Discussing dog breeds, dog-adoption, and the human-canine connection.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

French Mastiff: Dogue de Bordeaux

The Dogue, like all modern members of the mastiff family, is descended from the earlier bear fighting, boar hunting, and war dogs that have lived with people since at least the time of the Roman Empire. At one point there were three variations of French Mastiff; the Dogue is the result of a standardizing of breeding of French Mastiffs.

The first standard for the breed, Le Dogue de Bordeaux was published in 1896. A second standard was published in 1910. The breed underwent a further standardizing process in the 1960s, which culminated in a new written standard in 1970/1. The latest standard modification was completed in 1993.

The modern Dogue is one of the shorter, physically dense members of the mastiff family. The Dogue is meant to be an athletic and powerful dog, although in the house they are not overly active. Moderate exercise  works for a Dogue once they are physically mature; puppies are of course more energetic.

One of the Dogue's trademark features is the heavy head with upper lips that droop down below the bottom jowl. Dogues drool. The heavier the face and more profuse the jowls the more drooling one can expect. This is not a bred for people who appreciate a fastidious dog feeding/drinking area. Face it, when a dog has that much face in the food, the food and water are going to get a rather liberal spreading. A post-eating wipe down of the Dogue's face may be called for.

Long used as a guard dog, the Dogue is watchful without being unduly aggressive. This breed is known for a loving, loyal temperament; very devoted to their own people; naturally suspicious of strangers, and behavior that is unusual within their environment. Dogues were designed to be neither aggressive nor fearful and should be as balanced in temperament as they are supposed to be in physical build (except for the head of course.) The head has been compared to a lion's head.

Dogues should never have a black face mask - this is considered a sign of inbreeding/influence from the English Mastiff family. They may have white markings on the chest; earlier members of the French Mastiff family would sometimes have considerable white markings, including white legs but these extensive white markings are not part of the modern Dogue standard.

With their unique faces, muscular build, and faithful personalities the Dogue is enjoying growing popularity. As happens whenever a breed becomes more popular, the number of members available through rescues and shelters also increase. For a breed that is still sometimes referred to as 'rare', there are a surprising number of Dogues and Dogue mixes available for adoption.

If one is looking for a big loving dog, whose appearance alone will make sure no one walks into their house uninvited, then this is certainly a breed worth considering. The great thing about Dogues is, this isn't just another dog with a pretty face - these are canine companions who usually have a heart of gold.

Monday, February 25, 2013

English Mastiff and Bullmastiff

The English Mastiff and Bullmastiff are two breeds who each make excellent family members for the right family. The older of these breeds is the English Mastiff.

The mastiff family is ancient and ancestors of this family go back to the time of Rome. The modern English Mastiff is more recent; the breed as we recognize it was standardized in the eighteen-hundreds. The Mastiff has long been associated with English landowners, a handful of whom were responsible for standardizing the modern English Mastiff.

Gentle, loving, and huge, the Mastiff is devoted to their family and does well with all members of a family, human and animal. While they take up a great deal of room they require only a moderate amount of exercise. This is a very laid back breed of dog whose personality no longer bears any resemblance to the dogs of war and fighting that their ancestors were known for.

The Bullmastiff was bred from the English Mastiff with some influx of Bulldog blood; approximately 60% Mastiff, 40% Bulldog. The Bullmastiff was designed to be a more vigorous, active breed than the Mastiff, without having as much fighting instinct as the Bulldogs of the time. These were guard dogs that could actively patrol with the men they accompanied keeping the grounds of large estates. Mastiffs were guard dogs for the courtyard outside an estate's home, Bullmastiffs patrolled the grounds surrounding the home.

Bullmastiffs are also an excellent family dog, good with all members of a family. The biggest difficulty with them is that as young dogs they are rambunctious and likely to knock over very small children. They do require more exercise than the Mastiff as they are more energetic and active. One thing these breeds have in common is a heavy jowled face that has a tendency towards drooling. People find it handy to keep wipe cloths handy with these breeds. The personality of both these breeds has been gentled over the generations and both are well suited to being happy family members. Bullmastiffs are less likely to be as accepting of other animal family members than Mastiffs.

The drawbacks to these breeds are mainly health related. Dogs this large will eventually have joint problems - hips or elbows. Major organs are also more likely to give out over time, particularly the heart. Finally, it is possible for either of these breeds to develop cancer as they age. Perhaps because they have such an influx of Bulldog blood, the Bullmastiff is actually even more prone to health problems than the Mastiff.

It is the slightly smaller but genetically more troubled Bullmastiff that is likely to have a shorter lifespan, reported to tend towards a span of 8 - 10 years, while the Mastiff often reaches 10 - 12 years. Given their size this is a longer life span than one might expect in a giant breed.

