Sunday, May 31, 2015

The AKC Coursing Ability Test

Brisbane and I went to our first AKC Coursing Ability Test a couple of months ago. I just finally got the pictures from Brisbane's runs, the photographer categorized them with pictures from a previous event so I didn't see that they were up for a few weeks. Briz did two runs and got two legs toward his Coursing Ability title.
Photo by Clark Kranz

I love how intense Brisbane looks in every photo. He is more insane about lure coursing than he is about anything else, including sheep and Chuckit.

Photo by Clark Kranz

High-speed photography also gives me a lot of insight into the way Brisbane moves. He very rarely gets all four feet off the ground long enough to be captured doing it.

Photo by Clark Kranz
He uses his magnificent tail as a rudder when he turns, sometimes spinning it like a pinwheel.

Photo by Clark Kranz
When Briz runs really fast the air flips the tips of his humongous ears backwards.

Photo by Clark Kranz
I always marvel at pictures where all his weight is being supported by just one or two joints. So glad he has solid wrists, pasterns, and legs in general.

The rest of Brisbane's pictures can be found here, I thoroughly enjoyed looking through them but had to just pick a few to buy.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Product Review: Kurgo Portsmouth Raincoat

I got this Kurgo Portsmouth Rain Coat on REI.com. This coat has been discontinued, but was originally available in five sizes. Ours is an XS, intended to fit dogs with 14-20" chests and 8-13" necks.

Photo by Erin Koski
The stock photo of this rain coat shows a pug wearing it, and that is exactly the type of dog is was designed to fit. Ru has a 12" chest, and despite the fact that this coat is made for a dog with a 2" larger chest, it still manages to be a couple of inches short in the back.

Ru has an extraordinarily long back for a chihuahua. He has several outfits that are a little short, but they aren't raincoats. A good raincoat should cover the dog from neck to tail. 

At the same time, the Portsmouth Rain Coat is too big around for Ru. If I tried to solve the length problem by going up a size, it would be huge on him.
Photo by Erin Koski

Something weird I noticed about the Kurgo Portsmouth Rain Coat is that it does not bear the name "Kurgo" anywhere on it. Indeed, the only identifying mark on it is a plastic logo that says "me & zelda". If I hadn't purchased it new through a trusted retailer, I would never have known it came from one of my favorite dog gear companies.

Pros: Sturdy and well-made. Breathable and non-restrictive. Blanket-style coat is easy to put on. Adjustable chest and belly straps made from heavy duty nylon.

Cons: Designed only for very short-backed, wide-chested dogs. Made in China.

Bottom Line: This coat would rock for a French bulldog, or a pug. Maybe an obese chihuahua.

What sort of rain gear do you use to keep your pup dry?

Thursday, May 28, 2015

In Which Brisbane Gets a Haircut

Brisbane has been itchy since we returned from Lake Tahoe, and none of the antihistamines were helping. He had been getting progressively more scabby, and last week when I gave him a bath I realized he was losing hair all over the place.

This morning we went to the vet. The doctor asked if it would be ok to shave some of the worst areas to get a better look at them.

Shaving hot spots is not usually necessary for healing. Normally, they heal up just fine when kept clean and dry. For dogs with thick fur, impacted undercoats, or stubborn sores, shaving can help get air to the skin.

Hairless areas are also significantly easier to treat with topical remedies like shampoos. The stuff can really be scrubbed down into the skin where it can be most effective.

So we started shaving Briz. We started with the red oozy areas, and kept uncovering older, darker spots from lesions that had healed up a little. In a few minutes his entire belly was hairless, and there were still more oozy spots trailing up his neck and shoulders.

My herding instructor really wants me to get Brisbane registered as an Australian cattledog with the AKC so we can do herding trials. We have been tossing around plans that involve slicking his floof down with hair gel, or cutting his hair. Knowing that he was likely covered in sores, and that I wanted to cut his hair anyway, the vet and I agreed that shaving him down would be a good idea.

Dr. Rugg said she started out with a longer comb on the clippers, intending to leave him with mostly longer hair. She was only going to shave the sore spots down super-short. Before long though, she realized that he was basically covered in sores.

See those dark spots all over Brisbane? Each of those is a sore or lesion. There are quite a few red ones as well. The vet said that his skin started looking better within an hour of the big shave though. Hopefully he's on the way to feeling much better.

Does you dog have skin issues?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Product Review: Dog Dazzlers Collar Slides

I found this Dog Dazzlers Collar Slide in the clearance bin at Petco. These come in a variety of styles, including flowers and bows. Each ornament has an elastic loop on the back that allows it to slide onto almost any collar.
Photo by Erin Koski

I love this giant flower on Ru's collar. It reminds me of those ridiculously oversized flower headbands people like to put on babies. It's actually a pretty reasonably-sized flower on a reasonably-sized dog though, Ru just makes it look big.

I like the idea of removable collar ornaments. Most of the permanently-attached ones I see are extremely worn and dirty. They probably looked pretty at first, but flowers and butterflies and fabric patches tend to tolerate less wear than the rest of the collar.

Pros: Easy to use. Fits on a variety of collar sizes, from tiny to 1" wide. Lots of different colors and styles.

Cons: Not very durable. Significantly less impact when worn by normal-sized dogs.

Bottom Line: Perfect for when I feel like decorating my chihuahua. Look how fancy!

How do you dress up your dog?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Treat Tuesday: K9 Natural Freeze Dried Lamb Green Tripe

The Freeze Dried Lamb Green Tripe by K9 Natural is technically dog food, but it also makes the highest-value training treat I've found so far. This stuff is meant to be a dietary supplement rather than a complete and balanced food. Tripe is something I'm used to seeing in the meat section of the grocery store, but it's not quite the same stuff. White honeycomb tripe is washed and bleached cow stomach. Green tripe is cow (or sheep) stomach with zero processing. Ew. It's supposed to be positively dripping with probiotics and digestive enzymes. It also stinks on a level that is difficult to describe.

