Holidays

This time of year is busy for us all.  I may not be adding many new posts for awhile, but I’ll at least try to post some pictures now and then.

Ferris decided to take a nap…Cubby thought it looked like a good idea, and decided to join him.

Nothing better than a nap, except maybe a nap with your buddy to keep you warm.

Quandary Hound

Quandary : “A state of bewilderment or perplexity; a dilemma”.

The DNA test results for Ferris are in!! …Drumroll please…

As suspected, Ferris is primarily of mixed heritage, to be more precise 62% mixed breed, with genetic markers in the terrier, sporting and companion groups.

There are dozens of dogs within each of these groups with a wide variety of differences in size, coloring, and temperament.  Terriers are typically used for hunting vermin (love that word – vermin), sporting refers to hunting dogs, and companion dogs are primarily smaller dogs, including most of the toy breeds (lap dogs).

As far as specific breed markers, the DNA revealed – 25% American Staffordshire Terrier, and 13% Australian Cattle Dog.

Apparently the rescue listing him as an Australian Cattle Dog mix was partly right, but if you look at the percentages, they’d have been more accurate calling him an American Staffordshire Terrier mix.

No surprise that the majority of his heritage is  “MIXED”.  It’s exactly why we all had such a hard time guessing.  It’s official, Ferris is basically a Mutt.   Calling him a Mutt is in no way derogatory.  I’m a Mutt, and most of my favorite people (and dogs) are Mutts.

I’ll probably continue to call him a Quandary Hound.  I like how it sounds.

 

What kind of dog is that??

Growing up all of our family dogs were purebreds.  Dotto –  the Dalmatian, Beau – the miniature poodle, and then two Shetland Sheepdogs, or “Shelties” – Muffet and Punkin.

Muffet & Punkin

The Shelties were often mistakenly referred to as Miniature Collies. I took great pains to explain to anyone who would listen that they were NOT Collies!!  Yes, even as a child I was obsessed with talking about dogs (just ask my family).

My first dog, Stickie, was also a purebred.  Whippets are not very common, and I was often asked “What kind of dog is that?”  Frequently people assumed he was a Greyhound puppy and had never heard of a Whippet.  I was always happy to explain the differences between the two breeds.

         Stickie (1983)

I added a second dog when Stickie was seven, a purebred Border Terrier.  At the time Border Terriers were quite popular in England, but unusual in this country.  Once again I was often asked, “What kind of dog is that?”  Most people assumed Chaucer was some sort of terrier mix, or misunderstood me, and thought I said Border Collie.  Once again, I found myself having conversations about breed differences.

   Chaucer (1995)

I have always been fascinated by dogs… purebreds and mixed breeds alike.  The more time I spend with dogs, and the more I learn about dogs, the more fascinated I am.  There seems to always be new information being published in the fields of veterinary medicine, training and behavior.  We are always discovering new and exciting things about our favorite companions.   Personally, even after decades of working with dogs of all types and breeds, I never tire of talking about dogs (just ask my family.)   One thing that I’ve learned is regardless of breed, when choosing a dog, it really does come down to the individual dog.  I suppose that shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.  We are after all talking about living beings, so of course there are a multitude of variables involved in making up an individual.  Breed traits can be helpful, but there are always exceptions to the norm.  Even in a litter of purebred puppies there are noticeable differences in size, and temperament, and in some cases coloring.

Let’s be honest, most of us choose dogs based on looks.  Unfortunately that’s one of the reasons so many dogs end up in shelters.  I really wish people would spend just a little bit of time researching breed traits to figure out if the breed they are attracted to is really a good match for their lifestyle.  It seems like people spend more time researching appliances than they do a living creature!

Sometimes people choose a breed because we’ve met one, and want a dog “just like him.”  That can be a bit of a trap too, believe me, I know from personal experience.  Chaucer was a great little dog.  By nature Border Terriers do not have a typical “terrier temperament”.  Basically they’re not quite as feisty or vocal as other terriers.   Several people, including two veterinarians I worked with, fell in love with Chaucer and decided that they wanted a Border Terrier too.  What they wanted was a dog just like Chaucer.  What none of us realized at the time was that Chaucer was not in fact a typical Border Terrier, he was an exceptional Border Terrier.  My second and third Border Terriers were fun little dogs, but they weren’t anything like Chaucer.  Turns out not only was he an exceptional BT, he was an exceptional dog.

