Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Product Review: Quik Shade Dog Bed

The Quik Shade is basically the tube chair version of a dog bed. You know those folding camp chairs that slide into a long skinny bag? This thing works the same way. It's an elevated mesh dog bed with a solid canopy above to provide shade. The whole thing folds up into a surprisingly small package. The Quik Shade comes in three sizes, there is also an enclosed version with mesh walls to keep bugs out and your dog in.
Folding mesh bed and canopy for dogs.
Photo by Erin Koski

Do you and your dog spend a lot of time outdoors? Do they need a comfortable and non-absorbent place to chill after a swim? A cool place to rest at work or while visiting friends? The Quik Shade was made for you. The bed portion is basically a mesh hammock, it allows a lot of air to circulate under your dog. The top provides some solid shade, and it's angled a bit so you can position he bed for maximum effect.

The comparison to a folding camp chair seems to be entirely appropriate. It's built the same way, out of the same materials, and seems to be intended for the same sorts of uses. That is to say, this is a portable piece of furniture that you take along with you on an outing, and then put away in your garage when you get home. I've read some reviews by people that reported the canopy disintegrated after being left outside in the sun for months on end. You know what else does that? Folding camp chairs. It's not a piece of patio furniture designed to last years in the sun. Does that make sense?

Pros: Provides an instant cool and shady spot. Very portable. Non-absorbent, perfect for wet dogs.

Cons: About as sturdy as a mid-range folding camp chair, not top-of-the-line, but better than a $5 Walmart tube chair. Prone to fading in the sun eventually. Customer service for this company appears to be lacking.

Bottom Line: I found our QuikShade at a thrift store. I had no idea such a thing existed.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Treat Tuesday: Three Dog Bakery From Our Kitchens Training Treats

The guys behind Three Dog Bakery gave me this bag of From Our Kitchens Pork and Blueberry Training Treats at SuperZoo. These are one of the few products marketed as "training treats" that are actually an appropriate size for clicker training and other methods that use a high rate of reinforcement. They're pretty darned nutritious too, grain-free, and made mostly with pork, beef, chickpeas, and blueberries.
Pork and blueberry tiny treats for clicker training

Good For: Mid-value training treats. Picky dogs, even Ru and Zip like them. Clicker training. Reactive dog training. Trick training. Playing games. Hiding in puzzle toys. Training without making my hands smell vile. Dogs with allergies to poultry, eggs, grains, and sweet potatoes. Brisbane would have been able to eat these!

Not Good For: Super-high-value training in distracting environments. Dogs with allergies to pork, beef, chickpeas, or blueberries.

How Much We Like Them: I'm definitely throwing some of these into my next batch of treat trail mix.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Product Review: Chuckit Floppy Tug

Petmate's Chuckit Floppy Tug is a unique rubber tug toy that changes shape when you move it. The toy starts out as a coiled spring, but can be pulled into a big loop. Let go and it coils up again. This is a surprisingly heavy toy with a lot of potential energy. It snaps back into shape rather quickly, but also uncoils under its own weight.
Durable rubber spring tug toy for dogs
Photo by Erin Koski

I bought this toy on clearance, thinking it might be too heavy for Godzilla. It's really amazingly heavy. As my friend's toddler remarked while tossing toys for the dogs, "That one is too much." The newer version might be lighter, but ours weighs about 2 lbs. That's a lot. 

The combination of weight and shape gives this toy a lot of potential energy. Stretch it out, and it will spring back with a lot of force. If somebody lets go suddenly mid-tug, whoever is at the other end is gonna get whomped. 

I brought the Floppy Tug along to play with a client's pit bull, who thought it was amazing. When he shakes it, the toy whacks him in the face. This makes it incredibly exciting. Zip and Godzilla avoid shaking this particular tug toy for the same reason. It's too much.
Durable rubber spring coil tug toy for dogs
Photo by Erin Koski

Pros: Very exciting toy, especially for dogs that enjoy rough play. Spring shape practically moves on its own. Soft enough to throw and catch without breaking stuff. Good on hardwood floors.

Cons: May be too heavy for some dogs. Can snap back and hit hard when stretched. Not as durable as expected.

Bottom Line: This toy lasted approximately three weeks after the girls discovered it. They didn't tug it, we just played fetch, but it started getting bite marks pretty quickly. It's marketed as a tug and chew toy, but best just as an interactive tug if your dog tends to destroy stuff.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Product Review: Fraggle Rock Chain Martingale

This biothane collar by Fraggle Rock Designs has everything: a martingale chain, a buckle so I don't have to slip it over my dog's head, and enough width to protect her throat.
Custom chain martingale with buckle.
Photo by Erin Koski

This collar was custom made for a dog friend who is no longer with us, and it was kindly passed along because it fits the girls so well. It's a nice thick, heavy-duty collar for a strong dog, and it has a lot of hardware.

