Thursday, July 31, 2014

TBT: Ru at Three Months

Photo by Graham Hughes

Ru still had a full set of baby teeth when we got him, and they didn't fall out until at least a couple of weeks later. This means he was probably under three months old at the time. When Brisbane was under three months old, he was a tiny ball of fluff and biting. He still had floppy ears. The three month old puppies I play with at work tend to be squishy babies.

When Brisbane was a baby puppy, I had no idea what to expect as he grew. I would find growth charts and try to estimate his adult size, with the earliest guesses being around sixty pounds.
Photo by Graham Hughes

With Ru I didn't bother to do any of the math, and just assumed he would top out around ten pounds like most randomly bred chihuahuas. Tiny dogs grow up very quickly, and most reach their adult size well before their first birthdays. They also live extremely long lives and often make it nearly two decades before expiring. This is a huge contrast to the giant breeds that take at least a couple of years to finish growing and filling out, and become senior dogs just a few short years later.

All this is to say that I naively assumed that my three month old toy breed puppy was less than half his adult size. My four pound babydog eventually attained a mighty 6.5 pounds as an adult. He outgrew exactly one collar, two harnesses, and a sweater that he wore as a puppy. I have an entire drawer full of stuff that baby Brisbane outgrew.

These are the first very nice pictures of little Ru, taken by a good friend in his yard. Ru is wearing my favorite Hot Dogs All Dressed collar, brown suede with sparkly blue stars. I want to look back on his baby pictures and marvel at how tiny and precious he was, but the truth is that he was only slightly less tiny and precious than he is right now at four years. That's the point of chihuahuas, I think.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Disney Exclusive Licensed Mickey Mouse Leather Collar

Licensed Disney merchandise for pets can be tough to find, as far as I am aware it has largely been available at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. During the pet boutique craze of a decade ago, I got a set of Mickey Mouse ears, some dog bowls and squeaky toys, a Cruella de Vil chew toy, and a Mickey Mouse ID tag for Briz.
Photo by Erin Koski

Pet stuff has oddly never really been available at Disneyland or any of the Disney Stores I have visited. There might be an occasional chew toy, but the big displays with assorted collars, bowls, and toys featuring Pluto and the other canine Disney characters are limited to one or two locations at Disney World.

Four years ago, after scouring every store in the park, I found this gorgeous leather collar with Mickey Mouse studs. It reminded me of our Hot Dogs collars, but the quality seems to be lacking. Instead of enameled pewter decorations, these are laminated stickers.
I think I have an overly idealized impression of Disney and their products, because I expected this collar to hold up better. I have plenty of collars that look amazing years later, but the Mickies on this one started looking terrible within a few months. The leather still looks fabulous, I've considered painting the Mickies or pulling them off and replacing them with something else. I haven't found any other collars yet that have this design flaw, obviously Disney doesn't specialize in dog collars.

I still put it on Briz all the time though, it's a nice souvenir from a fun trip.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Product Review: Alcott Essentials Treat+Ball Bag

The Alcott Essentials Treat+Ball Bag is a bait bag that can be worn on a pocket or belt. It has a secure spring closure and enough space to hold a tennis ball and plenty of treats. The Alcott Essentials bait bag is only available in one color and size so far.
Photo by Erin Koski

Treat bags like this are an essential part of everyday life with a reactive dog like Brisbane. I have been through many of them over the years, and so far this is my favorite. I've been through several RC Pets treat bags, some Outward Hound bags, and I still have a big Karen Pryor bag that I use occasionally. None of these compares to this Alcott bag.

I was looking for a new treat bag when we started carrying these at work. I've been irritated with drawstring pouches for a while because they require two hands to close. Velcro closures get gunked up with hair a squishy treats. My Karen Pryor bag has a sturdy spring closure, but it is very wide and tends to flop around and fall off easily. I can thread it on my belt, but then I can't take it off or move it easily. So far the Karen Pryor bag is the only one that hasn't had the lining fray and come apart.

When I started looking for a new bag, I know I wanted a nice deep one with a spring closure, and preferably a secure enough clip to not fall off when I'm running around. I started by reading reviews on Amazon, and quickly found that the spring closures on most big box store bags are weak and break right away. Happily, the Alcott Essentials Treat+Ball Bag is far higher quality than anything I've tried before. The spring closure pops open and closed smoothly, and it is secure enough to keep treats from falling out when I toss it across the room or wrestle it from the mouth of a cheerful bull terrier. The clip sticks right where I put it and stays on through all sorts of adventures. The fabric is sturdy enough to handle the strong spring, and the whole thing is holding together beautifully.

Pros: Well-made treat bag, not going to fall apart anytime soon. Awesome for agility. Spring closure works instantly with one hand, and keeps treats from flying out in assorted circumstances. Stays on the belt or pocket where I put it.

Cons: The gray is ok, but I wish this bag came in pink or purple. Most of my agility stuff is pink, purple, or lime green.

Bottom Line: Whenever I want to use my Alcott bag I've either left it in the car if I'm at home, or at home if we've gone somewhere in the car. Obviously the solution is to buy another one. Best bait bag ever.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Smart Dogs Versus Dumb Dogs

How does one tell if their dog is smart or not? What counts as "smart" anyway? I am very fond a smart, sensitive breeds, and while I love dogs in general, I have no desire to live with insensitive or unintelligent dogs. Of course, I keep Ru around for some reason...
Photo by Erin Koski

I am of the opinion that many difficult to train dogs are insensitive rather than unintelligent. Beagles are considered one of the least trainable breeds out there, yet every beagle owner seems to have a story about how their dog can open any gate, scale any kitchen appliance, or slip any leash. I consider beagles to be emotionally insensitive, they don't really care what you think and have little desire to please unless they see something in it for them. Whether this makes them good pets or not is entirely subjective, but I think living with a smart dog that doesn't care is a lot like living with a monkey. Monkeys make terrible pets.

A lot of people consider Labrador retrievers and golden retrievers to be dumb, but they are both in the top ten for intelligence. I consider labs to be emotionally insensitive, but with a desire to please. They are also physically insensitive, making them eager to do what you ask while not minding that they've just knocked your beverage off the coffee table and sent you into conniptions. Goldens seem to be slightly more emotionally sensitive, but just as eager to please and just as physically insensitive. Gundogs have to be thick-skinned in a lot of ways, but retrieving breeds also need to be able to work closely and directly with humans.

