Dog park: body language

Hey, all! The other day while Doc, Lily, Cash and I were enjoying some sunshine and running in the dog park, I thought, “Hey! I could totally use this group of dogs for body language clips!” So I took a bunch of 3-10 second clips, and here we have some of them! More to come as I have time.

Both have high tails (want to engage) and relaxed spines (positive emotional state). The dog on the right also has more “bounce” to his step and tail. Bounce = play. Taking all into account, both dogs are ready to engage (high tails), but only one of them is ready to play. The other probably would like to explore, visit, and relax!

There’s so much going on here! Start with the chocolate lab: high tail = wants to engage, the tail is relaxed-ish, but the spine is very stiff (relaxed = positive emotions, stiff/still = negative emotions). I would worry, except look at his ears: pressed against the head and upward. That is a classic “Play??!?!” expression! This is a confident dog who really wants to play — probably a fast chase-me game or maybe even some wrestling. When Lily walks up and the spaniel shifts focus to her, the lab politely takes the hint that no one is playing, and leaves.

Now, Lily: medium height tail (“I want to engage, but not TOO much”), super relaxed spine (positive emotional state), lowered, relaxed head with soft, sideways relaxed ears (“I don’t want to play really, just visit). These are the signs of a dog who wants to say hi, but probably isn’t going to initiate play; just visiting.

Finally, the spaniel. From the start through the end, her tail is low. Low = do not want to engage. With the lab it’s pretty stiff, flattened against her butt, with only the tiniest sway at the tip. This is an anxiety wag. You can also see how she’s leaning away. “I don’t want to play! Don’t pounce!”

When Lily approaches without a request for play, the spaniel relaxes a little bit (the tail stops pressing so hard, and begins to swish). It’s still low, though; “My emotional state is improving because you’re not trying to make me play.” She also comes around; “Yeah, I’ll sniff you — but I don’t want to engage more than that.”

Again, there’s a remarkable amount going on here. We’re just going to look at the husky and the smaller dog in the vest getting sniffed.

Husky: high tail, relaxed spine, not a lot of bounce, head not erect: wants to engage + positive emotions = happy. Not a lot of bounce = visit, not play. Head not erect = not inviting to play, dominating, or challenging. In other words, this dog is friendly and not too forward.

Vest dog: tail down, spine stiff, retreating: doesn’t want to engage + negative emotions + escaping = fear. The entire time these dogs are sniffing him, he’s trying to say, “Stop! I don’t want to engage! I’m afraid of you!” It wouldn’t surprise me if his ears were pinched against his head, the whites of his eyes showing, and he’s heavily panting (or will be soon). Those would be stress markers.

Think you’re getting good at this? Think about what the lab and the mostly-white dog are saying, and then check the comments!




A fun little video featuring Bandit the super kitten!

It took a few months (doing it 2-4 times a week, depending on how often I was at my girlfriend’s house — Bandit is her kitten), but he learned “sit.” Next: “Stay”! I started in January, and he’s picking it up pretty well given we only practice a few times a week, and sometimes not even that! He’s gone from leaping up right away and being unable to stay, to getting up a couple of times but then being able to hold his ‘stay’ for about twenty seconds. I’m pretty proud of us! 😉

Taken on my new iPad Mini (Thanks, Diane!)


Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays from all of us at Feathers and Fur!





XO, Lily, Cash, Jenna, and Quin!


(You just know Lily is thinking, “You idiot. Stop looking so happy. Do you even know you’re wearing a beard?” Or maybe, “This type of thing never happened before YOU showed up…” *laughs!*)


How to make dog Halloween costumes (and photos!)

Well, last night was Los Gatos’ Howl-O-Ween, and I was able to make it with my dogs after all! (Though only to the last half hour or so, alas.)

My dogs are troopers when it comes to random requests like, “Hey, Cash, will you wear this cape?” Possibly because I make random requests fairly frequently… (The trick to random requests is celebrating how AWESOME they are once they’re wearing said cape.)

So last night we all got decked out, and I took lots of pictures! Here they are, in no particular order:

Here is the team shot (courtesy of Chigiy Binell at Doggie Heaven Hotel! Much better than the pic I managed to take…). Cash is Thor, I’m Black Widow, Quin was Tony Stark, and Lily is Captain America!

 Thor, Tony and Cap, ready to save the world!










And of course, Thor, Black Widow and Cap also ready to save the world! 😉







Ready for our close-ups! These costumes took me forever to make…

Tony Stark










Black Widow!












