Friday, November 28, 2008

Thoughts on Barack Obama's Cabinet

I'm feeling very thankful today for all my friends! Happy belated Thanksgiving, y'alls!

With President-elect Obama making appointments to his Cabinet, I decided to put in my 2 cents about who should be in President-Elect Obama's crate, I mean, Cabinet. I know some of these positions are probably already filled, but I thought maybe if there were any undecideds or if they needed some backup appointees, he'd have some waiting in the paws: 

State - George - He lives in the UK, has an Italian girlfriend, is multilingual (sort of), who else is more qualified? And check out his Kiss Kiss video. 
Treasury - Wimsey, especially his November 14 post.
Defense/Homeland Security - ME, Biggie-Z the Kuvasz (who else? I can handle both Cabinet posts at the same time)
Attorney General - Amber because she is probably the best behaved of all of us since she actually listens to the RoolZ
Interior - Ace, for all the natural interior territory he covers in all his runs
Labor - Lora (honorary dog, for all the WORK she puts into all her dogs)
Health and Human (and Dog) Services - 4Bs and Chloe (just look at the last month's posts!!)
Housing and Urban Development - Petey, because he is a city dog if every there was one. 
Transportation - Ruby (duh, of course!) 
Energy - Pacco (she has enough to solve the energy crisis without having to drill in Alaska)
Education - Nanook - for all his work at the library teaching kids to read and for being such a big brudder to Pooka
Veterans Affairs - Peanut and Flash - so they can make sure their dad is always taken care of

and even though this is not technically a Cabinet-Crate appointment, I think Wally should be Barker of the (Dog)House, since he has been Barking for Barack all this time. 

Have a great Thanksgiving weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


NEWS FLASH: I just found out that a facebook page for a breeder that is selling kuvasz puppies in another country took - as in STOLE - puppy pictures of Biggie that were posted on this blog. (I am not linking to it for obvious reasons.)

Apparently the Spanish text under BIGGIE'S PICTURES says something along the lines of "Me and my brothers are for sale, $700."

Biggie is not for sale. None of Biggie's brothers is for sale. This breeder is in no way associated with me or with Biggie's breeder or any of the kuvasz breeders or owners I know.

Hey, breeder from South America: I've reported you to facebook for copyright violations because yes, you have violated US copyright laws by pulling hi-res pictures of Biggie from this blog and reposting them as your own on facebook. I've been to your website and thankfully you don't have any pictures of Biggie on your kennel/breeder website. But you have hundreds of pictures of kuvasz that seem to be bred from your kennel on that site. Wouldn't it have been easier and MORE HONEST (not to mention legal) to post pictures of your own dogs on your facebook page instead of pulling pictures of puppy Biggie?

I suppose we should be flattered that Biggie is so much cuter than any of the puppies actually bred from this kennel. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right? I had been working on a post about finding a good breeder and telling the difference between good breeders and unscrupulous ones, and I guess I can now add another characteristic to the "unscrupulous breeder" column: STOLEN WEB CONTENT.

I have from time to time gotten emails and comments from people who want to re-post pictures from this blog onto their blogs or for other not-for-profit uses. I have always said yes in the past, and I'm generally inclined to say yes because I think this is a terrific dog breed and they deserve more visibility. But people, y'all need to ASK first.

Though if you want to use any of these pictures for any for-profit use, let me save you some time and effort: the answer is NO.
UPDATE: Facebook removed the page. Thanks, facebook!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Dog Park RoolZ and RegoolashunZ

While I am at camp, I thought I would have Momma do a post about polite rules for the dog park because my BrrMont dog park may be opening up soon (!!!!) and because she and some of her friends (both real life and dogblog) have had some interesting WTF incidents lately.

