Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Product Review: Hurtta Waterproof Fleece Jacket

The Hurtta Waterproof Fleece Jacket is a warm winter jacket for dogs that live in cold climates. Or extremely spoiled dogs that live in temperate climates. It is waterproof and reflective, and it comes in a multitude of sizes to fit dogs of many shapes.
Photo by Erin Koski

I have hard-to-fit dogs. Brisbane and Ru are both very straight in the front, with long backs. This normally means that I have to decide whether to go with the coat that fits their chest but is short in the back, or the one that fits their back but is ridiculously large around the chest. This is pretty typical, I'm sure everyone with a sighthound, dachshund, or bulldog has had a similar experience.

Hurtta's dog coats were clearly designed by someone who understands that not all dogs are built on the average lab/cocker body plan. Their products are designed to stay on, allow freedom of movement, and truly fit.

Most dog clothes are too wide at the neck, they stretch and slide down the body. The Hurtta waterproof fleece jacket has an elastic drawstring in the neck so that it can be cinched down for a custom fit. No more stretched out dog sweaters hanging around Brisbane's shoulders. Our waterproof fleece jacket is plenty long enough to cover Brisbane from neck to tail, it would be huge on him if it didn't also have an elastic drawstring in the waist. The result is a custom-fitted coat that really keeps him toasty, doesn't slide off his body, and keeps the warm air inside. The elastic sleeve holes also help keep his entire chest and belly warm, and the waist cinch prevents him from peeing on his jacket.

Pros: Versatile and adjustable enough to fit a wide variety of dogs. Really warm, waterproof, and reflective. Back zipper makes it easy to get on a dog that lacks flexibility.

Cons: Brisbane hates wearing it. Briz hates wearing most clothes, though.

Bottom Line: I would choose this coat for lazing around, and for keeping an old creaky dog warm. I wish we had one in Ru-size. Blanket-style coats probably allow a little more freedom of movement with less possibility of rubbing, but this one is pretty awesome. It even fits Uly.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Treat Tuesday: Isle of Dogs Mini-Size Health Biscuits

I love Isle of Dog's mini treats because the shape works so well in our different toys. The cookies are just the right size to drop in the bottom of a Kong, and they are small enough that I don't feel guilty giving them to the dogs just because I feel like giving them cookies. There's just something about bone-shaped biscuits, I think it's the fact that I grew up with Milkbones being the dog cookies,

Good For: Stuffing Kongs and assorted toys. Decorating dog cupcakes. Handing out cookies without smelling like dog biscuits. Spoiling spoiled dogs.

Not Good For: High value training treats. cramming in Kongs for poorly-motivated chihuahuas.

How Much We Like Them: This is actually the second box I've purchased.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Puzzle Toy Review: Kyjen Jigsaw Glider

The Kyjen Jigsaw Glider is a board game style puzzle toy with four different treat-holding cavities and three moving pieces. This toy moves in a somewhat different manner than many of our other puzzles, so it presents some unique challenges.
Photo by Erin Koski

I find this toy visually appealing because I love jigsaw puzzles. The Jigsaw Glider has two purple pieces that slide away from each other to reveal two of the treat wells. The green piece in the center slides back and forth to reveal additional wells beneath the ends.

The Jigsaw Glider was easier for Brisbane to solve than the Kensington Kennel Club slider puzzle The entire surface of the toy is made up of sliding pieces, rather than just a few small inset parts. It's much easier to solve by accident, too.
Photo by Erin Koski

Part of the challenge with this toy is that the green piece covers up three treat wells when revealing the fourth. There is a lot of movement required, and the puzzle doesn't stay solved once it's been opened.

Puzzle Toy Review

Capacity: 2/5
I think I can fit half a cup of kibble in here.

Loading Speed: 5/5
Very easy to dump in with a measuring scoop.

Unloading Speed (standard dog): 5/5
This toy gives Ulysses a bit of a challenge, but is not impossible.

Unloading Speed (superdog): 3/5
Briz got the hang of the Jigsaw Glider right away, it takes longer for him to open it than it does to inhale his food out of a bowl, but not that much longer.

Size: 4/5
I think Ru would be able to use this puzzle if he actually cared about food enough. A very large dog might have difficulty getting the food out of the little holes.

Durability: 3/5
Xhuuya the raven likes to pull the purple sliding parts off the Jigsaw Glider, so I know they come off pretty easily.

Noise: 5/5
Rubber feet plus close supervision mean I never hear this thing thunking around on my hardwood floors.

Locatability: 5/5
Since this is a toy made for use with supervision, I never have to worry about losing it.

Washability: 4/5
It has a lot of nooks and crannies, but it can be cleaned thoroughly.

Versatility: 4/5
Raven-approved. This puzzle does not require thumbs, pinchers, or pointy teeth to solve, and can be use by dogs, cats, corvids, and probably toddlers.

Total: 40/50

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Product Review: Fetching Dog Purse

The Fetching dog purse is another stealthy carrier for tiny dogs. The brand was originally owned by the apparently defunct Accessory Network Group, which also acquired the Yak Pak and LeSportSac brands a few years ago. Yak Pak is currently owned by Accessory Headquarters, and the "fetching" trademark is no longer registered, but I found a couple of other bags of the same brand available secondhand.
Photo by Erin Koski

I found this bag at a thrift store and had to buy it even though light green really isn't my color. It is the stealthiest dog carrier I have ever seen because it uses various decorative grommets instead of mesh for ventilation. There is a recessed zippered top that I can close to keep Ru contained, but it isn't readily visible. The bag isn't super boxy or dog-carrier-shaped either, so there's not a lot to give away the secret. When I first saw it at the thrift store, it was hanging up with a bunch of other purses and the only indication of its purpose was the small oval logo.
Photo by Erin Koski

Our Fetching dog carrier is a big roomy bag with a stable floor and plenty of room for Ru to stand up and turn around. When I moosh him down inside and zip it closed, it looks like a big bulky purse rather than an obvious dog carrier.

Pros: Plenty of space for a 6-lb or larger dog. Large grommets provide plenty of airflow without screaming "THIS IS A DOG CARRIER!" Sturdy leather construction, should wipe clean.

Cons: I feel a little weird carrying around a sea green bag. The light color shows a lot of dirt.