The dogs I currently live with include purebreds and mixed breeds.  The only thing they have in common is that they are all rescue dogs. The Chihuahuas and Chihuahua mixes are pretty easy for most people to figure out.  The more unusual breeds and mixed breeds still often beg the question “What kind of dog is that?”  Take Spencer for example.  He is a purebred PowderPuff Chinese Crested dog, and often mistaken for a mixed breed.  People usually think he’s some sort of Poodle mix (of course Spencer doesn’t take offense, he’s a pretty easy going guy).

    Spencer

The likely heritage of some of my mixed breed dogs is fairly evident based on their appearance.

 Nemo (Hound mix) & Rudy (Boxer mix)

Rex’s likely heritage was a bit more of difficult to pin down.  When I adopted Rex, the rescue had his litter listed as Australian Shepherd Mix.  That seemed about right.  He was fluffy, and primarily white with a big black patch on the side of his head.  Much to everyone’s surprise, when he was about 4 months old, suddenly smaller black spots appeared all over his body.  His head was always kind of big and blocky, and out of proportion to his body, (which prompted my sister to suggested his name should be T-Rex instead of just Rex).  His coat also started to look and feel more silky and he started to get “feathering” on his legs and tail.

   Baby Rex    T-Rex

  Here come the spots!

   Grown up Rex (he finally grew into his head)

His DNA test revealed he is in fact, two thirds “herding” breeds, with the only specific breed marker being, not Australian Shepherd, but Australian Cattle Dog.  Still not sure where his coat length and texture comes from – possibly one of the other herding breeds, maybe Border Collie?  He definitely has herding breed personality traits.  He notices everything and alerts me to any changes around the house or yard, he learns lightning fast, and he can be a bit of control freak with the other dogs (we call him the fun police).  The big surprise was that he is one third American Staffordshire Terrier.  Once I knew this piece of the puzzle I could see it as well… his big blocky T-Rex head, his eyes, his loyalty, and best of all his silly, sweetness.  When people ask me what kind of dog Rex is, I usually say “He’s the best kind, a perfect dog.”

Now we have little Ferris…”What kind of dog is he???”  The rescue listed his litter as Australian Cattle Dog mix.  I suppose that’s possible, but I don’t see it, other than the ticking (speckles) on his feet.  Honestly, this time I have NO clue.  I have never had such a hard time guessing at possible heritage.  I usually have some idea based on size, coloring, head shape, ear set, tail, and personality traits.  Oh sure, I have a some of guesses… maybe part Sheltie, Basenji, Rat Terrier, Feist, Miniature Pinscher????? However nothing stands out.  My vet and I agree that he will most likely be on the smaller side (probably around 20 lbs), he’s mostly reddish brown, and so far his ears do something different every few days.  What I know for sure is that he is mellow, sweet, wicked smart, loves other dogs, and doesn’t bark much (except when food is on the horizon.)  I am really curious about his DNA results, but for now I am officially calling him a “Quandary Hound”.

    The drifting ear

  Whoa! What’s up with that EAR?!

  Today the ear returned to the factory setting

Stay  tuned for his DNA results!

Ummm…what about us???

Last night I was changing the comforters and blankets on the futons, adding pillows, and generally making things all comfy for a family night with the dogs watching Dancing with the Stars, when Rex kind of gave me “the look”.  He had something on his mind.

As it turns out, while I was taking a nap yesterday, YES a nap (I’m still adjusting to dealing with the fact that the dogs are NOT adjusting to the time change), there was some sort of secret dog meeting.

I’ve always been suspicious that the dogs get on the internet, order pizza, make microwave popcorn, and order pay-per-view on the rare occasion that I’m not around, but it turns out it is actually much worse than that.  They have secret “meetings” about ME!  Anyway – they decided I’d take the news best from Rex.  As it turns out, the dogs are not happy about my recent blog posts being so focused on Ferris.  It was pointed out that I had not posted anything for months, and then boom! I’m suddenly posting nearly every day – and it’s all about Ferris.

It isn’t unusual for there to be a bit of jealousy with a new baby in the house, but apparently I had pushed things a bit too far this time.  Lucky for me all it took was a sincere apology – and a LOT of home made chicken dog treats to make it all okay.  Whew!   We spent a nice evening watching TV together.

 

Cousins

Yesterday Ferris met his some of cousins – both human and doggie… I’m going to do a little bragging here, so be prepared.   I have a truly wonderful family.  My mom is one of the most patient, accepting, loving people walking on the planet.  My sister, her husband, and my brothers and their wives are some of the best people I’ve ever known.   They are also amazing parents.  My nieces and nephews have grown up to be decent, polite, warm, loving, productive, responsible human beings, and I am proud to call them family.  Ok, done with the bragging.

