Our Big Day

Sunday was a big day for me and Johnnie. Like I believe I mentioned last week, it was the day of my humane society’s dog walk, Paws in the Park.  Paws is our biggest fundraiser of the year and a ton of planning goes into it, so I was absolutely thrilled when the event was a huge success (despite some serious rain the second half!).

You might remember last year when Otie came to visit me at Paws in the Park, and this year my mama was generous enough to bring Johnnie (foster dad was supposed to come too but he was sick, poor guy). I’d been wrestling a lot with the decision of whether or not to have her bring J to this event because there usually hundreds of dogs in attendance. Hundreds, literally. A few weeks ago I was very “noooo way!” to the thought of bringing her, but as Mark and I talked it out, I started to change my mind.  I wanted to give her the chance to have positive new experiences. But Johnnie Cash can be sort of hot and cold with other dogs – which isn’t unusual for a dog, I just didn’t want to set her up to fail by throwing her into an event with a TON of other dogs.

But luckily we had a couple things going for us: it’s an extremely open venue so we wouldn’t get caught in tight quarters which stresses her out, and, for the most part, the other dogs at the event are pretty social too. It’s when another dog reacts towards her that she’s especially prone to a melt down. Also, to be honest, it was probably good that my mom was the one to handle her for the most part. Unfortunately I have become quite the worrier, and I know Johnnie can feel that stress on my end! My mom promised that she’d only stay for as long as J could handle the event, even if it was only five minutes.


So the ultimate result of Johnnie’s trip to Paws in the Park was an exciting, positive experience! I was so, so happy and relieved when she met face to face with a few other dogs and wanted to play, and when she walked by the other attendees without batting an eyelash for the most part. We even tried some agili-dogging! And, no surprise here, she ROCKED it! She’s so confident in trying new things that she thought walking up a skinny beam just for a treat was the best thing ever. Whoever adopts her should really consider agility as a form of exercise and bonding!

paws5 paws4 paws3

paws01As you saw yesterday, she also made a friend with MCHS mascot Henry. She thought he was a big stuffed toy to play with!

paws7I was so proud of her for doing so well. There were many moments when I asked her for her attention by saying, “Hey Johhhhniieeee” in my fun voice, and she checked right in even though there were other dogs around. She is really learning how to focus!

A big thank you to my mama who made this fun break possible during my chaos of running the event. I appreciate you taking the time out of your day to bring J and deal with my micromanaging! You are the absolute best Foster G a dog and daughter could ask for.

paws6Since Johnnie came in, made doggy friends and rocked agility, all with no problems, I told my mom they had to leave :-) I was thrilled (and wanted to make sure) to end on such a good note! So in addition to the fact that the humane society raised a ton of money, this event was also a big success for our foster family. Now I have two things to celebrate!

To adopt Johnnie Cash and enjoy fun learning experiences like this one, check out her Adopt Me page.

Downtown Dog Walk with the AWLA Pit Crew!

If you don’t remember my feelings on structured group dog walks, let me remind you: I LOVE THEM. I also love when they’re in cool places with lots of cool people, which was exactly what happened on Saturday.

There are all sorts of fun events that brought Pittie Trails and the Animal Welfare League of Arlington’s Pit Crew together for a joint walk this weekend. Remember the handsome dog I transported up to Animal Farm Foundation with me back in September? His name was Gaston and he was from AWLA, so I started following their Pit Crew Facebook page a while back (I also just love shelters that have groups dedicated to helping their pitties!). Then I ran into one of their members at Bully Paws’ Pit Bull Awareness Day event, and we got to talking about our two dog walking groups.  Fast forward a few months, and here we were doing a joint walk!

They decided on a spot downtown by the Washington Nationals stadium (ah, the perks of living in the nation’s capitol).  The AWLA Pit Crew has seriously got their act together for these walks, making sure that each dog has the best experience possible no matter what level of reactivity they are around other dogs.  This particular walking spot was vetted for adequate space and safety from off-leash dogs (which are also intercepted by the dog-less walkers in the event that they do come across any).  It is great that their walks are so structured, because sixteen dogs showed up for this one!