Bottom Line: The Fetching dog purse hasn't replaced my Boots and Barkley pink skull messenger bag, but it's definitely going to come in handy the next time I have to sneak a chihuahua past someone.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Book Review: Dog Food Logic

I'm pretty sure that Linda Case wrote Dog Food Logic: Making Smart Decisions for Your Dog in an Age of Too Many Choices for me. I am a skeptic, and I want proof. I don't trust marketing claims, I want studies, and not just any studies. I want peer-reviewed studies published in scientific journals, and then I want meta studies of those studies. I read the SkeptVet blog on a regular basis, and I think I'm the only person I know who doesn't give my dogs joint supplements because there's no compelling evidence that they work and plenty that they don't.

Photo by Erin Koski
I am also absolutely fascinating by marketing, and the human psychology behind it. There's just so many fascinating and just plain weird things to learn about the human mind. Dog Food Logic introduced me to a phenomenon called anchoring, the tendency for the subconscious to remember numbers and silently compare them to subsequent numbers. This sounds completely bizarre and yet appears to be something that people do without ever realizing. Anchoring occurs when a person thinks     about any number for any reason, the brain will then use this number as a starting point when estimating whether other numbers are high or low. A person who works with large numbers all day might find themselves calling a $30 lunch reasonable, while a person teaching basic math to first graders may feel like a $10 lunch is pretty steep. The numbers do not have to be related to each other at all, even a little bit. Studies on anchoring effects include having people spin a number wheel or write the last two digits of their social security number before asking them to guess or estimate something totally random. It's weird, it's real, and everybody does it. 

Other things Dog Food Logic introduced me to are the specific industry-defined terms food companies can use on their packaging, and the reality of co-packing. Many large dog food companies employ other facilities to actually manufacture and package their food, which is why a problem at a single packaging plant can manifest as a recall that hits multiple brands of food. Diamond produces their own food, Diamond Naturals. They also use their dog food factory to make food for Taste of the Wild, Wellness, Apex, Solid Gold, Canidae, Costco's Kirkland brand, and many others. A problem at the Diamond food plant in 2012 really exposed how very intertwined many pet food brands are. 

What's the difference between Beef Dog Food, Beef Recipe Dog Food, and Dog Food with Beef? What does "complete and balanced for all life stages" actually mean? Has anyone actually studied raw diets scientifically? Can dogs digest grain efficiently or not? When I read "chicken" in the ingredients list for my dog's food, does it mean chicken meat like I buy at the store, or some other definition? Dog Food Logic didn't just answer the questions I had about the dog food industry, it raised entirely new questions and then answered those too.

This book does not give concrete answers as to what dog food to feed my dogs, but it does give the colorful history of the dog food industry, definitions for almost everything printed on a bag of dog food, an explanation of the dog food manufacturing industry today, and the science behind dog nutrition. I am perfectly capable of thinking critically, identifying marketing versus fact, and understanding the nature of the dog food industry, and Linda Case has given me the information to do just that.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Treat Tuesday: Himalayan Dog Chews

Himalayan Dog Chews are made out of yak. Got a dog with allergies, that can't have traditional chews like rawhide and bully sticks? Give them yak instead. Yakkity yak. I love yaks. The people at the Himalayan Dog Chew company also love yaks, so no yaks were harmed in the making of this edible chew.

The Himalayan Dog Chew was developed from a recipe for a yak cheese snack made by people in the Himalayas, where yaks are the backbone of human society. Seriously, traditionally people there ate yaks and yak milk, and made clothes, tools, and tents out of yak parts. They even have yak races. With decorated yaks. I swear I am not making this up.

The first time I got a Himalayan Dog Chew for Brisbane was about eight years ago, when I first spotted them in a store. I brought it home and handed it to him, and he devoured it within minutes. I thought it was a pretty huge waste of money. Still, I thought I'd give them another try, and I'm glad I did. I gave them to Brisbane and Ulysses and ten minutes later I saw that they weren't chewing and assumed they had already gobbled down their yak. Ten minutes after that I saw them both chewing again, they had each hidden their yak chews for safekeeping. While I keep the yak chews picked up most of the time, they have yet to finish them even when left all day long in a crate with nothing but yak for entertainment. Even Ru loves his yak chew. These occupy a unique space on the chewing spectrum for my dogs, they are higher value than a rawhideor antler and lower than a bully stick, they also last longer than a bully but not as long as a rawhide or antler.

Good For: Lasting days longer than a bully stick or venison crepe around here. Being novel enough that dogs with massive allergies can still enjoy them. Being totally digestible.

Not Good For: Dogs that like to swallow things whole. Dogs with dairy allergies.

How Much We Like Them: I want to say we will always have them around, but the truth is that they still haven't finished the first ones I gave them. The package says to microwave the small end pieces so that they puff. I am ridiculously excited to see this happen, I just wish they'd finish the damned things so I can nuke them.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Our December Allergy-Friendly BarkBox

Our Allergy-Friendly BarkBox finally arrived, and it was a long wait! The boxes usually ship out from Connecticut on the 15th, and sometimes it takes a week or more for ours to make it all the way over here to the other coast. This box is Christmas-themed, and much more festive than our 75-degree bone-dry weather.

I was absolutely delighted to find a Planet Dog Orbee Tuff Bulb
toy. I've been meaning to get one of these for years, and here it is. This is a durable, stuffable chew toy, and I've loved all of our other Planet Dog Orbee toys.

We got a SafeMade Holiday tartan bandana with Christmas trees and reindeers. It is just the right amount of Christmassy without being tacky.

When I first saw the Etta Says rabbit chew, I thought it was a duck chew like the one in our September BarkBox. Happily it is a rabbit chew, so Brisbane can enjoy it. These things are kind of like bully sticks, but are odorless and won't stain rugs.

The card in the box says it contains some Dogs Love Kale treats, but instead we have some Bixbi Essentials Pork Jerky treats. These are what I wished we had gotten back in our July box 'o'chicken. I'm sure everyone here will appreciate them.

The last thing in our box is a Simply Fido Penguin, which I don't love. It's kind of cute, but my dogs just aren't into crinkly things at all.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Product Review: Cetacea Martingale Collar

The Cetacea Martingale Collar is made from nylon webbing. It features a quick-release buckle and a plastic slide that keeps the martingale loop from gaping open. The Cetacea martingale collar is available in seventeen different colors and patterns, and six sizes to fit dogs with necks 10-30" around.
Photo by Erin Koski

This is currently my favorite martingale because it has a nice short loop, so I don't have to choose between "so big it's falling off" and "so small it's strangling my dog". It also has a quick-release buckle, a feature not found on any of my current martingales, though I'm told Premier also makes them.