Look how much thought went into this design! The buckle means I don't have to pull it over Godzilla's head. This is more comfortable for her, and also means the chain loop can be short enough to hang loose without the collar being huge. The chain is perfect for this size collar, a biothane loop would be way too stiff and bulky, and a biothane limited slip wouldn't slide as smoothly. The chain cuts down on bulk while allowing for nice snappy action. I like to use this type of collar for competitive obedience training because I can give a lot of feedback by sliding or jingling the chain.
Slip chain buckle biothane martingale dog collar
"Say cheese!"
Photo by Erin Koski

Pros: Stink-proof, non-absorbent biothane. Quick-release buckle. Perfect size chain loop. Heavy enough to have some serious presence for training.

Cons: A bit on the heavy side for a sensitive dog.

Bottom Line: I'm definitely going to use this collar when we start rally obedience classes in a few weeks. I really like having a way to communicate "this is the collar we wear when we do this activity". Ideally, it should be something totally different from everything else we have, and this collar fits the bill perfectly.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

It's Caturday! Let's Talk Teeth

This may sound completely crazy, but brushing your cat's teeth is a really good idea. I know, right? But seriously, how many elderly cats have you known that didn't have some sort of horrible dental issue? That bad breath? That means bad teeth. Bad teeth means a constant stream of bacteria assaulting your poor kitty, stressing their kidneys and making them feel icky all the time. I've known some older cats that had to have all their teeth removed, and were much happier afterwards.
The Hellions like windowsills. Especially windowsills full of breakable things.

Fortunately, most cats don't need to become toothless wonders. This is fortunate, because pet dental surgery costs an absolute fortune. How can you save yourself a thousand bucks in vet bills? By brushing your cat's teeth.

How do you talk your cat into letting you come anywhere near them with a toothbrush? (Actually my cats are incredibly stupid and somehow continue to suspect nothing despite having their teeth brushed on a near-daily basis.) Cornell University put together a really neat series of videos on how to introduce your cat to the concept, and work all the way up to brushing their teeth with a weird little pointy toothbrush.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's Thanksgiving, time to dish up a plate of turkey and then go around the table saying what we're thankful for! (Actually that's not one of my family traditions, we usually eat Thanksgiving dinner in front of the television while heckling old movies MST3K-style.) Anyway, here's what the Dog Geek is thankful for:

  • I am thankful to shared eleven years with Brisbane, he had a major impact on my life.
  • I am thankful for Sisci Godzilla, our relationship is founded on mutual adoration. She is absolutely perfect.
  • I am thankful for Zip, she is an amazing working partner. I seem to just luck into the perfect dogs.
  • I am thankful for Ru because he is so incredibly easy.
  • I am thankful for the Hellions because cats are nice to have around.
  • I am thankful for my job, because working on a sheep ranch is ridiculously awesome even if I did spend half of yesterday treating sheep for pinkeye and then painting the ones I treated. (I need to do a post about stuff you won't believe happens on a sheep ranch if you grew up in the city, because sheep crayons exist and I find that hilarious.)
  • I am thankful for my friends, who tolerate my endless dog talk, invite my dogs to their houses, and take pictures of my dogs for me.
  • I am thankful for the internet, which connects me to tons of friends I have never met, and allows me to share my semi-coherent rambling with the world. 
What are you thankful for this year?

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Paw Spa: Isle of Dogs CocoClean

Isle of Dogs has a new line of grooming products made with coconut oil, appropriately titled CocoClean. These super high-quality shampoos, conditioners, and sprays are priced for everyday affordability. They come in several different scents and varieties, including a tearless shampoo and a deshedding shampoo.

 Isle of Dogs

Coconut oil infused shampoo for sensitive skin
Zip has been itchy lately, so I was delighted when Isle of Dogs offered to let me try out their new product line. They sent me a bottle of CocoClean Sensitive Shampoo and matching brush spray. These have their signature jasmine vanilla fragrance, which is amazing.

I will admit that their fragrances are part of the reason I love Isle of Dogs so much. My favorite part is when my dog gets wet two weeks after a bath and starts smelling like conditioner again.


I thoroughly enjoy mocking the coconut oil fad and how it's supposed to fix all manner of ailments and diseases and everything wrong with the world, happily Isle of Dogs is riding that wave while sticking strictly to the facts. One of the truly effective uses for coconut oil is as a topical moisturizer, and that is precisely how they promote it in CocoClean. It helps sooth and protect itchy skin.

Does it Work?

