Monday, August 31, 2015

A Better Way to Adjust the Easy Walk Harness

The PetSafe Easy Walk harness works well for a lot of people, but it can be difficult to fit on the dog properly. The instructions included with this harness don't work very well for most dogs. Sure, they look plausible when you read them:
Fitting direction diagram for the Premier Easy Walk harness

Just make the straps that go around the bottom and top tight enough that they remain in a straight vertical line even when the front strap is pulled forward. Then adjust the front strap so that it is tight enough to stay horizontal, 90 degrees from the other two straps, but not so tight that it pulls them forward. The connector rings and front strap should sit precisely at the level of the dog's breastbone. Easy, right?

The Mythical T-Shape
It sounds easy until you actually try to put an Easy Walk harness on a dog. Then physics comes into play and you begin to realize that dogs aren't shaped like that. I have yet to find a dog on which I could fit an Easy Walk harness as directed. No matter how incredibly dog-suffocatingly tight I make those top and bottom straps, they will not remain vertical. Nope. Not happening. Also, the straps attach to each other via a ring on either side. This allows the straps to rotate freely out of position at the slightest pressure.
Brisbane in the medium EasyWalk harness
If your harness fits like this and any of the straps are at their maximum
length, you probably need a bigger harness.
Photo by Erin Koski

The front strap on the Premier PetSafe EasyWalk harness includes a martingale loop that allows it to tighten. This feature also makes it very heavy. Unless your dog has an extremely prominent breastbone on which to hang that strap, it is going to sag. Heavy leash clips exacerbate this issue, and once again those handy side rings allow it to rotate very easily. There is no keeping the front strap horizontal.

So what can you do? If you try to keep the front strap tight enough to stay up, it pulls the top and bottom straps out of vertical and into the NO Y-shape. If you try to keep the top and bottom straps vertical, the front strap sags. There is no happy medium. Even worse, the mythical T-shape requires that the top and bottom straps sit in your dog's armpits, and fit very tightly. Chafed underarms galore.

The SENSE-ible Solution
The fitting instructions for the SENSE-ation harness are a bit different, but they work extremely well for the EasyWalk. For a better, more comfortable, less droopy fit, loosen that bottom strap and tighten up the top one a bit. The connector rings should now sit higher than the dog's breastbone.
Brisbane models a size M/L Easy Walk harness
A size bigger, this M/L can be adjusted for a better fit.
Photo by Erin Koski

With the front strap now attached a bit higher, it should sag right into its ideal position. When light pressure is applied, the Easy Walk harness may even take on the mythical T-shape. Since the front is no longer being held in place purely by tension, the bottom strap can be loosened enough to allow some freedom of movement. This also keeps it out of the dog's armpits and reduces chafing.

How to Fit an Easy Walk Harness Comfortably
1. Find the point of the dog's breastbone at the front of their chest, just below their neck.
2. Adjust the top shoulder strap so that the connector rings on either side sit an inch or two above this point.
3. Adjust the bottom belly strap so that it is snug, but loose enough to allow the dog to sit comfortably without getting jabbed in the armpits.
4. Adjust the front chest strap so it is snug enough to sit against the dog's body, but not so tight as the affect the position of the other two straps. It should droop slightly and sit just at the dog's breastbone.
5. If the front chest straps hangs lower than the breastbone or the leash clasp hits the dog's legs, tighten the top shoulder strap more. If the bottom belly strap is chafing under the front legs, loosen the front chest strap and tighten the top shoulder strap.

Keep in mind that Easy Walk harnesses tend to loosen up over time, and need to be tightened and adjusted often. Have you used this harness? How well did it work for you?

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Product Review: The Benebone Bacon Flavored Wishbone Chew

Benebones are non-edible nylon chew toys infused with flavor. This bacon-flavored bone is made from nylon and bacon. Actual bacon. No, I have no idea how they did that. Benebones come in two additional flavors, chicken and peanut butter. The larger size is suitable for dogs under 70 pounds, the smaller size is for dogs under 30 pounds.
Dog and synthetic chew toy.
Photo by Erin Koski

I'm pretty sure this bacon-flavored Benebone arrived in one of our BarkBoxes, but I can't remember which one. It's been around for a while, and everyone but Ru has ignored it. Sisci adopted it soon after she arrived though, and now it gets toted all over the house and gnawed lovingly.

This is a pretty unique chew toy. I'm not really sure how they managed to infuse the nylon with real actual bacon. It certainly doesn't smell like anything. The shape is also unusual, our Nylabone wishbones are all flat, but the Benebone has a nice curve to it.

The biggest issue I see with this bone is that it is only for dogs under 70 pounds. That excludes a lot of labs, golden retrievers, and other very common breeds.
Brisbane enjoys the bacon-flavored Benebone chew toy.
Photo by Erin Koski
Pros: Non-toxic. Somehow made with actual bacon. Holds up well to light and moderate chewing. More enjoyable than a Nylabone.

Cons: Not for most large dogs or serious power chewers.

Bottom Line: I should probably buy a little one for Ru. He likes chewing this sort of this, but the Benebone is a bit big.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Food Friday: Solid Gold Hund-N-Flocken with Lamb

Way back when I first became interested in dog food, around 15 year ago, Solid Gold was just about the best food on the market. It was hard to find, nobody in my area sold it, but I was told by multiple sources that this was the stuff to feed if you could get your hands on it. The dog food landscape has changed dramatically in the last decade and a half, and Solid Gold no longer fills me with awe at the sight of its shiny metallic packaging. It still occupies a special spot in my heart though, and is definitely a food I would use if I could.
Solid Gold Hund-N-Flocken 2015 can design.

