Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween Costume Parade: Ru the Hot Dog and Brisbane's Lobster Hat

Happy Halloween! This my favorite holiday, and my house is decorated for it year-round. I'm pretty sure the neighborhood kids think I'm a witch, and I am ok with this. Brisbane,Sisci, and Ru aren't thrilled with the idea of showing off costumes in person, but they are happy to pose for pictures! I haven't made them anything new in a while, so here is what I found at the bottom of the costume bin...
chihuahua on a bun
Photo by Erin Koski

Ru on a Bun

This tiny hot dog costume was a thrift store find that was just waiting for us. I always knew Ru needed to be served on a bun. Just look at him, he's probably delicious. The hot dog costume just works. 

As a dog that wears clothes pretty much full time, Ru agrees that the hot dog costume works. It's sort of designed for the purpose of embarrassing your long-bodied dog, but Ru is totally chill with it. He has been a stegosaurus and a fairy princess before, dressing up is just part of his day.

Brisbane's lobster hat
Photo by Erin Koski

This Lobster Hat

I believe I bought this ridiculous lobster hat at Target when Brisbane was a baby. He hated it. Briz hates most clothes. He will, however, pose in nearly anything for treats. 

This is not the best design I've ever seen, but dog hats in general are problematic because the angle between their head and neck changes so much more than ours. The lobster hood has a couple of really obvious flaws. First, those ear slits beside the eyes. What dog is big enough to wear this thing and has ears that tiny? Not Brisbane. They're also way too far forward, especially for how much back-of-head room there is.

The back-of-head space is the worst part, the hood is nearly too small for Brisbane, but has enough space to fit a tennis ball between his head and the back of the hood. I want to see the dog that has that much skull back there.
Brisbane in a lobster hat
Photo by Erin Koski
Combined with the weight of the plush pinchers, this flaw means the hood is going to slip forward over the dog's eyes almost immediately. Not so great if you want the dog to actually walk and function while wearing it.

But totally awesome if you just want to laugh for a while and then take it off.

What is your dog going to be for Halloween?
Brisbane wears the lobster hat
Photo by Erin Koski

Friday, October 30, 2015

Food Friday: PureVita Salmon and Peas Entree

PureVita is a food we just started carrying at work, so I got to spend an evening geeking out about dog food with a company representative. The food is made by Tuffy's Pet Foods, part of KLN Family Brands. This is pretty cool because the entire thing is family-owned and run, and they have been making pet food since 1964. While they promised employees each a free bag of dog food, this has yet to materialize and so, as always, this is an unbiased review of a food that I paid retail price for and have not been compensated for in any way.
dog food and dinosaurs

The Company

Tuffy Nelson was working for his father's feed company, Pine Lakes Feed, in 1964 when he got the idea to make dog food. In the 1970's Tuffy's son began making snack foods and candy. They make the Australian licorice I like way too much. I love that all of the KLN Family Brand products are made in the USA, employing tons of people in their factories.

Tuffy's Pet Foods actually consists of several different brands. PureVita seems to be the highest quality, they also make NutriSource, Natural Planet, and Natural Planet Organics foods. The only recall I can find associated with their facilities was one earlier this year for Nutrisca, a food they co pack. They recently opened a brand new production facility with a new vacuum-tube system designed to simplify cleaning and sanitation. Even though they haven't had issues with recalls, they have gone ahead and invested in better equipment to make their food even safer. I think that's pretty cool.

The Food

PureVita foods are all made with single-source proteins, including fats. They don't feel the need to
dog food and dinosaurs
throw chicken fat or eggs in every product. At this point they offer foods made with salmon, turkey, duck, bison, and venison. Brisbane is allergic to chicken, turkey, duck, and eggs, but he can eat three of those foods. Our salmon food is made from salmon and peas and sweet potatoes. There's also a bit of alfalfa, sunflower oil, and a tiny bit of blueberries. That's basically it for potential allergens, so this could be a good food for a dog with allergies.

The ingredients for this food are all tested for quality before they make it to the production line. The company does a lot of testing and research too, they're not content to just make food that is "good enough". The food contains both probiotics and prebiotics for better digestion. It is supposed to be so digestible that it will reduce gas and stomach problems even in super-farty bulldogs. I have not personally experienced this effect, but my dogs aren't normally gassy and they digest pretty much everything well. I think my favorite thing about PureVita so far is the velcro closure at the top of the bag that is super easy to close. The bigger bags have a giant ziploc closure. So airtight. So awesome.

The Taste Test

The product representative I spoke to claimed that even picky dogs would love this food. Ru has yet to refuse it, but he is wildly inconsistent. Sisci eats it without complaint, though she doesn't think it is awesome enough for training treats. Brisbane, as always, loves it because Brisbane loves all food forever.

I like PureVita a lot. It's a company with a lot of heart, which I can't say for Fromm, the other well-known family pet food company. I like the science behind their foods, and how they keep improving their products with more digestible and easily-absorbed vitamins and minerals. I feel like they sort of have Brisbane and his allergies in mind, whereas with Fromm he's not even on their radar. I also like that the company avoid hypocrisy. They sell dog food with grain in it. They sell grain-free food. When selling their grain-free food, they sell it on its own merits rather than telling me how terrible grains are for my dog. Their food is rated four out of five stars on the Dog Food Advisor website, losing one star due to its high level of plant protein versus meat protein. The Salmon and Peas Entree is 444 kcal/cup, which is a bit lower than many of our foods and means super-efficient Brisbane can eat more of it. He likes that.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Halloween Costume Parade: Purple Dragon Felt Costume

Continuing our Halloween fashion show, here is Sisci wearing a costume I made for my cocker spaniel when I was in college. The material is sparkly purple felt with batting in the middle to help it keep its shape.
felt handmade dog dragon outfit
Photo by Erin Koski

I recall originally having fishing line strung between the wings to keep them up in flying position. Oakley the cocker spaniel was the sort of dog who could chill in a room full of people and thoroughly enjoyed parties. She liked wearing clothes and didn't even seem to notice this costume so I assume it's comfortable.

