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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Dogumentary: Cattledogs Versus Border Collies

The girls and I are on YouTube! I was interviewed on the differences between Australian cattle dogs and border collies fir Dogumentary TV!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Product Review: Alcott Explorer Sleeping Bag

Alcott's Explorer Sleeping Bag is a snug little spot for your pup to curl up. Emphasis on the snug. This adorable little bed has a top that zips all the way off, so you can help your dog crawl inside or lay the whole thing out flat. It rolls up nicely into it's own little bag, too!
Sleeping bag for small dogs

I bought this sleeping bag on sale, and the price was so good that I didn't even read the tag closely. Alcott makes nice, high-quality gear. The tag said it was a size medium, and all the medium Alcott stuff I've seen or purchased has been appropriately sized for Godzilla. She  is 28 pounds, 22" from neck to tail, and 16.5" tall. I thought it would make a great travel and camping bed.

Imagine my surprise when I unrolled the sleeping bag and found it was this tiny! It's actually the perfect size for Ru, all six pounds of him! It's a nice, snuggly little bed with a soft interior. Definitely a great travel bed for small dog, just not even close to medium size.

Pros:

  • Totally adorable actual tiny sleeping bag for little dogs
  • Machine washable
  • Unzips all the way around
  • Nice loft, very plush and warm

Cons:

  • Very, very small
  • Too heavy for backpacking

Bottom Line

It looks like Alcott redesigned the sleeping bag, and the new models are significantly larger with sizing more in line with the rest of their products. The 2017 bed also has a waterproof bottom. Sounds like a great improvement! 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The August BarkBox!

Yes, we are finally BarkBoxing again. I had canceled out subscription two years ago after the company's social media team temporarily lost its mind, and then tried to pretend their offensive posts never happened. Since then, their social media posts seem to have been created by actual adults rather than middle schoolers, so I thought it would be worth giving them another chance.

 I haven't been impressed with the subscriptions boxes we've tried in the interim.While it looks like BarkBox has made some changes to the content of their boxes, so far I've been very pleased.

BarkMade

Two years ago, our BarkBoxes came loaded with an assortment of treats and toys from a variety of companies. Most of these goodies were readily availably for purchase on sites like Amazon, or directly from the manufacturer. Only the really special stuff was marked "BarkMade", produced exclusively for BarkBox.

Nearly everything that came in our August Attack of the Space Squirrels box is a BarkMade, which is actually pretty awesome. We got a three-eyed purple stuffed squirrel, a stuffed ray gun that makes weird noises, a pig ear slice, and two different bags of treats. Our subscription is for a medium-sized dog, but I decided Ru would enjoy the smallish stuffies a bit more than the girls. He also fits quite nicely in the box!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

And We're Back!

We've had a very busy six weeks here at The Dog Geek, so busy that I haven't had time to post about it! The dogs and I have been competing, traveling, and taking care of a whole lot of sheep. Here's a few of the highlights from July and August"
Australian cattle dog and border collie with herding trial ibbons

AKC Herding Trial!

We competed in an AKC herding trial at the end of June! I also helped set up and run the trial, and Zip and I helped set the sheep up for each run for the classes we weren't in.


I entered Zip in the B course class long before the trial, and two weeks before showtime I realized we had never actually done the B course. I didn't even know how? With two weeks of practice we somehow managed to get first place on our first ever B course run.


Zip brought home a first place, second place, third place, and fourth place from the trial. She is very, very talented.

Godzilla earned qualifying scores in both of her A course runs, to the great surprise of nearly everyone watching that remembered her being excused from the ring for excessive sheep biting last time we trialed. She earned her Started A herding title, which is somehow more impressive than Zip's ribbon collection.

One Year Without Brisbane

 I lost my beautiful and beloved Brisbane on August 6th of last year. He was the dog that changed everything, and I'm still adjusting to life without him. I miss his giant fluffy ear, his long silky tail, and the way he could read the tiniest cues and figure out exactly what I wanted him to do.

I will have dogs that are better bred, better built, and better raised than Brisbane, but I don't think any dog will ever influence me as a person they way that he did.

The Great American Eclipse

The dogs and I drove up with some friends to Idaho to see the 2017 eclipse in its totality. It was the most amazing thing I have ever seen, and well worth the 14-hour drive. The dogs got to swim in the Boise River, and visit with some of their favorite people.

On the way home we decided to drive through Yosemite just to appreciate the scenery. Dogs aren't allowed anywhere but the parking lots, but we did get to see the Bridal Veil Falls!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Product Review: OneTigris Tactial Molle Harness

This Tactical Molle Harness by OneTigris is quite possibly the most customizable piece of dog gear I've seen. Made to look like military and law enforcement gear, this harness offers many of the same options with a civilian price tag. This harness is available in several colors, and four sizes to fit dogs with chests 15-40" around according to the manufacturer. In my experience it runs quite large.
Tactical MOLLE customizable dog harness

Tactical?

It's important to know that OneTigris products are made in China, and lack the durability of real tactical gear. They seem to be popular with gun carrying civilians, but not actual military or law enforcement personnel. The straps and buckles are not rated for lifting, and neither are the handles.

This harness is basically a base onto which you can add anything you like. It has two rows of MOLLE straps on either side, to which you can attach any sort of MOLLE pouch, bag, water bottle holder, knife sheath, holster...anything. The length of the harness means you can actually attach several of these things, but you must be careful to balance the load or it will slip to one side like every dog backpack on the planet.

MOLLE modular dog harness
There is also a wide strip of velcro along the back, for attaching patches or pretty much anything else.

The front strap is padded, and there are two straps that run underneath the dog, sort of like the Ruffwear Webmaster harness. The straps are nice and wide, but don't feel super sturdy. I would not lift my dog more than a foot or two in this harness.

There is a handle at either end, along with a leash attachment point. All of these are pretty flimsy, to be honest. Several users have reported them breaking with very little force.

Pros:

  • Highly customizable with any MOLLE-compatible accessories.
  • Easy to put on.