It's not all hype, either. I've been using CocoClean to soothe Zip's itchy skin while we figure out exactly what's bothering her. I am forever a skeptic, but she really does significantly less scratching after a bath with this stuff. It's far more effective than any oatmeal shampoo I've tried, or anything other than Brisbane's Madra Mor mud bath. I'm honestly rather surprised that Isle of Dogs is pricing it so low. CocoClean is also very easy to lather, rinsing easily and cleanly, and leaves my hands nice and soft too! This is now Zip's regular shampoo.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Treat Tuesday: Pill Pockets Duck and Pea Formula

Welp, I finally broke down and bought some Greenies Pill Pockets out of convenience. I needed something non-perishable to give pills on the go, and these fit the bill...mostly. I actually started with the chicken flavored Pill Pockets, then peanut butter, then hickory smoke. Sisci Godzilla and Ranger both learned how to eat around them and spit the pills out.

I had thought I was being super clever, getting
the best treat ever for hiding pills. Nope. Neither Godzilla nor Ranger would eat the treats even if there were no pills in there at all. Then I tried the duck flavor, because they're extra stinky. We have a winner!

Good For: Dogs with allergies to anything but duck and peas. Picky dogs. Dogs who don't like other flavors of Pill Pockets. Non-perishable convenience.

Not Good For: Dogs with duck or pea allergies. Keeping on your purse if you leave your purse at dog-level.

How Much We Like Them: Enough to look up how long they've been part of the Greenies brand. I thought that was a new development, but I must just have a long memory because Pill Pockets have been around since 2003, but they were acquired by the company that owns Greenies in 2005.

Monday, November 21, 2016


Isle of Dogs is doing a giveaway, $200 worth of their products, and to enter all you have to do is submit a picture. The subject should be how good your dog smells.

I've mentioned before that Isle of Dogs makes the best-selling dog grooming products out there. My favorite part is that my dogs smell like conditioner all over again every time they get wet. Just jumped out of a pond or water trough? Smells like they just strolled out of the salon.

You can enter the Smells Like Love giveaway at the Isle of Dogs website, or by posting a picture on Facebook or Instagram tagged #SmellsLikeLove and #iodogs.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Happy Birthday Godzilla!

Sisci Godzilla is two years old today! Every year I bake the dogs a cake on their birthdays, put a number candle in it, and take a picture. That's a bacon applesauce cake topped with cream cheese and bacon sprinkles.
The annual dog Geek birthday photo

I'm surprised at how much more grown up Godzilla looks at two, she has a far more mature-looking face. She's also significantly more muscular, basically the canine version of a body builder. People put their hands on her and go "wow!"

I had hoped to start competing in agility by now, but we've taken a few weeks off while our instructor is competing around the country. In the meantime, we've gotten Godzilla's first lure coursing title, and a leg towards her first AKC herding title as well!

I think our biggest achievement is working together on the sheep ranch, though. Sisci Godzilla is happy to demonstrate that ranch work isn't just for border collies. She is my superdog, and the decision to keep her is largely the cause of our move and current work situation. Every time I look at her, I think "Wow, I made the right choice!"

The annual Dog Geek birthday photo

Two Places to Register Your Microchip Free

There are two places to register your pet's microchip for free, and I am registering mine with both. Things have changed a lot since I got Brisbane microchipped over a decade ago, and now there are more options than ever. Today's scanner can detect most chips, and not every company that sells chips has their own registry. Various companies have changed their technology, and information can be updated online rather than by mail. Here's a 2016 look at maximizing your microchips.
Australian cattle dog mix puppy
Baby Brisbane was chipped back when
we registered them by snail mail.

"Universal" Chips

Microchip identification of pets was invented in the late 1980's, but it wasn't until the mid-1990's that the general public really became aware of the concept. At that point, according to the American Veterinary Medicine Association, two companies held patent rights to microchips that operate on the 125-kHz frequency. Meanwhile, an International Standards Organization standard has been developed for chips that operate on the 134-kHz frequency. 

If you see a chip labeled ISO, 134, or 134.2, this is an internationally-recognized chip with a 15-digit code. I feel it is the most likely to be read, and will be making sure I put ISO chips in all of my future pets.

Registration Then and Now

There is no universal national microchip database. When Brisbane and the Hellions were chipped, eleven and eight years ago respectively, the companies selling the chips maintained their own registries. I had to mail off their registration forms, and making changes to the information involved downloading and printing a form and then mailing that off with a check. The companies, HomeAgain and InfoPet, both charged for information updates. The companies also kept track of who they sold their chips to, so an unregistered chip could be tracked to the veterinarian that sold it originally.

Today, there are a lot of different companies selling microchip kits for pets, and many do not keep any sort of records at all. You can buy a chip from them, and implant it in your pet, but unless you deliberately register it somewhere, nobody will be able to connect it to you. A microchip is like an individual serial number, the chip itself contains only that number. This has become an issue in recent years, lost pets turn up in shelters and get scanned, only to find that their chip number cannot be found in any registry.

Register That Chip!