The double layer of felt plus the batting inside makes it pretty cushy, and it stands up by itself. This was custom made to fit Oakley but has fit pretty much every 20-30 lb dog I've tried it on. Sisci's chest is just a tiny bit too big for the velcro to stay attached between her front legs.
sparkly purple dragon costume
Photo by Erin Koski

I don't sew very often because I find myself doing more un-sewing and mistake-fixing than anything else. Projects that would take 30 minutes without errors often take 3 hours. Most of my friends who sew feel the same way. We sew because we want stuff we can't acquire any other way, not because seamstressing is inherently enjoyable.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Product Review: Good2Go Waterproof Dog Socks

Good2Go Waterproof Dog Socks have a non-skid coating to keep paws warm and dry. They come in a variety of sizes and colors and are surface-washable only.
Good2Go dog socks
Photo by Erin Koski

Good2Go is a Petco house brand, though occasionally their stuff pops up at discount stores. These are super cute and remind me of our PMP Waterproof Outdoor Socks. The rubber part feels nice and grippy, and the knit stuff is stretchy enough to get on and off easily.

Like most dog socks, these don't stay on. They actually fit Brisbane very well, any smaller and they'd be difficult to put on so they're quite snug. It's just that stretchy knit elastic isn't really enough to keep them from sliding off eventually.

I keep these around because they may be useful the next time Brisbane injures a foot. If I needed them to stay on I'd want to use bandaging tape around the tops to tape them to his legs. One of my herding friends did that and managed to keep them on her border collie, but the socks wore through in less than a day.

Pros: Grippy for slippery hard floor. Easy to put on. Warm and waterproof. Can be used to discourage foot licking and protect injuries.
dog wearing socks
Photo by Erin Koski

Cons: Stay on about as well as any other dog socks in the history of the universe. Not for high-speed
outdoor adventures or abrasive surfaces.

Bottom Line: If you need some dog socks, these are about as good as any other dog socks out there.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Treat Tuesday: Exclusively Dog Pumpkin Smoochers

These Pumpkin Smoochers soft treats by Exclusively Dog smell just like pumpkin pie. Maybe better than pumpkin pie, because I'm not crazy about pumpkin pie but just opening this bag made me want some really, really bad. These came in our October Pet Gift Box.
soft pumpkin training treats

Good For: Smelling amazing. Not making my hands stink. Mid-value training treats for food-crazy dogs like Brisbane. Tossing on the ground during training exercises since they are easy for the dogs to spot. Dogs with allergies.

Not Good For: Super picky chihuahuas who spit out bacon, among other things. Treat connoisseur dogs that have to think about things before eating them. High-value training treats for distracting environments.

How Much We Like Them: I need to find somewhere to get a slice of pumpkin pie. It will probably be disappointing though, because there's just no way it will taste as good as the Smoochers smell.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Product Review: Top Paw Step-In Vest Harness

The Top Paw Step-In Vest Harness is designed to distribute pressure while protecting the throat. It is lined with a breathable mesh to help keep it comfortable in warm weather. This harness comes in a wide variety of colors and patterns to fit dogs with chests 16-32" around.
Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog
Photo by Erin Koski

I hate step-in harnesses. Whoever invented these things never had to make a dog or toddler step into anything on purpose. They never sit right. Either the front is too low across the upper arms with the buckle in front of the shoulders, or the straps are digging in behind the elbows. It's not even a sizing issue, this picture is of 22" Sisci wearing a size medium for dogs 23-28" around. The next size up might sit far enough back to clear her elbows, but it would also be 6" too big?

Brisbane and Ru both have similar fitting issues with most step-in harnesses, and I always have to wonder who the hell these things are made for. Whilst searching for information on this Top Paw harness, I found the dog it fits. Her name is Edie the pug, and like most pugs she is very wide and barrel-chested and basically the opposite of my dogs. The harness fits her perfectly, sitting high enough in front without pulling into her armpits, with the buckle at or behind her shoulders. Amazing!

Pros: Apparently fits stout, cobby bodies very well. Breathable and easy to adjust. Does not have huge dangly leash attachments hanging off the buckle. Machine washable.

Cons: Does not fit narrow sighthoundish chests very well, being too big in some places and too small or short in others. Wide neck straps may interfere with shoulder movement, not an issue for most dogs but something to watch for canine athletes.

Bottom Line: If it fits, it fits. I will definitely have to keep this harness in mind for dense dogs.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Halloween Costume Parade: Target Cheerleader Dog Costume

Halloween is my favorite holiday! Since Brisbane and Sisci aren't huge social butterflies, I don't normally dress them up and take them out to costume contests. I do love costumes though, so I thought I'd share a few of them here.
Target cheerleader dog tee
Photo by Erin Koski

This Cheerleader Dog Costume was originally available at Target and probably came in three or four sizes. Ours is from a thrift store. It's a medium and the shirt part fits Sisci perfectly. It's comfortably stretchy and opens in the front so it's easy to put on. Sisci doesn't mind wearing it.

The pom poms are way too big for her skinny legs. To keep them on, I tied a couple of the strands together. She didn't mind that either. Sisci is a lot less melodramatic than Brisbane.

I'm not sure what the Australian Cattle Dog cheer is, but it probably mentions biting in there somewhere.
ASTCD cheer
Photo by Erin Koski

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Product Review: Outward Hound Lil' Rippers Rhino

Outward Hound's Lil' Rippers are durable stuffed toys with a removable shell. Dogs can get their stuffy-shredding urges out by ripping off the squeaker-filled shell, which can also be tossed like a flying disc. Ours is a rhinoceros, there is also a warthog and a turtle, which is an animal that actually has a shell. I have no idea why there is a rhino and a warthog in this collection.
Brisbane kills a stuffy
Photo by Erin Koski

I like the idea of toys that can be disassembled without being destroyed. We had a few in Brisbane's younger days, mostly made by Kyjen. As Kyjen has changed their name to Outward Hound, this is basically by the same company.