Cons:

  • Build quality is lacking, at least in some pieces.
  • Sizes run very large, Godzilla is in the middle of the listed size range for our Medium harness and it barely adjusts small enough for her.

Bottom Line

I think this would make a pretty awesome service dog harness. Accessories could be added as needed for various outings, and the velcro would allow easy access to some stuff without having to open bags. I may have to send it to someone who can test this theory for me.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

AKC Farm Dog Certification

We recently helped out at an AKC Farm Dog Certification test, one of the first in our area. This new title offered by the American Kennel Club was just added last summer, and now herding clubs are slowly beginning to offer the test.

What is AKC's Farm Dog Test?

Australian cattle dog sitting on hay bale
The FDC test is like a rural Canine Good Citizen test. It's a chance to demonstrate your dog's ability to maintain good leash manners and a reasonably calm demeanor around various aspects of farm life. As one of the judges from our test stated, it's a bit like a test to see if you could work on a ranch and have your dog come along without causing trouble.

What Isn't AKC's Farm Dog Test?

This is not a test of your dog's herding or off-leash skills. It's not intended to be difficult or challenging for most dogs. Every single dog that came to our local test passed. The entire test is done on-leash, and unlike many AKC performance events, this one is open to any breed. We had everything from a Schipperke and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel to an Akita and Berger Picard at ours. 

What Do You Have to Do?

The test will vary a whole lot from location to location, the rulebook gives clubs a ton of freedom to put together something that works at their location. The difficulty of the test will primarily depend on the person judging, but so far the attitude seems to be that farm dogs don't have to be perfect. You start by greeting the judge without your dog jumping on or biting them.

Most of the elements of the test can be rearranged as needed by the club hosting it, but they basically involve your dog walking on a loose leash, walking on a tarp, sitting on a hay bale, being tied up while you walk away, staying in a crate while you are out of sight, hearing background noises, passing a dog 10' away, staying still while you open or close a gate, passing farm animals chilling in their enclosures, and being able to look at farm animals and then disengage. 

That's It?

I know, right? The toughest thing for some of our testers was walking on a loose leash while wearing a flat collar. Still, everyone passed because our judges allowed handlers to talk to their dogs, praise them, and correct them as needed. Nobody got disqualified for peeing on course, whining a little when separated from their handler, or needing multiple reminders to walk nicely.

It's worth noting again that the test can vary a lot from one location to the next. You and your dog may be walking past horses, cows, sheep, goats, ducks, chickens, or any kind of livestock. Yes, a facility with only chickens can put on a Farm Dog Certification test. We had testers walking all over the facility, another club had their testers walking circles inside their barn. The common thread between the tests seems to be that the judges and hosts genuinely want your dog to pass. It's a fun, low-stress way to get an AKC title.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Dog Tech: The June Smartcollar Update

It's time to check in with our favorite smartcollar GPS and activity trackers, and introduce some new ones! I started a Facebook group for discussing pet technology, check out Planet Smartcollar for active discussion about all the different smartcollar products, and real, unfiltered reviews by people who have actually used them.
Zip takes a dip in a stock tank wearing her Whistle 2.

Whistle 2: Currently using.

I wasn't expecting to like Whistle as much as I do. I saw the Whistle 2 tracker as old technology, about to be eclipsed by bigger and better products. It has turned out to be pretty darned reliable. The tracking is slow, but it really does work. 

Just a few days ago I sent Zip over a hill to look for wandering sheep, and she didn't come back. Eventually I opened the Whistle 2 app on my phone. While the location points it sent were several minutes apart, I could clearly see that she was running back and forth on the wrong side of an electric fence over the next hill.She has probably gotten zapped going under it, and wasn't willing to do the same to get back to me. Without the Whistle 2 tracker, I wouldn't have even known which direction to start looking.

Whistle 3

I've been hearing good things about Whistle 3, faster tracking and a new app. I just ordered one for each of the girls, and will report back when they arrive. After months of research, and talking to people who are actually using different products, I am confident that this is the best 3G tracker currently on the market. It uses wifi, bluetooth, and GPS, and is waterproof. Whistle 3 is smaller than Whistle 2, it may even be small enough for cats. It requires a monthly subscription fee.

Scout!

I am cautiously optimistic about Scout, another GPS/bluetooth/cellular device. This one specifically allows you to set alerts for places you do not want your pet to go. With a virtual leash, tracking history, and three days of battery life, this could be the pet tracker I've been looking for!

Link AKC

Though I ultimately decided that AKC's Link collar wasn't for us, I'm still recommending it as the best all-around smartcollar on the market. Link has a virtual leash feature, as well as temperature monitoring. Though they recommend charging it each night, many users report that the battery is still at 75% at the end of the day. I've heard from a couple of people who had really bad battery life, or collars that wouldn't turn on until they had been sitting for three days to let the battery drain and then recharged them. Link seems to have really responsive customer service, they've replaced these defective units, and also the trackers that have fallen off collars. Yes, as I predicted, the tracker falls off sometimes.

Nuzzle

Nuzzle's smartcollar is an enigma that is poorly understood even by those that created it. I have yet to hear from a single user that reports consistent behavior from the device. Battery life remains well under a day, but often varies from 8-22 hours for no known reason. The app often grays out and ceases to provide updates, which the company claims is unrelated to the batteries, but paradoxically can often be fixed by swapping out the battery for a fresh one. The batteries take 5 hours to charge, but may only last 8 hours. Tracking can be hit or miss, and constant false notifications are totally normal. Nuzzle is still deleting negative comments from their Facebook page, and negative reviews from their website. They are currently 3 days behind on processing returns, because everyone who wanted a reliable and accurate smartcollar is sending theirs back. They've changed the return policy and are now claiming to only accept unopened products, so that 30-day money-back guarantee is another Nuzzle lie.