Happily registering a microchip and updating the information is easier than ever. You should be able to update your contact information online for free if your chip manufacturer maintains their own registry. HomeAgain and probably some of the others charge an annual subscription fee for additional services, but once your pet's chip is registered with them, it stays registered forever. 

If you know your pet's chip number, you can look it up via that American Animal Hospital Association's microchip lookup tool. This won't tell you the contact information associated with the chip, but it will tell you who it is registered with. It even gives you a link to each registry website. When someone finds a chipped pet and uses the lookup tool, they can contact the registries listed to get the owner's contact information. I use this tool quite a bit, recently I discovered that someone's dog of many years had a totally unregistered chip.

There are two places to register your chip online for free, and all you need to know is your pet's chip number. The Found Animals Registry is the first place I registered my pets. They let you set up a profile for each of your pets, with pictures and medical information. I just registered them with Free Pet Chip Registry, and found it interesting that the registries don't cross-reference with each other. Sisci Godzilla's chip is still registered to her breeder through Found Animals, but Free Pet Chip Registry allowed me to register her to myself. 

There are at least a dozen other registries out there, some sell their own brand of microchips but most will register any chip. However, they all charge for their services, and some also charge an annual subscription fee. They also claim to be universal national databases. So far, Found Animals is the most widely cited free database out there, and I think they come pretty close to being a universal national registry. I strongly encourage everyone to cross-register their pets with Found Animals and the Free Pet Chip Registry. They don't want to sell you anything, they just want to help you find your pet.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Food Friday: We Reviewed Over 2,000 Brands of...Stuff

Earlier this week I received an email from the folks behind "We Reviewed Over 2,000 Brands of dog Food, Only 134 Made the Cut". They have a whole lot of marketing sunk into their page on Reviews.com, and wanted to know if I was interested in sharing their results with you readers. I kind of figured that the whole thing would have very little substance, and I was right. Though they claim to have built a list of over 11,000 people, from veterinarians to university researchers, they somehow managed to miss some glaring issues with their study.

That's Not Dog Food.

So let's start with their headline: "We Reviewed Over 2,000 Brands of Dog Food". The review includes a list of just some of the brands that didn't make the cut. 

Can you spot the brands that don't even make dog food? Fruitables makes a variety of dog treats, along with dietary supplements that include canned pumpkin puree. Nummy Tum-Tum also makes canned pumpkin puree.

The Himalayan Dog Treat Company is also on this list. They don't make dog food either. How many more of those "Over 2000 Brands of Dog Food" don't actually make dog food?

What About Freeze Dried? What About Air Dried?

Over 2000 Brands of "Dog Food" poorly understood
Early in the report, there is a list of dog food types. It lists pros and cons of each type, but fails to mention freeze dried or air dried foods. Freeze dried raw foods share some properties with both raw foods and dehydrated foods. They aren't perishable, but they usually need to be handled like raw meat. Likewise, air dried foods share some properties with dry food and with dehydrated food.

Ignoring these two types of food just feels like lazy reporting to me. It's another way to tell that the Reviews.com researchers weren't particularly paying attention when they "exhaustively researched" all those dog foods.

Unsubstantiated Claims

I'm pretty sure a lot of this "research" involved reading marketing claims and accepting them at face value. The folks at Reviews.com then went a step further and made a completely unsubstantiated claim that nutriceuticals work for joint pain. This is actually a lawsuit-worthy claim when made by a dog food company. They can say that glucosamine and chondroitin help support healthy joints, but there is not enough evidence for them to state outright that they alleviate joint pain because THEY DON'T. The evidence that glucosamine and chondroitin work is minimal, and tends to disappear in larger and better-designed studies.

Falling for Marketing Tactics

Another example of taking marketing terms at face value is the statement that unhealthy grains and "fillers" should be avoided. As Linda P. Case, author of Dog Food Logic, so helpfully pointed out in her book, there is no such thing as a "filler". Dogs need nondigestible fiber to adequately process their food, just like humans do. Some dog foods certainly contain undesirable amounts of nondigestible fiber, but they do need some in there. 

No matter how fancy your dog food is, there is some nondigestible fiber in there. Calling some types of fiber "fillers" is misleading when the bulk of the issue is the amount, not the ingredient.

Behold, the Magic of Beet Pulp

I'm not really sure why they are demonizing beet pulp in this report. They seem to be lumping it in with sugar when it's actually another source of nondigestible dietary fiber. It's actually a source of fermentable dietary fiber that has been shown to increase nutrient absorption in the digestive tract. Yay science!

Surprise! That's a Grain!

Finally, at the end of the report, Reviews.com gives their list of foods that made it through their decision funnel. Please note number 2 on the list, which states that they removed products containing grain. 

This seems odd to me, as dogs are indeed omnivores that can digest grains, no matter what the crazy raw feeders tell you. Some dogs actually do better on grain-inclusive foods, so it seems weird to cut those out entirely. This mostly just makes people feel guilty when their dog can't have a solid bowel movement on grain-free food.