We had a great time in the gorgeous uncharacteristically warm weather, and, as far as I know, had no major dog issues! I highly recommend anyone interested in socializing their dog more in a safe, positive way sign up for these walks with the Pit Crew (oh, and it helps if you’re in the DC/MD/VA area – they generally stick to VA).  You can email them at pitcrew@awla.org for more information about their walks and group in general. They also do fun human-only social outings, so it’s a great group to get involved in.

Here are some pictures from the walk!

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When I began writing this post, I gushed about the dog below, Willow, who is an adoptable pup from AWLA that joined us on the walk. Turns out she got adopted to her forever home on Monday! Yay Willow!


Remember, if you want to join the walking group, email pitcrew@awla.org. Hope to see you at the next one!

Fall Afternoon Lessons… with Otis!

We love parallel walks. A dog can benefit so much from a walk with another dog. It gives them the opportunity to be around another dog without the pressure to interact, which can also help them learn to be calm in the presence of other dogs/people.  Sometimes I don’t always feel comfortable letting my fosters play off-leash with other dogs, but I’m always up for a fun leash walk!

The day after Thanksgiving was totally wide open for us. It was me, Charlie Bear, and a gorgeous Fall day, which obviously meant scoping out the best place to take him hiking.  I decided tocall up R to see if he and Otis wanted to join so that Charlie could practice walking nicely with another dog.  The four of us headed out to the C & O Canal, one of my absolute favorite spots to go for a nice long walk.

Charlie and Otis immediately hit it off.  In addition to getting practice walking with each other, both dogs got to work on staying calm when bikers, joggers, walkers and other dogs passed by.  With the help of treats and some distraction with the “sit” command, both boys pretty quickly began ignoring the passing company.

It can be helpful to take young dogs (or any age, really) to low-key places like this for a controlled amount of positive interactions (if and ONLY if they can handle it and aren’t reactive, etc.). What you want to avoid is introducing them to too much, causing them to become overstimulated where they might learn negative behavior or bad associations.  Socialization does not mean blasting your dog with every experience under the sun – it means controlled, positive situations where they can grow and learn in a positive way.  It also means knowing when to call it quits. We never reached that point with Charlie (or Otis, for that matter) because he’s pretty great in new situations, but I was constantly watching his body language for signs of stress.

As you can tell, the boys seemed pretty too cool for school during their hike.  After all the learning, practicing, and perfecting, both Charlie and Otis enjoyed some relaxing time lounging around for photos – which quickly turned into attempted play time! Ha!

I am proud of Charlie Bear for doing so awesome and for proving to me yet again what a great dog he will make for someone.  To top off our fun afternoon, Char plopped down when we got home from that walk and didn’t get up again until dinner.  Thanks to the basic obedience practice and the physical exercise, Charlie was tired and happy.

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

The Return of Pittie Trails!

You might remember the dog walking group we (three others and I) started last winter, Pittie Trails. We created it to both exercise and train our pups in a controlled environment with other dogs. We have group rules to help keep everyone safe and happy, but most importantly the dogs are not allowed to greet each other. This means that all dogs – reactive, excitable, shy – can have the opportunity to walk with us without feeling any pressures to be social. Plus, then no human parents need to be embarrassed!

After a summer hiatus, we had our first informal walk last weekend. We only had four dogs; three of which were working hard on their manners. We went to trusty old Rachel Carson park, our usual walk location. It was the most gorgeous day of the year and I think a good time was had by all!

If you’re interested in participating in Pittie Trails, the best way to stay informed is to keep up with our Pittie Trails Facebook page. We try to meet for a walk once per month. We’re still trying to find good trails (very few people or other dogs) in the VA and Baltimore areas – so stay tuned. Remember that we allow all dogs, no matter what size, shape, or social ability, so come join us!