Pod 3

Pod 3 still hasn't shipped to anyone other than the initial beta testers, and also to Argos shops in the UK. Yes, you may have backed the project, but you can walk into a retail store and buy a Pod 3 weeks before you get your backer reward unit. Crazy. I had a very high opinion of this company, but they seem to be having a tough time rolling out their product, and they're not handling the PR well. Nobody is even totally sure why the company felt the need to run a Kickstarter campaign anyway, since they are an established business with capital and stuff. Whistle didn't crowdsource their product, they released it on time, and the thing seems to actually work.

Kyon

Kyon is now a year behind schedule, and the original Kickstarter backers have begun asking for refunds. It's pretty clear they will be missing their goal of shipping by the end of June. Will the Kyon rollout be like Link's, with lots of initial bumps but a solid product and excellent customer service? Or will it be like the Nuzzle rollout, with a shoddy product and worse customer service?

Scollar

The Scollar release date has been pushed back from August to December of 2017. Typical smartcollar project. The company was still discussing color options in May, I don't think this one has been finalized for production yet.

Wuf

Wuf is still claiming a release in Fall of 2017, but has not posted an update to their restless Kickstarter backers since April. Many are asking for refunds, as the project was fully funded in 2014. I am officially predicting that Wuf will end up as vaporware, like Buddy and DogTelligent.

Findster Duo

I'm hearing good things about the Findster Duo. This one has a limited range, but does not require cellular signal to work. You carry one piece with you, and put the other on your dog. Your phone connects to the piece that's with you. Findster does not have a monthly fee.

Trackums

Touted as "a smartphone for your pet", this project looks even more ambitious than Nuzzle. It actually has an LCD screen. It will have a virtual leash, geofence, 2-way communication, camera, and three days of battery life, all for $200. These are expected to ship in September 2017. Sound too good to be true? I'm expecting this one to be vaporware too.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Product Review: Terrain D.O.G. Hunting Dog Leash

Terrain D.O.G.'s Hunting Dog Leash is made from their super durable Brahma Webb. This durable, weatherproof, grippy material is waterproof and requires zero care. The hunting dog leash features an extra snap attached to the handle, along with a floating ring. This allows you to quickly attach the leash to a tree, and can also be used as a slip lead or even a two-dog leash. The hunting dog leash is 6' long, and is available in three colors.
weatherproof biothane leash with extra snap and floating ring

I had never heard of this brand before, but I walked into one of my local shops and they had a whole Terrain D.O.G. display of things that I immediately wanted. They have a really wonderful range of products, from center ring collars to long training leashes in this biothane Brahma Webb, to padded harnesses, to leather collars and leashes.

Their product range is so extensive that I knew this couldn't be a brand new company. Sure enough, Terrain D.O.G. is a Weaver Leather brand. While I absolutely love small businesses and independent entrepreneurs, I was happy to see a familiar big brand. I've been buying Weaver Leather stuff for my horse for years, so I trust them to make decent dog stuff too.

Weaver's Brahma Webb is an easy-care synthetic material that is waterproof, weatherproof, and easy to clean. It doesn't absorb odors, or anything else. This material is also nice and grippy, it doesn't feel like slick plastic and it doesn't get slippery when wet.

The Hunting Dog Leash is a heavy piece of equipment for large dogs. It has big snaps on either end. While I like lightweight hardware for sensitive dogs, the snaps on this leash work well for the weight and size. I do need to be careful not to smack my dog with the snap on the handle end, though.
Bright blue synthetic waterproof nonabsorbent dog leash

The leash is equipped with a floating ring and a snap on the handle specifically so it can be attached to a tree or a fence post in a hurry. I've found a couple more uses for those features, though. The handle snap is great for attaching accessories. It also work well to attach a second dog. Boom, two dog leash!

The floating ring means this leash can be used as a slip lead. However, it does not have any sort of stopper to prevent the leash from loosening up. The grippy material and width of the ring also means it doesn't slide freely, which makes it less annoying that most floating rings, but also means it cannot be used for leash corrections. It's more of an emergency slip leash.
Multifinction biothane synthetic dog leash

Pros

  • Non-absorbent waterproof and weatherproof
  • Extra snap on handle end
  • Floating ring
  • Multiple uses/functions

Cons

  • A bit heavy for small and medium-sized dogs
  • Only comes in three colors

Bottom Line

This is a super-functional leash that will last forever, and it's affordable too!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Caturday: What is the Most Affordable Raw Cat Food?

I've been crunching some numbers to determine whether commercial premade raw cat food is cheaper than canned food. It seems plausible, cans are heavy and bulky, and feeding an all-canned diet becomes alarmingly expensive very quickly. I love collecting data, and I wanted to share my findings with you. Please keep in mind that this is not a complete list, it represents what is readily available either online or in my local stores.

Methodology

The foods included on this table are those for which I could find price, serving size, and servings per package. If I was unable to find the answer to those between the manufacturer's website, and various retail sites, I didn't add it. Serving sizes were determined using Solstice, a 13-pound cat that needs to lose some weight, and the feeding charts provided on the food packaging or manufacturer website. If they had a feeding amount calculator, I used it. Food prices were the lowest price I could find for the largest package available.

Freeze-Dried or Frozen?

My experience with raw dog food has led me to believe that freeze-dried pet food is super expensive, and that frozen raw food is much more reasonable. I was therefore quite surprised to see freeze-dried food as the three least expensive options. It's very interesting how the food prices cluster, first there's three freeze-dried foods at a similar price point, then five frozen foods followed by four freeze-dried foods. I'm sure these are coincidental though, since the price points for each cluster range quite a bit.

Conclusion

Is premade commercial raw cat food cheaper than canned cat food? Nope. Not even close. I am currently feeding primarily 4Health grain-free canned cat food at a cost of $0.79 per can, with some other brands mixed in when I can pick them up on uber-clearance for $0.30-.60 per can. Each cat eats one 5oz can per day, so their monthly feed bill is $23.70. It costs me $47.40 to fed The Hellions each month.

On Sojo's Complete, the most affordable raw cat food I could find, it would cost $0.98 per day to feed one of my cats. That's a monthly feed bill of $29.40 per cat, or $58.80 for both. Though the price difference between the various foods is just a few cents, it adds up really fast. Feeding Grandma Lucy's exclusively to two cats would cost me $67.80.