A quick glance at their list of foods that did make the cut shows that someone fucked up somewhere though, because AvoDerm's chicken and rice formulas are on the list. Did you know that rice is a grain? Apparently the Reviews.com team of exhaustive researchers didn't. Also included are Eagle Pack's canned foods, which contain barley. Did you know that barley is also a grain? How about Fromm's Four-Star Nutritionals, some of which contain rice, barley, and OATS! Oats are also a grain. 

So...yeah. You can go ahead and dismiss "We Reviewed Over 2,000 Brands of Dog Food" as the clickbait that it is. There is nothing new here, just incredibly lazy research and repetition (and embellishment!) of empty marketing claims. Frankly, I find it embarrassing.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Stuff We Destroyed: November Edition

Brisbane wasn't much of a toy destroyer, he had some toys for more than a decade without demolishing them. Godzilla also tend to be easy on most of her toys. Zip, on the other hand, likes to chew stuff up. Yay! I finally get to test how durable our toys are! She's certainly not a power chewer, but she does occasionally decide to give something a good gnaw. Here's the most recent casualties:
Chewed-up dog toys

Holee Roller by PetMate

I bought the girls a second JW Holee Roller so they could each have an Unstuffaball. Somebody got a little carried away liberating the fleece strips from the toy.

Kong Tuff 'N Lite Pig

Sisci Godzilla filled the pink pig with holes, but Zip is the one that chewed the face and feet off the pink pig. She loves ripping chunks off it. I didn't expect it to be totally hollow, but there was nothing inside. Except maybe dignity. 

Kong Squeezz Crackle Ball

Like so many reviewers before me, I found that our Kong Crackle Ball split at the seam just from regular play. This toy wasn't gnawed into oblivion, it was just fetched to death. I did get to see how it worked though, inside the purple ball was a clear rubber ball, and inside that was a piece of clear plastic like you might find holding a brand new action figure onto a cardboard back card. The result was a very firm and very crackley ball that was, it seems, entirely too much fun to chomp.

Outward Hound Splash Disc

This is one of those water toys that my dogs feel compelled to shred for some reason. I was keeping it out of reach until we could take it somewhere to play in the water, but it was all for naught. They really just wanted to demolish it on land or sea. There's just something about that neoprene bathing suit material that they can't resist.

Hyperflite Jawz Pup Disc

Hyperflite makes their Jawz discs for those dogs that tend to puncture everything in their enthusiasm. These are really seriously tough discs. They are not, however, tough enough to handle being pilfered from the disc bag for a good gnaw. I'm just glad Zip likes discs this much.

So that's what we killed this month. Toys that are getting a lot of playtime and handling it well so far include the Wox, both Jolly Balls, and an antler I bought for Brisbane in 2009.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Product Review: MollyMutt Stuffable Dog Bed

MollyMutt's stuffable dog bed and duvet lets you put together a unique bed filled with your dog's favorite things. Their unique concept involves a stuff sack that you fill with clothes, pillows, blankets, and whatever else you have laying around the house. Slide the bed into a washable cotton duvet and you have a bed that smells like your dog's favorite human. MollyMutt offers rectangular and round beds in multiple sizes, along with waterproof covers, bolsters, and matching crate covers.
Dog bed stuffed with laundry

Does your dog love sleeping on your laundry? Do they think a pile of dirty clothes on the floor makes the best bed ever? Do they tend to unstuff anything filled with fluff? Molly Mutt makes a bed for you.

I've often used threadbare comforters and ratty old blankets as bedding for my dogs, with the side effect of making their sleeping area look like a little hobo camp. The stuff is easy to wash, doesn't take hours to dry, and it's just laying around anyway, but is there a way to make it look nice?

MollyMutt has come up with a solution to a variety of dog bed problems. Their bed starts with a sturdy mesh stuff sack that zips shut. I have personally washed tons and tons of dog beds over the years, mostly because stupid cats pee on them. I've learned that the vast majority of dog beds with removable covers have inner cushions constructed from what amounts to fabric tissue paper. Yes, it holds the stuffing in and allows the pretty cover to be removed, but the inner pillows themselves can't survive many trips through the wash before they disintegrate. MollyMutt's inner cushion is sturdy enough to be washed if you live with asshole cats. Washing the actual stuffing is easy too, since it's just clothes, towels, blankets, or whatever you decided to stick in there.

MollyMutt sent me this stuff sack and duvet cover to review, and it was tough to decide on a cover. There are a bunch of different patterns, and they aren't your typical paw prints and bones. They've got robots and elephants! I finally settled on the Rocketman design, it's just so sciency! If your dog has incontinence issues, you can get a waterproof cover for the stuff sack and then order multiple duvet covers so you always have a fresh one.

