Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Product Review: Nylabone Flavor Frenzy Dura Chew Birthday Bone

This completely innocent-looking bone is part of Nylabone's Flavor Frenzy product line. Made from their hard, firm Dura Chew material, it can really stand up to a lot of play. This cake-scented toy is crowned with a cupcake on the tip. Comes in two sizes.
dog toy not sex toy
Photo by Erin Koski

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a blotchy purple chew toy shaped like a traditional dog bone at one end, and a cupcake on the other end. Nylabone is just trying out some new things. It's ok to experiment.

The Flavor Frenzy line contains a variety of new shapes, colors, and flavors to stimulate your dog's interest. Most are either food-shaped or bone-shaped, but the Birthday Bone combines both!

just a regulardog toy
Photo by Erin Koski
I have no idea whether or not this bone actually tastes like birthday cake. It doesn't really smell like it, and Sisci showed it the same interest she does every chew toy.

Pros: Fun and festive! Super cute, and definitely doesn't look like anything other than a cake bone. Tough and durable.

Cons: The hard material can form sharp ridges when chewed. Looks more awkward than the Starmark Pickle Pocket when laying on the floor.

Bottom Line: There are several really fantastic people in Nylabone's product design and approval process. Good work, folks.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Treat Tuesday: Kong Proactive Care Rawhide

This Kong Proactive Care Knotted Bone appears to be a slightly expensive regular rawhide bone. This is yet another licensed Kong-brand product that is not actually made by the Kong Company. The actual company behind it is Jakks Pacific, purveyors of kinda cheap dog and kid stuff. The packaging says it contains a patent protected bio-available form of Vitamin C. The actual ingredients are rawhide, Lactoferrine, Lisozyme, and L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate. That last one is Vitamin C. I had to look up the others.

Jakks Pacific dental rawhideLactoferrin is a protein found in various mammalian secretions, milk seems to have the most. The protein has antimicrobial properties, and it has been clinically proven to improve oral health when used topically. This is definitely a good thing to use on a rawhide chew, but they've spelled it 'Lactoferrine' with an 'e' on the end which is throwing me off a bit. I've only found this spelling on ingredients lists, and I currently believe it to be a misspelling of Lactoferrin and not a sneaky way of making us all think it's got that in there.

"Lisozyme" is hopefully another funky misspelling, because Lysozyme is an enzyme present in saliva and various other things including egg whites. Its antibacterial properties were discovered by Alexander Fleming, the same guy that discovered penicillin. Lysozyme has shown antibacterial properties, so it is often included in human mouthwashes and products for dry mouths. This is also something that make sense to put on a rawhide chew.

I'm still not totally sure why they chose to advertise this bone as having Vitamin C, because I can't find compelling evidence that it does anything for healthy dogs on quality diets. Looks like it's just the generic "boosts the immune system!" claim.

One their website, Jakks Pacific claims that Kong rawhides are made in the USA. However, the package for this one says "Made in Mexico from U.S. beef hides." As the USA is the primary supplier of beef hide for the entire planet, even rawhides from China are usually made from USA beef hide. Not impressed. Not at all. Sisci isn't terribly impressed either, she usually gets to work on rawhides chews right away, and all she's done with this one is carry it around a bit.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Product Review: Mod Anti Shock Leash

I grabbed this Mod Anti Shock Leash at a local discount store because it was so darned interesting. That big ink zigzag is supposed to stretch out when tension is applied, storing that energy instead of transferring it down the leash. I've seen this leash in several different accent colors. I'm calling it 'the waffle leash'.
anti shock stretch leash
Photo by Erin Koski

This seemed like such an interesting concept, I just had to see if it would work! I've used anti shock leashes that use elastic to store energy. I've seen leashes for giant breeds that use big springs. The thing is, both springs and elastic are very good at storing and releasing energy. They're very...springy.

The first thing I did with the waffle leash was try to stretch out the zigzag. It was very stiff. Some hefty springs are very stiff, they take a lot of strength to stretch out and then they snap back with a lot of force. The plastic zigzag spring on this leash took some force to flatten out, but then it just sort of slowly went back into shape. Most of energy used to flatten it was dissipated rather than stored.

Failing the basic physics test, I decided the leash needed an actual road test. Annie was quite happy to tow me down the trail with it, and it performed exactly as expected. The waffle leash did not absorb any shock or do much of anything at all other than look weird.

Pros: It's a perfectly sturdy 4' leash. Nobody else will have the same leash.

Cons: Large plastic shock absorber doesn't absorb shock. It is also a bit bulky.

Bottom Line: It's a regular leash that looks kinda weird.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Dog Geek

I've decided to change the name of Brisbane's Bark Blog to something that rolls off the tongue a little easier. After polling my friends, family, and fellow dog nerds, I finally settled on The Dog Geek. I think it fits pretty well with my rabid desire for information, preoccupation with dog gear, and absurd amount of dog breed minutiae. I just...wanna know things. Dog harness I've never seen before? Need to look it up! Breed I've yet to hear of? Gotta read all about it! New dog sport getting off the ground? Tell me everything!
Photo by Erin Koski

I'm also changing hosting, and adding a new URL, so we can now be found at www.TheDogGeek.com or just plain TheDogGeek.com. BrisbanesBarkBlog.com will now redirect to The Dog Geek provided I've managed to do everything correctly.

In case you were worried, Brisbane himself is still alive and well and wonderful. While it would be lovely to keep the blog named after him, I think we will reach a wider audience with a URL I don't have to spell for everyone.