As always, both breeds, and crosses of these breeds, are available through breed rescue and can also be found in shelters. Mixes of these breeds are becoming increasingly common as giant breed dogs are enjoying a surge in popularity.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Influx of Royalty

Those who stop by here fairly regularly may recall that I have dog-sat for my sister on several occasions. This sister's family has three dogs, one of whom (like Chi-Chi) was pulled from a high-kill shelter in a different part of the State. This dog arrived with the name Charles.

King Charles on one of several thrones he uses

When my nephew who was to be responsible for this dog was introducing him to several cousins, one of the cousins announced, "He looks like his name is King Charles!"  So it was said, so it became. King Charles also appears to have some Chihuahua in his otherwise mysterious background - I'm beginning to think that Chihuahuas and the aura of royalty go together.

Chi-Chi has made it clear lately that any misunderstandings we've had are due to several areas of ignorance on my part. First, I did not immediately recognize him as the royalty that he is. Next, in my lack of recognition I did not realize how inappropriate it was to expect him to do things on my schedule, and finally, if I would just learn to follow clear instructions things will function much more smoothly.

Rule number one, his majesty is not to be taken from his sleeping chamber until he is ready to face the day. This makes a difference between starting the day with growly-face, or happy face.
Rule number two, his majesty is to be taken out for not one moment more or less than his majesty wishes to be out - none of this trying to multi-task by, for example filling a bird feeder on his majesty's time. Three, his majesty does not care to sit inside alone while the servant is out filling bird feeders or shoveling either; his majesty sits inside demanding the return of the servant from her outdoor errands and will not
stop complaining until said servant returns.

And make no mistake. His majesty has no intention of going back outside, it is very clear that the servant is to drop what she is doing and return to the general area of his majesty's presence in order to better admire him - even if from a distance. In this manner his majesty is more flexible. He does not require anyone to constantly fawn over him - he simply requires that some particular one be in the same area of the indoors as he is, unless he has retired for the evening, in which case one may be allowed to leave the room. May be.

 I thought having two Kings in one extended family was a bit much, however, when I suggested that some Chihuahua might be a Duke or Prince, rather than a full King, the stink eye I was given immediately clarified that I was mistaken. Apparently, the Chihuahua family runs heavily towards Kings (and I'm guessing Queens and Princesses. Oh - I've also heard there are a lot of Divas in the lines too.)

P.S. - Don't tell his majesty, but I caught the court jester on the table chewing a leaf out of the flower bouquet. I'd hate to see heads roll over this....

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Chi-Chi doesn't do fashion modeling.

A very gracious friend gave Chi-Chi a new wardrobe today.

So many of the outfits would look cute on him.

Unfortunately, Chee made it very clear today that he DOES not do fashion modeling.

Over great protest he did try on two of the outfits.  (Technically we were going to try three, but a little pink number didn't fit at all.)

This experience just clarified that Chi-Chi doesn't care to have his legs manipulated to be placed into a jacket. I'm wondering if he had a leg injury in the past. Any future sweaters, jackets, etc. will have to be the kind that fit over his back and can be attached with Velcro - like this green cameo jacket. Even then, we had to try this jacket with one leg in, one leg out.

He did look much warmer outside with a jacket on though :-)
And I think I have a whole new appreciation for the fun that is dressing up a cute dog.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Another storm, another dog napping-day

Chi-Chi is fitting in like he's always lived here, including figuring out how to get up on the couch without human assistance. Which is handy since as the only human in the house I can't always be meeting everyone's needs at the exact same moment.

Outside we're having the worst storm yet of this winter. Jenny and Lil still have to go out into their back run at least once an hour to see if anything exciting and new has happened since the last time they checked. Gracie is satisfied to walk within a body space of the door, then turns and runs back inside. Chee is a tougher snow dog than Gracie; he's been out a few times today to march around and make sure the birds aren't taking anything but seeds from his property.

Today I actually saw Chi-Chi laying with part of himself touching Jenny - the first time he's let himself touch another dog here without growling. Since then he and Gracie have also come into contact with each other without Chi-Chi getting frustrated and snarling. He seems to be coming to terms with having the girls as a part of his life. He still prefers his bubble of space but he can live with the girls - if he has to :-)

Gracie, Lil, and Chi-Chi's bubble of space

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Small, but not THAT small

I know it's been a while since I've lived with a small dog but I didn't realize how much that had shifted my sense of size. When I went to town today and picked up a sweater and collar for Chi-Chi, I bought xxs - extra extra small because that's what he looks like to me. Those of you who have a more balanced perspective may quickly say, "Oh no, he's not THAT small."

And he's not.

It seems Chee is a small, not extra small dog. Although, in my defense, the packaging on the sweater did suggest that it was for a Chihuahua sized dog. Chee has a rather muscular neck and chest, however, and there is no way a very small collar or sweater is fitting him.