I wanted to have Ferris meet some new people, (and dogs if possible) – so we made a trip to my brother Tim’s house.  Tim and Judy have six children (four still at home), and two fairly large dogs, which is the perfect setting for doing some socializing!

First I had to prepare for the trip.  I always have a large crate in the back of my vehicle for the dogs to safely travel in.  I packed up a collar and leash (even though I’ve admittedly not had him on a leash much yet), a travel crate small enough to carry into the house, a cooler for treats and dog food (he still eats three times a day), and a chew toy for the crate.  Now I know how people with babies feel trying to get out of the house while carrying a ton of stuff!!  Luckily he’s a good traveler and usually falls asleep quickly in the car.

My biggest concern was the fact that little Ferris is not reliably housebroken quite yet.  When we got there and I expressed my concern to both Tim and Judy their response was “Oh, that’s not a big deal, he can pee on the floor, we’ll just clean it up.”  Did I mention that my family is AMAZING?  I mean, seriously.

Tim and his family have done a great job raising their two dogs – Emmy and Dempsey.  Both dogs have stayed with me several times, and go to the dog park on a regular basis, and as a result know how to behave with other dogs.  Besides, Ferris is a “dog’s dog” kind of guy and I was predicting he’d be probably more comfortable with new dogs than with new people at this point anyway.

   Dempsey (on the left) and Emmy

Ferris doing his usual submissive dog greeting – GOOD BOY!

At first Dempsey wasn’t quite sure what to do. Emmy  was more interested in her toy.

I love how Emmy’s tail is “framing” Ferris          

He spent time playing with the dogs and meeting a few of his human “cousins” too. Here he is with Eva and George.

              

I gave everyone some treats, and we made a game of calling Ferris back and forth.  When he came to someone they offered him the treat, and either petted him or asked him to sit before giving it to him.  He is very food motivated, so it was a great way to get him comfortable with strangers.   I took him out into the yard several times to see if he would pee, without success.  To be fair, he was distracted (and it was rainy and chilly).  At one point he did end up peeing on the carpet (sheesh Ferris!)  We cleaned it up, he went into his travel crate for his lunch, and took a nap while we ate our lunch.  When he woke up from his nap we said our good-byes and headed home.

He had a BIG day out and was a tired little guy last night…

  

We’ve got places to go, and people to see!

 

I know it’s important to socialize Ferris while he’s still young.  Coming from a shelter environment with different care givers, and lots people coming in looking to adopt did provide a type of socializing, but puppies need to continue to be exposed to new people, dogs, and situations.

Puppies have a kind of window of opportunity for socializing that starts closing fairly rapidly by the time they are around 4 months old.  Unfortunately, that window overlaps with what is commonly known as a fear period, where seemingly uneventful (to us) negative, or frightening experiences can result in a lifelong phobia for a dog (fear of loud noises, fear of children or other dogs, etc.)  Add to that the fact that puppies don’t always have fully developed immune systems which makes them more susceptible to disease, and suddenly getting them out and about for socializing can become tricky to say the least.  It’s a bit of a balancing act – exposing him to new things, while keeping him safe, and making sure the experience is a positive one.

Fortunately Ferris already has good doggie social skills, and my other dogs will play a big part in continuing that part of his education.  My problem is I don’t tend to have a lot of visitors.  That can make socializing him with new people something I have to seek out.

I planned to enroll him in a puppy class.  It’s a fun way to socialize a pup with both new people and other dogs.  I was bummed to find out that the training club where I currently take my dogs for classes did not have any openings in their upcoming puppy class, so that’s out.  I’ll probably take him through basic obedience in the spring, but that won’t do me any good right now.

Last week we went to the vet for his post adoption exam.  Whenever I take in a new puppy I make sure the staff plays “pass the puppy”.  I hand the pup over to the receptionist and while I wait for my appointment she holds him, and then hands him off to one of the techs, who holds him and then hands him off to someone else and then someone else… until it’s time to go into the exam room.  We play “pass the puppy” on every visit until the vaccine boosters are finished, or the puppy is too big to pass around.  When Huck was a baby he loved “pass the puppy” and a few times ended up up fast asleep in someone’s arms by the time we were due in the exam room.  It’s great for socializing and also a positive experience at the vet’s office which is always a bonus!

This week Ferris met Griffin, my favorite grocery delivery guy, and Jose, my lawn guy.  He did great with both of them…so far so good.

