25 November 2010

Fun with doggie - Games and Toys

Doggies are a lot like children. They like to play and have a lot of fun. Aschiuta is the perfect example for this. Ever since she was a small puppy, she has been very energetic and growing older hasn't changed that at all.


Since I said dogs love to play, I should also add that they really like toys, just like children do. A new toy is always a reason of joy. That could also mean that your dog might get bored of old toys. So, here is where you need to outsmart them: make old toys seem new again. Invent new games to be played with them or rotate toys. You will have a happy dog if you do that.

There are many toys for dogs on sale, such as ropes, rubber chew toys, "pinatas" with food inside, balls, frisbees and tug toys. Of course, if you don't have a lot of money, there are always alternatives to the shop offers.

For chewing, we use a lot of harmless and even nutritious things. Check out the post on chewing for more info on what we give our dog to chew on.In short, Aschiuta has several socks, shoelaces, a rubber toy that squeaks and a rope as toys. For eating, we give her carrots, cowhide bones (used to, but not anymore), beef meat on the bone (watching so she doesn't eat the actual bone, it's dangerous).

The rope, shoelaces and socks are also used for games like tug-of-war and to make the doggie jump up to catch them from our hands.

And of course, the favourite toy of all is the tennis ball. She loves to play catch with it. We are currently at our second tennis ball, since the first one disintegrated after being chewed and played with a bit too much. All the balls before (made of foam primarily) disintegrated even faster, so we thought a more solid ball would be in order.

Aschiuta with her tennis ball


Now, toys wouldn't be too interesting if they weren't played with. The topic of games is really vast and dogs can be taught to play quite a number of games.

First of all, there are games that need no toys. They are as simple as running around with your dog, chasing it or letting it chase you. Scorp's mom told me that when he was little, their dog taught him to play tag.
Aschiuta also loves to run and we've lately found out the best way of getting her back in the room after she dashes out: run away from her and let her chase us inside. It is also a good way to catch a dog that is trying to run off on its own. If you run after the dog, it will think you want to play chase and it will just run away from you.

Another game to play without toys is wrestling. I wouldn't recommend this game to just anyone, since dogs have teeth and claws and use them when they play. But it can be good fun for both you and your dog.

Now, for games with toys...

The most popular game to play with your dog is fetch. You throw an object (such as a ball or frisbee) and the dog has to catch it and bring it back. This practice is also closely related to hunting with a dog, as hunting dogs are trained to fetch the game the master kills.

Notice the concentrated look... She means business!

It is also important to teach your dog to bring things to you, to save you time and energy running after it to get them back when your little pet turns into a little thief.

Aschiuta learned to play fetch all on her own. It's one of the mysteries of the dog's mind. Maybe she just wanted to keep playing and understood that, for the ball to be thrown again, she'd have to bring it back to us. She also brings us toys when she wants us to play with her; it can be really hard to do any work when she does.
Here is my home-made video of Aschiuta as a puppy playing with us. Enjoy.

Tug-of-war is also a popular game and lots of toys have been invented for this purpose. We use the socks, shoelaces and rope. She will grab hard on one end and skid on the slippery wooden floor, but she really wouldn't give up easily. If we don't play with her, she starts mopping the floor with the poor sock.

These are just a few of the most well-known games to play with your dog. The rules of playing are simple: be creative, have fun and stay safe. You can act silly for your dog, jump around and behave like a little kid - your dog will love it!


Yes, you play with your dog, but you can also let your dog play with other people or even other dogs (careful about fights, possible diseases or dogs in heat). Let your dog socialise and play; it's good fun for dogs to make friends. Aschiuta would want to play with every person or dog we meet.

The game environment

One more thing to add here is that where you play a game can also be quite important. For example, Aschiuta loves grass and simply going out in general. She feels free and loves to run - she is almost unstoppable in the grass. We went to Brasov (a city close to the mountains) and she went really wild there.

Exploring the great outdoors

All in all, go ahead and play with your dog. You will most likely both enjoy it.

24 November 2010

Girls just wanna have fun

Ever wondered what your dog is thinking? They can't say much, but their actions say it all.

