Monday, March 31, 2014


Athough he absolutely loves the hose, sprinklers, puddles, creeks, lakes, swimming pools, and the ocean, Brisbane hates rain. I think it's because he was born in late April, and we live in southern California. Our rainy season is in the winter, and we've been in various states of drought for Brisbane's entire life. What little rain we get mostly happens at night. When he was a baby puppy, I was able to use a freak thunderstorm to help teach Briz that loud booming noises are no big deal. I never thought to introduce him to rain, though. Really, who does that?

Water is great as long as it's not falling from the sky!
I love everything about the rain, probably more so because we see it so rarely. I love walking in it, or just standing there getting wet. I love the smell of rain. Brisbane did not experience rain until he was at least six months old, and to him it is just plain wrong. I would be one of those people out in a downpour, my dog and I decked out in matching raincoats and galoshes, but I can't talk Briz into leaving the house. He even refuses to go out and pee, preferring to hold it for as long as 36 hours. Sometimes he gets creative and will pee in the bathtub, or an uncovered catbox. I appreciate his creativity, at least.

While he's had nearly nine years to get used to the winter rains, Briz is still clearly disconcerted. As I type this, he is standing on the front porch, watching the rain with great concern. He won't leave the shelter of the porch, but he still wants to go out and observe every so often. He prefers it when I accompany him out there, so he can look at me and whine occasionally. The rain is not ok, and apparently I'm supposed to do something about it.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Reasons My Dog is Whining

Brisbane appears to understand spoken English, but must resort to other means of communication when he needs to tell me something. This usually takes the form of whining softly, and occasionally poking me with his nose. I get to investigate possible causes until I figure out the problem. Unlike the kids on Reasons My Son is Crying, Brisbane is usually whining for a logical, sensible reason.


Life is hard sometimes.
1. He needs to go outside and I didn't hear him ring the potty bells.

2. Ru needs to go outside and I didn't hear him ring the potty bells.

3. The water bowls are all empty.

4. I left the oven on.

5. There is a kitty sleeping in his crate.

6. It's past dinner time and the dogs still haven't been fed.

7. A puzzle toy was lost under the furniture before it was emptied of its precious contents.

8. Ru has finished his dinner and I have not yet given Brisbane the leftovers or put them away.

9. I left a candle burning and went to bed.

10. There are leftovers on the stove and we have neither fed them to Brisbane, nor left them in counter-surfing range.

11. There is a sizeable gas leak right outside.

12. Somewhere in the house, a cat is doing something of which Brisbane does not approve.

13. I am laying on the couch blogging when I could be petting him.

14. There are humans occupying all the furniture in the room and god forbid any dogs sit on the floor.

15. The neighbors are doing something suspicious.

16. A familiar car is approaching.

17. Brisbane cannot defeat the entire purpose of the puzzle toy by unscrewing it, and thinks I should solve this problem for him.

The Truth About Chihuahuas

There was a time when I truly believed that a chihuahua would behave like a 'real dog' if it were treated like a dog instead of a fashion accessory or human infant. This was before I got a chihuahua. I have since learned that 'real dog' is actually a continuum. On one end are endothermic dogs that willingly eat food and can survive in less than triple-digit temperatures without sweaters; on the other end is Ru.
Just like a dog only smaller!
At slightly over 6 pounds, Ru isn't going to win any tininess competitions. He's not even close to looking like a showdog, with his extra-long back. I'm also not certain his expression is nearly saucy enough for the AKC breed standard. That said, Ru is very much a proper chihuahua in temperament and personality.

There are a lot of delightful rumors and stories about the origins of the chihuahua. Were they bred as a single-serving meat animal in a hot climate? Were they developed as a baby replacement for mothers who lost their infants? Did priests turn them loose inside the walls of buildings to hunt mice? Was the chihuahua of today developed from tiny dogs found running around Aztec ruins in Mexico in 1850? I love asking people where chihuahuas come from because I often hear a new story.

What we do know is that chihuahuas are one of the older modern breeds, with the first ones being shown in 1904. Most of our modern breeds are less than two centuries old, and and were developed during the 1800's when purebred dogs became a popular sport. Wealthy dog fanciers traveled in search of new and different breeds to develop, and for good reason. After all, only one person at the dog show can have the best terrier, but a dozen people can win if there are a dozen different types of terriers, right? A landrace is a type of dog you get when breeding is utilitarian without consideration for appearance. All breeds of dogs were originally landraces until someone came along and attempted to both define and refine them. When the dogs are bred to win conformation shows rather than do a job, they tend to lose their working ability and turn into a very different type of dog.

Ru and fosterdog Candace
Most dogs of the New World were replaced by European dogs in the centuries before purebred dogs became a fad. Very few of the original landraces of the Americas survived, and when a dog is claimed to be descended from native dogs, genetics usually shows that it is a European attempt to recreate that breed in the 1800s. According to various authorities on dog breeds, the people who developed the chihuahua never set foot in Mexico. What they did do was travel by train in the southwestern United States. In border towns, Native Americans would approach the windows of stopped trains with souvenirs to sell to the travelers. Among these souvenirs were the small village dogs that lived in the area.

Dog fanciers like James Watson bought these little dogs, took them home, and attempted to turn their landrace into a breed. It's probably they mixed in some other breeds in their attempts to shrink the wee beasts all the way down to 2-lbs, but a 2-lb dog can't give birth naturally, maintain its body temperature, or prevent its blood sugar levels from crashing. The dog fanciers finally settled on a 5-lb dog, which remains difficult to attain even today. Breed a couple of 5-pounders together, and you're likely to get progeny that grow from 4-6 pounds. Breed the 6-pounders and get 5-7 pound offspring. Even a pair of tiny dogs can randomly produce a puppy that grows to 10-lbs, and as soon as unscrupulous breeders stop deliberately breeding for tininess they end up with a pack of 10-lb chihuahuas with non-spherical skulls.