Why can't I feed Solid Gold on a regular basis? It's because they insist on cramming poultry and/or eggs into nearly every damned recipe. Admittedly I'm a bit angsty because Brisbane is allergic to chicken, turkey, duck, and eggs. There aren't a ton of dogs with egg allergies, so obviously food companies should go ahead and include them in every single product they make, right?

Anyway...where was I? Oh yes, Hund-N-Flocken. The dry kibble version of this food was Solid Gold's original flagship product. It first hit the market in 1974, two years before the founder of the company won Best of Breed with her gorgeous Great Dane. Their SeaMeal, a vitamin supplement I've used in the past, has been around since 1982. I had no idea.

I truly appreciate this company. Apparently the original founder is still around and working. Since I first heard about them, their food has become infinitely easier to find in my local stores.

Solid Gold Hund-N-Flocken canned dog food product photo.
Solid Gold has been making grain-free dog food since 2006. Their only recall was a voluntary one in 2012. However, they do not own their own facility. Solid Gold uses a co packer, their products are mostly manufactured by Diamond Pet Foods. To me, this makes them a bit more of a marketing company and a little less trustworthy than those with dedicated facilities.

Some Solid Gold foods merit five out of five stars on the Dog Food Advisor website. This one only rates three out of five stars, probably due to its equal percentages of protein and fat. Sisci liked this food, Ru was unimpressed, and Brisbane loved it because he loves all food all the time.

If Brisbane could eat it, Solid Gold's foods would probably a part of our regular food rotation. They've done a pretty decent job of keeping up with the changing pet food market. Their devotion to eggs as the most perfect protein, worthy of inclusion in all but one or two formulas, reminds me a lot  of Fromm. Solid Gold's rank in my mental list of quality dog foods has been gradually falling for a decade now, as brands like Acana and Orijen surpass them in sheer quality. I still think they make good food, but no longer believe they make the very best things I can feed my dogs.

When did you first hear about Solid Gold dog food?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Ten Reasons to Use a Harness

The most basic method of attaching a leash to a dog is via a regular buckle collar, so why use a more complicated body harness instead? Most of the time, the answer is that a harness protects the dog's neck and back. There are a wide variety of harnesses that serve many different purposes, but they all perform this essential function. Here are some of the reasons I use a harness:
tiny biothane chihuahua harness
Ru models his custom Fraggle Rock biothane harness.
Photo by Erin Koski

1. My dog is very small.

Josie the German Shepherd in her Kurgo harness
Josie in the Kurgo Go-Tech Adventure Harness
Photo by Erin Koski
 Small-breed dogs have very sensitive throats, and the pressure from a collar can collapse the cartilage of their trachea. A collapsed trachea doesn't happen all at once, it's a degenerative condition that develops over time. Many tiny dogs can walk on a regular collar for years without a problem, but it's difficult to assess how well their cartilage is holding up. Early symptoms include coughing and gagging as their throats literally close up. I have never walked Ru on a collar because I just don't feel the need to risk it.

2. My dog is very old.

A harness can give a senior dog a helping hand. Whether they need a little help getting down the stairs or a lot of help just standing up, the right kind of body harness can provide the needed support.

3. My dog is disabled.

Harnesses are also awesome for differently able pups of all sorts, from tripods to blind dogs. Many manage to compensate in amazing ways, but a harness can allow them to do it all, keep them safe, and provide support to give their working parts a rest.

Brisbane models the Help 'Em Up mobility harness for dogs.
Brisbane rocks the Help 'Em Up Harness
Photo by Erin Koski

3. My dog is injured.

Years ago, when we first x-rayed Brisbane's sore back, a veterinarian recommended I use a harness for him on a regular basis. Whether the problem is in the tails, the middle of the back, or the neck, he told me that it was best to distribute pressure and not pull Brisbane around by one end of his spine. Some harnesses also help provide support for dogs with reduced mobility.
Ru demonstrates the Flexi Mini leash on the beach
Ru in the Midnight Pet paracord harness attached to the
Flexi Mini.
Photo by Erin Koski

4. I want to give my dog more freedom.

Though I'm not a fan of retractable leashes in most situations, I do use Flexis for certain outdoor adventures with my crew. When I use any kind of extra-long leash, I always attach it to a harness. This protects my dog's neck in the unlikely event that something causes them to bolt to the end of their leash. I can't predict earthquakes, poorly-timed fireworks, or stealthy joggers with no personal space, but I can make sure that the pressure is distributed across my dog's chest when they suddenly stop after accelerating for 15'.

Foster puppy Hellin models the Mhu Ghu LED harness
Hellin wears the Mhu Ghu LED mesh harness
Photo by Erin Koski

5. My dog doesn't know how to walk on a leash yet.

While I've found collars to be more useful for communicating with a dog via a leash, harnesses are preferable for casual outings with dogs who are still figuring out this whole "leash" thing. Whether I'm working with a new puppy or a rescue fresh from the shelter, I want to protect their neck while they learn to move with me.

Brisbane models the SENSE-ation no-pull harness alternative to the Easy Walk
I like the SENSE-ation harness a lot better than the Easy Walk.
Photo by Erin Koski

6. I don't want my dog to pull me. 

Loose leash walking is a skill that must be learned, and many dogs need a lot of exercise while they are mastering the concept. There are a wide variety of harnesses that can help discourage pulling while preventing a strong dog from overpowering a smaller handler. Some regular Roman harnesses can be used as a front-clip no-pull harness.