Past links and everything else should remain the same, please let me know if something doesn't seem to be working right!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Chemotherapy Beads

Brisbane just arrived home after a second surgery for his maxillary osteosarcoma, and he is the happiest dog! The tumor had been growing since shortly after his first operation. It had again gotten large enough to detract from his quality of life. We had a very scary incident on Memorial Day when he began bleeding profusely from his nose, mouth, and eye. His energy level had also gone down quite a bit over the last couple of weeks, and I was starting to fear that he would be ready to go soon.
implanted chemotherapy beads
Four day post-op and feeling good!

My amazing veterinarian had been researching new treatments for bone cancer, and found information on implantable biodegradable chemotherapy beads. These little beads emit chemotherapy drugs for several weeks after being implanted, and then they dissolve. They are used to treat cancer right at the site, instead of putting the drugs through the dog's whole system with oral or intra-venous chemotherapy. This allows a lot more of the cancer-fighting substance into the exact location of the cancer itself.

By the time we got the beads a week ago, Brisbane had been having frequent nosebleeds. He had also been bleeding from his mouth. His spirits were down, and I was genuinely concerned that he might not survive another surgery. I had to make the choice to either let him go, or put him through a risky surgery to give him a chance.

Well, I had nearly paid off the vet bill from Brisbane's first surgery in March, so obviously it was time to owe the vet some more. Brisbane stayed stable through the whole operation, and two days later was off and running. He came home four days after the surgery, and he's acting like a puppy again. Seriously, every time I turn around he's got something in his mouth. He's not allowed to chew anything yet, and somehow he's managed to find every food toy and chew that Sisci has lost in the last month.

This dog is the most amazing dog. He will be back to herding sheep and earning trick dog titles in a few weeks. If his tumor starts to grow again, we will do a small surgery to implant more chemo beads into it. The beads are hopefully more potent and longer-lasting than traditional chemotherapy treatments, and they're quite a bit cheaper too!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Product Review: Martha Stewart Pets Puffer Coat

This Martha Stewart Pets Puffer Coat definitely came from Petsmart, before I found it at a thrift store. This is a 100% polyester coat stuffed with fluff and made to look like a winter jacket for people. There are no sleeves, instead there are straps with velcro closures at the neck and belly. Our jacket is a size small.
puffer dog coat
Photo by Erin Koski

This little dog coat is slightly more functional than many of the Martha Stewart Pets products we've tried. As I've mentioned before, I always feel like the Martha Stewart stuff was designed by people who never actually had to use it. The brand is filled with good intentions and clever ideas that often don't pan out in actual reality.

Most of Ru's everyday wear is from Petco. This is because Petco's house brands are cut to fit dogs with medium and long backs. Wider or fatter dogs can still wear them just fine, but the clothes will fit longer on them.

All of Petsmart's dog clothes are made to fit dogs with short backs. This means that they fit body types like pugs and English bulldogs, with comparatively wider chests. Dogs with longer backs and smaller chests can wear them, but the clothes will usually end up ridiculously short on them. The puffer coat shown here is a good example of that fit. The tail end of the coat is cupped to fit around the dog's rump and hold in heat. Since the coat is much too short for Ru, it just bulges awkwardly around his loin instead.

Were this a size medium jacket instead of a small, the neck and belly straps would be much, much too large for Ru. He's longer than most chihuahuas, but clothes made for dogs with average proportions usually fit him reasonably well. Petsmart makes some super cute dog clothes, but they seem to be designed entirely for a certain body type.

Pros: Warm, easy to put on. No sleeves, sits well clear of armpits.

Cons: Cut to fit cobby, short-backed, wide breeds.

Bottom Line: I do not have a bulldog, shih tzu, pug, or sturdy terrier to wear this.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

June Dogtopia Loot Crate Pets Fail

Today our June Loot Pets box from Loot Crate arrived...and I intend to send it right back to them. Apparently they've abandoned the entire concept of a geeky dog subscription box, because this month's theme is 'dogs'. It's full of dog stuff that dogs like....just like every other dog subscription box out there.

I was hoping they'd at least attempt to make up for last month's fail crate. Nope. We received: A pair of matching shirts that say "Dogtopia" and have pictures of dogs on them, some dog treats, a stuffed hot dog toy, and a charm shaped like a fire hydrant. That's right, not one remotely geeky item in the entire box. I emailed them to ask WTF. This is the response I received:

"As with all of our crates we announce themes for the month. This month the theme was DOGTOPIA. There were no extra franchises advertized on this month, stating it was going to be centered around the dogs themselves. Apologies if you didn't connect with the crate this month."

Apparently we were all supposed to catch on that "Dogtopia" meant "regular ordinary dog stuff". Their Facebook post described it as "A dog's favorite franchises". I guess they consider fire hydrants and hot dogs to be franchises? "Dogtopia" is a word they invented specifically for this box, so making a shirt about it is weird and self-referential.  Like, if I wear it and someone asks about it, there's no explanation I can give because it means nothing at all. I suppose I could try to explain about Loot Crate and how this was their theme for June, but I will never find someone who will see my shirt and go "I get that reference!"

 Our first few Loot Pets boxes were amazing and wonderful. Last month's was a major disappointment, and this one is just insulting. Would they do a regular Loot Crate full of NFL merchandise because it's "America's favorite franchise"? I wouldn't have thought so before, but now I'm not actually sure. I liked Loot Crate because they were relentlessly geeky. I don't understand why they decided to change their entire premise and do regular dog boxes instead of geeky dog boxes, but after 'Dogtopia' I am no longer a subscriber.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Treat Tuesday: Loving Pets Meaty Marrow Bones

Want to get your hands on some more of Loot Pets'  Night of the Living Chimichangas but don't know where to find them? They are also known as Meaty Marrow Bones by Loving Pets. I found both small and large sized Meaty Marrow Bones at my local Ross Dress for Less for $5 each. The small ones are exactly the same as the ones we got from Loot Pets, but with way more in the bag. The bag of large bones contained four chews.
Loot Pets Chimichangas

Good For: Giving Sisci and Ru to gnaw right before I leave for work. Dogs with poultry allergies.