Are chihuahuas actually descended from native Mexican dogs? Or are they an attempt to recreate an extinct breed via European dogs? They do have an awful lot in common with the Techichi skeletons found at archaeological sites in Central America. To my delight, this study published last summer shows that a particular copy of a particular gene is unique to chihuahuas...and those ancient dogs interred at those archaeological sites. The chihuahua is the Techichi. Meanwhile, the Mexican Hairless Dog, or Xoloitzcuintli, appears to be descended entirely from European dogs.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Why I Hate the Dog Whisperer

I may not be old enough to be a 'veteran dog trainer', but I did start reading dog training books as soon as I could read. Back in the late 80's, my dog training books all included a section on how best to hit your dog without them becoming hand-shy. Training a dog to sit involved pushing their rear down while pulling their collar up and ordering them to 'sit!' The reward might be a treat, but usually it was just a removal of the pressure. "Sit and I will stop manhandling you." Once the dog had supposedly learned the behavior, failure to sit on cue would be punished with a choke chain correction. "Sit or I will hurt you." Puppies weren't supposed to be trained at all for obedience until they were well into adolescence, because training was too harsh for them. Dogs were supposed to obey their handlers out of fear-based respect.

Before I got my first dog when I was twelve, I had already noticed a shift in dog training methods. Treats were used more often to reward correctly following commands. "Do it because I said so" became "Do it because there will probably be a reward of some sort". Reprints of my training books omitted sections about hitting dogs. By the time I got my cocker spaniel, training a dog to sit involved holding a treat above her nose and moving it back until she sat on her own, then giving her the treat and repeating this sequence until she figured out what I wanted. After she learned the hand motion, the voice command was introduced. "When I say 'sit' I want you to do that thing you do that makes me so happy, then you get treats, hooray!"

I continued to read and study animal behavior and dog training. Positive training almost completely replaced the old-fashioned force-based methods. I first heard about the Dog Whisperer when I was in college, friends and family kept telling me about this guy on tv that I needed to see. I watched an episode, and was appalled. The Dog Whisperer isn't a genius, he has no special understanding of dogs, he was just resurrecting the outdated force-based training. It felt new because it was so old it was out of date.

The reason people stopped used force training is because positive methods work so much better. Our dogs do not misbehave because they do not respect us, the vast majority of canine misbehavior is rooted in fear and anxiety. No amount of "leadership" is going to help a fearful dog overcome her aggression, but enough intimidation can suppress the fear until it becomes unbearable.

This video is titled "Showdown with Holly", featuring a dog with food aggression. Is if often cited as Caesar's Worst Bite:

The Dog Whisperer apparently sees a dog that thinks it is the boss and does not allow anyone near her food, and he attempts to show her that he is the boss and can take her food whenever he wants. I see a dog that is terrified that someone will take her food, and feels the need to defend it because it is so important and she is so afraid. Holly bit him because he demonstrated that not only will he take her food away, he will physically attack her for it.

Brisbane guards his food, though not as bad as Holly. He learned this fear from my elderly cocker, who was deaf and blind and would walk right over his tiny puppy self to steal whatever tasty thing he had. Brisbane feels the need to defend his food because he is afraid someone will take it. I have helped him feel less afraid by never taking things from him by force. If I want what he has, I always offer him something better. Got a rawhide bone? Here's a piece of hotdog instead! Because he has learned that giving up his treasure always means getting something even better.

I could teach Brisbane that he must give up his treasure or I will hurt him, and I might even terrify him enough to willingly give it up most of the time. However, his fear would still be there and would probably build until he exploded just like Holly did.

The Dog Whisperer also likes to use a technique called 'flooding'. This means overwhelming the dog with whatever it fears until it shuts down and stops acting afraid. I visited a therapist who wanted to use flooding to treat my fear of needles because just discussing the process made me so terrified I couldn't function. Flooding operates by exhausting the part of the brain that can feel fear, my therapist wanted me to experience panic attacks for hours, until the part of my brain capable of panicking finally died. It would have been an incredibly stressful and traumatic form of "therapy", with no guarantee that the fear would not return even stronger.

I wouldn't use flooding to alter my own behavior, and I would never want my dog to feel like that either. I don't want him to obey me because he is more afraid of me that he is of anything else, I want him to trust me enough to do what I ask of him. I need him to trust that I will protect him and keep him safe from the things he fears while I try to show him that there isn't really anything to be afraid of. There is no room for intimidation, force-based training, or the Dog Whisperer in my dog training philosophy.

Puzzle Toy: SafeMade Biggie Bone

The SafeMade Biggie Bone is a stuffable toy shaped like a bone. This toy is not only freezer-safe, it is also oven-safe, something I can't say for any of our other toys. Since the Biggie Bone is from SafeMade, it's also toddler-safe, and infant-safe, and grandma-safe.
Stuffed with love, also peanut butter.

I like the size of the stuffing chamber in the Biggie Bone, it's cylindrical and goes all the way through the toy. A bit small for most biscuits, but it can be easily stuffed with sweet potato, banana, and peanut butter. I could also fill it with kibble and seal the ends with peanut butter. This is not something I would have purchased myself, but it came in this month's BarkBox and I feel obligated to give it a fair chance.

The concept of the SafeMade company is pretty good, basically everything they sell is safety tested for everybody in your house. We know that some imported dog toy tennis balls contain very high amounts of lead, and babies will put anything in their mouths. I solve this issue by not buying imported tennis balls, especially ones specifically marketed for pets. I also don't have a baby, and I might be more concerned about my dog toys being safe for babies if I had one and/or lost my mind.

Puzzle Toy Rating

Capacity: 3/5
It's not cavernous, but bigger than it looks.

Loading Speed: 4/5
No curves or nooks to load, just shove stuff in.

Unloading Speed: 5/5
I gave this to Brisbane yesterday and he still hasn't gotten all the peanut butter out of the center.

Size: 4/5
These come in three sizes, we have the largest one. It's pretty big, but I wouldn't give it to a giant dog or a power-chewer.

Noise: 5/5
Blissfully silent.

Locatability: 4/5
Doesn't roll, but the dark color can make it hard to spot if it ends up behind the couch.

Washability: 5/5
Dishwasher-safe, of course. The lack of curves and corners makes it really easy to scrub.

Hoardability: 2/5
Exciting enough to drag off to the lair, but boring once empty. SafeMade makes a lot of non-stuffable chew toys that Briz would find completely useless because he doesn't chew anything that doesn't involve food.