On the other end of the spectrum, I am truly amazed at how expensive raw cat food can be. Rad Cat is available at my local pet stores. It would cost me $4.25 per day to feed one cat. That's $127.50 to feed one cat for a month, or $255 to feed both. Yikes!

While crazy-expensive raw cat food is not going to be a staple of James and Solstice's diets anytime soon, I do like to vary their diets quite a bit. They aren't allowed to have frozen raw food because they can't eat it without making the entire house smell like a slaughterhouse, but I'd like to introduce them to the concept of freeze dried cat food.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Food Friday: Rolled Dog Food

Yes, dog food comes in roll form. I've shared several different brands recently, and now it's time to discuss the whole concept of dog food rolls. Why do they exist? What are they good for? Are some better than others?

What's in a Roll?

Grain-free dog food roll
Grain-free dog food roll
While several dog food companies have recently added food rolls to their product lineup, dog food rolls have been around for at least 15 years. The recipes vary quite a bit between brands, but the basic formulation is the same. These are all shelf-stable salami-like products that need to be refrigerated after opening.

All complete and balanced dog food rolls that I've encountered so far have had ingredients lists that start with meat, followed by some type of flour. The grain-inclusive ones usually have rice flour and/or pea flour. The grain-free rolls just have pea flour. 

Surprisingly, all the dog food rolls I've encountered also contain both eggs and added sugar. Some also have molasses, broth, and potato starch. Eggs and sugar appear to be essential though, I've guessing they hep the roll hold its shape or something.

To Grain or Not to Grain

The biggest difference between a grain-free food roll and a grain-inclusive roll is the texture. The ones made with rice flour tend to hold their shape really nicely. They don't crumble easily, and are easy to cut into super tiny cubes for training treats. They don't tend to go moldy very quickly, but they do dry out within a few days of being cut off the roll, even when sealed in an airtight container. 

Grain-free rolls tend to be more squishy and less firm. It's tough to cut cleanly through a roll without a very sharp knife, and it tends to crumble when chopped very small. The grain-free stuff seems to hold more moisture, so it doesn't dry out and go hard. Instead it gets moldy. I had half an uncut roll go moldy in the fridge within a week. Not even gonna talk about when happens when it gets forgotten in a bait bag or pocket.

Let's Roll!

The added sugar means all dog food rolls are high in carbohydrates, so I wouldn't recommend making them a major staple of a dog's diet. They also aren't terribly economical compared to kibble and canned food. They make excellent shelf-stable convenience food, and also great toppers for kibble. I use them primarily for training treats. 

Natural Balance has been making their grain-inclusive complete and balanced dog food rolls since before I got Brisbane in 2005. Redbarn and Blue Buffalo both offer grain-inclusive and grain-free versions of their food rolls. Walmart's Pure Balance brand has grain-free rolls. It's worth noting that these are all complete and balanced dog foods. There are meat rolls with no eggs and no sugar added, like Happy Howie's, but these are intended to be used only as treats.

Do you know of any dog food rolls that I didn't mention here? Please share them in the comments!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Product Review: Pet Gear Happy Trails Stroller

Pet Gear's Happy Trails Stroller is specially designed for dogs. It has a weight capacity of 30 pounds. The swivel wheels make it easy to push while providing a smooth ride. There is a tray up top with cupholders, and a storage basket underneath. This stroller has a securely zippered front and back, and a mesh window in the canopy so you can keep an eye on your pup. It folds up for easy transport and storage. This particular model is available in three colors.
Pink chihuahua pet stroller

Pet Gear appears to be leading the way in the field of pet strollers. I bought this one at a thrift store for $5, and while it has certainly seen better days, I am very impressed with the design. I'm new to the world of strollers for dogs, so it's possible these are standard features.

The stroller is made from the same type of materials as the soft crates I used for the girls at agility class. It's basically a soft crate on wheels with a really nice sun shade. Mine is ripped, it's obvious the previous occupant chewed their way out, but that's quite common with soft crates. They only really work for dogs that are comfortable being contained. I think the durability of this crate is similar to that of my Noz2Noz softcrates.
Pink dog stroller
The front of this stroller zips up to keep your dog completely contained, or folds down to allow then to rest their chin and watch the world go by. The back also unzips, creating a perfect level spot where your dog can get in and out on their own. That was an unexpected and very appreciated feature! I really like the idea that Ru could retreat to his safe spot and hop in without having to get up and over the lip in the front.

There is a big storage basket on the bottom of the stroller, but it is completely covered by the passenger area. The only way to access it is by lifting up half the space your dog rides in. This isn't an issue for Ru, but would be if I was pushing around a larger dog, or one that didn't appreciate being hefted like that.

The Happy Trails Stroller folds down basically like a kid stroller. It's not super space efficient, but I have to admit that it's a million times easier than setting up any soft crate.

Pros

  • Very durable
  • Easy to push
  • Smooth ride
  • Lots of storage
  • Familiar and cozy to dogs familiar with crates
  • Back opening allows dog to get in and out safely on their own

Cons

  • Pink color gets dirty easily
  • Cargo basket only accessible by lifting passenger area

Bottom Line

This is Pet Gear's bottom-of-the-line stroller. They offer pet strollers with weight capacities up to 150 pounds, bigger wheels, and doors that secure without zippers. These things are purpose-built for dogs, not just dog carriers stuck on stroller frames. I've mocked dog strollers for years, now I'm trying to figure out if I can show up at a lure coursing event and park my chihuahua in this without getting laughed off the field.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Product Review: Patchwork Pet Pastel Caterpillar

Sisci Godzilla got this giant stuffed caterpillar from Patchwork Pet in her Easter basket. This thing is a huge 35" long, with a squeaker in each section. That's nine squeakers. It's fluffy, double stitched, and surprisingly durable. Patchwork Pet also makes a slightly more reasonable 20" version of the caterpillar, along with a bunch of other fun stuffies.
Giant stuffed caterpillar squeaky plush dog toy

I was totally unfamiliar with Patchwork Pet when I bought this toy. It caught my eye because it was giant, colorful, fluffy, and ridiculous. I figured the girls would shred in a day or two, I'd pick up all the stuffing, and that would be the end of it.