K9 Natural has taken all that nasty organy goodness and freeze dried into nice little pellets. The package instructs users to soak it in order to rehydrate it, but I just use it as dry training treats. They are easy to stick in my treat bag, and break into little bitty pieces.

Good For: Super high-value training treats. Picky dogs. Training in stressful or high-distraction environments. Dogs with sensitive stomachs.

Not Good For: Situations where raw meat shouldn't be handled. Training when I don't want my hands to stink to high heaven.

How Much We Like Them: I think these are going to be our default training treats, Xena will even eat them in the middle of a store.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Product Review: Fraggle Rock Custom Biothane Martingale Slip Lead

Our Fraggle Rock Biothane Martingale Slip Lead was custom made just for Brisbane. It is waterproof, seawater proof, sandproof, and pretty much everythingproof. It also looks quite snazzy.
Photo by Erin Koski

I used to use Lupine collars, leashes, and harnesses for my dogs at the beach. They were sturdy, reliable, and annoyingly absorbent. Every beach trip ended with either hanging the gear out to dry and then trying to shake the sand off, or rinsing it and then hanging it to dry. Either way, we brought home way more sand than necessary in those soggy collars.

Last year I started replacing our beach gear with waterproof, non-absorbent gear like Brisbane's Dublin Dog collar. The synthetic gear doesn't fade in the sun or absorb seawater, so it keeps looking awesome even after being dragged through the mud.

Photo by Erin Koski

I wanted a biothane harness for Ru, but couldn't find one. Fraggle Rock Designs custom-made Ru a beach harness and matching leash that fit perfectly.

For Briz, I wanted something that was easy to get on and off, escape-proof in case he saw the mailman while wearing it, and wide enough to distribute pressure across his neck when he needs to get from the car to the sand RIGHT NOW! (According to Brisbane, this is the only time it is permissible to pull like a sled dog.)

This custom biothane martingale does everything I need it to. The collar is nice and wide to help distribute pressure. The 4' leash is thin enough to hold in the same hand as my Chuckit while juggling my car keys and chihuahua. The martingale loop is big enough to allow me to slip the collar over Brisbane's head, but not so big that it flops around when there's no leash pressure. The slip action is fast enough to keep Brisbane contained even when he tries to back out of the collar, though it's probably not fast enough to do an actual leash correction.

Pros: Doesn't pick up sand, salt water, or dead sea lion goop. Washes clean with minimal effort. Probably skunk-proof, have not tested this theory. Easy-to-use slip lead that won't strangle my dog or let him escape at the worst possible time.

Cons: I haven't yet figured out a good way to carry this leash once we're on the beach and Brisbane is running free, since I can't clip it to itself.

Bottom Line: I now have the coolest beach leash ever for Brisbane. Thanks Fraggle Rock!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Dog IQ Tests

On Saturday I decided to spend the afternoon giving my dogs IQ tests, because that's my idea of a rocking Saturday night. Inspired by my favorite Hyperbole and a Half post, I googled "dog IQ test". This was the first result, and it appears to be the same test. There are eight problems for the dog to solve, and they can receive between 0 and 5 points based on their ability to solve each problem.

Before the test, I was pretty sure that Brisbane was a genius, Ru was somewhere below average, and Xena was...I'll just go ahead and say it, dumb as toast. She's a sweet puppy who is going to make a great family dog, but she also gets trapped in Brisbane's crate at least once a week. There is a blanket draped over it, and once she gets in there she can't figure out how to get out and will stay in there for hours until I rescue her. She also wins the prize for "Most Days Spent at Daycare Without Figuring Out How Gates Work". I'd blame it on her impaired vision, but my blind cocker spaniel was crazy good at solving problems.
Test 1: Place Treat Under Soup Can
Brisbane has several puzzle toys that involve picking up or knocking over cups, so he solved this one in two seconds flat. I used Bacon Hearts smeared with peanut butter for maximum value and smelliness, but neither Ru nor Xena could solve this puzzle. They each got one point for effort.

Test 2: Throw Blanket Over Dog
Brisbane contemplated his situation for ten seconds before tossing the blanket off. Five points for Briz.. Ru flipped it off just as fast as I could put it on him, which really shouldn't have been a surprise given that his natural habitat is "under blankets". Five points for Ru. Xena...well...Xena spent about a minute attempting to get free before resigning herself to her new life as a blanket-covered dog. One point for Xena.

Test 3: Place Treat Under Small Towel
Once again, Briz went immediately for the treat and got it in seconds. Five Points for Briz. Ru took a little bit longer but eventually figured it out after about 20 seconds. Four points for Ru. Xena...sniffed around enthusiastically but failed to discover where the treat had vanished to. One point for Xena.

Test 4: Let Dog See Treat Placed in Room, Then Release Dog
Brisbane is all about food, so he went charging back to that Bacon Heart the moment I let him go. Five points for Briz. Ru has to sniff it out, but headed for the correct area and found it right away. Four points for Ru. Xena...forgot the treat existed as soon as it was an arm's length away. I tried putting peanut butter on the cookie to make it more exciting and easier to smell out. I pointed helpfully. I cheered her on and told her to go find the cookie. Nothing. One point for Xena.