Brisbane models the Urban Trails mushing harness by Alpine Outfitters
The Urban Trails mushing harness by Alpine Outfitters.
Photo by Erin Koski

7. I do want my dog to pull me.

Mushing isn't just for winter anymore! There are a wide variety of dog-powered sports and activities out there. If I'm asking my dog to pull me on a skateboard, scooter, bicycle, or skis, I need to make sure he is comfortable. Harnesses designed for pulling tend to be thickly padded around the chest to help distribute pressure. Some dogs will cheerfully pull on a collar, but this can cause damage over time.

Brisbane models the Ruffwear Webmaster harness
The Ruffwear Webmaster harness allows me to carry
Brisbane like a suitcase.
Photo by Erin Koski

8. I need to pick my dog up. 

Whether I am helicoptering my chihuahua out of harm's way or helping Brisbane up a particularly steep section of trail, a harness is essential for comfortable lifting. Not every harness is designed for this, though many can be used for emergency lifts. Those used for rappelling and parachuting have straps that go around the rear legs for extra security.
Brisbane holds a perfect stay while I take off the
SENSE-ation harness and put on the
DT Works harness.
Photo by Erin Koski

9. I need my dog to pick me up.

The job description of a service dog can include guiding and steadying their handler as they navigate obstacles that most of us barely notice. A vest may be enough to identify a hearing assistance or seizure alert dog, but a harness is necessary for those that provide mobility support. Some service dogs are even taught to brace their bodies to allow their handler to pull themselves up if they fall. Mobility assistance dogs need handles.

Brisbane, Sisci, Ru, and Annie are ready for a drink of water after our hike.
Annie, on the right, is the most talented escape artist I know.

10. My dog can escape from any collar.

I know a dog that can escape from martingale, slip lead, any type of head halter, and most harnesses. So far the only thing that can securely contain her is the Ruffwear Webmaster harness, and a prong collar. The Freedom No-Pull harness is also more difficult to escape than the average harness, though foster puppy Hellin managed it a couple of times.

Do you use a harness for your dog? Why?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Product Review: PetProjekt Squeeki Tiki

The Squeeki Tiki, by PetProjekt, is one of the most annoying dog toys ever invented. These are sturdy vinyl toys with heavy duty squeakers that ensure they will continue splitting your eardrums for weeks to come. Like most toys from PetProjekt, these come in a variety of colors and two sizes so any dog can enjoy terrorizing their family.
these are basically the loudest squeaky dog toys in existence
Photo by Erin Koski

The lime green Moai Squeeki Tiki has been banished to the bottom of our toy box for years. I'm pretty sure it came from a clearance bin at PetSmart. The orange Tiki arrived in our April BarkBox and makes a slightly less offensive noise.

Part of what makes these squeakies so horrific is their appeal. Dogs love them. A lot. Brisbane loves squeaking the big green one continuously until I revoke his Squeeki Tiki privileges.

Pros: Sturdier than most flexible vinyl squeaky toys. Will hold up for an infinite amount of squeaking, nose punching, and obsessive-compulsive chomping.

Cons: Not really a chew toy. Also highly enjoyable to chew for some dogs, so it will not survive a mission of destruction. Super loud and horrible squeak from the big one. Seriously. Not kidding.

Bottom Line: I wish one of the dogs would de-squeak that big green one. The little orange one isn't nearly as bad.

What is your dog's favorite squeaky toy?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Treat Tuesday: Wagatha's Maple Bacon Dog Biscuits

This box of Wagatha's Maple Bacon Dog Biscuits arrived in our allergy-friendly BarkBox a few days ago. They smell amazing. Made from barley flour, bacon, maple syrup, and cinnamon, they are safe for Brisbane's poultry and egg allergies.

Good For: Stuffing in Kongs and other food toys. Giving the dogs something to munch as I head out the door. Handing out treats that don't make my hands all smelly.

Not Good For: High-value training treats. Ru, who was totally unimpressed.

How Much We Like Them: I almost want to taste these biscuits. I mean, I like maple bacon, and cinnamon, and they smell so good...

Monday, August 24, 2015

The August Allergy-Friendly BarkBox

Our August Allergy-Friendly BarkBox arrived on Friday right before we left town. Summer is clearly the theme this month, and I am pleased with our box. Having Sisci around definitely makes me appreciate what might otherwise be mundane toys.

Normally I'm not a fan of superfluous faces on everything, but this Simply Fido Hot Dog toy is awfully cute. There is a rope running all the way through it, so it can be used for games of tug without immediately shredding.

There is an Etta Says Deer Chew that I'm certain Brisbane will enjoy. These are a favorite around here.

Brisbane appreciates the Wagatha's Maple Bacon Dog Biscuits. Ru and Sisci need a bit more convincing.

The Treat Planet Apple Cobbler Snicky Snacks have egg in them, so I will be passing them along to someone else. Brisbane is allergic to eggs, and the other two aren't terribly reliable about eating their cookies. Whilst looking up links for this post I discovered that Treat Planet also owns Etta Says and Hare of the Dog, all brands we have received in our BarkBoxes.

The Delca Corporation Watermelon stuffy is probably the most popular toy we got this month. Brisbane gave it a few squeaks before Sisci stole it. She spent at least ten minutes laying on the couch squeaking it.

What did you get in your subscription boxes this month?

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Book Review: Dinner Pawsible

Dinner Pawsible is a cookbook for people who want to make healthy and nutritious meals for their dogs and cats. It is a collaborative work between a veterinarian and a pet food safety advocate. Both have been using these recipes to feed their own animals for years, and they want other pet owners to understand how manageable that really is.
cooking for dogs
Photo by Erin Koski

I really like the premise of this book. Most people don't eat dried 100% complete and balanced food at every meal. We provide our bodies with all the things they need by eating a wide variety of foods over time. By not limiting ourselves to a narrow diet, we can avoid nutrient deficiencies and compensate for less-than-perfect foods.