I don't consider most hounds to be particularly intelligent. A lot of sighthounds are both physically and emotionally sensitive, but have no desire to please and aren't well known for their problem-solving skills. Scenthounds can be extremely good at tracking and hunting, they are often eager to please but are also emotionally and physically insensitive. I honestly think scenthounds are pretty dumb. In general, breeds that were developed for the purpose of working directly with people (herding, retrieving, security) are highly intelligent, while those developed to work independently (tracking, pointing, flushing game, hunting, pest control) are less intelligent or at least less inclined to demonstrate their intelligence in ways humans value.

How does one rate the intelligence of a particular dog? According to Stanley Coren, author of The Intelligence of Dogs, smart dogs are good at generalizing. I consider rapid and easy housebreaking to signify an intelligent dog. Ulysses picked it up so quickly that we can't actually be sure whether he was housetrained before he ended up in the shelter system. It is entirely possible that he just caught on immediately at my house and generalized that to include every house or building. Brisbane is also extremely reliable to the point that I apologize to him when I find a puddle in the house because obviously I made him go too long between potty breaks.

Generalizing is great for housetraining and training in general, a smart dog can learn quickly that not jumping up on a specific person means not jumping up on any person. Brisbane learned to leave one cat alone and has generalized that behaviour to include all of my other animals including birds, turtles, and rabbits that were introduced years after the initial training phase. The downside to rapid generalization is that it can be used for evil. Brisbane has generalized his rage against the mail carrier to include the mail truck, and everything bearing the United States Postal Service logo, no matter what shape or size. His vendetta against the UPS and FedEx delivery people has expanded to include all delivery people delivering anything anywhere. I have no idea how he knows that the guy walking through the pet store drives the dog food delivery truck, but Brisbane knows he is the enemy.

Dumb dogs are basically the opposite. Ru may never actually be housetrained. He has the basic idea that peeing where he sleeps is a bad idea, but he sometimes makes exceptions for reasons only he knows. Whenever I hear about a dog that seems fine for a while and then randomly empties its entire bladder on the floor in front of its stunned owner, I know that is a dumb dog.

Dumb dogs are also slow to learn manners. Dogs that absolutely cannot learn to stop jumping on their people might be lacking in the emotional sensitivity department. Dogs that know not to jump on their family but absolutely cannot learn to not jump on new people without some sort of painful consequence are probably lacking in the generalization department, I would call them dumb.

There are different types of dog intelligence, to be sure, but I would argue that intelligence that involves understanding people is really the only type that matters. I love herding dogs because they seem to be metacognitive enough to have figured out that humans run the world. They are an exquisite combination of physical sensitivity, emotional sensitivity, and brilliant intelligence focused on working with people. Not only are they capable problem solvers, they tend to focus on solving problems like "what does my human want me to do".

The downside to working with canine geniuses is, of course, that they tend to spoil the fun of training lesser pupils. The reason Ru knows only a handful of commands is because I just don't find training him to be very fun because he doesn't immediately understand everything I say.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Product Review: Hot Dogs All Dressed Collars

Hot Dogs All Dressed makes leather flat buckle collars in an enormous variety of styles, colors, and styles. They include cat and puppy collars for tiny necks 6" around, and get big enough for dogs with 24" necks.
Photo by Erin Koski
I didn't realized just how many Hot Dogs All Dressed collars I owned until I looked at their website and recognized them all. Brisbane and Ru each have two, and the cats all wore them until recently, bringing the total to seven. Looking at their website, it's not hard to figure out why we have so many. The options are nearly endless. All of our collars were purchased at local stores, the first at Petropolis in Camarillo, and the other six at Pet Barn in Ventura.

Photo by Erin Koski
We would probably have a much sillier range of Hot Dogs All Dressed collars if I had bought them all from the website. Stores can only carry so much stock, and I don't think anyone has enough retail space to display every possible combination they offer. Just attempting to total them up is exhausting. For regular collars there are 20 different length/width combinations, fourteen different colors, and at least 160 different decorations, with multiple different decorations allowed on a single collar. Cat and puppy collars come in 30 different colors with nearly that many decoration options. The company also offers laced collars, leashes, harnesses, muzzles, ID tags and horse halters all in a broad range of colors and decorations. They'll make just about anything in any color/decoration combo.

Brisbane has a 1" wide black leather collar with skull decorations, and a matching ID tag with my parents' address on it. He also has a 3/4" wide brown leather collar with enameled green peace sign decorations. Ru has a black suede collar with red enameled hearts, and a brown suede collar with blue sparkly stars. The cats had one plain purple suede, one black suede with skulls, and one pink leatherette with skulls.

Pros: These collars seem to last forever, Brisbane's skull collar has been around for nine years now. Ru's are still looking sharp after four years of near-constant wear. Really though, my favorite thing about this company is their skull collars, and how many different options they offer.

Cons: The elastic on my cat collars gave out after about four years, and the leatherette one started looking dirty after about three years. Ru's tiny suede collars tend to come unbuckled and fall off when set on the last hole or two. Long people hair tends to get caught under the skull decorations.

Bottom Line:  I nearly bought Briz a purple monkey collar once, but it wasn't big enough. It might be time to make that dream a reality.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

How Long Does the Kong Marathon Last?

I recently purchased our second Kong Marathon toy, the first was a small Bone and the new one is a Large Ball. With Kong products I have learned that bigger is better. The bigger the toy, the longer it lasts. The same holds true for the Marathon toys.
Photo by Erin Koski

We have been through several treat refills for our small Kong Marathon toy, and those tend to last 40-pound Brisbane about 10-15 minutes now that he understands how the toy works. He likes to remove the treat from the toy first, and then swallow it.

The Large Ball takes him much longer to empty because it is much too large for him to get his mouth around. Without that leverage, he must spend a significantly longer time licking and gnawing. This makes it a 50+ minute project.

Getting the treat itself into the toy can be a bit tricky. It slides in most of the way and then seems impossible to fit that last edge under the lip of the toy. Kong recommends using a spoon to pop the lip out and over the treat, and that has worked extremely well for me.

Another severely under publicized bit of info about these toys is that they are HOLLOW. I neglected to mention this in my original review because I didn't realize it until I went to refill the toy with a new treat. The fact that the Marathon toys are hollow means they can be used for more than just holding Kong Marathon treats. This puts them on par with the Starmark Everlasting Treat products. Our Small Bong holds at least a quarter cup of kibble, the Large Ball holds at least a cup. I could also smear the innards of these with peanut butter, or stuff in cheese or assorted other goodies before loading up the Marathon treat. I think the toys could also be used as food dispensers without the Kong treat, but putting the treat in the toy means that Brisbane has to chew all the way through that to get to the goodies inside.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Product Review: Blue Kong

The Blue Kong is a rubber chew toy that is durable, flexible, and stuffable. It is 25% stronger than the red Classic Kong, and comes in sizes Small, Medium, Large, Extra Large, and King.
Photo by Erin Koski

The blue Kong is not listed on the official Kong website, and it is supposed to only be available through veterinary clinics. I bought mine on Amazon. Though not as tough as the legendary black Kongs, these things are a lot more flexible and fun to chew. Blue Kongs are also radio opaque, meaning they will show up on xrays if your dog happens to devour them. This makes blue Kongs a better choice for dogs that are choosy about their chew toys, but also power chewers.