Meanwhile I will work on some more haikuvasz as I contemplate the great outdoors here at camp.
The basic rules at any public NYC dog park: 

  • Dogs may not be left unattended.
  • The dog run is NOT a playground. Children under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult and should be closely supervised.
  • Entry and use of the dog run is at your own risk.
  • Skateboards, bicycles, scooters and strollers must be left outside the dog run.
  • Clean up after your dog. Animal waste must be promptly removed and properly disposed of.
  • Dogs must be licensed and have all shots and tags.
  • Not Permitted
    --Spike or Pinch Collars
    --Aggressive Dogs
    --Female dogs in heat
    --Food and glass bottles

The private runs in the city - where you pay an annual fee and provide proof of vaccinations and a dog license in exchange for a key to the run - are usually a little cleaner and well-maintained. The one we use, for example, has a little rain shelter, some tables, chairs and benches, more trees, and two hoses). They can sometimes be a little more restrictive, too - again, requiring proof of license and shots, though the public runs sometimes get spot-checked by NYC Parks people. 

But in both private and public runs, there are strange, STRANGE dog owners and dysfunctional, poorly socialized dogs. WTFs abound. Here are some additional unspoken rules/thoughts we wish people would keep in mind at the dog run: 

Monitor your dog's activity.
If you're reading the paper or talking on the phone, chances are you won't see your dog going poop (or eating poop, or stepping in poop) off on the other side of the run. You also won't see if your dog's being aggressive to another dog, jumping on people or getting pushed around by another dog. Rough play can quickly cross the line to aggression, and being a strong leader for your dog means being able to intervene immediately whether your dog is the victim or the aggressor. Also, if you have a dog who tends to run into people, you owe to the other dog owners to at least give a holler if your dog is careening into them from behind. No one likes being knocked over by a dog. 

Learn to read dog body language
Dogs have a huge range of vocal and non-vocal communication. I studied animal behavior in graduate school, so I love watching dogs at play and trying to figure out what they're saying to each other - but you don't need an advanced degree to follow basic dog body language. Before an incident the dogs are usually exchanging a series of escalating signals, and a lot of incidents could be avoided if the humans had noticed these signals earlier. Tail Talk is a great book that shows you what to look for in clear pictures of puppies and adults of many breeds. 

Socialize your dog / Let your dog socialize
If your dog has issues around people or other dogs, you might want to work up to the dog run slowly rather than dragging a fearful dog in. Walk him around the outside and let him see the dogs playing, and let him sniff a little first, if your dog is not comfortable going into the run. Or start by going when the run only has 1 or 2 other friendly dogs in it. By the same token, DON'T keep your dog leashed in the run (unless he's on a time out) and DON'T carry your dog in the run. Many dogs are more fearful when they're on a leash. If you carry a dog in over other dogs' heads, some of them perceive that as a dominant gesture, and they will jump up on you and the dog. 

Another pet peeve of mine is when dog owners come in and sit on a bench and make their dogs sit next to them or on their laps and don't let them play. Again, this seems to happen a lot with the little dogs, and it teaches little dogs to be afraid of bigger dogs. Let your dog meet, greet, sniff and play with dogs of all sizes - big dogs will learn to be careful where they put their paws, and little ones will learn how to play. Confident little pups know just how to let everyone know they're there!

Size isn't everything
See above - it drives me nuts when I come into the run and some wee dog owners pick up their little purse pooches and huffily walk out of the run. They never even give Biggie a chance to show how gentle he is with little dogs! Sometimes age and energy level are a better guide to how your dogs will get along, and sometimes some dogs just hit it off while others don't. And even so, sometimes some dogs will not get along the first time they meet, and then fall in love the second or third time. You can't always force it, and you can't always generalize by breed (unless your dog had a really bad experience with a particular breed the first time she met them). 

