Friday, September 30, 2016

Food Friday: Grandma Lucy's Artisan Chicken Freeze-Dried Dog Food

I got this media packet from the Grandma Lucy's booth at SuperZoo, but the sample of food inside was actually Artisan Chicken and not their Pureformance blend. This company specializes in grain-free freeze-dried pet foods with short ingredient lists. I've seen it a couple of times in independent pet stores, and I'm pleased to finally try it.
freeze-dried limited ingredient dog food

The Company

Grandma Lucy's makes all their food in their own facility in southern California, where I currently live. Yay for local food! They have a whole history of the company on their website, with pictures of their dog Lucy, who inspired the company. They even shared how the massive pet food recalls of 2007 resulted in them adding complete diets to their product line. Yay for real people behind the business! They develop a direct relationship with all of their ingredient suppliers to ensure quality. Yay for reliable sourcing! My only scruple is that they proudly state that their food is GMO-free. Boo for anti-science.

The Food

Ok, the first thing I want to point out about this food is that it is freeze-dried, but in powder form. That's unique so far here on The Dog Geek. The powder-form dog foods we've tried, Honest Kitchen, Spot Farms, and WellyChef, are all dehydrated. The freeze-dried foods we've tried, Stella&Chewy's, Nutrisca, and Wysong Archetype, all come in chunks. Grandma Lucy's comes with a few big chunks just to show off the lovely meat, but most of it is sort of flakey powder.
grain-free freeze-dried dog food

The second thing I want to share is that I have a digestive disorder that makes eating interesting, and one of the few foods I don't have issues with is mashed potatoes. While I greatly prefer, you know, actual potatoes, I'm willing to settle for instant potato flakes. The reason I'm telling you this is because Grandma Lucy's Artisan Chicken dog food set off the "Woohoo! Mashed potatoes!" part of my primitive lizard brain as soon as I poured water on it. Yes, it's a potato-based food, I just didn't realize quite how potatoey until that moment. Clearly Grandma Lucy's has done a smashing job of maintaining the fresh tasty goodness of their ingredients.

Dog Food Advisor awards this particular recipe four out of five stars, it's a plant-based food with a good ratio of protein and fat to carbs. The entire Artisan line of foods rates 4.5 stars on average, while Grandma Lucy's Pureformance foods rate five out of five across the board. The Artisan product line is more affordable, and plenty of dogs do well on potato-based foods. Pureformance uses Chickpeas as the primary carbohydrate source, and the new Valor food line uses quinoa, which is surprisingly not a grain.

The Verdict

Sisci Godzilla ate the Artisan Chicken food immediately. Zip also enjoyed it. Ru wouldn't touch it. He's not a big fan of chicken though, so I'd like to try some other Grandma Lucy foods with him. They have some great alternative protein sources, like goat, venison, and rabbit. I need to find someone that sells the smaller bags though, I've only ever seen huge expensive bags in stores, and I'm just not ready for that kind of commitment.

Have you tried Grandma Lucy's food yet? How about their treats?

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Product Review: Soda Pup Bottle Top Flyer

SodaPup's Bottle Top Flyer is a soft rubber disc that flies remarkably well. Made from natural rubber, it is recyclable, non-toxic, sustainable, and easy for dogs to pick up. The Bottle Top Flyer is available in two sizes and three different materials. There is an extra-soft disc for teething puppies, a highly durable disc made from SodaPup's Magnum compound, as well as disc made from the regular Puppyprene rubber.
soft rubber frisbee disc for dogs
Photo by Erin Koski

I love SodaPup's products because every single one of them is based on a non-dog object. Most dog stuff is dog-themed, have you noticed? Bones and paw prints are everywhere, on leashes and food dishes and dog sweaters. I honestly find it a bit silly, it's not like anyone assumes a collar is intended for a goat or alpaca because it doesn't have bones on it. "HEY, this DOG collar is for DOGS!" Yes, we get that. Put something more interesting on there.

That's why I like SodaPup, they looked elsewhere for inspiration, and found it everywhere. From soda cans and beer bottles, to rocket popsicles and ring pops, every toy is loaded with nostalgia. Why make a dog toy shaped like a dog toy, when you can make it shaped like something else?
bottletop flyer soft rubber dog toy
Photo by Erin Koski

I was given the Bottle Top Flyer at SuperZoo, and the dogs think it is awesome. I think it's pretty awesome too, most rubber disc toys don't fly like this. Ours is the smaller 7" disc, and Sisci Godzilla likes it so much better than our 9" competition discs. I ended up buying a couple of Hyperflite Jawz discs this size for our first competition this weekend.

The Bottle Top Flyer is shaped like a bottle cap. It's easy to throw and floats nicely through the air. I don't have to worry about bonking anyone in the head with a bad throw, and it's really easy for the girls to get off the ground when it lands.

Pros: Durable. Puncture-resistant. No fabric cover to be shredded. Does not crack like cheap plastic discs. Actually, really throwable. Soft and gentle on mouths and faces even in frantic mid-air catches. comes in multiple sizes.

Cons: Is not allowed in dog disc competitions. Doesn't really work for throwing a roller, in which the disc rolls along on its edge like a wheel.

Bottom Line: I really like this disc for introducing dogs to the concept. It's very easy to throw, and it flies stable and slow so it's easy to catch.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Product Review: ThunderLeash

The ThunderLeash is a no-pull product from the makers of the ThunderShirt. This is an easy-on, easy-off convertible gadget that can also be used as a regular leash. It is available in three sizes to fit tiny, small, and regular-sized dogs. The standard ThunderLeash is currently available in five solid colors with reflective stitching, and there is also a retractable version.
Humane gentle painless no-pull leash
Photo by Erin Koski

The ThunderLeash uses chest compression to help the dog learn to walk nicely. The dog controls the pressure, the more they pull the tighter it gets. The leash wraps around the dog, and is held in place by the specially shaped leash clip. Two metal sliders prevent the leash from getting too loose or too tight around the dog's chest. This whole assembly slides on and off very easily.