I particularly love the little plastic slide that prevents the loop from sagging open, I haven't seen this on any other martingale collar.

Photo by Erin Koski

It makes it look more like a slip collar, with the live ring on one end of the loop rather than sitting in the middle between the two dead rings. This also helps keep the loop from sagging. Note the two dead rings rings and loop, this is what makes this a martingale collar. A limited slip (or half-choke, half-slip, etc) collar would have a dead ring on one side and the loop would be a continuation of the collar strap on the other side.

Pros: Designed so that the martingale loop lays flat. Unbuckles so I don't have to slip it over Brisbane's head. Comes in a bunch of colors including rainbow! Brass hardware matches some of my favorite leashes. Soft nylon webbing is easy on Brisbane's delicate skin.

Photo by Erin Koski
Cons: I honestly don't have anything bad to say about this collar, it even comes in purple and two different shades of pink.

Bottom Line: I think Brisbane needs a rainbow martingale.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Food Friday: Stella & Chewy's Freeze-Dried Absolutely Rabbit Dinner

The food of the week is Stella & Chewy's Freeze-Dried "Absolutely Rabbit" Dinner, an incredibly convenient form of raw food for dogs. Most "rabbit" dog foods contain a small amount of fresh rabbit meat, and are actually based on chicken meal or some other inexpensive protein. Not Stella and Chewy's, this is the real deal. It contains ground rabbit including bone (bone is very important if you feed raw) plus some fruits, veggies, olive oil, and vitamins. No chicken fat, no egg products, no dairy. This is a grain-free, poultry-free, egg-free, beef-free, pork-free, lamb-free, single protein food that is awesome for dogs with allergies. It's fabulous for elimination diets. It's also crazy-expensive. Like really, really crazy.

As the World's Worst Dog, it's not enough for Brisbane to merely steal pizza off the counter and plot the destruction of the entire United States Postal Service, he also needs to warp my perception of reality. Briz accomplishes this by requiring so few calories that I am certain he must be performing photosynthesis when he's out there sunbathing. Aside from the occasion half a pepperoni pizza (somehow pilfered from the counter while leaving the box entirely undisturbed) this dog basically lives on air. I started by feeding Briz the recommended amounts of food on the label of the bag/box/wrapper/can, but quickly found that he ballooned up unless I fed him like a toy breed dog. This was not completely clear to me until I acquired a chihuahua and determined that they required the same number of calories. Six-pound Ru and 40-pound Brisbane eat the same amount of dog food.

Along with various training treats and stuffed Kongs, Brisbane and Ru both get about a quarter cup of kibble per day. I suspect that heelers are just super efficient, because 50-pound Ulysses eats between a quarter and a half a cup a day.

The point here is that, at a cup of food or less per day between the three of them, the dogs have completely warped my sense of how much it should cost per day to feed a dog. This has led to my willingness to try everything under the sun, from freeze-dried and dehydrated dog foods to super-ultra-extra-uber-premium kibbles. There is no way I would be able to afford to feed real, actual dogs Stella & Chewy's, no matter how awesome it is. (Note: Ru is not a real, actual dog.)

Stella & Chewy's freeze-dried dog food comes in 5.5 and 15-ounce bags. A large bag contains approximately 32 patties. One patty contains approximately 70 kcal, which I'm going to call calories because it rolls off the tongue (keyboard?) easier. Most of the kibbles I feed my dogs are around 400 kcal per cup, or a bit more. I feed them a quarter cup per day, so that's about 100 calories a day. For Brisbane, that's probably also breaking the laws of thermodynamics. Brisbane eats 1.5 freeze-dried Stella & Chewy's patties per day, meaning the large bag lasts about 21 days. A large bag of Stella and Chewy's Absolutely Rabbit costs about $32, so that's a dollar a patty, and about $1.50 a day to feed Brisbane. For amazingly high-quality dog food, this doesn't seem too bad.

When I contrast this to super-high-quality kibble, it doesn't seem so bad at first. I tend to get 5-pound bags of kibble, and at this size Orijen Six Fish costs about $25. At $5 a pound (about two cups of kibble) it costs about 62 cents per day to feed this to Brisbane. That's less than half the cost of the Stella & Chewy's, but they both seem pretty reasonable in the above quantities.

Here's the thing: Stella & Chewy's food doesn't come in a larger package, and it becomes prohibitively expensive to feed to a larger dog. How expensive? The Stella & Chewy's website feeding calculator says I should be feeding 40-pound Brisbane nine patties per day. That's $9 of dog food per day, $270 per month. Yikes! Meanwhile, the Orijen Six Fish gets down to $3 a pound at the largest size, and would cost a bit over $2 to feed Brisbane the manufacturer-recommended 1.5 cups per day, $67 per month. Big difference.

Questionable Claims
The biggest claim that this company makes all over their website is that, being made from raw meat, their food contains flavors that pets "naturally crave". My dog is a dog. Basically everything he does is "natural". Other things Brisbane "naturally craves" include flourless chocolate cake, smoked gouda cheese, and cold pepperoni pizza. Yes, this is a highly-palatable delicious food that can tempt picky eaters, but Im pretty sure that's just because it's stinky. Dogs love smelly stuff, the more it reeks, the more they love it. I need to start mentally replacing marketing phrases like "flavors your dog naturally craves" with "stinks to high heaven". I would also like to invent a drinking game involving this dog food's advertising and the word "natural".

Following the Trail
Stella and Chewy's food is made in Wisconsin, and the bag says "Made by Stella&Chewy's" so we know it isn't being manufactured in someone else's facility and doesn't share a supply chain with other brands. The bag also states that all of the ingredients are sourced from reputable North American and European suppliers. Hopefully this includes the vitamin and mineral supplements as well, since I've heard some sketchy things about various supplements coming out of China.