The caterpillar surprised me! It's way more durable than your average cheap stuffy. The girls dragged it around for weeks before it got so much as a hole. So far they've unstuffed the tail segment, and pulled the squeaker out of the head, but the caterpillar largely remains intact.
Giant 35" stuffed caterpillar dog toy

Pros:

  • Comically large
  • Durable enough for playtime
  • Tons of squeakers

Cons:

  • Won't survive a toy-shredder, dedicated unstuffer, or really wild play
  • Pastel color gets dirty really fast

Bottom Line:

Patchwork Pet makes some really high-quality BIG stuffed toys for dogs, and some really cute and clever cat toys, too. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for their products now.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Treat Tuesday: Redbarn Rolled Dog Food

Redbarn makes both grain-free and grain-inclusive dog food rolls, this is their grain-inclusive lamb roll. I like using rolls as training treats because they are complete and balanced dog food, so I don't have to worry about filling up my tiny dog with things other than dog food. I can chop dog food rolls as tiny as I like, and each roll makes tons and tons of treats.

Good For:

  • Chopping into a zillion tiny training treats
  • Holding their shape and not crumbling
  • High-value training treats
  • Dogs with poultry, beef, wheat, egg, corn, lentil, or tapioca allergies

Not Good For:

  • Staying moist when exposed to air for more than a day
  • Dogs with lamb, rice, pea, or egg allergies
  • Diabetic dogs, all food rolls contain added sugar

How Much We Like Them:

This is currently my favorite food roll. It's not crumbly, it stays moist for a reasonable amount of time, it's easy to cut, and it doesn't go moldy when I forget it in the fridge for a week.,

Monday, May 29, 2017

Five Reasons to Use a Dog Stroller

I've always thought that pet strollers were for spoiled dogs, and crazy owners who refuse to let their small dog walk. Then I bought one for $5 at a thrift store. It turns out, there are more reasons to use a stroller than because you want your dog to be fat. Here are the ones I've discovered so far:

1. Your Dog Can't Walk 
Chihuahua in pink dog stroller
Spoiled, spoiled dogs.

A stroller is a fantastic way to include a dog with mobility issues on your adventures. Whether it's a senior dog that gets tired easily, or a young dog recovering from knee surgery, a pet stroller is a comfortable way to bring them along without overdoing it.

2. The Pavement is Hot

Summer is upon us, and so are all the warnings about the dangers of walking your dog on hot surfaces. How do you keep your pup's feet safe while you walk to the nice grassy park? Shoes are one option, a dog stroller is another.

3. It's Crowded

It's really easy to step on a tiny dog. While I hold a deep and abiding loathing for people who insist on wheeling any sort of human or dog stroller through serious crowds, I do see the value of using one of these things on visits to bustling downtown areas.

4. You Have a Baby Puppy

It's important to get puppies out and about to see the world before they finish their immunization schedule at 16 weeks, but you can't put them on the ground because pathogens like parvo can hang out down there for years. A stroller lets you take your pup around in a way that's comfortable for you both.

5. It's a Dog Crate on Wheels

This was my revelation, moments after sticking Ru in our thrift store stroller for the first time. I expected him to find it foreign and weird, but he just settled down immediately like it was a perfectly normal place for a chihuahua to be. The materials and construction are very similar to my fabric dog crates, it's just a different shape. With that discovery, I suddenly realized how convenient it could be to have a safe and secure mobile dog crate. I guess dog strollers aren't for crazy people after all!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Product Review: Rogz RFO Disc

The Rogz Flying Object is a soft foam disc that is easy to pick up. It comes in several bright colors, and it floats. The holes make it easy to get off the ground, unlike traditional frisbees. This is a surprisingly durable disc that is still soft enough for airborn catches.

Durable foam frisbee

We've been trying out some new discs in our post-tennis-ball lifestyle, and this one is definitely a favorite. It's made from tough but squishy foam, so when they bite it they leave punctures without tearing through the material.

The girls love to catch our competition discs, but I save the Heroes and Jawz Hyperflites for structured training sessions. The RFO is great for the park, or just noodling around the backyard. It's durable enough to withstand a good gnaw from Zip, which is essential for casual play around here.

Pros

  • Soft, safe to catch at high speeds
  • Easy for dogs to pick up off the ground after it lands
  • Floats
  • Durable enough for some gnawing

Cons

  • Does not fly as well as a regular frisbee
  • Only comes in 9" size, too big for some small dogs

Bottom Line

The girls don't get to play with this disc unsupervised, but I don't have to keep it locked up for fear they'll destroy it the moment I turn my back.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Treat Tuesday: Pure Balance Dog Food Roll

Walmart's fancy house brand, Pure Balance, offers a dog food roll. I love food rolls because I can chop them up into zillions of tiny training treats. These are formulated as a complete and balanced dog food, so I can stuff my chihuahua with them without worrying about spoiling his dinner. This particular brand is a bit squishy and tends to crumble when chopped up very small, but that seems to be the case with all the grain-free rolls I've tried. I would guess that it's produced by whomever makes the Blue Buffalo Wild Rolls.

Good For

Grain-free beef semi-moist dog food
  • Tiny training treats
  • High-value training treats
  • Dogs with poultry or grain allergies
  • Very picky little dogs

Not Good For

  • Daily feeding of large dogs
  • Dogs that need a high-fat an high-protein diet, these are packed with carbohydrates
  • Fast, easy training treats, you have to chop these up

How Much We Like Them

Enough to chop them up and use them as training treats. Food rolls are awesome!

That Vegan Sled Dog Study

Whilst researching daily dental dog chews, I found myself on the V-Dog website. As a former militant rawfeeder, I've never considered vegan dog food worth researching. I decided to check out their guaranteed analysis, and quickly determined that their foods do not contain nearly enough fat for my working dogs. Their FAQ page is really interesting, though. It cites a couple of peer-reviewed scientific journal articles that definitely deserved a closer look.

