Saturday, January 31, 2015

Product Review: Planet Dog Orbee-Tuff Raspberry

The Planet Dog Orbee Tuff Raspberry is an itty bitty durable, stuffable chew toy for itty bitty dogs. It is made in the USA of recyclable materials, and is part of Planet Dog's line of produce-shaped toys. The Orbee-Tuff Raspberry comes in one size: tiny.
Photo by Erin Koski

This is basically the cutest stuffable dog toy ever. It's slightly larger than an actual raspberry and it's pink. I can fill it with peanut butter or spray cheese-like-substance, and I can freeze it to make it last longer.

There aren't a whole lot of stuffable toys out there for toy breeds. We have an assortment of ridiculously tiny Kongs, but nearly everything else is made for real dogs. I've been avoiding bringing home toys that are way too small for Brisbane, but I've been crating Ru while we work on his housebreaking/UTI issues. Brisbane is also remarkably careful with tiny toys, so Ru gets his wee Kongs and Raspberry in his crate, and if Briz gets it later it's not the end of the world.

Photo by Erin Koski

Pros: Sized just right for under-ten-pounders. Maybe cats too. Made in the USA of recyclable materials by a very cool company. Way too cute.

Cons: Too tiny for real dogs, the much larger artichoke and eggplant just aren't as cute.

Bottom Line: I need a drawer full of peanut butter-stuffed raspberries in my freezer.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Food Friday: I and Love and You Simply Sea Recipe

I and Love and You is a really weird name for a dog food. There, I said it. That's probably what the company wants me to think though, being weird is a great way to stick in people's minds. I found this at my local Ralph's grocery store, which was also really weird. I tend to refer to low-quality dog foods like Beneful as "grocery store dog food", though I know some dog nerds who feed their dogs Purina Pro Plan or Purina One. Even relatively high-quality grocery store foods aren't normally usually safe for Brisbane's egg and poultry allergies, if they're not made out of eggs and chicken meal, they're filled with "meat and bone meal" that could contain anything.

The Hype
I and Love and You makes the usual claims about all-natural everything. It also calls itself "nude food", which is cute. This brand prominently sates that it contains no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives, which feels like it goes without saying for most high-end foods. The bag and the website state that Simply Sea is made out of cod, but it's primary protein source is actually fish meal.

Following the Trail
As far as I can tell, I and Love and You makes their own food in their own facility. I can't find any mention of a co-packer, and the bag says "Distributed by NatPets", which owns the brand.

The Good Stuff
This is a Dog Food Advisor five star kibble. That I bought at the grocery store. Crazy.

Simply Sea is a grain-free, poultry-free, gg-free kibble that Brisbane can eat with his chicken/duck/turkey/egg allergies. It would be a good choice if I had to pick a single food for my dogs, and an amazing choice if I didn't have access to all the amazing pet stores around here and was stuck buying my dog food at the grocery store.

Also the kibbles are each shaped like hearts. How cute is that?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Product Review: Kong Aqua

The Kong Aqua is a floating water toy with a rope attached for throwing. The Kong Aqua is not a stuffable chew toy, but it is a highly-visible and floats high in the water. The Kong website states that the toy comes in medium and large sizes, but I've only ever seen the large.
Photo by Erin Koski

Brisbane is pretty hard on water toys. After he retrieves them, he wold really like to shred them. He ripped the cover off the Water Wubba, and will tear chunks out of our Chuckit disc and bumper given the opportunity. I get the feeling that the people who designed the Kong Aqua have the same problem.

The rope on this toy is really long, at least 2' if not 3'. This makes it super easy to lob the thing way out into the ocean without getting my feet wet. It's a braided plastic rope, so it doesn't absorb water and Brisbane can't shred it once he comes ashore. He tries, it just doesn't come apart.