There are a number of other products that use chest compression to reduce pulling, and each is a little different. The ThunderLeash is definitely easier to put on than the Freedom Harness or the Harness Lead. It's much sturdier than the Instant Trainer Leash. It stays in place a lot better than the leash wrap.
Humane gentle no-pull training solution
Photo by Erin Koski

But does it work? Annie helped me test this one because she is an extremely devoted puller. I had heard from a couple of people with larger dogs that said it didn't work very well for them, but maybe we had different expectations. It totally worked for Annie. The leash doesn't teach or encourage loose leash walking, but it does reduce pulling to a manageable level.

Pros: Comes with a money-back guarantee, so it's worth trying just in case it works. Simple and easy to use. Can be used as a regular leash and converts instantly. Works well on many dogs.

Cons: The hardware on the leash for dogs over 25 pounds is quite large and heavy. Godzilla is 28 pounds, and it's a bit heavier than I'd like to use on her.

Bottom Line: The guarantee means it's worth trying. I'd like to see them make a medium size with lighter hardware, though.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Treat Tuesday: Benni and Penni Duck Jerky Soft Bites

I got some samples of jerky treats from Benni and Penni at SuperZoo. They also had samples of some brand new treats that hadn't hit the store shelves yet. One of them was full of ginger root, and intended to help dogs with motion sickness. Sisci gets carsick occasionally, and I found this concept intriguing. I haven't seen anything like it. Unfortunately, Benni&Penni did not have have samples of the ginger jerky for me to take home to my dogs. They didn't even have packaging for it yet, yet a cookie jar full of jerky for conference attendees to touch and smell. It smelled really good.
soft jerky dog treats

This is a feel-good company founded by someone who made some awesome treats for their pet and wanted to share with the world. The company produces their treats right here in Southern California, and even their packaging is made in the USA. They dehydrate their treats, so the jerky is soft and chewy just like beef jerky for people. I personally refuse to each jerky that crunches.

Good For: Peppy cattledogs that like food. Training treats, the pieces are scored so they're easy to break into the right size. Staying soft even after the bag is opened. Dogs with food allergies to anything but duck or peas.

Not Good For: Picky chihuahuas and border collies.

How Much We Like Them: I need to find a local store that carries these. It really shouldn't be that hard, right?

Monday, September 26, 2016

Book Review: 101 Dog Tricks by Kyra Sundance

Kyra Sundance's 101 Dog Tricks is big, pretty, and filled with photographs. This is a start-anywhere sort of book, its' basically a dictionary of dog tricks. The training methods demonstrated are fun and force-free, and the information is fast and accessible. Suitable for brand new dog owners up through experts, the book can be used as anything from a training bible to a source of ideas.

book of dog tricks and training ideas
Photo by Erin Koski
Kyra Sundance is also the entrepreneur behind Do More With Your Dog, the titling organization for dog tricks. She travels around the country doing demos and classes, and her breed of choice is Weimeraners, oddly enough. Her dogs are prominently featured in the book, but there are many other breeds as well.

This is a 208-page book, and each trick gets at least one page. The tricks start out simple, with groundwork behaviors like 'sit'. Each trick includes step-by-step instructions for teaching it, along with the behaviors your dog needs to know ahead of time, training tips, and troubleshooting help if your team isn't quite getting it.

I find 101 Dog Tricks to be a rather utilitarian book. It has a couple of pages on basic training technique, and tons of pretty pictures, but the trick instructions can be a bit sparse. There's the step-by-step, and usually a troubleshooting tip, but for the most part it reads like "do this, and your dog should do that, if he doesn't, try doing this instead". Sometimes I end up going "Welp, my dog didn't do that, so now what?" My favorite example is attempting to teach Sisci Godzilla to jump over my back by holding up a jump bar. She instantly decided that zooming under the bar was the best thing ever, and it must have been somehow inherently rewarding because she keeps doing it despite my desperate lack of reinforcement. Sometimes it makes agility class very interesting.

That said, it's a fun book. It's a going and doing book, not a sitting and reading book, if that makes sense. You can flip to any page, get an idea, and run off to train your dog. I think that makes it less daunting, there's not a ton of information to absorb. If you and your dog aren't getting one trick, turn the page and try another one. 

I get most of my trick training ideas and tips from various groups online. The entire reason I purchased this book was because I wanted to earn trick dog titles. These can be earned by submitting videos and sending in an application, but the tricks listed on the forms are really quite vague. 101 Dog Tricks acts as a reference so you can figure out what "my dog can count" actually entails.
 Brisbane and Godzilla both got their Novice Trick Dog titles, complete with big fancy certificates and letters after their names. I have everything I need to send in the information for their novice and advanced titles, but I haven't gotten around to it yet. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Product Review: West Paw Zogoflex Air Wox

The nice people at the West Paw Design booth gave me this Zogoflex Air Wox toy at SuperZoo. It's got a unique texture that is clearly irresistible.  The shape is obviously fun to bite, given how much biting goes on around here. It's also fun to shake and tug. There are two other toys in the Zogoflex Air line, a disc and a ball. All are backed by West Paw's one-time replacement guarantee, and you can get a sturdier toy as a replacement. These are recyclable, dishwasher safe, they float, and they are made in the USA.
Floating durable soft tug toy
Photo by Erin Koski

It don't know what it is about this thing, but Sisci Godzilla feels compelled to hoard it in her crate. She's not gnawing on it in there, she just...likes to take it with her.