And finally, Thor, ready for all and sundry! C’mon, how heroic is this shot? 😉

Alas, I don’t have such an awesome picture of Lily. She has this amazing ability to look pathetic when you point a camera at her…

And at the end of the day, Thor provides Tony a shoulder to lean on. (Props to Quin for being willing to lay on a bar floor for this photo, while I cackled. More props to the  Black Watch, which is a bar on N. Santa Cruz that allows dogs!)






So, I hear you cry. How do we make Captain America and Thor costumes ourselves? LET ME TELL YOU.

1. Captain America

Needed: 1 blue human shirt, big enough for your dog (Thrift store: $2). 1 foam visor (JoAnn’s, $1). White and red paint (JoAnn’s, $6 total). Metallic duct tape (JoAnn’s, $3). Aluminum foil and cardboard box (laying around my house: free). More accurately you could also use electrical tape, and you could even make pouches for the “belt”. I did not. Blue marker/pencil/crayon (laying around my house: free).

First: paint the “A” on the foam visor. I’m not thrilled with the way the visor stood up, making the “A” hard to see, but until I find something better it’ll have to do.

Second: paint the stars and strips on the shirt. I found it was more comfortable between Lily’s front legs if I put it on her so the tag was at the nape of her neck. I used a pencil to pencil in the star on the back, then the stripes. I just copied it off a photo of Cap I found online; it’s not hard! Set aside to dry.

Third: the shield. I used a dinner plate to trace out a round shield from a cardboard box, then cut the shield out. Next, I covered one side with aluminum foil, using the metallic duct tape to hold it in place. The other side I covered with white sketch paper, folding the ends over and taping them down with the metallic duct tape; computer paper would likely work as well. I used a tumbler-sized glass to pencil a circle in the middle, then penciled the star within the circle. After that, I markered the circle in blue around the star, then painted in the red stripes. Voila! Shield!

The day of the festival, I put the shirt on Lily, then duct taped up the extremely loose waist-area. Make sure the duct tape is loose enough that they can move comfortably, but that the cloth is clear of their legs. This duct tape also made Cap’s belt. (This is where electrical tape might look better, and do the same job.) I then took a length of duct tape, taped the ends to the back of the shield, and then squished the rest of the tape to itself, creating a strap across the back of the shield. I used that to safety pin it to Lily’s shirt.

2. Thor

Needed: Gray or silver card stock, 2 sheets. ($2 at JoAnn’s). <1 yard of red fabric (.70 cents in the remnants bin at JoAnn’s). A paper towel roll. Glue. Gray paint ($2 at JoAnn’s) and paintbrushes ($2 in the kids’ section at JoAnn’s). Metallic duct tape (bought for Captain America). Red fuzzy wires ($2 at JoAnn’s). X-back harness ($20, bought years before. Any harness will do, or even another t-shirt). Safety pins ($2 at Target; probably also sold at JoAnn’s).

First: Make your cape! Tuck the ends into your dog’s collar and cut out what you need. Set the rest aside; these will be the vambraces.

Second: Vambraces! Measure out how much you need to stretch up to the corners of your cape and down your dog’s front legs. When the day arrives, you’ll finish this. Right now, set it aside.

Third: Mjolnir (Thor’s hammer). This is the biggest pain. Measure out 4 even-sized rectangles in the cardstock. Duct tape them together (eventually you’ll turn them into a box, so keep that in mind when you’re figuring out which sides to duct tape together). Do NOT make it box-shaped, yet. Now, cut 8 strips of cardstock, each the same width as the rectangles, and 1 inch wide. This will be the part of Mjolnir that angles in before the ends. Now tape those onto the ends of the rectangles. Now comes the hard part: while holding the rectangles closed to make the box, cut the corners of the inch strips so they’ll collapse together slightly. Measure the distance left between them — the open ends of the hammer — and cut two squares that size from the cardstock. Now, get your roll of paper towels. Strip all the paper towels off it, so you have the cardboard tube left. Put the tube on one of the rectangles and trace the size of the hole. Cut that hole out. This will be your “bottom.”

Set the “handle” aside and tape the hammer head together from inside. Good luck with that. Works best with two people. The hole helps. (I taped up three sides, then put tape along all the edges and closed the fourth side on top of it.) Note: If I had to do it again, I’d stuff the whole thing with newspaper or paper towels to see if that made it sturdier.

*Alternate plan: do the same thing, but made it a normal rectangle, taking out those 1-in slats. This would probably save a lot of time and hassle.