This is the same size as a large Kong Classic, and no significantly bigger than a tennis ball. Brisbane has a lot of trouble locating a tennis ball or Ultra Ball in the surf. The Aqua Kong is far more visible, even when he is swimming with his nose right at water level.
Pros: Nearly indestructible, holds up even when he stands on the toy and tries to rip the rope off. High visibility. Easy to throw long distances.

Cons: Extra-long rope makes it kind of awkward to carry. Plastic rope doesn't feel great on my hands when playing tug. This Kong is not stuffable because it is filled with floating foam.

Bottom Line: This might be our new favorite swimming toy.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

How to Put on a Petco Mesh Harness

I get quite a few page views from people looking for step-by-step instructions for putting on the Petco Mesh Harness. While a have a product review, I didn't include a graphic step-by-step breakdown of how to make sense of this harness on there. Clearly this is an oversight I need to rectify.

Photo by Erin Koski
The Petco Mesh Harness is a Roman-style harness designed to take pressure off the dog's neck and distribute it across the chest. This is a choke-free harness, it is not a no-pull harness and will not discourage a dog from pulling on the leash. In fact, a comfortable harness like this could actually encourage pulling by making leash pressure more comfortable.

This harness is a good choice for people who want to avoid putting pressure on their dog's neck or throat. It is great for dogs who tend to back out of collars, and is also good for visibility because it comes in bright colors and bold patterns. This harness should not rub or chafe, and may be a good choice for dogs with sensitive skin.

One thing that makes the Petco Mesh Harness different from other mesh harnesses  is that the neck can be adjusted. This is accomplished via a pair of plastic ratchet straps that look like they were stolen off a pair of ski boots. The fact that these can be completely unbuckled is why I suspect this harness confuses so many people.

Photo by Erin Koski

Step One: Find the Ratchet Straps
To make sense out of this harness, I first need to find the plastic ratchet straps. These may be buckled or unbuckled. They are made from ridged plastic, and connect to a strap at a right angle. They may be buckled into the ratchet buckles or unbuckled.

If the ratchet straps are buckled into the wrong sides of the harness, the whole thing will be a giant twisted mess. When I can't untangle one of these, I start by unbuckling the ratchet buckles completely. This is accomplished by pushing down on the tab of the buckle and sliding the ratchet strap all the way out of it. Then I can hold the ratchet straps up and let the rest of the harness dangle and untwist. If the side-release buckle is still fastened, I will also unbuckle that one.

The Petco Mesh Harness comes with yellow stickers on the ratchet buckles, making them easier to find on a brand new harness. The buckles on the pink harness in these pictures still have their yellow stickers.

Which Strap Goes Where?

To figure out which ratchet buckle goes to which strap, I can lay the totally unbuckled harness out flat with the rubber Petco label facing up and each strap out straight. When laid out this way, the black ratchet strap on the right goes into the closest ratchet buckle.

Laid out flat like this, we can see the top of the top and the bottom of the bottom of the harness. These are the surfaces that will not be touching the dog when he is wearing the harness.

I pay close attention to this little ring because it's easy for the straps to get confusing. The leash ring is on a little tab, and when the side straps are adjusted like this, the leash ring strap can rotate around the ring and pass through the other strap. It's supposed to be on the opposite side of the ring from the strap with the rubber Petco label.

If the harness looks like this, I need to pull the leash ring strap through the side strap loop so it's opposite the rubber Petco label.

Photo by Erin Koski

Step Two: Buckle the Ratchet Straps
Once I know which ratchet strap goes into which buckle, I can fasten the ratchet buckles to make a loop for Brisbane's head. It's easier to fasten these buckles before putting on the harness, but some dogs really don't like having things pulled over their heads. For these dogs I fasten one ratchet buckle before putting the harness on, and do the second ratchet buckle to buckle the harness around their neck.

Photo by Erin Koski

Photo by Erin Koski

Photo by Erin Koski

Step Three: Put the Dog's Head Through
When the harness goes on the dog, the printed mesh panel should be on the bottom, and the rubber Petco label should be on the top.

