Friday, July 31, 2015

Food Friday: NutriSource Grain Free Heartland Select Canned Dog Food

In my quest to find a soft food that Ru would eat following this week's dental appointment, I brought home a can of NutriSource Grain Free Heartland Select Dog Food. At this point I was no longer checking ingredients meticulously for egg or poultry ingredients, I was just grabbing one of everything in the hopes that Ru would like something. This is how I ended up bringing home a can of chicken-based dog food.
Little Ru does not have any food allergies or sensitivities. Brisbane is the one who can't have chicken, turkey, duck, or eggs. Ru just doesn't like any of those foods. I suspect it has to do with my raising him on a poultry-and-egg-free diet, as I try to avoid cross-contamination and accidents by simply sticking to Briz-safe foods for everyone. Also, Ru is super picky about food and would happily starve to death rather than eat food he doesn't like.

See that can? It says "Grain Free Dog Food" and also "Made with Real Bison". In my attempt to find a wet food Ru would eat, I visited a local pet store and started grabbing one can of each Brisbane-safe food. Obviously I failed to read the ingredients on the NutriSource Heartland Select food because it is, like most dog foods, made mostly out of chicken. There's bison in there too, but it comes after the chicken. Everything else is pretty much vitamins, so this food is made almost entirely out of chicken and bison. It doesn't say anything about the proportions, though. It could be 51% chicken and 49% bison (unlikely), or 99% chicken and 1% bison (probably closer to the truth). The prominent labeling of the non-primary ingredient certainly worked on me this time.

NutriSource foods are made in the USA. The company makes some quality products, with ratings from 3.5 to five out of five stars on Dog Food Advisor. The company, Tuffy's Pet Foods, owns several brands, including PureVita and Natural Planet. They've been making dog food since the 1960's, and are the co packer for Nutrisca and Dogswell foods.

I offered Ru some NutriSource Heartland Select, but he wouldn't touch it. He really doesn't like chicken. Our current foster puppy enjoyed it, always nice to have a non-allergic, less-finicky dog around for that. NutriSource makes very few foods that Brisbane can eat, and their foods are not widely available in my area so it is unlikely that their foods will become part of the regular rotation around here.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Product Review: Paws Aboard Doggy Life Jacket

The Paws Aboard Doggy Life Jacket is a personal flotation device sold by Petco. It features reflective stripes for visibility, a supportive mesh belly panel, and a handle on top for helping dogs out of the pool. It comes in two colors and six sizes to fit dogs with chests 11-44" around.
Photo by Erin Koski

Years ago when I had my cocker spaniel, personal flotation devices for dogs tended to consist of a somewhat contoured float thing with straps that went around the dog. The one we had did have a handle on top, but the design meant the dog's entire weight was suspended from two straps running under their body. Not exactly comfortable.

We've come a long way since then, and now even bottom-of-the-line doggy life jackets have supportive belly panels. This one also has two straps that buckle around the dog's middle, and another that goes around the front of their chest.

This is a bottom-of-the-line life jacket. The first thing I noticed about it was that the material seems very thin and flimsy. It should be just fine for occasional use, but for an active dog that's going to wearing it frequently, I would go with something higher quality. It's pretty thin, which means a nice low profile, but also less buoyancy. It's fine for smaller dogs, but I would hesitate to use it on a truly large dog, especially a poor swimmer. Still, it's a nice value. That extra bit of velcro on the side is actually for a strap on the other side that keeps the whole thing wrapped up neatly for storage.

Pros: Inexpensive, probably the lowest-priced PFD (personal flotation devices) for dogs right now. Supportive belly panel. Bright color provides excellent visibility. Not very bulky, low profile and close fit.

Cons: Sizes run small. Thin material means less flotation, so a bigger vest is better anyway. Xena is wearing a size large in this picture, which should actually be a little big for her according to the provided measurements. I'm not convinced this is the most durable material, and I don't think the handle is sturdy enough to lift a large dog either.

Bottom Line: Petco's Paws Aboard Doggy Life Jacket is an inexpensive way to keep a small or medium dog safe around a pool or on a boat. It's a good value for a dog that needs to get some confidence in the water. I would not recommend it for a large dog due to its limited buoyancy, or for major adventures for durability concerns.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Book Review: Perfect Puppy in 7 Days

Dr. Sophia Yin's Perfect Puppy in 7 Days is my absolute favorite book for bringing home a new dog. It's not just for puppies either, the schedules and training ideas she has work just fine for adult rescue dogs as well. Be warned though, it's a pretty intense method for training.
Photo by Erin Koski

My favorite dog training books all involve stories and anecdotes about the author's own dogs. This book is about Lucy, an Australian cattledog puppy. Dr. Yin was a cattledog lover, and part of my love for this book stems from it being written about my favorite breed.

At the beginning of the book, Dr. Yin tells about her father, the cattledog he used to have, and how he decided he wanted a new puppy. His daughter being an expert in dogs, dog training, and dog behavior, he asked her to find him a breeder and pick out a puppy. Knowing that her elderly father was unlikely to throw absolutely everything into training his new puppy, she decided to keep the little one at her house for a week of training to start her off on the right foot.

There is a lot in this book about early socialization for puppies, especially before they are ready to leave their mother. It was fascinating to read how many new experiences Dr. Yin recommends for baby puppies to help them learn that the world is a safe place. It also made me just a tiny bit sad, because I know that I didn't do anywhere near that much socialization with Brisbane. I did quite a bit with Ru when I got him at 14 weeks, but not nearly as much as I would have had I read this book. While it's important to drive home the message about early socialization and exposure to new experiences for anyone raising a litter of puppies, I think it's also important to forgive ourselves for not doing as much as we could have before we knew better. We can't go back and fix this learning period for our adult rescue dogs, and that's ok.