Not Good For: Dogs that like to swallow things in big pieces. Dogs with beef, wheat, or rice allergies.

How Much We Like Them: I bought these as soon as I saw them because I knew there were the same as the Loot Pets chimichangas. It was a lot of effort to save a few of them for this picture.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Product Review: Jolly Pets Romp-N-Roll

The Romp-N-Roll ball by Jolly Pets combines their self-inflating ball with a fun tug rope for an irresistible toy. The ball won't ever go flat, even if punctures it just pops back into shape. It also floats, even when full of water. The cotton rope is durable and soft on mouths. It is available in four colors and six sizes.
big rubber rope ball
Photo by Erin Koski

Brisbane and Sisci love these things so much, I had to buy a second one. Jolly Pets basically added a tug rope to their irresistible Jolly Ball. Now the balls are slightly more interactive!

The only thing bad about Jolly Balls is that my cattle dogs find them addictive. I have the 8" balls, and there's nothing they like more than unhinging their snakelike jaws in order to chomp these balls. Over and over. Rhythmically. Because herding dogs come preloaded with OCD. Even before Brisbane's first surgery, when he had a huge nasty tumor in his mouth, he was happy to bite his Jolly Ball.

The rope makes it a little bit easier to snap Brisbane and Sisci out of Biting Stuff Nirvana. They both like playing tug, so I can finally join them in their Jolly Ball games. The dogs also love to carry and shake the balls by the ropes. This means the absorbent cotton rope can get a bit gross, fortunately these balls also are great for kicking.
Biting Stuff Nirvana
Photo by Erin Koski
The Jolly Pets website actually recommends the Romp-N-Roll toy for water play. The ball is made from buoyant material, so it will still float even when waterlogged and filled with holes. It floats high, and is easy to see from swimming-dog-level.

This ball comes in three different sizes. Mine at the largest, 8" in diameter. There are also 6" and 4.5" versions for smaller or less determined dogs.

puncture-proof floating ball
Photo by Erin Koski
Pros: Made in the USA. Cotton rope can be easily replaced at the hardware store. Soft enough to kick, tough enough to stand up to a ton of biting. Will not go flat. Large enough for the largest dogs to play safely.

Cons: It's not a chew toy. The biggest complaint about this toy seems to be that heavy chewers can destroy it easily, though it is not sold as a chew toy. The largest size of ball is also quite solid and heavy, so smaller and more sensitive dogs may need one of the smaller sizes.

Bottom Line: Best as an interactive toy if your dog is a heavy chewer. Aside from Kongs, this is actually the only toy I've purchased two of. My dogs like it so much they don't want to share.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Puzzle Toy Review: Omega Paw Tricky Treat Ball

Our Omega Paw Tricky Treat Ball came from a PetSmart clearance sale. The packaging said Toys'R'Us, but the ball itself still says Omega Paw. Yay private labels. This toy is a step up from the basic ball-with-a-hole puzzle. Yes, it's a ball with a hole, but the hole connects to a tube inside the ball that makes it quite a bit harder to get the food to fall out. The ball also has lots of indentations on the outside, which can be dabbed with peanut butter or spray cheese to encourage reluctant dogs to explore and figure out how it works.
dog food puzzle ball
Photo by Erin Koski

Puzzle Toy Review: 

Capacity: 4/5
The large ball fits about a cup of food, though  a whole lot of it falls out on the first roll. It's big enough to feed smaller meals out of.

Loading Speed: 4/5
Pretty darned quick as long as I use a soda funnel to pour the kibble in there.

Unloading Spped (standard dog): 4/5
It takes Annie quite a while to get those last few kibbles out.

Unloading Speed (superdog): 2/5
Brisbane is an expert ball-emptier, and this one isn't that much more difficult than a regular ball with a hole.

Size: 5/5
With three sizes available, there is a Tricky Treat Ball small enough for a chihuahua to roll effectively, and large enough to not present a choking hazard to a Great Dane.

Durability: 2/5
I'm told the original version of the Tricky Treat Ball was much sturdier, with a smaller food-dispensing hole. This one is pretty thin, and won't hold up to any actual chewing. Fine if your dog is only interested in rolling it, not good if you have a chewer and don't want to supervise nonstop.

Noise: 5/5
The soft plastic is quiet on floors of all sorts. The kibble rolling around inside makes a slight rattle, but overall this toy is pretty good at deadening sound.

Locatability: 1/5
We are currently living in one bedroom in a shared house with a small fenced yard, and I have absolutely no idea where this ball is. I looked everywhere for it before writing this review and I am baffled. Maybe it went wherever our Buster Cubes went.

Washability: 1/5
Pour soapy water in, shake, rinse, hope for the best. There's really no way to scrub, and I doubt it will dry efficiently either.

Versatility: 4/5
The range of sizes mean this ball can be used by rats, ferrets, bunnies, and squirrels. However, the lack of durability or means to clean it effectively means it's lifespan may be very limited.