Photo by Erin Koski

Photo by Erin Kosk

Step Four: Put the Dog's Leg Through
To put this harness on, I need to lift up Brisbane's right leg and put it through the loop formed by the side strap and mesh panel.

Photo by Erin Koski

Step Five: Buckle the Harness
The large side-release buckle is fastened on Brisbane's left side.

Photo by Erin Koski

Step Six: Strike a Pose!
Look at that fancy harness!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Treat Tuesday: Happy Howie's Beef Roll

Treats like Happy Howie's Beef Roll are particularly useful for training, especially for dogs with allergies. Treats that come in roll form can be cut to any size, and are great for desensitization exercises because they can be offered in large chunks and nibbled. This treat is moist, smelly, and made out of beef and rice so it's egg-free and poultry-free. Happy Howie's also has lamb and turkey rolls.

Good For: High-value training treats. Tiny training treats. Giant training treats. Pairing nail trims with food. Rubbing on targets to encourage sniffing.

Not Good For: Forgetting in my bait bag for a couple of days. Once opened this stuff needs to be refrigerated or it goes really bad really fast.

How Much We Like Them: I bought a 2-pound roll as soon as we finished our 1-pound roll.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Let's Wash Some Dog Toys!

We had foster puppies and rain and a bunch of our toys ended up looking kind of gross. Some toys, like the Kong Wubbas, are dishwasher safe. We have no dishwasher. Instead, I throw pretty much everything into the regular clothes washer and run it through a regular clothes cycle.
I used to worry about squeakers filling up with water, but everything comes out of the dryer squeaking and not gurgling, and nothing has melted yet. I use biodegradable free-and-clear detergent so my dogs don't end up with Tide-breath. Washing the toys makes them significantly less yucky, and breathes a lot of life into them. It also gets off the random fur and crud that they collect on them, and makes them feel bright and new again. Yay for clean toys!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Product Review: Mhu Ghu LED Air Mesh Harness

The Mhu Ghu LED Air Mesh Harness is designed for high visibility. It features a ring of bright colored LED lights around the neck area, and is built with sturdy hardware. The harness is available in three colors and three sizes to fit dogs with chests 11.5-25" around the chest. Ours is a large green harness.
Photo by Erin Koski

This is a neat harness, visibility can be a big issue and collars and leashes sometimes aren't enough lighting. A lot of lighted safety products feel flimsy to me, but this one is nice and sturdy. It fits high on the neck and leaves the shoulders free to move. The battery sits in a little pack on the back that is screwed in place. The battery in our harness is currently dead, but can be replaced as long as I have a tiny screwdriver on hand.

Photo by Erin Koski

Pros: Comfortable and nonrestrictive. Bright LED lights are easy to see.

Cons: The neck is not adjustable, and may be small for some dogs. It fit Hellin just fine, but might be a bit tight on a larger dog with a 25" chest. Brisbane is 26" around and there's no way in hell this harness would ever fit him.

Bottom Line: I think there was a groupon for these a while back. I could see actually using this for nightime visibility if I ever end up with a bigger yard, or go somewhere I feel comfortable walking my dogs off-leash at night.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The January Allergy-Friendly BarkBox

The theme of January's Allergy-Friendly BarkBox is the Ice Age. Living on the coast of central California, we're pretty sure snow is a story made up by Canadians to scare chihuahuas. Still, this is a particularly good box and has some things we love already.
That Delca Corp Adorable Snowman was a hit. Brisbane immediately ran off with it, and later Ru dragged it up on the bed and spent a long time shaking it ferociously.

The Dex & Penny Squeaky Icicle was less impressive. I couldn't get either of the boys interested, but it's always possible that Brisbane will suddenly fall in love when someone is making an important phone call.

We got an Etta Says Deer Chew, those don't last long around here, but they are certainly well-loved.