Pittie Trails First Walk!

You all had some really great guesses about what the two pictures in yesterday’s post had in common. The answer? They were both from the first ever Pittie Trails hike!

We had a great, great time! There were nine dogs total who came out to Rachel Carson Conservation Park last weekend. From the top left: Baxter, Lily, Athena, Reese (with the backpack), Cotton (gray & white), Nelly, Penny (pink collar), Stella, and McMuffin (who is for adoption!).

All of them were extremely well behaved, even while working on different manners.

Seeing all the dogs walking together really demonstrated how valuable things like this can be. It exposes the dogs to other dogs in a safe and controlled group, while also adding in distractions. Sometimes the distractions are far from anything they’d ever come across otherwise, like:

A horse! We came across very few other people on the trail, but one of which was this pair.

The poor horse “doesn’t like dogs” according to the rider, and you can imagine what we expected the dogs to think about the horse. Luckily, though, we were on a spot on the trail that everyone could get far off the path (which they did quickly and quietly because everyone was so awesome!). The horse snorted and pranced by us, visibly unhappy but tolerant. The dogs all did great, except I think for Athena who sent out a few barks expressing the way she felt – understandably!

Other than that, it was nothing but woods, creeks, and fields. The weather was perfect, and I think a good time was had by all! The trail was a little short, so I think a few dogs ended up energy to spare – but we are really excited to start branching out to new locations after we get the group going. Hopefully we can get to an area by everyone who wants to join.

Thanks so much to everyone who came out for the first hike!

We don’t have the next one scheduled yet, but stay tuned to the Pittie Trails Facebook page for the coming schedule. Also, check out the Facebook page in the next few days to see the photo album of all the pictures from this trip. Email pittietrails@gmail.com if you have any questions about coming on hikes with us – we’d love to have you.

What a great afternoon!

For more information on adopting Comeback Kid Baxter, click here or email peacelovefoster@gmail.com.

Introducing Pittie Trails: a MD Hiking Group

I know it’s been a long time since I did my few posts about hiking, saying we wanted to get this group together – and here it finally is! Pittie Trails is a hiking group in the DC/MD/VA area, aiming to exercise and socialize the things that mean the most to us: our dogs! Sorry in advance that this post is about to be a little lengthy, but we have a lot of exciting stuff to cover to get ready for our first walk.

The name is no more than just a tribute to the breed we love – dogs of all shapes, sizes, and breeds are welcome! We are also super excited to meet other humans in the area who are as passionate about hiking and dogs as we are. Walks will probably be once a month at first.

I’m excited to introduce to you a few of the master minds behind this group, as you will probably meet them at some point if you are ever able to join us!

Jen & Lily Fireworks

You may remember Lily from our post about Baxter’s hiking date with his crush… yep, that was Lily – formerly known as Lollie from Love & a Six-Foot Leash. Lily’s mom Jen is the one who had the idea for us two to go for a walk together in the first place, and then made a comment in passing about starting this group. Well, one thing led to another and sure enough here it is! Lily is using the group as a way to stay social with other dogs, and to work on not trying to meet every squirrel she spots.

Katie, Ian, Reese, & McMuffin

Ian & Katie are our trail experts. They volunteer with the Montgomery County Parks Service (I think I’ve got that right…) so they know essentially every trail in the area — jackpot!!! Reese is their resident pittie, and McMuffin on the right is their foster from Jasmine’s House. They run the blog Running With Squirrels. McMuffin is working on her leash skills in the presence of other dogs, and Reese is working on staying the perfect trail dog that he already is.

Then there is Me & Bax, but we’re old news. Baxter will be working on his excitement levels when around other dogs & people.

See, everyone has things to work on! That’s why this group is so great. To make sure everyone stays safe when we’re walking and learning and socializing and exploring, we have some group rules. We ask that anyone who joins our hikes follow and respect these rules to keep the safety (and sanity) of the group.