I'm pleased with the Wox because it combines several qualities that I don't normally find in the same toy. It floats, and it floats high in the water so that dogs can spot it while they're swimming. It's soft, so if I accidentally bean my dog with it, she'll be ok. We can play tug with it. It's durable and doesn't scream "SHRED ME!!!" like toys with fabric covers or ropes seem to.

Durable floating tug toy
Photo by Erin Koski
The shape of this thing is particularly fun. The legs wobble all over the place, and when the dogs bite or shake it, those legs thwap them in the face. For some reason they LOVE this. Face thwapping seems to be a major perk.

Pros: Durable enough to handle quite a bit of chomping. Guaranteed for a one-time replacement if your dog manages to shred it. As a tug toy, it's easy on both my hands and my dog. Floats high enough for dogs to see even if they are swimming with their eyeballs barely above the waterline. Does not absorb water. No parts to rip or shred. If I set it on its feet on a hard floor and nudge it, I can kinda make it walk.

Cons: Not as durable as some of the original Zogoflex toys, it's an interactive toy and not a let-your-dog-reach-chewing-nirvana toy.

Bottom Line: It's a weird toy made out of a weird material and my dogs LOVE IT.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Puzzle Toy Review: Paw5's Rock N Bowl

The Paw5 Rock N Bowl combines the convenience of a bowl with the enrichment of a puzzle toy. I know, some nights it's just too much work to funnel kibble into a toy. I've definitely been there. Apparently so have the folks at Paw5, because they've basically invented a self-filling food puzzle. Sure, it's shaped like a bowl, but it's way, way easier to fill and clean than the puzzle bowls you see everywhere.
Self-loading puzzle feeder food toy for dogs
Photo by Erin Koski

I think this is also a cool way to introduce the concept of puzzle feeding to both dogs and humans unfamiliar with the concept. It's not some wacky shape you have to screw together. It's a nice, familiar bowl with some extra features.

The Rock N Bowl is made in the USA from recyclable plastic. Paw5 uses a closed-loop, zero-waste manufacturing process. Sustainability is awesome!

Here's how it works: You dump the food on top and set the bowl down for your dog. Some of the food falls into the lower chamber, which has a flat floor. The kibble can then slide out the holes in the side of bowl. There is a ridge in the middle of the chamber floor that prevents the food from sliding freely across the bottom. Too easy? That flat floor can be removed, so that the kibble falls into the rounded bowl bottom instead. It's more difficult to get the food out the side holes that way.

Puzzle Toy Rating

Capacity: 5/5
Holds up to four cups of kibble at a time, more than enough for any meal. It can actually be used as an everyday feeding bowl.

Puzzle bowl for problem solving dogs
Photo by Erin Koski
Loading Speed: 5/5
As fast as dumping kibble in a bowl. That fast.

Unloading Speed (standard dog): 5/5
It's really easy to get some kibble out of the Rock N Bowl, but fairly difficult to get all the kibble out.

Unloading Speed (superdog): 5/5
With the chamber floor removed, it took Godzilla at least 15 minutes to eat a cup of kibble out of this bowl.

Size: 5/5
It's big enough for a giant breed dog to use, but light enough for Ru to push around without getting squished. Ru has been way more interested in the Rock N Bowl than our other puzzle toys.
Puzzle feeding enrichment bowl
Photo by Erin Koski

Durability: 5/5
Sturdy yet flexible plastic. It's not made to be gnawed, but it should be able to handle an infinite amount of being batted around the house or yard.

Noise: 5/5
I know, it looks like hard plastic that would be super noisy on hard floors. Someone at Paw5 must have hardwood, because they thought to make the bottom out of rubbery material. The bowl is not weighted, so it doesn't make those super heavy rolling sounds either.

Locatability: 5/5
It doesn't fit under the furniture, and I pick it up after dinner just like I do all the other dog bowls. The dogs aren't inclined to pick it up and carry it around, either.

Washability: 5/5
The bowl comes into three pieces for super easy washing. There are no crevices or hard to reach areas, and it's dishwasher safe.

Versatility: 3/5
Obviously this is a feeder designed for dogs, and smaller kibbles fall out easier than larger pieces. For that reason, it's difficult to use the Rock N Bowl with cats, bunnies, or rats. The super easy washing aspect means it can be used for animals that get things super dirty, but I suspect Xhuuya the raven would just take the whole thing apart. I'm pretty sure it would work for toddlers though. Might have to load it up with Cheerios and visit some friends.

Total: 48/50

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Product Review: Thunder Collar

From the makers of the Thundershirt comes the brand new Thundercollar! This collar features a unique quick-release closure that solves some of the common issues with plastic side-squeeze buckles. The nylon webbing has reflective stitching for visibility. This collar is available in five colors and four sizes to fit dogs with necks 8-26" around.
Pinch-free quick-release dog collar
Photo by Erin Koski

I purchased this Thundercollar at SuperZoo because I could not stop playing with the buckle. It's totally different from every other collar fastener I've ever encountered.

Having worked at a, lets face it, seriously overcrowded doggy daycare for years, I have buckled and unbuckled a TON of collars. My first thought when bringing a dog out to the yard was always "How fast can I take this collar off?" The biggest disaster we could possibly face out there was a dog getting their jaw wrapped around another dog's collar while playing. If a collar didn't have a quick release buckle, it came off. If the buckle had a safety lock, it came off. If it had an unusual fastener that I didn't think other staff would instantly be able to operate in an emergency on a panicked dog, it came off. If I was petting the dog and noticed that the buckle was a bit stiff, it came off.
Pinchless quick-release safety buckle
Photo by Erin Koski

If you've ever had to open a standard side-squeeze quick-release buckle under major stress, you're already aware of how difficult it can be. Pressure sort of locks them shut, you need a tiny bit of slack to open them smoothly. I haven't had to unfasten a Thundercollar in an emergency, but the buckle seems to open under stress the same way it does when slack.

