The Many Faces of Ru

Maybe this isn’t the most popular thing to say, but having a reactive dog often feels like a burden. With behavioral issues that even I don’t fully grasp sometimes and often seem like they come out of nowhere, Rufus is complex to say the least. Despite all of this , I love him with my whole heart.


I think that those of us who have fallen hard for reactive dogs are drawn to the “virtual platform” of sharing because it’s our way of showcasing our complex pups in all of their glory. We get to share those moments of pure bliss when our dogs are 100% themselves. Nothing is making them tense. Nothing is making them unsure. They are just dogs. Wonderful, uncomplicated canines.

And sure – progress happens and there are even times when he just plain surprises me with his intuitiveness in certain situations, but I’m just being real about the bigger picture. Rufus is a tough cookie and he makes me reexamine our training techniques over and over again. For years now, guys! Years! Ugh…


But then there are the moments when it’s just the two (or three) of us. And I remember why I adore this guy so much and why I’m so happy he came into my life. Screwball behavior and all.



24-Hour Foster Dog |Farewell, Rosa

This is Rosa.


Rosa was actually in my home for less than 24 hours before she met her now forever family and swept them off their feet.


Now I don’t usually recommend doing introductions so quickly after a new pup comes into your home, but Rosa is of the happy-go-lucky velcro dog variety. She just wanted her people and I could see that immediately.


The adopters had a stellar application and an amazing setup for a dog like Rosa – a community of friends, a momma who stays at home with her two little kids, and a beautiful backyard. It was a no-brainer.

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We had a great night getting to know this sweet girl and she became attached to me within the hour. Of course, now she can channel that passion into her forever family.

Even though it was short lived, I’m so happy I got to hang out with this beautiful soul. Happy trails, Miss Rosa. ❤

A Good Dog | When a Fearful Dog Succeeds


What makes a dog good?

I’ve written a lot about Ru’s behavioral quirks and obstacles and I’ve been really honest about how I try my hardest to work through and around them so that he can have as many enriching experiences as possible while also always being mindful of his boundaries.

We had a visitor this weekend. This person is someone that Rufus hasn’t been around in almost four years and even when he was around her back in Illinois, they met less than a handful of times. And even though I was super excited to spend time with her for a long weekend, I was a bit nervous about how Ru would take to a stranger (one that isn’t necessarily a “dog person”) staying in his house for several days. But! I didn’t let nerves deter me. I took the steps needed to make him comfortable and to set him up for success.

So what’d we do?

1.We met our guest outside. We took a mini walk in which no one interacted with each other. We just walked and talked and let Rufus sniff and get into his happy zone.

2.Then we walked inside and kept the mood neutral. She said “hello” to him but did not reach down to pet him. We put her stuff away, handed her some treats, and sat down to visit.

3.She fed Rufus treats as we praised him in our highest “dog mom” voices for being neutral. He licked her hand. Success!!

The rest of the visit was perfect. He would go up to her for a good neck scratch and then come back to me. He followed me around a lot more than usual, but he wasn’t fearful….just a little unsure.

Nothing happened. He didn’t “bond” with her but he also didn’t dislike her in the slightest. It went as perfectly as I could’ve hoped for.

A lot of people (especially those that aren’t completely nerdy over canines) expect a dog to WANT the attention. They expect to meet a dog that is incredibly friendly, excited to meet every single person ever, and that you can easily reach down to pet no matter who you are or where you are. That’s not Rufus. And honestly…that’s not a lot of dogs, now, is it?

Rufus will never be happy-go-lucky in the traditional sense, but I’m more than ok with that. I just want him to be comfortable and content when life hands him a curveball. Through tiny baby steps, he’s shown me that he is willing to do the work and I love that about him.

Rufus is a good dog because he’s mine. I take responsibility for him and I do my best to push him through those rough moments without forcing anything. Our bond is stronger because of these moments and I’m so happy to have him by my side.

My heart dog. 


Leading By Example: Putting Your Older Dog To Work

You know what’s awesome? Having your resident dog teach your new/foster dog the ropes without even having to ask. Hattie is constantly checking in with Rufus, watching his every reaction to see how she should be feeling about whatever may be going on at any given moment. With very little effort, our foster girl is already getting the hang of things.  It’s like she’s been Rufus-fied! 

Even though Rufus has some behavioral issues we continue to struggle with (such is life, right?), he also has some great qualities we are so thankful for. And those great qualities are rubbing off on our foster pup in a wonderful way:

-The art of chilling out.


Playing footsie.


On peanut butter duty.

No one knows how to chill out better than Rufus – he is the master of doing absolutely nothing at any given moment. When Hattie first came to us, she was very scatter-brained and a total busy body (she is a puppy after all). And now? When she sees us all hanging out and relaxing, she does the same. In fact she seem to be on a very similar nap schedule as Rufus, only awake a little bit longer here and there to make time for antler chewing. All of this is wonderful considering her age – she’s such a good pup.

-Recall and staying close by.


These two nuts.

Hattie loves Rufus so much that she’d rather be close to him than anywhere else. Ever. This has been really great when working on her recall because I know that as long as Rufus is close by, she won’t be far behind. Of course we haven’t done off-leash work yet as we’ve only had her for a week, but she’s great on a training lead. I see wonderful off-leash romping in her future!

-Letting the little things go.


The outdoors is for fun and games, not for freaking out every time a car drives by.

Oh the noises. If Hattie heard any kind of action coming from outside, she’d go into a barking fit. After just a few short days of seeing Rufus unfazed by these same mysterious noises, she’s already getting so much better at ignoring the ruckus that comes with living around a ton of children and families. In short, Yay Rufus! 

If you’re thinking about getting a younger dog and happen to have an adult dog that rocks in so many ways, do it! The beauty of dog-dog relationships is that they teach each other so much without having to say a word. Of course it’s still important to train your new pup – nothing replaces basic obedience training. But! It certainly is nice to have a little help from our furry friends.