In fact, he reminds me of a muscle builder - very thick on the top half, with a very narrow waist. It makes him look rather top heavy, which is why I wanted to get him a thinner collar; the one he's wearing now just adds to my impression that with a little more weight in front, like a dog tag on the collar, and he's going to tip forward, his back feet right off the ground.

We're adapting very quickly here. Chi-Chi now marches around the house with the big dogs and growls when anyone invades his sense of body space. I have convinced him that I mean the "no" marking in the house and after his first night (touch my wooden head) he has been doing all his business and marking outside. He has a rather large snow bank he now has to make a trip around to mark in several places but I can live with this much more easily than marking in the house.

After the first night when he slept in my bed, he has been switched over to a private bed in a large crate in my room. We both sleep much better this way as we both moved too much to be comfortable sharing a bed. In fact, Chi-Chi is comfortable enough in his bed that he tends to grumble when I get him up to go out in the morning. I'm quickly learning that a lot of his growling is just grumbling about events he doesn't care for, like getting up, going out, being told 'no.'

He also seems to learn very quickly though and has already quit complaining about inevitable things, like being told he's not to mark in the house. He's already figured out that this is just one of my peculiarities.
Gracie has decided he is old news, although she feels a bit bad that he doesn't want to cuddle with her. Gracie has no sense of body space and has never understood dogs who do. Lil is learning that she just has to give the little guy a bit of space (she's used to Gracie and also doesn't understand that some dogs don't want to be touching all the time.) Jenny is beginning to think she might like this odd little boy and is willing to be near him without touching him - for a while this morning she chose to lay by his crate to keep him company (again, not sure he cares for company but at least he didn't growl at her.)

Chi-Chi has quickly become my shadow. He wants to sit by me and follow me where-ever I go, unless he's in his crate when he settles down and seems to feel he's off-duty. Otherwise, he must be right next to me. When Lil and Gracie are also trying to be right next to me this leads to Chi-Chi jumping into my lap, Lil and Gracie trying to join him.

Lil running away rather than having her picture taken with Chi-Chi

Gracie has figured out that she can balance on the back of the sofa, while basically crawling onto my shoulder. She is rather large to be a parrot-like companion so I am discouraging this practice. Gracie doesn't understand why I don't want her standing on my head and shoulder, so she's a bit disappointed that I won't let her keep trying this; she's had to settle for either then hip-checking Lil out of the way, or the two of them practically sit on top of each other next to me. We still have some work to do on how much mass can fill the same amount of physical space at one time...physics isn't our strong suit here.

I'm a big enough dog to jump right off this porch....

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Adventures in Rehabilitation

A confluence of events has taken place in our lives very recently. (Confluence can mean a coming together of water, or things, and there's a reason that a term sometimes used to describe a meeting of water comes to mind in this case....more on that later.)

Within the last year I did a post mentioning that there are two breeds of dogs that are over-represented in shelters and rescues everywhere: Pitbulls and Chihuahuas. These breeds are on my mind a lot as I see people who are not interested in bettering either breed continue to produce puppies, and once adults these dogs often end up in shelters, where many are euthanized each year.

Both breeds can be poor fits when it comes to living with other animals, and due to the sheer number of each breed in rescues, pounds, shelters...many go unadopted each year.

In my personal life, it has now been over three years since the 'year of loss' when I lost three human friends, and three canine companions. The canine companions included both my rescue dogs, one of whom had a complicated personality, the other of whom was old and ill;  both had been considered 'unadoptable.' While I've done some short-term fostering since then, I haven't taken on much in the way of serious dog rehabilitation.

I've realized recently that I'm ready to consider rehabilitating a rescue dog again; when I take on that challenge it is always with the understanding that there has to be space in my life for that dog to stay forever.

I approach rehabing a difficult dog with the attitude that we don't know where the outcome will lead us. We may end up with a canine citizen whose ideal home is with someone else. We may end up with a dog who while much more comfortable and also less of a threat to the world around him/her, is best off staying with me. I can have my challenges with human relationships but I understand dogs. Sometimes dogs who have difficulty being in safe relationships with other humans, get along fine with me. I also discourage a lot of coming and going from my home, so we're a relatively low-action home from the point of view of visitors :-)

The final tributary to this confluence is a hole I've been feeling in my life lately. I've been missing the huge personalities that were the 'small' terriers who have lived with me in the past, my two Schnauzers and Scottie. Small dogs can have big personalities in a way that would just be obnoxious in a large dog. I'm not talking about dangerous behavior like snapping at people. I mean things like marching into a room, grabbing the biggest toy out of a pile and dragging it over just so the dog can lay on it and not allow other dogs to play with it. A little rude but also, in my sensibilities, amusing.