Dogs are not people
Repeat after me: Dogs are not people! They WILL smell each other's butts. And poop. And pee. They WILL hump each other. Not all humping is sexual or dominant, sometimes it's playing. Talking to your dog in a reproachful tone of voice or telling them they are supposed to "share" won't get you anywhere. Most of the time the dogs work out their issues on their own, sometimes after some snarling and posturing, but other times they don't. You can't force your dog to play nice with another dog she hates, though you sometimes can manage behavior so they can peacefully coexist in the run. We've even worked out a detente with R-----, the intact yellow lab. Biggie doesn't really like intact males, and had gone after R----- twice (no injuries, though some flying fur and loud crying by R-----), but once it became clear that R----- was not going to challenge Biggie for status,* everything worked out magically: thye sniff each other cordially and then play with their friends. They won't play with each other (yet), but they're comfortable enough to play while the other one is in the run. You can't impose your view of the dog hierarchy on the dogs themselves - and a dominant dog is not a bully (though there were times with R----- that I was embarrassed with Biggie) - usually once they work out who fits where, everybody is happier. More problems tend to happen when you have 2 or more dogs that think they are alpha. 

Sometimes dogs do things to each other that humans find appalling, like licking each other in unmentionable places. Try not to project a human sensibility onto it. If they're getting along and there's no health or safety risk, let them do what dogs do. Biggie got his head peed on when he was a puppy and following another male just a little too close. He's also come home with giant pawprints on his head from playing really rough. And Lexi, his boxer girlfriend, humps him ALL the time. She's the only one who gets away with it. And this, with his girlfriend Zola - if they were kids I'd have told him he was being too rough on her, but she didn't seem to mind at all (note that she's stepping on his foot, so it's not clear who's got the upper paw here):

*R-----'s mom dropped some treats on the ground by accident. R----- was about to go for them but Biggie just walked in, sniffed, and ate them all while R----- just stood there. That was actually the turning point. If R-----'s mom had been like "Those are R-----'s treats!" and picked them up and given them to R-----, it would have been a bad scene. But in this instance letting the dogs be dogs meant letting the dominant dog do what dominant dogs do.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Canine Tolerable Citizen (oh, the things we put up with!)

Lindsay over at has a great post asking, What do you tolerate from your dog?

Rather than hijack the comments to Lindsay's post, I decided to hijack Biggie's blog instead, because he does not have opposable thumbs and is napping now. Biggie's tolerable behavior illustrates the kuvasz temperament beautifully:

Like every other kuvasz I have ever heard of, Biggie's mission in life is to guard. When we go to the dog run, he is always aware of everything on the other side of the fence. Anyone who comes too close must be watched, assessed, and, if deemed a threat, challenged and chased away by charging at the fence with ferocious barking. For the most part, the people he deems threatening are understandable: WTFs, big loud men, fast-moving (and loud) bikes, scooters or rollerbladers. At best, we manage the behavior by trying to teach him that most of the people who walk up to the fence are friendly, and he is slowly getting it; if I walk up and talk to the person, he will stand and watch but won't bark. And sometimes he is so busy playing that he will break just to look and decide to go back to playing. But even while he is playing, he has half an eye on the fence.

One point here is that a "protective" dog doesn't necessarily mean a dominant or aggressive dog. Dog owners who know him call him a "mush," a "flirt" and a "softie" and are always amazed at how gentle he is with other dogs, letting the younger and smaller ones climb all over him. I have never seen him hump another dog, yet others hump him all the time when they're playing, and when he's had enough he simply walks them off, no snapping or snarling. He will roll another dog if he thinks it's necesary, but he has an amazingly high tolerance level, and has only done it two or three times in his 18-month life.

The other morning our neighbor's Boston terrier mix came into the run and immediately started barking and snarling and nipping at Biggie's neck aggressively. Biggie just stood there and looked at him sideways before deciding he'd had enough and walked to the dog run gate and waited there to leave. At that point he was a little droopy, like, "Who brought this little bully in here to spoil my fun?" Biggie could have done a lot, but he chose not to. The neighbor's dog was definitely (fear) aggressive but not dominant, while Biggie was neither aggressive nor dominant. 