Emergency situations aside, pinching a dog with a quick-release buckle makes me feel like a horrible monster. A properly-fitted collar should be pretty snug to avoid it getting caught on things (like other dogs' faces), and it's pretty easy to pinch a short-haired dog's neck when snapping it on. An occasional pinch isn't a big deal for many dogs, but for the
No-pinch buckle for sensitive dogs
Photo by Erin Koski
sensitive ones it can give them yet another reason to feel that the world is not a safe place.

Pros: Buckle opens top-to-bottom rather than side-to-side to prevent pinching. Can be opened under pressure, with one hand, without looking. Quieter than a standard plastic buckle.

Cons: Slightly tricky to open by itself, much easier to open when it's actually on a dog. There's no overlap between the small and medium sizes, so if your dog has a 14" neck the small will be a bit small and the medium will be a bit large.

Bottom Line: This is a quick-release safety collar for noise-sensitive dogs, those with sensitive skin, and dogs who require a nice snug fit.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Treat Tuesday: Northwest Naturals Raw Rewards

Knowing that lots of pets have food sensitivities, Northwest Naturals made a line of single-ingredient freeze-dried treats called Raw Rewards. These are nice little nuggets made from either, beef liver, bison liver, chicken liver, lamb liver, or salmon. I really like that Northwest Naturals labels these as being for dogs or cats. I've seen other brands package the exact same treats for one or the other, but Northwest Naturals tells it like it is.
Freeze dried raw liver training treats for dogs and cats

Ok, I had originally thought that all freeze dried raw liver treats were equally stanky, but it turns out there is a continuum. Pure Bites continues to hold the title of Most Horrible Liver Treats. Bravo Bonus Bites are so far the least odiferous of the 100% freeze dried bovine liver treats we've tried. Raw Rewards are somewhere in the middle.

Good For: Dogs with food allergies. Picky dogs. High value training treats. Cats!

Not Good For: Breaking into smaller pieces. Though Northwest Naturals recommends this, some of the pieces crumble into powder instead of breaking nicely.

How Much We Like Them: Sisci Godzilla likes them (as per usual). Ru actually gets excited about them. Zip isn't so sure about most treats, but she'll eat these. The cats absolutely love them.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Turn Your Leash Into an Instant No-Pull Device, Free!

Your regular, ordinary dog leash can be used as a miraculous no-pull device. Seriously. There's a very simple trick called "the leash wrap" that can change your life. It's easy to put on and take off, and all you need is your dog's regular collar and leash. This is a particularly useful trick because you can employ it as needed, and then go back to regular walking.
Easy way to prevent your dog from pulling.
Photo by Erin Koski

Ready? Here's the trick: Wrap the leash around your dog's chest or waist, leaving the snap attached to the collar, and passing the handle end under the snap end. Done.

When your dog pulls, they will now tighten the leash around their own body. When they stop pulling, the pressure lets up instantly. If your dog is wearing a martingale collar, you can even pass the handle end of the leash through the martingale loop to hold everything in place a little better.

There are a lot of commercial products that basically use this little trick. The Instant Trainer leash and the Monster Walker both use exactly this, with the leash positioned behind the ribcage. The Harness Lead positions the leash further up, behind the front legs.

I used to use this on a lot of my daycare dogs at pick up time, when they were over-the-top excited to see their humans and often forgot their manners. It's ideal for handling short bursts of excitement, like walking from the car to the dog park, or the very beginning of a walk. Be aware that the leash usually wraps around the dog's sensitive abdomen, so it can be surprising and possibly even a little bit painful the first time they hit the end of the leash. Try it out when they aren't bouncing off the walls first, so they understand the concept.

Of course, like all anti-pull gadgets, your dog can eventually get used to the leash wrap if you let him. It works best for dogs that already know how to walk on a loose leash at least part of the time. For a chronic puller, the leash wraps presents an opportunity to reward him for walking nicely before he gets used to the feeling and starts to ignore it.

What's your favorite solution for dogs that pull on walks?

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Product Review: It's the Pooch Selfie!

The Pooch Selfie finally gives us a way to get our dogs to look at our phones! The Pooch Selfie is the result of a successful Kickstarter campaign to make taking pictures of your dog way easier. The device consists of a universal clip that attaches to any phone or tablet, and holds a squeaky tennis ball. If your dogs are anything like my dogs, they will fixate on the visual target instantly, and maybe drool a little. Finally, a you-and-dog selfie where both of you are looking at the camera!
Attach a squeaky tennis ball to your phone for pictures
Photo by Erin Koski 

Ok, so in case you didn't know, getting a dog to look at a camera can be a challenge. My dearly departed Brisbane was carefully trained for a modeling career in his youth, and getting him to look a particular direction was easy. Normal dogs don't have trained eye lines though, and I haven't yet put in the time to teach anyone else that particular skill.

Still, getting my dogs to look at Erin's camera isn't terribly difficult. I usually hold treats just out of frame, and we get some pretty good results as long as there is something fun and exciting in the direction of the camera.
Take a selfie with your dog!
Photo by Erin Koski

Taking a selfie with your dog means getting your dog to look away from you, at your phone.

This is where I confess that I do not normally take selfies, for a number of reasons. First, I'm not particularly fond of pictures of myself, and I find my selfies to be universally unflattering. (I'm trying to get better about this in general, self-love is important and I need to appreciate what I look like here and now.)