The idea of this post: an interpretation of some of the things Aschiuta does sometimes, plus some matching lyrics. It's all for laughing purposes and I'm pretty sure none of it is true... or is it? Only the dogs know.

I am beautiful in every single way...

She passes by the mirror before going out, looking to see if her fur is ok and if the harness looks good. She smiles, "Yes, I am that pretty!"

Posing with her ears turned inside-out.

"Can I borrow your make-up?" Aschiuta often steals my eyeliners or mom's make-up, even if we've all been trying to tell her to just go natural.

"I would like my manicure, er... pedicure done please." One of her favourite things to chew on is my nail file. She also sharpens her claws... on us.

Diamonds are a girl's best friend...

"I really think this jewelery brings out the colour of my eyes." Indeed, she loves my jewelery. She even broke one of my jewelery boxes to get to the shinies inside.

We've created us a credit card mess
We spend the money that we don't possess
"I simply don't trust banks with my money! Well, I wouldn't trust them even if I did have any money." On several occasions, Aschiuta has left puddles in front of banks.

I'm a model you know what I mean
And I do my little turn on the catwalk

"Oh, darling, I just had this awesome jacket/dress/top tailored for me by the best fashion designer in town!" I made Aschiuta a little jacket for the colder weather because I saw her trembling when we went out in the cold. Scorp told me that while I was away, she wouldn't want to take it off.

All the women who are independent
Throw your hands up at me

"Yes, I am sure that males are no better than females! And I am eager to get my point across." Our little doggie is a feminist... But instead of burning bras, she's trying to chew them to shreds. Mine, of course, who else's?

She'll redecorate your home, from the cellar to the dome... 

"This colour is so last year! And that couch is atrocious! Just let me make it pretty for you." She chews on the door frame, couches, tables and tries to dig at the floor. I'm thinking she doesn't like the way our room looks...

Your table manners are some cryin' shame
You're playin' with your food, this ain't some kind of game

"Are you gonna eat that?" Aschiuta would eat anything she finds yummy, even if she's full. She stays and waits for us to give her something while we are eating and if we leave her unattended, she will just steal it.

When we give her kibble, she hunts down every piece and "kills it" before gulping it down.

No, don't leave me
Please don't leave me no no no

"Don't leave me all alone..." Whenever we leave her out on the balcony or close the door behind us to leave, she has the saddest look on her eyes. She is scared of being alone. Most of the times, we find a big mess to remind us of that.

I'll be there for you, like I've been there before.
I'll be there for you, cause you're there for me too.

"It's so good to see you! How was your day? Here, let me take your coat." No matter where you've been, no matter how you smell, when you come back home, your dog will hug you and lick your face and be all over you. Aschiuta is no exception. She literally wags her whole butt along with the tail and she makes her sweetest face, ears close to the back of the head. She really is happy to see us again.
A foxtrot above my head,
A sock-hop beneath my bed...

"Hey, play with me? Will you, will you?" This doggie is like a tornado sometimes. She jumps, runs and wants to meet and play with every person or dog we meet.

I was gonna pull right over and stop but I was high

"Grass is the new weed, dude!" Aschiuta loves her grass... A lot. She runs in it, rolls in it, jumps in it and sometimes even chomps it. Yes, grass is great for doggies. Just beware of hidden dangers. We know, we've been there... She ran right over some broken glass and cut her paw. But that really couldn't stop her from running some more.

Got grass?

So, here it is... a little sneak peek into the mind of a little dog.

21 November 2010

On the streets

If you live in a "wilder" neighbourhood, where stray dogs are left alone to roam the garbage and sleep under cars, you must be familiar with the image I'm about to describe.

Taxi - "Comunitaru' ( = The Stray)": this video is actually a satire directed at Romanian politicians and their obsession (at the time the video was made) with stray dogs, when the country has more pressing problems... But don't look too deep beneath the surface, enjoy the video.

I live in a neighbourhood with an especially bad reputation for being dirty and full of pick-pockets and stray dogs. Also, there is a huge parking lot between the buildings, so the local dogs have claimed the place as their own. Their favourite spots: under the cars, next to a small playground, in one of the small gardens around the blocks. One of them has been accepted at the entrance of a block Literally, they have gathered in packs and conquered the place.