If you didn’t do the alternate plan, get your gray paint out. Paint ovals on each 1-in piece, then just tap the paint brush within the ovals. It looks like Celtic knotwork in the movie, but I don’t have that much patience: tapping the paintbrush within gave it enough design to make people ooh and ahh.

Now take gray paint and paint a spiral down the handle as if it was held with wire. Take some metallic duct tape and “cap” the end of the tube that still has an open hole.

Finally, when the paint’s dried, glue in the handle. Let sit 24 hours.

Four: Armor! Put your harness/T-shirt/whatever on your dog. Safety-pin the cape to the collar and the sides, if you haven’t already. Now, any bits of harness that are showing? Wrap those suckers in aluminum foil, and then use your metallic duct tape to tape them sturdy! Widen out as desired. You have armor!

Five: Once the hammer is dry, put the harness/cape combo back on your dog. Place the hammer where you’d like it to sit on the cape, then put two safety pins in the cape: one at the head of the hammer, and one slightly lower. This will be your hammer-sheath. Take the fuzzy red wire stuff and wrap two pieces around the handle of your hammer. Slide them off, and twist the ends of them through and around the safety pins as many times as you can; these two loops, essentially safety pinned in place, are your sheath.

Finally, the day of your festival, put the harness/cape/armor on your pup. To make your vambraces, safety pin the rest of the red cloth to the edges of the cape, wrap it around your dog’s front legs, and tape it in place with the metallic duct tape. (This will look like Thor’s vambraces.) Slide Mjolnir home, and you’re good to go!

Unsure? Check out the pictures above, and I’m sure you can figure out what I mean!

Los Gatos’ Howl-o-Ween bash!

Once again this year, Los Gatos is hosting its Howl-O-Ween bash! If you’re in the area, watch for the Avengers –m y whole Feathers and Fur team will be there! Myself (Black Widow), Quin (Tony Stark), Cash (Thor) and Lily (Captain America) will be keeping the area safe! Or just getting dog treats. 😉

If you see us, come say hi!



Fun stuff!

The last few posts have been vaguely depressing. Useful, but depressing! I get tired, after a while, of trouble shooting: it reminds me of the problems that are out there, and training to get a dog through life-threatening things can mean tough love. But we all like to just love our dogs, and enjoy our dogs, and laugh with our dogs.

If you’re dealing with a dog that has serious issues, remember to look for (and praise!) the good stuff. It’ll make everyone’s life better. 😉 In the meantime, here are some awesome dog videos to brighten up your day!

We tried to give my dogs lemons. They weren’t nearly so hilarious.

One of my favorite talking dog videos:

And my VERY favorite cat video (because dogs and cats are like peas in a pod, right?):

If you have favorite dog (or cat) videos, feel free to share them!


Dog behavior – puppies at play

Well, recently I boarded a couple of dogs who were kind enough to act distinctly pack-ish, and display awesome pack behavior! And then they did it on video. Woo hoo!

Before we move on to the video, let’s talk about the dogs involved, from youngest to oldest. First we have Captain. Captain is an 11-12 week old black lab, and firmly in the throes of puppyhood! He’s the baby.

Next we have Bella. Bella is a 1-1.5 year old labradoodle. She’s in adolescence, coming up on adulthood. While physically she’s able to have puppies, it would be like a 17 or 18 year old human having puppies: they could make it work, yes, but ideally they’re still baby sitting other peoples’ kids and learning how to be an adult and then, eventually, how to be a parent.

Cash (a king shepherd) is next in the age range. At 4-coming-on-5, he’s shifting out of the ideal parenting age. Between about 2 and 5 dogs are at their strongest and most resilient, in many ways. They are the equivalent of our 20-40 year old humans. The younger the dogs are, the more of a playful parent they are. The older, the less playful, but still with the patience and wisdom needed to be a good parent. That’s the stage Cash is in: he’s no longer super playful with the puppies, but he’s still a good “dad”!

Finally, we have Lily. Lily turned 8 this summer, and she’s never been overly interested in puppies to begin with. Add to that the fact that she’s eight. While pit bulls generally live to be around 14, in the wild 8 would be elderly! She’s grandmother age, now, and is about as interested in dealing with pups as an elderly human would be. Fun for a little while, and then handed back to the parents!

You see these four stages in packs of dogs quite frequently (with the grandmother age being the rarest to see, given death rates in the wild). The adults — Cash — teach the puppies and adolescents manners, the adolescents babysit the puppies, and the grandparents do whatever they feel like doing. Ready to witness? Excellent!