It makes sense that we could do the same for our dogs, fellow omnivores that they are. All we need to do is provide them with enough variety, and things should sort themselves out, right? A lot of homemade pet diets are limited to just a few ingredients, though. Homemade pet food tends to be deficient in one way or another, whether it's calcium, phosphorous, or vitamins it lacks.

Dinner Pawsible is intended to take all the guesswork out of feeding your dog a homemade diet by providing an entire book of recipes made from a wide variety of ingredients. There are directions on how to choose, store, and prepare each ingredient, from fish to liver to carrots. Readers are advised to use as much variety as they can when planning meals for their pets. The book promises that not only will our pets will be healthier and happier eating real food cooked just for them, but it will also save us money.
Dinner Pawsible book and dog
We saw a squirrel.
Photo by Erin Koski
Before purchasing Dinner Pawsible, I wondered if there would be any recipes in there suitable for Brisbane and his chicken/turkey/duck/egg allergies. I went as far as emailing one of the authors, and was told that there was absolutely nothing wrong with substituting pork, lamb, rabbit, ostrich, or any other Briz-safe meats I could get my hands on. Cool.

My enchantment at this new, less expensive way of feeding my beloved dogs lasted until the book arrived and I began reading the ingredient preparation instructions. The book instructs us to use organic free-range grass-fed everything, and includes ingredients like oysters. Do you have any idea how much oysters cost?! Knowing that nutritionally the differences between organic and conventional foods are basically non-existent, I decided to stick with meats I could actually afford.

I actually read the entire book cover to cover in a few days, just to see what sort of substitutions I would need to make. I knew I could pretty much swap any meat for any other meat, but what was a good substitute for eggs? Next I wandered over to the book's Facebook page, where several other people had similar questions. The general attitude of the authors was that any vegetables would do, eggs could be left out or added in all willy nilly, and that following the recipes to the letter wasn't really in the spirit of the Dinner Pawsible.

"Wait a minute," I thought to myself. "If any meat and vegetables in any amount will do, what's the point of even having recipes? I thought this stuff sort of mattered a little." Still, I was determined to cook for my dogs. When I went to actually select a recipe, I realized something I had missed on my first read-through. The recipes in Dinner Pawsible are VERY carbohydrate-heavy. They are all based on either rice, pasta, or beans. For those who wish to avoid grains, the authors recommend substituting sweet potatoes. The ratio of these to actual meats just feels wrong, though. These recipes generally have something like 2-3 cups of cooked rice/past/beans/vegetables and maybe half a cup of meat.

I've been feeding my dogs mostly grain-free foods since I discovered raw feeding over a decade ago. While I've softened my stance on grains and their place in canine diets, it's tough to shake the feeling that a decent portion of their food should be meat. Dinner Pawsible wants me to feed one part meat to six parts starches and veggies, and that feels wrong. No, I have nothing to back this up other than a gut feeling.

Between the unappealing idea of feeding my dogs rice with a little meat mixed in, and the number of substitutions required to make the recipes suitable for my allergy dog, I can say my enthusiasm for Dinner Pawsible has waned significantly. I will still spice up my dogs' dinners with raw and cooked meats, cottage cheese and yogurt, cooked vegetables, and maybe even oysters, but this wasn't the book I needed to make the jump into cooking entire meals for my dogs on a regular basis.

Do you ever cook for your dogs?

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Ferocious Fun with the PetLou Purple Dinosaur

This PetLou tyrannosaurus stuffy arrived in our June Pet Gift Box, and has become a beloved part of our dinosaur collection. Upon perusing PetLou's site, I recognize several of their products from my local pet stores. I'm pretty sure Brisbane had a stuffed octopus from PetLou when he was a baby.
Stuffed purple dinosaur dog toy
Photo by Erin Koski

This is my absolute favorite item from the two Pet Gift Boxes we received. I love dinosaurs with the fervor of a preschool child. As much as I loved our purple tyrannosaurus rex, I wasn't certain it would last. Brisbane immediately carried it off and has been known to pounce on it when the mood takes him. Sisci has also fallen in love with the purple dinosaur, and loves carrying it around.

My impression of PetLou is that they are a company that specializes in quantity of quality. I see a lot of their toys in stores, and they are both cute and cheap. This did not give me much hope for the purple dinosaur's survival. Cheap toys tend to develop splits quickly, and once the stuffing is exposed the dogs just can't help but disembowel them.

I have been pleasantly surprised at how well the purple t-rex has held up. Despite being tossed, fetched, gnawed, and left out in the yard, it remains in pristine condition. It went through the washer and dryer just fine, and doesn't seem to be collecting dirt or stains like some light-colored toys.

Pros: Durable! Will hold up to quite a lot of biting gracefully. Adorable! It's a purple t-rex. Inexpensive! Pet Gift Box said the  MSRP for this toy was $8.99, but they seem to be selling online for $6-7 mostly. Also, it squeaks/

Cons: Probably made in China. Uncertain brand/company integrity. The "About" page on the PetLou website is inexplicable in Latin. Not good Latin, either.