My blue Kong lives in the freezer, stuffed full of peanut butter and waiting to be dispensed to an eager dog. Kongs are dishwasher safe and made in the USA.

Pros: More stretchy and flexible than the black Kong, but tougher than the red. Shows up on xrays for dogs that tend to eat their toys. Some dogs may enjoy this texture over the red and black versions. Stuffable, freezable, and a valued part of the Kong family.

Cons: Hard to find except online. Looks a lot like the blue Puppy Kong toys, particularly the squeaky Kong. Not quite as strong as the hard black Kong.

Bottom Line: This is a great toy for power chewers, I like to give it to new dogs while I'm still figuring out their chewing style. Mine is a Large, it is also recommended that seriously destructive dogs be given the largest Kong they can play with safely. As long as the dog can't get their lower jaw stuck in the toy, bigger is better.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

TBT: Brisbane at Six Months

When Brisbane was six months old, the pet store I worked at had a photographer come in and do photo sessions.

He had a passing familiarity with the stay command, and an intense desire to bite everything and bark. The store, now defunct, sold puppies and specialized in toy breeds. They hated my over-the-top reactive mutt puppy. I hated their support of puppy mills and lack of respect for both employees and customers. We parted ways not long after these pictures were taken. The store is long gone now, bankrupted by poor business practices and a growing public awareness of puppy mills.

With a lot of time and patience, Brizzy now has a reliable stay command, and can handle extended photo shoots provided he has a high enough rate of reinforcement. For these pictures though, I had to hold him in place and then let go and get out of the frame at the last possible second. He still has a lot of his puppy coat here, his ear floof and majestic flag tail had not yet grown in. At the time I felt awful that my perfect puppy was so poorly behaved, in retrospect I think my expectations were a bit high. He barely tolerated the hour-long wait for our turn, he sat still for a few seconds in an unfamiliar and highly-stressful environment, and then he tilted his head and looked adorable. For a reactive and overstimulated heeler puppy, I think he did fantastic.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Chihuahua Fashion Moment: Authentic Burberry Dog Collar

This collar is another thrift store find. It is labeled "Burberry London" on the inside, and each stud says "Burberry" along with the buckle. This is a leather collar with an overlay in the iconic Burberry House Check pattern. This is a very wide collar for a small dog, it fits necks 8-11" around and is a full inch wide.
Photo by Erin Koski

I believe this collar was available in 2005, Burberry does not currently offer any dog collars or accessories as part of their 2014 line. There are knockoff collars with Burberry check patterns, but unlike Coach I don't believe Burberry routinely produces dog collars. This one seems to be a very high-end reminder of the dog boutique fad of a decade ago. Remember when tiny dogs as fashion accessories were suddenly popularized by celebrities, and everyone had to have a pursedog? Remember when everyone from Target to Toys'R'Us to Victoria's Secret had to have a dog boutique full of adorable collars and sweaters and bowls and beds? All sized for dogs well under 30 pounds? I still have two sets of Old Navy rain booties that date from 2001. I'm actually rather disappointed that the fad ended around 2006, well before I got a pursedog of my own.

Ru's Burberry collar is a thrift store find from a year or two ago, I paid around $2 for it. Normally the thrift stores in town overcharge for everything and frequently price worn items well above retail, but I am fortunate that they don't seem to know pet stuff very well. This collar was greasy, stinky, and very dirty when I bought it. For reasons that escape me, some people will apparently put a $200 collar on a dog that goes years between baths. At any rate, it cleaned up nicely with a little saddle soap, with just a small crack in the overlay along the most used hole. Perhaps I should rethink my stance on stinky thrift store Coach collars...

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The July BarkBox, a Celebration of Chicken

Yesterday I canceled Brisbane's BarkBox subscription after opening our July box. Two of the four items inside were treats containing chicken, and after last month's disappointment I decided I was done. Our first two boxes were wonderful assortments of goodies that were all Brisbane-safe. After that, things started to go downhill.

I think the problem lies in the number of items contained in the box. The two most recent boxes contained only four items each. The March BarkBox contained five. My rating system for items in simple, they are either good, ok, or unusable. Good items are tasty, fun treats and irresistible or stuffable toys. Ok items are kind of blah, the dogs might be mildly interested or may just leave them. Unusable items contain Brisbane's allergens, chicken, turkey, duck, and eggs. To illustrate the decrease in BarkBox satisfaction, I am awarding each month's box one point per good item, zero points for ok items, and subtracting a point for each unusable item.

The March BarkBox contained three kind of tasty treats, one stuffable toy, and one stuffy. The treats and stuffable toy each earn one point, with no points awarded for the Stuffy, giving the March box an overall score of four.

The June BarkBox contained one small bag of tasty treats, one bag of unusable chicken treats, and two toys from the same company that I ended up giving away because my dogs ignored them even after repeated attempts to get them to play. No points for the toys, one point for the small bag of treats, and negative one point for the chicken treats gave the June box an overall score of zero.

This month's box contained a large bag of Bixbi Daily Essentials Chicken Breast Jerky Treats that are sourced and produced in the USA. They look awesome, but get a -1. Bixbi also makes Briz-safe beef and pork jerky. The PetSafe Indigo Triple Chews also look like fun and are also made from chicken and get a -1. Those don't come in any other flavors. We also got a cup of Healthy Dogma Blissful Banana Crisps, which Brisbane does not find very exciting, zero points. The last item is a P.L.A.Y. Under the Sea Crab stuffy, which Brisbane thought interesting enough to squeak once. They totally make a squid stuffy, and if it had been a squid I would have given it a point, but neither I nor the dogs are a huge fan of the crab so it also gets zero points. This brings the July BarkBox score to -2, hence my disappointment.