Life of a stray dog

The "local dogs" are dirty and full of fleas, some of them have a hurt paw or missing a part of their tail.

Food can be hard to come by, especially with no garbage bins around, but there is enough garbage all around the place to rummage in. For the luckier ones, there is somebody who comes and feeds them and leaves them water.

A stray puppy my parents met on a trip to the mountains

Shelter from the rain isn't hard to find, there are cars to crawl under and roofed entrances to sit on. But the summer heat and the cold and the wind aren't as easy to avoid.

Surprisingly enough, they survive and some of them look almost well-fed.

The pack

As I've said before, the dogs around here gather in packs and are very territorial. People passing by are usually no problem (unless they smell suspicious) and if they have food, they are more than welcome. However, other dogs outside the pack are treated with hostility. They bark at the new dogs, warning that they are getting too close to the pack's territory. They can even get aggressive and try to chase away or bite the intruders.

We sometimes have problems like that, especially from big packs. Groups of two or three will rarely get out of their area, but sit put and bark at Aschiuta. The larger groups however often tend to be very hostile. To avoid any problems, we pick Aschiuta up for protection and maybe even chase the strays away. They have nothing against humans and if you show them some authority, they will back off.

The warning barking can be a bit annoying. Once a dog starts barking, the others that hear it will follow suit. It ends up as a loud concert that will most likely disturb the neighbours...

A little bit of "awww..."

When walking around the parking lot with Aschiuta, we sometimes meet a stray dog alone and then the two dogs can socialise and sniff each other and maybe even play. Aschiuta loves to play. She even tries to go and get friendly with dogs that would most likely bite her if she got too close.

This is how we met some of the local friendly dogs. First, there were the black dog at the other block and a small puppy (maybe related to the big dog). I think the pup got adopted by a child and his family, because I haven't seen it in a long while. The big dog is very friendly and played quite a bit with Aschiuta. He even tried to make advances, but we wouldn't let him, so he hasn't tried again.

Another adorable puppy strayed into the mini pack at the playground. We called her Codita ( = Little tail) because her tail had been cut off. She still wagged her little butt every time we met and acted a lot like Aschiuta. They always played together and became friends. One time, another bigger dog from the pack came and let the little ones sniff and jump around. I had some treats to train Aschiuta and divided them among the three of them. The older dog didn't even touch his share. Later on, Scorp told me that maybe he was leaving it for the puppy. Dogs can really care for their own. After a while, though, we couldn't find Codita at her old spot anymore... I hope she is still ok, maybe someone took her in their home.

Yesterday, as Aschiuta and I were going out for a walk, we had a little puppy following us. Of course, Aschiuta tried to make friends and the puppy was sniffing her happily too. Some passers-by were afraid that, being a bigger dog, Aschiuta would hurt the little one, so I left, to avoid an argument. Soon enough, I could see a man pick up the pup and try to convince people to adopt it.

I'm glad to see that a lot of the people living here are fond of dogs and look out for the strays. Some people though comment that feeding the stray dogs will only encourage them to stay around and make a mess...

Mihai Constantinescu - Iubiti si cainii vagabonzi ( = Love stray dogs too): I couldn't help posting this video... I'm sure a lot of the Romanians reading this will find the song nostalgic. I'm sorry for the audio quality, but this is the only video with actual pictures of stray dogs.

And finally, we couldn't forget our most personal stray story, because before the lively, happy and well-fed doggie that she is now, she once was a hungry puppy on the streets.

This is why I say to everyone, don't invest into "cute slavery"; a dog is not just a pedigree, it's a little soul with a lot of love to give. So if you want to get a dog and are ready to be responsible for it, look on the streets first. There must be one to warm your heart.

This is the story of our neighbourhood strays... They survive how they can and stick together no matter what.


Disclaimer: The videos shown here are the property of their respective owners.

17 November 2010

When the cat's away...

... the mice get separation anxiety.

