Saturday, May 31, 2014

Product Review: Casual Canine XTRM Harness

The Casual Canine XTRM Logo Harness is a Norway-style harness available in six colors and three sizes to fit dogs with chests 21"-32" around. It is also known as the XTRM Game Over harness depending on the color, and is currently on clearance at several internet stores so it is possible this product is being discontinued.

Photo by Erin Koski
I love Norway harnesses, and I love comparing different products, which is why I have three very similar harnesses for Briz. This one is a little bit less widely publicized than any of the others, I found it at the Hoots and Hounds booth at an agility match. Casual Canine is a brand owned by parent company Pet Edge, and Petco carries some of their products. I've never seen this harness in person anywhere other than Hoots and Hounds, though. I don't think Norway harnesses have really gone mainstream yet, but I'm really out of touch with the mainstream anyway.
Photo by Erin Koski
The XTRM harness has quite a few limitations, it comes in an unusually narrow range of sizes and each size only adjusts 3-5". Still, it has a lot going for it. The leash ring is very light compared to the rest of the construction, so it doesn't bounce around when the leash isn't attached. There is a plastic ring on the left side for attaching the dog's tags where they will stay out of the way.

The front strap is not adjustable on most Norway harnesses, including this one. However, the strap on the XTRM harness is longer than on the EzyDog Quickfit, so I was actually able to make this one fit. Brisbane's harness is a Large, he could fit into the Medium but it might chafe under his arms. The front strap on his Large harness sits a bit low, but the chest strap gets small enough that the harness fits securely even though Brisbane measures a full 2" smaller around than the Large is supposed to fit. Ulysses also wears the XTRM harness, which fits him nicely.

Pros: Very durable, with lightweight hardware. Separate ring for identification tags. Made from nylon with eye-catching canvas overlay. Front strap is medium length, shorter than the ComfortFlex  Sport but longer than the EzyDog QuickFit.

Cons: Very limited size range, these are not made to fit small or large dogs. Each harness only adjusts a few inches, so getting the right size is important. The plastic clip on the belly strap is placed very close to the dog's armpit where it could potentially cause irritation, though there is padding under the clip.

Bottom Line: For its limitations, this harness works very well for Brisbane. It doesn't have loud velcro or a heavy leash ring like the ComfortFlex harness. It fits him very big, but seems to be comfortable and doesn't make weird noises like his EzyDog harness. I would like to compare it to Hurtta's Norway harness. Right now it's the one I use most often for Brisbane.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Product Review: Ruffwear Roamer Leash

The Ruffwear Roamer leash is a stretchable multi-function leash with an adjustable handle that can fit around the waist. The Roamer leash currently comes in two sizes and four colors to fit all but the smallest dogs.
Photo by Erin Koski

My Roamer leashes are 4 or 5 years old now, and the product has gone through some design changes since I bought them. The basic idea is still the same, this is a shock-absorbing leash designed for active dogs and their people. The handles on my leashes adjust large enough to be worn over my shoulder, but the newer model only gets big enough to fit around most people's waists. Ruffwear conveniently offers a belt for people that uses the same connector and can be added to turn the new Roamer into an over-the-shoulder leash.

The new Roamer is also a bit shorter than my leashes. These are fabulous for hiking because they give Brisbane a lot of room to move, but the older leash drags on the ground when he is walking right beside me. I don't have this issue when wearing the leash over my shoulder like a purse strap.

There are a lot of uses for a leash that essentially has a bungee cord in the center. The leash absorbs the shock from sudden stops, and prevents either party from feeling a sharp yank. I like them for running and bike riding, when I am moving quickly and Briz and I might not be moving in perfect synchronization. The Roamer is also great for hiking when we need more than 6' of leash to navigate boulders and other obstacles. I've used a Roamer leash on a dog that liked to pull excessively, and the leash conveniently stored up the energy she spent lunging and then used it to snap her back again with no effort on my part. I also like using these bungee leashes for skittish or fearful dogs to prevent the dog from getting a sharp correction when hitting the end of the leash.

Pros: The shock absorption feature has plenty of different uses, from training to just making adventures less stressful and more fun. The adjustable handle makes this a hand-free leash. There is a second handle incorporated into the unstretchy portion at the dog end for better control around traffic and other hazards.

Cons: The stretchy portion of one of my leashes is losing stretch, this may have a longer lifespan on the newer model. The plastic clip on my older Roamers is apparently prone to breaking, the Talon Hook on the current model can be difficult to open quickly for some people. A stretchy leash isn't a great idea for some dogs because it allows them more space than you'd think, often enough to investigate someones picnic or get within skunking range.

Bottom Line: I know that elastic has a finite lifespan, so I didn't expect these leashes to last forever. However, this isn't a product that I use on a daily basis and I am somewhat disappointed that one of my leashes is already reaching the end of its days of stretchiness. It will still make a nice long training leash, but I don't think I'd have bought it knowing it would only last a few years.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Brisbane at 3 Months

These are from August of 2005, when Brisbane spent a week with a friend while I was out of town.
Brisbane was 3.5 months old, and his ears had just stood up. Prior to this we had believed his father was a beagle mix, and were expecting his big floppy ears to stay flopped.

He's actually laying on the floor in this exact same position right now.

Since each ear was nearly the size of his head, he looked a lot like a tiny aircraft.

He was devastatingly adorable, which is a good thing because he was the worst puppy ever and being adorable is really the only reason he survived. This was definitely part of the biting-something-or-asleep phase of his life, and towards the end of the point where he spent more time sleeping than biting.

I'm pretty sure he was herding some Labradors in this picture. I overfed him, so he was a fat little baby.

Whenever I think it might be fun to raise another puppy, I have to remind myself what a little monster he was. These pictures are really deceptive. He was a nightmare.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Retired Lupine Pattern: Udderly Cows

Lupine is my favorite gear for outfitting dogs that tend to destroy their stuff. I've shared before how their lifetime guarantee specifically includes products that have been chewed, so they are the best possible value for dogs that tend to gnaw leashes, collars, and harnesses.

Photo by Erin Koski. Silly face by foster dog Ulysses.
Perhaps one downside to Lupine's fabulous products is that they retire patterns from time to time. The 1" Udderly cows pattern was already retired when Brisbane was born. Australian cattledog owners loved the pattern for their cowdogs, and I was lucky enough to find several Udderly Cows collars and leashes at small boutiques long after it had been retired. I have two cow collars and at least one leash, the rest I have passed along to other cattledog owners and rescues.