Total: 32/45
Not a bad product, this one has joined my collection of stuffable toys that live in the freezer. Still haven't tried baking anything into it, though.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Favorite Places: Arroyo Burro Off-Leash Dog Beach

Arroyo Burro Beach is known locally as Hendry's. Parking is free, and there are bathrooms and the Boathouse restaurant right there. Trash cans and a poo bag dispenser can be found on the way to the stairs, which lead down to the sand. Turn left and walk to the base of the cliffs to get to the designated off-leash area. The dog beach extends to the wooden steps at the foot of Mesa Lane, more than a mile away.
Sweet freedom!
The dog beach is proof that my dogs are very, very spoiled. We visite several times a week, and sometimes every day when the tides are good. Currently the beach is unusually rocky thanks to our one and only winter storm scouring all the sand away. It's coming back, but slowly.

My favorite thing about this beach is how wonderfully isolated it feels. The dog beach runs along the base of the cliffs, and basically disappears at high tide. The rest of the day the dog beach becomes a corrider, perfect for walking while throwing a ball.
High tide, no beach.
The cliffs helps contain the dogs, there is no access to streets or other modern hazards. I have helped other beachgoers capture dogs that decided to bolt down the beach. If a wayward dog makes it to the steps and the parking lot, there are always plenty of dog-lovers around to help. I once encoutered a small, fluffy dog wandering confused in the parking lot. After she shied away a couple of times, I just pointed and announced "This dog is lost and running loose in traffic!" Half a dozen random strangers surrounded her while one person gently coaxed her over with treats, and I walked down to the beach to find her inattentive owner.

Just like any other dog park, Hendry's has its fair share of clueless dog owners and obnoxious dogs. Unlike most dog parks though, most of the people there aren't expecting every dog on the beach to play with theirs. Some people park themselves in one spot and expect their dog to entertain itself.

Brisbane needs a job to do, so I always bring the Chuckit! launcher and an Ultra Ball. Without these talismans, Brisbane will either attach himself to the first person he sees with a Chuckit!, or attempt to herd ladies wearing sunglasses and big hats. The sand is the perfect place for him to run and jump without putting too much stress on his joints or feet.

The biggest problem we have at the dog beach is with other dogs harassing Brisbane while he performs his sacred duty.

Brisbane doesn't care if another dog wants to chase him, run with him, or chase his ball. Briz doesn't even care if the other dog gets the ball every single time. He does care when the other dog "plays" by smashing into him, though. Once a very large dog body-checked him so hard he went flying. That dog's owner saw my look of horror and explained "Your dog ran into my dog." Just like any other dog park, avoiding the beach on weekends and particularly sunny afternoons generally helps us steer clear of the poorly-socialized dogs that don't get out much. Most of the time it's just the us regulars waving to each other as we pass.

This is not a groomed beach, so all sorts of things wash up and stay there. Ru enjoys sniffing the seaweed piles and rocks. Brisbane enjoys rolling in the occasional dead bird or sea lion. Ew.

Puzzle Toy: Kong Quest Starpod

In my ongoing quest to keep Brisbane occupied, I own, have owned, or plan to own pretty much every food-dispensing toy on the market. It's worth mentioning that the number of toys I haven't tried is definitely the minority even as manufacturers introduce new products.

Admittedly the bright colors are mostly for my own benefit.
The Kong company is much-loved by dog owners everywhere. Their products are a staple of basic
dog behavior management, and Kong is a household name. Their product line is forever growing, and they recently introduced a couple of new toys that look like a lot of fun. The Kong Quest Starpod comes in two sizes and several colors, I have a large purple one.

The Starpod features a large central well and eight smaller satellite wells. The central well only has one opening, but the smaller circles are open on both sides. When I first spotted this toy at the store, I pondered what exactly one would cram into it. The smaller holes are way too big to contain kibble, and the big one would be emptied as soon as the toy flipped over. The Kong video shows Kong-brand treats, both soft chewy treats and the stuff that comes in the spray can. I've considered getting some Cheez-Wiz for rapidly stuffing dog toys, but my husband would probably eat it instead.
Stuffed with love. And sweet potatoes.

Stuffing all the little wells in the Starpod is actually kind of annoying. I usually end up using my fingers to smear stuff around the walls of the small wells and hoping it sticks. Microwaves sweet potato is a food toy staple around here because pretty much everything in the house will eat them (dogs, birds, turtles...) but Brisbane isn't madly in love with them. Our food toys usually end up stuffed with sweet potato, peanut butter, and occasionally leftovers.

I did find that I could stuff a very specific size of biscuit into the wells of the Starpod. It has to be small enough to fit in there, and big enough not to fall out immediately. The California Natural biscuits worked pretty good when I broke them in half, but that's an awful lot of effort for something Brisbane is going to pop out nearly as fast. It may have taken Brisbane a full five minutes to figure out how to get the first one out, and maybe 15 minutes total to get them all.

Doesn't everyone have a drawer of stuffed toys in their freezer?

Puzzle Toy Rating

Capacity: 2/5 
I can probably fit half a cup of squishy stuff in the big well.

Loading Speed: 1/5
It takes as long to smear each little circle with peanut butter as it takes Brisbane to lick it all off if the toy is frozen first.

Unloading Speed (standard dog): 3/5
Josie spent quite a while slurping each individual circle clean.

Unloading Speed (superdog): 1/5
Sometimes I am too lazy to fill this toy.

Durability: 3/5
It's not hard rubber, and I wouldn't give it to a recreational chewer. 

Size: 4/5
Comes in two sizes, and wouldn't be a choking hazard for a nondestructive large dog.

Noise: 5/5
Blissful silence, except for all the slurping.

Locatability: 4/5
Might get nosed under the furniture, but it's not the type of toy that encourages nosing so it's pretty safe. I usually find it in Brisbane's livingroom lair

Washability: 3/5
It would probably go through the dishwasher just fine, but I don't have a dishwasher and scrubbing all those nooks and crannies is annoying.

Hoardability: 4/5
Brisbane typically drags it away to empty it, but then ignores it.

Total: 30/50
It's pretty novel, and I'm sure it amuses Brisbane to forage for peanut butter in all those little circles, but this toy sort of annoys me. Good thing it's cute. I'm pretty sure Kong designed these things to be attractive to humans more than anything else.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Big Dog Syndrome

There is a lot of information out there about Little Dog Syndrome. This is the tendency for small dogs to act in big ways in the presence of dog-sized dogs. Similar to Napoleon Syndrome, or Little Man Syndrome, the concept seems to be that tiny dogs realize they have something to compensate for.
Hell hath no fury like a 6-lb dog.

I am calling bullshit on Little Dog Syndrome, or at the very least I'm going to come right out and say that I think it's a direct result of Big Dog Syndrome.