The other reason I don't take
Finally a way to get your dog to look at your phone
Godzilla can take a good selfie, I just look ridiculous.
selfies is because my phone is a Nexus 6 and it is enormous. I love it for everything I use it for, but it is so big and ridiculous that I had to borrow an iPhone to take these pictures. There is no way I can hold my phone out at arms length and take a picture. My fingers aren't long enough. If I pursue selfies as a form of self image therapy I'll probably have to break down and buy a selfie stick or something. 

Anyway, the Pooch Selfie actually works. It's a squeaky attention-getting tennis ball with a holder that clips to your phone or tablet. The only caveat being that your device must be naked for it to fit. I'm not surprised that it doesn't go over my giant bulky ballistic phone armor, but it didn't even fit on the iPhone with a thin slipcover. Naked phones only.

Pros: Fits my Nexus 6, my iPad, Erin's iPhone, and every other naked device I have tried it on. Very easy to use, doesn't hurt the phone and holds the ball securely. Fits nicely into my pocket or purse. Tennis ball is actually functional, fun, and squeaky. Works extremely well on dogs that are preoccupied with tennis balls.

Cons: Will not go over skin-type or box-type cases, but might work with some of the wallet-type cases. May not be as effective on dogs that aren't ball-crazy, unless you can get their attention by squeaking the ball. I do not have the manual dexterity required to squeak the ball while taking a selfie.

Bottom Line: I bought The Pooch Selfie at SuperZoo because it was silly and I thought it would make a good blog post. It's probably life-changing for someone who loves both their dog and taking selfies. I may actually share some selfies if I figure out how to manage them wit my gigantic phone.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

It's Caturday! And We're Eating at Bravo's Feline Cafe!

Ok, it's not really a cafe, but Bravo as a new line of canned cat foods called the Feline Cafe. Bravo started out as a frozen raw food company, and I tried to talk the Hellions into eating their food eight years ago without success. Since then, Bravo's cat selections have grown.
95% meat canned cat food

Yes, I write about Bravo a lot. They sent me home from SuperZoo with a huge bag of goodies, so I feel obligated to share our experiences. They make good stuff.

The Feline Cafe encompasses two different types of food. There are three 95% meat or poultry selections, and three single-protein fricasse selections. We were given one of each recipe.

James and Solstice inhaled every single variety of Feline Cafe canned food without pause for breath. Admittedly, they do love food, so I'm not sure how a finicky cat would react. I need to ask my local independent pet supply store to carry this stuff.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Food Friday: Open Farm Dog Food

I first learned about the Open Farm company at SuperZoo, and now I think it might be my most favoritest company ever. Open Farm is all about ethically-sourced ingredients, and transparency for the customer. Like, a really ridiculous amount of transparency. There's been a lot of focus recently on the sourcing of vitamins and minerals that go into pet food, and how many dog food companies buy pre-mixed nutrients without knowing themselves where all the ingredients originated. Some companies use multiple suppliers, so a given ingredient could have come from more than one place. It's too much to ask them to keep track of which ingredients when into which bag of food...right?
Ethically-sourced, humanely-raised food that tells you the source of every single ingredient.

The Company

I'll be honest, I'm a big fan of genetically modified food for a lot of science-based reasons. The fact that Open Farm proudly touts its non-GMO ingredients bugs me a lot. I understand it's mostly just a marketing thing, but every company that falls for it just normalizes the fear of perfectly safe food.

Otherwise, Open Farm is the most amazing pet food company ever. Seriously. They take transparency to an entirely new level. See, each bag has a lot code printed on it, along with the best-by date. You can go to the Open Farm website and type in your code, and instantly get a list of where every single ingredient came from. From humanely farmed turkey in Pennsylvania, to Niacin supplement from Switzerland. It's not just "Not From China (probably, at least that we know about)" like nearly every other pet food company out there. 

But that's not all! Open Farm also uses only farm animal products that are third party certified as being humanely raised. That means the chickens, turkeys, and pigs were raised in a comfortable environment with minimal stress, and plenty of space to move around. Prior to being humanely slaughtered for food, these animals were cared for to standards that covered not only their physical needs, but their mental and social needs as well. Humane Farm Animal Care standards include enough dark time for birds to get real sleep, toys and rooting material to keep pigs busy, and housing that prevents social animals from feeling isolated.

The Food

Humanely-raised and sustainably-sourced ingredients.
I think my favorite thing about Open Farm is their commitment to sustainable fisheries. I have a background in biology, and I'm quite alarmed at the state of the world's fisheries. Open Farm wanted to make a fish-based food from sustainably-harvested species, so they started working with the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program. This program helps identify species that are abundant and can be caught in a manner that minimizes environmental impact. As a result, different batches of Open Farm's whitefish pet foods may be made from different species of whitefish. What kind was your bag made from? Check the best by date and product code, the type of whitefish used is printed in the same place.

All of Open Farm's dry dog food recipes rate 4.5 out of 5 stars on the Dog Food Advisor website. The foods have a 30/14 protein/fat ratio, which means plenty of protein but not a whole lot of fat. The carb content is a little higher than I'd prefer. I'm pleased to see that the fish recipe is allergy-friendly, Brisbane would have been able to eat this one despite his poultry/egg/sweet potato allergies. The kibbles are also pretty little, so these are nice foods for little tiny dogs.

The Verdict

Maybe it's because I feed a lot of high-protein, high-fat foods, but my dogs really weren't that into any of the Open Farm kibbles. Ru is extremely picky, and he wouldn't touch it. Sisci Godzilla was willing to eat a few bites, but I had to top it with Caru Stew to get her to finish the bowl. These seem to be worthwhile foods to try for dogs with tummy issues, and I would recommend them over super-dense foods like Orijen for senior dogs unused to that much protein. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

New Coursing Ability Titles!