This weekend we’ll drive out to my brother’s house for a visit.  He has a big family, so there are usually quite a few people around.   Even better, they are dog lovers, and have two dogs of their own.  That means Ferris will get to meet a couple of new dogs too!

Don’t let looks fool you – part 2

My last post left off with my decision not to adopt a puppy.  There was nothing wrong with the puppy, he was a nice little guy.  He was just not the right match for the pack at home.  Too active, too busy, and a little too confident, which is a concern with elderly tiny dogs in the house.

We were already at the shelter, and had driven an hour and a half to get to there, so I figured wandering around and checking out some of the other possibilities wouldn’t do any harm.

I had been looking at the shelter’s website off and on for several weeks, so I was sort of familiar with some of the other dogs and puppies.  I took my time, and walked past all of the kennels a few times making little notes in my head with each pass.   I finally settled on a litter of 3 puppies listed as medium (when full grown).  The breed description said Australian Cattle Dog Mix.

I recognized two of the pups from the website because their coloring and markings stood out.  One was white with orange speckling and a few large orange patches, the other white with black specking, and a few large black patches.  The third puppy didn’t look like the other two at all.   He was much smaller, scrawny, and brownish red, with just a little white speckling on his feet.

I was attracted to the looks of the orange speckled guy, but after watching them for a few minutes it became obvious that he was a bit too pushy.  I love watching litter mates interact.  It can give you valuable information about their personalities – bossy, confident, fearful, submissive, or just kind of middle of the road.  The two bigger speckled puppies were clamoring at the front of the kennel wanting attention, shoving the little plain guy out of the way.  He took it all in stride, wagging his tail and looking for an opening to come back up to the front between his much bigger brothers.

He was one of those dogs that’s easy to miss, because he was, well… kind of plain.  I found a volunteer to help us and asked if we could spend some time with the little brown scrawny guy.

The volunteer brought him out, and set him in the visiting pen with us.   He started checking everything out, just like the other puppy had, but his energy was completely different.  MUCH calmer.  He was more interested in engaging with us, and when I picked him up, he completely relaxed in my arms, uttered few puppy grunts, and snuggled into my chest.  He did not struggle to get down or squirm.  When I set him down on the floor and tossed a toy, he ran over and pounced on it, but lost interest in the toy when my friend Diane called him over to her.  I asked her to pick him up, and sure enough he melted into her arms just like he’d done with me.  BINGO!

In roughly the same amount of time it took to realize that the first puppy was not going to work out, I knew this guy was my new dog.

That’s how Ferris came into the pack, two weeks ago.  When we got home I put him into a crate in the family room and let all of the other dogs out.  They realized immediately there was someone new in the house, and all swarmed around the crate sniffing and peering in at the puppy.  I should mention that I do new dog introductions quite differently.  I wouldn’t suggest it to most people, but for some reason it works for me.  It kind of evolved during all those years having foster dogs coming and going, and eventually became my preferred method.

I don’t do the typical on-leash, one dog at a time introductions.  I have used that method on occasion, but only with bigger adult dogs.  I’ve found it isn’t necessary with the little dogs, particularly when introducing a puppy.  That’s part of the reason I make sure I pick a puppy or dog with good energy.  That may sound a bit weird, but it’s the only way I can describe it.  Ultimately I think my method works for me because I know my dogs, I trust my dogs, and they trust me.  As long as I’ve got my handy-dandy spray bottle ready to remind anyone who may need to back off a bit with a little spray of water, I’m good to go.

Once everyone was together in the family room, I opened the crate.  Often when this happens the new dog shrinks into the back of the crate completely overwhelmed by the sheer number of noses poking at them, and I have to remind the pack to give them some room.   Not this time!  Ferris happily bounded out smack into the middle of the pack and much to my surprise started greeting each dog.  This was going even better than I hoped.  He behaved perfectly – he was submissive to the other dogs without being fearful, and seemed really happy to be among other dogs.  He fit in instantly.  His calm, sweet energy was obvious to the rest of the dogs and they all accepted him right away.  I couldn’t have been more thrilled.  It’s only been a few weeks, but so far he has continued to be an all around great little guy in pretty much every way.  He loves the other dogs, and he likes people too.  Every time someone holds him, he does the melting thing, while beating them with his wagging tail.

So, don’t let looks fool you! This plain, brown, scrawny puppy turned out to be PURE gold!

    Ferris

Stay tuned for puppy updates.  I am letting the pack raise Ferris, just like I did with Huck.  So far they’re doing a stellar job.