I canceled Brisbane's BarkBox subscription and sent the company an email explaining exactly why, and how they had failed to meet my expectations for the last two months. They responded by informing me that they started an allergy-friendly BarkBox last month, and would be happy to switch my subscription to one of those. Our August BarkBox will not contain anything with chicken, turkey, beef, corn, soy, wheat, or gluten. We could still get something with egg or duck in it, but I am hoping our odds of getting something awesome are a little higher.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Product Review: TugAway Bungee Reward Pouch

The TugAway Bungee Reward Pouch is a tug toy with features. The nylon bungee handle is attached to a velcro pouch that is covered with real fur. It comes in several colors and with different bits of real animals, I've seen them in bunny, bison, coyote, and sheepskin.
Photo by Erin Koski

This toy is clearly designed with Brisbane in mind, because I haven;t found anything that he goes quite as crazy for. Sure, he likes to tug, but the TugAway really ups the ante. First, it's basically an extremely sturdy pouch that closes tightly with velcro all the way across the opening so that no treats can leak out at all. This means I can stuff it with the most horrible, smelly, godawful treats on earth to make it uber-motivating.
Photo by Erin Koski

Second, the TugAway is covered with actual dead animal. Brisbane has bunny fur. Between that and the treat smell, this toy gives him an instant case of crazy-eyes. The rabbit skin isn't totally durable, he has managed to rip a big hole in it so the toy looks extremely ratty, but this has not decreased his motivation in the slightest.

Third, the TugAway has a bungee handle. This means that it creates tugging action like a springpole, storing some of the energy Briz exerts and uses it to tug back so I can use less effort to swing him around by his face.

Photo by Erin Koski
Pros: Where to begin? The sealed pouch means I can use food as a motivator along with the toy. I can toss it in front of him and have him run to it and then open it and give him the treats. It's sturdy enough that he can't get to the food on his own in the time it takes for me to catch up and open it for him. The bunny fur probably taps into the part of his brain that we normally only use when hunting gophers.

Cons: I'm told that when the dog lets go the bungee effect can cause the toy to snap back and hit the handler in the face, but Briz doesn't willingly let go of it so I wouldn't know. Bunny fur isn't the toughest material out there, and bit of it are currently blowing across my lawn. The slightly-shredded pelt and general disorderly appearance of the TugAway is kind off gross for non-dog people. I suspect the velcro fabric pouch concept goes over best with herding breeds, retrievers, and other dogs who are on board with the concept of humans solving their problems for them. I think a more independent dog would just take off with it and shred it at their leisure, but I have not actually experienced this because I'm not a big fan of primitive/Nordic/hound/terrier breeds.

Bottom Line: At agility class I carry this thing draped over my belt like a sordid trophy. It's slightly macabre, just the way I like things. Also, Brisbane wants to bite it more than he wants to bite almost anything else. Best tug toy ever, I just have to keep it out of his reach when we're not training.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Product Review: Little Pals Adjustable Harness and Leash Combo

The Little Pals Adjustable Harness and Leash Combo by Coastal Pet Products is a step-in harness with an attached leash. It comes in two styles (daisy and bone) and each of those are available in two colors. This product fits dogs with chests 10-14" around.
Photo by Erin Koski

This is basically the harness version of a slip lead. It's not as fast or convenient as looping a leash over a dog's neck, but it is much safer for tiny tracheae. Normal step-in harnesses close at the back with a quick-release buckle and a D-ring extending from a strap on either side, the leash is clipped through both rings. The combo eliminates the buckle and rings and just has a big loop of strap connecting each side. The (tiny rat) dog's feet go through the harness, and then the long strap is pulled over the head and cinched down behind the shoulders. There is a swivel at the point where the leash attaches, preventing it from getting tangled.

This leash is totally freaking adorable, look at that daisy! It takes a moment to figure out how to put on the dog, but after that it's very easy to use. I love that it doesn't require me to manipulate tiny buckles or trigger snaps. The little metal slide that keeps the harness tight requires minimal effort to move, but performs its function fine.

When I first tried it on Ru, I noted how far the Y-shaped points of the harness were from meeting behind his shoulders. The large loop means that technically I could put this harness on a much larger dog, but the bigger the dog the more the small harness would restrict shoulder movement. Then I read what size dogs the harness is actually supposed to fit and remembered that Ru is actually quite large by Little Pals standards. This harness is intended for dogs with 10-14" chests, and Ru is 13". Still, this combo harness would probably be a better fit for a tiny dog.

Pros: Easy to put on for the spatially aware, requires minimal fiddling with tiny hardware. Fast and convenient, fit in pockets. Excessively cute. Sized for truly bitty dogs, the chest strap on mine actually measures 8" so I believe it would best fit a dog 8-12" around.

Cons: Whoever invented step-in harnesses has never actually tried to get a dog to step into anything on purpose. The leash is only 4' long, and that's not much for a 6" tall dog. I prefer 6' leashes for tiny dogs so I don't accidentally yank them off their feet by turning to fast while holding the leash at waist level.

Bottom Line: The Little Pals Harness and Leash Combo serves the same function for Ru as the Lone Wolf Martingale Slip Lead does for Brisbane. It's a great house-to-car leash, an emergency backup. An I'm-feeling-lazy leash. I would recommend this leash for people who have joint pain and want to use a harness but don't want to fiddle with tiny hardware.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Puzzle Toy: Kong Satellite

The Kong Satellite is a sort of rounded toy with three pseudopods. There is a large hole in the top center of the toy, and then each pod has a hole in a different place: top, side, or bottom. The toy can filled with kibble and dry or semi-moist treats.
Photo by Erin Koski

I love the Kong company, so it troubles me that I am less than enthusiastic about one of their products. I think this toy just isn't compatible with hard floors. It's also annoying to fill, spews treats out when barely touched, and at the same time is incredibly difficult to get that last piece of kibble out of even with thumbs and logical reasoning skills. I think it is the most irritating Kong product I have used to date, even compared to the damned Starpod.

Puzzle Toy Rating

Capacity: 5/5
This toy is big enough to hold several cups of food. Big enough to feed entire meals out of. I would never do that though because...

Loading Speed: 1/5
This toy has four holes that are each an inch in diameter, not big enough to use a funnel so the thing must be loaded one kibble or treat at a time. Ain't nobody got time for that.

Unloading Speed (standard dog): 3/5
At one inch in diameter, the holes in the satellite practically spew forth kibble whenever it is touched. The high rate of reinforcement makes it encouraging for slow and average dogs. However, it still takes way longer to load than it does to unload, and while filling it one must be careful to not accidentally dump it out.