It has been nearly a decade since the Udderly Cows pattern was in production, but I still look for it anytime I visit a grooming salon or small boutique that clearly doesn't move a lot of product. There is now a second cow pattern, the 3/4" Moo Cows, that has been produced and since retired. I have a martingale collar in that pattern, but I don't find it nearly as charming as the Udderly Cows.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Product Review: Buckle Down Collars

Buckle Down collars are made from printed nylon and feature a seatbelt-style buckle. They come in a huge variety of licensed prints, and are available in several sizes to fit medium and large dogs with necks 9-32" around. The company also makes matching 4' leashes, and their original product is actually belts for humans.
Photo by Erin Koski
I'm a bit of a sucker for licensed products, I'm a shameless My Little Pony fan. Buckle Down has found a way to capitalize on people like me, and they have licensed a near-infinite number of logos and characters to put on their products. I own two My Little Pony collars, one Space Invaders, one with peace signs, and one with hearts. I also have a matching My Little Pony belt because coordinating with my dog is awesome.
Photo by Erin Koski

I like the metal buckles on these collars. Unlike the ones Planet Dog used to use on their Cozy Hemp collars, these are smooth and flat. The buckles feel strong and reliable, plus they are very light and don't rub coats or chafe skin. The collars come in 1" and 1.5" widths, and the wider ones look awesome on big and wide dogs. The thinner ribbon looks fabulous on my smaller and lighter guys.

Buckle Down collars and belts are a fabulous way to express my nerdiness. They have superhero and cartoon character collars, but they also have internet-famous licensed characters like Grumpy Cat and Nyan Cat.

Pros: Durable web collars come in a zillion different designs, with matching people-gear available as well. Collars hold their colors and designs very well, mine have been on dogs almost constantly since December and look awesome. Comfortable and much lighter than most metal buckles. Easy to adjust and they don't slip or loosen over time.

Cons: These are not great beach collars, the buckle on our peace sign collar is a little harder to open since its close encounter with sand and salt water. Not for little tiny dogs despite the fact that they can be adjusted very small. Ru has an 8" neck and these would look ridiculous on him.

Bottom Line: I now own five Buckle Down collars and one belt, at least one of these items gets used every day. Buckle Down has found a unique way to tap into the fandom market, and I am seriously hooked. I love these collars. The dogs don't mind them either.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Product Review: Ruffwear Web Master Harness

The Ruffwear Webmaster is a harness designed to help safely lift a dog in a variety of situations. It features a handle placed at the back of the harness to help lift the entire dog and not just the front end. It comes in two colors and five sizes to fit dogs 13-42" around the chest.

Photo by Erin Koski
I love the Webmaster harness because it has so many different uses. It's original intention is for hiking, and it works great for helping Brisbane get up and over obstacles. Unlike every other harness I have ever seen, the Webmaster has a second belly strap well behind the first one. The handle is also well behind the shoulders, allowing me to lift Brisbane and carry him like a suitcase. When I try that maneuver with a typical short harness, like the Kurgo Go-Tech Adventure Harness, it only lifts the front of the dog and slides forward immediately.

Photo by Pawz in Action
The handle and lifting ability of the Webmaster also make it a fantastic mobility harness. Josie wore it for a while before I got her Go-Tech. I have also used it for helping Briz when he has a foot injury. It is ridiculously comfortable for the dog, padded all over the place so it doesn't rub or chafe at all. I also use it to tote Brisbane around when he is sedated, or too excited to walk. It is his preferred attire for lure coursing.

Pros: Comfy, well-padded. Supportive enough to lift the entire dog. Makes steering and aiding geriatric dogs very easy. Provides a good fit even on my oddly-shaped dog. Ours has been through the washing machine several times. Also durable enough to put on my friend's enormous Asian water monitor lizard and drag him around on pavement. Seriously, we've had this thing for at least five years and have done some ridiculous things with it and it still looks brand new.

Cons: At ~$60 this is a pretty expensive harness. I paid a lot more for this one because it came with the Ruffwear Palisades backpack. Tired Dog Good Dog Lure Coursing informs me that dogs can get their feet caught in the back strap when running all-out, though Brisbane doesn't have this problem because he has a long back and a short stride.

Bottom Line: This is an amazing harness that has seen some pretty serious use, and it still looks great. It was well worth the price and I expect it to last through multiple dogs. I used to loan it out, but ours has extra clips for attaching the backpack on top, and I worry about having to replace the entire $130 set if anything happened to the harness. I wish other companies made such functional and durable products.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Teaching Ulysses to Dance

Brisbane has a personal space bubble, when I move toward him he moves out of my way. In our small house I never run into him because he is constantly aware of where I am, and anticipates where I am going. Briz is very much a velcro dog, he usually stays very close to me, so we move through life together in a sort of dance.

Moving Brisbane from place to place is a bit like moving a buoyant object through water, a light touch sends it away. I can lead Briz by the collar, and position him very precisely with subtle cues.

Ulysses is another story entirely. He moves like a wet blanket, I touch him and he sort of folds around me. When I push him, he collapses around my hands. Pulling Uly's collar or harness mostly just makes him ooze to the floor.

I'm not sure now if Brisbane has always had his personal space bubble, or if it is something I taught him as a puppy. Before Uly arrived I had thought it was an innate quality of herding breeds, minus some very squishy German Shepherd dogs. Now I suspect it is something that must be taught, but herding dogs probably learn it better and with more finesse than insensitive gundogs and bully breeds.

So I'm teaching Uly to dance. It's a clicker game, I move toward him, he takes a step back and gets clicked. I'm sure he knows I don't like running into dogs constantly, but he didn't know what I wanted him to do instead. He's picking it up very quickly, dancing out of my way while staying as close as he can. He's nowhere near as good as Brisbane, but Briz and I have years of experience and tons of formal obedience training. Uly is learning how to move with me though, and it's a lot of fun to watch.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Product Review: RC Pets West Coast Rainwear

The RC Pets West Coast Rainwear is a lined blanket-style coat that comes in five colors and 13 sizes to fit dogs that measure 6"-30" from neck to tail.

Photo by Erin Koski
This is the jacket that Brisbane wears most often in the winter. This is a blanket-style coat, it closes around the front of the chest and under the belly like a horse blanket. This style isn't as warm as something that covers the whole chest between the front legs, but it offers more freedom of movement.