Big Dog Syndrome, a term I just invented ten minutes ago, describes the attitude I've noticed that many medium and large dogs have toward small and toy-sized dogs. Even dogs that are otherwise well-socialized and polite tend to ignore the body language of tiny dogs. Both Brisbane and Ru don't often want to visit with strange dogs when we're at the off-leash dog beach, but the vast majority pick up on Brisbane's subtle warning signs loud and clear. Happy, wiggly dogs head in Brisbane's direction for a greeting, and then abruptly veer off and seem to lose interest. His stiff, straight, forward posture says "Leave me alone."

These same dogs ignore that same posture from Ru. They also ignore the raised hackles, the growl, and the curled lip. Finally, leaps up in that friendly labrador's face with a tiny roar, sending it leaping back, startled. The lab's owner remarks "Wow, little guy thinks he's Cujo!" Ru isn't Cujo, he's not vicious, and he doesn't hate big dogs. What he does hate is being forced into an intimate greeting when he's been shouting that he wants to be left alone the whole time.

I can't blame him, I imagine it's a bit like being a small child and trying to pass an adult on the street when I'm feeling uncomfortable or vulnerable. They make eye contact and wave from across the street, I look away and keep walking. They walk across the street and say "Hi!", I say "Um, hi..." or maybe "Can I help you?" and try to keep walking. The stranger gets closer, hand held extended, babbling "Hi how are you? Good to meet you!", I try to go around them. The stranger blocks my path, enters my personal space, towers over me. I scream "LEAVE ME ALONE!" and kick them in the shins. This stranger has Big Dog Syndrome.

Properly socializing a tiny dog can be nearly impossible, because most of their reactions with large dogs are going to be of the looming-stranger-oblivious-to-my-discomfort variety. Small Dog Syndrome is what happens when tiny dogs learn that big dogs won't listen to anything less than a full assault. Ru does not approach large dogs for the purpose of bullying them, he would be much happier if they gave him a wide berth like they do Brisbane. What Ru does is forcefully tell them to get out of his face when they exhibit Big Dog Syndrome.

Monday, March 24, 2014

So I Dyed My Dog Pink

I dye my hair pink with Manic Panic, a semi-permanent non-toxic hair dye. It doesn't contain anything caustic or damaging, and I can leave it on my hair for hours on end with no ill effects. The color varies, but usually I stick with Fuschia Shock.

Making everyone's day a little more surreal.
In 2011, while dying my hair, I dropped a big blob of dye on the floor. Ru has always loved eating art supplies, and the dye probably looked enough like fingerpaint to be appetizing because he dashed over and began licking it up. Horrified, I scooped him up with my dye-covered gloves, leaving a pair of bright pink handprints on his body. Frantic research revealed that the dye itself was harmless and wouldn't hurt him.

Next I researched methods of removing semi-permanent dye from a dog. I learned that time and repeated washing would remove it eventually, but anything that could take it off right away would involve peroxide, bleach, or something else I wouldn't want to put on a tiny dog. I asked some of my internet friends for suggestions, and they replied "Dye the whole dog!"

So I did.

Photo by Erin Koski

Dying a dog is incredibly messy, and some colors last longer than others. The label cautions against getting it in eyes, but I've gotten it in my own enough times to feel comfortable applying it to Ru's face. Manic Panic's Fuschia Shock goes really well over Ru's natural color, and blends well with the tone of his skin so his bald areas aren't quite so obvious. Enchanted Forest, on the other hand, ends up leaving him patchy even immediately after dying him.

I use the dye over my own natural hair color, but to get good results I must leave it on for hours. When I dye Ru, I pick a warm day, put on rubber gloves, slather it on, and then let him run around the yard for 10-15 minutes before rinsing him off in the tub. Ru hates baths, and the dying process is basically one big bath so I only do it once a year. I usually let my internet friends vote on a color.

So fabulous!
There are other ways to turn a dog unnatural colors. I don't know of any safe way to put color on a dark dog, mine is naturally light-colored. Washable markers are a great way to do patterns, polka dots, and eyebrows. The markers often rinse off with plain water so they are wonderfully temporary. Koolaid is a safe and nontoxic way to dye pets, but it takes an absurd number of packets to get more than pastel colors. Like, enough Koolaid powder to actually change the consistancy of the water. As an added bonus, Koolaid makes dogs smell fruity. Obviously a dog with longer hair, or an actual dog-sized dog, would take a lot more dye than little Ru.

Does Ru like being colorful? He certainly gets a lot more attention. When he is pink he's like a tiny celebrity, and everyone wants a picture with him.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Product Review: Mighty Dinosaurs

The Mighty and Tuffy dog toys, by VIP Products, are unusually sturdy stuffed toys with squeakers. The Mighty toy line is extensive, with several different themes and multiple sizes of toys.

That's a stegosauRu.
I love dinosaurs with the passion of a four-year-old boy. I am also remarkably picky about dog toys because my dogs aren't terribly destructive, and I know those toys are going to be laying around my house for years unless I donate them to the shelter or gift them to a dog friend that is harder on stuffies.

Enter the Mighty Dinosaurs. VIP Products actually has two different toy lines featuring prehistoric creatures.
Now stop biting them for a second and pose, ok?

The Tuffy dinosaurs are as tough as they come. I fell in love with the bright orange Tuffy Pterodactyl when Brisbane was just over a year old. It's huge a heavy with rugged black seams. Little Brisbane enjoyed hauling it around a bit, but he's mostly ignored it during the last couple of years. I waffle between gifting it to a friend with a seriously destructive dog, and tossing it on my couch and calling it a throw pillow.

The Mighty Dinosaurs are a little bit cuter, and a little less sturdy. We have a full-size Brachiosaurus, and the Jr T-Rex, Stegosaurus, and Spinosaurus. Ru's favorite is the Brachiosaurus, most of his favorite toys are bigger than himself. Brisbane prefers the Jr dinosaurs, and likes to hoard them in his lair. This is the only non-edible, non-food-containing toy he considers high enough value to hoard. I assume this is because he knows I love them, therefore they must be special.

Pros: Squeaky, machine washable, and incredibly sturdy. Ours still look brand new, including Pterodactyl at 7 years old. Brisbane says these are very pleasant to bite, for dogs that enjoy biting rather than gnawing or destroying things. Also completely adorable and double as home-decor for the dino-obsessed. (I might actually enjoy these more than the dogs...) There are also dragons, wildlife, a Hydra, and a near-infinite number of other toys in the Tuffy and Mighty lines.