Photo by Erin Koski
Dr. Yin's week of training involves a whole ton of impulse control exercises, which aren't as much as rowdy playtime but definitely make for a liveable dog. Perfect Puppy provides plenty of different games to play, explains how to play them, and then includes them in a daily schedule. The daily agendas are pretty puppy-intensive, especially if you work full time. Were I to bring home a new baby puppy, I'd hopefully take a week off work. Otherwise, I see nothing wrong with modifying the schedule to fit my own life.

I think the main focus of Perfect Puppy is on controlling the environment so the puppy has minimal opportunity to make incorrect choices, and at the same time teaching the puppy to default to the correct choices. It's much easier to teach an enthusiastic puppy not to jump up on people when she's had a week of intensive training to sit every time she meets a new person. I think a lot of people don't think to use a leash in the house to keep their new dog from wandering out of sight and into trouble.

This would be my favorite book to recommend to new dog owners, but a friend has pointed out that it is pretty intense for someone new to the training world. There's a whole lot of information in there, and it's easier to absorb when you already have a working understanding of behaviorism. It's definitely the first book I'd recommend to other dog nerds, or nerds in general. Like knowing how things work? This is an instruction manual for puppies.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Treat Tuesday: Your Dog's Diner Pizza Pawty Crusts

These Pizza Pawty Crusts from Your Dog's Diner arrived in last month's BarkBox. These are dense crackers made from rye and oat flour, beef and cheese, oregano and basil, and that's all. They have a big crunch, and are big cookies.

Good For: Handing the dogs on my way out the door to keep them busy crunching for a few minutes. Pretending I'm feeding them pizza crusts (they know the difference).

Not Good For: High-value training treats. Stuffing in Kongs for unmotivated dogs.

How Much We Like Them: Enough to feed them all to the dogs within a week or two. Not enough to buy more though, as Brisbane was the only one who would reliably eat them.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Product Review: Wag n Woof Bone

This is a toy by Wag n Woof, one of Ross's house brands. It comes in a couple of sizes and it a very basic puzzle toy. It is made out of flexible vinyl.
Photo by Erin Koski

This is a small toy that is very flexible. It consists of two halves that are attached down the very center of the toy. There is a small gap between the halves. The bone can be filled with tiny treats that will fall out easily. It is also flexible enough to allow larger treats to be shoved inside for a bigger challenge.

Ru isn't very good at getting bigger treats out of this bone. We borrowed it from Xhuuya the raven, who enjoys wrestling macadamia nuts out of it.

Pros: Extremely inexpensive. Easy for most dogs.

Cons: Doesn't hold much food or many treats. Low quality and easy to destroy. Made in China.

Bottom Line: This is a toy for older, non-destructive dogs. It can be a way to explore what sorts of puzzles a dog enjoys solving.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The July Allergy-Friendly BarkBox

The theme of July's BarkBox is the Circus! This box was a long time in coming, well over a week. We got five items, but both big bags of treats are not Briz-safe. He's allergic to chicken, turkey, duck, and eggs. The allergy-friendly BarkBox is not supposed to contain anything with chicken, turkey, beef, corn, wheat, or soy (unless they mess something up...). Unfortunately, that sometimes still leaves us with a box full of duck and egg treats.

This month we got a bag of Grain Free Roast Duck treats from Lucky Dog. These are apparently brand new and not even available on their website yet. They're made in the USA. Lucky dogs that belong to my coworkers, these will be going to them.

Those My Doggy Cheesy Bite cookies are soft and probably nice-smelling. Know why they're soft? Eggs. More cookies for my coworkers' dogs. Also made in the USA.

The only edible thing in this box fo Briz was the Emerald Pet Piggy Twizz...Twizzie? Twizzy? The chews are called Piggy Twizzies, I'm not totally sure what the singular of that should be. It didn't last very long, but Brisbane certainly enjoyed it.

I had a lot of trouble finding the website for Encore, the maker of this firehose flyer. It was on the fourth page of Google search results! This one isn't particularly attractive for Brisbane and Ru, but the current foster pup enjoys carrying it around the house.

My favorite thing in this month's box is the BarkMade Circus Elephant stuffy. Way too cute! I love cute stuffed dog toys, I consider them part of my interior decorating. The elephant looks great on the floor with all our dinosaurs. Overall this box was sort of disappointing, with two big bags of treats I'll have to give away. The elephant helps with that, a little.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Food Friday: Natural Balance LID Venison and Sweet Potato Canned Formula

In preparation for Ru's upcoming dental next week, he has been sampling a variety of soft foods including Natural Balance LID Venison and Sweet Potato Canned Formula. This is a Limited Ingredient Diet intended for dogs with allergies and food intolerances. I have previously discussed the kibble version of this food, this is the canned variety.
The first thing I have to say about Natural Balance's LID canned foods is that they smell amazing. Most are sweet potato based and have a rich people-foody smell. They don't smell like something I think I would like to eat, but are definitely not as nauseating as some canned foods.

Unfortunately, the reason this food smells so inoffensive is because it is mostly made out of sweet potatoes and not-sweet potatoes. Though venison is the first ingredient on the label, some of the protein comes from plant sources so the overall meat content is less than impressive.

Dog Food Advisor rates Natural Balance's LID canned foods with three out of five stars, but this particular formula only merits two out of five stars. This is probably due to the relatively relatively low protein content. Most canned dog foods have quite a bit more protein, a bit more fat, and therefore a lot less carbohydrates.

I'm not thrilled with the "Limited Ingredient Diet" label on this food. Sure, it doesn't have as many different ingredients as Orijen Six Fish, but it does have more than I'd like to see in a food specifically marketed for dogs with sensitivities. In addition to venison and sweet potatoes, Venison and Sweet Potato Formula also contains white potatoes and salmon oil. I've known a number of dogs who had issues on potato-based foods, so this would not be my first choice for use in an elimination diet.