Unloading Speed (superdog): 1/5
Our experience with the satellite has been that, when loaded with kibble, a single touch causes it to pour out 99% of its bounty immediately. The holes are all designed with a steep lip around them on the inside, preventing that last piece from falling out unless the toy is then either manipulated very precisely or just batted around wildly for a while. It makes a ton of noise on hard floors, so Briz bumps it to get all but one kibble out. nudges it around a few more times, and then decides that last kibble isn't worth all the banging.

Durability: 2/5
This toy is obviously intended for play on carpeted floors because it looks beat to hell after a couple of low-enthusiasm play sessions. I expect it to hold up to my non-chewers, but it sure isn't going to look pretty doing it. Probably not going to break, but very easily scratched, and the clear plastic makes the wear dreadfully obvious. Scratches also make plastic more likely to harbor bacteria, so this isn't just a cosmetic issue.

Size: 1/5
Hey Kong, that fat Labrador in your demo video is clearly not under 45 pounds, so why is the Satellite toy itself labelled as being only for dogs under that weight? The size and the way it moves also makes it intimidating and difficult for itty bitty dogs to use, so it's apparently only for 10-45 pound dogs. I would actually feel comfortable giving this to a giant pony dog if I knew the dog didn't chomp puzzle toys, so I am assuming the warning label is just for liability purposes. Still, officially this toy is only for a pretty small subset of dogs.

Noise: 1/5
This toy does not get much use at our house because everybody hates the clattering. Unlike our many rolling puzzle toys, this one is supposed to move across the floor like a jack. The Kong video even shows a Labrador batting it wildly. The kibble inside rattles around, and the hard plastic Satellite bangs on the hardwood in a profoundly irritating manner. I can't stand it, and Brisbane doesn't think it's worth putting up with the noise just to get that last kibble stuck under the hole rim.

Locatability: 4/5
Small enough to fit under the couch, but nobody can stand to move it that far so we're pretty safe. I can usually find it within a foot or two of the place I set it down for Briz.

Washability: 1/5
Kong doesn't say how to wash the Satellite. I want to swish it with warm soapy water and set it out to dry like the Starmark Bob-A-Lot, but there doesn't seem to be a way to let it dry without getting water caught in it. Ideally I'd only be putting in dry kibble and biscuits, but never washing it seems like a poor choice.

Hoardability: 1/5
Brisbane could carry it if he wanted to, but the Satellite is so noisy that he prefers to empty it and then abandon it.

Total: 20/50
Nope. Nope. Nope. I fully expect this one to either be discontinued or dramatically improved in the near future. It's a nice first effort at making a new type of puzzle toy, but it feels like the designers played with it and their dogs for a few minutes and called it good without giving serious thought to the real-life long-term issues that make or break a toy.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Product Review: Authentic Coach Signature Dog Collar

The Authentic Coach Signature Dog Collar is a flat buckle collar made from smooth leather. These are available in a variety  of colors and patterns that change every season. Authentic Coach collars are available in six sizes to fit dogs with necks 6-26" around, though some collars are not available in Extra Extra Small or Extra Large and are limited to 8.5-21" necks.
Photo by Erin Koski

Ru's Coach collar is actually a lucky thrift store find, but it's really quite a nice collar. This is an Extra Small, and it fits a bit big on his tiny 8" neck. It came in its original box, and I thought it was brand new when I bought it, but it has just enough wear to tell me that some other little dog wore it occasionally before it was donated. Oddly enough, I've now found two different used Coach collars in thrift stores with their original boxes. The second one I didn't buy because is was:

1. Big enough to wrap around Brisbane's neck twice.
2. Stinky as hell.

Still, that smelly and extremely worn collar was still neatly contained in its original Coach box. I'm not really sure exactly what the attraction is, but I will readily admit that the box to Ru's collar is safely stowed with the rest of his wardrobe. No, I don't know why I'm saving it either.

The box from Ru's collar has the original price tag which informs me that it came from an outlet store and cost $50 new. This seems a little steep, given the product itself. Yes, it is a nice plain leather collar, and yes, nice collars can cost much more. However, this is a plain collar for a tiny dog, and that is what makes $50 seem a bit much. Most very nice plain leather collars for tiny dogs cost quite a bit less, it's the ones with crystals and pearls and other decorations that drive up the price. Collars in this price range are usually bigger or fancier.

Having seen quite a few old, smelly, and worn Coach collars, I am not inclined to believe that this one is expected to have a longer lifespan, or to look nicer as it ages. I'm pretty sure our WoofWear collars will wear the distressed look better.

Pros: Pretty, stylish, doesn't look like it came from a major chain store. Has a nice little tag charm so everybody knows it's by a high-end designer. Definitely a quality product, and made to last.

Cons: High price tag is primarily for the big designer name and not because this is somehow a better collar. Yes it has custom brass hardware, but I've also never seen a plain old stainless steel D-ring fail, the brass is prettier and not more functional. I believe these collars are also more prone to developing dog stank, and I don't know that they can be adequately cleaned.

Bottom Line: The Authentic Signature Coach collar was nice enough to be worth $20 at the thrift store, but I won't be spending $50-100 on a new one unless I very suddenly become extremely wealthy. I would also love to know who spends this much on a dog collar and then doesn't wash it or the dog.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

TBT: Dog Lessons

I got Brisbane when my cocker spaniel Oakley was 14 years old. She died exactly two weeks after his first birthday. Oakley's health declined over the last year of her life, but when Brisbane was a baby puppy she was still very much her old self. I like to think she taught him a little bit about how to be my dog, he certainly followed her lead in the beginning.

I think Oakley looked pretty good for a 14 year old, totally blind, mostly deaf cocker spaniel. She was a little bloated from the Cushings syndrome, but she was blissfully free from the ear infections that plague most spaniels.

We wouldn't find out for another eight years that Brisbane was part spaniel. I think she was giving him spaniel lessons.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Product Review: Lupine Combo Collar

The Lupine Combo Collar is a martingale collar. It has two D-rings, a "live ring" that pulls the collar tight, and a "dead ring" that does not pull the collar tight. The combo collar is available in four sizes and two widths to fit dogs with necks 10-27" around. It can be found in any 3/4" or 1" wide Lupine pattern, and is backed by Lupine's lifetime guarantee that covers chewing damage.
Photo by Erin Koski

I love Lupine stuff, and I use it every day. We currently have three 3/4" wide Combo collars, all in retired patterns because they last forever so I haven't needed to buy new ones in years. These are my regular everyday martingales that I use instead of flat buckle collars because Brisbane's head is smaller than his neck. I also use them as emergency backup collars for rescue dogs, transport dogs, and any other dog that I would prefer not get loose and play in traffic. Of my three collars, only the blue dolphin collar is fading, and only because it is one of Brisbane's regular beach collars.