The Good Stuff
Basically it's all good stuff. Aside from poking fun at their marketing hype, this is an excellent food that I would readily choose to feed my dogs on a daily basis if I needed to just pick one food. The freeze-dried patties are an excellent way to add raw food to a rotational diet without sacrificing freezer space. They are great for bribing tiny dogs into eating, can be crumbled over or stirred into food to make it more appealing, and is really easy to stuff into Kongs. It's perfect for exclusively rawfed dogs while traveling, can be broken up into training treats, and just might be enough to tempt reluctant eaters in stressful situations like boarding. It's a fairly non-yucky raw food that pet sitters and squeamish relatives might be willing to feed my dogs for me, and also a nice gradual introduction into the whole world of raw dog food. The venison, rabbit, and pheasant varieties are fantastic for dogs on elimination diets, and for adding variety for dogs with many food allergies. Of course they are rated five stars on Dog Food Advisor.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Product Review: Dublin Dog No Stink Waterproof Collar

The Dublin Dog No Stink Waterproof Collar is a flat buckle collar that is waterproof and nonporous. It is made from a special polymer inspired by sport watches, and is intended to go everywhere and do everything while looking snazzy. Dublin Dog Original No Stink Collars are available in a variety of fun designs and colors, and come in three sizes for dogs with necks 11-12.5" around.
Photo by Erin Koski

Living on the coast, sand and salt water take their toll on our beach collars. While I've been using my Lupine gear for a few years, it's beginning to look a bit ratty and rusted. Despite my love of Lupine's lifetime guarantee, Brisbane and Ru's beach collars and leashes inevitably come home wet and sandy. Normally I either hose them off and hang them to dry, or just leave them on the porch until they are dry enough to shake most of the sand off. Either way, there is always some sort of de-sanding to be done with their gear.

My dogs have a constantly changing array of collars to wear, preventing most of their wardrobes from looking too worn. Not everyone is quite as nutty about dog stuff though, and normal people tend to just put a collar on their dog and leave it there until they have a good reason to replace it. Dogs that get wet and stinky tend to have wet, stinky collars. Nylon webbing absorbs all sorts of nasty smells, and sometimes not even the dishwasher can de-stink it.

Enter Dublin Dog, purveyors of collars made to breeze through the most epic outdoor adventures without bringing home the reek of wet dog. Hallelujah. I have personally thrown away collars that were defiled by the stench of skunk and the reek of dead stuff. Gross.

Pros: Does not come home caked in sand or bearing the scent of low tide. Colors last for a long, long time. Non-porous, nonabsorbent rubbery material never needs to be dried.

Cons: Like sport watch bands, these collars can hold moisture against the dog's skin, and cause rashes and yucky skin on sensitive dogs.

Bottom Line: These are super popular for dock divers, and I love seeing them on dogs in the pool at work. This is Brisbane's new beach collar, it's almost as awesome as Ru's biothane harness.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Treat Tuesday: Superior Farms Venison Crepe

The Superior Farms Venison Crepe is a natural chew made from 100% venison hide. It is softer than rawhide, and made in the USA without any scary chemical processing. It also isn't stinky like bully sticks. Ours arrived in our October Allergy-Friendly BarkBox and was snarfed down by Brisbane shortly afterward.
Good For: Giving dogs with beef allergies something nice to chew on. Keeping the monsters busy when I'm trying to blog. Occupying dogs in crates. Being possibly more digestible than beefhide, it certainly feels a lot more light and fluffy.

Not Good For: Lasting as long as Wholesome Hides. Feeding dogs who like to swallow things whole.

How Much We Like It: Not quite enough to order another one for Brisbane, but I might if I saw one in a store. It's such an awesome novel protein chew for dogs with allergies. If Briz were allergic to beef, these would be a staple here.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Product Review: SENSE-ation Harness by Softouch Concepts

The Softouch Concepts SENSE-ation harness is a front clip harness designed to discourage pulling and promote good leash walking skills. It features a simple three-strap design with a single buckle and a bottom strap made from soft non-abrasive webbing. The SENSE-ation is available in five colors and nine different sizes to fit dogs with chests 13-50" around.
Photo by Erin Koski

While it may look a lot like the Premier Easy Walk harness, the SENSE-ation harness is in my opinion a superior product. With one fewer buckle, it's easier to put on and less likely to baffle the uninitiated. More importantly=, it does not have that obnoxious tightening martingale loop in the front.

While the Easy Walk harness is supposed to tighten across the shoulders to make pulling difficult, the SENSE-ation harness just changes the leash attachment point from the front to the back. The fixed strap gives a much better fit and is far more ergonomic while being just as effective. The issue with the Easy Walk harness is that the martingale loop doesn't actually tighten the harness, it just pulls the top and bottom straps forward and into the dog's armpits.

The SENSE-ation harness is also fitted differently than the Easy Walk, and since acquiring mine I have changed the way I fit dogs with Easy Walk harnesses. Premier tells users that the top and bottom straps should be vertical, and the front strap should sit horizontal and level with the point of the chest. The guys at my local pet store call this the "mythical T-shape" because it just can't be achieved on a real dog. The get the front strap to sit at the point of the chest, it has to be tightened until the top and bottom straps are pulled into the dog's elbows.

The SENSE-ation harness is fitted with the chest trap adjusted a bit higher. When gravity and physics and the laws of nature take their course, the front strap ends up right at the breastbone where it belongs. Unlike the Easy Walk harness, which instructs users to tighten the vertical straps so tight that the front strap stays up, the SENSE-ation harness instructs users to keep things loose enough to be comfortable and allow for natural movement.

Pros: A far more comfortable and easier to use front clip harness that the most popular one on the market. Discourages pulling without impeding normal movement.

Cons: Not Dr Zink-approved because the horizontal strap lays across the shoulder, though this is more a concern for canine athletes and less for average pet dogs. The pink ones I've seen have faded badly even though they haven't been in the sun.

Bottom Line: I feel like this harness was designed by people who actually used it long enough to improve the design and fitting instructions. It's what the Easy Walk harness would be if a team of dog-loving engineers got to work on it. While it hasn't replaced the Freedom harness as my favorite no-pull solution, it's a lot better than the more popular Easy Walk.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Puzzle Toy Review: Kensington Kennel Club Dog Intelligence Toy

The Kensington Kennel Club Dog Intelligence Toy is a wood board game style puzzle toy for dogs. This is a house brand found at Ross stores, and so far this is the only puzzle toy in the product line. It consists of several treat holes and several wooden circles that slide on tracks to cover the treat compartments.
Photo by Erin Koski

This is the only wood puzzle toy I currently own, and I'm a little uncomfortable calling it "wood" because it's the base looks like particle board to me. Still, it is very sturdy and has held up to being flung across the room.

This is definitely one of the most difficult board game puzzles we have, and Brisbane tends to get frustrated to the point of yapping at it. There are no air holes in the round circle covers, so the dogs cannot immediately locate the food.
Photo by Erin Koski

The covers slide fairly easily, but they're tough to open accidentally. Briz can't just kick this toy all over the room and have it magically eject food. Opening the covers requires either careful scratching or nose nudging. So far Ulysses and Ru haven't figured this toy out yet.