Photo by Erin Koski
Brisbane measures 23" from the base of his neck to the base of his tail. I bought him a 24" coat because length is important, covering all the way to the base of the tail helps keep the dog warmer. This coat is very easy to put on and take off, so Brisbane doesn't mind it too much.

Pros: Large range of sizes to fit dogs of many shapes. Does not chafe or rub, even when the coat is a bit big. Reflective stripes for good visibility. Plenty of coverage, Brisbane is protected from his earbeards down to his buttfluffies. Warm, waterproof, and allows for movement.

Cons: Doesn't come in pink for fashionista chihuahuas. Leaves some of the underside of the dog exposed.

Bottom Line: We don't get a lot of cold weather out here by the beach, but this is the coat I grab for those rare frosty mornings. Brisbane normally hates clothes, but he doesn't mind his West Coast Rainwear when it's really cold.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Wholesome Hides are the Best Rawhides

I recently read a 2009 article from the Whole Dog Journal about rawhide chews. Everyone is concerned about imported dog products, especially those from China. I don't buy rawhide chews for Brisbane very often, but I have only ever bought ones that were made in the USA. I knew that imported rawhide has been processed with more chemicals and has a greater chance of being contaminated with something that could hurt my dog.

Photo by Erin Koski
This article, "Finding the Right Rawhide Chew for Your Dog", neatly filled in the gaps in my knowledge and gave me a whole lot more information about rawhide and the process of turning into chew toys. Basically, the USA is the world's largest producer of beef and cow products, so the hides come from here. Domestic manufacturers have access to fresh hides, turning them into dog chews is a fairly simple and straightforward process.

Foreign manufacturers must have hides shipped to them from overseas, and a large part of their dog chew manufacturing process involves first undoing what time and decay have done. This process involves a lot of harsh chemicals and plenty of opportunity for the rawhide to become contaminated. The phrase "black with rot" really stuck with me, apparently "basted" and flavored rawhide chews have been prepared that way to hide the effects of decay. "American" rawhide isn't always safe, either. Often the fine print reveals that the product is actually "made in China from American beefhide" like every other rawhide chew.

Finding domestic rawhide is a good first step, but a chew that is free from processing chemicals is not necessarily safe. The author of the article points out the danger that small chunks of unchewed rawhides pose. Knotted bones almost always have separate, smaller pieces of rawhide forming the knots. Rolls are often a single large piece stuffed with random chunks that are prone to falling out and getting gobbled up.

So which rawhides are the best out there? The article helpfully pointed me toward Wholesome Hides. These are domestically produced, and designed to keep dogs chewing happily and safely for a long time. The rolls are made from one big, fat piece of hide that has been rolled up tightly, so there are no smaller bits that can be easily removed. This makes the chew much more difficult to destroy, and makes dogs work very hard without ever swallowing more than a tiny bit at a time. I originally bought some for Josie, and Brisbane enjoys having a gnaw now and then. He usually ends up scraping his nose.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Product Review: goDog Dragon

The goDog Dragon is a sturdy plush toy with a squeaker inside. It uses the company's Chew-Guard technology, a type of fabric that makes it difficult to destroy the toy. There are several different goDog dragons, and the company makes a huge variety of hilarious and awesome stuffies that I wouldn't mind having scattered all over my house.
Photo by Erin Koski
I like this dragon because it's pink. Brisbane likes it for reasons he hasn't specified. Right after I removed the tag he grabbed it and began squeaking it. Ru also loves the pink Dragon.

The lack of stuffing in this toy is pretty cool. It isn't totally limp like the Skinneeez toys that feel like a sad remnant of a toy. The Dragon does have a bit of stuffing, so it isn't flat and lifeless. It just isn't overstuffed, the squeaker is easy to locate, and it's fun to bite.

Photo by Erin Koski

Pros: Durable enough to not become an immediate unstuffing project. Minimally stuffed so it won't look like it snowed inside my living room when the inevitable does occur. Super cute, looks great casually laying on the floor. Dog toys count as interior decor at some point, right?

Cons: Probably won't stand up to seriously destructive dogs. The bright color probably means I will be washing it a lot.

Bottom Line: The Dragon is so cute I can barely stand it. The dogs grab it to play without being prompted. It's definitely a winner over here.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Retractable Leashes Ruin Everything

I am not a fan of retractable leashes most of the time. I actually own several and use them regularly, but I think the vast majority of people aren't actually thinking enough when they clip it on their dog and leave the house.

When is a Retractable Leash OK?
Photo by Erin Koski

I use a retractable leash when I am taking my dog to a place where it is always acceptable to have him 15' away from me. This means there are no obstacles, roads, or other people. Basically, I use these for parks and hikes. One of our favorite hiking spots has clearly-posted leash laws that limit leash length to 6', so I leave the retractables at home when we go there. 

Anywhere there might be a danger, hazard, or other person within 15' of me, I leave the retractables at home. It doesn't matter that the leash retracts and can be locked at a fixed length, I can't rely on it performing perfectly in an emergency. When I use retractable leashes I always carry regular ones along in case I need to control my dogs. I have never walked into a store or a veterinary clinic with my dog on a retractable leash because I would not do the same with my dog off-leash.

Which Retractable Leashes are OK?

All retractable leashes are not created equal, and I really only trust the ones by Flexi. These leashes retract because they each contain a tightly-coiled spring that stores an enormous amount of energy. I wouldn't purchase a small bomb or a gasoline-powered device from any manufacturer that I did not trust completely. I've seen several very old Flexi leashes that were still in good working order, and I've used several dollar-store and value brand leashes and had them break. The best case scenario for a broken retractable leash is one that has jammed and no longer extends or retracts. The worst case scenario is one where the leash is fully extended and then the clip breaks and flies are uncontrolled while the leash retracts at top speed. Those things sometimes end up in people's eyes. Honestly, the Flexi leashes are also the least-bulky and most comfortable ones to carry, on top of performing better than anything else on the market.

Tape, Because Cord Cuts Like Piano Wire.

The cord is basically invisible.
I do own a cord Flexi leash that I use for Ru, but only because he generates very little pulling power. For anything more than a featherweight dog, cord leashes are basically like walking a dog on a cable saw. Retractable leashes are designed to extend and retract very quickly, and they can cause friction burns or serious cuts because they concentrate all the force into a very tiny area. It's like grabbing a moving fishing line with something powerful on the other end.