Sisci Godzilla and Zip got their first AKC lure coursing titles on Sunday! These are also their very first AKC titles, so I'm quite proud of them. The American Kennel Club started the Coursing Ability Test program a few years ago, previously lure coursing was limited to only sighthound breeds.
The world's fastest ACD.
Photo by Clark Kranz

Sisci Godzilla has been lure coursing since she was a bitty baby, so she knew exactly what we were there for. She's super enthusiastic, and she also runs like a sighthound.

The AKC recently introduced a new competitive event called a Fast CAT. This is a competitive event where the course runs are timed. I think Godzilla may be among the top fastest Australian cattledogs in the country. Unfortunately, the closest Fast CAT competitions are an eight hour drive away. I'm told the timing equipment is quite expensive, hopefully the clubs closer to me can get equipped soon.
Zip the border collie lure coursing for the first time ever!
Photo by Clark Kranz

Zip had never seen anything like this before. I wasn't sure if she would be interested in chasing a plastic bag, but one of her litter sisters has quite a few CAT titles already. Zip watched Belle run and decided that this was a fun game. She ran the course perfectly on the first try, and on the second day got her first title!

Zip and Sis now have their Coursing Ability titles. Go girls!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Product Review: Leashes by Liz Multipurpose Leash

I bought this Multipurpose Leash from Leashes by Liz at SuperZoo. It has a snap at either end, and fouro-rings braided along its length. This leash is made from braided paracord, and it is quite sturdy. These are made by hand in Colorado, and are available in stores around the country. Leashes by Liz offers them in a multitude of color combinations, with other styles and coordinating collars also available.
Braided paracord utility leash
Photo by Erin Koski

I am a big fan of utility leashes, but I'm not thrilled with the ongoing braided paracord fad. Most of the paracord leashes I encounter are stiff, bulky, and uncomfortable to hold. When I spotted these at SuperZoo, I knew they were something different. These are braided like I braid my hair, not like a survival bracelet. The leash is flexible, comfortable to hold, and quite substantial. 

Though I really prefer to use light leather leashes, Sisci Godzilla has taken to biting through them when she gets excited. She doesn't gnaw, she just snaps once or twice and I'm down yet another leash. This has led me to acquire some more substantial leashes to hopefully keep her and everyone else contained.
Multifunction paracord Euro lead in hands-free configuration.
Photo by Erin Koski

Multifunction utility leads come in a ton of different configurations. They are largely defined as having a snap at either end, and some number of floating and/or fixed rings all along their length. A lot of utility leashes have very heavy hardwear that tends to swing around and hit the dog if you are super clumsy (I am super clumsy). This Multipurpose Leash has four rings braided along its length, and they are integrated incredibly well. The o-rings are not heavy enough to weigh down the leash, so they aren't super noticeable when not in use.

Flexible braided paracord double snap leash.
Photo by Erin Koski
With so many options, this leash is often in use around here. I most often use it to walk Godzilla and Zip at the same time when I need to get them from the car to the house. I also use it as a tie out at work, either snapping the leash to itself around an object, or just snapping it directly to a fence. Sometimes I clip it around my waist, or over my shoulder. It also works well with the Freedom Harness, and any other no-pull harness with two points of attachment.

Leashes by Liz has a demo video where they also suggest using the Multipurpose Leash as a mobility aid. It's long enough and has enough rings that it can be wrapped around the dog's waist to help keep their rear up. It would also work very nicely with the Help 'Em Up Harness, clipping to the front and rear rings to help support the dog. 

Pros: Durable. Bite resistant (though not bite-proof). Strong and sturdy without compromising functionality. Ring placement gives it many different uses. Made in the USA. Comes in tons of colors.

Cons: The actual clips are a bit heavy, though that may be a plus for some. Using a paracord leash makes my inner hipster twitchy. Even more so when I showed up at agility class and my instructor was using the exact same leash. 

Bottom Line: Leashes by Liz managed to make a paracord leash so different from all the other paracord leashes that I actually bought one. And now I use it. A lot. It's just so incredibly functional.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Treat Tuesday: Bravo Bonus Bites Bison Liver

I got these Bonus Bites Bison Liver treats from the incredibly generous Bravo representatives at SuperZoo. These are just freeze dried bison liver, nothing else. They are made in the USA, from American bison and not water buffalo. They are way less stinky than the other freeze-dried liver treats I've encountered, which makes them slightly lower value for the dogs, but also slightly less horrific to deal with.
freeze dried liver treats that don't stink to high heaven.

Good For: High value training treats, and many of the treats in the bag are already just the right size. Picky dogs. Dogs with allergies to anything but bison or beef. A compromise between the awesomeness of liver treats and the desire to go all Lady Macbeth on my hands after touching liver treats.

Not Good For: Low value training treats. Being boring.

How Much We Like Them: Sisci Godzilla likes them, Zip likes them, my client dogs like them, even Ru likes them. I just can't believe how non-awful they smell.

Monday, September 12, 2016

This is Zip

This is Zip. Her dad is Batman, possibly the best dog ever. Brisbane hated intact males, except Batman. Everybody loves Batman.
High drive working border collie

Batman's owner is my boss out at the sheep ranch. She breeds really amazing working border collies. Zip was originally placed as a puppy in a home that didn't work out. Though her owner had signed a contract agreeing to return her to her breeder if things didn't work out, she was sold or loaned to someone else for a while. At some point she jumped or fell out of the back of a pickup truck, and was quite possibly running loose for as long as a month before someone else found her and located her breeder. The person that found her originally wanted to keep her because, lets be honest, Zip is a fabulous dog. After a while they changed their mind, and Zip finally landed safely back with her breeder after two years of weirdness.