Vegan Sled Dogs?

Distance-racing Alaskan sled dogs have an amazingly high metabolic rate and energy expenditure when working for extended periods in cold weather. They have been used in various experiments studying the effects of different parameters on performance, sometimes with surprising results. A study in 2009 on racing sled dogs is rather well-known, but it's worth pointing out that this experiment was done on purebred Siberian huskies doing sprint races in mild weather in Australia. The study compared blood test results between dogs that were fed a commercial meat-based performance diet, and those fed a diet with the same nutritional parameters but no meat. The experimental diet used soybean meal and corn gluten as protein sources. The dogs did fine on both diets, their performance didn't suffer and their blood parameters remained the same.

Nutritional Equivalence
Carrot-shaped durable chew toy
Photo by Erin Koski

This study is widely cited by purveyors of vegan dog foods, as evidence that dogs can be perfectly healthy without consuming animal products. I don't have a problem with that claim, but I do have a problem with the vegan dog food choices out there, and how they compare to the foods used in the experiment. Essentially, the study proved that a specific meat-free diet was suitable, and the dog food companies like to cite it as evidence that all vegan dog foods are suitable.

Here's the details, for those that don't feel like fishing through the paper to find them. The commercial diet used was Pedigree Advance's formula for performance dogs. When I first read this paper I thought they must be using regular old Pedigree dog food in the big yellow bag, because that's the only food the company sells here in the USA. However, Pedigree actually sells much higher-quality products in other countries. The study was published in the British Journal of Nutrition, but the actual experiment took place in Australia. The Pedigree Advance product line sold in Australia includes and Active Adult formula that contains no by-products, and has 32% protein and 22% fat. This is a huge difference from the 21/10 food sold here.

The experimental meat-free diet used soybean meal instead of chicken meal. Both diets also used corn gluten, but the meatless diet had quite a bit more. Both diets were made in a commercial facility, with the nutritional analysis as similar as possible. Both diets contained 32% protein and 22% fat. That's a good ratio for active dogs, but it's not what you'll find in commercially-available vegan dog food on the market today. If you want to feed your dog vegan kibble, your options are 24/10, 18/8, 20/10, 22/8, or 17/8. There is no high-protein, high-fat vegan dog food out there. Clearly, vegan dogs are supposed to be sedentary housepets on extremely carbohydrate-heavy diets.

What about That Retrospective Study?

Another journal article widely cited by people advocating vegan diets for dogs was published in an MDPI public access journal. This is already slightly suspect, as the reliability of MDPI journals has been repeatedly called into question. Basically, they will probably publish anything if you pay them enough, and their peer review process may not be rigorous or thorough. With that in mind, the publication of this retrospective starts to make sense.

I have issues with nearly every section of this article. When discussing studies showing inadequacy of vegetarian pet diets, the authors are quick to point out that anything published more than ten years ago is likely out of date. However, when discussing the inadequacy of meat-based commercial diets, the authors freely cite papers from two and three decades prior with no such caveats.

The authors include information from such biased sources as the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, books by vegan authors, and even vegan websites. Much of this information has to do with the evils of meat by-products, which demonstrates a lack of ingredient integrity in very low-quality products rather than an inherent evil of meat-based pet food. Meat-based pet foods in the same price range as commercial vegan pet foods are almost certainly not going to contain any of these horrors anyway, so the whole issue is a bit of a red herring.

While the sled dog study mentioned above shows some compelling evidence that dogs can be healthy on a vegetarian diet, the retrospective study simply shows that there is very little conclusive information out there. What information does exist is from small-scale studies, extremely biased sources, or poor-quality studies like pet owner surveys. Decent-quality meat-based pet foods are fine. Well-researched vegan pet foods are also fine, as long as you don't mind feeding a low-fat, low-protein, carb-heavy diet. If you want to build muscle or maintain a working dog, you probably need to feed a meat-based food formulated for active dogs.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Product Review: West Paw Zogoflex Air Dash

West Paw's Zogoflex Air disc, Dash, is a frisbee that can handle some serious chomping and chewing. Made with their proprietary air-injected Zogoflex material, it's tough enough to handle independent dog play. This disc is soft to catch, and easy to pick up after it lands. It floats, is dishwasher safe, and is made in the USA. The Dash disc comes in three colors.
Durable floating soft dog disc
Our Zogoflex Wox toy is still going strong after being fetched an infinite number of times, so I thought a Dash disc would be a good addition to our collection of safer toys.

Unlike most of our discs, this one is durable enough to be used as a chew toy, so it's not just for interactive play. It's also soft enough for the girls to catch in midair without hurting their mouths.
Sisci Godzilla can easily pick this toy up after it lands, she has trouble with regular discs. The Dash floats, and you can keep it clean by sticking it in the dishwasher, which I am totally going to test out in the near future.

West Paw has a really cool recycling program where they accept old and damaged toys. They process these into more toys, so the chewed up bits don't end up in a landfill somewhere. They also guarantee their toys, so if your dog destroys something you can get a one-time replacement.

Pros

  • Durable enough for regular chewing
  • Soft and easy on mouths
  • Center hole makes it easy for dogs to pick up
  • Floats
  • Dishwasher safe
  • Recyclable
  • Made in the USA

Cons

  • Does not fly very well
  • Center hole makes a great place to begin chewing it into oblivion

Bottom Line

Zip really enjoys a good game of fetch, and then she settles down to give the disc a good gnaw. We've lost a number of toys that way, but it looks like the Dash disc can handle it.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Dog Tech: The May Smartcollar Update

It's time to check in with our favorite up and coming smartcollar products! Technological development is a rocky road filled with bumps and setbacks, and it's a rare product that gets released on time. How a company handles those setbacks says a lot about the people behind the product. The world of pet wearables is always growing, it's exciting to see what might be on the horizon!
Dog GPS wearable trackers

Whistle 2 - currently using

Our Whistle 2 tracker has been in use for 4 months now, and at this point it needs to be rebooted and freshly paired with the base nearly every time I charge it. The tracker often stops working when we are away from home, and the only way to make it start working again is to go home and mess around with the base station. Tech support is happy to explain how to reset everything, but fails to recognize that the constant need to do so presents a problem.