Total: 32/50

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Product Review: ThermaFur Air Activated Heating Dog Coat

ThermaFur's Air Activated Heating Dog Coat is the only heated dog clothing I am currently aware of. This waterproof dog jacket is fleece-lined. It has four pockets to hold four Heat Pax hand warmers, which stay warm for up to eight hours. This coat is available in six sizes to fit dogs with backs up to 30" from neck to tail.
warming dog jacket
Photo by Erin Koski

When I found this jacket in a thrift store, I assumed that ThermaFur was a brand of dog clothes. Makes sense, right? It turns out they actually make human products, and a couple of things for dogs. They also make the Heat Pax handwarmers that go in their vests, blankets, gloves, scarves, hats, and other accessories.

Heat Pax are a brand of chemical hand warmer. There are a variety of different types of these, including metal ones heated with lighter fluid, and reusable ones that use crystalization to generate heat. Heat Pax are disposable air activated warmers that use an iron oxidation reaction to generate heat. The reaction can last 8-10 hours, but puts out a lot less heat after the first couple of hours. Air activated warmers are kind of cool because you can stop the reaction by sealing them in an airtight container.

Reynaud's solutions
Two peas in a pod.
As I have only ever lived on the beach in Southern California, the entire concept of hand warmers would be foreign to me if not for my friend Liz. She has a whopping case of Reynaud's phenomenon. When she gets cold, her capillaries clamp down and refuse to open again until warmed with an outside source of heat. Ru is her spirit animal.

Chemical hand warmers are how Liz rescues her fingers and toes from the painful grip of the cold. I honestly never would have though of using them for my dogs until I found this ThermaFur coat. Since the heat packs are designed to go inside human gloves and shoes, I'm pretty confident they won't get hot enough to burn my dogs.

The jacket itself is pretty basic. It's waterproof and fleece-lined, but fairly thin. A lot of reviewers report that it keeps their dogs reasonably warm, and it stays on well. The coat has good chest and belly coverage, though it's a better for for short backs and relatively wide chests. The neck does not adjust.

Pros: Has pockets for chemical hand warmers to keep dogs toastier than body heat alone. Waterproof and insulated. Good chest and belly coverage with reasonable freedom of movement.

Cons: Does not cover most dogs to the base of the tail, does not provide as much coverage as I'd like.

Bottom Line: I might actually get a Ru-sized ThermaFur jacket when we finally move somewhere with seasons.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Food Friday: Fresh Pet Select Grain Free Chicken Dog Food

Freshpet's Select Grain Free Tender Chicken with Potato and Spinach is Ru's new favorite food. This food comes as a refrigerated roll with the portions labeled right on the wrapper. It is unusual because it is perishable but not frozen. There's no need to defrost, and it's convenient because the portions are market right on the wrapper.

fresh refrigerated dog foodThe Company

Freshpet is relatively new to the pet food market, as is the entire concept of refrigerated food. In order to enter the market, Freshpet had to convince retailers to add an actual refrigerated display, as well as take the risk of selling perishable pet food. They've succeeded, but the company has definitely had a lot of help. Tyson Foods is a major investor and distribution partner. Giant faceless corporation MidOcean Partners also owns a significant portion of the company and board of directors, so it's worth mentioning that they are likely to prioritize shareholders over customers.

Freshpet has never had a recall to date, however they probably ought to have last year. Social media was abuzz with pictures of moldy Fresh Pet, mostly the kibble-sized bits sold in bags. The company's first response was that the bags had been stored improperly or damaged. I haven't seen anything from 2016 so hopefully they've resolved whatever issue they had. Still, it's also worth noting that they chose to prioritize their claim of no recalls over the health of customer pets from a known and very widely-documented issue.
dog food and dinosaurs

The Food

This feels like a weird combination of Natural Balance dog food rolls and pre-made frozen raw dog food. It's not shelf stable, but I don't have to freeze it either. It actually smells rather appetizing, and I'm pretty sure I could get some of my coworkers to taste it. There are visible chunks of potato in there, but mostly it looks like the result of tossing chicken and spinach into a blender. The side of the roll is market by the half cup. The log holds together very nicely for slicing, and needs to be mooshed up with a fork for tiny dogs who lack ambition. This food is rated five out of five stars on the Dog Food Advisor website. 

The Verdict

I used to only feed my dogs once a day, but with Brisbane's health issues I had started feeding him breakfast as well as dinner. Sisci also appreciated getting half her daily ration in the morning, and I felt like Ru was getting left out. Then I went to Target and impulse-bought a roll of Freshpet. Ru looooooves this food. He's usually pretty ambivalent about food in general, so it's weird to see him acting a bit like a regular dog. Sisci also loves the food, and it works well as a kibble topper for dog-sized dogs. I could probably slice some of it up to use as training treats.

Freshpet says to treat their food like deli meats, so they shouldn't be left out for hours.  They will also start to smell funky if you leave them opened in the fridge for more than a week, so plan to use the food up ASAP. The company is active on social media and seems to have great customer service, so I will let them know if I ever run across any mold. I just found out they have an egg-free beef and bison roll that Brisbane might like as he's recovering for surgery, hopefully somewhere local carries it.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Six Months Later...

Six months ago I posted about finding a bump on Brisbane's cheek, and that I hoped it was just a tooth abscess and not something really horrific like bone cancer. That was my worst case scenario. A month later we had confirmed it was cancer, but the needle biopsy indicated it was likely a hemangiosarcoma, and slow-growing localized tumor. That type of tumor generally comes back more aggressively when removed incompletely, and the location meant there was no good way to remove all of it. The vet and I decided to let it be for a while, and I planned to make decisions later based on Brisbane's quality of life.
posing on the summit, surveying the farmland

A little over a month after that, the tumor suddenly grew almost overnight. It interfered with Brisbane's teeth, he kept biting it and bleeding. A lot. I called the vet in tears and brought him in the next day, thinking it was the end. I told the universe over and over that I would do anything to have more time with him.