Bottom Line: I can probably be tempted to buy cheap stuffies from China if they're cute enough.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Food Friday: Lotus Dog Food Brings Ru Inner Peace

I picked up a can of Lotus Just Juicy Beef Shank whilst hunting for a soft food that Ru would eat willingly. Ru approved, as did the rest of the crew. This is a grain-free, limited-ingredient wet food made from high-quality beef, broth, potato starch, and tomato paste. It contains no carrageenan, no guar gum, and no xanthan gum, if you care about that sort of thing. Instead is uses agar agar as a stabilizing agent, because apparently some seaweed-derived gelling agents are still cool to use.
Lotus Just Juicy Beef Shank Dog Food - exterior of the can

I picked out this can of dog food partly because it was a single-source protein variety, and partly because of the artwork. Look how pretty! It turns out the artist who does the package art for Lotus studied at UC Santa Barbara, my own college. Lotus has their own private cannery in California, so they are somewhat local to me, which I think is cool. I hadn't seen it before, but grabbed when I was checking a local store for Zignature foods. I was disappointed to find only poultry-based foods of that brand, but pleased to find the Lotus cans.

The big selling point of Lotus foods seems to be that their kibble is baked rather than extruded. This requires a longer cooking time at a lower temperature, which may preserve some of the vitamins that would otherwise be lost. I would be very interested in this kibble if it didn't all contain poultry and/or eggs. Brisbane is allergic to chicken, turkey, duck, and eggs, and it's extremely difficult to prevent cross-contamination when I have anyone in the house eating those allergens.
Lotus Just Juicy Beef Shank Canned Dog Food - what it really looks like
When I opened up the can of Just Juicy Beef Shank, I was immediately impressed with the texture. This stuff looks good enough to eat. I think that's why Ru liked it so much, he was pretty sure he was getting people food.

All of Lotus's canned foods merit five out of five stars on the Dog Food Advisor. While they don't offer enough variety for me to say I'd feel comfortable making this my dogs' exclusive diet, I would be happy using Just Juicy Beef Shank as part of an elimination diet for a period of weeks or months. I can't use their dry foods, but their canned offerings are definitely going to part of our rotation.

Are any Lotus foods available in your area?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

This is Sisci

After taking Xena back to her original foster mom, I brought home one of the Australian Cattledog puppies I have been working with since they were wee babies. In the litter of nine puppies there were a huge range of temperaments, from super-friendly personalities to spooky shy types. Most of the pups seem like they will top out around 40-50 pounds, except one.

3 weeks
This is Sisci. She started out as The Good Puppy. She was the puppy that sat all the time. By the age of three weeks she had already figured out that sitting made people happy.

As the litter gradually figured out how legs worked, Sisci began to lead the pack in coordination. Once she was fully mobile she became The Evil Puppy. Sisci was the first of her siblings to start chasing down other puppies to bite their legs.
5 weeks

By four weeks we were well-aware that this one puppy was turbo-charged and different from the others. She was definitely the Self-Appointed Fun Police, charging over to boss around any puppies who dared play too rambunctiously.

Sisci was also very focused on toys as soon as she discovered them. What could be better than carrying a ball or stuffed animal around?

The mother of these puppies is has a short tail. ACDs are sometimes docked by misguided and poorly-educated breeders, but some dogs are just born with naturally short tails. Sisci has a Natural Bob Tail, a tiny little nub. The rest of the pups either had full labby tails or short 4" tails.
12 weeks

Five of the nine puppies have now found homes of their own. Three of the four remaining puppies get along very well and love to play together. Sisci does not love the chaos of puppies at play. She had to be separated from the group regularly so the rest of the puppies could play.

18 weeks
I brought Sisci home as a new foster puppy to help work on her skills with cats. As a high-energy, high-drive, bitey 8-month-old puppy she could potentially become dangerous to small furry animals. So far, she's doing very well. Sisci has figured out which cat to avoid, and which cats she can try to entice into play. She plays very well with both Brisbane and Ru, and respects their space more than any foster dog I've had in the last two years.

Sisci is also going to be amazing at dog sports. Right now we're taking things easy on her growing body, but she is already crazy for frisbees and loves jumping into the pool.
8 months

She's going to be amazing at agility, right now we're working on the very beginnings of 2x2 weave poles. I already know that she likes lure coursing, but she won't be able to do the AKC Coursing Ability Test until she's at least 12 months old.

She's very physically sensitive and a whole lot like Brisbane. She has had an incredibly good foundation of experiences, especially as a tiny baby puppy. It will be a lot of fun to see what she can do!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Product Review: Good Life Pet Water Bottle

The Good Life Pet Water Bottle is a unique portable watering solution for dogs. No bowl required, dogs can drink straight from this bottle thanks to the stainless steel roller ball at the end. Yup, it's basically a rabbit bottle, but for dogs. I love it. The entire top of the Pet Water Bottle also twists off for easy cleaning. BPA-free stainless steel is non-toxic and super durable, both the 16oz and the 24oz sizes fit in most car cupholders, backpack pockets, and other places normal people like to stash water bottles.
Photo by Erin Koski

My problem with every portable dog waterer is that they universally require the water to be poured into a bowl of some sort. I have to guess how thirsty my dogs are, and if I pour enough for them to drink their fill I'm left with the slobbery dregs in the bowl when they're done. Then I'm left with the option of A)pouring it out, and B)dumping it back in the bottle. Sometimes there's not a terribly convenient place to dump it, and other times it feels like a terrible waste.

I admit that I bought this water bottle almost entirely for its novelty. It's like a rabbit bottle, but for dogs. Big roller ball and everything. It even sounds the same when they drink out of it. Reminds me of a dog that came to daycare with an actual rabbit bottle and refused to drink out of anything else.