Since this would only be part of a temporary soft diet for Ru, it was something I was willing to try. Ru has not liked most of the canned foods I have offered him, even when they are warmed up. Unfortunately, he didn't like this one either. At least Brisbane enjoyed it.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Pretty in Pink

When we had Brisbane shaved to help get his skin issues under control, I worried a lot about him getting sunburned. It's true that no hair means unrestricted airflow to the skin, but fur also protects a dog from the sun. Brisbane is single-coated, his hairs are all one length. Double-coated dogs have their visible outer coat and then a soft, short undercoat that can help insulate them in cold weather.
Photo by Erin Koski

In the summer, double-coated dogs are supposed to shed their undercoats out, leaving the long guardhairs to protect them from the sun. collies, huskies, and other super-hairy dogs are usually pretty comfortable in the heat provided their undercoats have been brushed out properly. Without brushing, the shed fluff bunches up next to their skin and continues insulating forever. Sometimes it starts coming out in tufts. When brushing out a dog with a very thick undercoat, it's not unusual to end up with a pile of hair bigger than the dog.

Brisbane is single-coated, so I don't have to deal with an undercoat. However, shaving him bald still left him with zero protection from the sun. The day after his haircut, we went shopping for something he could wear in the sun. I wanted something thinner than his warm jackets, and light-colored to reflect the heat. Only a couple of places in town even had dog shirts, and I found just one light-colored shirt in his size. It was on clearance for $4 at Petco.

Brisbane, of course, refused to move while wearing anything at all. I decided to limit our time in the sun instead, and passed the shirt along to a friend with a white dog that is willing to wear clothes. I think I got $4 worth of entertainment out of it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Product Review: RC Pets Venture Shell

The RC Pets Venture Shell is a waterproof outerwear coat for dogs. It features a t-shaped chest panel for added protection and a better fit. this coat comes in five colors and twelve sizes to fit dogs with backs 8-30" from neck to tail.
Photo by Erin Koski

After his dramatic shavedown, and before the current horrid heat wave, Brisbane needed some extra warmth on cold mornings. I had been putting his RC Pets West Coast Rainwear jacket on, but I left it behind at a sheep herding trial.

I found this coat on Amazon in his size for super cheap, so I impulse-bought it. At the time I didn't realize that it was not the RC Pets Venture Outwear, which has a fleece liner. The Venture Shell is purely rain protection, it has a ripstop nylon lining and no insulation at all.

This is definitely a nice coat, RC Pets has some very well-designed products that fit extremely well. Briz doesn't really like wearing his Hurtta jackets, but does not complain about his RC Pets coats. The Venture Shell moves with him and stays in place to keep him dry.

Pros: Comfortable for active extended wear. Lightweight and reflective. Extensive range of sizes. Cut to fit well on long backs. Can be worn over a warm insulating layer.

Cons: A little bit rustly and loud.

Bottom Line: Does the same job as Brisbane's Ruffwear Sun Shower jacket, which is to keep dogs dry in rainy but not cold weather. Unfortunately it doesn't really rain here. I'm having a hard time justifying owning this many dog raincoats.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Treat Tuesday: Bixbi Pocket Trainers

Bixbi Pocket Trainers are small, smelly, moist little treats that are absolutely perfect for training time. The peanut butter variety arrived in our space-themed June Allergy-Friendly BarkBox. These remind me a lot of Zukes Mini Naturals, but Brisbane likes them a lot better. They are made out of potato starch and vegetable glycerin, and have other tasty ingredients like chia seeds and blueberries. I am particularly fond of the shape, as they are scored so they can be broken into even smaller portions.

Good For: Mid-value training treats. Carrying around in my pockets without getting things all greasy. Training in public without having nasty-smelling hands.

Not Good For: Picky chihuahuas. Dogs that have trouble chewing. Super-uber-distracting training situations.

How Much We Like Them: Used them all up practicing core strength exercises with Brisbane, who thought they were awesome. Might have to buy more, wish they were available locally.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Arthritis: That's Not 'Getting Old', It's 'Pain'

Few things make me quite as sad as seeing an elderly dog limping badly, and knowing that there is no relief in sight for that dog. There are a lot of people who genuinely believe that debilitating pain is just a normal part of getting old for dogs. The thing is, they don't fully realize that "getting old and creaky"="debilitating pain".

I do understand that getting old hurts. I have autoimmune joint issues that mean I get to deal with some of that decades earlier than many of my peers. However, I always have the option to take pain medication. My dog doesn't have that.

It's true that dogs slow down and spend more time sleeping in their senior years. Keeping them at a healthy weight and making sure they get plenty of exercise can help keep them comfortable. Rehab and physical therapy can also help them compensate. However, it's important to recognize and treat the pain that comes with arthritis.

"Getting old" doesn't slow down you dog, pain does. The reason he stops jumping up on the couch or your bed is because it hurts too much to do that anymore. Often the reason he stops tolerating the antics of children or younger dogs is because it hurts too much for him to play. He can't play ball for as long as he used to because after a few throws it hurts too bad for him to keep playing.

Is pain medication "natural"? Nope. You know what else isn't "natural"? Getting old. In nature, animals that slow down fall prey to the many dangers of life in the wild. Let's face it, most of our dogs would starve or be the victim of a more able-bodied predator long before they reach this geriatric stage of life. It's our fault, through advances in diet and health care, that our dogs live long enough to suffer debilitating arthritis. Though it is through the best of intentions, we did this to them.

Our dogs don't have thumbs. They can't open a pill bottle, or make an appointment to complain to the vet that they just can't handle a game of fetch anymore. I think we owe it to them to make their twilight years as comfortable as possible. Even if pain meds have the potential to shorten their lives, I am firmly of the opinion that it kinder to give them a few comfortable years. Forcing them to live longer years in great pain is just selfish.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Product Review: PetSafe Martingale Collar with Quick Snap Buckle

The PetSafe Martingale Collar with Quick Snap Buckle is just like the regular PetSafe martingale collar, with the addition of a buckle so it does not need to be pulled over the dog's head. This collar is available in five colors and four sizes to fit necks 5-20" around.
Photo by Erin Koski

This martingale collar is a size medium, for 10-16" necks. It has a significantly smaller loop than any of my other PetSafe collars, which makes me wonder if they've updated the design.