Brisbane was still in shockingly good spirits, rolling in the grass, sunbathing, chasing squirrels, herding sheep. I had even taken him to his first ever Barn Hunt class the day before his condition deteriorated, and he was so intensely focused and excited to play. I asked the vet about palliative surgery, just to keep him happy. She agreed, seeing how cheerful he was despite the huge tumor in his mouth.

I had been saving for our big move out of California, and to start my own business. To pay for Brisbane's cancer treatment, I ended up draining my savings account, starting a GoFundMe campaign, and ultimately making payments to my amazing vet. Brisbane recovered from surgery remarkably well.

We sent his whole giant nasty tumor off to the lab to find out what exactly it was. The results came back: osteosarcoma. Bone cancer. The worst possible thing.

Except...it wasn't the worst thing. It was just a thing. It was more information about what we were already dealing with as gracefully as possible. The thing about bone cancer is that it's a fairly common dog cancer, and humans get it too. This means there's quite a bit of research and some different treatments available. The type of tumor we thought it was, a hemangiosarcoma, doesn't respond very well to chemotherapy. Osteosarcoma does respond well to chemotherapy.

The most common type of bone cancer in dogs occurs in the limbs. This cancer tends to strike young, large-breed dogs, and rapidly spreads to the lungs in most cases. Often the cancer has already metastasized by the time it is detected. Osteosarcoma in the upper or lower jaw, like Brisbane has, is a bit less common and tends to run a different course. These tumors tend to be locally invasive, but unlikely to spread to other parts of the body. They also tend to be less painful than bone tumors in the limbs, and some are not painful at all.

I had thought that a diagnosis of bone cancer meant horrible pain and suffering followed by euthanasia far too soon. It turns out that osteosarcoma is not the same for every dog. We originally ruled out bone cancer simply because Brisbane was so darned happy and clearly not in unspeakable pain.

In the three months following his surgery, Brisbane's tumor has regrown quite a bit. Most of the swelling is actually blood rather than tumor, but when drained the thing just refills. He has been extremely happy and active up until the last week. Fortunately, our amazing vet has been doing lots of research and has acquired some chemotherapy beads. Tomorrow, Brisbane will be having a second surgery to debulk the tumor again, only this time the doctor will also implant several of the chemo beads at the site. These release chemotherapy drugs right at the site of the tumor itself, rather than putting them through his whole system via oral or IV drugs.

Just when I nearly had his vet bill paid off, I'm about to throw everything I've got into keeping my dog happy, again. I am extremely fortunate to be staying with my parents for the moment, allowing me to throw nearly everything I make into Brisbane's cancer treatment. I've put off my dreams of business ownership and moving for a year, and every time I look at my happy dog I think about how he is so totally worth it. When he stops being happy, I'll know it's time to let him go. For now, I'm taking him with me to both of my jobs and enjoying spending almost every hour of every day with him. I don't know how much time he has left, but even it's short I think this is a lovely way to spend it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Product Review: Ollydog Night Visibility Dog Coat

OllyDog's Night Visibility Dog Coat is a bright and reflective way to keep track of your dog. This is a very lightweight mesh vest that allows freedom of movement. Velcro fasteners at the neck and belly make it very adjustable, and t goes well over a harness, coat, wheelchair, or whatever. This might be out of production now, but originally came in three sizes to fit dogs with chests 11-36" around.
yellow reflective dog vest
Photo by Erin Koski

This vest is a lot like the visibility vests joggers use when running on roads, and that is really what it's good for. The material is extremely light and thin, it won't trap heat but also feels a bit flimsy. This is a thrift store treasure that I expected to be like my $4 eBay dog visibility vests from China...until I saw the tag.

While it's a great idea for walking, I'm not sure how well this little coat will stay put on a running dog. This is definitely for urban walking and not runs in the woods.

Pros: Reflective striping is very reflective. Will not make dog too warm. Very bright and highly visible,

Cons: Will definitely tear if it gets caught on a bush or anything. Probably won't hold up very long to regular velcro use either.

Bottom Line: Walking your old lab around town at midnight? Great! Running through the woods with your hunting dog? Not with this visibility cape.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Treat Tuesday: Loot Pets Chicken Chargers

These Loot Pets Chicken Chargers arrived in our May power-themed Loot Crate. They were easily the best thing in the box. Easily. These are moist, meaty treats that are easy to tear into tiny training treats. They are tasty enough that even Ru eats them, and they don't dry up and become rock hard instantly.
Loot Crate pet treats
Good For: High-value training treats. Staying moist and tasty for an extended period of time. Picky dogs.

Not Good For: Dogs with chicken allergies.

How Much We Like Them: There were enough in the bag to make it through two different agility classes. If I tear them into fairly large chunks, they work well for tossing because Sisci can easily find them in the grass.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Product Review: Coastal Pet Size Right Harness

Coastal Pet's Size Right Harness is a figure-eight style harness that is easy to use and fits many different body shapes. The design features a single strap of adjustable length, which threads through a solid center plate. The strap runs around the dog's neck and chest, and can be pulled through the center plate to adjust either loop to any size. This harness is currently available in three colors and four sizes to fit dogs with chests 12-38" around.
adjustable figure eight harness with skulls
Photo by Erin Koski

I've seen these for years, but always thought the big plastic plate on the back was sort of tacky. On the larger sizes it looks kind of like a dog saddle, but not in a good way. This one came from a thrift store (as per usual) and it's actually the first figure-8 harness I like well enough to actually use. Who knew?