The Aussie Naturals Salmon Skins reek. Seriously, I could smell them before I opened the box. Brisbane couldn't keep his nose off them. I'm sure he'll love them, I'm not going to love getting the smell off my hands. Gross/awesome.

The Max & Ruffy's Blizzard Bites, on the other hand, smell like delicious cookies. Those are definitely the sort of thing I will be able to toss to the dogs on my way out the door without having to wash my hands after.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Food Friday: Acana Ranchlands

The kibble of the week is Acana Ranchlands, which is definitely my favorite dog food. When my dogs are eating nothing but kibble, this is what they are eating. There are a lot of grain-free, poultry-free, egg-free, fish-based kibbles out there, but not so many based on red meat.

Dog Food Logic taught me that the ingredients that go into most dog foods follow a long and convoluted supply chain. The words used in the ingredients lists do not always mean what I think they mean. The cooked, ground, and dried ingredients in a dog food may have gone through several weeks or even months of processing before they even make it to the facility where the food is made.

Acana uses fresh ingredients that are never frozen. Since they use locally- and regionally-sourced ingredients, a lot of the important stuff in their food gets there within a few days of being harvested. The primary ingredients are beef and lamb from Alberta, Canada. The fruits and vegetables come from local growers, and everything is delivered fresh and cooked right there in the Acana kitchens. They only make their own foods, and don't co-pack for anyone or outsource anything.

Questionable Claims
Like Orijen (both brands are from parent company Champion Pet Foods) Acana's packaging carries a whole lot of claims and statements about wolves and how nature designed canines to eat a certain way. I appreciate that most of these claims are in fairly small print on the bag, the back of which is covered liberally with even tinier print. It's a lot of information, but they aren't screaming in my face about it.

Following the Trail
Not only does Acana not use a co-packer or any sort of outsourcing to make their foods, they have that information all over their website to help consumers understand this convoluted part of the pet food industry. Acana does not make food for anyone else, either. I feel like everyone else should run their pet food companies like this, that way we wouldn't have recalls hitting half a dozen different brands at the same time.

The Good Stuff
Acana is made entirely of good stuff. Brisbane can eat both their Ranchlands and Pacifica formulas, that's half of their Regionals foods. He can also have two out of three of their Singles foods, it's pretty unusual for a company to have that many different Briz-safe foods. When someone asks me what the very best kibble is, I say Acana and Orijen. Acana usually gets my vote though, just because they have more than one food suitable for Brisbane's poultry and egg allergies.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Product Review: Puppy Kong Classic

Puppy Kongs are durable rubber stuffable chew toys made from extra-soft rubber. The Kong Company makes a variety of toys out of their puppy rubber, we have two large and one medium Puppy Kong Classics.
Photo by Erin Koski
Kong makes their durable chew toys from five different color-coded natural rubber materials. Pastel pink and blue puppy rubber is the softest, followed by purple senior rubber. Next is classic red, followed by dark blue, and finally Black Extreme.

Puppy rubber is intended only for dogs that still have their needle-sharp baby teeth. Puppy Kongs are extra-squishy and inviting, and I have used them to help teach reluctant chewers that Kongs are more than just vessels for food.

Naturally, the Puppy Kongs can be used the same way as any other Classic Kong. I like to stuff them with peanut butter and freeze them.
Photo by Erin Koski

When I had the foster girls here, they had just been spayed and needed to stay quiet in their crates for ten days. I would fill their Kongs with dry kibble after each potty break so they could roll the toys around rather than eating out of a bowl.

Pros: A safe, durable chew toy that can be stuffed with tasty treats and frozen for teething puppies. Comes in cute pastel "baby" colors. Bounces unpredictably for ridiculous puppy action.
Photo by Erin Koski

Cons: Puppy Kong is only for puppies with baby teeth, as soon as they grow some permanent teeth this toy should be tossed. I'm not crazy about stuff having a limited lifespan like that. Puppy Kong also only comes in Extra Small, Small, Medium, and Large, so giant breed puppies may outgrow their toys before they finish teething.