Test 5: Let Dog See Treat Placed in Room, Leave Room and Play for Five Minutes, Then Release Dog
This was the first test where Brisbane did not have a perfect score. When we went back into the kitchen, he first checked the place where the cookie had been in the previous test instead of going straight to the second cookie. Four points for Brisbane. Ru appeared to remember that there was something tasty on the floor, but basically had to work the entire room in order to find the cookie. Two points for Ru. Xena...the cookie no longer existed and she only located it when I sat there and tapped the floor repeatedly. One point for Xena.

Test 6: Place Treat Under Platform Too Low to Reach with Mouth
This is where Brisbane lost a couple of points. He usually expects me to solve his problems for him, so after a couple of cursory attempts at reaching the peanut butter-slathered Bacon Heart he just stood back and looked at me expectantly. Three points for Briz. Ru, on the other hand, is a expert at retrieving cookies from under the stove. Not only did he fish the treat out with his paw right away, he also fished out a lost piece of Life cereal. Five points for Ru. Xena made a couple of attempts to get the treat, earning her two points.

Test 7: Call Dog Using Words "Refrigerator" and "Movies", Then By Name
Way back when Brisbane and I did UKC obedience, we proofed our recall by shouting things other than "Brisbane, come!" to make sure he knew the actual word and not just the tone or cadence. Five points for Briz. Ru just comes to anything that sounds like I might be calling a dog, he is particularly fond of repeated syllables and will come to "yiyiyiyiyiyi" just as well as "RuRuRuRuRu". He also comes to "refrigerator" and "movies", in case you were wondering. Three points for Ru. Xena surprised me on this one, she was oblivious to the other words in the "I'm calling a dog" tone, but zipped right over as soon as she heard her name. Five points for Xena.

Test 8: Show Dog Treat Through Narrow Passage
This one required some actual setting up with a flattened cardboard box. It also required me to do Ru's test first, and then cut the hole bigger for the bigger dogs. I used a King Cake biscuit covered in peanut butter this time. I cut a tall and narrow slit in the box wall and stuck the treat through it while the dog watched. Brisbane and Ru both immediately ran around the box to get to the treat, without even trying to stick their heads through the hole. Five points each. Xena...tried to reach the cookie through the slot and then gave up and resigned herself to our new, smaller living room. One point for Xena.

Results: With 37 points, Brisbane is a genius. No surprise there. I was surprised that Ru scored above average with 29 point. I guess I hadn't considered his blanket-navigation and paw-fishing skills to count as intelligence. Xena...didn't actually score as mentally deficient! Owing entirely to her ability to discern her own name from random words, 13 points got her a score of borderline. That's just between mentally deficient and below average, in case you were wondering. She's a good puppy though, and she'll be a great dog for a family who just wants a regular dog and not a athlete, exterminator, bodyguard, or evil genius.

How smart is your dog?

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Product Review: Pet Zoom Self-Cleaning Brush

The Pet Zoom Self-Cleaning Brush is a wire slicker brush with a special feature. Push the button in the handle and the base of the brush lifts and pushes the collected fur off the bristles. Each bristle has a soft tip for gentle brushing on sensitive skin. This is an As Seen On TV product, my husband bought a whole set on Woot.com
Photo by Erin Koski

As someone who brushes dogs as part of my day job, I can say that I use slicker brushes more often than anything else. They work on pretty much every coat, and are amazing for getting out mats. That said, I don't use them on dogs with thin single-coats because they are too scratchy on the skin.

I do use them on low-shedding poodley doodley coats, but I am also aware that slickers really only brush the top of the hair. To find the hidden tangles, I need to run a fine-toothed comb through the coat, part the hair until I find the mat, and then attack that with the slicker brush. A slicker brush can make a matted and tangley long coat look beautiful on the outside while hiding all the nastiness underneath, which isn't terribly useful to anyone.

Brisbane is not crazy about slicker brushes, but he's mostly ok with this one because of the plastic tips on the wire bristles. I use this brush on my cats more than anything else. When I had pet finches, I used to use the Pet Zoom brush to harvest kitty fur to give to the birds to make nests. It did a reasonable job, but I eventually started using a Furminator brush because it was so terribly effective. I could brush bald spots on my cats with that thing and they would still be begging for more. The Pet Zoom is far less efficient at removing hair, but it is also much more versatile. The Pet Zoom is easier on the skin than the Furminator, and safer to use with no chance of ripping off a scab, mole, or nipple (yikes!).

Pros: Easy to collect fur off the brush. Plastic tips on bristles make it more gentle on skin than a standard slicker. Can be used on low-shedding coats.

Cons: Not a terribly efficient de-shedding tool for every coat. Plastic tips fall off bristles after a while. Self-cleaning option only works until one bristle is bent, then it will never function properly again.

Bottom Line: The self-cleaning part makes this brush prone to failure, so I tend to prefer sturdier products with a longer lifespan. If you are gentle with your grooming products, this one should work just fine. If you, say, turn the brush over to a classroom of kids so they can take turns brushing the class bunny, it might not survive. Good thing we bought two...

Have you used a slicker brush on your pets?

Friday, May 22, 2015

The May Not-Actually-Allergy-Friendly BarkBox

Our May BarkBox arrived on Wednesday, and it was filled with disappointment. Seriously, they could have sent an empty box and I'd have felt about the same when I opened it. Brisbane knows that BarkBoxes contain all sorts of wonders, so this box was a huge disappointment for him as well. "What's in here for you, Briz? It's...nothing. Actually there's nothing in here for you. Sorry. Nevermind."

The allergy-friendly BarkBox is not supposed to contain any chicken, turkey, beef, gluten, wheat, corn, or soy. Brisbane is allergic to chicken, turkey, duck, and eggs. Sometimes we get a food item with duck or eggs, but mostly we get treats with rabbit, venison, lamb, peanut butter, or fish. I can either swap out the allergen-containing treats using the Scout's Honor program, or I can swap out an awful crinkly toy instead. Brisbane and Ru really don't like toys that make crinkling noises, especially not loud ones.