Getting the cord wrapped around a body part is even worse. I was once walking Brisbane in a park when I saw a large, unruly Labrador towing a guy around with a reatractable leash. They were between us and the exit, so I put Brisbane's regular leash on and tried to stay as far away as possible. As we got closer I realized that the other dog's retractable leash had jammed and he was attempting to untangle it. The cord was wrapped around his hands when his dog spotted Brisbane and lunged very hard, pulling it tight. There was a lot of blood, and I don't know what happened because all I could do was get my dog away so his would stop pulling. He could have lost a finger, and he wouldn't have been the first

The Flexi leashes for large dogs all use nylon tape instead of string, this makes them easier to see and less dangerous. There are also all-belt leashes for smaller dogs, this is what I have for Brisbane.

There is No Kill Like OverKill

Of course, it's also perfectly ok to use a giant dog Flexi on a less-than-giant dog. I like to make sure my dogs are well under the limits for their Flexi leashes. That means 40lb Brisbane uses a leash for dogs under 55 pounds. Ru weighs 6 pounds, but uses a leash for dogs up to 25 pounds. I see an awful lot of broken and repaired Flexi leashes, and each of these represents a chance for a dog to run into the street, start a fight, or escape in an unfamiliar area. Going up a size just means more security, and less chance of ruining an expensive leash.

Retractables are for Harnesses Only!

Brisbane is extremely good at walking on a loose leash, especially when he is wearing a collar. The spring inside the Flexi leash keeps tension on the dog at all times, so I attach it to Brisbane's harness instead. He has been taught to pull in a harness, so he knows a little tension is ok. Of course, I wouldn't attach the Flexi to any type of harness that discourages pulling, either. That wouldn't be fair. 

Retractable leashes attached to collars are pretty much always a bad idea, even for dogs that are willing to pull. Most Flexi leashes are 15' long, and the world is full of squirrels and mail carriers and other excitement that could tempt a dog to run to the end of his leash. When a dog has been running all-out for 15' and hits the end suddenly, he can hurt his neck, throat, and spine. The absolute worst combination is a retractable leash attached to a head halter

Basically, I only use Flexi leashes, preferably the all-belt style, only on dogs that can walk nicely on a regular harness, only in open areas free from hazards. It means I don't get to use my Flexi leashes very often, but it also means I don't have to worry about my dogs darting into traffic, knocking over store displays, tripping people, harassing other pets, or generally doing things they would have to be off-leash to get away with.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Product Review: Planet Dog Cozy Hemp Harness

The Planet Dog Cozy Hemp Harness is a roman-style harness made from soft hemp webbing and lined with fleece. This harness currently comes in five colors and three sizes to fit dogs with chests 16"-40" around.
Photo by Erin Koski

Brisbane isn't a fan of certain types of harnesses, so this has never been one of his favorites. However, the fleece makes it incredibly comfortable and soft for dogs with sensitive skin. It's my first choice for something to leave on a new foster dog for days. Ulysses is wearing it right now. Our harness is a size Medium, in Apple Green so it doesn't actually match either of our Cozy Hemp collars.

I love that the chest strap of this harness is not fixed. It slides freely through both the straps that connect it to the front straps. This means I do not have to lift the dog's feet and put them through anything. I just thread the chest strap through the appropriate loop and buckle it. The top strap also has a loop big enough to thread a seatbelt through, so I could use this harness to tether Brisbane in the car to reduce driver distraction. It's definitely not a crash-protection harness, though.

Pros: Fully-lined with fleece for a soft fit. Extremely durable, and looks great even after years of use. Stays put and does not rotate around the dog. Easy to put on, no feet-lifting required.

Cons: Doesn't come in sizes small enough for Ru. It's a bit bulky because the straps are very thick. The fleece on my harness is light-colored enough that it often looks dirty.

Bottom Line: While it's not currently our everyday harness, this is one that I feel comfortable leaving on Brisbane for extended periods without worrying that it will chafe. It's great for hiking and travel, and I expect it to last through several dogs.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Product Review: Kong Marathon

The Kong Marathon is a durable chew toy with a space to hold an edible treat. There is a Kong Marathon ball and a Kong Marathon bone, each comes in Large and Small. We have a large bone.

Photo by Erin Koski
Edible chew toys are a great idea for dogs like Brisbane, who refuses to chew anything he can't consume. Recently he briefly chewed a Nylabone for the first time since he was a teething puppy, and I briefly considered the possibility that my dog had been replaced by an impostor. The problem is that edible chews are basically quick snack for Briz, Greenies, those edible Nylabones, and even bully sticks basically get chewed up and swallowed within minutes.

Starmark's Everlasting Treat toys were the first ones I saw that combined a long-lasting edible chew with a non-edible toy that made it impossible to just chew and swallow the food part.
Photo by Erin Koski
I heard about the Kong Marathon toys while reading about the 2014 Global Pet Expo, and they sounded like the same concept as Starmark's toys. I knew we had to try this one too. Since Brisbane is already familiar with this edible-bone-inside-toy concept, he already knew what he was doing.

We took these pictures right after opening up the package and handing Briz the bone. He nibbled the edible bone a bit, and then gave the whole thing a gnaw. The idea is that dogs will chew the whole bone or ball in order to get some of the tasty treat inside.

The reality is that Brisbane immediately figured out that the treat could be removed if he really worked at it. He then spent 10-15 minutes working on this project before succeeding in popping half the bone loose. This was immediately chewed and swallowed, followed by the other half.

Pros: This is a high-value food item that kept Brisbane's attention until he got all of it. It's rewarding enough to keep him working at it, and it obviously tastes good. The refills are probably going to cost about the same as the Everlasting treats.

Cons: It's softer than our Everlasting stuff and didn't actually last very long, only about 15 minutes total. I wouldn't leave this alone with any dog until I was confident they would stop chewing once they'd finished eating all the food. Getting the fresh treats popped in is a little difficult.

Bottom Line: I won't be feeding Brisbane one of these treats every day, but it will definitely be joining his collection of treats that I hand him as a walk out the door.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Book Review: The Culture Clash

The Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson is one of my favorite books about dog behavior because it works very hard to dispel myths and misconceptions about dogs that many people don't even realize exist. She begins by describing the myth of the Disney Dog. This is a dog that thinks just like a human, and should "know better" than to do things like chew shoes or knock down toddlers. The Disney Dog knows how to behave itself, and problems with "dominance" or "poor leadership" cause him to forget what he knows.