This post doesn't deal with cats and mice, but with people and their pet dogs. In a past article, To chew or not to chew..., I discussed some of the chewing habits of dogs. One cause that I failed to mention then was owners leaving their dogs home alone. It is a real emotional problem for the dog, who feels abandoned and forgotten. You know how little kids cry on their first day of kindergarten "I want my mommy!"? Your dog would say the same thing when you leave it all alone.

I would also like to link to an article in the Dog Training Classroom, where you can find more details about this issue.

Why is the dog anxious?

Like I've said before, all dogs have different personalities and some might simply be prone to anxiety and insecurity. We can also mention trauma... A dog that has been abandoned once by its pack will be afraid you will do the same, even if you're only leaving to get groceries.

How does this anxiety manifest?

In short, the dog will cling to you when you leave or come back. While you're away, don't be surprised if your dog starts stealing and destroying your things. Most "potty accidents" happen when the dog is left on its own.

Scorp and I also have this problem with Aschiuta. He goes to work almost every day and I stay at home most of the time. When he leaves, she is upset, but not too much, because I'm still around. But when I leave too, it's the end of the world for doggie. We often find things chewed and spread all over the floor and the bed. She chews anything that she can reach: some toys in a shelf, my jewelery, newspapers and lately even a book.

We usually leave her on the balcony, because there are less things to chew on and it's easy to clean if she makes a mess. But one evening, when it was colder, I asked my mom to open the door for her and let her inside. When we came back, disaster... and she hadn't soiled the room's floor for a long while. It seems that the poor dog had a double shock. First we leave the house, then my mom lets her in, only to leave her alone as well.

I still often worry when I leave her alone in the room... This separation anxiety seems to work both ways.

What can be done?

The site I linked to gives a number of ideas and tricks to make it easier for your dog to cope with separation. Mainly, your dog needs to know that you will come back every time.

"Where are you going?"

Don't make a big fuss about leaving and coming back. Aschiuta is all over us when we come home and it's really hard to ignore her, but it has to be done. Also, to get the dog used to the idea of coming and going, do it often and for short periods of time as a training session.

"She is such a good doggie when she's sleeping!" we often say. A tired dog has less energy to destroy things and is likely to nap while you are gone. Playing or walking will help get your dog tired and also in a better mood.

All in all, I hope this little article will help you have a happier dog. I will also try and see how Aschiuta will fare. And remember, patience is the way to go.

15 November 2010

The Vet

We all go to the doctor when something's wrong with us. Some of us go just to check that nothing is wrong with us. What will a dog do when it's not feeling so well? Someone will have to take it to the vet instead.


We took our dog off the streets, so she was full of fleas and ticks and maybe internal parasites. Her fur was rare because of all the scratching. So, the second day after we adopted her, we took her to a nearby vet. After a general check-up, our doggie got herself a couple of drops on the back of her neck of a parasite repellent. She was also given a quarter of a pill for internal parasites. The amount of pill given is proportional to the dog's weight.

We went home and over the next couple of days, the fleas and ticks started either dying or falling off, dizzy. Soon, they weren't bothering her anymore and she was free of all of them. The little pill worked too, but only the second time she got it. She eliminated a 7cm long worm. Needless to say, we were happy she was feeling better without all the "colonists".
Tummy problems
When we got the puppy, her tummy was pretty upset and the vet told us to feed her chicken soup with rice and vegetables. She loved it and it worked wonders. We are still feeding her the same thing today and she can't get enough of it.

I've read that dogs can get bloated if they eat too fast or drink a lot of water all at once while eating. Aschiuta's tummy was exceptionally big and the vet was also worried about bloating. We didn't really know how to cure it, but luckily it solved itself in a short time. It is however useful to know how to burp your dog, like one would a baby.

Bloated belly

Scratching and skin problems

The external parasites were gone, but somehow, her fur came off by the handful and she kept scratching all day long (and when she woke up at night). In addition to these issues, she came up with a kind of rash on most of her skin. We were worried it could have been mange. The vet couldn't have told us what it was without some lab tests. We didn't have a lot of money, but we did the mange exam and it was negative.
More confused than before, we kept going to the vet every day and the poor dog was given a lot of shots. She ended up being terrified of the vet's examination table. The vet also suggested baths with sulfur soap and rinsing with apple vinegar. We still use the soap for her baths today, but we don't give her baths as often as then.