One of the few things Biggie gets really excited about is chasing small living things, like mice and birds. Sometimes when the weather is crisp and windy, he will chase leaves and pieces of paper blowing around. It must be the irregular and unpredictable motion, because if you throw a ball, Biggie may chase it up to 2 times. On the other hand, Biggie has chased and caught a duck, a mouse, and a pigeon; the duck he chased and caught at 6 months, and the latter 2 he caught recently while on leash, and all 3 times I've been screaming at him to cut it out. Fortunately he didn't kill any of the animals he caught; he knows bite control and just likes to chase and catch them, and eventually lets them go after enough yelling. 

Which brings me to another issue dear to my heart: Dog owners need to teach their dogs some self-control. The guarding instinct and the prey drive are VERY strong in the kuvasz, but that doesn't mean these behaviors can't be tempered. Teaching your dog self-control is like teaching children the difference between "inside" and "outside" voices; your dog can still be a dog, he just doesn't need to attack the food delivery guy or chase every single pigeon he sees. 

3. SOCK (and other clothes) STEALING
Ok, this one has been going on for a while. Luckily he doesn't tear them up, but Biggie will raid the clean and dirty laundry piles and select socks or bras to snuggle with and mouth when I'm not home. When he was younger he used to do it to get us to chase him; now it's just a sad gauge of how crazy my workload can get, because once I'm home he doesn't do it at all. It's just so sad to come home and see the big goofball, happy to see me, with a pair of slobbery socks by his side, that I just don't have the heart to try to train this out of him. 

4. PAWING AT STUFF (not people, thank goodness)
This would be a lot cuter if Biggie were a 10 -lb dog, and it sure is better than incessant barking. Biggie only barks when guarding, and the rest of the time he's the strong but silent type. If he's thirsty, he'll just sit in front of his water bowl, shooting us doleful looks. If he's hungry, he wanders into the kitchen and wanders out, looking at us meaningfully, then back into the kitchen and back out.  But sometimes if we're not catching his looks, he uses his big bear paws - to paw at his tip-proof water dish, his empty food bowl, but most often at a door that he wants opened. When he paws at a door, he sounds like a horse pawing at his stall. It's not the claws - our doors are amazingly unmarked - but the sheer weight of his paws that make it so loud. 

5. Peeing in the house when his flock leaves unexpectedly
This dog has the biggest bladder I've ever seen. He can hold it for 12+ hours without an accident, so long as he is being left alone on a schedule he is comfortable with. On the weekends, if we go out, it's usually not on a regular schedule, and chances are just better than 50-50 that he won't make a little anxiety pee near the door. He doesn't cry, he doesn't get destructive, sometimes he just makes a little dribble. 

6. Laziness
This is just a function of the kuvasz independence and stubbornness. Unless properly motivated, The Big One just moves at his own speed. He'll come when you call him, but only when he's good and ready. And even then, he'll just walk. At 18 months, he does like to play, but if you leave him alone he will find a spot (usually between you and the door) to contentedly be a blob. Unless he's guarding, of course.  There is no laziness in the guarding. 

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Pros and Cons of Having an Intelligent Dog

(Dumb Biggie because he let us throw snow all over his head? Or Smart Biggie because he taught us the "Bury Me in Snow" game?)

This sounds like the title to a dumb post. After all, who wouldn't want to have a smart dog, right? But intelligence is different from obedience, trainability, and energy level, and a smart dog isn't necessarily an easy dog.

People who don't know Biggie or the kuvasz breed sometimes think that he is "dumb" because he's not particularly obedient, he does everything at his own slow pace, and he is basically silent unless he's guarding. The rest of the time, he moves slowly, doesn't always make direct eye contact, and definitely doesn't have the perky, "ohboyOHBOYwhatarewegonnadoNEXT?!?!?" look that border collies seem to have perfected. Since he's not totally focused on people, preferring to keep tabs on them without looking like he is, they underestimate him and forget he's around until he Anal Torpedoes them with a sly grin on his face.