That's the cool thing about good breeders. It's tough to be totally anti-breeder when you know that the dogs they produce don't end up burdening the shelter system. I've known breeders to take back their dogs after a decade, to fly across the country or drive nonstop for days to retrieve them. A lot of rescues work the same way, but I suspect they adopted the concept from the most responsible of dog breeders.
post-fetch smiles
Ears stand up for sheep and tennis balls.

Zip came back to the ranch not long after I quit doggy daycare in favor of sheep. I needed a dog that could move stock in close quarters without biting them, and Zip needed a job to do. For a while she lived at the ranch, and then she started escaping in her off hours. I lost Brisbane a little over a month ago, and never had the heart to pare down my dog setup. Everything, from the crates in the bedroom to the car full of agility gear, was still set up for two dogs.

So Zip has come home with me. When she's not herding sheep, she gets to chase tennis balls and sleep on the bed, and join me and the crew for all our adventures. Like Sis, she'll do anything for a tennis ball. Zip LOOOOOVES toys. She's still trying to figure out what to do with all of them. I am rapidly learning the difference between random-bred dogs, and dogs produced through very careful and deliberate breeding. Zip is amazing, her parents and siblings and aunts and uncles are all amazing. I now have a border collie, I've gone to the light side. (Cattledogs are undoubtedly the dark side.)

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Product Review: Starmark Rubbertuff Treat Stump

I'm ridiculously excited about Starmark's new RubberTuff toys. These are supposed to be a bit tougher than some of the Everlasting Treat toys (see the edit below, they're actually not). They're made out of a different material, they don't specify but it looks like natural rubber to me. The whole Rubber Tuff line is made to work with Starmark's new Lock & Block treats. The new toys come in three sizes, and three shapes. I have the Rubber Tuff Stump, there is also a ball and a bone. While I did purchase my toy, I was given a discount at SuperZoo.
Tough rubber toy for powerful chewers, with new Lock and Block treats
Photo by Erin Koski

I am a big fan of Starmark's Everlasting Treat toys, but that design has a weakness that some dogs figure out how to exploit immediately. Whether it's the Bento Ball, Wheeler, Groovy Ball, or the original Treat Ball, Everlasting Treats are inserted into the toy by popping them under a rim. That rim is an ideal point of entry for dogs that like to rip off chunks of toy with their front teeth.

The new Rubber Tuff toys still use a rim to hold the treat in place, but now the top of the treat covers that vulnerable spot. There aren't any obvious weak points in the toy itself when the treat is inserted. However, I am interested to see if any of my product testers manages to get their teeth under the treat in order to pull it straight out. It took a lot of force to get it in there, so hopefully the designers at Starmark have already planned for that possibility.
Durable rubber chew toy with edible treat insert
Photo by Erin Koski

The inside of the toy is hollow, with Starmark's usual lobed openings on either end. The Stump can hold two Lock and Block long-lasting edible chews, and smaller treats can be stuffed into the middle.

Pros: Dishwasher safe. More chew-resistant design than previous Starmark treat-holding chew toys. Textured surface may help clean teeth if your dog chews it just right. My dogs find it a little more appealing than the Everlasting Treat toys. The treats are made in the USA.

Cons: Lock & Block treats only come in one flavor right now.

Bottom Line: I must admit, this toy really looks like the unholy offspring of an Everlasting Treat Ball and a Kong.
The Rubber Tuff Stump after some gentle chewing


I just put our second round of Lock and Block treats in the Rubber Tuff Stump, and it appears this toy's durability is severely lacking. Sisci has managed to gnaw chunks out of it just by eating the treats. She's not a deliberate toy shredder, so I'm surprised that the Stump didn't hold up to the amount of chewing it appears to be designed for. I am going to contact Starmark to share my experience, and will report their response. 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Freedom Harness: 5/8" vs 1" Size Medium

I'm a big fan of the Freedom No Pull Harness by 2 Hounds Design. I recommend them to clients, and own several. However, I did have some fitting issues with Brisbane because he was very sensitive about straps crossing his shoulders after he developed hip arthritis. On the 1" wide medium and large sizes, the chest straps sat too low.
Size medium comes in two different strap widths, but there are some other differences as well.
Photo by Erin Koski

One of my local stores carries Freedom Harnesses in nearly every size. They have the 5/8" strap width harness in extra small and small, and the 1" strap harness in size medium, large, XL, and 2XL. The only size they don't carry is the 5/8" wide medium.

Since the store had all of the other sizes, I was able to compare them side by side. The first thing I noticed was that the martingale loop on all of the 1" harnesses was the same size. The small and extra small harnesses had a smaller loop, but it was also the same size for both. This led me to believe that the medium 5/8" harness would also have the smaller loop size, resulting in less distance between the buckles, and therefore the chest straps would sit a little higher on the dog.
This is how the 1" wide medium harness fits.
Photo by Erin Koski

Both size medium harness are listed as fitting dogs with 22-28" chests. The one with the thinner straps seems to be difficult to find, so I was delighted to see an entire rack of them at the 2 Hounds Design booth at SuperZoo. On comparison, I found that the 5/8" harness did indeed have the smaller loop and less distance between the buckles.