Photo by Erin Koski
Jean Donaldson, along with every dog that ever existed, knows that the Disney Dog is pure fiction. Like every other creature on the planet, dogs do things that they find rewarding. As Jean Donaldson puts it, dogs recognize "good things happening for dogs". They come pre-programmed with certain instinctive behaviors, along with their own disposition and personality. Everything from housetraining to walking on a leash must be taught, and if the dog does not behave as expected it simply has not been taught well enough.

In The Culture Clash, Jean Donaldson begins by examining why we hold these myths about dogs. As humans we value intelligence, and we especially love to hear about brilliant dogs. This leads us to give our dogs impossible riddles and set them up for failure. We assume that our dogs learn right from wrong when we scold them for what we consider bad behavior, and then when they continue this behavior we assume that they are making a conscious choice to behave badly. Many people also misinterpret appeasement signs (I like to call them "please don't kill me" signs) as guilt.

The internet is filled with pictures and videos of "guilty dogs" that "clearly know they did something bad". To someone with experience in dog behavior, these are always heartbreaking because they showcase so many dogs that have learned to expect punishment. I can credit The Culture Clash for Brisbane's apparent lack of guilt or shame, he does not "act guilty" because he does not feel the need to appease me.

This isn't really a dog training book, so much as it is an owner's manual explaining how dogs work. Preventative training is a big part of the book; so many people try to raise their dogs by teaching them what not to do when they haven't taught them what to do in the first place. Many owners punish their dogs for pulling on the leash, but few begin by teaching their dog how to walk nicely in the first place.

I particularly like Jean Donaldson's explanation of the bite threshold. This is a concept that is explaining via graphs that demonstrate how various stressors add up to make a dog stressed enough to bite. I have used this many times to explain Brisbane's behavior to friends and family. His stressors include noise, crowds, clutter, various people he likes but also gets very excited about, and people walking through doorways. This explains why he is normally ok meeting a new friend on a calm day in an empty house, but can't handle parties.

In the last chapter, the author explains the training theory behind various behaviors like stays and heeling. She begins with a "kindergarten" section for each, how to get started with a dog unfamiliar with the concept, and finishes with a "college" section for gradually teaching the dog how to do it better, faster, longer, harder. Brisbane has a college-level stay in the absence of serious distractions like the mailman or squirrels. (He'd be better at squirrels if I could find them reliably so we could practice.) Foster dog Ulysses has a kindergarten stay, he's just beginning to get the hang of not squirming around when he doesn't get rewarded immediately and continuously for sitting. Uly is a smart boy, he knows I want him to do something and is determined to figure out that thing. He is not used to getting paid for just sitting there and not doing anything. Despite being my dog for the last four years, Ru still has an elementary school stay because I am a lazy dog trainer and he isn't nearly as quick or rewarding to train as my Einstein cattledogs.

I think every dog should come with a copy of The Culture Clash so I wouldn't have to see so many "guilty dog" videos on Facebook.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Product Review: Ruffwear Sun Shower Jacket

The Ruffwear Sun Shower jacket is a rain slicker. This jacket is not insulated, so it still works on warm rainy days for dogs that live in Hawaii.

Photo by Erin Koski
I love Ruffwear because pretty much all of their products seem like they were designed by people who actually tested them and now use them on a regular basis. I'm pretty sure the Sun Shower jacket was designed by someone with a really hairy dog, maybe an Australian shepherd or an Old English sheepdog. The underside features a big panel that goes between the front legs and holds all the belly floof off the ground. Brisbane is lacking in the belly floof department, but I still appreciate that this jacket keeps his undercarriage dry.

Photo by Erin Koski
Putting the Sun Shower jacket on is simple. Brisbane's head goes through the neck hole, and then the belly flap clips to the top on either side. The plastic clips are hidden inside the jacket, so they aren't against the dog or exposed to the weather. The clips are also on an elastic strap, so there is some stretch to allow the coat to move with the dog.

Brisbane's Sun Shower is a size Medium, which fits him well from neck to tail. The belly clips adjust small enough to provide a good fit, Brisbane's chest measurement is actually in the range for the Small size, so I have to decide which is more important depending on the product. Briz wears a small Ruffwear life jacket, for example.

Pros: A rain slicker that won't overheat the dog in warm weather. Adjustable for a good fit even on my strange dog. Comes in five sizes to fit dogs 13"-46" around the chest. A XXSmall will fit Ru. The Sun Shower is good for layering over a warm jacket. Very waterproof, also comes with a detachable hood that Brisbane hates. Easy to put on the dog, does not require lifting feet and stuffing them through sleeves. Light and packable. This coat also stays put and doesn't slide to the side.

Cons: Getting the buckles buckled can be kind of annoying since they are hiding way inside some little pockets. Brisbane's jacket is not the current model so they may have already improved this. Otherwise there's really nothing bad to say except that we don't get to use this much because it's pretty much always cold when it rains here and it hasn't really rained in the last couple of years anyway.

Bottom Line: If Brisbane liked to walk in the rain we would use this more often. I fully expect it to last through multiple dogs, along with the rest of our Ruffwear gear.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Puzzle Toy: Starmark Bob-a-Lot

The Starmark Bob-a-Lot is a kibble-dispensing toy that is rounded at the bottom, and weighted so it bobs upright. It can be loaded through the top and dispense kibble through both the top and the bottom. This toy is amazing because the openings are adjustable. ADJUSTABLE!!!

Photo by Erin Koski
This is an incredibly sturdy and durable puzzle toy, and it can keep Brisbane busy for a good long time. Josie also enjoyed the Bob-a-Lot, though some days it was just too much work. Briz got this for his fourth birthday, so it has now been in regular use for five years with minimal wear. There used to be an orange grossgrain ribbon attached to the top for hanging and carrying the toy, Brisbane eventually destroyed that. He also chewed the inside of the top, under the yellow lid, shortly after we acquired the Bob-a-Lot. Aside from a few scratches, it has zero wear.