Photo by Erin Koski

My complaint about Lupine's Combo collar is pretty much the same as my complaint about every other martingale out there: the loop is too big. I know that the collar needs to be big enough to slip over his head, but there's got to be a happy medium between "too tight to get on" and "flopping around loosely". I think the loop on the Combo collars could stand to be a couple of inches shorter.

I think Lupine has changed the sizes of their Combo collars since I bought mine. The website currently states that 3/4" wide Combo collars come in two sizes, 10-14" and 14-20". Brisbane's dolphin and cow collars adjusts between 14" and 20" with 4" of that being loop. The playing car collar adjusts between 20" and 30" (holy mackerel, I did not realize it got that big!), also with 4" being loop. I keep the collar adjusted tight enough to prevent escape, but not tight enough to strangle my dog, which means it is always hanging 4" too loose, or I have a 4" long tab hanging off the collar. A 2" loop would have been sufficient, and if I had one of the smaller ones adjusted to its minimum side, 25% of the length would be loop.

Pros: Super useful as an emergency backup collar for dogs that like to escape from various equipment. The immense variety of patterns means I can coordinate with other gear or make the martingales stand out. Brisbane's Lupine Combo collars are mostly different patterns than the rest of his stuff, making them very easy to locate in the collar drawer or gear bag. The Lupine guarantee makes me much more likely to use these on foster dogs who may or may not eat collars. The dead ring is a handy place to hang tags.

Cons: I think the martingale loops on these are way too long. When adjusted properly to prevent Brisbane from backing out, they hang way too loose. A lot of people use these for regular collars and leave them on their dogs all the time, and they have them adjusted tight enough to look like a regular collar and therefore strangle their dog when leash pressure is applied. Martingale collars can strangle unattended dogs, and the loop makes them more likely to get wrapped around other dogs' faces during play.

Bottom Line: For availability, style, durability, and options, these just can't be beat. I have yet to find anything I like as much, long loops and all.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

How to Use a Euro Lead

A Euro Lead is one of the most confusing leashes out there, but it is also one of the most versatile. Euro leads go by many names, but generally any multi-function leash is going to be some style of Euro lead. These are very popular with Schutzhund handlers, service dog handlers, and dog snobs. Most Euro leads are made out of leather, some plain and some with various amounts of braiding and decoration. I also have a thick nylon Euro lead I bought at Walmart years ago.
Six-foot leash mode. Photo by Erin Koski

Most Euro leads are 6-8 feet long, and they all have snaps of some sort on either end. Mine is 6' long, leather, and has trigger snaps on each end. Most Euro leads have a small D-ring attached several inches from each snap, and a larger ring fixed near the center of the leash. Some Euro leads also have a floating ring that allows them to be used as slip leads. Susanne Clothier's Ranger lead even has a semi-floating ring that allows it to be used as a martingale. Mine isn't that fancy, but the Ranger lead is on my list of thing I really, really want.

To use a basic Euro lead as a basic leash, one end is clipped to the dog and the other end is clipped to the nearest D-ring to form a handle loop. If the leash has one clip that is larger than the other, the larger clip should be attached to the dog and the smaller clip used to form the handle. I don't often use my Euro lead like this because the big round ring in the middle has a tendency to bonk Brisbane in the head. Six-foot leash mode is great for dogs that don't mind being bonked in the head.
Three-foot leash mode. Photo by Erin Koski

To use the Euro lead as a three-foot leash, one end is clipped to the dog and the other end is clipped to the D-ring closest to the dog. I also run the leash through the big ring in the center to keep it from flopping in a big loop and to make it more like a handle. This is the way I see most guide dog handlers using Euro leashes. In 3' mode the Euro leash is short enough for bigger dogs to wear without too much of it dragging on the ground. Most of the time, I don't loop the leash around my wrist when I use it like this., I just grab the doubled-over leash at any point that seems convenient. This is a good way to use the leash in crowded areas, stores, anywhere I want to keep my dog close to me, and anywhere I think I might drop the leash and then pick it back up again.

Over-the-shoulder mode. Photo by Erin Koski.

To use the Euro lead as an over-the-shoulder leash, one end is clipped to the dog, and the other end is clipped to the big ring in the center. This makes a leash that is about four feet long, with a big loop that can be worn over the shoulder and across the body like a purse strap. I use my Euro lead like this a lot, especially when I am walking Brisbane and Ulysses together. While Brisbane is extremely good at walking on a leash, Uly really has no idea where he is going and the two of them don't move as a unit. Having Briz on a hands-free leash means I can guide Uly and keep the two of them from getting tangled. Over-the-shoulder mode means the dog is on a very short leash, and can't deviate very far from heel position. It's a good way to use the leash when I need to carry something and can't devote and entire arm or hand to maneuvering my dog. I prefer to use the leash like this when the dog on the other end already has nice leash manners. Wearing the leash around my waist is a good way to walk a pulling dog with no hands, but wearing the leash over my shoulder like this could hurt my back.

This might be the greatest picture ever taken of my dogs.
To use the Euro lead as a two-dog leash, a dog is clipped to either end. I usually run the leash through the big ring to make a handle, sometimes I clip a second leash to the big ring to make a giant dog coupler. This works best when both dogs understand how to walk on a leash, when I tried clipping Uly to the other end he inadvertently dragged Brisbane all over the place. It also works best when the dogs know how to walk nicely side by side (also called walking as a brace) because there is no swivel to keep the two sides of the leash from tangling around each other.

So that's...I dunno...four functions? These are usually advertised as x-function leashes, where x is the number of different ways they could demonstrate to use the leash. A Euro leash can be wrapped around a tree/pole/bike rack/etc and clipped to itself to hold the dog temporarily, though I would never leave my dog tied outside a store or coffee shop unattended because I am paranoid and my dog is a monster. I've clipped one end to my dog and the other end directly to a chain link fence wire during training class when I needed my dog to stay put for a minute. I've also clipped it directly to my belt loop when I wanted to give him some more freedom but couldn't be bothered to hold the leash and wasn't worried about him lunging or bolting. The end attached to the dog can also be attached to the nearest ring at the same time, forming a handy traffic loop.

Several different training methods and tools make use of double-ended leashes like the Euro leash. The Freedom harness uses a martingale loop in the back, a front ring, and double-ended leash attached to both so the dog can feel the tightening action of the back loop and then be guided back to the handler via the front attachment. Some handlers use a double-ended leash with head halters for the same reason, the head halter is used only to orient the dog back to the handler and not as the main deterrent to pulling. A Euro leash can be used as a safety measure when trying out a new piece of equipment, the other end can be clipped to a martingale collar or some other escape-proof piece of hear while the test-driving the new collar/harness/saddle/whatever.