Our BarkBox this month contained a bag of Nootie No Grainers Jerky BBQ Chicken treats. Wtf?

We also got an Etta Says turkey stick. Did BarkBox send us the wrong box? Did they stop offering allergy-friendly boxes without telling me so I could cancel my subscription?

There is a West Paw Designs Bumi tug toy, which looks cool and is very sturdy. Too bad Briz doesn't care for it. He had a Hurley toy by the same company when he was a pup, and I could  never convince him that it was any fun either.

The last thing in here is a R2P Pets Silly Bums bee butt. I am familiar with the Silly Bums toys, and frankly I think they're kind of stupid. They're not cute, they're not silly, they're just half a stuffy. All the ones I've seen before were just regular crinkly stuffies this, this one is something else entirely. It is majorly crinkly, the loudest crinkle toy I think I've ever seen. It also has a whole lot of plastic on it, the wings and the stripes are sewn-on vinyl. I'm not convinced that's safe, and am not completely convinced this is actually a toy intended for dogs. The number of accessible seams on it make it incredibly vulnerable to being shredded, it's just begging to be ripped apart.

So this is literally an entire box of stuff I will have to give away. I emailed BarkBox to ask why we got a box of poultry, with the plan to cancel my subscription and ask for a refund for this month if they discontinued the allergy-friendly boxes without telling me. I noticed on their Facebook page that quite a few people with 'special' boxes got regular boxes instead. Apparently there is an extra toy option for multi-dog households, and a tough toys only option for destructo-dogs. The flood of complaints appears to be limited to this month, and our box was sent out a day late so I'm pretty sure something unusual happened at BarkBox this month.

Last year I emailed them in order to cancel my subscription after receiving nothing but chicken-based treats for three months in a row. Our June 2014 box contained chicken treats and lame toys and I decided then that I was done. This time around the response I received was that there was a mistake with the treats for the allergy boxes and that I would receive an email today about how they were going to fix things. As of 9pm Thursday I have received no such email and am seriously considering canceling my subscription. Pretty much nothing they do is going to result in us getting anything for a few weeks, so the response might as well be "Oh well, better luck next month." Not cool, BarkBox. Not cool at all.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Product Review: Outward Hound Poochpouch Dog Carrier

The Outward Hound Poochpouch Front Carrier is like a baby carrier for tiny dogs. It features crossed shoulder straps to help distribute weight, and an interior clip that attaches to the dog's harness to help keep them contained. The Poochpouch comes in two colors and two sizes, small fits dogs up to 10 pounds while the medium fits dogs up to 20 pounds.
Photo by Erin Koski

This is the carrier for dogs who want to be super close. When riding in a sling or a purse at your hip is just too far away for your tiny dog, the Poochpouch is the answer. When a shoulder bag just isn't secure enough, the Poochpouch has you covered. (Note: This is actually still a little too far for Ru, who would prefer a carrier that places him directly under my chin.)

Formerly named the Pet-a-roo, this carrier is styled after those things made for strapping your baby to your body. Outward Hound originally made a version that made the dog ride face-out with all four legs sticking out, that looked even more like a baby carrier. At some point somebody probably realized that suspending a dog from their crotch is going to put an uncomfortable amount of pressure on their spine, and the hard-bottom wearable pet carrier was born. (As it turns out, suspending babies like that is problematic for the same reason. Who knew?)

Photo by Erin Koski

Like most baby carriers, the Poochpouch is a mass of straps. There are two that cross over on your back, and a third that goes around your waist. This makes for a very secure ride, and prevents the pouch from swinging away from your body when you lean over. I've heard of people using the Poochpouch for a motorcycle dog carrier.

Ours is a size small, and I like the lower profile. Some of the earlier front pack carriers had a huge bib at the front that was basically the length of my torso and positioned the pet down at waist level.

An obvious potential issue I can see with this carrier is that it is not designed for larger people. I am an average-sized woman and you can see that I have the straps adjusted fairly close to their maximum length. The waist strap will fit up to a 50" waist, but could probably be modified to fit someone bigger with some extra strapping and buckle. Keep in mind that the carrier will also fit differently on different body shapes. My husband can wear the carrier with no adjustment to the shoulder straps, but it sits much higher on his chest. Also, he complains the entire time I am strapping a small dog to his body.

In addition to the size of the human wearing the Poochpouch, the size of the dog must be taken into consideration. The carriers have maximum pet weights listed, but they also have maximum heights and lengths. Ru is a very long-backed chihuahua, and although he is only six pounds, you can see in the top picture that he is very nearly too tall for the small Poochpouch when he is sitting down. We would probably also do well with the medium size, which would leave enough room for him to lay down or snuggle into a blanket.

Pros: Very securely attached to the human when straps are crossed over. Multiple buckles allow for multiple strap configurations and also allow the human to put on the carrier without being a contortionist. Two shoulder strap design distributed weight much better than single strap carriers and is much more comfortable for extended wear. Positions pet closer to my face that any other carrier I've tried.

Cons: Multiple buckles on multiple straps can make using this carrier difficult for the spatially-challenged. Elastic drawstring at top of pouch seems to be a weak point, with lots of reviewers mentioning it breaking. Pouch security relies partially on pet compliance, and will contain a dog/cat/ferret/possum that really wants to get out. Plastic harness clip may also be a weak point, and could be replaced with a carabiner or other sturdier piece of hardware. Many pets well under the listed maximum weights will exceed the maximum dimensions and be too big.