The minimum chest measurement of the harness is determined by the adjustment slider, which cannot pass through the plastic plate.

This is the only harness I've seen that allows for the neck loop to be very easily widened to slip it over the dog's head, and then tightened down again with no fuss. The chest strap then clips behind the front legs, and there is no lifting of feet involved. The back plate causes the neck strap to sit high above the shoulders, but this also means it can put pressure on the trachea and other sensitive structures in the neck. The chest strap is angled way back, it can be adjusted to sit behind the ribcage for escape artists.

Pros: Easy to put on, even for foot-shy and head-shy dogs. Minimalist design fits well over clothes. Difficult to escape. Allows total freedom of movement.

Cons: Hard plastic back plate can cause irritation. Neck strap may ride up and press on throat.

Bottom Line: If you have a dog with chest or shoulder injuries, a hard-to-fit dog, or just a canine houdini, this harness might be worth a try.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Paw Spa: EarthBath Orange Peel Oil Shampoo

EarthBath makes the most amazing smelling dog washing stuff out there, and their Orange Peel Oil Dog Shampoo might be the best one. No fake perfumey scent here, this stuff actually smells like actual oranges. Win.
orange dog shampoo

Orange Peel Oil?

Apparently a major component of citrus smell come from a hydrocarbon called Limonene. Orange peels contain a lot of it. Limonene smells nice, dissolves oils, and deters bugs. This means it is especially good at banishing that doggy odor.

It's worth noting that this shampoo is for dogs only, not for cats. EarthBath says some cats may be allergic to it. Since it doesn't stick around on your dog though, they should be ok for post-bath kitty snuggles or wrestling or whatever.

Does It Work?

Brisbane tends to get kind of funky when he goes longer than a week without a bath. EarthBath Orange Peel Oil shampoo got rid of that and smelled awesome the whole time. The best part is that the smell didn't linger. This shampoo won't leave your dog smelling like a bucket of oranges for a week, it only smells like that until you rinse it off. Then your dog just smells...clean. 

Final Verdict

If I ever run out of people shampoo I would totally use this in a pinch.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Product Review: Starmark Treat Dispensing Pickle Pocket

We recently acquired Starmark's Treat Dispensing Pickle Pocket, so get your mind out of the gutter because the toy looks about as bad as the name sounds. This is one of Starmark's ever growing line of toys that hold their ever growing line of proprietary treats. The Pickle Pocket holds Flavor Wave Treats, that fit perfectly in the grooves. It can also hold kibble, soft treats, peanut butter, and whatever else you feel like jamming in there.
dog toys that sound like sex toys
Photo by Erin Koski

To be honest, I wasn't expecting this one to be a hit. It looked like too much work without enough payoff. Silly me, both Brisbane and Sisci love it. Briz likes to lick it lovingly. Sisci enjoys carrying it around the house and dropping it on my head while I'm trying to sleep. The Pickle Pocket it very, very heavy.

The Pickle Pocket is also not much of a pocket. The treat slits are pretty narrow and the toy itself is mostly a solid lump of heavy rubber. This means dogs aren't likely to get their jaws caught in it, but it also means the toy isn't intended for serving kibble meals. Pretty much every treat will have to be jammed forcefully in there.

This toy doesn't give up its treasures easily, either. My dogs have been working on a set of three Flavor Wave Treats for a couple of weeks and there's still some bits in there. It's definitely a toy for a very food-motivated dog and not just a casual snacker.

Pros: Very solid and sturdy. Openings are not large enough to present an entrapment hazard. Can use with any kind of food your dog will work for. Banana chips, carrots, kibble, small training treats, applesauce, peanut butter, jerky chews, chunks of big dog biscuits, raw meat, cheeseburgers, anything. Very sturdy, can handle quite a bit of chewing from most dogs.

Cons: Too difficult for dogs that lack motivation. Too large and heavy for little dogs, though 28-lb Sisci loves carrying it around. Attracts a lot of hair and crud. Jamming treats in takes effort and commitment. Hurts a lot when dropped on your head.

Bottom Line: Worthwhile if your have a puzzle-loving genius dog and don't mind awkward questions from visitors who spot it laying on your floor.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

How to Choose a Dog Trainer

How do you find a really good dog trainer? Many of them sound appealing, after all, their job is to market themselves. Anyone selling their services is going to have success stories and client testimonials as well. So how do you tell the difference between "My dog is so well behaved now (because he's afraid to do anything at all so he just sits there)!" and "My dog is so well behaved now (because he has a solid and consistent history of reinforcement for good behaviors)!"

Sometimes the best solution is just management.

You may be surprised to learn that anyone can call themselves a dog trainer. There is no license, there is no mandatory certification. Anyone in the world can make up their own theory of training out of whole cloth and market it without ever even touching a dog, if they feel like it. There exists optional certification, I have a CPDT-KA from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. However, this certification is not common knowledge amount the average dog owner. Some dog training schools provide their own certifications, but these aren't exactly objective or widely recognized.

My personal method of evaluating another dog trainer is to find out if they have put any performance titles on their own or client dogs. Anyone can sell their services as a dog trainer, but earning a performance title requires you to get up in front of other dog trainers and demonstrate your skills.

The higher the level of titles a trainer has achieved, the more knowledgeable they are likely to be. The more sports or activities they can show achievements in, the more knowledgeable they are likely to be. I'm sure one could earn a Canine Good Citizen title via highly punitive shock collar training or tons of leash corrections. An high level agility title? Definitely not.