Novelty aside, the Pet Water Bottle seems to actually solve my problem rather handily by eliminating the need to pour water into a bowl. Brisbane figured out how to drink from the bottle right away, and really seems to like it. Ru wasn't interested, but he's pretty tough to get liquid into in general so it's a tossup between "can't figure out how it works" and "determined to stay dehydrated today".

Pros: No bowl required, dogs can drink straight from the bottle. Less wasteful than squirting water out of a bottle, and easier for the dog too. Leak-proof cap at the top keeps everything sealed perfectly even when I keep forgetting about it and flinging it out of my car. Lower cap opens up the entire bottle for easy cleaning. Very easy to clean and also sanitary, unlike plastic bottles that can harbor bacteria in tiny scratches. Convenient clip for securing it to things. Fits in all the places designed to hold water bottles, like the holsters on my backpack and training bag.

Cons: It leaks. When you tip it over so the dog can drink, it dribbles quite a bit. The website specifically recommends using it outdoors exclusively. It's also quite heavy. I have the larger size and would think twice before taking it hiking. Also, the opaque sides and lack of bowl plus the dribbling makes it kind of difficult to figure out how much water is getting into my dog. Does he stop drinking because his thirst has been quenched, or because he got tired of licking this thing?

Bottom Line: So far the biggest adventure for the Good Life Pet Water Bottle involved being filled with water and then forgotten in my car for a couple of weeks. It ended up rolling around in the rear cargo area on a winding road, getting flung across the parking lot at the beach when I pulled out my seat cover, and being dropped several times on pavement. When I finally remembered to bring it back into the house, I found it was none the worse for the wear. It didn't even smell funny.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Treat Tuesday: Fruitables Skinny Minis and Merrick Power Bites

I noticed Fruitables Skinny Minis and Merrick Power Bites in stores for the first time about a day apart. I'm pretty sure these were both revealed at SuperZoo 2015, and his stores just after that. SuperZoo is one of the biggest pet trade shows in the world, it happens at the end of July every year and we can expect a flurry of new products to hit the market immediately afterward.

These are both chewy, semi-moist, small, stinky training treats and basically the same thing. The big difference is that the Merrick Power Bites are grain-free. Those are made out of peas and potatoes, while the Fruitables Skinny Minis are made out of oatmeal and brown rice. Power Bites have beef at the top of the ingredient list, Skinny Minis have bison quite a bit further down below some grain ingredients. Both are sourced and made in the USA.

Good For: Mid-value training treats for balance work and low-distraction environments. Happy food-loving cattledogs.

Not Good For: Picky chihuahuas who think they want to do balance work but then decide it's not worth it when they find out what they'll be getting paid.

How Much We Like Them: Both of those bags are basically empty. I have another of the Skinny Minis because I got a two-for-one deal on them.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Product Review: Fashion Pet Outdoor Dog Warm and Toasty Pajamas

These Warm and Toasty Pajamas from Fashion Pet Outdoor Dog look like little long johns. They are made from thermal fabric and are comfortably stretchy. This burgundy color doesn't appear to be available currently, but there are  other colors that come in various sizes.
Photo by Erin Koski

Not many four-fitted outfits fit Ru, his back is extra-long. This means that the vast majority of cute little pajamas are either too short, or too big around. These seem to fit pretty well, partly because they are pretty stretchy.

These pajamas are yet another thrift store find. A little research led me to the parent company, Ethical Products. They have apparently been importing pet products from China and distributing them around the world since the 1950's.
Photo by Erin Koski

Brands owned by Ethical Products include Beastie Bars,
Skinneeez stuffingless/joyless plush toys for those who wish to rob their dogs of the simple pleasure of disemboweling something, and the extensive Spot line of toys. I'm pretty sure their Mega Twister Rope Toy is what's hanging on the end of my springpole currently. They import and sell a lot of stuff, and most of it is decent quality. I think they're sort of the default supplier for one of my local pet stores.

I'm sort of ambivalent about them though, they don't have the heart and soul of the Kong Company, for example. They're a name I recognize, but don't immediately associate with quality. That said, these are some really cute pajamas.

Pros: Fit my long dog reasonably well. Warm, stretchy, and washable.

Cons: Made in China.

Bottom Line: If it ever stops being so unbelievably hot, Ru might get to wear these.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Foster Swap

I did my best to find foster puppy Xena a home, but she wasn't doing very well here. She made a lot of progress mentally, adjusting well to city life and getting brave enough to walk with me near traffic. Physically though, she was slowly going downhill. She had always dragged her back toes a bit, but it became more and more noticeable. She seemed to be losing stability and muscle tone in her back end. To top it off, she was also constantly itchy and began to lose hair.
Photo by Erin Koski

I had a few potential adopters come to meet Xena, one family even took her home for a couple of days. They returned her though, and each adopter said she was too shy around new people, too slow to warm up, needed too much work. On top of this, her somewhat odd gait and toe dragging had some potential adopters concerned that she may have an underlying health problem. I didn't have the money to get her checked out on my own, and the rescue didn't want to pay for a vet's opinion.

I finally took Xena back to the friend who had been fostering her since she was a little baby puppy. Within a week or two her hair started to grow back and her movement got more steady and less worrisome. I'm not sure what exactly is wrong with Xena, so I can't assure a potential adopter that she won't have a shortened lifespan or expensive medical issues.