Bottom Line: This is not a secure carrier for a pet that does not want to be contained. It is not good for holding a wiggly puppy that wants to explore. The drawnstring is there for added comfort and security, not to prevent an unhappy dog from escaping. The inside clip needs to be attached to a harness and not a collar to avoid strangling dogs that decide to jump. Don't take this thing out hiking and expect your dog to adapt to it on the move. Take some time to figure out how to put it on and adjust it properly, and then spend some time lounging on the couch with your tiny dog while you teach them that this is another vehicle for snuggling.

What kind of carrier do you use for your dog?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Treat Tuesday: Orijen Freeze Dried Alberta Lamb Dog Treats

These Orijen Freeze Dried Alberta Lamb Dog Treats are some of the highest-value training treats I have found. They are light, easy to break into pieces, and stinky without being disgusting. These particular treats are made from various bits of lamb, and therefore safe for Brisbane, who is allergic to chicken, turkey, duck, and eggs. Most of Orijen's freeze-dried treats are actually Brisbane-safe, which means we get to have some variety.

Good For: High-value training treats that leave my hands dry. Dogs with food allergies that require limited-ingredient treats. Dogs on grain-free diets.

Not Good For: Staying in one piece on my pocket. Not crumbling into oblivion if I try to break them up too small.

How Much We Like Them: There is a bag in my pantry, one in the glove box of my car, and another hiding behind the toaster on the kitchen counter. I'm pretty sure my place of employment is only stocking these because I buy them.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Product Review: Dex & Penny Dia de los Muertos Skull Toy

This Dex & Penny Dia de los Muertos skull toy arrived in our October Allergy-Friendly Barkbox. It is a sturdy stuffy with reinforced seams and a squeaker inside. It is also a little bit crinkly.
Photo by Erin Koski

My dogs aren't normally interested in crinkly toys, but this one seems to be the exception. It's not huge, and the sound it makes isn't terribly loud.

We just spent a week babysitting a couple of puppies, which meant some of our toys got tested for durability. The Adorable Snowman got partially destuffed. The Amazeball started to split around the food-dispensing hole. One of our Mighty Stegosauruses lost a back plate.

The Dia de los Muertos toy came out looking the same as it did before the little hooligans arrived. Those reinforced seams held up beautifully, and the puppies looooved that little crinkle. I tried to get a shot of Opie carrying it around, but everything came out blurry.

Photo by Erin Koski

Pros: Tough enough to hold up to dogs that aren't hellbent on destruction. This stuffy did not develop any holes that would lead otherwise well-behaved puppies down the path of destuffing. Does not pick up dirt, still looks great even after they dragged it through the dirt outside. (I thought I told them that was an indoor-only toy...)

Cons: The slight crinkle made the skull less appealing for Brisbane and Ru. Brisbane will play with it out of obligation.

Bottom Line: Foster puppy Xena put it somewhere after the puppies left, but I can't figure out where and she isn't telling.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Development of Ticking

I love reading about coat color genetics, and describing dogs that I meet. One of the things that really fascinates me is the development of ticking, the distinctive mottled pattern found on Australian cattledogs. Dogs with the ticking gene are born white, if they are to have any solid-colored patches, they will have those at birth.

I have been working with a litter of Australian cattledog puppies since they were born in December, and watching their coats change has been delightful. When they were around two weeks old we attempted to line them all up for a picture, like I see all the time of adorable litters of puppies. They did not cooperate. At all.

Fortunately, one of the primary things I have been doing with these puppies is to help document their growth and development, and to take pictures to help get them adopted.
3 weeks

Here is one of the puppies at 3 weeks old. Dexter started out with black eye patches and back patches, with the rest of his body solid white. At three weeks he was beginning to develop little freckles on his feetsies.
5 weeks
Photo by Erin Koski

By  5 weeks his ticking had developed considerably.

12 weeks

At 12 weeks he was very spotty indeed.

18 weeks

At 18 weeks he was pretty solidly roaned, and also totally adorable. I have this same photo series for seven of these guys.
3 weeks

This is Opie at three weeks. At first we thought he might be liver-colored instead of black like a proper cattledog. For a puppy to end up liver-colored, both parents would have to carry the recessive gene, and cattledogs shouldn't have it at all.

5 weeks
Photo by Erin Koski

At five weeks he was more obviously genetically black with a red modifier.

9 weeks

See how his eye patches spread to meet in the middle? I believe he is a shaded sable (red with some black hairs), while the other red puppies are clear sables (no black hairs). 

Brisbane is also a shaded sable.

18 weeks

He doesn't appear to be getting appreciably darker between 9 and 18 weeks. His little half-mustache has disappeared into his ticking.

Brisbane had a similar pattern of color development as a baby. He developed ticking on his feet and face, and his white areas got smaller and in some cases disappeared. Has your dog's coat changed since you got them?

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Product Review: Angel Leather Collar

This is a flat buckle collar by Angel Pet Supplies. It is padded and extremely sturdy. Angel dog collars come in a variety of sizes to fit necks 10-26" around.
Photo by Erin Koski

I've seen a couple of these collars on dogs at daycare, and of course they had them at Dog. Dog. Cat. They seem to hold up particularly well for colored leather, though the pink ones start to look dirty after too many adventures.

I wanted to get one of Angel's Alpine collars, which have a center ring. When I ordered this collar on Amazon, it was pictured and described as having a center ring. It was also identified as the Alpine collar. When it arrived, it was just a standard buckle collar with no center ring.

According to the chart on Angel's website, it does not appear that the 12" Alpine collar even comes in purple. It's there on their online store, however. Sure enough, the collar pictured is the one we have, with no center ring. I suspect they may be discontinuing this size/color/style. The tiny rhinestone collars definitely have a center ring.