Cons: The Tuffy toys are particularly expensive, though there is a product-tester option for owners of Tuffy-addicts to buy new toys at a discount. The big ones will set you back $50-100 retail. I'm told some of the more elaborate Mighty toys are prone to splitting at the seams, which shouldn't surpise anyone. There's a reason the Tuffys have those ridiculously overbuilt seams and simplified construction.

Bottom Line: These will last longer than any other stuffy out there, and look seriously adorable at the same time. There are dozens of options, make sure you buy some that you like looking at because you'll be seeing them for a very long time.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Goodbye Josie

Yesterday we had to let sweet Josie go. She had gone downhill rapidly over the last week, wouldn't play with her friends or chew her toys, and seemed to be in increasing amounts of pain. She had begun having occasional incidents of bladder incontinence, and was reluctant to stand up. I decided to finish her life on a good note, before the bad days began to outnumber the good.

We began Josie's perfect day with breakfast, and then headed to the beach for a slow amble through the sand. She enjoyed sniffing the piles of seaweed left by the tide. We stopped at In-N-Out for lunch, Josie had a cheese burger and fries. Her sensitive stomach had always meant she wasn't allowed to have new foods or special treats, but on her perfect day it didn't bother her at all.

Our next stop was the Wise Tails pet boutique, where Josie happily explored and visited with the proprietor. They had quite a few products I had never seen before. Josie enjoyed the crunchy dried cod skins. After that we visited a local park for more ambling and sniffing.

Josie rode happily in the back seat of my car from place to place, smiling contentedly, or snoozing peacefully. She was always happiest when she was close to me. Josie had always been nervous at the vet, but on her perfect day there were so many treats and so much love that she didn't even notice where she was. She fell asleep with her nose in a bowl of treats, while I scratched that special spot on her neck.

Josie was only with use for three months, but she was a big part of our lives. She loved going to daycare with me. When she arrived, she was at least 15-lbs underweight and used to spending all of her time alone and inactive. We never expected her to be with us for so long, at the time it seemed like she had at least two paws in the grave. She dragged her back feet terribly, didn't really engage with people, and seemed perpetually confused.

While she was here, I switched Josie to a higher-calorie diet and got her up to a healthy weight. She developed enough muscle in front to compensate for her degenerating back end and barely dragged her feet. I was delighted the first time I returned from a break at work and she came running to greet me. She got regular baths and the occasional fancy spa treatment to keep her clean and fluffy in spite of her incontinence.

Josie joined Brisbane and I at an agility trial and lurecoursing event. She wasn't particularly interested in participating, but she thoroughly enjoyed the chaos of the trial environment. On days we didn't go to work or have some other outing, she was restless and full of energy. These were the days she ate her meals out of puzzle toys. Nothing made her happier than having her leash snapped on and the front gate opened so we could go on an adventure.

Because Josie still dragged her feet at least some of the time, we walked exclusively on non-paved surfaces. The dog beach was a favorite destination because she could roam off-leash, sniffing at her own pace and greeting new friends. She didn't reliably come when called, but she mostly stuck close, and I could outrun her when she occasionally decided to charge down the beach after horses. At first she followed wherever I went, over difficult rocks and into the water. As her cognition got better, she eventually began picking her way around and finding the easiest path.

As Josie's mind healed, her body deteriorated. Hikes that we finished together in February ended with me carrying her by mid-March. She lost interest in her rawhides and bully sticks, once prized shoplifting targets. Puzzle toys ceased to fascinate her with their hidden treats. I didn't want her last days to be filled with pain. She was a treasure, a dog for whom I had no training goals and no plans other than to love her and fill her life with wonderful things.

Josie spent three months being spoiled rotten, and the end of her life was filled with peace and contentment.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Over the Counter People Medication for My Dogs

You should always ask your vet before givng your dog any type of over the counter medication. I am a dog owner and not a veterinarian and can't give anyone medical advice. What I can do is share what I do with my own dogs.

In general I assume that over the counter medication for humans is not safe for dogs unless I have heard it directly from my own veterinarian, or from a trusted friend who heard it from their own veterinarian. I know the wrong kind of pain medication can cause organ damage, and the oes that are safer for people are more dangerous for pets.

I know a lot of people who give their dogs asprin. A low-dose, enteric-coated asprin helps Brisbane feel better when he has overdone it at the beach. My vet says if he needs it too often, I should consider getting him a pain prescription. He only needs an asprin once or twice a month, so I think he's ok.

Benadryl, or diphenhydramine, is so useful that I buy big bottles of it at Costco. It seems to be incredibly difficult to overdose on Benadryl. Ru has stepped on a bee at the beach twice now, and my vet said to give my wee 6-lb chihuahua an entire pill. It didn't put him to sleep, but it did make him super-clingy for the rest of the day. He needed to be held and snuggled continuously. Brisbane has environmental allergies, and when he is very itchy I usually toss a couple of Benadryl in with his dinner. If he has eaten chicken, duck, turkey, or eggs I will also give him Benadryl a couple of times a day until the itching subsides. I try not to give it to him every day though, because it is possible to build up a tolerance. I personally can take half a dozen pills and feel nothing.

My vet thinks that Briz is allergic to pollens and grasses in addition to foods. I give him Zyrtec every day to keep him less itchy. Not all of my vets have recommended this, at least one said he had zero experience giving dogs allergy medication other than Benadryl, but that it wouldn't hurt him so I was welcome to try it. A friend gives their dog Claritin every day, their vet has some experience with preventative allergy meds and told them to give their 50-lb dog three pills a day because they metabolize it faster than people. Coscto sells 365 Costco-brand Zyrtec pills for $15. I like having them around for guests with cat allergies, too.

When I run out of salmon oil and can't be bothered to get more, I sometimes give Brisbane a few of my husband's omega-3 gummies. There are a lot of people supplements that are also used for dogs, but I don't give mind a lot of supplements. I have also given Brisbane glucosamine/chondroitin/MSM, but didn't notice any difference so I can't really say they helped.

Product Review: Kurgo Wander Pail

The Kurgo Wander Pail is a hard metal food storage container for travel. It features a smaller removable tray that can be used as a dish, is insulated for perishable foods, and comes in two sizes.

