Thursday, December 23, 2010

Taking a Little Break for the Holidays...

We're getting ready to head out of town to spend the holidays with family. Since the trip involves a long plane ride, Oscar will be staying with some friends of ours. They are the owners of Oscar's cockapoo friend, Mia, who is about a year and a half old (give or take).

While we'll miss Oscar over the Christmas holidays, we don't really want to test him by bringing him on a plane for several hours in the winter while he's this young, not to mention rambunctious and noisy. Even if he's cute, I'm sure the other passengers would hate a barking miniature schnauzer even more than they would hate a screaming baby on the plane.  No one needs that kind of travel experience at Christmastime!  Maybe we'll try when he's older and calmer.

We know Oscar's in good hands though. When we dropped him off tonight, he was too busy playing to be upset that we were leaving. Oscar and Mia have been pals since right after he got his shots and the vet gave us the go-ahead for him to play with other (fully vaccinated) pups. Here are some pictures of Oscar and Mia playing from a few nights ago. He'll definitely get his exercise over the next few days. Mia is a sweet pup, and more laid back than Oscar.  Maybe she'll help Oscar with his manners, too!

Happy holidays, everyone!

Where are we going, and why do I have to sit back here by myself?

Are we there yet?

Nothing wrong with a good game of tug of war!

Looking pretty ferocious...

A picture from tonight - Oscar exploring his new digs.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Winter Fun

A few weeks ago I was wondering where the snow was, and now we've got plenty. I'm thinking about getting some boots for Oscar, but I'm putting it off for now because he seems to be fine with the snow so far and I'm not looking forward to trying to put boots on him. He still gets finicky when we try to put his leash on, so putting boots on should be interesting, to say the least.

I've tried working on getting him to remain calm when we handle him. He's okay with us touching his ears, tail and paws, but he really fights when we try to hold his collar, so we have some trouble getting him to sit still enough for us to clip his leash to it. Our vet held his collar once and got him to calm down within a few seconds, but every time we try he gets really mouthy and kicks until he gets free. I've been trying to give him a treat as soon as he calms down for a second and that is helping somewhat (praise just doesn't do it yet). I watched some Dog Whisperer this weekend and I am also thinking that I'm probably not as calm as I think I am when I'm trying to get him to calm down, which likely has something to do with it. I've also been trying to practice when he is tired so that he doesn't have as much inclination to fight and he's usually calmer.

For now, he seems to love playing in the snow and taking walks and hasn't had any issues with the cold without a jacket or boots, though it has been pretty mild so far this winter and that probably won't last, so I'm putting off getting boots for the moment.  We make sure to rinse his feet after coming inside from the walks and dry off his coat when it's snowing. He loves running around the backyard, digging around in the snow for pine cones, which he loves to chew, and breaking sticks off of one of the big bushes in the yard to gnaw on.  Good clean fun!

Digging for things to chew on.

Found a delicious stick!

Oscar startled a rabbit that was hiding by the fence
in the next yard and it ran off.

He's staring at the rabbit....

Now he's trying to get to the rabbit through the fence
 (needless to say, it didn't work).

So handsome!

All done.  Inside please!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Sweet Story for the Holidays

I came across this story about Esperanza and her cute little family here.  I hope they all find good homes!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Tips and Tricks from Planet Earth

Miniature schnauzers were originally bred for ratting, among other farm-related duties. I have read that keeping small animals like gerbils or hamsters in homes with miniature schnauzers is not recommended, because the mini's instinct may be to hunt them. Oscar tends to be strangely oblivious to animals like squirrels unless they run straight across his path, but he's very intrigued by birds. He also loves to dig, especially to find interesting things like chestnuts which squirrels have buried in our yard.

Usually Oscar is pretty uninterested in the TV. We were watching Planet Earth this afternoon, though, and it was the most attention Oscar has paid to the TV since we got him. He barked at the birds, and watched almost the entire sequence about foxes who steal eggs and bury them. He was so intrigued that he didn't even chew on his bully stick - he just kept it in his mouth and stared straight ahead at the TV with his paw on the armrest. Maybe he was watching to pick up a few prowling and digging tips!

Just a side note - Planet Earth is an amazing and beautiful documentary. If you like nature shows, I would highly recommend watching the series!