The purple bottom of the Bob-a-
Photo by Erin Koski
Lot is very solid and heavy, it actually takes a bit of effort to move. The yellow cap at the top unscrews, and under that is an opening that can be adjusted by spinning the yellow half-disk. The half-disk has a nice little ridge poking up to help spin it around to make the hole larger or smaller. Occasionally I find this piece flipped, so that the ridge is pointing down into the hole and unable to rotate. When the yellow half-disk gets flipped it becomes very difficult to remove to add kibble, and I usually end up prying it out with a butter knife. For a while I blamed my husband for this, but then I found it flipped while he was out of town so now I'm blaming the lizard people from beneath Los Angeles.

Photo by Erin Koski
The yellow cap can be left off the Bob-a-Lot so that the toy must be tipped over to dispense it's treasures, but I did this once and Briz chewed it. The yellow cap still screws on nicely so I just use the bottom opening and load kibble through the top. This bottom opening is set low on the purple section. It features a little sliding door that makes the opening adjustable. I could fill this thing with tiny kibble and make the opening tiny so the toy takes longer to empty! This definitely solves that 'kibble just falls out constantly' problem.

Puzzle Toy Rating

Capacity: 5/5
I can fit several cups of food inside this thing, enough for an entire meal even for Josie.

Loading Speed: 2/5
Neither of the holes in this thing are very big, so it basically needs to be loaded one kibble at a time.
Photo by Erin Koski
I try pouring it in the top and they usually just jam up. 

Unloading Speed (standard dog): 5/5
The Bob-a-Lot usually wore Josie out long before she finished her meal. She could get about half a cup out in 30 minutes and then needed a nap.

Unloading Speed (superdog): 5/5
A quarter cup of kibble takes Brisbane easily 20 minutes to empty, even with the bottom door all the way open. Occasionally I accidentally leave the door closed and he spends 45 minutes batting it around with increasing frustration. I apologize to my neighbors for any hysterical screambarking that results from this error.

Durability: 4/5
As long as I screw the yellow cap on, this thing is indestructible. Minus the cap, the rim is an invitation to chew. Briz doesn't often chew things that aren't food, but this was apparently worth it. Like pretty much everything else out there, I wouldn't leave the Bob-a-Lot unattended with a serious power-chewer.

Size: 5/5
We have the large size, and even 6-lb Ru could play with it if he felt like putting in any effort to get food. There is also a small size, so even more ridiculously tiny dogs can play with it. The large is very large, I would give this to a Great Dane or a mastiff without worrying about the dog choking.

Noise: 1/5
If I lived in an apartment, my downstairs neighbors would hate me. This thing is heavy, and we have hardwood floors. As an added bonus, it's tall enough to whack into the kitchen cabinets when Brisbane really gets it going.

Locatability: 5/5
This one is way too big to lose!

Washability: 2/5
The Bob-a-Lot does not open up at all, but it's not meant to be filled with peanut butter or anything either. The Starmark site says it can be cleaned by pouring in soapy water, shaking, and drying by setting it upside down. I have never washed our toy. That might make me a bad person.

Hoardability: 1/5
Since he removed the ribbon at the top of his Bob-a-Lot, Brisbane is physically incapable of carrying this toy. It generally stays in the same room where I leave it.

Total: 35/50

I use this toy at least once a week, often more. I can increase the loading speed by dumping kibble into the top so it has to fall into the bottom chamber before falling out the lower door. Briz will enjoy that.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Product Review: Petco Adjustable Mesh Harness

The Petco Adjustable Mesh Harness is a Roman-style harness that uses a wide mesh panel in the front, instead of the typical single strap. It comes in a huge variety of colors and patterns that change every season, and is available in four sizes to fit dogs with chests as small as 15.5" and as large as 30".
Photo by Erin Koski

Not gonna lie, I found this harness in the clearance bin. Somebody, somewhere, thought this color/pattern combination was a good idea. They had every size in the bin, marked down to $4. If they came small enough to fit Ru I would have a matching set.

Mesh harnesses like this have been around for a long time. The first ones I remember seeing were by Gooby, with synthetic lambskin straps and ridiculously high prices. (Gooby harness review coming soon.) However, the largest of those are for dogs with 24" chests, and Brisbane is a couple of inches bigger. I tried the Gooby harnesses on him a few times in stores, but it was never meant to be.

Several years later, mesh harnesses became more popular and began appearing in major chains. I think the first one I ever tried on Briz was a purple sparkly one in PetSmart. However, neither the original Gooby harness, nor the newer varieties had an adjustable neck hole. This was an issue, nothing seemed to be a good fit.

Enter the Petco Adjustable Mesh Harness. You can't see it in my picture, but the neck of this harness is adjustable. The straps are hard plastic, and ratchet in and out like the straps on rollerblades in the 90's. The harness is supposed to fit a dog several inches larger than Brisbane, but I have it adjusted about as big as it can go.

Pros: Comfortable for extended wear, distributes force very well. Lots of options for doggy fashionistas. Fits considerably larger dogs than most harnesses of this style holds up even when Brisbane is determined to destroy the mail carrier.

Cons: The wide force-distributing center could potentially irritate the armpits of some dogs. Only one clip around the middle so I have to put one of Brisbane's legs through it. Some color combinations are doomed to fail.

Bottom Line: There are styles of harness that I like better so this one doesn't get a whole lot of use. I mostly only put this one on Brisbane when I'm feeling silly. It seems to be a solid design though, and I'm pretty sure I trust those plastic neck adjusters now.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Meet Ulysses!

We got a new foster dog on Saturday! Ulysses is a five year old Australian cattledog mix. His blue eyes, fuzzy toes, and natural dock lead us to believe that he's mixed with Australian shepherd.

Uly came from the Orange County municipal shelter, where he was listed as available to rescues only for being kennel aggressive. He was evaluated by a rescue and found to be totally oblivious to other dogs in or out of his kennel. Last week I mentioned to a friend that I was considering fostering another dog, and she was looking for someone to foster Uly so she could pull him out of the shelter. He was scheduled for euthanasia in just a few hours.

We don't know a whole lot about Ulysses. He came into the shelter as an intact stray in mid-April, wearing a black collar and no identification. His teeth are very worn and a few are broken, he's going to be getting them taken care of soon. The shelter thought he was around five years old, I wouldn't be surprised if he was a little older. Uly seems to be housetrained and crate trained. He is somewhat food-motivated, but really loves attention more than anything else.