I purchased this bright and cheery raspberry-colored 5/8" medium harness at a discount so I could compare the fit on my own dog. I don't really use the Freedom Harness on Sisci, but I am a huge nerd and couldn't pass up the opportunity to answer this burning question.
5/8" size medium harness
Photo by Erin Koski

The fit between the two sizes is pretty close, but the harness with the thinner straps does sit a bit higher on Sisci's shoulders. I don't know that it would make a dramatic difference in shoulder movement, but it's worth considering when choosing between the two sizes. I think the 5/8" strap harness fits a little bit better, and droops in front a bit less.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Product Review: Yup! Durable MarrowChews Ring

I was given this Yup! Marrow Ring at SuperZoo, and it has been a hit. Designed by the Sporn Company, this is a durable chew toy with a center made out of meaty jerky stuff. Dogs can smell the inner filling, but have to chew though basically the whole bone to get to it. That project can take them months, and even people with power chewers seem to report that these things last. This is a big bone, 7" long and recommended for dogs over 40 pounds.
durable flavor-infused nylon chew bone with flavored center
Photo by Erin Koski

Before SuperZoo, I had not encountered these MarrowChews bones. A lot of dogs just don't see the point of gnawing an inedible nylon bone. Nylabone claims to flavor theirs, though having licked a few I have a hard time believing that. (Don't judge me!) Benebone actually makes their nylon bones out of bacon or peanut butter. FlavorIt bones are full of holes so you can add your own flavoring. Yup! has done something completely different, putting something worth chewing for inside the bone with holes that allow the dog to smell and taste it a bit.
Nylon bone with non-perishable meaty center to entice dogs to chew
Photo by Erin Koski

Pretty much every collection of reviews rof dogs won't chew something inedible. I was unable to find any reports of dogs destroying these bones. Quite a few owners reported that these were the only toys their power chewers could enjoy. I also failed to find any reports of dogs breaking their teeth or injuring their mouths on MarrowChews.

(It's worth noting that the ingredients of the filling are basically rice flour, pea flour, and vegetable glycerin. I did find one person claiming that MSG was a large part of the filling, that MSG causes headaches in people, and that it is toxic to dogs. Though this does not match the current listed ingredients of MarrowChews, I do feel the need to point out that despite a lot of study there is no actual evidence for MSG causing headaches in humans. It's also ridiculously safe for dogs. Like, so safe that a study in 1977 reported feeding a diet of 10% MSG to dogs for two years with no measurable effects.)

Pros: Stands up to the toughest chewers. Way more interesting than a plain nylon bone. Cleans teeth as the nylon shaves off in little ragged bits. Lasts longer than pretty much any other durable nylon chew bone. U-shape is a convenient shape for dogs to carry and hold.

Cons: Like any chew toy, not every dog will be interested in it.

Bottom Line: I need to find a power chewer to really put this bone to the test.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Treat Tuesday: Wellness Core Grain-Free Marrow Roasts

I was given this free sample of Wellness's new Marrow Roast treats at SuperZoo. These are part of the grain-free Core product line. I wasn't so sure about them just because my dogs aren't huge fans of crunchy biscuit treats. Also they really, really, REALLY remind me of the Milk-Bone MaroSnacks, which is probably not a bad thing. I'm guessing the intent is to tickle the subconscious with a product that is familiar because we've been seeing in the grocery store for decades now. The two product are similar in that they are both crunchy biscuits with a meaty center flavored with bone marrow. The big difference is that Milk-Bone MaroSnacks are made from wheat, unidentified meat and bone meal, poultry by-products, and artificial food dye, while Wellness Marrow Roasts are made primarily from beef along with peas, chickpeas, tapioca, and sweet potatoes. Also they spelled the word "marrow" correctly. Beware any food that must misspell the name of its key ingredient in order to avoid false advertising suits.

Good For: Slightly picky dogs. Dogs with grain allergies. Sticking in a Kong for an easy puzzle. Handing to the dogs as I'm walking out the door. Low value training treats.

Not Good For: High value training treats.

How Much We Like Them: I am definitely going to buy a bag as soon as I see them at the store. (I should note that not even Wellenss can resist stating that they use "REAL Meaty Marrow" in these treats. I'd love to know what the other option is. Maybe fake marrow...?)

Monday, September 5, 2016

Paw Spa: Lucy Pet Products Surfin' Jack Shampoo and Conditioner

Lucy Pet Products gave me a wonderful sample bundle of grooming products at SuperZoo, including this matching set of Surfin' Jack Coconut Shampoo and Leave-in Conditioner. These products don't just smell like coconut, they're actually made from coconut oil and coconut water.
Mild dog grooming products made with coconut oil and coconut water

Lucy Pet Products

Ok, it's hard not to love this company. All of their profits go to the Lucy Pet Foundation, an organization devoted to reducing pet overpopulation. They have mobile spay/neuter clinics that drive to various areas to offer free services to people who may not have the means or ability to take their pets to the vet. They are also super local to me! Currently the foundation offers services to residents of Los Angeles. Anyone over the age of 62, or with any sort of paperwork showing that they receive benefits due to low income. They also do some really fun outreach stuff with their wave machine on a truck, and have some awesome publicity. 

Even better, their products are made in a facility in California, using solar power. The grooming products come in metal bottles that are completely recyclable. They're environmentally friendly, people friendly, and pet friendly. They're not making awesome stuff like Cats Incredible litter to make someone rich, they're doing it to help fund this awesome program.

Does It Work?

Surfin' Jack Coconut Shampoo is very mind and easy to lather and rinse. I used it on Ru, which he hated because baths make him cold and miserable. It did make him very soft and clean, and the leave-in conditioner also helped keep him smelling nice. I'm really not a big coconut fan, but I love the way the Surfin' Jack coconut scent works. Ru doesn't walk around exuding coconut smell, but I can smell it just a little bit when I'm snuggling him. Just the right amount of fragrance.

Final Verdict

My Surfin' Jack bath goodies were free samples, but I was already planning to try out Lucy Pet Products grooming supplies. I like their packaging, and I LOVE their company! Happily, this shampoo lived up to my expectations. It's not anything super special, but if I'm going to buy dog shampoo, I might as well support a great cause at the same time.