Pros: Sturdy and durable. Highly customizable. Unique design allows you to stuff the bed with something your dog won't feel compelled to shred. Eco-friendly, allows you to recycle old clothes or store unused bedding. Lots of different options for a custom bed, with unique patterns.

Cons: Not all stuffing materials are optimal, laundry can get compacted down and end up rather hard. Careless stuffing can result in a lopsided or lumpy bed. A medium or large bed needs to be stuffed with a surprising amount of stuff.

Bottom Line: If you ever felt like stuffing was a waste, if your dog has a fiberfill compulsion, if your dog's favorite bed is your old comforter or a pile of laundry, MollyMutt has a dog bed for you. They also make beds stuffed with wool, just in case you don't have any spare laundry laying around.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Treat Tuesday: YakyPuffs

I got a free sample of YakyPuffs from the Himalayan Dog Chew company at SuperZoo! These crunchy snacks are basically what happens when you microwave a Himalayan Dog Chew. They are made out of yak cheese, but puffed up into crunchy snacks rather than a dense chew.
Puffed yak cheese treats from the Himalayan Dog Chew company

Good For: A nice treat for the dogs to crunch when I'm on my way out the door and don't want my hands to smell gross. Dogs with allergies to anything but dairy.

Not Good For: High value training treats. Dogs with dairy allergies.

How Much We Like Them: The dogs all had to think about it for a bit before eating their yakyPuffs, but they did eat them. Even Zip and Ru.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Santa Barbara Skinny Pigs Calendar!

Today's post is a shameless plug for our photographer, Erin Koski, and her calendar of naked guinea pig pictures. No, seriously. I am not making this up. Erin breeds a particular variety of hairless guinea pigs called skinny pigs, and they are hilariously adorable. I think they look like tiny hippopotamuses. Erin is also a talented photographer (which is why I have so many wonderful pictures of my dogs), and she uses her powers to take amazing pictures of her piggies with tiny props.
A calendar of glamour shots of hairless guinea pigs
Photo by Erin Koski, obviously

For a preview of what's inside the calendar, check out the Skinny Guinea Piggy Instagram. Naked guinea pigs in tiny bathtubs. Naked guinea pigs in bowls of candy. Naked guinea pigs in costumes. Naked guinea wearing hats. Naked guinea pigs playing tiny arcade games. Naked guinea pigs lounging on tiny couches. I am not kidding about any of this.

I personally think this calendar would make a wonderful Christmas gift for a guinea pig lover, and a wonderfully weird gift for someone that just doesn't think about guinea pigs that much. Check it out!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Product Review: Outward Hound Splash Disc

The Outward Hound Splash Disc is a floating water toy designed for interactive play. It has a soft foam core and is easy on mouths. Yes I know this is technically a summertime toy, but it's 95 degrees in southern California and seasons are things that happen to other people.
floating throwable water toy for dogs
Photo by Erin Koski

As far as I can tell, there are two kinds of water toys. The first kind is covered in stretchy swimsuit fabric that my dogs feel compelled to shred as quickly as possible. The second kind is usually rubber or something durable that doesn't shriek "DESTROOOOOOOOY ME!!!!!" in a pitch only dogs can hear. The Splash Disc is the first kind.

It's squishy, it's soft, it won't cut your dog's mouth if they catch it on a really hard throw. It floats, it's brightly colored, and it's easy to spot in the water. My dogs don't care. As much as they love catching, fetching, and swimming, all of those activities took a backseat because the frisbee had to die. I assume that this isn't an issue common to all dogs, otherwise toy companies wouldn't keep making fabric water toys, right?

Pros: Soft, safe, and it floats. Easy to spot in the water.

Cons: Not very durable, not for pavement or playing tug. Unusually shreddable.

Bottom Line: It's great for the beach, lake, or pool if your dog just wants to play fetch. Not so great if you have to convince them not to destroy it as fast as they possibly can.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Caturday! Cat Grooming Bags, Because Cats Should Have Handles

A cat grooming bag is the solution to most of life's problems. Trust me. It's basically a gimp suit for your cat, because sometimes kitty bondage is necessary. But seriously, this is the best device ever created for immobilizing your cat for grooming and medical care. Anyone who has ever attempted to restrain a cat knows that they are basically slow-moving liquids capable of oozing through your hands. They don't have legs so much as they have pseudopods that can be retracted at will and then popped out at another location. They are also sharp on five out of their six ends.

cat grooming bagWhat is a Cat Grooming Bag?

A grooming bag is a bag you zip your cat into with only their head poking out. It neatly contains almost all of their pointy bits, and limits what shapes they can morph into. The bag also has several conveniently placed zippers that allow you to access pretty much every part of your cat's body whole keeping the rest of their fury safely contained. 

Why Do I Need a Cat Grooming Bag?