Puzzle Toy Rating

Capacity: 1/5
Not even a quarter cup of kibble, more like 2 or 3 pieces per compartment.

Photo by Erin Koski

Loading Speed: 5/5
I can only put a few treats in here anyway, doesn't matter if they go in one by one.

Unloading Speed (standard dog): 4/5
My less-than-brilliant dogs still haven't figured it out. I'd rate it 5/5 if I didn't get tired of supervising after awhile.

Unloading Speed (superdog): 5/5
For the amount of food it fits, this toy probably delivers the highest ratio of time spent.

Size: 4/5
Ru could use this toy if he could figure it out. A very large dog could still use this toy safely with supervision.
Photo by Erin Koski

Durability: 5/5
Short of taking a bite, I can't actually figure out a way my dogs could damage this toy.

Noise: 3/5
The lack of non-skin anything on the bottom of this toy guarantees it will be scraping across the floor.

Locatability: 5/5
Supervision only means it never gets lost.

Washability: 1/5
I would be afraid to get this toy wet, it might disintegrate if I tried to scrub it. If the wood got too wet, it might swell or warp to the point where the toy no longer worked.

Hoardability: 1/5
Briz can't lift it or even pick it up. He's not taking it anywhere.

Total: 34/50

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Product Review: Dean and Tyler DT Works Harness

The DT Works harness by Dean and Tyler is a Norway-style harness intended for service dogs and other working pups. It is extremely well-built, with reflective material across the front and heavy-duty hardware. Both the chest and belly straps are adjustable, and the harness comes with a D-ring on the top as well as two on the sides. The DT Works harness also includes velcro patches that can be removed and swapped depending on who is wearing the vest and why. The DT Works harness comes in two colors and five sizes to fit dogs with chests 18-47" around, and up to 52" around with the optional 5" girth extension.
Photo by Erin Koski

Not gonna lie, I actually have "Service Dog" patches for this harness. Why? Because I bought it at a thrift store for $5, not because I want to pass off my terrible dogs as actual service dogs. Anyone who does that deserves to be nipped to death by a pack of rabid chihuahuas.

While I have been moving away from using Norway-style harnesses based on the work and advice of Dr. Christine Zink, I still use this one for Ulysses because it is so cool-looking. I love the handle on top that allows me to hang on and steer him, this is awesome for people with mobility issues as well. Our harness is a size small, and Brisbane is almost too small for it. I love the fit, the front strap sits nice and high on his chest, while the belly strap is well behind his elbows and goes around his ribs rather than his abdomen. The only other Norway harness I have with this good a fit is Ru's custom harness from Fraggle Rock.

Pros: Super adjustable and more ergonomic than any other harness this style. Very sturdy and probably indestructible. Multiple leash attachment points and big top handle. Reflective with removable patches. Wide straps distribute pressure comfortably and allow the dog to pull comfortably. Lends an air of legitimacy to whatever I am doing with my dog, even without patches. It that a search and rescue dog? A bomb sniffing dog? I could get patches to identify my dog as a cadaver sniffing dog if I felt so inclined. Really, who would fake that?

Cons: The saddle on this harness is very stiff, it sort of sticks out at the corners on Brisbane, and I have to strap it fairly tight on Ulysses before it conforms to his body.

Bottom Line: The only reason I haven't acquired patches for this harness is because I can't quite figure out what to get. "Adopt Me" would be a good place to start. I could get custom patches made if I could figure out what to put on them. I still want the "Cadaver Dog" ones though. Maybe I should train my next dog to sniff out dead people.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Food Friday: Evanger's Grain-Free Meat Lover's Medley

 I don't normally go through an entire bag of kibble in one week, but here we are with a brand new bag of Evanger's Grain-Free Meat-Lover's Medley. Last week I contacted Canidae about some funky-looking kibble in our bag of Grain-Free Pure Land and they advised me to toss the whole bag and promised to send a voucher for a new one. Always on the lookout for novel foods, I discovered that my local seed and feed has some really amazing selection.

I'm a fan of Evanger's almost entirely because they canned pheasant dog food, which is awesome for dogs with allergies. It has really helped me pinpoint Brisbane's bird allergies, and I get a kick out of listing all the ones that he can eat: ostrich, emu, pheasant, quail, and pigeon.

Evanger's Meat Lover's Medley is a grain-free, poultry-free, egg-free, potato-free kibble made from beef meal, peas, and sweet potato. It also contains rabbit, which contains mostly water that gets cooked out, and pork meal. I appreciate that they use beef fat in this food because I love it when fat and protein sources match. It bugs the crap out of me when an otherwise perfect food is ruined by chicken fat. Yes, properly clarified chicken fat should contain no protein and therefore cause no reaction, but I'm still not putting it in my chicken-allergic dog.

Questionable Claims
Every food company has a laundry list of claims on their packaging because it sells food. What does Evanger's have on the Meat Lover's Medley bag? There are the usual claims of optimal nutrition supporting optimal health, and touting the inclusion of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, which any good food should have. There's actually nothing super-annoying on the bag, though.

Following the Trail
Unlike a lot of dog food companies, Evanger's actually owns their own facilities. They even produce food for Party Animal and Wild Calling. What's not so good is this company's history with the FDA and the law. Back in 2009 the FDA prohibited Evanger's from transporting their products across state lines due to numerous code violations at their facility. The company's history includes canned food that contained metal poultry tags being pulled from store shelves without notifying consumers, along with ongoing complaints about rusty cans. The most recent Evanger's shenanigans involve wiring their facility to nearby power lines for free electricity. I'm not convinced that egregious utility theft means they can't also make good pet food, but the colorful history means I wouldn't choose this kibble as my dogs' staple diet for an extended period of time.