Smaller and more convenient than a bear canister.
It is difficult to express how much I adore this product. There is nothing else like it on the market. It is amazing and wonderful. You see, Brisbane is incredibly good at accessing edible things. He is a mastermind, watching carefully for the ideal moment when my attention is diverted, remaining expressionless so as not to alert me to his plan ahead of time.

I have not carried anything edible in a purse or bag in almost nine years. Any food left in Briz-range is going to end up in Brisbane, no question. This complicates any situation where I would like to bring food items with me. If I put it in my bag before leaving the house, Brisbane will eat it. If I try to grab it on my way out the door, I am likely to forget it.

I needed a portable, genius-dog-proof container, and my bear canister was beginning to look like a viable option. Sure it's bulky, but it can be left in Briz-range, right?

The Wander Pail is made entirely of non-chewable metal. The only plastic on this thing is the blue handle on the lid, the rest is glorious stainless steel. A significantly larger dog might be able to bust this thing open, but my 40-lb cattledog mix is thoroughly thwarted.

I can now fill this thing with kibble, shove it in my purse, and leave it sitting on the floor without worrying. Brisbane figured out right away that this wasn't a puzzle toy worth solving. He may eventually figure it out, but unlike tupperware, plastic bags, and fabric kibble storage bags, he won't destroy the Wander Pail in the process.

I have the smaller pail, and it easily fits at least two cups of kibble. When Josie was eating many small meals a day, I would bring her lunch to daycare and stick her pills in the top tray.

I seem to recall that the original marketing for the Wander Pail suggested carrying food in the top tray, and water in the bottom. I read several reviews by people who attempted this and found that there was no seal and it both leaked and got their kibble wet. I found my pail on clearance at Petco, and since then the description has changed. The pail is a wonderful way to carry dog food, or water, but not both at the same time.

Pros: Indestructible, chew-proof, and impregnable for now. The small pail has plenty of capacity, and it is insulated so raw food can be carried safely. Dishwasher safe for those who have dishwashers. Smaller and lighter than a bear canister.

Cons: Potentially leaks when filled with liquids. That's really all I can come up with.

Bottom Line: Whoever designed this thing was a genius. They have earned my undying affection.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

How to Keep a Dog from Slipping on Hardwood

Josie has a lot of trouble keeping her balance, she has severe spinal degeneration affecting all four of her legs at this point. She drags her feet, stumbles, and trips very easily. We have hardwood floors, and through routine grooming I have been able to prevent her from slipping as she stumbles around the house.

Hairy toes are slippery toes.
1. Cut those nails!
Long toenails can change the way a dog carries their weight. The more surface area they have contacting the floor, the more traction they have. Paw pads have much better grip on slick surfaces than toenails, but if the nails touch the ground they take some of the weight off the pad.

If the nails are touching the floor when the dog is standing, they are too long. When I hear Josie's nails clicking on the hardwood, I know it's time for a trim. Josie is extremely cooperative for nail trims, but Brisbane is not. I often must enlist the help of a professional groomer, or even my veterinarian, to get his nails cut.

2. Trim that toefur!
Less toe fur, more grip!

The top picture shows one of Josie's feet before trimming. There is a lot of fur growing out from between her toes. Ideally this would provide her some protection for the delicate skin between her toes, but at her age it's mostly just getting in the way.

Every week or two, I take a very sharp pair of hair scissors and carefully trim as much fur as I can from between Josie's toes. This helps keep her grippy paw pads in contact with the floor. The toe floof is cute, but she slips on it.

These measures have been enough to keep Josie cruising comfortably on my hardwood floors. If I felt she needed any more grip, I might try getting the waterproof socks to stay on better, or I might get Josie some dog boots that actually fit.

The March Bark Box

Our March BarkBox arrived! I just signed up for BarkBox last month, this is a monthly package of dog products you have probably never seen or heard of. The idea is to teach your dog that the mail carrier is a friend bearing goodies. As our mailman comes without gifts the rest of the month, Brisbane remains unconvinced. He's pretty sure the mailman must be destroyed.

Forget the cute picture, we're opening this thing!
This month's BarkBox contained a bacon-shaped stuffy made of leather, by Aussie Naturals. Brisbane was more interested in the edible goodies in the box, so the bacon hasn't seen any action yet. We also got a Safemade stuffable toy that is both freezer-safe and oven-safe. This is a novel concept, and I'll have to consider what I'm going to bake into this thing. The Safemade bone looks pretty cool, and I'm all for stuffable toys, but I almost feel like the safety concept might be a bit overstated. I feel like I'm pretty good at discerning safe toys from major hazards for my particular dogs. I'm paranoid enough to not give them most dollar-store toys, but that's about it.

BarkBox with contents.
We got three different kinds of treats. The Twistix are chewable dental treats, these are size large. Nowhere does the package state what "large" means or whether I should avoid giving these to my 6-lb ankle-biter, unlike a lot of dental chews. Like most dental products, I am skeptical that these will contribute to my dogs' oral health. However, they are probably tasty and fun to gnaw.

I haven't opened the Baker's Best Wild Pacific salmon blueberry treats, but they sound pretty stinky from the description. Brisbane loves stinky treats, and finds them to be much higher value than anything I would like to keep in my pockets. These will probably end up stuffed inside various toys, unless they end up being smelly enough to use as training treats.

The Wagatha's Breakfast Biscuits are made with apples, bananas, and cinnamon. Definitely pleasant-sounding. They are bone-shaped and adorable, but probably not stinky. I'm sure someone around here will eat them anyway.

BarkBox with James.
I have been pleasantly surprised that both of our BarkBoxes have been totally Brisbane-allergen-free. No poultry, no eggs, no problem. There isn't an opt-out option for dogs with allergies, and I was fully expecting to be giving several items away each month.

So far BarkBox has exceeded my expectations and introduced me to several products that were not available locally. I would never have bought any of this stuff myself, and I have been delighted with everything I have received so far. I highly recommend BarkBox, and totally think everyone should sign up for it and claim me as the person who referred them so I can get free BarkBoxes.

Product Review: Ruffwear Grip Trex

Ruffwear Grip Trex are serious dog boots for serious dog activities. They are made with Vibram soles, just like human shoes.

Brisbane's 2009 Grip Trex
These are definitely Brisbane's favorite boots. The Grip Trex stay on remarkably well on all sorts of adventures, and they really do provide extra traction. Whether we're crossing a stream on slippery rocks or just running around the yard, the grip Trex stay exactly where they're supposed to stay. The only activity that has defeated the Grip Trex is the crazy ball-chasing sessions that destroy Brisbane's carpal pads. These boots don't go up high enough to protect that part of his leg, and they don't stay on when he's tearing up the turf to get the ball.