We started selling these toys at work a while back, and the ones in our first shipment were much bigger than this. Those may have been under the Kyjen Plush Puppies brand. When the first Lil' Ripper of this size showed up, I couldn't resist buying it.

rippable rhino
Photo by Erin Koski

I brought home the Ripper rhino when I was watching two of Sisci's brothers for a week. They thoroughly enjoyed the toy, but somebody chewed the tip of the horn off almost immediately.

Both halves of the toy get a lot of love around here. The shell is basically a squeaker mat, and that's hard to resist. Sisci makes sure that the two parts are never joined for long. After three months and four puppies, there is now a hole in one ear, and some fraying along the edge of the shell.
Sisci and the stuffed rhino.
Photo by Erin Koski

Pros: Pretty durable as far as stuffies go, can stand up to multiple puppies at once as long as nobody deliberately intends to destroy it. Ours even spent a few days outside in the dirt and still cleaned up nicely.

Cons: Unlike real turtles, it doesn't take much work to separate the shell from the rest of it. (Fact: A turtle removed from its shell would look a bit like you removed from your ribcage.)

Bottom Line: Having no horns or ears, the turtle is probably the sturdiest of the three Lil' Rippers. Also, rhinos and warthogs don't have shells.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Food Friday: Canine Caviar 95% Venison Grain-Free Canned Dog Food

This 95% Venison Grain-Free canned dog food went well with our Canine Caviar Wilderness kibble. This is pretty much just a can of meat, with some venison tripe and venison liver along with a bit of guar gum. It's not a complete diet, but the company says adding in two of their food supplements will make a complete diet.
dog food and dinosaurs

This is an interesting addition to our rotational diet. (Though at this point we're not so much rotating as meandering...) I never really feed just canned food, so the fact that it's not a complete diet isn't an issue. I've been using it as a food topper, to try to convince Ru to eat some Wysong Epigen Venison. I appreciate that it's not a super-stinky canned food. It merits five out of five stars on the Dog Food Advisor website.

Weird Meats

Canine Caviar's canned dog food comes in a very interesting variety of meats. In addition to normal meats like duck, turkey, buffalo, and venison, they also offer beaver. Canned beaver. I am not making this up. I'm pretty sure this is the only beaver-based dog food I've ever encountered. I appreciate that there's nothing in there but beaver and guar gum, as this would be an excellent place to start an elimination diet for a dog with really crazy allergies. Fortunately, Brisbane is only allergic to chicken, turkey, duck, and eggs.
dog food and dinosaurs

Taste Test

Brisbane loved the Canine Caviar V95% Venison, as Brisbane adores all things food even when they make him itch. Ru liked it enough to eat it even when it was covering kibble he doesn't like. Sisci loved it, but it seemed to upset her tummy a bit. It may be just a little too rich.

Bottom Line

I need to go back to that store and see if they have the beaver food.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Why We Won't Be Getting Any More BarkBoxes

I have truly enjoyed our monthly surprises, but is likely to be our last BarkBox for a while. I follow BarkBox's Facebook page, and last week they made not one, but two different posts in extremely poor taste. The first was of a baby pinching and slapping a barely-tolerant pug, with caption about it being adorable. By the time I saw it there were approximately 250 negative comments about how this was dangerous for the baby and unfair for the dog, and one positive comment.

There was also a post about breeds that first-time dog owners may not realize are challenging, with the caption "These aren't the puppies you wanna pop your dog owner cherry with (so to speak)." Apparently BarkBox let a teenage boy take over their social media for a day or something because that's just not professional language. This post also had many comments about how the BarkBox Facebook page had suddenly ceased to be family-friendly, and lamenting that fans would not be able to share this post with their friends due to the vulgar caption.

Myself and at least a dozen other people made visitor posts to the BarkBox page alerting them to the inappropriate nature of these posts. By the next morning, the baby-abusing-dog video had been removed from the page, along with all the comments every single visitor post mentioning it, with zero apology or explanation. I made a second visitor post stating my disbelief that they would handle the issue by erasing everything and pretending it didn't happen. The other post remained on their page, obscene caption and all, until a while later when I received a private message from BarkBox. I was told that they had personally responded to every comment about the baby post, even though this was demonstrably false as mine had been deleted with no explanation. Others also commented that theirs had been simply deleted with no explanation.

The gross caption and accompanying post did not come down until I sent them a screenshot. Again, there was no "Hey, sorry, our bad" or any acknowledgement publicly. The messages from BarkBox were much more to the tune of "sorry you were offended" than "whoops, we made a mistake". The implication is that myself and the other unhappy BarkBox fans were simply being overly sensitive about witnessing a dangerous and abusive situation for a dog and reading a crass and overtly sexual caption about a story.

This is not the kind of integrity I've come to expect from BarkBox as a company. What I expected was the video to come down with some sort of public acknowledgment. How about "Whoops, that video was actually a bad idea, here's an informative post/blog/video about healthy and safe dog/baby interactions" to help mitigate some of the damage caused by passing off the original video as cute rather than dangerous. Even posting something about healthy dog/kid interaction while making everything else disappear would have been preferable.

I understand that we're all human here (except for the dogs, of course). Letting one of your minions post idiotic stuff to social media can happen. What really matters is how you handle it. Acknowledging the inappropriateness of the material either publicly or privately, and taking steps to correct the mistake makes your company look responsible and professional. Deleting everything and pretending it never happened saves face with the general public, but loses a lot of integrity points with customers who witnessed the mistake. Also, there are better and worse ways to phrase an apology. "I'm sorry I posted that thing, it was a mistake" is taking responsibility. "I'm sorry you were offended by that thing I posted" says I don't think that thing I posted was offensive and the issue is entirely on the side of the person taking offense. Taking that stance after trying to pretend it didn't happen is just too much. I expected more from BarkBox, and though it may seem like a small thing, it's enough to make me cancel my subscription despite getting a really stellar box this month.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Product Review: Planet Dog Diamond Plate Ball

The Planet Dog Diamond Plate Ball is made out of their proprietary Orbee-Tuff material. It measures 3" in diameter and has an opening for inserting treats. This is basically the toughest toy they make. It is made in the USA, and is recyclable when your dog is finally done with it.