After a few days of no change, the vet suggested to change the dog food (we were giving her cheap kibble from Pedigree at the time). Amazingly enough, that was the problem. She got better soon and after a few more days, the rash was gone and the hair wasn't falling anymore. Also, the painful scratches were only a memory. The vet was impressed.
We never bought her that brand of kibble again and now we know that what food we give to the dog is important to its health.


After we had a healthy dog, we could finally get her vaccinated. We did the standard vaccines for a puppy and she was finally able to get out of the house without needing to get carried. It was a relief, since she was getting bigger and heavier...

More accidents and vet visits in a later post... My best advice to you is to contact your vet as soon as you sense a problem with your pet. You should also go for a check up every now and then... The most qualified person who can tell you if your pet is healthy or not is a good vet.

10 November 2010

To chew or not to chew...

Sock thief in the news. Click to enlarge.

"Come back with that sock!" "Stop chewing on the wires!" "Oh, no, not my favourite earrings!"
If you're a dog owner, you're probably used to saying things like these.

I myself, as the proud owner of a crazy sock thief, say them all day long.

But what drives doggies to steal and chew and make a mess?

Usually, it's boredom. A dog will steal things and play with them. Your brand-new cell phone is just another fun toy for it. Ever noticed the "Wow, look what I found! Great toy!" look on your dog's face, even when you are absolutely furious at having your best and most expensive things chewed on?

We also have the case of itchy gums. Puppies change their teeth when they are about 3 months old and all the process will drive your doggie crazy. They can't help trying to chew on your sofa trying to relieve the itch.

Yes, I've seen them both. I'm also keeping the teeth I could find in a small box, along with bite marks on the legs and corners of tables and sofas. Needles to say, she still likes her lumber, as her name suggests. Old habits die hard.

What can be done about these habits?

Give your dog chew toys, go out and exercise and keep the temptations out of sight. It really helps to play with your dog to calm it down when it gets overexcited and rebellious.

Experts say that discipline is crucial. When your dog is chewing on something it shouldn't, firmly say the usual restrictive word (I use "no") and give them a suitable alternative. Be creative.

For instance, Scorp gave our doggie an old sock (and now she loves all socks) and old shoelaces. We also have a thick rope with rubber handles from the pet store. However, if you use cloth or rope, be careful of falling threads - they aren't so good on the stomach. Another fun toy she has is an old rubber toy with an air valve that makes it squeak when you squeeze it. All are good for chewing.

If you want edible chew material, pet stores offer "cowhide bones". We have also heard that you can feed your dog raw bones (particularly beef), but you must be careful; if the bone proves too brittle, it's better to take it away. One good idea I found while browsing the internet was giving your dog a carrot instead of a bone. Aschiuta really likes them.

Is chewing good for anything?

The answer is yes. Chewing is the best way for your dog to clean its teeth. You can't expect a dog to start flossing or brush their teeth to remove plaque and bacteria.

On another note, take into consideration how dangerous chewing some things can be for your dog. Mine tried all materials and all objects, from wood to concrete and from socks to jewelery. It's not just your things that have to suffer, it could be the dog too. Check for toxic substances and sharp or brittle objects and don't hesitate to contact your vet if your dog has health issues.

So the answer is to chew... on the right stuff.

8 November 2010

A new home

Adopting is quite a tough stage, both for the home owners and the new resident. It takes time to get used to new surroundings and new people.
Imagine the world through your brand new pet's eyes. All the new smells and the strange places and most importantly, those big people you haven't known from your pack.
If you're a brave little one, you'll sniff and paw at every nook and cranny, and maybe try to make it a little more like home... With a little sprinkle here and there, if you're "the man of the house". You will try to make friends with the people and animals around you, because you kind of feel that they will be the ones giving you shelter and food from now on.