RIP, Pet Bed

You will be missed.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Oscar's Book Club

A lot of the reading that I have done about puppy training and care has been online. I am a huge bookworm too, so I have read a few puppy books (though I haven't read as many as I'd like, since it's so much cheaper to do my research online). If I had my way, I'd have a whole library of dog books!

A coworker lent me How to Raise the Perfect Dog by Cesar Millan. It was the first dog book that I read.  He discusses raising puppies and uses several puppies of different breeds that he raised as case studies.  One of the dogs he focused on was a miniature schnauzer, so I was excited to read the book, thinking that I would learn a lot.  I thought it was an okay read, but after finishing it, I didn't feel like I really picked up much practical knowledge. Maybe it was because I had already done a lot of reading on basic puppy care online before picking up the book and Cesar did not really go too much into training techniques. If he has a book geared more towards training (which I'm sure he must, since there is so much Cesar Millan stuff out there) then I might consider reading that to see if it would be more useful.

The other book I have read so far is My Smart Puppy by Brian Kilcommons and Sarah Wilson. I really liked this book and am in the middle of re-reading it. They provide a good basic discussion of dog training, and outline how to teach your puppy a lot of very useful commands, which they break into three different levels of difficulty. I liked that they didn't just outline the techniques, but also have somewhat of a "troubleshooting" section after each one, where they outline common obstacles that owners face in teaching the puppy a particular command and provide suggested solutions. I used the techniques in the book to teach Oscar the Sit, Come and Down commands before we ever made it to puppy class. They also have helpful pictures and tips, which was great.  I'd definitely recommend this book as a very good source of useful and basic training information. There is also a My Smart Puppy website which has lots of information on it (though you have to pay for full access - I just stick with the freebie articles).  The book also comes with a training DVD (which, ironically, Oscar chewed up).

I would really like to find another training book, but I'm looking for a good one that is geared towards miniature schnauzers. If any of you have found a good one, let me know. I'll be sure to post if I find a book that I'd recommend!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Well, That's One Way to Feed the Dog...

I was trying to put the top on the Kong Wobbler to feed Oscar his breakfast this morning, but then I dropped the bottom, which was already full of food, and made a bit of a mess. Oscar helped me clean some of it up before I put him in his exercise pen with a fresh scoop of food (in a closed Wobbler this time) while I swept everything up.

We feed him with the Wobbler at almost every meal. If we give him his food in bowls, he devours it in under a minute. With the Wobbler, he has to nudge or push the Wobbler around until the food falls out, so it really slows down his eating. I also like that it makes him work for his food because I think it stimulates him mentally more than just having his food presented to him.

I am really interested in getting a Buster Cube as well, which serves the same purpose - the puppy has to nudge it around until the food comes out. I've had trouble finding one though. This weekend, I saw some new Kong Genius toys which I think would be great to use at mealtime because they are stuffable. I'd really like to get one of those to try out as well. Maybe in the new year, after we recover from the Christmas spending!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Where is the Snow?

We were supposed to get a lot of snowfall this weekend, but we've mostly been getting freezing rain.  Apparently the snow will come tomorrow instead. Hopefully it won't be too much of a mess after the freezing rain. You won't hear any complaints from me about the lack of snow, but I was hoping to let Oscar play in the snow this weekend because he really seems to like it. It doesn't seem to bother his paws at all, and he seems like digging for leaves and sticks under the snow. We bought him a jacket this weekend for when winter really sets in and it gets really cold. Unfortunately, the medium didn't fit around his chest (!) so we'll have to exchange it for a bigger one. For now, here are a couple of pictures of Oscar investigating the snow for the first time a few weeks ago.

The Decision is Final

I posted not too long ago about how we had sometimes given Oscar pressed rawhides to keep him busy, and how we had recently purchased a bully stick for him to try.  Well, I did some further reading and I'm wondering now why we even bothered with pressed rawhides to begin with.  (Actually, one reason would be that we get most of our pet supplies from PetSmart, and while they have a big bulk section of rawhides, they don't seem to carry bully sticks and I'm not sure why.)