This shiny silver ball arrived in our space-themed June Allergy-Friendly BarkBox. We already have a Diamond Plate Double Tuff toy, and this ball matches it nicely.

My favorite thing about Planet Dog toys is that they are made with peppermint oil so they always smell nice. So nice. The ball has a hole in it for hiding treats, but Sisci thinks it's pretty cool empty, too. She's a big fan of balls, and a lot less picky than Brisbane.

Pros: Super durable. Recyclable. Works as a ball and a simple food puzzle. Smells delightful. Made in the USA.

Cons: Will not stand up to a power chewer, especially not a large dog on a mission of destruction.

Bottom Line: This ball definitely gets some love. It's fun to squish, and works well for dogs who are tough on their toys, but not super-destructive chewers.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Treat Tuesday: Trader Joe's Pumpkin Flavored Dog Treats

These Pumpkin Flavored Dog Treats from Trader Joe's livened up our Halloween photo shoot quite a bit. I was expecting them to be full of eggs, but happily they are safe for Brisbane's egg and poultry allergies. I already use a bunch of canned pumpkin in their diets, but treats are something different. This year it feels like the "Pumpkin in EVERYTHING!!!!" thing has gotten even more extreme.

pumpkin dog biscuits
Photo by Erin Koski
Good For: Giving the dogs when I want them to spend a few minutes crunching on something. These are really dense, hard cookies and it takes the dogs an entire mailman visit to eat them. Possibly balancing on dog noses, we're working on that trick.

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

How Much We Like Them: "Did you hear the mailman? Now everybody gets a pumpkin cookie!"

crunchy dog cookie
Photo by Erin Koski

pumpkin flavored dog treats
Photo by Erin Koski

Monday, October 19, 2015

Product Review: All Weather Muttluks

All Weather Muttluks are sturdy, flexible dog boots. They have thick leather soles and reflective straps. These are machine washable and come in their own mesh washing bag. Great for protecting sensitive feetsies from both hot pavement and ice. The come in three colors and eight sizes to fit paws 1.5-5.5" from back to front.
dog shoes for hot or cold
Photo by Erin Koski

For a long time, these were the gold standard in dog shoes. They are significantly more durable than pretty much anything else found in a big box store. The company is based in Canada and was begun as a home business making really functional dog boots. This company is all about quality and integrity.

The most unique thing about these boots is the long knitted cuff at the top. If Brisbane had tons of leg floof, the cuffs would keep the hair clean. It wouldn't actually keep him dry though, as the All-Weather Muttluks aren't waterproof. Apparently the cuffs are also prone to collecting snow. I initially thought they were kind of cool, but they actually make the boots super hard to put on because the cuffs are super narrow.

We tried the Muttluks out at a sheep herding lesson, because that is where Brisbane has the most foot issues. They are much more flexible than his Ruffwear Grip Trex, and I was hoping they would bother him less. I was wrong, he hated them and moped a lot, and when I finally got him to run he sent one flying. These are exactly his size according to the Muttluks website measuring instructions, but they seem to be prone to fitting issues. The company says boots that fall off are too big, but I would have a very difficult time getting Brisbane's feet into smaller cuffs.

Pros: Very durable, many users say they wear like iron. Breathable and suitable for hot weather. Long cuffs act as gaiters and keep sand and crud out of the boots. Reflective for safety. Machine washable and made in Canada.

Cons: Unlike the fleece-lined Muttluks, the All-Weather version is not waterproof. They also take forever to dry. The tall cuffs can collect snow and burrs, and may make the boots difficult to put on. Boots may not stay on reliably, and fitting can be difficult. Not as grippy as the Ruffwear boots.

Bottom Line: When they work, they work really well and last for years. I'm keeping these around because they may be useful eventually.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Product Review: Kyjen Slo-Bowl Fun Feeder

Kyjen's Slo-Bowls are designed to make dogs eat as slowly as possible. These Fun Feeders each have a raised pattern that basically turns them into a maze. Dogs can't really inhale their kibble using one of these bowls, instead they have to carefully work individual pieces out with their tongues, pushing them through the maze until they get each piece to a spot where they can pick it up. The bowls come in multiple colors and patterns, and two different sizes for large and small dogs.
Kyjen Outward Hound Fun Feeder bowl
Photo by Erin Koski

Eating too fast can be a huge problems for a lot of dogs. At worst, they eat so fast they just barf their food back up right away. At worst, they can develop bloat. This is a condition where a gas-filled stomach twists, cutting off the blood supply to all sorts of body systems. Bloat is a medical emergency, and even recognizing it and getting help immediately may not be enough to save the animal. It is most common in large dogs, particularly deep-chested ones like Great Danes. Preventing the dog's stomach from getting too full of food, air, or water seems to help a lot.

Slowing down a fast eater can also help prevent bloat, dogs that inhale their food also inhale a lot of air at the same time. Spending time and effort to eat a meal also helps a dog expend some mental energy. That is the purpose of our many puzzle toys, and it's also the purpose of the Slo-Bowl.

As a side note, Outward Hound was formerly a sub-brand of Kyjen. The company has apparently decided to rebrand everything as Outward Hound only. This is unfortunate, as I had long associated Kyjen with high-quality puzzle toys and games, and Outward Hound with low-quality pet carriers, travel bowls, and other products that often seemed like they were designed by people who would never use them. A lot of their stuff reminds me of Ruffwear gear, only cheaper and without the quality or guarantee. Outward Hound's current "About Us" page has a lot to say about them being a new company designed to improve the lives of dogs and their people. In reality the brand has been around since the 1990's, and their products have dominated the travel section of big box pet stores for a good chunk of that time. Outward Houd/Kyjen was acquired by the Riverside Company in 2013. They also acquired the Bionic company in January of this year, and Nina Ottoson's puzzle toys last month.