One of my absolute favorite things about Ruffwear is that they sell individual dog boots. I am hesitant to shell out $60+ for a set of dog shoes when I think we might leave one behind on the trail. I've gone as far as painting my phone number on every one of Brisbane's shoes in case some kind soul finds one on the sidewalk someday. The option to replace that one missing shoe is fabulous.

Armored feetsies!
Brisbane hates wearing anything that remotely resembles 'clothing', including padded harnesses and, of course, shoes. The Grip Trex are the shoes he finds least unpleasant. He'll usually walk in them instead of pretending that his legs don't work.

Briz has more sets of shoes than my husband. This is largely due to the fact that Brisbane has extra-sensitive feetsies. (Also, dogs go barefoot most of the time so Briz shoes tend to last longer than husband shoes.) Six years ago, Brisbane suffered a black widow spider bite on the bottom of one paw, which may have resulted in nerve damage. He is also a huge drama queen, so it can be difficult to tell how much discomfort he is actually feeling when walking on gravel or woodchips.

In addition to the spider bite, poor Brisbane is also extremely prone to foot injuries, from snapped-off nails to cuts from broken glass. Boots are a great way to protect an injured paw. When Briz has a hurt paw I usually make him wear two boots for balance.

I bought Brisbane's Grip Trex back in 2009, and five years later the design has changed. Were I too lose a boot now I would probably have to buy two and have different boots for his front and back feet.

Pros: Durable, tough, and at least were very well designed back in 2009. Stay put on the dog's feet and stay on during hikes. The option to purchase a single boot is genius and means I don't have to invest in an entire new set to just to replace one that is lost or damaged. Goes on with a single velcro strap. Brisbane seems to find them the most comfortable of all his shoes.

Cons: Design has changed so I can no longer get a matching replacement boot for my set. New design has many complaints and poor reviews saying the boot is now shorter and does not stay on as well, or irritates the front dewclaws. They don't come in not-really-a-dog chihuahua size.

Bottom Line: These stay on, and they bother my dog less than other boots. Even with the design change, I would not hesitate the replace these or purchase Grip Trex for another dog.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Painless and Fun Loose Leash Walking

I started teaching Brisbane to walk nicely on a leash when he was a baby puppy. This was easy because he had never had the chance to develop a habit of pulling. Walking with a loose leash is healthier for both of us, it saves his neck and throat along with my arms, shoulders, and back. When he is excited, Briz still needs to be reminded that he knows how to walk nicely. He is also clever enough to test whether the person holding his leash knows that he knows how to walk without pulling. Brisbane will pull like a sled dog if he thinks he can get away with it.

I feel that the trick to loose leash walking is to teach something other than "Don't pull." Teaching a dog to do something is a lot easier than teaching him to not do something. It's not unlike the way it is easier to think about purple cows than it is to not think about purple cows.

I've also taught several foster dogs how to walk nicely on leash, and the first step is, of course, don't let him do that. I think that teaching loose leash walking is more important than going for a walk, so for a few days that is all I am going to try to accomplish. It doesn't matter how far we get, or if we even make it out the front door.

I like clicker training dogs to walk on leash because clicker training makes pretty much everything easier. Whether I am using a clicker or not, I want a tight leash to be a signal to the dog. Every time the dog hits the end of the leash, I want him to be aware.

For dogs that have a long-standing habit of pulling on leash, I might need to use a tool like a head halter, a no-pull harness of some sort, or even a prong collar. For a dog that is very used to pulling on a flat collar or a choke chain, I like to use a harness. A body harness can encourage a dog to pull by taking the pressure off his neck and distributing it across his chest. However, a dog that is unused to wearing a harness will be unfamiliar with this sensation, and for a brief time I will have the opportunity to teach him that it means something. Different dogs respond differently to the various no-pull tools, the key is to find something the dog will pay attention to without fighting or feeling distressed. The plan is to wean him off of this cue as soon as possible.

Once I've got the dog fitted with the right collar or harness, it's time to start training. For some, this begins in the livingroom or the yard because outside on the sidewalk is just too exciting. I start moving and encourage the dog to come along, and then as soon as he hits the end of the leash he gets a click or a 'yes!' or a 'whee!' as I run backward while offering a treat. He very quickly learns that hitting the end of the leash means he should turn around because I am about to become very exciting while handing out food.

This training will continue for several days, moving from indoors to the yard and finally the sidewalk or park. We often don't make it more than a few feet from the driveway, and the dog might eat his entire dinner, one kibble at a time, as rewards for running back when he hits the end of the leash. Going for a walk can be very exciting, sometimes too exciting for the dog to monitor his own behavior. The trick is to get him very solid on this leash-pressure-means-check-human concept before moving to a more exciting environment.

When I can dedicate several days to cueing and rewarding the dog every single time he hits the end of the leash, the payoff is a dog that is sensitive to leash pressure and constantly aware of me. It seems like getting rewarded for hitting the end of the leash would cause a dog to pull more, but it has the opposite effect. I can quickly reduce the excitement and reward for hitting the end of the leash, and still have a dog that slows down and looks back insead of pulling ahead.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Product Review: Planet Dog Orbees

The Planet Dog Orbee-Tuff balls are made from flexible rubber. The Planet Dog product line-ip has changed a bit in the last few years, but the quality of their products remains the same.

We have a 4.25" diameter Orbee ball with a hole in it, and two Orbos. The Orbo is a lot like the original Kong toy. These things are extremely durable; mine went through the dishwasher a bunch of times back when we had a dishwasher. I used to stuff Bravo raw dog food into the Orbos and freeze them.

The Orbos have two chambers, the large bottom and the small top, connected by a narrow passage. Getting peanut butter, ground meat, or cooked sweet potato into that smaller chamber can be difficult, but it is equally difficult to get the goodies back out. I've found Brisbane slurping peanut butter out of these things days later.

We used to have several more Planet Dog toys: another big ball, an Orbee-Tuff ball with with a rope handle, an eggplant, and an artichoke. The artichoke was difficult to clean. The eggplant eventually began cracking, and I'm not sure what happened to the other big ball.