These used to be made by Premier, who also made the Busy Buddy toys. They were bought out by PetSafe, who then dropped the Premier name after a while. The stock photos on their website show the collars with PetSafe tags, but all of mine say Premier, so this is probably a recent change.

The loop on this collar is an inch shorter than on my large collars, making it much less droopy. It adds four inches of length, which is still quite a bit. The loops on the buckle martingales could potentially be shorter, since the collar does not need to open wide enough to be slipped over the dog's head.

Pros: Sturdy, reliable. Bright colors are long-lasting. Escape-proof.

Cons: No dead ring for attachment of tags, they're supposed to be attached to the metal slides on either side of the loop.

Bottom Line: I got this for my foster puppies, but it also fits Brisbane at its greatest length. I don't leave it on any unattended dogs, it's strictly for leash walking. It's probably my third favorite collar, after the Cetacea and EzyDog slips.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

DIY: Homemade Pill Pockets for Dogs with Allergies

Pill Pockets are super convenient for dogs that need to take pills, but my dog is allergic to them. All of the regular flavors, barbecue, peanut butter, are made out of chicken liver. The allergy formula Pill Pockets are duck-based, no good for dogs with poultry allergies like Brisbane. I discovered other pill treats that were safe for his allergies, but they were pretty expensive to use on a regular basis. I began to wonder how hard it would be to make something like that myself.

A quick Google search for 'diy Pill Pockets' led me to this site, which provides a simple recipe for peanut butter pill treats.

This easy recipe, which I can't actually attribute to anyone since the author of the above blog states that they discovered it via googling, uses only three ingredients. It calls for two parts flour, one part milk, and one part peanut butter. Knead the ingredients together and add a little more flour or milk until you have a nice playdough texture. This can be stored as-is or formed into balls or pockets. I was somewhat shocked at how lovely the ones shown on that site ended up, but the author mentions that hers didn't look like that so it's probably a stock photo after all.

After reading a few more recipes, I was able to generalize this formula so it can be used with a wide variety of ingredients. The formula is:

2 parts something dry

1 part something wet

1 part something oily

Pretty general, right? The ratios will need to be adjusted a bit as you make it, but they're a good place to start. It's basically a playdough recipe. Heck, I used to make peanut butter playdough with my daycare kids out of a recipe like this, we used powdered sugar, honey, and peanut butter. The trick is to use ingredients that dogs think are tasty.

Dry Ingredients: You'll need some sort of flour, but it doesn't need to be regular wheat flour. Thanks to the gluten fad, there are a ton of alternative flours available. For this project, I went to the bulk section of my local Whole Foods store. I purchase approximately one cup each of tapioca flour, garbanzo bean flour, and coconut flour. They also had rice flour, and there are a ton of other grain/nut/starch flours out there. It doesn't even technically have to be a type of flour, I'm sure that chicken powder or anything with a powdery texture would work.

Wet Ingredients: I've tried yogurt, and meaty baby food so far. I also plan to try broth, canned dog food, liver paste, and meat that has been whizzed in a food processor. Applesauce, mashed bananas, or any other type of fruit puree might work, but I would be sure to use at least one really super-tasty ingredient along with it. Water should also work just fine.

Oily Ingredients: Peanut butter is the one used in the original recipe, and it serves the dual purpose of making the treats taste awesome and providing the right doughy texture. I tried using coconut oil with pretty good results, probably any vegetable oil would work. Safflower oil would be good, even fish oil if you don't mind the smell. I plan to try hamburger grease and bacon grease next time I have some.

It's important to remember that these are supposed to be incredibly amazing treats full of awesomeness. The ingredients that meet those criteria will vary from dog to dog, but it's important to keep "awesome" in mind. Some dogs will love banana-coconut oil-rice flour treats, but picky dogs may turn their noses up. The relative health of each ingredient isn't a big consideration, as long as it does not upset your dog's tummy. Remember that half the recipe is made up of flour, and that a little of each goes a long way. I've been mixing these up using a tablespoon as "1 part", and a single tablespoon of bacon grease gets turned into a least a dozen treats.

How Do I Make Them 'Pill Pocket'-Shaped?
Some of the people who shared their recipes on various sites mentioned that they mix up their pill dough and then just store it in a big wad and pull off pieces as they need them. I had been dishing up Brisbane's pills in a lump of peanut butter, and individually rolling pills in dough every single day didn't seem particularly less inconvenient.

The Zoe Pill Pops come in individual chunks, but I have to moosh the pill into each one. I wanted something as convenient as the brand-name pill pockets.

To make these, I divided my lump of dough into little chunks, and then rolled each one into a ball, I pressed the back of a chopstick into the ball and then reformed it around the end of the stick. Twist the stick to remove it, and you have a less-than-perfect but highly functional treat that is all ready for you to hide a pill. These are generally going to be perishable, I recommend storing them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. I also successfully froze and defrosted a batch.

My first round of DIY pill pockets were tapioca flour-yogurt-peanut butter, and both Brisbane and foster dog Xena enjoyed them, though Ru and a visiting dog with dental issues both turned them down. The second was a batch of garbanzo bean flour-beef babyfood-coconut oil, but it turns out that garbanzo bean flour has a very strong taste that my dogs don't like, so everybody hated them. The third was a coconut flour-beef babyfood-coconut oil batch, which only Brisbane liked. So far tapioca flour seems to be the favorite dry ingredient over here. I fully intend to make some tapioca flour-applesauce-bacon grease pockets in the near future.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Product Review: Alpine Outfitters Urban Trails Custom Harness

The Urban Trails harness from Alpine Outfitters is designed for all sorts of dog-powered sports. It features wide straps padded with Polartec polar fleece, and allows the dog to pull comfortably. This is a custom-fitted harness, made to order. It is available in 11 different colors.
Photo by Erin Koski

When Brisbane was a baby, I had many ambitions involving dog sports. One of these was dog-powered sports. Often known as 'joring', these activities basically involve hitching a dog to anything and everything and having them pull for fun.

