March 5th, 2014

There is no question that living in Portland sometimes makes it a bit of a chore to get dogs out for the exercise they need to be happy.   As much as we want to ask them to walk themselves they never seem to want to do that, so we go with the next best thing the dog park!  There, dogs of all sizes and ages can romp and play and tire each other out.   After 20 minutes, all are exhausted and ready to return home. In an ideal world, all dogs, and people, for that matter, would naturally know how to get along with one another, interacting in random, constantly changing social groups without a run-in or conflict. We know, however, that this is just not possible. There will always be different social dynamics, different temperaments and different play styles (yes also in both humans and animals). There will be some dogs that are naturally more social and some that are on the shier side.   There will be some that are extremely energetic, and others that slowly sniff their way from end of the park to the other. There will be the markers who live to pee on everything, and ball chasers who only see their owner and the ball’¦.or perhaps another dog’s ball.   There is a lot going on!   For many dogs, being at the dog park can be a fun, happy place to be, but it’s not the case for every dog.   In order to have the most positive experience, here are a few tips:  


Play  Watch how your dog is interacting with other dogs.   Just because she’s interacting with another dog at the dog park doesn’t mean she’s playing and having fun.   If your dog is spending all of her time running from another dog, there’s a chance she’s not playing.   Are the dogs alternating in their roles of chasing each other?   That’s good, but if your dog is just chasing or just being chased, this is a sign it’s not comfortable play and she might be stressed.   Play bowing and mirroring behaviors are generally signs that your dog is having a good time with her friend.

Balls and Toys    To some dogs, playing fetch is all that matters in the world.   My dog Boone most definitely falls into this category.   All he wants to do is chase the ball at the park.   We generally avoid traditional dog parks because he doesn’t really care if there are other dogs around.   Introducing a ball or a toy into a dog park can also bring out guarding behaviors in dogs- yours or someone else’s.  

Other Dogs  The whole reason to go to a dog park is because you want your pup to interact with other dogs, which can be great!   It can also be stressful, because like people, dogs have distinct and individual personalities. Watch for bullying behavior and avoid allowing packs to form, even loose ones.   If you see either of these happening, just move away with your dog.   Also, avoid opportunities where a leashed dog will encounter unleashed dogs.   The one on the leash may feel trapped and become aggressive.    

You   While you’re at the dog park, remember that you’re in charge of your dog and you are her protector.   Staying alert and present will help make for a happy experience for your dog.   Move around the dog park, so your dog has a chance to move away from a dog or situation that might be making her uncomfortable.   You are her safety zone and if you’re standing next to a meanie, your girl won’t have anywhere to go.

Puppies  We highly recommend keeping your puppies at home, especially if they’re four months or younger.   In addition to potential health risks, there is the potential of having a negative experience.   And as we all know, a negative experience when you’re young can stick with you for life.   So wait until your dog is a little older and more mature before taking them to play with the big dogs.  

If your dog just isn’t a dog park dog, that’s OK.   It’s better not to force it.   Expending energy while stressed isn’t necessarily a good thing.   A nice walk with you could be just what she needs to get some energy out and be the best thing for her well-being and happiness.   And of course, as we all know, there is nothing better than a happy, content, tired dog!!



February 13th, 2014

It is a very commonly held belief that rescue or shelter dogs are not suitable for homes with children. Let me set you straight right now, this is a myth! While it is true that there are dogs in shelters (and in people’s homes, of course) that are less kid friendly than others, it is most definitely true that many shelter pooches will not only tolerate but will really love and enjoy the company of kids.  

sebastion and little girl 2 copy

One of the founding principles of Pixie Project is that we are a family friendly animal shelter.  What does this mean? This means that regardless of your family make up, whether you are a family of two or six, have other animals or not, we will work with you to find just the right addition to your home. While we would love to help every family in their search find a perfect Pixie pooch, we realize that there are many great shelters and rescues out there and we fully support adopting from any of them!   In order to help eager adopters navigate the shelter adoption process, here are a few tips and tricks to help you asses if the dog you are interested in is good fit for your home with children.

Observe the pooch in his kennel:

Is he shy or reserved at the back of his kennel or is he up at the front seeking attention and responding warmly to your presence (think “wiggly”)?

We know a shelter environment can be stressful for dogs (no matter how comfy shelter staff try to make it!) which can lead to some dogs seeming more shy or shut down than they will be in a home, but whether the dog is truly shy or just reacting to the environment, when I am looking for a family with kids I always skip the quiet, nervous pooches.  Kids are going to be very excited (understandably!) about the new addition to their family and will want to be petting and playing with that dog from the moment it comes home. Shy dogs take more time to settle and will need extra support in acclimating to a new home.   Most will be uncomfortable with handling at the beginning, so time with the kids will have to be well managed.   Overall it’s much better for everyone to find a dog that will actively engage with the whole family right out of the gate!

Bring treats!

Whenever I am talking to families about shelter visits I always encourage them to take treats along. Good ones! Not milk bones’¦more like string cheese or HOT DOGS, yum! Once you have selected a potential pooch ask the shelter staff if they can take him out of his kennel for some one on one time. Once in the meet and greet room have both parents and child feed treats. If the dog is wary or does not want to take treats from the child move on to the next dog. Whether or not a doggie is willing to eat is a good barometer of the animal’s stress level. Not eating the super yummy treats you brought with you means the pooch isn’t feeling totally comfortable, so move on the next sweet doggie.

Does the doggie looooove your kiddo?

 It is not uncommon for kids to be a bit overwhelmed by doggies that want to jump on them, kiss them, play with them and love them. It can seem like a lot at first but these behaviors are easily managed with training. The key element here is that the dog actively engages the child and is curious and happy to be around them.  You can teach a dog to sit calmly, but you can’t change their basic temperament!


January 25th, 2014

Amy Walking Boone

Over the past 7 years, The Pixie Project has grown from a one room rescue operating out of the back of a doggie daycare into a 5,000 square foot full fledged animal shelter that can house 18 dogs and 20 cats. We have found homes for almost two thousand animals through our adoption programs and have helped over 3,000 homeless and low income pet owners with access to low cost and free veterinary care as well as spay and neuter services.

Despite all that we have accomplished, we feel like we are just getting started.   With the addition of our surgery suite our clinic program is really taking off and every day new vets and vet techs are signing up to donate their time to help the animals in our community who need it most.

We are also so happy to say that in response to our supply and demand problem we have way more loving wonderful families looking for pooches than we have dogs in the shelter we will be adding six more dog kennels to our shelter over the next few months!

 If there was one drawback about this incredible growth it would be that I feel less connected to the people who make Pixie what it is.   We have a massive network of people committed to helping us, and I love you all for your heart and passion.   It’s because of this that I want to start this BLOG.   I hope it can be the start of a conversation about Pixie, about animal training, a place to celebrate rescue successes and a place for you to ask questions and get non-judgmental answers.   We want to create a conversation around rescue and the amazing pets and people that make this the best job ever!

I can’t wait to communicate more with all of you and I encourage you to do the same with us here at the Pixie Project.

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    Portland, OR 97232

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