Ulysses is a wonderful dog!. He is mildly interested in my birds and turtles, pointedly avoids the cats, and is extremely polite to Brisbane and Ru. Ru has discovered that Uly is easily intimidated and likes to growl at him, Uly hides behind me. Brisbane is personally offended by intact and recently-neutered male dogs, but has finally decided that Uly is probably ok. We're taking things very slow and letting Uly relax and decompress before we start doing anything really fun and exciting.

This is a marvelously people-oriented dog, he doesn't really care what the other dogs are doing. Shelter dogs tend to change as they recover from the trauma over time, it often takes several weeks for their real personality to emerge. I am very much looking forward to seeing Uly blossom.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Chihuahua Fashion Moment: Wag-A-Tude

Wag-A-Tude is a Petco house brand, like Smoochie Pooch. This label is usually found on knit sweaters, hooded sweatshirts, and tshirts. Ru's wardrobe contains a lot of Wag-A-Tude outfits because the designs often feature skulls, which I love. Most of Petco's holiday apparel is also by Wag-A-Tude, and Ru is dressed for Halloween year-round.

Photo by Erin Koski
Ru has a lot of clothes from Petco because their clothing lines do so many things right. The hooded sweatshirts fit my long-backed chihuahua extremely well. The prices are decent, I usually pay around $15 per piece unless I find them in the clearance bin. Unlike a lot of inexpensive dog clothes, the necks of the Wag-A-Tude clothes don't stretch out.

Neck stretch is a big issue for dogs that wear clothes often. It's especially trying for dogs that are difficult to fit in the first place. To fit Ru's long back, I often buy clothes that are a size or two larger than his chest measurement would indicate. For some clothing brands, a sweater that is long enough is also large enough to slide right off. Owners of wide-chested dogs often have similar issues, a sweater that is wide enough around also has a neck hole big enough to slide down around the shoulders.

There are a lot of cute high-end dog fashions out there, but they may not be worth it for the dog that is dressed every single day. Wag-A-Tude makes some great basic pieces that last forever, fit well, and don't stretch out. Ru's favorite pink skeleton sweatshirt has lasted through three years of adventures without fading, and always comes out of the wash looking clean and new.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Product Review: Tagnabbit Tag Clip

The PetMate Tagnabbit is a clip designed to attach identification tags to a collar. Rather than using a split ring, the tags go onto the clip itself.

Photo by Erin Koski
This is the second tag clip I have tried, and I'm afraid it cannot compare to my beloved Rubits. The design is wonderful, not strictly utilitarian. I love the little decorative pawprint. The swivel is interesting, it helps the tags lay flat and nicely shows off decorative tags.

The idea is that the tags go on the big loop. and the small loop clips to the collar ring. Obviously I put mine on backwards, the big side was too big to fit through some of the holes in my tags. The small side was too small to fit on some of my collars. A nice thick D-ring is too thick for that little clip.

While the Tagnabbit is a nice idea, it does not seem to be a functional product. Mine lasted through an entire trip to the beach and began rusting almost immediately despite being rinsed immediately afterward. Apparently I was one of the lucky ones, because both the Amazon product page and the manufacturer's own product page are both filled with people complaining that they lost their dog's tags when the product either fell apart or fell off. Both sides of the clip as well as the swivel have been implicated as points of failure.

Pros: Attractive and fun product with a very low price tag, this thing can be found for $3-5. I bought mine on clearance for $1. Eliminates split rings entirely.

Cons: Falls apart and loses tags extremely easily.

Bottom Line: ID tags, rabies tags, and microchip tags often cost $10 each. Sparkly rhinestone tags and custom art tags cost a lot more. I stopped using the Tagnabbit as soon as I read reviews for it and realized just how bad it is. I don't need to spend $30 on replacement tags, this $3 tag clip just isn't worth it.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Puzzle Toy: Kong Wishbone

The Kong Quest Wishbone is a rubber toy with grooves on either side for stuffing with kibble, dry biscuits, or pastes like peanut butter. It comes in five colors and two sizes. Unlike Kong's classic toys, the Wishbone is not made to be gnawed.
Photo by Erin Koski

We have a large pink Kong Wishbone. I originally bought it with Josie in mind, and she enjoyed it very much. Putting kibble in it was a great way to entertain an elderly dog with limited mobility, but it was basically the same as putting it in a bowl for Brisbane.

These days I sometimes put large dog biscuits inside the Wishbone. Briz had to bite the thing and break them order to get them out, much like his strategy for the Starmark Treat Ball. More often the Wishbone is part of our endless collection of freezer toys. I usually stuff it with a combination of peanut butter, cooked sweet potato, and banana, freeze it, and then give it to Briz before I leave the house.

Puzzle Toy Rating

Capacity: 2/5 
We have the large Wishbone, and it doesn't hold very much kibble. I could fit perhaps half a cup in here, but a lot would fall out. This isn't really a meal-feeding toy, it's a treat-feeding toy.

Loading Speed: 3/5
I can sort of bend the Wishbone open and pour kibble into it, but only on one side, and not very much kibble. I haven't found an efficient way of getting squishy stuff into this thing, I always end up mooshing it in with my fingers and getting peanut butter everywhere.

Unloading Speed (standard dog): 4/5
It took Josie a good ten minutes to get kibble out of this thing, and she could spend a long time licking peanut butter out of it.

Unloading Speed (superdog): 2/5
I'm always amazed how fast Briz can empty the Wishbone, even when the contents are frozen solid. It takes longer than a bowl, but not that much longer.

Size: 3/5
I can fit a decent amount of peanut butter and sweet potato in here, there's a ton of surface area but very little depth.

Durability: 4/5
I wouldn't give this to a dog that really enjoys chewing, and I would supervise any new dogs until I knew their chewing style very well. That said, ours looks brand new even after quite a bit of use. I expect it to be around for many years.

Noise: 5/5
This is another silent licking toy, it basically guarantees peace and quiet.

Locatability: 5/5
Brightly colored and does not roll at all. It stays where I put it, or where Brisbane feels like licking it. Either way, we've never lost it.

Washability: 4/5
The Wishbone can go in the top rack of the dishwasher, for those who have a dishwasher (grumble grumble), I haven't had any issue scrubbing it out with a baby bottle brush either. The grooves make it annoying, but not difficult.

Hoardability: 5/5
When the Wishbone isn't in the freezer, it's in one of Brisbane's lairs. He prefers a little privacy while he licks all the goodies out of it.