Sledding is the most obvious dog-powered sport out there, but it requires snow so is not an option for us out here on the beach. Scootering is one dry land alternative, involving pneumatic tire scooters like we all had in the 80's.
Photo by Erin Koski

Bikejoring is dogs hitched to bicycles and running out front, as opposed to running to the side via a bike attachment. I'm not sure if there are specific words for having a dog pull you on skates or a skateboard. Skijoring is the sport of having a dog pull you on skis. Canicross is the sport of running while having a dog hitched to your belt.

I had all these plans for teaching my fabulous, talented dog to pull me on various wheeled objects. We were totally going to start scootering. This harness was the first step. The second step was to teach Briz to pull while wearing it. This is where the entire process broke down, because Brisbane does. Not. Pull. Not at all. He is a master of loose leash walking, and nothing can convince him that leash pressure is ok.

After many months of failing to teach Briz that pulling in a harness was great, mostly involving marking and rewarding him for putting even the slightest amount of pressure on the leash and tossing treats and toys ahead of him as additional motivation, I finally abandoned my original plan. I still love the Urban Trails harness, though. As I ordered it when he was a puppy, Briz eventually outgrew the harness.

Several years after purchasing our original Urban Trails harness, I contacted Alpine Outfitters and asked about having it adjusted or extended. They promptly made me a brand new harness in exchange for sending back the old one. How cool is that! The custom harnesses have several inches of adjustment in the chest strap to accommodate changes in weight or coat. There is also an Urban Trails harness with an adjustable neck, and non-custom harnesses available in four sizes.

Pros: Great for hitching your dog to anything except a sled or cart, need a different type of harness for those. Custom-made for a perfect fit even on your weird-shaped dog. Soft, snuggly fleece does not rub on delicate skin. Includes dog's name or phone number embroidered on back. Can order it with additional leash rings on the sides or front. Super customer service.

Cons: Can take several weeks to arrive since they have to make it first. Needs to be pulled over dog's head and have their leg put through a strap, not great for head-shy dogs.

Bottom Line: Pulling is great exercise for dogs, but they need the right gear in order to do it safely and comfortably. The Urban Trails harness works for almost any dog-powered activity. It's also a nice soft, cushy harness for everyday wear, particularly for dogs with sensitive skin. And shaved dogs. This is the only thing Brisbane has worn since his haircut.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The July Pet Gift Box

Oops, we got another Pet Gift Box. I was planning to cancel our subscription after the first one, but the site only lets you do that during a one-week period at the end of the month. I missed that window of opportunity, and realized it last week when I got a "your box has shipped" email. While this month's offering has only one food item that Brisbane can't enjoy, and nothing outright dangerous, the toys fail to impress me.

This month's theme is "barbecue", it's also "nostalgia" for me, but not in a good way. We have some dog treats made by Nathan's Famous. You know, the hot dogs? These are made in the USA from beef and corn syrup solids. They really remind me of the dog treats we used to buy at the grocery store for my cocker spaniel. You won't find them on the Nathan's website, the brand identity was just licensed by PetBrandz.com.

The other bag of treats is also made in the USA. The Grill-icious treats are made by Loving Pets Products and contain nothing but chicken and sweet potatoes. Definitely treats I would use if Brisbane could have chicken.

The weirdest thing in the box are the three packets of "petchup". These are condiments for dog food, with ridiculous names. Petchup, Muttstard, and Bark-B-Q. Surprisingly, they actually appear to be quality food additives and something I won't mind dribbling onto dog dinners. They are made out of broth and contain omega fatty acids, glucosamine, and prebiotics. I have no idea whether the actual products resemble the condiments they are named for. It Muttstard really yellow?

The best toy in here is the plush cheeseburger by Jakks Pets. The brand name is PhotoReel, I guess it's supposed to be made out of pictures of a bun, meat, cheese, etc. It's squeaky...and crinkly. My dogs hate crinkly toys. It's also made in China.

The other two toys...quite frankly they remind me of the cheap toys my mother used to buy at the dollar store for my childhood dog. There is a couple of plastic sausages on a rope, made by Pet King. They sell cheap pet toys from China.

The last item is a small squeaky rubber steak. It's small enough that I wouldn't be comfortable letting Brisbane play with it. I am absolutely certain my cocker spaniel had a few of these 20+ years ago. My friend recognized it from a Simpsons episode from 1989. It is made by Amazing Pet Products in...you guessed it, China. Our first Pet Gift Box was pretty awesome. This one fails to impress me in any way, the quality of the products is severely lacking. The cheap Chinese toys are going straight into the trash.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Treat Tuesday: Dino Tracks Cookies from Daisy and Oscar's Gourmet Bakery

These adorable Dino Tracks cookies from Daisy and Oscar's Gourmet Bakery (D.O.G. Bakery) arrived in our dinosaur-themed June Pet Gift Box. They are poultry-free, egg-free, and quite tasty, according to the dogs. They are also quite dense and crunchy.

Good For: Special occasions. Handing to the dogs as I walk out the door and not getting my hands all stinky.

Not Good For: High-value treats. Breaking into tiny pieces for training.

How Much We Liked Them: Enough to scour www.DogBakeryOnline.com to see if they sold them or whether they were Pet Gift Box exclusives. Not enough to contact them and ask where to get more.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Product Review: Medical Pet Shirt

The Medical Pet Shirt was developed in the Netherlands for pets recovering from surgery, injury, or skin problems. It's basically a dog onesie. It can also be used for females in season, and incontinent pets. This shirt features a snap closure that covers the anus and genitals, and a turtleneck collar. It is available in ten sizes to fit dogs measuring 8.5-36" from base of neck to base of tail. Medical Pet Shirts are also available for cats and rabbits.
Photo by Erin Koski

I found this shirt at a thrift store, and I bought it because it was weird. I've since discovered that these are only available from veterinarians. This is not something that Brisbane needs at the moment, but it certainly would have been useful several times in the past.