Bottom Line: I own Puppy Kongs because  am eccentric enough to want to collect Kongs of every size/shape/color.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Foster Puppies

I had a pair of sweet, adorable foster puppies for a few weeks. They were being fostered in the greaer Los Angeles area, and I brought them up here to meet some potential adopters and soak up the puppy love.
Photo by Erin Koski
The girls were found running around outside the South Central LA shelter when they were a few weeks old. Hellin is blue ticked like an Autralian cattledog, so they ended up in cattledog rescue. They're really not cattledogs, though.

Darla, the white puppy, has the color dilution gene. She has a blue nose, so the shelter decided that the girls must be pitbull mixes. We don't know what either of their parents looked like, though.

Given their wire coats, the best guess is is that they have some german wirehaired pointer in the mix. This seems unlikely for our area, but Hellin is definitely a very bird-focused dog. She is normally a somewhat reserved and cautious pup, but when we went to the beach she didn't even notice the sand or the ocean because there were so many birds to watch. Darla is significantly less interested in birds, and much more outgoing.

Darla and Hellin are about six months old now, and still looking for their forever homes. They and their sisters Syd and Xena can be found on RescueMe.org, they are the only German Wirehaired Pointer mixes available in California right now.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Treat Tuesday: Natural Balance L.I.T. Venison Treats and Bixbi Daily Essentials Pork Jerky

What poultry-free, egg-free delights am I cramming into Kongs this week? We've got a bag of Natural Balance Small Breed Sweet Potato and Venison Formula treats, along with some Bixbi Daily Essentials Pork Jerky from our December BarkBox. (Our January BarkBox hasn't arrived yet, it always takes at least a week for our boxes to get here.)

The Natural Balance Small Breed Sweet Potato and Venison Formula treats are small biscuits that go well in Kongs. They contain venison, potatoes, and sweet potatoes so they work for many dogs with allergies. I am mildly annoyed that they are labeled as "Sweet Potato and Venison" though when the first ingredient is potato. These are potato biscuits.

Good For: Dropping into the bottoms of Kongs to prevent the peanut butter plug problem. Cookies for dogs on limited ingredient diets, particularly Natural Balance's venison LID food.

Not Good For: High value training treats. Dogs who can't eat potato.

How Much We Like Them: This is the second bag I've purchase, though the repeat buying may have a lot to do with the fact that these are locally available, cheap, and don't contain any of Brisbane's allergens.

The Bixbi Daily Essentials Pork Jerky is a stinky, meaty treat that is also dry. I had originally thought these were going to be semi-moist like people jerky, but instead they're hard and crispy. The pieces are scored in a grid on one side, allowing them to be conveniently broken into tiny pieces. These are made and sourced in the USA, so hopefully won't have the contamination issues that plague jerky treats from China.

Good For: High value training treats. Stuffing in Brisbane's Busy Buddy Biscuit Ball.

Not Good For: Shoving large pieces into Kongs, they don't dissolve with endless licking and I end up having to dig them out.

How Much We Like Them: The bag lasted about three days. I need to find someone local who carries these, or order more online.

Monday, January 19, 2015

10 Ways to Get Pills Into a Dog.

Brisbane is currently on four different medications, so pills are a daily part of our lives. At work I give a lot of dogs their medications in Pill Pockets, but the standard ones are full of chicken and the allergy-friendly ones use duck. Briz is allergic to poultry, so no Pill Pockets for us. Instead, we use a variety of other methods to get Brisbane medicated. He's mostly cooperative, but there are definitely some pills he minds more than others.

1. Just feed it.
Some dogs will snarf down anything. This works particularly well with fish oil capsules and pills that are designed to be tasty. A lot of joint supplement pills are made to taste good, and some flea and heartworm preventatives are as well. Brisbane will usually just eat his Comfortis pill plain, though he makes faces while he chews it up. I know plenty of labradors who will happily gobble down any object that is fed like a treat.

