Tag Archives: dog advice

The Dogs’ November Expense Report

This is the month I have been dreaming about – minimal expenses for our three dogs!

Shira and the three NYC House Whippets in their ultimate milieu of Central Park.

And we’ll need it, because we’re practically scraping the bottom of the food bag just trying to get to tomorrow to reorder the big bags of dog food (that’s cheating a little on the budget accounting, I realize), and next month we also need to get more Interceptor and take Sesame for his annual vet visit. But, as my hero Scarlet says, I’ll think about that later.

Picchu sunning in Central Park: Priceless

The Real House Whippets’ November Expenses:

  • Food: $28
  • Toy: $8

Total:         $36

Food: Mostly for some canned food to liven up the dogs’ dinner dishes. We combine 2 kinds of dry food (our new favorite is Natural Planet Organics, made from organic, free-range chicken and other organic grains and produce and costs around $2 per pound at National Pet Pharmacy) and then add a couple tablespoons per dish of canned food (our whippets like Wellness Core, which is grain-free, or Newman’s Own Organics), all mixed with hot water to make a gravy. In the morning, they challenge themselves getting dry food out of Kong toys. I don’t mush it and freeze it like Patricia McConnell does, but they might graduate to that some day.

Picchu, Sesame and C-Biscuit chose mud treatments at the Country Dog Spa

Toy: I gave in to a cute, whippet-thin (no stuffing) bunny toy, partly to support a pet boutique we came across in a small, not so well-to-do town in upstate New York. Otherwise, the dogs’ favorite toy remains a firmly-taped cardboard box – especially announced with a doorbell ding from the UPS man – or a paper towel roll with treats trapped inside, or a cracker box they get to “steal” from the wood pile, etc.

Overall, a gloriously low-cost month!

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Surprising Dog Expenses

A friend who is getting a dachshund (excellent choice!) is working out her budget and asked me what have been the most surprising dog expenses. An excellent topic for prospective dog owners! Before we brought home C-Biscuit, we bought a toy, a bed, a leash, a crate, a training book and some food. Here are some unexpected expenses that followed:

three in motion on dock

Bare Naked Bitches, C-Biscuit and Picchu, followed by Gentledog Sesame

Collateral Damage: I expected a young dog to chew a thing or two, but I didn’t know this undefined category would cost hundreds of dollars. C-Biscuit alone has destroyed:

  • Cordless phone (and the replacements also have their antennae chewed off)
  • Two $300 cell phones (I could go cheaper if I didn’t need the full keyboard to text my sister every few minutes…)
  • Two $20 pedometers 
  • Two $80 laptop cords
  • Two pairs of leather boots (one cheap pair, and one Via Spiga pair I paid full price for at Bloomingdales, reasoning I’d “have them forever” – UG!)
  • Three pairs of flip-flops
  • Much lingerie, previously something I splurged on before I got a dog and had to switch to the bargain bin at Filene’s Basement
  • Books, magazines, newspapers
  • Firewood, especially kindling – shredded, but still burnable
  • Miscellaneous household items: wooden spoon, hairbrush, hair clips, blanket…

 

Chad, Bob, Whippets

Bob with our friend Chad (left) and the House Whippets in Central Park

 

Vet visits: Sure, I expected an annual office visit and some vaccinations. What I wasn’t prepared for is a dog needing to see the veterinarian a lot more than a cat does (in my experience), and each and every visit, even for 5 minutes, rings up at $85, plus any medications or tests. As soon as we got C-Biscuit we paid $245 for a check-up and shots. Two weeks later she sprained a toe ($118) and then got an an eye infection ($101.50). 

Pick-up bags: Not such a big expense with one dog, but definitely adds up with three. We use biodegradable Dogipot bags, billed as an “economical, no-frills bag,” 200 for $12. We go through about 12 a day – the other day I used 7 on the morning walk alone – at 6 cents each, making about $260 per year…that’s half what my house insurance costs. 

Chew treats: A pet parent needs to use chew treats like a “real” parent needs to use videos. To keep your sanity, you need a no-fail “occupy yourself!” weapon. For us, this is the beloved bully stick.

Moo Bully Stick

Free Range Moo! Bully Sticks: A Pet Parent's Lifesaver!

Our breeder did say no rawhide, real bones, pigs ears… but he did not forbid bully sticks! For the uninitiated, that means dried bull penis. The girls love nothing better (and even Sesame warmed up to them, after initially showing some male solidarity). We buy Free Range Dog Treats’ Moo! variety, which don’t smell (believe me when I say this can be a problem!).

Here’s the scenario: I need to work, the dogs are incessantly rough-housing. Wave around the magic wands, and they obsessively chew them for a good 30-40 minutes. The cost? At least $2 per penis. With three dogs, that means $6 per “episode.” Expensive, but indispensable. 