I did have occasion to use it to track Zip once, and it did indeed help me find her. On previous occasions, it was either unable to get a location, or I found her during the 10 minutes it took to get her location.

Whistle 3 - released!

Whistle 3 shipped out in February as expected! This new version of the tracker is smaller, lighter, and sends notifications faster. The company is doing a nice job of keeping on top of the PR machine, they have responded to every negative review on Amazon. The biggest downside to Whistle 3 is that it somehow isn't compatible with all WiFi routers, and the company recommends users with this issue just buy a new router. Wtf, Whistle?

Link AKC - released!

Link AKC was released in March, and it's not bad. It's just very new, and I don't think they beta tested it enough. The tracking is superior to Whistle. I really liked the idea of temperature alerts, but it kept alerting when my dog was in comfortable temperatures and definitely not laying on the device. I also really wanted the virtual leash feature, but again got many false notifications. I ended up returning this one because the single day of battery life was worrisome, and the tracker was beginning to show some wear and tear after only a couple of days.

Nuzzle - wtf?

I originally ordered three Nuzzle collars, hoping to use them for my dogs and maybe even the sheep at work. Unfortunately I had to cancel due to seriously shady behavior on the part of the company. They abruptly stopped communicating, censored everything remotely negative about their product, and blocked a bunch of users who pointed out that taking everyone's money without sending them a product for months is technically illegal. They finally started shipping this week, which is great news for the people that ordered back in 2015. Unfortunately, it looks like the features you get don't exactly match the features advertised. Temperature monitoring may or may not work, battery life is measured in hours not days, and tracking and boundary alerts are highly inaccurate. They've had well over a year to beta test this thing, but it appears they spent all the money on marketing instead.

Pod 3 - May/June 2017

Pod 3's release has been pushing from March to May or June of this year. I really want one, but Nuzzle has completely destroyed my trust in tech companies offering preorders. On the plus side, they're selling Pod 3 as a preorder right now, not as a finished and prepared product that just kinda won't be shipped for a few months.

Kyon - June 2017

Kyon has pushed their release date back to June of 2017. They've added more color options. With 30 days of battery life, and temperature monitoring, the only thing scaring me about this one is the $250 pricetag. This is another company that is being honest with their customers and selling their product as a preorder.

Scollar - August 2017

Scollar is still on track for release later this summer. This is more of a daily reminder collar for pets that stay at home, but it's still cool. 

Wuf - Fall of 2017?

Wuf has pushed their tentative release date back to fall of 2017. It's ok though, their website even has a disclaimer warning preorder people that the release schedule could change as Wuf is a product still in development. Nuzzle was not sold to me or anyone else as a preorder, despite being at roughly the same level of development.

Findster Duo - July 2017

This is one that I just learned about, a GPS tracker that includes a piece for the pet guardian to wear. Findster doesn't need monthly fee because the guardian piece communicates with both your phone at the pet piece. You can buy extra guardian and pet pieces for all the places, people, and pets in your life. I'm very excited about this one, but not enough to preorder it. Thanks again, Nuzzle.

Buddy - officially dead

The Buddy smartcollar's IndieGoGo page is now handing out refunds like candy. The project is officially dead, and the collar will not be released. Like most smartcollar crowdfunding campaigns, the backers were told they were funding the production phase of a working product instead of the development of a hypothetical collar that existed only in the campaigners' dreams. This has been the story of pretty much every pet wearable crowdfunding campaign to date, which means basically everyone who claims to have invented a smartcollar is lying about something. Buddy, DogTelligent, and Nuzzle have left me quite cynical indeed.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Product Review: Economy Center Ring Collar

Gun Dog Supply sells these 3/4" economy leather collars for $6. They come with a free engraved identification plate already riveted on there. The 3/4" collars come in three sizes to fit necks 11-19" around, the 1" version fits necks 12-24" around.
Economy center ring leather working dog collar
I'm not sure who makes these, but these are absolutely the best value collars I've ever seen. As far as I can tell, they last forever. The entire collar is cheaper than a good ID tag, so when your info changes you just buy new collars.

My experience with Gun Dog Supply's economy collars is largely at work, on the sheep ranch. There are tons of these kicking around, and I've never seen one fail. Some have been around for years and years and years. We've left them on goats for months at a time. The working dogs wear them through heavy brush, barbed wire, and dips in the water tubs. The collars stay on, they don't get caught on stuff, and the engraving stays readable.

 I have some leatherworking background that tells me these aren't the most high-quality collars on the market. The little roller buckles and tubular rivets are inexpensive, but they get the job done.

Pros

Add caption
  • Inexpensive
  • Super durable
  • Comes with free engraved ID plate
  • Low profile, minimal hardware reduces the chance of getting snagged on obstacles

Cons

  • Lack of extra keeper means loose end flops around if your dog is on the smaller end of the size range

Bottom Line

If you want an inexpensive collar that will never fade or stretch, and will last forever, this is your best bet.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Treat Tuesday: Carnibar

I bought this Carnibar by Tucker's Dehydrated Food for Dogs at one of my local pet stores, because it was new and different. Turns out it's basically a meal replacement bar for dogs. Not just any meal replacement, either. This thing packs a whopping 48% protein and 28% fat. That's awesome for highly active dogs burning tons of energy!
Dehydrated packaged meal replacement bar for dogs

Good For:

  • Backpacking trips, at 500 calories per bar this thing packs a ton of energy at half the weight of kibble.
  • High value training treats, especially since this is a complete and balanced diet so you can just make it their whole meal
  • Working dogs that need a high-protein, high-fat diet
  • Dogs with allergies to grains, eggs, beef, chicken, peas, potatoes, or tapioca

Not Good For:

  • Fat dogs
  • Dogs that cannot handle large amounts of fat in their diets
  • Dogs with pancreatitis
  • Dogs with allergies to pork, lamb, or pumpkin

How Much We Like Them

At around $3.50 each, I'm not going to be feeding these on a regular basis, however they are insanely useful for some things. I am definitely taking these on our next backpacking trip.