I will also admit to using my Euro lead because I am a dog snob. It's versatile and incredibly useful, it also subtly informs other dog snobs that I too am a dog snob. Look at my fancy leash! My everyday leash is still a well-worn 6' long leather leash, but only because of that head bonking thing. If Brisbane was less easily traumatized, we would use that thing every day.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Product Review: Yuppie Puppy Anti-Pull Harness

The Yuppie Puppy Anti-Pull Harness is a back clip harness designed to discourage pulling. It is an aversive training device that makes pulling uncomfortable. The harness is available in four colors and four sizes to fit dogs with necks 3-33" around. Not every size is available in every color.
Photo by Erin Koski

I call this style of no-pull band-aid a "string harness". Wide, flat harness straps distribute force and make pulling more comfortable, so pulling harnesses and roading collars are made from wide strapping. This harness works on the same principle, a narrow and rounded cord is the least comfortable thing to pull against because it concentrates the force. Of course, pulling on a rounded choke collar isn't aversive enough to discourage an insensitive dog from pulling, so string harnesses route those cords across more sensitive areas like the underarms.

That said, I don't actually find these harnesses to be that aversive. They aren't associated with painful corrections the way choke chains and prong collars are, and they generally aren't used as force training devices designed to give a painful correction. Still, I have no doubt that a dog running to the end of the leash will feel actual pain when it comes to a sudden stop. For this reason, I would not use a string harness on a reactive dog like Brisbane (Edit: Apparently they just make pulling kind of weird and awkward rather than painful, as Annie helpfully demonstrated by flying to the end of a leash on one)
Photo by Erin Koski

So how does it work? The Yuppie Puppy Anti-Pull harness consists of a nylon strap collar or chest strap, and a pair of rounded cords that attach to the front of the collar, run under the dog's front legs, and then come up behind the front legs. The cords run through a ring in the back of the collar and then attach to a leash ring. When leash pressure is applied, the cords pull through the ring and tighten across the dog's armpits. A plastic toggle adjusts how loose the cords can fall when slack. Ideally there should not be a lot of slack, the dog should feel the cords tighten when any leash pressure is applied. If the cords are too loose, the dog can build up a bit of speed before the cords tighten, making the correction more harsh.

Older style string harness, photo by Erin Koski.
When these harnesses first came out in the early 1990's, they consisted of an adjustable collar and cords that could be unclipped and removed altogether. The harness on Ru is by Four Paws, but is identical to the Sporn harness I used on Sid the weimeraner down the street when I was a kid. The idea was that the collar portion could be used as an actual collar, and the leash could be attached to both the pull cords and the collar as a way of transitioning from the harness to walking on a normal collar. The Yuppie Puppy harness seems to have abandoned this concept,  I like to think it's a simpler design for simpler people. Still, it works. The red and black Yuppie Puppy harness on Brisbane is a little out of date, the current model is the Mesh Anti-Pull harness, but the concept remains unchanged.

I consider string harnesses to be more aversive than the Premier Easy Walk harness, but less aversive than prong collars and choke chains. It's a great way to get the attention of large and insensitive dogs, and can allow a relatively small person to control a very large dog. I think Sid and I were the same height at the shoulder. There was a particularly wild Labradoodle in Ru's puppy obedience class that did not seem capable of learning to chill out and stop jumping on people until the trainer put a Yuppie Puppy Anti-Pull harness on her. Kirby never came back to obedience class after the harness apparently solved all of her behavioral problems.

Pros: Works well for control of large dogs, and helps insensitive dogs learn when they are actually pulling on leash. I would recommend this for people who are small, fragile, or recovering from an injury where they can't handle any leash pulling at all. The fleece sleeves on the Yuppie Puppy harness also make it more comfortable and less aversive.

Cons: While not terribly aversive, this harness still works by making pulling hurt. I would not use it on a sensitive or reactive dog, and I would be watching my dog to see if any of their manners worsened on leash.  A lot of people seem to forget or not realize how this harness works, I see dogs running in them at the off leash beach, and I cringe every time I see someone try to encourage their dog to jump into the car by pulling up on a leash that is attached to one of these. It's also more complicated that a lot of other no-pull solutions, and that makes it less useful for people who get confused by masses of cords and straps.

Bottom Line: Good for stubborn, insensitive dogs, and dogs that don't even realize they are pulling. Works as a decent band-aid for pulling and I think it is less likely to cause behavior problems than a prong collar. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Product Review: Doggles

Doggles are tinted goggles designed to protect a dog's eyes from the sun, flying debris, or accidental injury. Doggles come in an enormous range of sizes, colors, and styles to fit every dog. They are the first eye protection designed just for dogs, and still the best product on the market in my opinion.
Photo by Erin Koski

We jumped on the Doggles bandwagon very early, back when they came in five sizes but only one color. I actually bought these right when I brought Brisbane home as a baby puppy. I expected them to be a passing fad and wanted to grab them while they were available. Expecting him to grow to the 60-lb dog based on his size at 7 weeks, I purchased Large Doggles. A size Medium would fit better, but Briz hates these so the fit has never been an issue. I mostly just put them on dogs to laugh at them. Still, their pretty awesome and I wish they'd been around when I had a dog with glaucoma stumbling around.

When Brisbane was a baby, I used to take him to a morning playgroup at the Camarillo dog park. A hound mix named Stubbs had eye issues caused by flying crud getting lodged in his eyes when he stuck his head out the car window on the freeway. Rather than take this joy from him, Stubb's owner got him a set of Doggles and put them on him faithfully every time they got in the car. The eye issue resolved right away and Stubbs still got to feel the wind up his nose.

Pros: These come in an enormous variety of sizes and shapes to fit any dog. The company continues to improve their products, and if I had a dog that didn't fit any existing products I would probably contact them and see if they could take on the challenge of designing something that would work. The product line has been extended to include goggles with interchangeable lenses, fashion sunglasses, and the EYME UV protection mask that works like a flymask on a horse. Doggles provide UV protection just like human sunglasses. They also stay on thanks to a strap around behind the ears and one under the chin.

Cons: Not every dog will tolerate wearing them. Doggles make Brisbane want to give up at life. He doesn't care how well they accompany his fabulous steampunk outfit, he just doesn't want anything on his head.