I am now firmly on the bully stick side of the rawhide/bully stick debate.  I thought this was an interesting read.  There is some general information about bully sticks here. It just seems to me that bully sticks are a safer alternative.  They are also a good alternative to Kongs filled with peanut butter and other treats, which we leave with him when we are at work.  Bully sticks are only a treat for when we're with him.  Plus, he seems to love them and they keep him occupied when we need him to be calm and quiet for a while.  He's actually got two bully sticks with him in these pictures - the white chunk is the last piece of his braided bully stick, and the long piece is the one I gave to him to enjoy not knowing that he had been munching on the other piece.  We're taking care of that urge to chew for sure, though I have to say the smell is not the most appealing (but luckily it's pretty faint).

Saturday, December 11, 2010

All Spruced Up!

We took Oscar to the groomer today. He got a bath, brush, nail trim and some clipper work. I still think his fur is still a little too short, but the upside is that we can wait longer between grooming sessions if we trim him a bit shorter. The groomer trimmed the hair on top of his head too, so he doesn't have the poufy look this time.  

The groomer said he was "difficult" today, unlike the first time he was groomed when he had only started getting a bit agitated when she started cleaning up his face. She said it's common for puppies at around 6 or 7 months to "regress" a bit and get overexcited.  

I feel like my child's just gotten a bad report card! It's true though - I have noticed that he gets excited lately. Not that he wasn't always excitable when he was a young puppy (he is a miniature schnauzer after all), but I find sometimes lately he just decides not to listen. Our trainer had also said that this tends to happen between 6-8 months, so we plan on taking him to another obedience class starting in the new year to keep his mind focused and keep him accustomed to following commands (and also to learn the Heel command, which would be extremely helpful because he still hasn't mastered the art of loose leash walking). We've also been trying to reinforce the commands we learned in puppy class, just so he doesn't forget them.

He looks so much skinnier now with this new haircut, but you can also really see his face now.  He looks so serious! Since his fur is so much shorter, it's also much softer, since most of the wiry overcoat was trimmed off.  Very handsome!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Leave It

Oscar is very food-oriented and will eat almost anything.  He also goes crazy for anything that moves (typical terrier).  So when we drop something on the floor, he's bound to pounce on it and try to eat it.  A handy little command we learned in order to deal with this combination of traits is "leave it."  You can start by putting a treat on the floor and covering it with your hand or foot.  When the puppy sniffs at the treat and tries to get at it, say "leave it."  When he finally leaves it alone, sits back and looks at you, praise and give him a treat.

He's gotten good at this now with treats.  We can do the command while dropping a treat to the floor and he'll leave it even if we don't cover it.  He's actually gotten good enough with treats that when he's lying down, we can put a treat on his paw, tell him to leave it, and he'll just stare at it until we say it's okay for him to take it.  I'll be really impressed if we can manage to put a treat on his nose and tell him to leave it.  Given his newfound fascination with paper, I'll also be impressed if we can drop a receipt or something like that on the ground without him trying to eat it.  Maybe one day!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

So Cute

I just found this page and had to share it.  They're miniature schnauzer puppies and they are maybe the most adorable things I've ever seen!  The white one looks like a tiny polar bear and I love that the dark puppy has little white paws.

Our Puppy Needs a Haircut...

When we were deciding what kind of puppy to get, we were looking for a breed that wouldn't shed much.  We were happy to hear that miniature schnauzers are hypoallergenic (or at least as much as a dog really can be).  They shed the way humans lose hair - just a little at a time.  I rarely ever notice dog hair on our furniture or the car seats, which is nice.  However, you have to make sure to groom minis well, because their hair can mat quite easily, especially in the "underarm" area.  I think this is because they have two coats - a very soft, downy undercoat, and then a wiry longer coat.  I brush him once in a while, but I haven't really noticed any matting in his hair.  The only exception is when he manages to find a towel to chew - the fluff sometimes gets matted in the hair around his mouth and gets so tangled that I can't brush it out.

This may be a controversial thing to say on a blog about a miniature schnauzer, but my husband and I don't like the Schnauzer cut.  (The Schnauzer cut is when the hair on the dog's back and sides is cut short, while the hair on the belly and legs is grown out along with the eyebrows and the beard.)  We think Oscar looks cuter when he's a little shaggy.