The Good Stuff
Evanger's Grain-Free kibbles are rated five stars on Dog Food Advisor. With zero poultry or grain ingredients, and no potatoes, this is a food that allows Brisbane to enjoy something other than fish. The kibbles in the Meat Lover's Medley are quite small, they even fit through the holes in our Petprojekt Football Tretball. Small kibbles also means more individual pieces per scoop, which means more treats per meal when I use them for training. These aren't terribly greasy kibbles either, so I'd be happy to walk around with a pocket full of them if I didn't think Brisbane would chew the pockets out of my pants given the opportunity. Overall I'm quite pleased with it, and of course the dogs love it. They're not terribly discerning, but they really only draw the line at questionably-edible items, like those biodegradable foam packing peanuts. Evanger's kibble proudly states that it is made in the USA, and though this one contains pork, many of their products are also certified kosher for all those Jewish dogs out there.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Puzzle Toy Review: Kyjen Treat Triad

The Kyjen Treat Triad is a board game style food puzzle toy for dogs (and sometimes ravens). It consists of a three-blade propeller-shaped spinning piece atop a base which holds three treat compartments. In order to reach the food, the dog must spin the propeller and then lift the flap above each compartment.
Photo by Erin Koski

This is a fairly advanced puzzle toy, and it has a knob on the bottom to tighten the propeller and make it even more difficult. The Treat Triad has a lot of potential for dogs who figure things out really fast because it is very easy for them to accidentally spin the propeller while sniffing. This means the dog may not immediately realize why they suddenly have access to the food, and it may take a few exposures before they really understand that they have to spin the thingy.

Photo by Erin Koski

Complaints about this puzzle include the fact that the treat wells are pretty deep and narrow. I've heard of at least one dog getting cut on the door flaps while retrieving treats. Larger dogs may have trouble getting to the food, and many just flip it over and roll it around until it opens.

Puzzle Toy Rating

Capacity: 4/5
I fit maybe half a cup of kibble in the entire thing.

Loading Speed: 5/5
Dump kibble in each well, done.

Photo by Erin Koski

Unloading Speed (standard dog): 5/5
Ulysses is the sort of dog to accidentally open the Treat Triad several times without actually figuring it out.

Unloading Speed (superdog): 4/5
Briz spent a good ten minutes exploring the Treat Triad before emptying it.

Size: 2/5
Larger dogs may have difficulty using this toy as intended. Smaller dogs shouldn't really have a problem, but at 40 pounds Brisbane has trouble getting the food out.
Photo by Erin Koski
Durability: 2/5
The propeller itself is pretty sturdy, but the door flaps are really thin and kind of sharp around the edges.

Noise: 5/5
This is one of those toys that's just supposed to sit still on the floor.

Locatability: 5/5
Doesn't go anywhere, and I supervise during playtime.

Washability: 3/5
It can be scrubbed, but it's a giant pain in the butt.

Hoardability: 1/5
Nobody is taking this thing anywhere.

Total: 36/50

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Product Review: Hurtta Winter Jacket

The Hurtta Winter Jacket is a warm, waterproof coat. It is available in several colors and an incredible 15 sizes to fit dogs with backs 9-33" from neck to tail.
Photo by Erin Koski

I found these coats at Ross for crazy cheap, otherwise I probably wouldn't have acquired serious winter gear for my California beach dogs. Hurtta is a company based in Finland, so they make serious serious winter clothes for dogs. Look at these jackets, they have belly protectors and furry collars and they cover a whole lot of dog. There are even elastic straps to go around their back legs to keep the coats in place on their butts. These are some seriously warm dogs.

Photo by Erin Koski

My favorite thing about Hurtta dog clothes is how infinitely adjustable they are. Brisbane and Ru both have long backs for their heights and chest diameters, so a lot of stuff fits weird. Many coats that are long enough to fit their backs are are also too wide around the neck and chest. These Hurtta Winter Coats have adjustable necks that can be tightened to keep them from sliding down. The waist belts can also be adjusted down until they reach the edges of the belly panel. Brisbane's coat is an 18", a little roomy. It also fits Ulysses perfectly. Ru's is an 11" and it fits him well. Ru wears his a lot more often than Briz.

Pros: There are 15 sizes, each 2" apart in length, so getting something that fits is possible for most dogs. The adjustable neck and waist help get the sizing just right, and the rounded rear and elastic leg bands keep the coat in place. The fizzy collar is adorable, and can be turned up for added warmth and rain protection.

Cons: Leg straps make Brisbane give up at life. The rounded back end of the coats mean they fit a little awkwardly on a slightly-too-long dog.

Bottom Line: Super warm, designed by people who have to weather some amazing winters. So far my boys have only worn them during one of our very rare rainy days. If will definitely be taking Brisbane and Ulysses to the snow if we get any in driving range this year.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Treat Tuesday: Zukes Lil' Links Rabbit and Apple Recipe

"Healthy Little Sausages for Dogs" is what it says under Zukes Lil' Links on the bag. These things are grain-free, made from meat, and semi-moist thanks to the addition of vegetable glycerin and gelatin. Once exposed to the air though, they harden to a rock-like consistency. I bought these when I needed to keep Ulysses quiet in a crate for a couple hours, and I foolishly shoved most of the bag into the Kong Genius Mike toy. I was forced to chisel most of them out with a butter knife a couple of weeks later when I finally admitted to myself that the dogs were never going them retrieve them.

Good For: Keeping the chihuahua busy for a few minutes because the treats are each the size of my thumb.

Not Good For: Shoving inside puzzle toys because my dogs just lick them and refuse to gnaw rubber in their quest for sausage treats.

How Much We Like Them: Enough to try another bag so I can stick some in Kongs and then chisel them out again.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Puzzle Toy Review: Petprojekt Football Tretball

The Petprojekt Football Tretball is a variation on the company's Bonball. The durable rubber ball has two halves connected by an inner core that allows each half to be flipped inside out. The two halves of the Football Tretball fit together, making this a challenging puzzle when filled with treats that don't fit through the holes.
Photo by Erin Koski

We got these toys in our football-themed September BarkBox, and while I love the concept and the company, I'm finding the toys a little disappointing. These are made from sturdy rubber, sort of like the Kong Genius toys. Brisbane refuses to participate when the puzzle involves chomping down hard on rubber toys, so he won't play with the Football Tretball unless it is filled with treats small enough to fall out the little holes.

Photo by Erin Koski
Puzzle Toy Rating

Capacity: 1/5
It's a bit of a stretch to get a quarter cup of kibble into this thing.

Loading Speed: 1/5
I haven't yet found a method of loading this thing that doesn't involve shoving one kibble at a time inside.

Unloading Speed (standard dog): 2/5
If the kibble is small enough to fit through the holes, it just sort of sprays out everywhere. If it's too big to just fall out, Ulysses can't get it out at all.

Unloading Speed (superdog): 1/5
If the food fits through the holes, Briz can unload the Football Tretball in seconds. If it's too big he figures it out right away and gives up in disgust.