Low-stress immobilization
Does your cat have claws like fishhooks? Is he personally offended by your attempts to make them less pointy? This is basically the reason grooming bags were invented. See, there is a zipper in each corner for easy access to individual feetsies. Unzip them one at a time, pull out the nearest pseudopod, and clip away without interference from extraneous limbs. 

Does your cat need eardrops, insulin injections, or something else you know they hate? A grooming bag can make the job a million times easier. Most bags have additional zippers for belly and tail access, so they are useful for coming out yucky belly fur, washing cat butts, and whatever else you need to torture your cat with.

Do you ever wish that you could carry your cat around like a briefcase? Grooming bags have convenient handles that allow you to carry your cat from place to place with a minimum of fuss. 

Where Do You Buy One?

I actually have no idea where to buy one of these. Probably Amazon. I spotted this one at a thrift store and was way too excited about it. James and Solstice are both lovely about nail trims and various other handling things, but grooming bags are so nifty that I bought it just so I could share it with you.

How does your cat feel about having their nails trimmed?

Friday, November 11, 2016

Food Friday: Lotus Oven-Baked Dry Dog Food

The Lotus pet food company is unique and wonderful, from the way they manufacture their food, to the custom artwork they commission for their packaging. Their dry dog food is oven-baked rather than extruded like most kibble, making it a bit different in texture. This is a particularly neat company that is very transparent about their sourcing and manufacturing.
Oven-baked quality dog food


I've blogged about the Lotus company before. They were started by independent pet store owners who were tired of introducing a new brand of food to the their customers, only to have to pull it from the shelves when the company sold out to a giant faceless corporation. For that reason, I am confident that Lotus will never sell out.

One of the reasons I love Lotus is that the don't seem to mention "GMO" anywhere on their site. Yay for science! My dogs are genetically modified (especially Ru!) so I don't see why their food can't be modified too. GMOs are safe, vaccines work, everything is a chemical.

The Food

As much as I love the company and their canned foods, I have to say I'm not in love with their kibble for my current dogs. The protein content in their dry food ranges from 18-27, that's not very much. fat content ranges from 8-14. That means these are basically plant-based foods with a lot of carbohydrates. The Dog Food Advisor website gives the dry Lotus foods a collective rating of four stars based on their low meat content. The ingredients are great, they're just not in the right proportion.
Oven-baked dry dog food

Bottom Line

My dogs like this food and will eat it happily. However, it would not be a good long-term choice for any if them. Godzilla and Zip are both working dogs that require large amounts of protein and fat. Ru is a tiny dog that needs a nutritionally dense food to maintain his body weight. I might choose Lotus for a dog that needed a low-protein diet.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Product Review: Tuggo!

Tuggo is basically the answer to your tug-a-holic dog that can never get enough playtime. It's incredibly durable, can be taken to a park or other open space for playtime, and can be enjoyed by more than one dog at a time. Tuggo is a giant ball made from hard plastic, fill it with water and it provides enough resistance to keep your dog tugging happily while saving your arm. There is a replaceable rope running through the middle of the ball, so a dog can tug it from either end. The larger version is a whopping 10" in diameter, and can be weighted with up to 18 pounds of water. There are also 7" and 4" version for smaller dogs.
Self-tugging weighted tug ball
Photo by Erin Koski

This was one of the first things I was given at SuperZoo, and I was highly impressed. Look at it! It's so big! Big enough for a huge mastiff to tackle! It's a hard ball too, and most dogs won't be able to get their mouths around it. That's what the rope is for.

The rope is threaded through a passage in the center of the ball, so it doesn't get wet and is easy to replace. Tuggo sells a replacement rope, but you can always pick one up at the hardware store too.

There are a few different self-tugging dog toys out there. The springpole is a classic, but requires some DIY skills and also something to hang the toy from. I saw a toy at SuperZoo that stakes into the ground and is mounted on a shock-absorbing flexible shaft. The Tuggo is different though, because you can change the weight of the ball by adding or draining water. It is also movable, easy to toss in the car and get out at the park or on a playdate.
Water weight workout tug toy
Photo by Erin Koski

This is a serious dog toy for serious dogs. It rolls, it makes some noise, and it can actually get quite heavy. It's precisely the sort of challenge that a lot of terriers and bully breeds enjoy, and the ball rolling around and hitting them just makes the game more exciting. The size and weight of the Tuggo might be a little intimidating for more sensitive dogs, though.

Pros: Extremely durable and tough. Weight can be changed. Extremely attractive for certain dogs, maybe even a little addictive. Builds muscle and can really tire a dog out. Allows tugging play without human interaction.

Cons: Plastic can crack in very cold weather. Rope is easy to chew through if your dog has a desire for destruction. Definitely an outdoor-only toy unless you don't really care about your floors/walls/furniture. May be intimidating for some dogs.