But you can also be shy and maybe even a little ill and all of those things will frighten you into a corner. Yes, it takes time to gain one another's trust.

Now back to the human world... How do you welcome a new pet into your home? Don't frighten it with a lot of excitement and noise. Food is always a good peace offering, especially if your new friend has been living on the streets. And of course, water is very important too. Give your little companion a home within your home: a small bed in a corner.

You probably don't think about it at first, but your new pet will be like a baby at first. It will want to get in every corner and investigate, it might start chewing on your expensive sofa or the wiring. We've all heard of baby-proofing your house. Pets need a similar amount of protection, with some differences: they usually already know how to walk and jump and most likely already have teeth that can cause a lot of damage.

It would be easy to restrict their access to a small area at first. Many will recommend baby gates or large boxes. Minimise the number of things on the floor and the access to dangerous or valuable items, including wires. Also, it would be good if the floor were easy to clean or hard to stain... Nobody is born potty-trained and accidents can happen a lot at first. You need quite a bit of patience and creativity. And hope that they will learn with time.

All in all, that is what a new pet owner can do to welcome their new family member. Oh, yes, another thing... Lots of caring and discipline. And an infinite amount of patience.

Home Sweet Home

3 November 2010

Lost and found?

Is there a doggie in the house?

So, once upon a time last summer, Scorp and I went out to town for a couple of beers. The "pub" was an improvisation with lots of plastic tables and chairs, a few TV screens and a grill bar. One of the big soccer championships was on at the time. After the match was over, most of the people went home or off to some more drinking, but we stayed a little longer for some snacks and a few games of cards.

Out of nowhere, we get a furry little visitor, dirty brown fur and sparkly eyes. It had been drawn by the smell of food and people gave it a few scraps from their plates.

"Would you like to have a little dog?" I was both happy and reluctant when I heard the question. A dog isn't a toy, it's pretty high maintenance and we weren't too rich at the time (needless to say we aren't too well-off now either). My parents used to be quite against having a pet in an apartment.
But the cute beggar eyes won and we headed home with the puppy in a jacket. The cab ride was quite an adventure too - the poor pup was car sick and made a big mess, but the driver was very understanding. Not a lot of those these days...

Back home, we made a little bed for our new guest with a small carton box and some old clothes, but it kept waking up and moving about, still feeling sick. The next morning was a huge headache and I was left alone to deal with the toddler. It was full of fleas and ticks and not quite used to the new place.

After a couple of baths and visits to the vet, we finally had a parasite-free dog. We even got a health certificate for our new puppy girl. But the problems hadn't been over yet...

I will tell you more about it later on.

2 November 2010

The first little post

Here I am, at the first post of my very own blog. It's as if I am standing in a new doorway, cautiously peering outside, sniffing the new air and gathering my courage to "think possibilities".

Maybe I should introduce myself. I am a curious little creature, still young enough to get "school starting" nervousness every autumn, but trying to take a leap into the real world all the same.

Notice the dumb dorky look.

All in all, I've recently finished University and I'm trying hard to get a job, while most jobs are trying hard to run away from me. If only humour and dreams paid better...

I'm usually a spectator in the big theatre of life; it's better to stand aside and watch (and maybe poke some fun too), rather than be the main character making a fool of themselves in public. Talk about stage fright.

I like to read and write and often one triggers the other. I specialise in poetry with a lot of imagery but poor metrics. Music is also a great delight, if it's good; if you stop by, you might hear me singing in the kitchen.

Which brings me to the household activities... Notice the title of the blog - isn't it intriguing? The potato chips are a frequent visitor of the table at any meal and with any "side dish", steak, spitz, sausages... You would argue that I'm not much of a cook. I would reply that money and a meat'n'patooties loving fiance won't really let me expand my cooking horizons.

And then, there's the "pawprints" issue... We have a little dog named Aschiuta who has a few major activities: eating, sleeping, doing "business" and playing. And I mean serious playing. This doggie has the energy of a firework show on New Year's Eve. She will come bother you with toys and jump on you and bite you, if only you'll play with her. She's adorable in her own destructive way.

And I suppose that would be all for a first post. Now to get someone to read it :D