Pittie Trails Rules

1.  No greetings between dogs even if the dogs know eachother. This alleviates the social pressure for everyone, and keeps the group calm (or… more calm than it could potentially be). Please respect this – we don’t know the background/behavior/preferences of the dogs and we want people to feel comfortable bringing their dogs no matter what “issues” they need to work on.

2.  No retractable leashes. Only 6′ and under leashes, please. We want to make sure everyone has the most control of their dog possible and at all times.

3.  At least 5 feet should stay between each dog on the trail at all times. The group will be nice and spread out so the dogs can relax. You’ll see that when the dogs start walking on top of each other, they get pretttty excited.

4.  One dog per walker. Again with the control factor. Speaking of, though – we would love to have extra humans who don’t have dogs, so feel free to bring dog-less friends!

5.  Respect the area & other hikers.  This means please bring things to pick up after your dog. Also, when other walkers pass us, please step off the trail and get your dog under control (if they are not being a perfect angel already, of course : -)) so that we don’t freak the community out with our big group of dogs. We want to send out a positive image of dogs, especially pitties, so we don’t want anyone annoyed/scared/unhappy with our group.

6. Bring treats & water. We want the dogs to stay hydrated and focused!

I think that’s it for now! As we begin these hikes we will tweak and add to these as we see necessary.

So, finally the fun stuff: our first hike is going to be this Saturday, February 4 at 10:30 am at Rachel Carson Conservation Park in Olney. We will meet at the parking lot off Zion Rd. (on the right if you are headed on Zion toward Sundown Rd from Rt. 108) around 10:15 am. We will do group introductions, then head out around 10:30.

The trail clocks in at just about 1 hour, winding through the woods past a gorgeous creek, rolling hills, and a horse farm. It is a pretty straight forward loop so for those of you who want extra exercise for your pooch, feel free to do the loop twice! It can be a little muddy, so come prepared.

We’d appreciate it if you emailed pittietrails@gmail.com or left a comment here if you’re planning on coming, just so we have an idea of numbers. Also feel free to email us with any questions, and check out our Facebook page for updates. Other than that… we look forward to seeing you Saturday!

We also want to say a big thank you to Hikeabull and Chicago Sociabulls for their help on starting this project!

Introducing the Old and the New

On my “Past paw prints” page I mention a little doggie named Dixie. She was the first and only puppy (10 weeks old!) I’ve cared for. She was as cute as a button – in fact, I think she was cuter than a button. Judge for yourself:

Well, Dixie – now named Zoey – came in to visit the office today! Baxter is officially our new office dog, so there was no avoiding him and ZoDixie spending time together. Check out how it went down.

(Please ignore the miserable carpets. 30+ years of animals back there has not treated it kindly). Baxter seemed to pay no mind to ZoDixie’s presence, and he continued to snooze on his shag carpet bed like the perfect office dog he is. ZoDixie was slightly less thrilled at his existence though. She growled when he got too close, and even snapped at him a few times (little dogs ALWAYS with the complexes!). Sweet Bax though didn’t even bat an eye.

The worst thing he did to ZoDixie was snatch her bed when she wasn’t looking.

And eventually…. there was coexistance : -)

Leave it to Comeback Kid Baxter to be a gentle giant. It’s really nice having a dog that is not dog-reactive. Of course I am still as careful as can be, but it’s fun to be able to socialize him with other dogs in a safe setting. I am still bursting with excitement at how well his date with pit bull girlfriend Bella went. Because we keep having to meet up after work – aka in the dark – I haven’t been able to snap good pictures yet. But I will soon!

Also, I’ve joined the facebook circle. “Like” my page here if you’d like a constant thread of Baxter updates as I attempt to spare the rest of my non-dog world facebook friends from them. Thanks in advance for stopping by, I love and appreciate your support!

In yesterday's post I talked about Baxter's goofy left ear that pops out when he tilts his head back. I forgot I had this picture that displays it perfectly. I love this about him!