Total: 37/50
It's not the easiest or most efficient toy, and it doesn't keep Brisbane occupied for all that long, but it's still a regular part of the freezer toy collection. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Product Review: ComfortFlex Sport Harness

The ComfortFlex Sport Harness is a Norway-style harness that is popular for agility and other dog sports. It is manufactured by PetPDC, the company makes a matching limited slip collar as well as various food puzzles for dogs.
Photo by Erin Koski

This was the third Norway harness I tried for Brisbane, after failing to find a long enough front chest strap on either the EzyDog or Hurtta harnesses. I specifically ordered this harness because the Amazon reviews contained several complaints about the front chest strap being too long. This strap is fixed on the Comfortflex harness, but there are so many different sizes that it would be difficult not to find a good fit.

Brisbane's purple harness is size M/L, the size M would fit him around his girth, but the front strap would probably be too short. This same ComfortFlex harness also fit Josie very well.

I like that the ComfortFlex harness is lined all the way around the girth strap as well as the chest. Literally the entire harness is lined. The girth strap is adjustable, and the smaller it is adjusted, the more the lining overlaps on itself. There is a section of velcro to keep this overlap secure. The buckle for the harness sits close to the top, well out of Brisbane's armpit. The long chest strap keeps it well clear of his elbow.

Pros: The ComfortFlex Sport Harness comes in ten sizes, from 12.5" around to 42" around. It also comes in a dozen different colors. It is machine washable and made in the USA. This harness is easy to put on, and very well padded. The buckle is placed near the top where it won't chafe. The long front strap makes for a very large head opening, which is nice for dogs that don't like having things pulled over his head.

Cons: The velcro makes a loud sound, which worries Brisbane. I'm working on desensitizing him to it, but it's a project. The leash attachment ring on this harness is very heavy, much heavier than any of the other Norway harnesses we've tried. The ring bangs against the buckle when the leash isn't attached.

Bottom Line: The ComfortFlex Sport Harness is my favorite Norway harness, I use it for sporting events and long hikes because it is comfortable for Brisbane and easy to put on. It is definitely the most comfortable, and least likely to chafe or rub Brisbane's delicate coat.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Chihuahua Fashion Moment: Smoochie Pooch

This is Ru's favorite dress. I have a hard time finding clothes that look cute and stay on at the same time. Dresses with thin straps are right out. Smoochie Pooch is one of Petco's house brands of dog clothing, and they have some awesome outfits for long dogs.
Photo by Erin Koski

This particular dress is almost four years old, but there is usually something similar in the spring line every year. I think the name was "Bling Hearts" or something to that effect. It's a jersey knit (t-shirt material) dress with a velvety skirt and velvety trim around the neck and arms holes. The skirt is stiff enough to keep its shape, but  still soft and snuggly.

Ru has an extremely long back for a chihuahua. A lot of dog clothes look silly on him. Shirts and dresses just don't look right when they end before the end of his ribcage. A larger size may be long enough, but so wide that it slips down his neck and falls off.

Photo by Erin Koski
When Ru is standing on four feet, his Smoochie Pooch dress almost reaches the base of his tail. It matches his Candy-pink EzyDog QuickFit harness beautifully. The dress has survived many hikes and adventures, and has been through the washing machine a number of times. It still looks great after several years.

All of Ru's Smoochie Pooch outfits are wonderful. They fit very well, are easy to put on, and are comfortable to wear all day long. This is Petco's "girly" line, and they make some really cute dresses and sweaters. Their small dog clothes run about $15-20 per piece, which isn't too bad. I like to pick them up from the clearance bin. Smoochie Pooch stuff washes well, and wears well.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Product Review: Premier KeepSafe Collar

The Premier KeepSafe Collar is a breakaway collar designed to release in an emergency to prevent the dog from strangling. It comes in five sizes to fit dogs with necks 7-34" around. The collar is nylon with a quick-release plastic buckle, a breakaway release, and two D-rings. It comes in four colors.
Photos by Erin Koski
When Brisbane was a puppy, he slept in a plastic airline crate every night. One morning I found him sitting forlornly against the side of his crate. One of his tags had slipped through a vent in the side and then rotated so that he was trapped. I was extremely fortunate that he was able to sit there and wait for me to rescue him, and I was acutely aware that he could have strangled to death within minutes if he had gotten hung up in a different spot.

At work we also occasionally see dogs get their faces caught in each other's collars. The policy is
The breakaway section separated.
that collars that tighten (martingales, chokes) and collars without buckles come off before the dog comes into the yard to play. If one dog is grabbing another dog's collar in play, we remove that collar until playtime is over. When a dog does get caught, it is usually because they grabbed a friend's collar and then spun around, twisting the collar around their lower jaw. Someone is always watching the dogs, and there are always several people around, so separating them is usually quick and efficient. The first dog to grab is the one wearing the collar on their neck and being strangled, this one needs to be held still so the collar can be unbuckled.

The Premier KeepSafe collar conveniently removes both of these dangers. I had seen this one at the store prior to Brisbane's incident, and I bought it the day he got caught in his crate. I wasn't comfortable leaving him without identification tags, so this was a perfect compromise.

Leash attachment feature.
The collar has a standard plastic quick-release buckle for taking it on and off. It also has a breakaway section that is slightly more difficult to put back together. It comes apart with a good tug, the grabby section is made from a slightly more flexible material to help it separate easily. There is a D-ring on either side of this section for attaching the leash. Clip it through both and the collar won't break open with pressure.

Pros: Breakaway feature literally saves lives. Collar strangulation is a serious hazard, but dogs also need to be wearing identification for safety. The KeepSafe collar is a happy compromise between the two issues. This is an extremely well-made collar, Premier makes great stuff. Brisbane's looks great years later.

Cons: The downside to the KeepSafe is that it does not make a convenient grab handle for your dog in emergencies. I once grabbed Brisbane's collar to keep him from greeting someone too enthusiastically, and he popped right out of it and went charging over to visit. When I worked at a pet store I saw a nervous Vizsla slip out of a Halti and then pop out of a KeepSafe collar as her owner attempted to capture her. If the collar breaks open while the dog is running off-leash the collar and attached tags can get lost. Tags are a pain in the butt to replace.

Bottom Line: My dogs don't normally wear collars around the house these days for a number of reasons, including safety and reducing skin irritation. Still, I have kept Brisbane's KeepSafe collar because it is so valuable in certain situations. For dogs that love to play and wrestle together, breakaway collars could save their lives.