Even though we like to keep Oscar a little shaggy, we've already taken him to the groomer once, several months ago, and we'll be bringing him back this weekend.  It's really his face that needs upkeep, because his eyebrows and the hair on his muzzle starts to grow right into his eyes if we let it go too long.  I'm not brave enough to groom him on my own because I'm afraid that he'll fidget when I've got scissors near his face.  No good could come of that.

The last time we brought him to the groomer, the blade we chose made his hair way too short.  When they asked if we wanted to keep the hair on his head the same length, we said sure.  That was a mistake.  The combination of the two ended up looking pretty odd, since all of his hair was short except on the very top of his head.  This time, we'll ask for his hair to be left longer, and make sure that the hair on top of his head is the same length as the hair on the rest of his body.  I'll be sure to post pictures of how handsome he looks afterwards!

Can he even see?

He looked completely crazy after the short cut on the body but with long hair on the head.
He looks even crazier here with crossed eyes and his tongue out....

From a few weeks ago - getting a bit shaggy but still able to see.  Cute!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Challenges of Canine Dental Care

Our vet has said that small dogs can be pretty susceptible to bad teeth, so she recommended that we start brushing Oscar's teeth.  She said that ideally it would be an everyday thing, but she did say that brushing weekly would be a more realistic goal.

When we were first looking into getting a puppy, I was reading up about dog care and training and had read that it is best to train a pup to be comfortable with having his mouth and teeth handled at a young age.  Sadly, I haven't done as much training in this area as I would have liked and now Oscar's really finicky about us touching his mouth and teeth.

We give Oscar Greenies, which are dental chews shaped like toothbrushes, but our vet compared using Greenies for cleaning teeth to giving someone chewing gum to clean their teeth.  I've also read about dogs experiencing digestion issues with Greenies, but I have also read that Greenies have changed their recipe in order to make the chew more digestible and more flexible so it's less likely to cause digestion troubles.  We haven't experienced any problems with Greenies so far, but I'd like to get away from giving them to Oscar too often and train him to let us brush his teeth instead.

There is a video and an article here which I have found pretty useful about brushing a dog's teeth.  After watching it, I tried putting some puppy toothpaste on my finger and running my finger over Oscar's teeth.  He pretty much just licked it off, but I did manage to at least run my finger over his teeth without him nipping me so I think that's progress.  It will probably be a long road from here to the point where he'll let us actually brush his teeth, but since I've heard that having a vet do a dental cleaning can cost over $200, I'll definitely keep trying.

Monday, December 6, 2010


The cone came off today!  He promptly licked the incision, but since then he's left it alone, mostly because he's been busy running around in excitement.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Chew Chew

Oscar loves to chew things, but the things he likes the most are things that we don't want him to chew, like socks and dishtowels. He loved chewing rope bones when he first came home with us, but unfortunately he doesn't seem overly interested in them anymore. Rubber squeaker toys only keep him occupied for a few minutes at a time. The only toys that really hold his attention now are toys that  involve food. We have a bunch of Kong toys that we stuff with peanut butter or biscuits, but we're always on the lookout for alternatives that keep him busy so he doesn't get bored.

We stay away from normal rawhides because of the risk of having him swallow a chunk and it expanding in his stomach, causing serious health issues. There are shelves and shelves of them at the pet stores though, so people must be buying them. I have read that pressed rawhides are safer because they are compacted, making it harder for a dog to chew off a big chunk. We have given him pressed rawhides because they hold his attention, and because he is only able to chew off really small pieces at a time, but he only gets them when we are home to supervise him.  I have read that rawhides (pressed or otherwise) can be hard to digest though, so I'd like to find some other alternatives to keep him occupied.

When we were at a pet store this weekend, we saw some bully sticks and bought one for him to try.  If they're good enough for Cesar Millan I figure they're good enough for us! Hopefully it works out and it will be a good (and maybe safer) alternative to keep him busy when we need some quiet time.

Any other suggestions or tips would be welcome!


When we were reading up about miniature schnauzers before we got one, they were described as being "good watchdogs," which is really just a nice way of saying that they bark a lot. Oscar is definitely a good watchdog.  His exercise pen and crate are next to our back window, and our backyard backs onto parkland.  People walk by often, and every time Oscar sees anyone go by he barks like crazy, especially if people have dogs with them. He's the loudest when he's out in the yard and there are dogs or people on the other side of the fence - he'll run straight up to the fence and bark continuously until they walk past our yard and he can't see them anymore.  He's also pretty vocal when we bring him to PetSmart, because he gets excited when he sees all of the other dogs and people around.  I would love for him to tone down the barking, mostly to avoid annoying our neighbours or scaring any kids that might be around when he barks.