 

C-Biscuit in Butterfly Sweater

C-Biscuit in a sweater gift from her chic whippet friend Algernon.

 

Dog Wardrobe: Both our Whippet book and the breeder said that a whippet needs “a sweater or a coat.” That turned out to be quite an understatement.

We started with a sweater ($80) and a raincoat ($90). Then realized C-Biscuit needed something much beefier for winter, so we got a puffy coat ($128). The puffy coat wasn’t enough, so we layered it with a bodysuit (fortunately, a hand-me-down from our whippet friends). In the spring, we added a fleece ($49), and a waterproof mid-weight coat ($90).

Now multiply all that by 3 to clothe Picchu and Sesame. I won’t add up what all that cost, but I’m sure it’s more than Bob and I have spent on clothing for ourselves.

Biski & Picchu in fall leaves

C-Biscuit: Autumn in New York

I could go on, but that should give some idea of how expensive dogs get, beyond what you usually see broken down in budgets. And to my dachshund friend, hope this doesn’t scare you off; they’re worth it!

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Favorite Things: Whippet Snippets

 

Ribsy of Whippet Snippets. I covet photos like this!

Ribsy of Whippet Snippets. I covet photos like this!

The premium location for whippets on the web is Whippet Snippets, a classic infotainment blog by a Canadian woman with two narrow dogs, Ribsy and Mirabel. I love this blog so much, I not only check it possibly more frequently than the New York Times, but I went back and happily burrowed my way through 5 years of archives. 

What a treat to share private whippet moments like this, on Whippet Snippets.

What a treat to share private whippet moments like this, on Whippet Snippets.

So it greatly saddened me to see this week that after 5+ years and 1,000 posts, Whippet Snippets will not continue (at least for a while!). Through her clever, generous posts, I have followed this family’s move from enticing Victoria, B.C. to, mmm, less enticing Hamilton, Ont.; through selling their first home and buying a charming new one; their mention of camping trips and love of festivals; their raising Ribsy from a puppy and adding his sister Mirabel 3 years later; their playdates and problems and quotidian joys of life with dogs, and especially whippets.

Some of my favorite moments from Whippet Snippets: 

Synchronized Whippeting: An awesome video billed as “The sisters Mirabel and Daphne enter the final round of Synchronized Whippeting in first place…can they hold onto their lead…and their frisbee?”

Ribsy and Mirabel are always fighting over their beloved frisbee. More envy from Manhattan, where our pack members will only chase something if it's got a tail or is rubbed with liver.

Ribsy and Mirabel are always fighting over their beloved frisbee. More envy from Manhattan, where our pack members will only chase something if it's got a tail or is rubbed with liver.

 

Whippet Snippets on a field trip to the farm!

Whippet Snippets on a field trip to the farm!

 

Priceless Whippet Moment: Ribsy at home in Hamilton.

Priceless Whippet Moment: Ribsy at home in Hamilton.

 

Ribsy's first Halloween: The clever crew of Whippet Air. (Ribsy's daddy is a pilot in real life.)

Ribsy's first Halloween: The clever crew of Whippet Air. (Ribsy's daddy is a pilot in real life.)

 

Ace begging mode. Oh Ribsy, other whippet owners know that despite appearances, you are well-fed, just like the rest of 'em.

Oliver Twisting: Oh Ribsy, other whippet owners know that despite appearances, you are well-fed, just like the rest of 'em.

A consolation: Whippet Snippets is on Twitter! We can continue to follow Ribsy, 140 characters at at time, by following @whippetsnippets. 

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Sighthounds Don’t Sit

 

Fact, or Fiction? The Simpsons' greyhound sits

The Simpsons' greyhound sits: Fact, or Fiction?

The main problem we’ve had with dog training is that so much of it starts with “Sit.”

  • Want your dog to learn “stay”? Have them sit. 
  • Want your dog to be calm at the door? “Sit.” 
  • Teaching your dog to pause before crossing the street? “Sit.”
C-Biscuit crashes the Greyhound Meet-up in Central Park. Do you see any sighthounds sitting?

C-Biscuit (top left) crashes the Greyhound Meet-up in Central Park. Do you see any sighthounds sitting?

“Sit” is so easy for most dogs, it was taught on the first day of C-Biscuit’s obedience class. All of the fluffy puppies threw their behinds on the floor (Comfy!) while our sleek whippet stood and looked at us confused. When we enticed her by moving a treat over her head so she had to scrunch down to get it, she just moved away from us – Get that thing out of my face, you crazy people!

Even the very experienced trainer had no luck getting Biski’s athletic bottom onto the hard gymnasium floor. Her diagnosis? “That’s okay. Sighthounds don’t sit.”