Size: 2/5
I have a tough time getting food in and out of this thing even with thumbs and tools. A tiny dog like Ru would lack the physical strength required, and it would pose a choking hazard to a large dog. I'm not even sure I would give this toy to a beefy Labrador, much less a Great Dane.

Durability: 4/5
I wouldn't give one to a power chewer, but this toy should survive anything less than a really determined dog.

Noise: 5/5
Flexible rubber makes this a near-silent puzzle toy.

Locatability: 1/5
We use this basically as a roller toy, it can roll freely and fit under the furniture. The lack of bright color also makes it a candidate for being lost in the yard.

Hoardability: 1/5
Since solving this puzzle is either insanely easy or impossible, Briz feels no need to drag it to his lair.

Washability: 5/5
I would have rated it much lower before I learned that each side can be flipped completely inside out.

Total: 23/50

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Product Review: EzyDog Checkmate Collar

The EzyDog Checkmate collar is a limited slip collar with a plastic quick-released buckle. It comes in seven colors and four sizes to fit dogs with necks 10-33" around.
Photo by Erin Koski

I like limited slip collars better than martingales for the most part, because the bit of the collar that tightens is usually smaller on limited slips. I have several martingale collars with enormous loops that leave the collar several inches too big and flopping around when loose. The slip section of our large Checkmate collar is three inches long. The slip sections of my large Premier martingales are five inches long.

This collar is a little big on Brisbane, in retrospect I should have gotten him a size medium. The medium is skinnier and lighter, a little more subtle than the large.

Pros: Tightens down to an escape-proof fit, loosens enough but not too much. Quick release buckle means I don't have to pull it over Brisbane's head.

Cons: Does not come tiny enough for Ru. Also does not come in purple or darker pink, only pastel dirt-showing pink.

Bottom Line: Currently the best slip collar I own.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Project Kong Chewing: Success!

After a full month of encouragement, Ulysses as finally started to gnaw his durable rubber Kong toys for fun and recreation. I am so proud. This change occurred along with several other big steps for Uly, including beginning to jump up on things with both back feet at the same time, and being able to focus on me in the presence of a leashed dog.

From his broken and severely worn teeth, we have surmised that Uly used to enjoy chewing on abrasive things like tennis balls and rocks. This fits with our guess that he was confined to a small outdoor area for most of his life. He hadn't been gnawing non-edible things for fun prior to Project Kong Chewing, but his willingness to chomp on raw bones, bully sticks, and rawhides helped demonstrate that pain wasn't likely to be the issue. Maybe he just needed to learn how to be a dog again.

It's possible Uly would have gotten to this point on his own, maybe I didn't really teach him anything. What I did do was offer him softer and smaller Kongs, along with introducing them as fun fetch toys as well as vessels for peanut butter. Did it help? I'm not sure, Brisbane and Ru don't seem to be convinced that Kongs are for chewing.

This is what success looks like, people!

This is a project I undertook not for occupational therapy for Ulysses, but because I got tired of scrubbing bits of fossilized peanut butter out of the end of every Kong. Uly has so far made his mark on the red Kongs, and may be switching exclusively to Blue or even Black soon.

Of course, having an actual recreational chewer in the house means I will have to be more careful about retrieving Ru's tiny Kongs from his crate. Uly got one of the Extra Small ones yesterday and chewed the whole top off. I haven't found it yet, but will be watching the yard. It's a small piece of a very small toy inside a 50lb dog, so I expect that this too shall pass.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Food Friday: Canidae Pure Land

Our current bag of kibble is Canidae Pure Land, a grain-free lamb-based kibble. This food uses lamb meal and bison meat as the sole protein sources, with sweet potatoes, peas, and chickpeas providing carbohydrates and canola oil providing the fat. It is poultry-free and egg-free, so Brisbane can eat it. He can actually have two of the four Canidae Pure foods, which I think is pretty cool. Like most grain-free kibbles, Canidae Pure Land is nutritionally dense with 474 kcal per cup.

Having just finished reading Dog Food Logic by Linda P. Case, and also read in detail the ingredient lists for over 800 different kibbles now, I am totally unimpressed with Canidae's label claims. It's nothing against Canidae really, nearly every dog food company puts this stuff on their bags. These things are almost entirely unregulated and companies can get away with putting nearly anything on there if they word it correctly. Still, I enjoy the opportunity to post snarky stuff about almost everything.

Questionable Claims
I didn't take a close enough picture to make everything on the bag readable, but see right there where it says "Made with Fresh Bison"? The only bison in this kibble is in the form of fresh meat, which is made mostly of water. Bison may be the first ingredient on the list, but after the cooking process there is only 10-20% of it left. The next ingredient is lamb meal, a protein that is already cooked, dried, and therefore ends up providing the bulk of the protein in Canidae Pure Land.

What is that white stuff anyway?
The fact that Canidae Pure Land is made up of "Just Seven Ingredients* *(plus added vitamins, minerals, natural flavors, and probiotics)" is also kind of silly because most uber-high-quality grain-free kibbles have a very similar-looking ingredient list. Here is the actual Pure Land ingredient list:

Bison, lamb meal, sweet potatoes, peas, chickpeas, canola oil, suncured alfalfa, natural flavor, minerals (iron proteinate, zinc proteinate, copper proteinate, ferrous sulfate, zinc sulfate, copper sulfate, potassium iodide, manganese proteinate, manganous oxide, manganese sulfate, sodium selenite), vitamins (vitamin E supplement, thiamine mononitrate, ascorbic acid, vitamin A supplement, biotin, niacin, calcium pantothenate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, vitamin B12 supplement, riboflavin, vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid), choline chloride, dried enterococcus faecium fermentation product, dried lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, dried lactobacillus casei fermentation product, dried lactobacillus plantarum fermentation product, dried trichoderma longibrachiatum fermentation extract, mixed tocopherols
Following the Trail
While Canidae claims to own their own production facilities and manufacture their own foods, many sources report that at least some of their kibbles, including grain-free Pure, are manufactured by Diamond Pet Foods, Diamond makes their own brands of food, but they also have  kickass production facilities and use their equipment to make foods for a bunch of companies that don't mind outsourcing. How do we know who outsources? Most companies aren't exactly forthcoming about who makes their foods and where, so consumers only find this out when a recall happens. The 2012 Diamond Pet Food recall affected Kirkland Signature, Natural Balance, Wellness, Taste of the Wild, Solid Gold, and Chicken Soup, among others. Canidae Pure Land is probably produced domestically, and possibly in a Canidae-owned facility, we'll find out the next time a salmonella-contamination recall happens.