Don’t let looks fool you – part 1

A few weeks ago,  I took a friend with me to look at a puppy.  I know what you’re thinking.  Another dog, and a PUPPY!?  Is she crazy??   Well, yes of course I am.  I thought that was pretty much a given by now.  Besides, October is “Adopt a Shelter Pet Month” need I say more?

The puppy I was considering was an 8 week old male Chihuahua mix, supposedly with Australian Shepherd(?).  Seems a little unlikely, but hey who knows.  In the picture on the website it was hard to tell his size, but he was listed as small.  FYI – with dogs generally small means the predicted adult weight will be under 25 lbs.  For a dog listed as medium the predicted adult weight will be between 30 – 50,  and large will be typically over 50 lbs.

I say generally, because when you’re dealing with mixed breed dogs it can kind of all be a crap shoot anyway, and the size categories do overlap somewhat.  For example, when Rex and Nemo were puppies, each was listed as medium.   As adults – Nemo weighs 35 lbs. and Rex weighs 55 lbs.  Nemo was right on the money, Rex on the other hand, is on the bigger end of medium.  Like I said, when you’re dealing with mixed breeds it’s usually a guess.  Fortunately even if neither the mom or dad’s breed heritage is actually known, most vets and experienced dog people can “guesstimate” how big a puppy will get based on the weight of the puppy at around 8 weeks, paw size, and a few other factors.  Once a puppy is a little bit older a pretty good general rule of thumb is to double the weight at 4 months to approximate their adult weight.

     Nemo & Rex

So, back to the little guy.   He was from a litter of 3 puppies.  Everyone knows with mixed breed dogs it can be really hard to tell exactly what you’re getting, but I think it’s kind of fun to try guess based on their physical appearance and markings.  He was mostly black with tan and white markings and had longish droopy ears that made me think perhaps he had some Beagle in him.  I noticed that from the photos on the website that, other than size, he didn’t look anything like his two sisters who were mostly white and had smallish folded ears.  I thought the girls looked more like Jack Russell terriers than Chihuahuas.  In the end all that mattered was he would be on the small side and had a sweet face.  I assumed maybe he had a different dad than his sisters.

Sorry for the interruption, but it’s time for a quick biology lesson – a female dog ovulates over a period of several days, releasing a few eggs at a time.  If she mates with more than one male dog there can be puppies with different dads in the same litter.  Weird right?   It is not at all unusual for there to be more than one father in random mixed breed, unplanned litters.  Again, sorry for the interruption, now back to our story.

We arrived at the shelter shortly after they opened and I handed over the application paperwork on the little guy.  The shelter volunteer brought the puppy out to the visiting pen where we sitting on the floor and set him down.  He was of course cute (I mean we’re talking about a puppy), but a little bigger than I had expected, considering he was supposed to be a Chihuahua mix.  Hmmmm, maybe there was something to the “part Aussie” thing after all.

I should mention that when I’m evaluating a puppy in a shelter environment, I always watch to see how they react to all of the commotion going on around us.  Shelters can be loud and chaotic, but most of the time puppies are pretty adaptable, and if they’ve been in the shelter for several days they typically adjust (I know this because I’ve worked in shelters).  When I meet a puppy I understand if they are bit hesitant or overwhelmed at first, but I would find it a bit worrisome if they seemed completely shut down.  That was far from a concern with his guy!  He was happy, wiggly and outgoing.  He pounced on the toys that the volunteer brought over and ran around the pen interested in everything going on around us.

This may surprise you, but it took about 30 seconds for me to decide that I was probably going to take a pass on him.  Then I thought, to be fair I shouldn’t be so quick to judge, and decided to spend a few more minutes with him before I made up my mind.

He never stopped moving, and was a little too busy and overly distracted by everything going on around us.  He didn’t really notice or acknowledge us.  When I attempted to interact with him, he was more interested in watching the people playing with a puppy in the pen next to us.  Eventually I got his attention and he gave me a big puppy smile and wagged his tail, but a split second later ran over to watch a volunteer who was mopping the floor in another pen.  When I picked him up he wiggled and squirmed, and when I set him down, as soon as his feet touched the floor he was off and running again.  NOPE.   Waaaay too much energy for me.   He was a bit overly confident for my liking too, which is great for a family with some kids to run around and play with, or someone who wants an agility dog, but not great for a house with several crotchety senior Chihuahuas who are going deaf and blind.  I told the volunteer I was going to pass on the little dude, and walk around and look at some of the other dogs and puppies that had caught my eye on the website earlier in the week.  More to come soon…