Her recommendation was to use “lie down” instead. That makes much more sense for low-fat sighthounds, who do lie down naturally. Of course, they lie down on something padded, not a bare floor. The trainer advised us to bring a towel or mat to class.

Want your sighthound to settle? Better bring padding - even to the top of a mountain. (Shira and C-Biscuit last summer on Giant Ledge.)

Got whippet? Bring padding - even to the top of a mountain. (Shira and C-Biscuit last summer atop Giant Ledge.)

The next week, while all of the other puppies sat eagerly on command, Bob and I rolled out Biski’s giraffe-print dog cushion for her to recline on. This is more like it, Biski thought as she lay down. The other dogs’ owners glanced over at us with disdain, Spoiled yuppy puppy! Hadn’t they heard? Sighthounds don’t sit!

“Lie down” is not nearly as versatile as “sit.” Because of the padding issue, it’ll work on the living room rug, but not next to my desk (wood floor), at the front door (wood floor), in the kitchen (ceramic tiles), on the street (please…), etc.

Mission Not Impossible, Just Unlikely: C-Biscuit (far right) will sit for treats.

Mission Not Impossible, Just Unlikely: C-Biscuit (far right) will sit for treats.

So we use “lie down” when we can, to settle the dogs and teach them patience, for example, but more or less we’ve just moved on without it.

Biski did eventually start sitting, once she saw it as “lying down half-way and getting the treat even sooner.” Our other two whippets? Forget it. But I find they will “stay” and “wait” while standing. That’s good enough.

As long as you’re communicating with your dogs, they know what’s expected and are under control, there’s no reason to get stuck on “Sit.” 

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Pack Mentality, and Problems

When we wanted to get a third dog, the breeder did warn us that a third “changes the dynamic – they become more of a pack.” We looked at little Picchu blinking her big, brown, homeless eyes at us and thought, “Pack problems? Naaahhh.”

Bob, Shira and the NYC Whippet Packette: Well-behaved, except when not

Bob, Shira and the NYC Whippet Packette: Well-behaved, except when not

Sure enough, with just C-Biscuit and Picchu, all was well. Biski has always been shy on the street, Picchu is much more social. We enjoyed going up to other dogs for a change, because Picchu made tons of friends. Even when a new dog lunges at Picchu and barks in her face – something that sends Biski flying backwards into our legs – she ignores it, sniffs, and miraculously the other dog turns friendly. Until we added Sesame.

Sesame, C-Biscuit and Picchu

Sesame, C-Biscuit and Picchu: the House Whippets hit the streets of Manhattan

Our boy Sesame isn’t the problem, exactly, because he’s the shyest of them all, and completely well-mannered. The problem is a pack mentality. Last week I came home and told Bob I’m done walking all three together. They’re too much of a handful, causing too many scenes.

Our social little Picchu is, unwittingly, the instigator. She sees another dog and thinks, “Playmate!” She perks up or jumps, or sometimes barks out of excitement, which Sesame reads as, “The pack is under attack!” Seemingly out of nowhere he lunges and WOOF-WOOFs. He’s not as delicate a little whippet as the girls, and his bark means business. That sets off Picchu, who goes from “I want to meet you!” to “I want to eat you!”

Shira and the NYC House Whippets on a field trip to Woodstock

Shira and the NYC House Whippets on a field trip to Woodstock

Even that would be manageable if it weren’t for wallflower Biski springing to life. Whereas alone she would avoid conflict at all costs, with Picchu and Sesame out front, she’s happy to provide back-up: rrrRRROOUROOUROOU!

Three well-behaved whippets turn into a barking, snarling, three-whip-power lunging machine, while other dog owners scurry away and I become that woman who doesn’t have any control over her rude dogs. I have been frustrated at those people for years – Control your dog! – so I know exactly how bad this is.

Bob and the Whippet Packette: Three is a handful, but not too many

Bob and the Whippet Packette: Three is a handful, but not too many

Bob and I started to anticipate trouble, took the dogs to the curb, and stood body blocking them from a passing dog. This worked – they wouldn’t bark or lunge – but you wouldn’t believe how bad some dog owners are at reading body language that unquestionably says, “Stay away. Our dogs do not want to say hi.” Several times, they let pooches on illegally long leashes prance right up to our Packette, setting them off. Then, of course, we’re the bad guys.

FF_cover09web200_306_However, no cause for alarm. I ordered the booklet Feisty Fido: Help for the Leash-Reactive Dog from trainer Patricia McConnell. We love her training resources, and have several of her books and videos. She says that leash-lunging is a very common problem and that it is not difficult to solve.

Our first training exercise is to work with each dog individually on the “watch” command, so the dogs look at us rather than an approaching dog. That means no more group walks for a while. But it’ll be worth it once our pack is back under control. Hopefully in time to model their matching fall outerwear.