2. Throw it in some kibble.
Once again, this can be more or less successful depending on the dog and how they eat. Those that hoover up anything in their bowl without stopping to chew probably won't even notice an extra-special addition. Plenty of dogs at work get their tasty joint supplements tossed in with their kibble. Brisbane, on the other hand, would definitely leave that white pill behind in the otherwise empty bowl.

3. Throw it in some tastier food.
Brisbane will eat most pills right along with his kibble if I stick them in a bit of something tasty. Pumpkin, yogurt, apple sauce, and baby food all make capsules and tablets a little more palatable. The only pills Brisbane won't eat this way are large tablets, like human joint supplements.

4. Offer it on a spoon.
While Briz will eat most of his pills in a bowl of kibble, this isn't the way I normally get him medicated. Brisbane gets his daily ration of kibble in the form of training treats, or dispensed from some of our wide variety of puzzle toys. Food bowls aren't part of daily life here, but treats offered on spoons are a regular sight. Since my dogs are familiar with the concept of licking food off spoons, they are less likely to notice that there's an extra lump in there.
5. Hide it in a treat.
American cheese slices are pretty common DIY Pill Pockets, some of the dogs at work get theirs wrapped in bread or lunch meat. I like processed cheese because it can be mooshed around the pill really well. I find individually wrapped processed cheese slices like Kraft Singles pretty convenient for a dog that needs pills every day, I just rip off as much as I need and then wrap the rest of the slice back up. Ru never falls for this trick.

6. Pretend to feed it to someone else.
Nothing encourages pill snarfing like a little competition. Brisbane might be feeling a bit 'meh' about a treat, but he's willing to choke it down just to keep another dog from eating it. He will even deliberately swallow a pill he already spit out if he thinks Ru might get it. Of course I have to be careful not to accidentally medicate the wrong dog.

7. Feed three treats.
The pill is always in the middle treat. The first treat is to lull the dog into a false sense of security, there's no yucky pill hiding in there. The second and third treats should be fed very quickly, they'll be less suspicious of the second treat and eager to swallow it so they can hurry up and eat the third treat. For highly suspicious dogs, random three-treat sequences with no pills can help throw them off.

8. Put it in something stinky and wonderful.
That's not boring processed cheese, that's herbed goat cheese! I tend to save the extra-stinky stuff for temporary meds like antibiotics, and for dogs who really hate pills. When it comes to stress-free medication, the pill vehicle doesn't need to be a healthy part of their diet. I'm willing to use cat food, fancy cheese, and anything else that particular dog loves.

9. Put it in something sticky.
Peanut butter is currently my favorite way to get pills into Brisbane. One small spoonful will hold 6+ pills. It's tough to spit out, and everybody loves it. Brisbane will even take large yucky tablets this way, without trying to spit them out. I honestly think the pills make the peanut butter easier to eat, since they don't stick quite as much as just peanut butter. I've also seen peanut butter spread on bread and wrapped around pills. Honey would also likely work the same way.
10. Liquefy it.
Ru is currently on antibiotics for a urinary tract infection, and Ru hates pills. The easiest way to get meds into him is in liquid form. Usually I ask the vet for liquid medication, but sometimes I end up grinding up tablets and mixing them with a little water, yogurt, or baby food. This doesn't work for capsules or time-release medication. Ru doesn't really like his antibiotics, but I can just pull his little cheek out and squirt the medication into his mouth.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

I Microwaved a Himalayan Dog Chew...

The packaging for our Himalayan Dog Chews says that it can be microwaved when just a tiny piece is left. Nuke it for 45 seconds, and then another 30 seconds if it isn't fully puffed. It's basically a giant Yaky Charm. I've been waiting for Brisbane to finish a Himalayan Dog Chew for weeks now, and it finally happened.

After 45 seconds.

After 30 more seconds.

The resulting puff was light and crunchy. Brisbane found it delicious.