I read one of Cesar Millan's books and one thing that stuck with me is that his dogs apparently only bark once to let him know that they see something, and then they know to stop.  That would be my ultimate goal, at least when he's in the house and sees something outside.  Ideally, I'd like him to learn to be quiet when we bring him out in public, like to PetSmart or the park, and when kids are around.

We took Oscar to an 8-week puppy course at PetSmart, which he finished.  (We managed to take a picture of him before he shook his little graduation cap off - not an easy feat!)  Training a puppy to not bark wasn't a main item on the agenda, but our trainer did give us one tip: put ten pennies in a pop can and tape the top and shake it when the puppy barks.  The noise is supposed to startle the puppy into being quiet, and then you can praise and treat when he's quiet.  Unfortunately he seems to be a bit immune to the noise now, so I'm trying out clicker training instead: correcting the bark and then clicking and treating when he's quiet.

We had a few good chances to practice today: once when my husband turned the vacuum on, and again when some people were out walking by our yard.  Oscar is making a little progress, which is encouraging.  He has now stopped barking at the vacuum when it's off (he used to run up to it, bark at it, and then continue on his way) but is still noisy when it's on.  We're going to keep working on it!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Puppy Food

We started Oscar out on Iams because it was the food that the breeder had been using.  He didn't seem to like it much though, so I did some research by looking at ingredient lists and customer reviews for a variety of puppy food brands.  I don't know a ton about puppy food, but from what I have read and what I have been told by staff at the Humane Society when we were talking to them about what they used, the best indicator of a good dog food is its first five ingredients, and it's best if at least two of those ingredients are meat.  Corn and wheat should be avoided because they can apparently cause allergies.

I was quite impressed by Blue Buffalo, and we bought the Puppy Chicken and Brown Rice recipe.  The first five ingredients were deboned chicken, chicken meal, whole ground brown rice, whole ground barley and oatmeal.  I liked that the first two ingredients included meat, that there was no corn or grain and no meat by-products.  Oscar seemed to love it and devoured it every time we put it in his bowl.  I have read that other dogs eat all of the kibble but leave behind the small, dark "Life Source bits" which apparently contain vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, but he ate it all with no problem.

We just bought the Blue Buffalo Small Breed Puppy Chicken and Oatmeal recipe today and will be switching him over to it gradually.  The first five ingredients are deboned chicken, chicken meal, oatmeal, peas and whole ground barley.  My thinking was that the new recipe will be better for him because it is tailored for small breeds, but we'll see if there is any noticeable change after the switch.

The Cone

Oscar was neutered last Thursday and the vet said he had to wear a cone for a week straight.  We're keeping it on a few days longer just to let him heal up more before he gets a chance to lick at the incision.  He hated it at first and kept trying to tear it off.  He seems to have gotten used to the cone now, though he still bumps into door frames.  He'll be one happy puppy when it comes off!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Meet Oscar!

Hello friends and miniature schnauzer lovers!  Welcome to Oscar the Pooch, where I'll be blogging about Oscar, our miniature schnauzer puppy, and our adventures in raising him.

We brought Oscar home from the breeder in July when he was 8 weeks old.  He basically came crate trained, which was great.  He rarely had any accidents.  He fooled us for the first couple of days, as he was very quiet and napped calmly in his dog bed most of the time.  After he got comfortable, his personality really came out.  It wasn't long before he was gnawing on the dog bed like it was a chew toy, running around and following us around the house.

Miniature schnauzers are pretty avid chewers, and Oscar is no exception.  We quickly learned that plush toys aren't the best choice for him because he tears them apart, which is a shame because he loves them.    We now tend to stick with rubber toys, especially durable ones with squeakers, and toys that you can stuff with treats, like Kongs.  He also likes to grab towels when we're not looking, and he has recently developed a love for chewing Kleenex and paper for some strange reason.

Here are some pictures of Oscar when we first brought him home.  It's hard to believe how much he has grown, and how quickly!

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