So the Kyjen Slo-Bowl has been rebranded as the Outward Hound Fun Feeder. This seemed to coincide with them changing all the brightly-colored bowls to be the same weird greenish-gray hue for a while. Happily they've changed them back. Unhappily, the Hills bowl shape doesn't seem to have been included in the Outward Hound line. Ours is the bright pink flower shape.

Pros: Brightly-colored and highly durable. Has a no-slip rubber bottom and is top-rack dishwasher safe. Really seriously slows down rushed eaters, even with tiny amounts of food. When I had a total of five dogs here for a week, the Slo-Bowl turned my fastest eater into the slowest. Works with kibble, canned, raw, freeze-dried, and basically any kind of food.

Cons: Is exactly as obnoxious to clean as it looks. If the dog doesn't clean every last molecule of wet food out of the bowl, I have to use three different-shaped scrubbing tools to get it clean. Really-determined food-inhalers at work have been known to flip the bowl over, or even throw it against a wall the reduce the challenge.

Bottom Line: My dogs mostly only eat things like pumpkin and salmon oil out of bowls, but when I'm feeding kibble I sometimes put Brisbane's in this instead of one of our many puzzle toys. He doesn't seem to mind it, but he doesn't get all excited about it, either. They call it the Fun Feeder, but it's still a dog-thwarting device and the dogs know it.

Does your dog attempt to inhale their food?

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The October Pet Gift Box

Our October Pet Gift Box was full of Halloween fun! I had canceled our subscription, but they offered me a box for only $13, so I went ahead and ordered one for October just to see what we got. I love Halloween, so I was hoping for a bunch of themed goodies. I was not disappointed. Well, sort of. Working at a pet store, and having attended numerous retail conventions, I know cheap toys when I see them. This time around we didn't get anything that looked like it came from a dollar store, but it's definitely on the value/economy end of the scale.

I saw some treats by Exclusively Dog on the Clean Run website recently, so I was very pleased to see these pumpkin-flavored Smoochers in our box. These are soft treats made with yogurt. They are safe for Brisbane's egg and poultry allergies. The card that came with our box says the suggested retail price is $10.99, but Chewy.com says the regular price is $4.99.

That little ghost popping out of the tower is a latex Zanies toy. It's not one of the nice foam-filled latex toys, it's the super-flimsy kind that makes really horrendous noises. The card that came with our box says this Peek-A-Boo toy has a suggested retail price of $8.99, but Pet Edge says it's $6.99.

The big green Frankenstein head is by Vo-Toys, a company that has been around since World War II. They're known for competitive price points and basically selling a lot of pet stuff really cheap. I actually remember their cheap small animal stuff from the terrible pet stores of my childhood...so not much has changed. Everything is made in China, of course.

There are a couple of Halloween-themed pumpkin Bark Bars by American Health Kennels. These are made in the USA and are incredibly cute. I might even believe the claimed price of $4.99.

My favorite thing in here is probably the Halloween bandana. It may be small, and made from stiff, cheap cloth, but it's really cute. I'm hoping it softens a bit with use.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Food Friday: Canine Caviar Wilderness Dry Food Entree

Canine Caviar Wilderness Dry Food Entree is a limited ingredient kibble that is very high in calories. Like, super high. Most foods like Orijen and Acana are well under 500 calories per cup, Canine Caviar's foods approach 600 calories per cup. That's the sole reason this food was familiar to me when I found it in a pet store. I saw it and went "Hey, that's the crazy-high-calorie one!" And then I bought a bag.
dog food and dinosaurs

This is a very limited ingredient food. It's made out of venison, split peas, lamb fat, coconut, kelp, and alfalfa. Everything else in there is vitamins. The lamb fat makes it not ideal for dogs with known or suspected lamb issues, but it's fine for Brisbane. He's allergic to chicken, turkey, duck, and eggs.

Canine Caviar's big selling point is that it is the only alkaline dog food. The founder of the company claims to have discovered, whilst working for a pharmaceutical company on research, an interaction between the food their Great Dane was eating and the venom of various insects that bit him. They made their own dog food, the dog stopped having massive reactions to bug bites and went on to live 17 years and become the second oldest Great Dane ever recorded. None of this is substantiated by any sort of references so I guess we're just supposed to take his word on this.

One of the unique things about this food company is that they actually announce their digestibility results. Many foods claim high digestibility, but Canine Caviar specifically claims 91-93% digestibility. I've not found any published study results yet, but at least this is a testable claim.

dog food and dinosaurs
Canine Caviar's website has a whole lot of information on the evils of acidity, and how it causes every health problem including aging. They offer a free kit to test your dog's pH which may obtained by contacting them. In order to contact them, one must first register with their website. I fully expect a bunch of marketing information arriving in my inbox shortly.

I really like this dog food. I'm not convinced about the whole "an alkaline body is the key to health!", having heard as much from the alternative people medicine crowd, but I'm not holding that against it. There's a rather high fat-to-protein ratio which makes it a good choice for Ru and Sisci, but also makes it rate only four stars on the Dog Food Advisor website. It is not, however, a good choice for Brisbane because he needs a very limited calorie diet to keep his weight under control.  Sisci and Ru both love it, which is nice because Ru is super picky.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Product Review: Leather Laced Dog Boots

These old-fashioned leather laced dog boots are the only shoes Brisbane is willing to wear while herding sheep. They come in two sizes and are available from various hunting supply pages. Brisbane's are a size small and were purchased from Gun Dogs Online. I've seen them described as flat leather dog boots, Australian style dog boots, and aussie dog boots.
Aussie-style flat leather dog shoes
Photo by Erin Koski

These things are kind of weird. They arrive totally flat, and have to be folded over and laces up. When I put them on Brisbane, I must carefully pull each section of each lace tight before tying them. Keeping them on for herding also involves running a strip of waterproof bandaging tape around the tops. Yes, I have to tape the shoes to his feet. But they stay on.

The Aussie boots are clearly made for large hunting breeds and not zippy little heelers. Brisbane's shoes are size small, and are nearly too big. Unlike pretty much all the dog boots I've ever seen before, these are open on the sides. They let in sand and rocks and everything, all they do is keep a small bit of leather between Brisbane's feet and the ground.