These river of feelings, thoughts, and impulses came together for me Friday evening. On rare occasions I get an impulse to stop by the local human society to see if there is anydog there who needs my assistance. I've helped a few other people and dogs connect this way. I wasn't expecting to find anydog last night because I keep an eye on the web page and I expected to find nearly empty dog-runs. I just had a really strong impulse to stop anyway.

What I found surprised me. Curled up in a dog bed, in a room by himself was a senior Chihuahua who wasn't on the web site. I was aware of his story - I knew that he was part of a group of four dogs that had been pulled from a high-kill shelter in a more populated area of our state, and brought here in an effort to find a home. Interest had been expressed in this little dog from the outset, on the group's Facebook page, and since this had taken place weeks ago, I was surprised to see him still in the shelter.

It turns out he's one of those hard to adopt dogs. A combination of strong personality, fear, possibly abuse, and decidedly abandonment. He's got issues. He doesn't look as old as he is, so I guess it wasn't until he was taken to a local vet that they discovered he was a senior. The other three dogs pulled from the high kill shelter were young, big dogs and the last one was being adopted as I went into the room to sit with this shaking little Chihuahua. Unlike the big dog across the hall who was romping and impressing his new family with his outgoing personality, this guy avoided looking at me and began growling. I got it. I sat down, and started to talk to him about the few little toys someone had brought in, that he obviously wasn't interested in. I quietly commented on a little green rubber pig, not looking at the dog but at the piggy in my hands.

It took probably five minutes for him to settle down, it didn't help that people were going by and staring in the big window that looks into the room, smaller children yelling, "I want that one, I want that one!" and smacking their hands on the window to indicate him.
"Yeah, that freaks me out too," I told him as he growled.

He decided I was worth checking out, getting out of his bed slowly, stretching and yawning - an indication that he was actually nervous and not sure what to expect.

I began to exam a small white stuffed rabbit that had a little slit in his back where a squeaker had been removed. The dog sniffed me over. Then his posture changed. He visibly relaxed, just a little, and moved sideways, in the small dog way of indicating he was prepared to be possibly picked up.

I've had enough small dog experience to know that sometimes a small dog will indicate he is willing to be picked up, then change his mind, or turn out to have a sore spot on his body that makes him yelp/wince/nip. I proceeded as gently as possible and just boosted him enough so he could get into my lap - I was seated cross-legged on the cement floor.

Some more sniffing and he settled down. Then he began to talk to me a little, small noises that indicated he had a hard-luck story he was willing to share with me. I asked him if he wanted to come home with me and he indicated that this was preferable to remaining where he was.

As I was filling out the paper work, one of the shelter workers went to get him. She came back in a moment with his little leash and not him. I said, "He growled at you."

"Oh yeah!"

I followed a second shelter person in to get him from his room. He was ready to give her attitude and then he saw me. He stoped paying attention to the shelter person and started to move towards me,  allowing the leash to be snapped on his collar. When I took the leash he transformed from a shaking little dog, to a big dog in a small body.

He suddenly started to prance, and moved forward like a dog on a mission. Without looking to the right or left he proceeded me to the front door. I said his thank you and good-byes for him as I followed his determined exit from the building. He stopped just long enough to mark a spot on the snowbank outside the front door and we crossed the parking lot to head home.

 Right now we call him Chi-Chi, although his nick-name is Naples - my shortened version of Napoleon. As I expected, my girls were flummoxed when he marched in and started barking and growling at everyone. Lil thought maybe one of the cats had started taking steroids. Gracie was exposed to Chihuahuas as a pup and seems to have retained a level of respect.

Jenny just seemed stunned that anyone could - or would- make a dog that small.

 Last night we started with a night of Chi-Chi barking at everyone. A lot. We ignored him as he got used to the fact that the other animals are going to be part of this new environment.

 For his part, he's marked a few things, growls when he's told "NO" (which I actually find amusing but a non-deterrent - he continues to hear the NO word) and proved to be pretty tough when it comes to the weather here. He doesn't hesitate to go out into the snowy world and mark abundantly, without shaking or shivering, or complaining about a lack of a jacket.

At this moment, I'm writing on my lap tap computer, which is precariously balanced on one knee. Gracie tried cuddling up with us for a while but is getting bored with a dog who growls every time she touches him, so she's gone to lay in the sunshine on the back of the other couch. Chi-Chi is curled up on the part of my lap not being used by computer, his nose tucked between me and the couch. Lil is curled up on my other side. Chi-Chi is getting used to the other dogs and, in typical little dog fashion, will occasionally growl if anyone comes too close, without actually bothering to look up at them. He's quickly learning that life now includes sharing space with bigger dogs.

It will be interesting to see where this path takes us. I think we will be trying out a belly-band in the near future...for the same reason that 'confluence' came to mind this morning - whole lot of liquid being consumed and converted to marking, golden streams around here lately.
Good thing we keep LOTS of enzyme and cleaning products on hand.