The Medical Pet Shirt is something that just...makes sense. It is unique and does things I've never seen another dog product do. All this time, we've been improvising with t-shirts, baby clothes, diapers, and wraps.
Photo by Erin Koski

What we really needed was a dog onesie. You know those baby bodysuits that snap at the crotch? This is the dog version. It snaps and also velcros at the crotch to cover up all the important bits. The back underside is also lined with a sort of pocket, which allows for absorbent material to be held in place for incontinent dogs or bitches in season.

The Medical Pet Shirt solves a lot of problems that I and my friends have experienced. Dog scratching himself bloody? Licking her lady bits raw? Slithering out of his bellyband and going on a pee-spree? Diaper just won't stay on? Here is a comfortable and ergonomic solution.

Pros: Fitted turtleneck does not stretch or slide down, and can be pulled up under a cone to protect the neck. Snap-and-velcro closures stay on securely even through scooting on the floor, and are easy to undo for potty breaks. Machine washable. Fits really well. Protects everything but the head, tail, and legs.

Cons: Not available for retail purchase in the US. Only come in one color.

Bottom Line: Now I can get rid of the collection of childrens shirts I have for keeping Brisbane from scratching himself up when his allergies are terrible. I will be sure to tell my friends and coworkers that these exist so they can do the same.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Chihuahua Fashion Moment: Vintage Studded Harness

This vintage leather harness is remarkably nostalgic. It is similar to the studded harnesses seen on dogs in historic photographs. The harness is marked "Chris Sinn" on the inside, in faded silver letters.
Photo by Erin Koski

I remember seeing harnesses like this at the store when I was little. They were replaced by more ergonomic Roman-style nylon harnesses long before I got my first dog.

It's difficult to say how old this particular piece is. The fact that it has a maker's mark means it likely predates my memories of mass-market products in K-mart. I've spotted a few paintings with similar harnesses dating back to 1910. There are quite a few vintage photographs from the 1940's through the 1960's showing dogs wearing harnesses exactly like this.

My guess is that this harness dates from the 1960's, although it could be 20 years older than that. I found a site recently that claims they will send me scans of vintage Sears catalogs, so I've asked for some from the first half of the 1900's just to see what's in there.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Product Review: Dogs My Love Spiked Studded Collar

This spiked and studded collar may be from Dogs My Love, but could also be from a similar importer. It is 1" wide and tapers down to 1/2" at the buckle to allow for lighter hardware. There is a single row of sturdy spikes between a double row of studs.
Photo by Erin Koski

This collar is yet another thrift store find. It's cute, it's just the right size for little Ru, and it might be enough to keep my friend's overzealous  cattledog from biting his neck. The combination of closely-set spikes and studs makes it a very heavy collar.

While it looks gorgeous, this is PU or bicast leather. While there might be a little bit of actual cow used in the process, PU leather is fake leather. It starts out with the same look and nearly the same feel as actual leather, but the leathery bit is really just a thin veneer. It's a lot like laminate wood flooring. PU leather is cheap, but not nearly as durable as real leather.

This super-cute, super-spikey collar is quite functional since I actually want to use it for neck armor. It is already showing its age though. there is a section along one edge where the fake veneer has peeled off.
Fake?!!? I only wear genuine leather!
Photo by Erin Koski

Pros: Super cute. Inexpensive, under $10 new. Soft, rounded edges don't rub too much.

Cons: Fake leather is not very durable. Does not look nearly as cool as old, worn leather.

Bottom Line: An inexpensive way to put a lot of metal on my tiny dog's neck.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Food Friday: Wysong Anergen 2

Wysong Anergen 2 is a rabbit-based pet food with peas and potatoes. It is a 40% protein food and suitable for dogs, cats, and ferrets. Though it is essentially a dried kibble, Anergen 2 also contain shreds of freeze-dried rabbit.

Wysong sent me samples of three different foods. The original Anergen formula is a lamb and rice kibble. The Archetype Rabbit formula was a freeze-dried food made almost entirely out of rabbit meat. Anergen 2 feels like a combination of the two, as it contains both kibble and freeze-dried rabbit. This is my favorite of the three.
All Wysong foods contain a variety of probiotics, prebiotics, and other digestive aids to help pets get the most out of their food. I'm pleased with the idea of a food with enough meat that it's just "carnivore food". I mean, dogs are certainly omnivores, but they can certainly thrive on a meat-based diet. Cats and ferrets are both obligate carnivores, meaning they are not omnivores and their diets should contain little to no carbohydrates. Anergen 2 is suitable for cats and ferrets along with dogs, which tells me this is a high-protein, low-carb food.

I like the Wysong company a lot, although they do use the "appeal to nature" fallacy quite a bit. Though Dr. Wysong is a veterinarian, I'm a bit skeptical of his claims in part because he cites Pottenger's Cats as part of the reason raw diets are superior. A favorite of "natural" diet aficionados everywhere as proof that cooked food kills and raw food sustains life. This was a very interesting study spanning ten years, but it was poorly-designed as a nutrition experiment. The Pottenger cat study had low-quality control groups, or none at all. None of the diets used were complete, and the entire study predated the discovery of the importance of taurine in cat diets. I don't believe the results have been replicated by anyone else, either.

As highly as I think of Wysong's foods, I do feel that the company serves up the same "natural life-giving nutrition" sales pitch as every other food company, but with the trappings of science. My biggest criticism is the way they seem to be talking out both sides of their mouth when it comes to nutrition. The information provided for the Archetype raw foods includes lengthy explanations of how cooked foods literally kill pets, yet Wysong also sells inexpensive chicken-and-rice kibbles that are comparable with every other top-quality dog food on the market. If conventional kibble kills pets, why do they sell it? If dogs can thrive on high-quality conventional kibble, what's with all the fear-mongering when trying to sell the raw food?