In her last week with me, Xena began running into very solid and easily visible obstacles, often without slowing down. I let her original foster know that I wasn't entirely comfortable trying to place her with so many unknowns, and that friend asked if I would take one of her remaining Australian Cattledog puppies instead.
Photo by Erin Koski

So now I have an 8-month-old red heeler puppy who is significantly happier at my house where there aren't a bunch of young dogs perpetually crashing around. Xena is significantly happier smashing around over there with her buddies, and so far this seems to be a much better fit for everyone.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Product Review: Dex & Penny Squeaky Stick

The Dex and Penny Squeaky Stick arrived in our January BarkBox, and I have yet to find a dog that likes it. This a wonderfully durable toy with a great squeak, it bounces a bit and takes some effort to compress enough to make a sound.
Photo by Erin Koski
I thought this toy was pretty cool when it arrived. It has a nice loud squeak and it bounces erratically when I hurl it to the ground. The texture is nice and grippy. Brisbane just...doesn't like it. He'll take it to be polite if I hand it to him, but he doesn't want to play with it.

Pros: Durable, loud, and squeaky.

Cons: I'm not sure what the drawbacks to this toy are, but the dogs know.

Bottom Line: I need to pull this one out again for the current foster pup. If she doesn't like it, I should probably hand it off to someone with a less discriminating dog.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Food Friday: Weruva Marbella Paella Dog Food

Weruva's Marbella Paella dog food is one of the many canned foods I have tried to convince Ru to eat after his dental cleaning and tooth extraction. Ru was not impressed. I was though, this company and their foods are rather unique, and will definitely be making into our regular rotation. I may even start feeding their foods to my cats.

The full name of this food is Marbella Paella with Mackerel and Pumpkin in Aspic. That's a pretty fancy name. For those less culinarily educated, aspic is the savory gelatin you get from boiling bones to make broth. It's meat Jello.

This stuff is mostly made out of mackerel, and it's really obvious. I can see big chunks of fish in there. One of the unique things about Weruva is their take on ingredients.

I learned from Dog Food Logic that "chicken" in the pet food industry is defined as "flesh and skin, with or without bones". So the meat that goes into my dogs' food could be something that looks just like what I'd find on my plate in a restaurant, or it could be a pile of skin and bones. Pet food companies are not allowed to explain what "chicken" means to them on their product packaging, but they can on their websites. That's where I learned that Weruva uses people food for their pet food. Their dog food is made out of boneless, skinless cuts of meat intended for human consumption. Amazing.

The only thing that originally made me hesitate for a moment was the fact that Weruva's foods are made in Thailand. I'm hesitant to use products imported from Asia due to the rampant recalls, but most of those have been tied to products from China where quality control is severely lacking. I hold products of Thailand in higher esteem. What really made me feel at ease was the fact that Weruva's pet foods are manufactured in a human food plant that makes human food the rest of the time. They have to pass human food standards to get their foods made and imported, and they still test the heck out of everything.

It's no surprise that Weruva's Human Style canned foods rate five out of five stars on Dog Food Advisor. I think the main reason they weren't particularly on my radar before is that ten of their 15 foods are chicken-based. Happily, they don't insist on cramming eggs into the other five flavors. Three of those five are fish-based though, and that's a lot of fish. I don't think I'd choose to feed my dogs Weruva exclusively, but it's definitely a welcome addition to our food rotation. For everyone but Ru, who won't touch it.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Book Review: When Pigs Fly

Jane Killion's book When Pigs Fly is about training dogs that don't really want to be trained. A lot of dog sports and activities are geared towards biddable dogs that actively want to do whatever their handlers desire of them. This book is about training my least favorite types of dogs.
Photo by Erin Koski

Scenthounds, sighthounds, and terriers have been bred to pursue their own agendas, independent of humans. This contrasts sharply with herding dogs, which have been bred to focus on humans and actively attempt to figure out what they want. I love herding dogs. A lot. Other breeds just don't compare. Brisbane can very nearly read my mind, but I've found that even herding dogs I've never worked with before can astound me with their perceptiveness.

I have mixed feelings about When Pigs Fly because the author spends a fair amount of time putting down my beloved biddable dogs. Jane Killion breeds and trains bull terriers, which are among the most ridiculous dogs out there. Over the years she has successfully overcome a variety of very different problems in order to train her dogs to not only behave themselves, but also succeed at a variety of sports. Hence the name of the book, and also the glorious picture on the front of a bull terrier soaring over an agility jump.

The basis of this book is clicker training, and controlling resources. With enough control, you can teach your dog that you are the gateway to their favorite things. With clicker training, you can teach them that figuring out what you want is the puzzle they most solve to get their favorite things. The trick is to make it their idea.

I think the major weakness of Pigs Fly is that it relies heavily on the author's experiences with her own dogs, while only touching lightly on dogs that are equally difficult but in a different way. Thus this book is phenomenal for training dogs that are highly motivated by something, but not for lazy, unmotivated dogs. When discussing motivators, the author briefly mentions the difficulty in working with dogs whose chief pleasures revolve around napping in various places, but does not offer any sort of solution for these dogs. Ru's absolute most favoritest thing in the world is sleeping in his heated bed on the couch, I have not yet found a way to use this as a training motivator.

The other issue I had with applying When Pigs Fly to my own situation is that the author recommends constant management in all situations. The least applicable is the advice to teach loose leash walking at home in the yard and not trying to walk the dog down the street until they have mastered this skill, so they don't have the opportunity to practice pulling. This is fabulous for people who have fenced acreage in which to exercise their dog, and utterly useless for people like me who have a 20' wide yard. There's absolutely no way I can provide enough exercise in my tiny yard for however long it takes us to master loose leash walking. I have this issue with a lot of dog training books though, by now I'm almost positive that an enormous, grassy yard is a prerequisite for writing a dog training book.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Product Review: Dogo EasyGo Camo Harness

The Dogo EasyGo Camo Harness is a mesh step-in harness with a matching leash. It features a back design that uses a cinch instead of buckles. The mesh portion is breathable and the hardware is very light. This harness is available in two colors and five sizes to fit dogs with chests 9-27" around.
Photo by Erin Koski

This little harness was donated to a friend's rescue program, but it's much to small for any of the dogs she works with. I will be passing it along to one of my local small dog rescues, but thought we would review it first. I believe it is a size small, which would put it in the middle of the five sizes available.