My own dogs have low-level titles in herding, lure coursing, and trick training, which at least means I have been exposed to the dog training community and am probably not just making stuff up. I've had a lot of success working through behavioral issues with my own dogs as well as client dogs, but a trainer using force-based methods could make the same claim if they've managed to repress issues well enough. I am continuing to compete with my dogs, and eventually hope to have some more impressive titles, but at least I've put some effort into proving my skills to knowledgeable dog people and not just average members of the public.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Product Review: Timberwolf Sequoia Martingale Collar

Timberwolf's Sequoia Martingale Collar is soft and easy on coats. The tubular braid has no rough edges and slides smoothly along the coat. This collar is extremely flexible and very light. It comes in nine different colors and three sizes to fit dogs with necks 12-26" around.
purple soft webbing limited slip dog collar
Photo by Erin Koski

I was familiar with Timberwolf's rope leashes and soft Sequoia flat buckle collars, but I was unaware that they made martingales until I found this collar in a store.

The proportions of this collar are nice, the martingale loop isn't enormous so it doesn't hang super loose when adjusted properly. A properly fitted martingale collar should be just tight enough to not slip over the head when pulled tight, preferably without choking the dog although this isn't always possible with some escape artists. This one sits like a regular collar when loose, and isn't so huge I have to worry about Sisci catching a leg in it or something.

I like the way these collars age. I see them on dogs at daycare a lot and they seem to hold up well to the pool and sun and constant wear. They definitely age more gracefully than the standard nylon web collars.

Pros: Looks nice, is comfortable and easy on the coat and skin. Durable and looks good even with some wear and tear.

Cons: Is not available with a buckle, so it must be pulled over the dog's head. This nicely-proportioned thinner collar is only available in this size, the other two options are wider.

Bottom Line: This was my favorite semi-slip collar for Sisci until I got our White Pine collars.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Treat Tuesday: NutriSource Grain Free Rabbit Treats

I got these NutriSource Grain Free Rabbit Treats for Sisci's agility class. Brisbane is allergic to poultry, eggs, corn, barley, and sweet potatoes, so I had hoped that a grain-free rabbit-based treat would be good for him too. Alas, they contain chicken fat, eggs, and sweet potato. Sisci likes them though!
Dog treats made from rabbit and a bunch of other stuff.

Good For: Small-sized high-value training treats. They're slightly bigger than Zukes Minis, and the dogs like them better.

Not Good For: Dogs with allergies to chicken, rabbit, peas, potatoes, sweet potatoes, chickpeas, eggs, or tapioca.

How Much We Like Them: They make a good addition to our training treat trail mix when I'm just working with Sisci and not Brisbane.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Product Review: Ruffwear Quinzee Coat

Ruffwear's Quinzee coat is a well-insulated and extremely warm dog jacket designed to allow freedom of movement. It packs into an integrated stuff sack and takes up remarkably little space. The coat features a zippered neck to accommodate different body shapes, and reflective trim. The Quinzee is available in three colors and six sizes to fit dogs with chests 13-42" around.
purple puffer jacket extreme weather
Photo by Erin Koski

Until they released the Powder Hound, this was Ruffwear's warmest coat. The vest style means it can be worn as a layer over the Climate Changer, under the Sun Shower, and with a variety of other Ruffwear products. It's a puffer-style jacket, with loads of lofty insulation.

It's summer, but it has been hot in Southern California for months already. Still, Ru likes to be toasty on the occasional early morning walk. This coat is super durable, and I fully expect it to last the rest of Ru's projected lifespan (an estimated 12 years).

Pros: Allows freedom of movement, especially under the front legs. Chest panel helps hold in body heat. Zippered neck allows the Quinzee to fit wider breeds like French bulldogs. Works on deep-chested sighthounds as well.Warm and packable.

Cons: Weather resistant but not totally waterproof, so this does not make a good raincoat on its own.

Bottom Line: I'm planning on moving to somewhere with an actual winter soon, and I'm sure this will become a piece of everyday Ru gear.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Product Review: Rogz for Dogz Alpinist Adjustable H-Harness

This is a tiny Rogz for Dogz Adjustable H-Harness in their Alpinist Soft Webbing. It features four different adjustment points, including the strap between the front legs. This harness is available in ten different colors and four sizes to fit dogs with chests 9-39" around. The Company also offers the harness in a variety of other webbing materials, colors, and patterns.
orange roman chihuahua harness
Photo by Erin Koski

This is a basic Roman-style harness, which is my favorite design. It stays in place while sitting well clear of the shoulders, upper arms, and armpits.

I'm fond of the Rogz for Dogz company because so much of their equipment seems overbuilt. You want a collar? Here's one with a reinforced buckle that can actually lock shut. They offer bright colors and designs that hold up reasonably well, though the prettiness will be gone eons before the gear itself begins to wear out.

Pros: Basic harness with light hardware. Ring on the front means it can be used as a front attachment harness.

Cons: Single buckle means dog must step right leg over the girth strap before it can be buckled. May have issues loosening up over time.

Bottom Line: This is a durable everyday harness that is widely available around the world.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Food Friday: Diamond Naturals Grain-Free Beef and Sweet Potato Formula for Dogs

I stopped to visit an old favorite pet supply store recently, and picked up this bag of Diamond Naturals Grain-Free Beef and Sweet Potato Formula dog food for Sisci and Ru. Brisbane is allergic to sweet potatoes, so he won't be part of my product testing committee for this food. Diamond Pet Foods is a notable co packer that produces many different brands of dog foods in their facility. iamond Naturals is their house brand.

dog food and dinosaurs
The Company

Diamond Pet Food is the co packer that actually produces, bags, and ships 4Health, Canidae, Chicken Soup, Costco Kirkland, Natural Balance, Nature's Domain, Solid Gold, Taste of the Wild, and a bunch of other dry dog foods. They've had some major high-profile recalls related to sanitary conditions at the plant. According to an FDA inspection report in 2012, bits of their equipment were scratched or marred to the point of being uncleanable, and various bits of machinery were shored up with cardboard and duct tape. The result was a massive product recall due to salmonella contamination that made both pets and people sick.