It all comes down to marketing in the end. Every product Wysong makes is very high quality though, and if I had to choose a brand of food to stick with forever, this would be an excellent choice. Wysong foods aren't widely available in my area, otherwise Anergen 2 would definitely be part of our regular food rotation. This is absolutely a food I would be comfortable feeding my dogs long-term, and they both love it.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Raptor Trainer

I saw Jurassic World the day it came out, and it was amazing. I loved the raptor trainer, even if he used his clicker to get the raptors' attention rather than as a marker for good behavior. A friend has been sending me pictures of zookeepers recreating the dramatic scene where Chris Pratt's character leaps into the raptor enclosure to stop his animals from messily devouring an unlucky new employee.

Jurassic World has taught animal handlers around the world that there's nothing your charges will respect like dramatically standing with your arms outstretched.

Even if your animals aren't paying attention. It's the thought that counts.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Treat Tuesday: Purebites Freeze-Dried Liver Treats

Purebites are single-ingredient dog treats made from freeze-dried liver...and nothing else. Dogs love them like nothing else. With the exception of freeze-dried green tripe, these are the highest-value training treats I've found. They also stink. A lot. They come in pretty big chunks, but are easy to break up into smaller bits. These are made in the USA, from beef sourced in the USA.

Good For: Super high-value training treats. Training in highly-distracting environments. Treating picky dogs. Treating stressed dogs. Getting my hands incredibly stinky.

Not Good For: Super food-motivated dogs that can't think in the presence of the most amazing food ever. Treating dogs when I don't want my hands to smell nauseating.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Product Review: Dexas Pooch Pouch

The Dexas Pooch Pouch is a silicon treatpouch that can be clipped to a belt or waistband. It is flexible and non-absorbent. The Pooch Pouch comes in five different colors.
Photo by Erin Koski

I have used a number of different fabric bait bags, but this was the first I'd ever seen that was made from a non-absorbent material. This treat pouch is made from silicon that pops back into shape no matter how I flex it.

I love this concept, I can use all sorts of gross treats without worrying about them stinking up the pouch or contaminating it with bacteria. The Pooch Pouch is easy to clean and extremely convenient.

Unfortunately, there are some flaws in the design. The belt clip is set in the center of the pouch and not toward the top. It's also a fairly small clip with minimal tension. This means it falls off extremely easily.

Pros: Easy to clean and sterilize. Dishwasher safe. Does not absorb odors. Can be used for raw meat and other gooey, sticky treats. Easy to reach into, closes itself so nothing falls out.

Cons: Small belt clip is poorly placed, falls off very easily.

Bottom Line: If it stayed on more securely, I might never use another bait bag.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Calming Music for Dogs

Last year I wrote about the Through a Dog's Ear albums. These are recordings of classical music that have been very specifically composed or adapted to be calming for dogs. In the last year, the official Through a Dog's Ear albums disappeared from Google Play, and then one of them reappeared a few weeks ago.
Photo by Erin Koski

I have also found a lot of similar music just by searching "calming dog music". What turns up is almost inevitably more slow, simple, boring piano solos. The dogs love those.

This year the dogs are all just a little clingy. All three followed me into our tiny bathroom after the neighbors shot off several noisy things in the late afternoon. Brisbane has actually been on edge for most of the week, but our various neighbors have also been setting off various stuff for most of the week.

Foster dog Xena is just a little more clingy than normal, but she doesn't seem to be reacting specifically to the sounds. The big city firework show is over now, and I didn't even hear it this year. We have been inside with our boring piano music and all the fans running.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Product Review: Silly Bums Bee

The R2P Pet Silly Bums are basically the back half of a stuffed dog toy. They come in a variety of different...um...species and two or three sizes.
Photo by Erin Koski

Our bee bum arrived in the disappointing May BarkBox, and was part of the reason why this box was so lackluster.

For starters, I was familiar with the Silly Bums toy line before this one arrived on our doorstep, and I've always found them sort of dumb. It's not a whole stuffy, it's just half. Which half? The butt! Stuffed animals have butts. Sometimes those butts are funny, particularly if it's a baboon stuffy. I find the butts are just as funny when they are part of a whole animal. Removing everything else just feels like they're beating me over the head with the joke.
Photo by Erin Koski

I could probably find some love in my heart for this bumblebee arse if it was just a fuzzy plush toy. It's not though, and when I found it in the BarkBox I had to double check the tag to make sure this thing was actually intended to be a dog toy.

I have never seen this much plastic on a dog toy. The wings and stripes are all made out of thin, flexible vinyl. Those bits of vinyl are sewn on via bulky turned-under seams.
Photo by Erin Koski

So the vinyl is basically designed to be ripped off by all but the most gentle dogs. I don't think I could come up with a more irresistibly shreddable design if I tried.

Our Silly Bums bee also crinkles. Brisbane hates crinkle toys. Ru finds them distasteful. Conveniently, foster dog Xena is both incredibly gentle with toys and loves crinkly things. It's hers now. When she finds a home, it will be leaving with her.

Pros: It squeaks. Someone must find this concept to be cute or funny, given that Silly Bums made it past product development and into actual stores without anyone going "hold on a second, this idea is actually kind of stupid."

Cons: Crinkles. Easily-destroyed vinyl is a questionable material for use on a dog toy, I would worry about intestinal obstruction if any of my dogs started to chew it. Butts aren't really that funny once you're out of middle school.

Bottom Line: One of my least favorite things we've ever received in a BarkBox. At least Xena likes it. If she suddenly develops an interest in shredding toys, it's going straight into the garbage.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Food Friday: Wysong Anergen

Wysong Anergen is a hypoallergenic dog food designed by a veterinarian. This is a food with high enough protein for cats as well as dogs, which is unusual. It contains probiotics, prebiotics, and lamb as an alternative protein source to the usual beef and chicken. Anergen scores an impressive 4.5 out of 5 stars on the Dog Food Advisor website.