PRO: Biggie knows lots of tricks and commands and picks them up within a few tries...
CON: ...but he only does them when he feels like it, and would much rather learn new tricks than practice his old ones.

PRO: Makes up his own new games and teaches people how to play them just by using body language...
CON: ...Not all humans want to play Anal Torpedo, Hide-and-Seek, Indoor Football, or Bobbing For Rocks. And sometimes even I don't understand the games he wants to play (What game involves a rope bone, puppy bed, towel, and metal food dish at the same time?)

PRO: An intelligent dog is a great problem solver.
CON: An intelligent dog is a great problem solver: will find ways through or around every obstacle if properly motivated, including unlatching doors, training and manipulating humans, and knowing just how far to take the naughtiness.

PRO: Is a great communicator.
CON: Can be demanding. (Luckily Biggie doesn't do this, but some smart dogs with a high energy level will find ways to communicate their desire to eat, drink, go out, and play whenever they want, which is not always when YOU want. If you have a vocal dog, he will quickly figure out that barking leads to attention.)

More CONS: 

CON: An intelligent dog is harder to forgive, because he *knows* he's being naughty, and chooses to do it anyway.

CON: Difficult to dupe. (Our old dog, Boo, was not so good at coming when called, but we could always dupe him by jingling our keys and asking, "Want to go in the car?" Not so some other dogs we know.)

CON: Can be stubborn, because they know how far they can take it, and because they can't be duped. If you have a dog with an independent temperament, this will be a challenge because they won't do stuff just to make you happy; you have to show them it's in their best interest to comply. And even then sometimes they act like they aren't really being obedient - like Biggie executing the "down" command during his Canine Good Citizen test.

CON: May start to train his humans. 

The upshot? You have to be smarter than your dog, and aware all the time of what the dog is learning from you. And since dogs aren't people, you can't reason with them, bargain for good behavior, or explain why they should really listen to you. Given how many WTFs out there own dogs, maybe it's a blessing that there are obedient and dopey ones out there.

(Update: As I post this I see Biggie trotting off in the shadows holding something in his mouth. Why do I just KNOW this is not an "approved item"?)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

WTF: The Prequel

Taking a cue from the 4B's, I'm putting some happy pictures while I tell you about some really stupid and annoying people Momma and I met last night at the dog run. You can see what this dog run looks like here. As you can see, my posse of big dogs can get pretty physical when we play. These are the rules that are also posted at the dog run: 

Rules & Regulations:
  • Dogs may not be left unattended.
  • The dog run is NOT a playground. Children under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult and should be closely supervised.
  • Entry and use of the dog run is at your own risk.
  • Skateboards, bicycles, scooters and strollers must be left outside the dog run.
  • Clean up after your dog. Animal waste must be promptly removed and properly disposed of.
  • Dogs must be licensed and have all shots and tags.

Should be pretty clear, right? Well... I was playing guarding the people in the dog run and the other dog, a young, little black lab. Since it was quiet and there wasn't much going on, Momma was on the phone, and the little black lab's dad was on his phone too. Suddenly, a kid on a SCOOTER came zipping down the boardwalk along the fence, so I told Momma he was there and I barked and barked and ran along the fence with him. He looked like he was 6 or 7. Then, he started coming IN the first gate to the run, on his scooter. Momma grabbed my collar and got off the phone, pronto.