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Dog Bookshops

Since getting three whippets, I’ve discovered two wonderful bookstores for dog books, Dog Lovers Bookshop and Dogtales. (Those are in addition to using the New York Public Library, always my first stop!) They both reside online, so are accessible to everyone. 

Bob with our three whippets, C-Biscuit, Sesame and Machu Picchu

Bob with our three whippets, Machu Picchu, Sesame and C-Biscuit, in Central Park

I learned about Dogtales last year when I was searching for an out-of-print dog training book. I ordered the book, paid for it, and soon got an e-mail from Dogtales: “Thank you for your order of this book. Upon pulling it from the shelf, I noticed that there is highlighting in one section – a fact that I did not notice when listing it. I do not sell books with highlighting, so am sending it to you free of charge, refunding all charges.” Including the shipping. 

One of the books I ordered on dog handling happens to have whippets on the cover!

One of the books I ordered on dog handling happens to have whippets on the cover!

I wrote back saying thanks, but I didn’t mind some highlighting and where could I send a check? To which Mary at Dogtales replied, “Thanks for being so great about it.  There is no need to send a check.   Please just enjoy the book.” Dogtales proved that an online retailer can be just as wonderful as a local merchant, and deserves a loyal following.

This week I also ordered from Dog Lovers Bookshop in New York City and was equally impressed. I ordered two used copies of books on beginning dog showing, and asked if they had “The Culture Clash” by Jean Donaldson. After a couple e-mails back and forth about Donaldson’s books, Margot Rosenberg from Dog Lovers Bookshop called me to discuss differences between two of her books and to decide which was the one I wanted.

Our order from Dog Lovers Bookstore, hand-wrapped and including a dog folk-art card

Our order from Dog Lovers Bookshop, hand-wrapped and including a dog folk-art card

Talk about personal service! In exchange for that, I didn’t at all mind paying full-price for the new copy of “The Culture Clash,” and will surely enjoy shopping there again. Our order arrived with each book lovingly double-wrapped in recycled plain paper and pages from The New York Times, and included a dog art greeting card. How nice!

It would be heaven to be able to stop into a dog bookstore and shop in person – but finding the right dog bookshops online is the next best thing.

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“Is your dog a rescue?” Breeder vs. Shelter

 

Sesame, Picchu and C-Biscuit: Whippets by C.Square

Sesame, Picchu and C-Biscuit: Whippets by C.Square

The most common question we get about our whippets is, “Are they rescues?” 

We assume this is because people think whippets are greyhounds, and greyhounds usually are ex-racing dogs from a track – so much so that the group Greyhound Pets of America has the subtitle, “the greyhound retirement specialists.”

Greyhounds at Dewey Beach

Greyhounds at Dewey Beach

It’s delicate enough explaining that whippets are not track discards in need of a retirement home – I can only imagine how tricky this question is if you own a greyhound that is not “a rescue.” Implied is that the only acceptable way to get a pet is through a shelter or rescue operation.

We could make a case that our dogs are all “rescues,” in the sense that we did not buy them as puppies. C-Biscuit, raised as a show dog, went to one home for a few months and then was returned to the breeder. She was re-homed to us, and we like to think this was her destiny all along. Sesame is a retired show dog. He was treated very well by his breeders and now gets the royal treatment from us.

Picchu and Sesame: Enduring the hard life

Picchu and Sesame: Enduring the hard life

Machu Picchu went through several homes and was surrendered to Whippet Rescue before going back to the breeder and then to us. She would have found a home if we had not taken her in, but it would have been the home of people like ourselves, who want to share their lives with whippets. 

To insist that the only good dog is a rescued dog is to relegate our future with the canine species to random relationships in which humans are forced to settle for whatever renegade breeders produce and fail to care for.

– Judith Lewis, Los Angeles Times opinion essay

Some things to consider when thinking about rescued dogs vs. purebreds:

  • A dog from a reputable breeder doesn’t usually end up homeless. Potential owners have gone looking for a specific breed, presumably after thought and research, and they are personally screened. Responsible people should be able to get the pets they want, and love and care for them without public scorn – or inquiry, for that matter.
  • Would one ask a parent with a baby carriage, “Is your baby adopted?” Parents are not thought selfish for wanting a specific child (their own) rather than giving a home to a homeless child.
  • Our whippet pack enjoying Central Park

    Our whippet pack enjoying Central Park

    As I wrote about previously in the article, “Obamas & Bo – Why get a purebred pet,” I wouldn’t have gotten a dog from a shelter because I only wanted a whippet. Sharing your life with an animal is good for you and arguably good for society, no matter where it comes from.

I recommend reading a very thoughtful and informative opinion essay in the Los Angeles Times, “The Obama family dog saga,” by Judith Lewis, a woman who owns shelter dogs and also makes a case for purebreds.

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