There are two slits in the front of each boot to allow the two middle claws to poke through. Presumably this is to reduce wear and tear on the boots while allowing for superior traction. The holes are a little bit too far apart for Brisbane's nails, and even when I poke them through they don't stay. Maybe if he had bigger feet? At any rate, it doesn't seem to be an essential part of wearing them. I'm guessing the slits allow a single size of boot to fit a larger range of feet.

aussie lace-up dog shoes
It's worth noting that the vast majority of stock photos for this style of dog boot are laced wrong. Ive included a picture of the sheet that came with Brisbane's boots. Most of the ones I see in stock photos have the edges of the tongue flipped around so the laces are going through the opposite side.

Pros: Somehow less offensive than any other type of boot. Does not trap sand or moisture or anything else really.  Minimal loss of traction.

Cons: Takes forever to put on. Stays tied approximately as well as lace-up shoes on a kindergartener. Does not stay on my dog without being taped.

Bottom Line: If that's the only thing Brisbane will wear to herd sheep, that's what he will wear. I should get some suede and copy the pattern over and see if I can make some of these in fun colors.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The October Allergy-Friendly BarkBox

Our October Allergy-Friendly BarkBox with no chicken, turkey, beef, wheat, corn, or soy arrived much earlier than expected yesterday. This one was happily Halloween-themed, at least one of the treats was. The rest was just regular stuff, though I've seen pictures of dogs with BarkBox owl and witch hat stuffies on social media.

October allergy-friendly BarkBox
Our box contained a Cozy Krinkle Elephant toy from Hyper Pet. Crinkly toys used to be a flop around here, but Sisci thinks it is awesome because Sisci loves All The Toys.

We got a bag of Salmon Little Chewzzies from Emerald Pet. These are poultry-free, egg-free, and should be fun for training time.

The only Halloween-themed thing in the box (besides the paper lining) was the tub of Pumpkin Biscuits from Healthy Dogma. Again, no poultry, no eggs, totally safe for Brisbane's allergies. 

The Fetch&Glow ball by Spunky Pup is way bigger than the kinda-too-small one we got in last year's October box. It's a lot softer too. This one doesn't light up, but it does glow in the dark. Sisci, of course, is a fan.

The last thing in our box was a Mint FlavorIt durable chew bone by Pet Qwerks. This thing is kind of like a Nylabone with little holes to smoosh things like peanut butter into. It's also labeled as being for dogs up to 30 lbs, so way too small for 40-lb Brisbane and likely most dogs receiving this box marked for 20-50 pound dogs.

What did you get in your BarkBox this month? 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Treat Tuesday: Zukes Mini Naturals

Zukes Mini Naturals are small semi- moist training treats made from rice, barley, glycerin, and tapioca. They come in a bunch of flavors, including allergy-friendly pork, rabbit, and salmon varieties. These are favorite training treat for many people because they are just the right size and don't need to be broken up for most dogs. They are also more exciting than kibble for a lot of dogs, but I've yet to find a dog that likes them more than hot dogs or freeze-dried liver. I've also found that they go from semi-moist to rock hard pretty quickly.
dog treats

Good For: Convenient training treats. Dogs with allergies. Treats that won't spoil if forgotten in a pocket. Mid-value training treats.

Not Good For: High-value training treats. Picky dogs. Training itty bitty dogs without filling them up.

How Much We Like Them: I used to use these a lot when Brisbane was a baby, but I found better stuff over time. They're just not irresistibly stinky like most of the stuff I use now.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Product Review: Petco Premium Pink Seatbelt Harness

The Petco Premium Seatbelt Harness is a safety harness designed to reduce driver distraction, and is not intended to protect your dog in an actual collision. This appears to be a previous iteration of this product, as the one currently available looks more like the Kurgo True-Fit harness. Ours is pink and gray, with reflective striping on the back and metal quick-release buckles. This one comes in three sizes to fit dogs with chests up to 34" around.
Little Ru
Photo by Erin Koski

While this is definitely a sturdy and heavy harness, the package doesn't say anything at all about crash protection or testing. That means the Petco Premium Seatbelt Harness only keeps your dog from moving around the car, and won't help in an accident. I think it's important to explicitly state this because there is a very widespread misconception that extra-sturdy car harnesses will help prevent injuries in an accident. In fact, these untested products may actually hurt the dog when put to the test.

This particular harness is kind of weirdly-sized. It claims it will fit dogs up to 24" around the chest, but is a couple inches too short to go around 22" Sisci. (Maybe she grew when I wasn't looking?) It does fit Ru pretty good, but it's also super heavy and stiff on such a little dog. Even though they both fall into the advertised size range of "up to 24 inches", I think this harness is better suited for dogs 14-20" around and weighing 10-20 pounds.

Petco pink seatbelt harness

I'm sure the original design for the Petco Premium Seatbelt Harness was much larger. This small one looks like they took the big one and just made everything a little smaller without altering any of the proportions. The result is that the neck straps, while technically adjustable, actually have a range of well under an inch. The size range for the neck is about 10-11", why even have it adjust?

I've actually encourntered this harness in the wild, we have a couple of dogs at work who wear this exact size. It works better on dogs well in the middle of the stated range.

Pros: Sturdy, reflective, easy to put on. Inexpensive. Probably won't maim the dog wearing it if the car stops abruptly.

Cons: Doesn't fit well on dogs at either end of the size range. Neck adjustment is so limited it's comical. Rugged design and metal hardware can lead users to believe this product would provide some protection in an accident despite it not being explicitly marketed that way.

Bottom Line: For some reason this harness makes Ru look crazy long. He's pretty long, but I specifically use gear that minimizes it. This thing maximizes it. Soooo looong.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Paw Spa: Isle of Dogs Coature Collection

Isle of Dogs is a company that makes grooming products and dog treats. They're known for making really high-end shampoos and conditioners, and their Coature line is the best of the best. The company recommends bathing dogs weekly with these products, and that is just fine with me. I like clean dogs.
doggy bathtime

Coat Check

The Isle of Dogs website has a product selection feature they call the Coat Check. This tool asks about the dog's age, lifestyle, coat length, and any skin problems (along with some questionable personal information including your name, address, and phone number). The tool then gives you a set product recommendations specific to your dog. Theoretically it should advise a shampoo, conditioner, and coat spray, but for Sisci it just suggested conditioner, spray, and a food supplement. I guess she doesn't need shampoo?