Pros: Fairly light and thin for my little wisp of a dog. Gorgeous color that lasts with a little care.

Cons: It's a bit stiff for such an itty bitty collar. This size doesn't have the center ring shown in most of the stock photos.

Bottom Line: Buying stuff on Amazon can be sort of a gamble. I would have bought the purple rhinestone collar at Dog. Dog. Cat. if they'd had it in Ru's size. These are a little too stiff and wide to be everyday wear for Ru, he has been going naked lately since his neck has been rubbed bald again.

What sort of collar is your dog wearing today?

Friday, May 15, 2015

Food Friday: Fruitables Pumpkin Superblend Digestive Supplement

Fruitables Pumpkin Superblend Digestive Supplement is basically a can of pumpkin. It is intended to be used as a supplement to raw and regular diets, and can help sooth upset tummies. 

Canned pumpkin is one of the most basic and useful food supplements for dogs. It's almost pure fiber, and can help with both diarrhea and constipation. Canned pumpkin is also a great food to add bulk to the meals of a dog on a diet. 

Fruitables makes three different canned food supplements, and three of them are pumpkin-based. This one also includes apple and tomato pomace, spinach, and ginger. The ginger makes it smell wonderful.
I mostly use canned pumpkin to help Brisbane feel full, and for foster pups with tummy troubles. This stuff smells lovely, but I don't think it's particularly better than plain canned pumpkin from the grocery store. 

Fruitables Pumpkin Superblend is made in the USA. It is safe to feed old dogs and baby puppies. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Product Review: Ruffwear Turnup

The Ruffwear Turnup is a bouncy fetch toy made from natural rubber. It is durable, floats, and has a hole for stuffing treats inside.
Photo by Erin Koski

When the Turnup first arrived, I was skeptical. The rubber felt flimsy, and the packaging came with a warning that it was not intended to be chewed. With two big holes in it, surely it must sink!

I'm pleased to report that the Turnup massively exceeded my expectations. I holds up just fine to Brisbane's OCD chomping. It does float, though not very high in the water. It also can be filled with kibble, and it's plenty tough.

Pros: Fits in a Chuckit ball launcher! Bounces erratically! Holds up way better than a tennis ball and doesn't get all slimy and gross.

Cons: Only comes in standard tennis ball size, so may present a choking hazard for larger dogs. Cost 4x the price of an Ultraball.

Bottom Line: It probably won't replace our marvelous orange Chuckit ball, but this is definitely a worthwhile investment for dogs who destroy tennis balls.

What is your dog's favorite fetch toy?

Monday, May 11, 2015

Product Review: Caddis Dog Coat

This Caddis dog coat is a blanket-style coat with a nylon shell and a warm fleece lining. It is adjustable in the front and around the middle, and has two buckle closures.
Photo by Erin Koski

The Caddis company apparently specializes in making waders, but at some point they also made dog coats. Their current products do seem to be very high-quality, weatherproof, serious outdoor gear.

This little coat is a thrift store find, and it is in excellent shape. It is thick, warm, and well-constructed. It does not, however, fit Ru particularly well. This coat is made for a shorter-backed dog. It's a little small for Ru, and a little stiff.

Pros: Heavy duty winter jacket. Easy to put on.

Cons: The hardware is a little heavy for an itty bitty dog.

Bottom Line: One of these days I need to start an Ebay store for my surplus dog stuff. Anyone have a tiny, cold dog with a 10" back?

Sunday, May 10, 2015

My Dog is Allergic to Fromm.

I've recently been reading a lot about the Fromm Family company. They sound pretty awesome. It's a multi-generation business that has been making dog food since the earliest days of dog food, and was involved in the development of the distemper vaccine. However, I will have to admire Fromm from afar because Brisbane is allergic to all of their food.
Photo by Erin Koski

In addition to being basically the oldest single-owner dog food company out there, Fromm is pretty amazing at quality control. They test every batch of food for harmful bacteria before they send it out, and they've never had a recall. They also test stuff during production to make sure it actually matches the guaranteed analysis on the label. Their Four Star Nutritionals line is even made for rotational feeding! With a variety that includes Greek cuisine and Polynesian fruits, it's pretty awesome.

Unfortunately, Fromm puts egg into every single food they make. Brisbane is allergic to eggs. He's also allergic to chicken, turkey, and duck, but those aren't in every single Fromm product. They make a whole lot of foods, too. The Four Star line alone includes eleven different kibbles. The Gold line includes another dozen foods, and the two Classics foods bring the grand total to 25 different dry dog foods. All made with eggs.

I like the Fromm company enough that I went as far as to contact them via their website to ask if they were planning to add any limited-ingredient diets. Their nutritionist actually called me the next day, which I thought was pretty cool. What he had to say was less cool.

"Fromm only makes foods for normal dogs." That is, in fact, a direct quote. He told me they discuss making limited-ingredient diets every few years, but the concept never gets any further than the discussion stage. I got the distinct impression that he was entirely uninterested in the whole conversation, and was perplexed that I had even bothered to communicate with the company. I'm guessing that such a deeply-entrenched company makes changes very slowly, so I'm not expecting anything new from them in the next few years.

So there you have it. Fromm sounds like a really cool company. I'd be a lot less interested in them if I wasn't awash in samples of their products at work. I can tell people that I've heard that Fromm is good, but can't make a personal recommendation because my dog is allergic to Fromm. I have to say the same thing every time I am offered yet another free sample. Fromm doesn't want me as a customer, my dog isn't normal.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Product Review: Oster Equine Care Series Mane and Tail Brush

The Oster Equine Care Series Mane and Tail Brush is a pin brush designed to remove tangles without breaking hair. It features ball-tipped pins and an ergonomic grip, and comes in blue and pink.
Photo by Erin Koski

Yes, this is a horse brush. In fact, I originally bought it for my horse. Let me tell you, horse hair is very tough. Prior to purchasing this Oster mane and tail brush, I went through an incredible number of pin brushes that were supposedly intended for horses. They all fell apart in the same way, first they started losing pins and then the whole soft bit the pins were embedded in ripped off.