This harness and leash set is clearly designed for itty bitty dogs. All of the metal parts are very light and don't flop around or bonk Ru in the head. We didn't include the matching leash in the photos, but it has a little swivel right below the handle. The design is similar to our Aibao harness, but the Dogo harness is larger and fits Ru better. I like the way the mesh contours to his chest and doesn't rub on his armpits.

It doesn't look quite as good from the side, though. Ru is just very long, so most vest-style harnesses end up looking like little belly shirts on him. He couldn't wear the Dogo harness over clothes easily, either.

Photo by Erin Koski

Pros: Light and comfortable for tiny dogs. Cool and breathable. Wide chest absorbs force and protects sensitive throat area. Machine washable.

Cons: Step-in design positions the leash attachment over the dog's shoulders rather than behind them. May run across upper arm area and possibly restrict movement.

Bottom Line: This is a very nice little harness. It seems to have been well-used, and is still very functional.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Treat Tuesday: Alaska's Puppy Love Wild Salmon Jerky Treats

I've been trying to figure out where this bag of Wild Alaskan Salmon Jerky Treats came from, since I don't remember buying it and its not in any of my subscription box pictures.  I'm pretty we got it as an oops bonus after BarkBox sent us forbidden proteins in our allergy-friendly BarkBox for a second month in a row. These are from the Seldovia Wild Seafood Company's brand of dog treats, Puppy Love.

Good For: Mid-value training treats for balance and perch work. Picky chihuahuas who don't like most of the treats Brisbane gets for balance and perch work.

Not Good For: High-value training treats in distracting environments. Picky heeler puppies. Making my hands not smell like fish.

How Much We Like Them: See how that bag is almost empty? I had to save these just so I could take this picture.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Brisbane's Guide to Politely Borrowing a Tennis Court For Your Dog

I've been dogsitting this week for a couple of beloved cattledogs. It's a lot of fun having Ranger and Annie here, but meeting everyone's need for exercise requires some creativity. I've taken them to a tennis court at a local park a couple of times because it's the perfect place for the dogs to get some off-leash running and ball-chasing time in a safely-fenced area where we are safe from the world and the world is safe from us.

I've seen people suggest using tennis courts for doggy playtime in the past, but I live in an area plagued by grumpy judgemental people and I need to be very careful to avoid bothering someone enough to result in some sort of ban on dogs in the courts. To this end, I have compiled a guide to using nice public tennis courts in a way that is least likely to offend someone or result in disaster. I try to keep in mind that, although it is a public park, the tennis court is intended for people who want to play tennis, and it is rude for me to monopolize it.

The Golden Rule of tennis court playtime: "It's a tennis court, not a dog park."
This will take an unsuspecting person a moment to figure out.

Do pick times and places when the courts are unlikely to be used for tennis. Dusk is a favorite for me, I've also gone at midnight.
Do be aware of the area and your impact on it. Observe normal quiet hours if there are houses nearby and you have a dog that confuses barking with playing.
Do keep your visit short, especially if you have the above-mentioned barky dog.
Do secure the court before unleashing your dogs. Clip leashes through gate locks, tie the gates shut, you can even bring your own locks. The aim is to keep your dogs contained and slow down anyone trying to get in so you have time to round everybody up.
Do walk the perimeter of the court and check for hazards like holes in the fence, homeless people sleeping under benches, etc. before unleashing your dog.
Do plan on leaving at any moment if someone arrives with a tennis racket. Keep an eye out if it's daylight and don't wait for them to ask for the court.
Do plan on leaving at any moment if your dog starts barking at people or dogs outside the court, or making noise during quiet hours.
Do avoid making noise yourself. Call your dogs softly and avoid drawing attention to yourself.
Do walk your dogs ahead of time and give them a chance to relieve themselves before entering the court.
Do bring poo bags, and maybe some wipes or a spray bottle of cleaner if your dogs are prone to making disgusting messes.

Don't go during peak tennis hours, whatever those are for your particular park.
Don't bring your barky dog for a huge barkfest after dusk or early in the morning.
Don't monopolize the court for hours, you may be unaware of the people waiting for you to leave.
Don't rely on the existing gate latches, an unsuspecting person could accidentally let your dog out or invade your private fetch party.
Don't annoy the neighbors or other park users by monopolizing the entire court for long, making them listen to you and your dog yelling, leaving messes for someone else to clean up, etc.
Don't leave poo in the tennis court. Seriously.
Don't draw attention to yourself, make it obvious you are using the tennis court for a personal dog park, or do anything that might make someone wish dogs weren't allowed in there.

My dogs are mostly quiet players, but Ru doesn't get to go along for late-night fetch time because he likes to bark at the cattledogs. The rest of them seem to understand Stealth Mode and will play silently and come when I make soft kissy noises so I don't have to call them out loud. With our Flash & Glow Jr ball from the October BarkBox, it makes for a perfect game of fetch. We still run into clueless dog owners though, last time there was someone walking their little dogs off-leash through the park. "It's ok, they're friendly," he assured me as the ran barking along the outside of the fence. "Mine aren't," I answered. "That's why we're in the tennis court at midnight."