The Good Stuff
All snark aside, this is an extremely high-quality food, otherwise I wouldn't be feeding it to my dogs. Most Canidae Pure foods rate five stars on our beloved Dog Food Advisor, but Pure Land only gets four due to its lower estimated meat content. As soon as I learn how to estimate meat content, I will report my own findings as well. I appreciate that Canidae limited their ingredient list and didn't pack a bit of every known meat animal into this food. It remains one of the few non-fish kibbles that Brisbane can have with his chicken, turkey, duck, and egg allergies. It does not contain white potatoes, which many dog owners have also been avoiding lately. Brisbane, Ru, and foster dog Ulysses all love Canidae Pure Land (along with pretty much anything edible and a few things that aren't). It doesn't upset anyone's tummy or leave them smelling suspiciously fishy.

My 4lb bag of Canidae Pure Land has some kibbles with a white residue. I'm not sure what to make of this, so I emailed the company to ask. So far it smells fine and doesn't seem to bother the dogs, so it's probably not deadly poison. If anyone has any tummy upsets unrelated to eating Kongs, this will probably be the first thing I eliminate from their diets, but since they get a lot more to eat than just kibble I'm comfortable feeding it for now.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Puzzle Toy Review: Toys'R'Us Treat Puzzle Dog Toy "The Everything Puzzle"

The Toys'R'Us Treat Puzzle Dog Toy is a board game style puzzle toy sold exclusively at PetSmart. It features four treat compartments that each open in a different way, and for this reason I have dubbed it "The Everything Puzzle". It needed a name, too, because PetSmart currently has three different Toys-backwards R-Us treat puzzles available on their website, with nothing to differentiate them from one another either in the name of the product or the packaging itself.

Toys'R'Us Treat Puzzle Dog Toy

Kyjen Paw Flapper
Toys sold under the Toys-backwards R-Us brand have been appearing at PetSmart for a while now, and they often seem to be familiar toys with a new label. Check out this Treat Puzzle Dog Toy, for example. Doesn't it have an uncanny resemblance to Kyjen's Paw Flapper. It's obviously the same toy, and PetSmart has likely licensed both the toy design and the Toys-backwards R-Us logo.

Photo by Erin Koski
Kyjen doesn't have anything like the Everything Puzzle, though. This one is both unique and challenging. The four treat compartments each open in a different way. There is a yellow door, a green drawer, an orange disc, and a round red plug. The orange disc sits firmly under two little flaps, and must be both spun and slid for removal. The red plug is round on the bottom and sits in a round depression with a little treat cavity below.
Photo by Erin Koski

Rather than reinforcing puzzle-solving skills by having the dog repeat a task several times, this toy requires four separate actions to defeat. It is difficult to open just by shaking, kicking, or even flipping the whole thing. This makes it a great challenge for Brisbane.

Puzzle Toy Rating

Capacity: 4/5
I can fit at least half a cup of food in here, probably closer to a whole cup. That drawer in particular is quite roomy.

Photo by Erin Koski
Loading Speed: 5/5
Open compartments, dump in food, close compartments.

Unloading Speed (standard dog): 5/5
I'm not sure Uly would figure this out given an entire day to ponder.

Unloading Speed (superdog): 4/5
Brisbane spent a good ten minutes getting a quarter cup of kibble out of The Everything Puzzle even though he had seen it before.

Size: 3/5
The pegs on most of the parts of this puzzle would be difficult for a dog with  larger mouth. Brisbane has a little bit of trouble with them, I'm sure a large or jowly dog would fair much worse. At the same time, I think that Ru would have a tough time spinning the orange disc or opening the drawer with his tiny mouth and utter lack of strength.

Durability: 3/5
This puzzle is made for use under close supervision and won't hold up to much chewing, but it also feels pretty darned sturdy. There is no thin or bendable plastic in this puzzle.

Noise: 4/5
It can be a little rattly when Brisbane is kicking it across a hard floor, but overall it's not bad.

Locatability: 5/5
Close supervision means never having to look under the furniture for this toy. I'm pretty sure those removable red and orange parts would disappear in some households though.

Hoardability: 1/5
No stealing and no moving means no hoarding.

Washability: 4/5
Hard plastic should make for easy cleaning, but I'm pretty sure there's no way I could clean the space behind that green drawer.

Total: 38/40
I think this is my favorite board game so far.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Product Review: P.L.A.Y. Giant Squid Stuffy

This squid stuffy is part of P.L.A.Y.'s Under the Sea plush toy line. It is stuffed with 100% recycled plastic bottle stuffing, made of reinforced yet soft and fuzzy fabric, and squeaks like all good stuffies. Part of the proceeds from each squid sold go to the International Fund for Animal Welfare, so buying a squid stuffy does a little to help a worthy cause.
Photo by Erin Koski
After several people commented on how much they loved the squids they got in their July BarkBoxes (we got a crab instead), I finally embraced my love for cephalopods and purchased a squid for Brisbane. I have no regrets.

Officially it's a giant squid, but it's not really that big so it could just as easily represent a Humboldt squid, or a pencil squid, or a common arm squid. I am of the opinion that it most represents a flying squid, with the calamari being a close second. Yes, that does mean I just spent upwards of thirty minutes looking at pictures of squid on the internet. Make of that what you will.
Photo by Erin Koski

This is a surprisingly sturdy stuffed toy, several people have mentioned it holding up far better than most of their dog's plush squeakies. Maybe there's something about P.L.A.Y. stuffies that doesn't scream "Disembowel me!"? Brisbane has not attempted to shred it yet. He doesn't normally set out to destroy, but once the toy is breached and the stuffing exposed, the urge to unstuff is too great.

Pros: Reinforced seams and sturdy fabric. Soft, bite-able mouth feel. Tentacles make it fun to shake and kill. It's a squid. I love squid.

Photo by Erin Koski

Cons: Do you know how many tentacles squids have? Two. Squids have two long tentacles plus eight shorter arms, for a total of ten appendages. How many does this squid stuffy have? Six. It has two long tentacles, but only four shorter arms. I know making a full compliment of squid appendages would have been needlessly expensive and possibly compromised the durability of the toy, but it still makes my inner zoologist kind of twitchy. This Giant Squid may have been in some sort of tragic accident, or lost half its arms in an epic battle with a sperm whale.

Bottom Line: The P.L.A.Y. Giant Squid is everything I dreamed it would be.