Bottom Line: This is a fabulous toy for a certain type of dog. It's a great way to let a pit bull, jack russell, or other drivey physical dog go hard at something for as long as they like. Ideally they wouldn't even need human interaction, you just point them at it and get out of the way. That said, the Tuggo taught me that my superintelligent herding dogs are primarily interested in tug as a way to interact with me. I had thought they loved it for the sheer joy of tugging, but it turns out they only care if there is a human on the other end of the toy. They also find the huge ball to be intimidating rather than exciting, they get worried when it rolls toward them. It's wonderful for some of my client dogs, though!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Treat Tuesday: What is a Venison Crepe?

I've written about Superior Farms and their venison crepes before, but I had a lingering question about this particular product. I found the Superior Farms booth at SuperZoo, and they invited me to choose a treat from their display of wonderful animal-based chews and treats. Of course I selected a venison crepe, and then I had the opportunity to ask my burning question:
allergy-friendly dog chew

What, exactly, is a venison crepe?

The label says venison hide, but what part of the deer renders this exquisite little scrunched up bit? The rep was happy to tell me, as the squeamish don't tend to pop up with such geeky questions.

Superior Farms is all about using every part of the animal, and dog treats are a really great way to use the weird bits. Venison crepes are made out of the face skin of a deer. Can you see the nose on this one? I like to imagine these were born when someone dropped a piece of hide on the floor, let it dry off a bit, and then went "you know what, that's actually kinda cool!"

Fr those unacquainted with the venison crepe, this is a rawhide alternative that is great for dogs with beef allergies. For my dogs, who enjoy bully sticks and don't just gobble them down like quick snacks, these things last for more than one chewing session. Superior Farms makes their products in the USA, without any of the scary chemical processing that imported treat usually go through.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Product Review: Starmark Treat Dispensing Looper

Starmark's Treat Dispensing Looper is a new take on their amazing food toys. The Looper is a large ring that bounces, floats, and can be filled with kibble or small treats for added fun. It is available in two sizes, ours is the larger one.
Bouncing floating rolling dog toy
Photo by Erin Koski

We've had one of our Treat Dispensing Chew Balls for well over a decade now, but Starmark has recently decided to think outside the ball. They've expanded the flexible, chewable, treat-dispensing toy concept into other shapes. We have their dumbell-shaped Treat Dispensing Squeakee, and now we have the Looper as well. They're all made with the same durable material that is easy on teeth, walls, and furniture.

I can easily see that the Chew Ball, Squeakee, and Looper are all variations on a theme, but they each have their unique qualities. The ball rolls and is fun to chomp and squish. The Squeakee squeaks, and never rolls under the couch. The Looper can be tossed like a frisbee, used as a tug toy, and rolled like a wheel. It's a lot of fun to chase when it's rolling, but it doesn't get lost like a ball. It can dispense treats, but they don't come out nearly as easily as they do in the chew ball.
Bouncing rolling floating food toy for dogs
Photo by Erin Koski

Pros: Durable enough for a large amount of biting and chomping, though not intended for a serious chewing project. More challenging to get treats out than most of our other Starmark chew toys. Floats, bounces, and can be rolled and tugged for lots of versatile play.

Cons: Probably easier to demolish than the Treat Dispensing Chew Ball just because of the smaller diameter. May be too difficult for some dogs to get the treats out consistently.

Bottom Line: When I first saw the Looper I thought it was just a variation on an already good toy, but it turned out to be surprisingly unique.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Back from the Redwoods!

The Dog Geek and the Dog Geek Dogs are finally back from our adventure in the redwoods, and ready to start blogging again! We went all the way up to the Avenue of the Giants, camped at Giant Redwoods campground, and played along the Eel River. It was beautiful and majestic and cold and wet.
Magical dog on redwood tree fairy circle

Living in southern California, we don't often get to use a lot of our gear. It's rarely ever cold or wet. This was a car camping trip rather than a backpacking trip, so we got to bring along just about everything!

I am fortunate that Zip fits into just about everything of Brisbane's. She is longer in the back and narrower in the chest, but she's basically the same size. She stayed dry in a Hurtta Winter Jacket, Godzilla wore her Ruffwear K-9 Overcoat, and all three dogs kept warm in Ruffwear Climate Changer jackets.
Camping essentials for chihuahuas.

Well, lets be honest here, Ru spent most of the trip in his Pet Flys Snuggle Bug. Even his Quinzee coat and Hurtta snowsuit weren't enough to keep him toasty. His favorite part of camping is sitting as close to the fire as he can get without actually bursting into flames. I'm not really sure how hot a chihuahua can be for how long before incurring thermal damage, but it's a lot more than I would have guessed.

Despite two days of rain and an unplanned night in a motel, we had a really wonderful trip. The California coastal redwoods are really, truly amazing and walking among them is absolutely magical.