Diamond appears to have cleaned up their act since 2012. They seem like a fairly down-to-earth company, emphasizing the probiotics in their foods and selling both grain-free and grain-inclusive foods without demonizing one or the other.

dog food and dinosaurs
The Food

The first ingredient in Diamond Naturals Grain-Free Beef and Sweet Potato Formula kibble is beef. The second ingredient is lamb meal, so this is actually a lamb-based dog food. I found this slightly odd because most manufacturers like to tout their more unusual and expensive ingredients while actually making their food out of mostly something cheaper. I have always thought of lamb as more expensive than beef, so it's surprising to see a food advertised as being made out of beef while actually being made out of lamb. Diamond Naturals uses "K9 Strain" probiotics specifically developed from dog digestive flora. Their food contains live, active cultures of these probiotics. 

While the ingredients all look very good, the Dog Food Advisor website only rates this food at 3 out of 5 stars. This is because, despite having meat and meat meal as the first two ingredients, a significant chunk of the protein in this food comes from plant sources. Ingredient splitting is definitely a tactic here, as both peas and pea flour appear on the ingredients list. If those were combined, we might discover that this is actually a pea-based dog food.

The Verdict

Sisci and Ru have both thoroughly enjoyed this kibble, which is nice since they can both be slightly picky. Given the company's recall history and the relatively low quality of their foods, I don't think this is something I will purchase again.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Paw Spa: The Original Cloudstar Buddy Wash

Here's a blast from the past, the original Buddy Wash and Buddy Rinse dog shampoo and conditioner from Cloud Star. I used to wash my dearly departed cocker spaniel in this stuff, followed up with a few Buddy Biscuits for good measure. That was over ten years ago. While this stuff isn't quite that old, it has definitely been kicking around since before Cloud Star changed their package design. I have an original lavender mint Buddy Wash shampoo and matching Buddy Rinse conditioner, and I also have a "Refreshing Rosemary" Buddy Wash shampoo.
Buddy Wash and Rinse dog grooming products

Whilst finding the Cloud Star website for this blog post, I stumbled upon the realization that Buddy Biscuits and Buddy Wash are no longer Cloud Star brands. I wasn't sure when exactly this happened, but after some research I'm pretty sure the change was related to the January 2015 merger between Cloud Star and Tiki. Sometime after this point, Buddy Biscuits became their own brand, offering their man-shaped cookies, shampoos, grain-free biscuits, teeny tiny treats, and soft and chewy Buddy Biscuits. Meanwhile, the Cloud Star brand offers Wag More Bark Less biscuits, soft Tricky Trainers treats, and Dynamo Dog chew bones. The two brands are still owned by the same company, but have their own incredibly similar websites with product ranges that overlap significantly.

The current iterations of Buddy Wash are all 2-in-1 conditioning shampoos, with a lavender conditioner also available. I'm not actually sure how old my Buddy Washes are, but I can find pictures of these bottles from reviews and sites as late as 2012 so they may only be 4 years old. Given the shelf life of shampoo though, I guess four years is old enough. Stuff lasts longer when it hasn't been used, so the rosemary shampoo is probably in better shape than the lavender one.

It's worth noting that all Buddy Wash products are supposed to be white. Both of my shampoos are now an amber color, and the conditioner is a bit yellowed as well. I used the lavender shampoo on Brisbane, Sisci, and Ru and it lathered up very nicely. It still smells amazing, and got them all squeaky clean.

The conditioner on the other hand...while it still left Brisbane and Ru soft and silky, it also smelled pretty funky. I guess after a few years conditioner goes rancid. I ended up rinsing them off really good and using something else. And now we know! Thanks for joining me on this little journey of discovery.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Product Review: Benebone Dental Chew

This Benebone Dental Chew is a bacon-flavored durable nylon chew toy made with bacon because how cool is that? This toy is large and comes in a unique shape. The handle loops are great for sticking a paw through to hold the toy at just the right angle, and the ridges are supposed to help clean the teeth during chewing. This toy is currently available in one size and only in bacon flavor, but the company plans to release chicken and peanut butters flavors in the future.
bacon durable dog toy
Photo by Erin Koski

Sisci loves her original Benebone, but she didn't take to this toy immediately. Instead, it sat around for a couple of months before she suddenly decided it was time for a good gnaw.

The handles and ridges of this bone are both awesome and terrible, depending on the dog. Some dogs love the ridges so much they immediately gnaw them into oblivion. They definitely become jagged and scratchy when chewed, and it's not hard for an enthusiastic chewer to make themselves bleed.

The cool loops on the Benebone Dental chew pose enough of a hazard that it should really be a supervision-only toy. Dogs have gotten their legs and jaws stuck in the loops. Fortunately Benebone seems to have super customer service, and they say they are happy to exchange the Dental Chew for a regular Benebone Wishbone if your dog has an issue.

Pros: Durable, long-lasting, and more attractive than any other non-edible chew.

Cones: Loop design of toy poses entrapment hazard if the dog's jaw or leg is just the right size. Nylon ridges tend to become sharp when chewed.

Bottom Line: If your dog loves Benebones, Nylabones, or ignores most non-edible chew toys, this one is probably worth a try.