Our Isle of Dogs bath suite was ordered for Brisbane right before he began having massive skin issues, so these are the ones recommended specifically for him. The Coature line includes eight different shampoos, most for specific coat colors or hair types. Ours is the No. 10 Evening Primrose Oil shampoo, which has a subtle but pleasant fragrance and is supposed to help manage skin issues.

The Coature product line only has three conditioners to choose from. I guess the conditioning needs of various coats aren't that different. They seem to go in order of conditioning power, with the strongest being the No. 52 Nutrient Masque and the lightest being the No. 50 Light Management conditioner. Brisbane's Coat Check results included the Light Management stuff, but I went with the No. 51 Heavy Management conditioner to help keep his glorious long tail tangle-free. 

The last item in our Coature collection is a spray bottle of No. 62 Conditioning Mist. Like the rest of Isle of Dog's products, it's full of evening primrose oil. This is a hydrating spray that's supposed to sooth skin and make hair shiny and beautiful. It certainly makes Sisci's hair downright sparkly, but I think I'd have to use a really crazy amount of it to actually get it down to her skin.
Sisci yawns

So What's It Like?

Isle of Dog products smell nice but aren't heavily fragranced. The shampoo lathers up nicely, but isn't terribly easy to spread around. I like to dilute it a little bit for convenience. The shampoo and conditioner rinse out easily and the conditioning spray bottle is very high-quality and doesn't feel like it's going to break anytime soon.

It's worth noting that the Coature Collection is pretty expensive compared to other shampoos, and the bottles are pretty small. They do sell larger ones, and those are crazy expensive. I'm not someone who spends a ton on bath and beauty products for myself, they may not give you sticker shock if you're a bath product connoisseur. There are two more affordable product lines, NaturaLuxury and Everyday Elements. There is also a Salon Elements line for professional groomers. For show groomers and very silly people, there is a Vanity Series of styling products for smoothing curls, adding volume, holding hairstyles in place, etc. I am not making this up.

Final Verdict

Isle of Dogs Coature products are little too expensive for me to be using on a weekly basis. I do love having matching shampoo and conditioner, and I love the way conditioner makes their coats feel. I think we will save these for times when I'm planning for them to stay clean a little bit longer, rather than right before a big hike or a trip to the beach.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Product Review: The Snuggly Dog Easy Wear Microfiber Bath Towel

The Easy Wear Microfiber Bath Towel by The Snuggly Dog is basically a dog bathrobe that holds an infinite amount of water. These have an elastic drawstring neck and elastic band and button that attaches around the tail to keep it on. Comes in two colors and four sizes to fit dogs up to 32" from neck to tail.
Photo by Erin Koski
Microfiber towels have long been a favorite of groomers for their ability to absorb ludicrous amounts of water. This thing takes it a step further and allows you to strap the towel to your dog. After that, you just sort of let them ricochet all over the house like a deranged pinball while rolling on everything in sight.

Brisbane isn't terribly hairy, but getting him dry after a bath has always been a gigantic pain unless I'm at work and can use the giant blow dryer. When he needed to be washed every few days after the embarrassing shavedown, his Snuggly Dog towel was amazing. After a bath he would wear it for a while, and then I'd hang it up to dry and it would be ready to go within a couple of hours.

Pros: Very adjustable and really stays on dogs with tails. Keeps the dog warm and absorbs most of the water even if the wet dog is wallowing with gusto on the furniture. Sucks the water right out of their hair, and dries way faster than regular towels.

Cons: Doesn't stay on well at all if they dog has a tiny little stump tail. Should not be left on unattended dogs as the neck is pretty big and they can easily step through it and get a leg caught. Only for medium and large dogs, Brisbane's is the smallest size and would fit a dog a couple of inches longer. They don't make them small enough for Sisci or Ru.

Bottom Line: Is now an essential part of our bathing toolbox. Ru already has a bathrobe, now I need to find something like this for Sisci.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Food Friday: Real Meat Beef Dog Food

Real Meat Dog Food is an air-dried food made from beef, bones, and organs. It is produced in New Zealand from free-range grass-fed cows, and has all the nutritional awesomeness of raw meat, without the need for refrigeration or raw food handling precautions.
dog food and dinosaurs

I found another air-dried dog food! I would be madly in love with this food if I hadn't found Ziwi Peak first. I was aware of Real Meat's jerky treats, and this is basically a giant bag of those. Only instead of just treats, it's actual dog food so I don't have to feel bad if all of Brisbane's calories come from training treats.

The Company

Real Meat's most widely available product is probably their 95% meat jerky treats. These are great for training, and available in several different proteins for dogs with allergies. They have lamb, and venison jerky treats, as well as the more common chicken and beef. They also make some really cute dog food seasonings made from several different meats. I've never seen these in a store before, but they all have chicken in them so I wouldn't be buying them anyway. 

Brisbane is allergic to chicken, turkey, duck, and eggs, so I appreciate that most of Real Meat's products are made with a single protein source. They don't feel the need to cram chicken or eggs into every recipe. I like that this company is family-owned, and their website says they put their investment into making really good food rather than advertising and marketing. It's a pretty incredible food, and a bit less expensive than Ziwi Peak.

The Food

Real Meat originally made three varieties of their food: beef, lamb, and chicken. Each is made from just that protein source, with a little parsley, rosemary, pumpkin, and vitamins. They have recently added a turkey food, and a turkey and venison food; both of these also contain ground beef bone. I really appreciate that their packaging and website aren't plastered with statements about nature, dogs being wolves, or their diet in the hypothetical wild. The food stands on its own, it doesn't need a bunch of hype. What little hype there is can be found in small print.