Momma started asking questions right away: 

Momma: Where are your parents? Do you have a dog? Don't bring your scooter in here.
Li'l WTF: I want to come play with the dogs!!!!
Momma: Where's your dog? Do you have a grownup with you? DO NOT bring your scooter in here! 
Li'l WTF: Why not?
Momma: Did you just hear my dog barking at you? He does NOT like scooters.
Big WTF (outside the dog run): I'm his dad. He wants to come in and play with the dogs. 
(Li'l WTF starts opening the 2nd gate, but has thankfully left his scooter in the vestibule.)
Momma: This is a DOG RUN, not a playground. You can't just send your little kid in here to play with the dogs.
Big WTF: But he loves dogs, and he can't have one at home because his mom's allergic.
Momma: Do you see the rules posted on the door? They're there for a reason. These dogs aren't here for your kid to play with. People are not supposed to come in here without a dog, and kids are NOT allowed in here alone.
Big WTF: Oh, I'm watching him. 
(During this time, Li'l WTF has been "playing", by which I mean taunting, the little black lab, whose dad is still on his phone. The little black lab is maybe 40-50 lbs, and starts jumping on Li'l WTF out of excitement. At this point, Li'l WTF starts screaming and runs to Momma and grabs her leg, and finally little black lab's dad comes over and pulls his dog off Li'l WTF who is still screaming and hanging onto Momma's leg while I am standing on the other side of her leg while she holds my collar. These people are WEIRD and very, very stupid.)
Momma: Oh you are? How are you "watching" him now?
Other Dog Dad ("introducing" his dog to Li'l WTF): She's very friendly, there's nothing to worry about. Look, she's very nice. 
Momma: The dog run is for DOGS. It's not safe for small children.  Take your kid to a playground!

Momma was so exasperated she put me on the leash and walked me out and around the park for a bit. Then she saw the Li'l WTF leave, so we started going back to the run, when who do we run into AGAIN but Li'l WTF on his scooter coming straight for us! Big WTF was nowhere in sight. Li'l WTF was hollering and making an awful racket on his scooter, and I could feel Momma's angry feeling rising again. She put her hand up like the stay command and she started yelling at him and she was all like, WHAT did I just tell you and YOU LEAVE US ALONE and I TOLD you not to bother us and you are going to get attacked by a dog someday if you keep it up and GO AWAY NOW!

And then she started walking away and he still tried to follow us on the scooter and Momma turned and yelled STOP FOLLOWING US and LEAVE US ALONE and then Big WTF saw us and he finally started calling his pipsqueak kid and left us alone. And the we went back to the dog run and played. The End.

Momma's note: Biggie was actually angelic through the whole episode even though I was secretly hoping that he would go cujo on the kid just to put the fear in him. But through it all he never growled, pulled or even twitched. This dumbass kid was so little he was pretty much eye-to-eye with Biggie.  (dragging soapbox again) Biggie probably would have been fine and gentle with the kid but I just didn't want to reward Li'l WTF for his complete stupidity. What kid runs into a dog run to "play" with a dog that moments before was barking furiously at him on the other side of a fence? And what dumbass oblivious parent lets his kid do this, thinking that sitting on the other side of two latched gates is somehow "watching" his child? I don't know which pisses me off more. I had visions of this kid growing up to be the type who taunts a dog who is tied up or on the other side of the fence and then is outraged when the dog gets aggressive in response. WTFs start early.

(Little black lab's dad doesn't score any points with me either. He didn't notice when the kid came into the run (at first I thought it was his kid), then didn't come over to supervise his dog playing with Li'l WTF. Then, when Li'l WTF is running away from his dog, he's slow to get to the dog and THEN, despite the words I am having with Big WTF, does not question why the kid is in the run alone and does not teach the kid how to approach a dog. Although, granted, that's not really his job; it's the job of the WTF on the other side of the fence.)

Parents: whether you have a dog or not, make sure your child knows a) good manners upon approaching any dog, and b) that NO means NO. Provoking, taunting, teasing, poking, hitting, and grabbing are NEVER allowed. Every dog, no matter how friendly and calm, no matter how big or small, can be pushed beyond its limits. EVERY dog-child interaction must be closely supervised. A dog bite can happen in an instant, and it is not always the dog's fault.