Bottom Line: Doggles for dogs with injured or injury-prone eyes. Doggles for dogs that ride in the open air at high speed. Doggles for blind dogs with eyeballs at coffee table corner height. Doggles for desert hiking dogs. Doggles for everyone!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Truth About Spiked Collars

A spiked dog collar can make a pooch look tough (or silly, depending on the dog), but what are they actually for? Is the purpose of a spiked collar just to make a dog look as badass as possible? Is it supposed to make the dog difficult to grab? Were they originally intended as human fashion accessories that migrated onto our pets, or did that work the other way around?
Photo by Erin Koski

Spiked collars aren't just a fashion statement, they're actually a historic piece of equipment for working dogs. The spiked collar dates all the way back to ancient Greece, when they were first used as neck armor for herding dogs and flock guardians. These brave dogs needed to protect their sheep and cattle from predators like wolves. The neck is the most vulnerable part of the dog, and predators know this. Most breeds have thick, dense fur around their necks, some practically have a mane.

A dog with a neck full of spikes was more likely to walk away from an encounter with a wolf. I used to do medieval reenactment, and of course Brisbane needed to have a period ensemble. His collar is not a deliberate recreation of a historic design, but it is a lot easier to live with.
Photo by Erin Koski
The oldest spiked dog collars tend to have long, nasty spikes that extend several inches from the collar. Some of them are made from twisted metal links with forged spikes. Brisbane's spiked collar was custom made at a Society for Creative Anachronism event, and follows the trend in historic dog collars. As spiked collars became more widespread, the spikes became less nasty and more decorative.

Photo by Erin Koski
The next dogs to sport pointy bits on their necks were mastiffs, the dogs of war, along with guard dogs. Again, these dogs were expected to face combat of some sort, and the wide spiked collars helped prevent anything from attacking their necks. Next, the concept migrated to fighting dogs, bull baiters, and other dogs with tough jobs.

Today spiked dog collars are a fashion statement, but they can still serve a purpose. A heavy spiked collar is protective neck armor, if it is wide enough it will also distribute force and help prevent damage to the throat when the dog pulls on the leash.

With that in mind, spiked collars do not belong on any dog that can be reasonably expected to play with another dog. Wearing a spiked collar around town is cool. Wearing a spiked collar to the dog park is stupid, especially if the outing is for a highly social dog that loves to play. Back when we routinely visited dog parks, I saw plenty of happy, silly dogs attempting to wrestle and play while wearing collars intended to injure dogs that joined them. I'm pretty sure that's not what the owners had in mind, but this doesn't seem like rocket science. Maybe I'm wrong...

Friday, July 11, 2014

Product Review: Premier EasyWalk Harness

The Premier EasyWalk is a front-clip harness designed to discouraged pulling. It comes in eight sizes and seven colors to fit dogs with chests 12"-46" around. Premier also offers a reflective version of the harness that comes in five sizes and two colors.
Photo by Erin Koski

Right now I think this is my favorite band-aid for dogs that pull on leash. Like most no-pull solutions, the Easy Walk is meant to be used as part of a training program with the intention of eventually walking the dog on a flat or martingale collar. Like most no-pull solutions, the average user expects to put it on the dog and instantly solve the problem with zero training. I like the Easy Walk harness because it does that pretty well. It makes pulling annoying or difficult by removing all leverage rather than causing pain or discomfort.

That said, there is some concern that the Easy Walk harness reduces shoulder range of motion even when there is no leash attached. According to veterinarian Dr. Christine Zink, the front strap of the harness sits right above an injury-prone area of the front legs. Dogs wearing the Easy Walk put less weight on their front legs, and for this reason it is recommended to avoid using this harness on dogs that compete in high-impact dog sports like agility and flyball. It is also recommended that handlers avoid running with their dogs in this harness. Now I cringe every time I see a dog running on the off-leash beach in one of these.
Photo by Erin Koski

When properly fitted, the Easy Walk harness should be relatively difficult for dogs to back out of. Still, it's a very good idea to use a martingale collar as a backup, especially the first few times the harness is used. Clipping the leash to both the collar and the harness ring works really well.

The first time I saw an Easy Walk harness was ten years ago, on a husky. The dog was pulling so hard that one of her front legs was completely off the ground, but she continued to haul along on three legs and pull like a proper sled dog. I know now that her Easy Walk harness was not properly adjusted. It was likely too loose, the front strap should never have been low enough to pull her leg completely off the ground like that. Still, this product does has some fitting quirks.

The instructions say that the harness should make a T-shape when viewed from the side. The red harness in these pictures is a size Medium, adjusted with every strap at its maximum length. The front strap is so short that it pulls the top and bottom straps into a Y-shape. Premier makes in-between sizes that are not usually sold in stores, but one of our local spots carries them and was nice enough to let us play with it. Here is Brisbane wearing a size Medium/Large, the next size up. It is adjusted with every strap as short as  possible. The front strap is much too long and sags well below the breastbone where it belongs, at the same time it still pulls the incredibly snug top and bottom straps out of line. The guys at the store referred to it as the "mythical T-shape". Until we tried it out, I was convinced the Medium/Large size would be a perfect fit, but the Medium is actually a lot closer to ideal. Still, it's a good thing I don't actually need this product or I would be out of luck.

I'm not in love with the way the martingale loop on the front of the Easy Walk harness works. I have also used the SENSE-ation harness on dogs that pull, and it doesn't have issues with sagging like the Easy Walk does. I also have yet to use a SENSE-ation harness that had obviously slipped and loosened with use, while I have tightened many an Easy Walk.

Pros: Pretty much idiot-proof, minimal potential to cause harm when used by the average human on their average dog. Works pretty good as a band-aid for pulling as well as a training aid. Lots of sizes, and fun colors to match different doggy ensembles. Also doubles as a Norway harness when someone inevitably puts it on backwards, not sure if this has the same effects on shoulder movement. Ridiculously easy to put on.

Cons: The effects on shoulder movement are currently being studied, but this harness does alter a dog's gait even when a leash is not attached. The directions for fitting this product were apparently written by people who had never actually attempted to fit the Easy Walk on a real live dog. Apparently there is no size that will fit Brisbane in the prescribed manner. A lot of people get really confused about how to put this on despite its simplicity. Come on, there's only three straps, people! They're even color-coded! (Apparently I have superb spatial reasoning that is limited almost exclusively to understanding how dog tackle works.)

Bottom Line: Less aversive than a prong or choke collar, less obnoxious and potentially dangerous than a head halter, more effective than a flat collar. This makes a good training tool, and it makes a good crutch for those that can't be arsed to train. It's a decent way for a small person to control a large dog. I didn't think very much of them when they first came out, but they've grown on me over the last decade.