This is a pretty amazing food. Naturally Brisbane loves it, as Brisbane loves all things edible. Sisci also enjoys it. Ru...likes it, but it consistently makes him reverse sneeze. It's weird. Usually spicy food that does that to him. Dog Food Advisor gives all the Real Meat recipes five out of five stars.  

The Price

Real Meat Beef dog food is really, seriously dense. At 724 calories per cup, it's the most calorically dense food I've encountered after Ziwi Peak. This is great for 6-lb Ru, who needs to fit a ton of calories into his tiny body. Not so great for 40-lb Brisbane, who needs the same amount of calories as Ru and is the most efficient dog on the planet. A 2-lb bag of Real Meat beef cost around $24 and provides 4250 calories, so $0.56 per 100 calories. If I was to feed Brisbane only this food, it would cost me well under a dollar per day. Were I to use the company's recommendations, it would cost closer to $5 a day.

It's cheaper than Ziwi Peak, but Real Meat air-dried dog food just doesn't work as well for training treats. The food is made in much bigger chunks, so I have to break them up into much smaller pieces before I can use them. The dogs also just aren't quite as nuts for the Real Meat. I guess it's not stinky enough.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Bad Idea: Can I Use a Coupler With Prong Collars?

This is easily the most cringe-worthy gear combination I've seen so far, though fortunately I don't see it often. Using a coupler to walk two dogs in prong collars could be no problem at all, or it could be so terrible that it causes lifelong behavior problems.

So what's the big deal?

A prong collar is a training tool designed to communicate a clear signal to the dog via the leash. When the collar is pulled tight, the prongs pinch the dog's neck, causing discomfort or pain depending on the dog in question. A lot of dogs are bred to be insensitive to pain in order to do their jobs, so prong collars tend to have less of a dramatic impact on gun dogs and bully breeds than they do on herding breeds. 
bad idea
They are staying in this picture, I wouldn't let them move in this ridiculous setup.
Photo by Erin Koski

Though prongs are meant for giving corrections via sharp jerks, the majority of people seem to use them as a device to discourage pulling. It's true, most insensitive dogs will pull hard enough to pinch their own necks a bit. These dogs do tend to respond to collar corrections as well, so the feeling of just casually pulling on leash wearing a prong must be significantly less than a hard collar pop.

For placid adult labs who don't tend to make sudden moves but do pull when not wearing a prong collar, connecting them together with a coupler is probably not the end of the world.

However, the whole picture changes when one of the dogs in question makes a sudden move. If one dog on a prong collar lunges or bolts suddenly, they will give themself a hard collar pop when they hit the end of the leash. If they are attached to another dog via a coupler, they will both feel it. This essentially means both dogs get punished if one moves too far from the other. If one of those dogs is excitable or reactive, they could both get a severe correction when that dog lunges.

It gets worse...

Constantly getting pinched for your buddy's bad behavior would make anyone feel less enthusiastic about him. But what if he does it whenever he sees something specific? Take a dog that gets overly excited or stressed at the sight of other dogs, coupled to a dog that doesn't care about other dogs. If both are wearing prongs, it would only take a few incidents of neck pinching before the second dog also thinks strange dogs are bad news.

A prong collar on a fairly resilient dog is not a huge concern for me, and I'd rather see that than a choke chain. Throw a second dog and a coupler in there though, and you have two dogs getting random punishments that they may learn to associate with each other, or just about anything in their environment. You wouldn't randomly punish your dog if he were on his own leash, so it's wise to leave the coupler and home and not randomly punish him for the movement of another dog. 

Couplers are for trained dogs on dog-friendly collars or harnesses. It's a bit more work walking two dogs on two leashes, but it's far kinder if you are using prong collars. You can leave one dog at home, enlist a helper, or just walk with one leash in each hand if you must take them both out.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Product Review: Kong Binkie

The Kong Binkie is a Puppy Kong shaped like a pacifier. Or binkie. Or paci. Or soother. Or sucky. Or dummy. Or bobo. Or boppy. Or nuk. Or bippy. Or chupi. Want to have a really weird conversation with any group of people? Hold up a pacifier and ask them what it's called. The Kong Binkie is made from Kong's softest rubber, and is intended for needle-sharp puppy teeth and not permanent adult teeth. It comes in two sizes for small puppies under 20 pounds and medium puppies under 35 pounds.
Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog Puppy
Photo by Erin Koski

The Kong Binkie is an almost entirely unnecessary iteration of the Puppy Kong. Made from especially soft rubber, it has an added disc and handle at the top to make it look like a pacifier. So cute!

The Original Binkie

This is a great improvement over the original design, which placed the handle at the bottom and eliminated the stuffable hole that is almost the entire purpose of Kongs. Seriously, what good is a solid hunk of rubber? Most dogs I know have little to no interest in a food-free Kong. Obviously Kong realized this, and the design was changed with little fanfare back when Puppy Kongs were still being made with white swirly rubber.

flawed original Kong Binkie design
Sure, it's shaped more like a pacifier,
but at what cost?

Wait, do you even have a puppy?

At 10 months old, Sisci has all her permanent teeth so technically we should not be using puppy Kongs and do so at our own risk. However, none of my dogs are destructive chewers and they enjoy the softer rubber. I am, however, well aware that if one of them suddenly decides to shred the things I will be in no position to complain to Kong. Fortunately none of mine have problems with eating things that aren't food.

Plus the Kong Binkie is really, really cute. There's no reason not to add it to our extensive Kong collection.

Pros: Soft and appealing for sinking tiny, sharp little puppy teeth into. The handle part is especially fun to gnaw. Stuffable. Made in the USA.

Australian stumpy tail cattle dog puppy
Cons: The adorableness of the toy and general lack of informed consumers means a lot of people will let their puppy play with this until their permanent teeth allow them to demolish it. Hopefully their puppy doesn't eat enough pieces to cause issues.

Bottom Line: Puppies are cute little babies, so it's fun to get them cute little baby toys. The Kong Binkie also helps puppies learn to self soothe, settle down, and have a good gnaw on something safe.

What was your dog's favorite toy as a puppy?