I had the same issue with my dog brushes. Brisbane prefers to be brushed with a pin brush, but the ones I had just didn't last very long. Briz doesn't even need that much brushing, the brushes were just flimsy.

Since this brush held up so magnificently to my horse's tail hair, I brought it home to use on my dog. Sure enough, it does the trick. Keep in mind, the pins are widely spaced so it's more for detangling long hair than removing shed fur. There's no padding either, so it needs to be used very gently.

Pros: Basically indestructible. The only thing that will damage it is years of thick, heavy horse hair. Ridiculously comfortable to hold. Round shape means it can be used in any directions.

Cons: No padding means a lot of care must be taken to keep grooming comfortable. Widely spaced teeth mean it doesn't do a great job of pulling out dead undercoat, so it's not the only brush you'll need.

Bottom Line: I mostly use this for Brisbane's magnificent spaniel tail.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Food Friday: Nutro Natural Choice Limited Ingredient Puppy Diet

I'm puppy-sitting this week, so there is a bag of Nutro Natural Choice Limited Ingredient Diet puppy food in my house that wouldn't normally be here. This is a limited ingredient diet that is only somewhat limited, and I'm feeling lucky indeed that it doesn't contain any of Brisbane's allergens. These pups are very, very good at flinging their kibble everywhere. (Yes, I still have foster puppy Xena, so that makes five dogs in my house for those keeping count.)

Nutro is a dog food marketing company owned by Mars Incorporated. Other products you may have heard of by Mars include candy bars (3 Musketeers, Snickers, Twix), chewing gum (Wrigley's, Juicy Fruit, Bubble Tape), and lots of pet products. Mars dog foods include Pedigree, Cesar, Eukanuba, Iams, Natura, and Royal Canin. They also make Pill Pockets and Greenies, and own both the Banfield veterinary centers in Petsmart stores, and the Wisdom Panel DNA Test. Isn't it kinda crazy that all those brands are actually owned by the same company?

Nutro hasn't always been owned by a giant corporation though, it used to be a private pet food company and was only sold in 2007. The fact that Nutro dog food in produced in a facility that makes many brands is part of why it was part of the giant 2007 Menu Foods recall.

As far as quality goes, Nutro Natural Choice LID diets seem to be ok. This food is rated four out of five stars on Dog Food Advisor. I'm not crazy about the amount of grains in this food, and it's not something I would choose to feed my own dogs.

I'm also not thrilled with the "Limited Ingredient Diet" label when this food actually contains so many different things. It's got lamb and rice, sure, but it's also got oatmeal and pea protein. Most foods advertised as having limited ingredients contain one protein source and one carbohydrate source. This can help with elimination diets, if your dog has trouble on a rabbit and potato diet, you can switch to a venison and sweet potato diet and see if they improve. This is a lot less useful if said diets both also contain peas, oatmeal, or other potential allergens.

That said, the pups are doing well on this particular food. Their coats are shiny, their eyes are bright, they are at healthy weights and have healthy-looking stools. They are growing and developing properly and in general are healthy puppies. Would a better food make a noticeable difference? I doubt it.

What does your dog eat?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Brisbane Goes to HydroPaws

For Brisbane's tenth birthday, I booked him an appointment at HydroPaws Animal Rehabilitation and Performance Center. He didn't have any specific injury, but he has developed some hip arthritis in the last year and I want to keep him as flexible as possible. This was an initial consultation appointment, so the physical therapist spent most of the time evaluating Brisbane.

The first thing Karen the physical therapist did was assess Brisbane's range of motion. We did this mostly with treats to begin with, luring his nose around to the side to see how far he could stretch it towards his hip. Karen gently probed his muscles while watching for signs of discomfort.

Next we had Brisbane lay on a cushy pad on the floor so Karen could measure his flexibility. This was highly technical. There were tape measures. And protractors.

What we learned is that Brisbane's entire back end is very tense and sore in a way that indicates chronic lower back pain. Given that I've been pointing to a problem spot on his lower back since he was a puppy, I'm not at all surprised.

Knowing that Brisbane is always tense and ouchy is pretty sad, but I'm pleased to be able to do something about it. Karen showed me some stretches and exercises I can do with him.

Stretch 1 is to extend his knee while preventing him from rotating it outward. He likes to swing his hind legs out when he walks. Stretch 2 is to gently pull the base of his tail and then very slowly release the pressure. We're supposed to do these stretches five times each.

We're also going to do some exercises to help Brisbane engage his core muscles. This should help him better support his back. For now we're just working on balancing, I need to get him a FitPaws peanut for this part.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Product Review: Lollycadoodle Wool Snake Toy

This Lollycadoodle Snake Toy is made from 100% New Zealand wool. The wool is dyed and hand-felted in Kathmandu, Nepal. These toys are made in a Fair Trade facility from a renewable resource, they come in two sizes and five colors.

Photo by Erin Koski
This was the best thing that arrived in our March Allergy-Friendly BarkBox. This snake is so cute I can barely stand it. It's exactly the sort of thing I want to have laying around on my floor.

I used to think that felted wool toys like this wouldn't be particularly attractive to dogs because they don't squeak, crackle, grunt, or make any other sounds. I was wrong though, the dogs think it is awesome. It can be thrown, shaken wildly, and loving gnawed on.