The Orbo is supposed to have an unpredictable bounce, but Brisbane has very little use for them once they are empty. I like to fill the big ball with kibble for Josie, who is a bit slower and takes half an hour or more to empty it.

Pros: These things are tough as hell. They outlasted my classic Kongs and are still going strong after at least seven years. The two-chamber shape of the Orbo also makes them much harder to empty than a Kong. I wish they were still on the market as I would happily buy a few more. The large ball makes a wonderful and quiet slow-feeder for my elderly dog. It is large enough that it doesn't get lost under the furniture.

Cons: The two-chamber design of the Orbo makes it very difficult to clean, and sometimes I find a nasty surprise down there.

Bottom Line: We use the Planet Dog Orbee-Tuff toys pretty much every day. When they're not being hoarded inside a crate, they are in the freezer stuffed with peanut butter.

Leave the Cat Alone!

Brisbane was raised with cats, and mostly ignored them until my brother brought home an adult cat that was listed as "dog aggressive" at the shelter. After several months of ambushing Brisbane from under the couch and dropping onto him from the tops of the bookshelves like a deranged koala, Misty got out at night and was eaten by coyotes. I like to think she started it.

Brisbane and Tucker, one of his personal cats.
My brother promptly returned to the shelter and picked out a slightly shy 4-month-old kitten. Upon returning home, Kat freaked out about Brisbane and he freaked out right back at her. My kitty-loving puppy had become Cat Reactive.

Brisbane's Personal Cats, the ones he had grown up with, were still perfectly fine. Cats that ignored him were also of little interest. Cats that hissed or growled, however, needed to be barked at ferociously.

Aside from separating them, I needed to find a way to convince Brisbane that Kat was one of his Personal Cats. I needed to do it in a way that minimized stress on either party, and I needed to do it with zero cooperation from my brother, who felt that his cat should be able to roam the house freely at all times. With a lot of work I ultimately achieved this goal, and happily I have never had to repeat the process because "don't eat my new pet" became one of Brisbane's learned behaviors.

With his ears back, looking deliberately away, with the whites of his eyes visible, Brisbane is stressed about being this close.
Step 1: I needed to keep the two of them separate as much as possible. In the beginning this was easy, Kat wouldn't come near Brisbane so as long as he was on a leash everyone was safe. Whenever Briz and I moved around the house, I watched for Kat and gave her time to escape before we entered the room.

When I couldn't be watching him, Brisbane stayed in his crate or behind a closed door. Sometimes I shut Kat in another part of the house so Brisbane could relax or play safely.

Totally getting a cookie for putting up with this.
Step 2: Whenever Brisbane saw Kat, he got plenty of treats. I tried to keep him far enough away that he didn't react, but this got harder as Kat realized she was not about to be messily devoured. For a while I used a Gentle Leader head halter so I could turn Brisbane's head away from the curious kitten and make him look at me.

It's worth noting that Brisbane was never told 'no!' for barking or growling at Kat. I didn't want him to associate her with negative consequences. Instead I just kept stuffing treats in his mouth every time she was in view.
Step 3: I continued reinforcing Brisbane for ignoring the kitten, and he got better and better at it. Even after he stopped barking or growling at her, he was visibly stressed when she was too close, as obvious in the picture above. Kat got bold enough to venture into biting range, and would rub herself against Briz while he tried his best not to have a meltdown. I knew we were going to be ok when I walked into the livingroom and found the kitten wrapped around Brisbane's leg, kicking furiously. He was standing perfectly still waiting for his reward.

This entire process took around three months, after which I felt safe leaving Brisbne and Kat alone in the house together. This same method also worked well for introducing Briz to my husband's possessed zombie cat. Youma growls and hisses at everything that moves, not unlike Church from Pet Sematary. Brisbane was a bit stressed when we all moved in together, but he would pointedly ignore Youma while hoping for a treat.

Years later I still routinely reward Brisbane for ignoring cat activity around the house, and for tolerating Youma's unholy noises. He very pointedly avoids looking at her, and I always give him a treat when I see that behavior. I also reward him for ignoring our other two cats, who were raised with Briz and occasionally enjoy being nibbled.

I have also been able to trust Brisbane to not eat my turtles that live in the yard, and my birds that are often loose indoors. I wouldn't trust him unsupervised with the birds, but I do know that he can tolerate a clumsy cockatiel crash-landing on his sleeping head. There is never a point at which I expect to stop rewarding him for being good around other animals.

Product Review: PMP Waterproof Outdoor Socks

Made by Protect Me for Pets, these socks are partically coated in waterproof rubber to help keep feet dry and warm in any weather conditions.

I hadn't heard of this company before, apparently they are brand new and sell dog clothes including some really cute jackets that match these socks. I'm having a lot of trouble finding information about the company though, they don't seem to have an online presence. The same entitiy holds the trademark for North Paw dog apparel.

I liked the concept of these socks. They seemed to be a nice compromise between fabric booties and serious dog shoes.

Josie doesn't usually drag her feet badly enough to damage them, but she does slide around quite a bit on my hardwood floors. In addition to keeping her nails trimmed and cutting all the fur out from between her toes, these could potentially give her a little more grip.They could also help keep her feet warm and dry on cold and wet days. I have tried socks for Ru in the past, but stopped using them partly because they stopped keeping him warm as soon as they got wet.

The other reason I stopped putting socks on Ru was that they wouldn't stay on. The PMP socks are also going to be sitting in a drawer because they fall off. After ten minutes of ambling around on grass, Josie was already missing two socks. She does drag all of her feet, so they might be a good option for a more able-bodied dog. They would also be good for Josie if we lived somewhere with real weather and I needed to worry about keeping her warm.

The waterproof outdoor socks only come in sizes, X-Small, Small, and Medium. Josie is wearing the Medium socks, but I could probably manage to stuff her various claws and toes into the next size down and get a better fit. If I was madly in love with this product I could also probably find a way to make it stay on, via vetwrap, duct tape, or my guerilla sewing skills. I could also do what I've done with all of Brisbane's shoes, and use fabric paint to write my phone number on them in case one gets lost on an adventure. (Josie enjoys adventures but occasionally needs to be carried back to the car.

Pros: A worthwhile concept, and unique enough that they some people will probably find them helpful.

Cons: Limited range of sizes means getting a good fit is difficult. Socks fall off easily.

Bottom Line: Not bad for $5 in the clearance bin at Petco, but not something I will be using on a regular basis.