet for some mental energy. Turns out, the kong-with-kibble combo is not one Otis will pick up on quickly. The poor dude is totally clueless when it comes to figuring out how to get the kibble out when it doesn’t just fall out.

That means once Honey Bunches is done with any kibble that happens to fall out during consumption, he abandons the project all together. I’ve tried showing him that moving it makes the food fall out, but no luck (duh). Any ideas on how to increase his desire to play these games? He isn’t really the best at nose puzzles, which I think is one road block here.

I’m hoping maybe some more desirable treats in there will motivate him to put effort into getting them out; aka the point of the activity. He only worked hard for the kibble when he watched it go out of his reach (pictured below). If I put kibble out of his sight when he is not around he is totally clueless to it’s presence when he returns. I want to give him puzzles and work his brain a little, but I can only do so much until it’s up to him… any ideas?!

For more information on adopting Honey Bunches of Otis, go to his Adopt Me page or email peacelovefoster@gmail.com.


Running With Dogs

I’ve really gotten into running in the last four or so years, and have always dreamed of having a canine partner. Unfortunately, none of the dogs I’ve ever owned, sitted, or fostered have ever really been runners! Barley was too old by the time I picked it up, Zabora literally could not run in a straight line, and Baxter had his own agenda when it came to our exercise speeds. I would get us all geared up only to decide a quarter mile into our route that the effort I was putting into convincing each dog they wanted to run with me was far more than the actual run itself, and we would both give up and walk home. It was fine – each time it ended up giving me a good laugh and some quality time with my pooch.

This past weekend I ran the DC Rock ‘N Roll Half Marathon. I love running these races in big cities because so many spectators bring their dogs out to watch. You’d be surprised how counting the pitties along the route can easily make the 13.1 miles go by quick! Or guessing the breed break down of the mutts I passed, or ooh-ing and aww-ing at the puppies. It adds another great element to the run for us dog lovers.

The best part came from a woman I was running behind for some of the route. She gave her dogs to her friends who came to watch the race. At every checkpoint, there were her dogs so excited to see her! She would run up, let them jump all over her in full blown “I can’t believe it’s really you, you’ve been gone for so long!” mode, then keep going on her way. Can you think of better motivation than being greeted by your favorite slobbery kissing, paw bouncing, tail wagging pups when you’re exhausted and trying to push through those last miles? It helps seeing my family, but I can only imagine how happy it would make me to see the smiling faces of my dogs along the route.

I’m really hoping one of my next fosters will be a runner. Of course I will love them either way, but I can’t wait to share my long evening runs with a jogging partner – someone I won’t have to worry about going too fast or too slow with!