There's definitely something about the texture of this toy that the Brisbane really likes. He enjoys biting his toys rather than chewing them, and the Lollycadoodle snake is obviously quite nice for biting.

Photo by Erin Koski
Pros: Sustainably made in a Fair Trade facility, how cool is that? No squeakers or noisemakers, and no stuffing to spread all over the house. This is a stuffingless toy that doesn't feel flat and dead.

Cons: I'm not actually sure how to wash this toy.

Bottom Line: When the foster puppies start collecting toys in a pile, this is one of the first one they claim.

What is your dog's favorite toy?

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Treat Tuesday: Wellness Core Superfood Protein Bars

We found these Wellness Core Superfood Protein Bars at one of our local pet supply stores. These are grain-free high-protein bars that can be crumbled into tiny pieces for training time.

Good For: Dogs with allergies. Mid-value training treats. Being not-greasy enough to stick in my pockets.

Not Good For: Super-high-value training treats.

How Much We Like Them: Enough to try the beef flavor when we're done with these.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Product Review: Kong Squeezz Jels

Kong Squeezz Jels are squeaky, bouncy toys shaped like animals. They are durable, colorful, and bounce unpredictably. They are available in medium and large sizes.
Photo by Erin Koski

Brisbane loves squeaky toys, especially annoying ones. He prefers to ignore them until someone is making an important phone call and then squeak wildly at the worst possible moment. His squeaky of choice is the Cuz ball, but the Kong Squeezz Jel seemed like it would fill the same role.

I was surprised to find that Briz didn't really like the Squeezz Jels toy. He'll humor me if I toss it to him, but won't pick it up and play of his own volition. It's not just Briz either, none of my foster dogs have found this toy appealing either.

These toys are supposed to be translucent and look almost like candy, but ours is really cloudy. I suspect this happens to Squeezz Jels as they age. We tend to keep dog toys around for a long time, so I really prefer ones that age well.

Pros: Durable and annoyingly squeaky.

Cons: Translucent material grows cloudy with age. None of my dogs like it.

Bottom Line: I think these toys might be made to appeal to people more than dogs.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Product Review: Auburn Leathercrafters French Pattern Figure 8 Harness

The Auburn Leathercrafters French Pattern Figure 8 Harness is designed to fit a wide range of body types. It features a continuous strap design that wraps around the neck and chest, held in place by a leather medallion with an upright leash ring. This harness is available in six sizes to fit a variety of small animals.
Photo by Erin Koski

The figure 8 harness is one of the most basic designs out there. It's versatile because it's so simple, and a makeshift harness like this can be made by wrapping a leash around the dog.

This was a really cute harness in the pictures I found on the Auburn Leathercrafters website. I really like their products so I had high expectations. In person though, it's really sort of awkward.

The neck loop sits very high and would probably choke Ru if he decided to pull. Due to the way the straps are threaded through the center, the chest strap sits at an angle. It's well clear of Ru's elbows, but it's also almost behind his ribcage.

The sizing for this harness is also a little odd. The six sizes, XXS-XL, are measured in inches, but those inches don't correspond to a single part of the dog. In order to figure out the size, you have to measure the dog's neck, measure their chest, add those two numbers, and then add 3.5" to get the final measurement. This means than little 6-pound Ru wears a size medium 28-34" harness.

Pros: High quality leather, very sturdy. Allows freedom of movement without restricting the shoulders. Probably difficult to escape. Versatile design means I can probably use it on my cat/iguana/tortoise/monkey/etc.

Cons: Will be stiff until oiled thoroughly. Awkward fit on my tiny dog. Neck loop sits high enough to choke. Sizing is kind of weird.

Bottom Line: I bought this harness because we didn't have anything like it. Now I understand why we don't have anything like this.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Food Friday: Merrick Backcountry Raw Infused Great Plains Red Recipe

I just got a bag of Merrick's new Backcountry Raw Infused dog food. I got the Great Plains Red Recipe, which is a lamb- and salmon-based food that is poultry-free and egg-free. This is a grain-free kibble that is mixed with chunks of freeze-dried raw meat.

Brisbane is allergic to chicken, turkey, duck, and eggs. Most safe kibbles for him are fish-based, so it's nice to find one that's sort of based on terrestrial animals and doesn't manage to sneak egg whites or duck fat in there. Briz eats anything edible so taste isn't really an issue for him. Ru is significantly more picky but enjoyed this quite a bit.

It's worth noting that the bag proclaims this to be a beef, lamb, and rabbit food. While it does contain those meats, the primary meat meal ingredients are lamb meal and salmon meal, which make up a much greater percentage of the food once all the water is cooked out.

I like Merrick for a number of reasons. The company produces their own food in their own facility in the USA. Most of their ingredients are sourced from the USA, with some sourced from places like New Zealand where higher quality lamb is available. The company tests its ingredients and its finished products as well. While Merrick had several product recalls in 2010 and 2011, the products recalled were all treats. Merrick's canned and dry foods have never been recalled as far as I can tell.

I also like the immense variety of flavors and recipes that Merrick offers.

While I may like the company and their products, however, I do find the hype surrounding this Backcountry Raw Infused food to be a bit overdone. They've gone full Natural Fallacy with this one, complete with pictures of wolves and excessive use of the word "ancestral". Still, it's a great company if that's my biggest complaint.

At 374 kcal per cup, Merrick Backcountry Raw Infused Great Plains Red Recipe is lower calorie than Acana Ranchlands. This is better for Brisbane, who needs his calories limited, but not so good for Ru's tiny stomach. Still, this would be a good choice of food if I decided to feed my dogs only one thing.