The sample bag of food came with the collection of free goodies that Wysong sent me. I love free stuff, especially free stuff that is safe for Brisbane's chicken, turkey, duck, and egg issues.

Nearly twenty years ago, my cocker spaniel was severely itchy. Her slightly sketchy vet sold my mother a big bag of lamb and rice kibble and a flat of matching canned food. The idea was that the food we had been feeding her (Pedigree from the grocery store, this was before I had any sort of dog autonomy) was made out of chicken and corn and "animal by-products", and so the lamb and rice food introduced a novel protein as well as a novel carbohydrate. Allergies tend to develop after a person or dog has been exposed to a specific food, and more exposure often means a greater likelihood of developing allergies.

Twenty years later, lamb and rice are both common ingredients in dog foods. A quick trip down the aisle of the grocery store will show that even cheap economy foods often contain lamb and rice, or at least byproducts of these ingredients. Fortunately, Wysong has since developed a rabbit, pea, potato allergy food.

The "hypoallergenic" label on Wysong Anergen troubles me slightly, because this is for all appearances a lamb and rice dog food. While it would be a great place to start for a dog eating cheap chicken-and-corn byproduct dog food, there's nothing I can find that makes Anergen inherently hypoallergenic.

Some prescription hypoallergenic dog foods are made out of hydrolyzed proteins. These have been broken down into their component amino acids, making it more difficult for the body to recognize and freak out about them. I've known a few dogs that still had issues on hypoallergenic food made from hydrolyzed chicken, though, so I suppose the term "hypoallergenic" is subject to interpretation.

Wysong Anergen is definitely a limited ingredient diet, and I do like the company a whole lot. I'm not certain I'd choose this food as something to feed my dogs continuously for a long period of time unless we were trying an elimination diet. Happily, the Wysong company also does not recommend feeding dogs the same food every day for years. I signed up for their weekly email along with my sample pack, and this week's edition was all about rotational feeding, Included was a comic with a person first at a vet's office with their dog, happily accepting advice to feed their dog a single type of food every day for years, followed by the same person at a pediatrician's office, scoffing at the exact same advice when applied to their child.

Wysong specifically recommends rotating between different foods, and also different types of foods. I could actually feed Brisbane a variety of foods while sticking to Wysong products. They currently offer four different kibbles suitable for his allergies, along with three dehydrated foods, and three canned foods. This rotational diet could include lamb, rabbit, quail, pollock, salmon, beef, and venison. That's a lot of variety from one company!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

EzyDog Checkmate Collar Update

My original EzyDog Checkmate collar is a size large, which turned out to be too big for Brisbane. I recently acquired a medium Checkmate collar, and it's a much better fit for us than the large. The Checkmate is a limited slip with a quick release buckle. It has a short slip section, so it gets just tight enough to keep Brisbane from backing out and doesn't hang too low when it's loose.
Oh Briz, the stretchy leash isn't that bad.
Photo by Erin Koski

The large Checkmate fits necks 17-26"  around, so it just barely gets small enough for Brisbane. It's also 1" wide, which makes it a bit heavier than it really needs to be.

The medium Checkmate fits necks 13-18" around. It's only 3/4" wide, and without all the extra length it's much lighter. This makes the collar easier on Brisbane's coat.

The picture I'm using for this post is a silly one, we caught Brisbane making an uncertain face and cocking an ear in the direction of an interesting sound behind him.

You can also see that his eyes are starting to get just a bit hazy. My cocker spaniel developed cataracts in her old age, but this isn't the same thing. Brisbane has a normal sign of aging called lenticular sclerosis, or nuclear sclerosis. The slight clouding does not affect his vision noticeably and is not a precursor to cataracts. It's just one small sign of the fact that he is ten years old now. Half of dogs over the age of 9 years have them, and by the time they pass 13 years every dog is getting at least a little cloudy.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Product Review: Fuzzy Wumpets Lure Coursing Slip Lead

Our Fuzzy Wumpets Lure Coursing Slip Lead was custom made just for Brisbane. This is a 4' leash specially designed to allow for a quick release that leaves the dog collarless and unencumbered. These collars come in three neck sizes and have a fleecy lining for comfort even on excited dogs. There are well over 100 choices of ribbon, and eight different colors of nylon.
Photo by Erin Koski

I bought this slip lead for our first AKC Coursing Ability Test. The trial rules state that all dogs are supposed to be release via a proper slip lead, but at our trial they didn't really enforce that rule. Still, this was our first one and I wanted to be prepared. Plus now I get to feel all fancy because I have the proper equipment.

Coursing slip leads are very different from regular slip leads. The collar portion has a D-ring on either end so the leash can be threaded through it in several different patterns.

Photo by Erin Koski

Threaded through one way, the slip lead is a secure leash. Threaded another way, it is ready for a quick release. While it is very secure for most dogs, I found that the coursing slip lead got progressively tighter but did not loosen when pressure was relieved. This meant that it just kept cinching down on Briz until I pulled it loose again.

I also found that the lead was a bit difficult to switch from secure to quick-release on a crazy-excited dog. There is an alternate secure pattern of threading the leash back and forth, but that was also very difficult to pull loose. I ended up just putting the leash in slip-mode and holding it that way until it was time to go.

Photo by Erin Koski

Of course, my issues with the coursing slip lead have to do with the nature of this type of leash, and are not the fault of Fuzzy Wumpets. I am very pleased with the quality of my slip lead, it is strong, safe, and beautiful. The collar is nice and wide, so it distributes pressure over a larger area when Brisbane is screaming and flailing with excitement. I love the fuzzy purple lining, it's made out of a fabric called 'microplush' that is soft and breathable.

Pros: Meets requirements for AKC lure coursing trials. Soft, strong, comfortable. Infinite color combinations!

Cons: I wish the collar could come in custom sizes. If ours was an inch bigger, it wouldn't choke Briz when it tightens all the way up.

Bottom Line: This was my first choice for a lure coursing slip lead. Nothing else looked as soft or pretty. I'd like to get Briz one of their limited slip collars next.