Monday, May 8, 2017

What is the Most Affordable Daily Dental Treat?

I recently posted about Bright Bites daily dental treats, which had me pondering the actual cost of feeding dental treats every day. Little things like that really add up! I love collecting data, so I took a tour of the major online retailers to see how much, or how little, it would cost to feed my dogs a daily dental treat every day.

The Criteria
Photo by Erin Koski

For the purpose of comparison, I chose to include only products that were both marketed and packaged for daily use. Though I can find many individually-wrapped dental treats at my local pet stores, I only included those that could also be purchased in a larger quantity. Few people are going to buy 30 individually-wrapped Bright Bites for the month, but plenty will buy four bags of 8. A company that sells a bunch of dental chews in one bag is definitely taking that "daily dental care" thing seriously.

I also chose to specifically compare products intended for a size range that included both of my girls. So most of these are labeled for medium or regular-sized dogs. Sisci Godzilla weighs 28 pounds, and Zip weighs 36 pounds.

The Results

Cheap

The absolute cheapest dental chew marketed for daily use is Dingo Dental Sticks, at 17-cents each if you buy the bag of 48 sticks on Amazon. The next cheapest is Purina's DentaLife treats at 23-cents each if you buy the package of 40, followed by Pedigree DentaStix, Purina Beneful Healthy Smile Dental Twists, and Milkbone Brushing Chews, ranging from $0.33 to $0.41 per chew. Yes, these are all grocery-store brands, mostly made from by-products. I expected them to all be made in China, but surprisingly all but the Dingo treats are made in the USA.

Standard

Greenies makes the classic daily dental chew, before them I don't remember anything being marketed for daily use like that. Their price point is right in the middle of the pack at $0.81 per regular-sized chew in a package of 36. Bright Bites were slightly more expensive at #1 per chew, along with KaNoodles and Ilio TeethTreats.

Absurd

Every time I see Cloud Star's Dynamo Dog dental chews I am horrified by the price. In the largest package sold, these things will set you back a whopping $2.31 per bone. Yes, they are grain-free and potato-free, but they would also cost $70 per month to feed on a daily basis. Yikes!

Surprise!

Pretty much all of the dental treats (with one freakishly expensive exception) are made from wheat, rice, potato, rawhide, or a combination of these. Many of the more affordable ones are made with chicken by-products as well. I decided beforehand that my personal standards for a dental chew product was that it had to be made in the USA without by-products. I expected the least expensive daily dental chew that met these standards to be somewhere in the middle of the price range. 

Nope! It's Pedigree DentaStix, the third from the bottom at $0.33 per chew. Made in the USA. No by-products. Crazy.

I was also very surprised to see Missing Link's Once Daily dental chew towards the cheap end of the spectrum. This product also contains a daily dose of Missing Link's skin and coat supplement, and somehow it's only $0.52 per chew. I had dismissed the idea of daily dental chews as being too expensive, but it looks like they can be surprisingly affordable!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Product Review: Orbee-Tuff Cosmos Sol

This Sol ball from Planet Dog's Orbee-Tuff Cosmos line is exactly the sort of large-diameter toy I needed for my ball fiends. This is a 5" ball that rates 5 out of 5 on their toughness scale. It is hollow, with a hole that allows it to drop treats. It's also recyclable, made in the USA, and 100% guaranteed. Can't go wrong with that!
Large 5" diameter durable dog ball

Sol goes along with Planet Dog's 4" Luna ball, 3" Ringo ball, and their recently added 2.25" Lunee ball. These are fabulously sciency, geeky dog toys that are made to last. Sol is really, truly enormous. It's also flexible enough for he girls to chomp and get into their mouths.

Both Zip and Godzilla are seriously ball-crazy. A recent choking incident made me realize that standard 3" balls were small enough to present a choking hazard. I picked up over a dozen tennis ball-sized toys around the house and yard. The girls still had plenty of plush toys and chew toys, but I could tell they were missing their balls. This one is big enough for me to feel safe throwing it.

Pros:

  • Big enough for giant breeds
  • Really, really tough
  • Not a choking hazard unless your dog is enormous
  • Smells nice
  • Made in the USA
  • Guaranteed, so if your dog shreds it or hates it, Planet Dog will replace it

Cons:

  • The hole in the ball allows very determined dogs to hook a tooth in and rip the ball apart
  • Some dogs can't fit it in their mouths

Bottom Line

I was looking for something that rolled nicely, was easy on the teeth, and couldn't fit down the throats of my 28 and 26 pound dogs. Sol fits that perfectly.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Product Review: Scratch 'N Squeak Ball Launcher

Scratch 'N Squeak sent us a Scratch 'N Squeak Ball Launcher, and it's everything I hoped it would be! It scratches, it squeaks, it launches tennis balls, and it does all of these things quite nicely. This is a tennis ball launcher with a squeaker in the handle, and grooming bristles on the back so you can give your dog a good brushdown after you play. It is currently available in three colors, and fits standard tennis balls.
Dog toy launcher with squeaker and grooming brush.

It Squeaks!

We've destroyed a lot of squeakers around here, so I had some concerns about this one. Sometimes they're just built flimsy, and they give out in a few squeaks. Happily, the Scratch N' Squeak contains a nice, hefty squeaker that won't just fall apart. 

Why put a squeaker on a ball launcher? Because some dogs aren't natural retrievers, and need a little encouragement to bring the ball all the way back. The squeaker can help keep you dog focused on you, and the game, instead of the awesome ball they just captured.

It Throws!

I've been launching tennis balls with the same blue Chuckit for 17 years now, so I was eager to compare the performance of the Scratch 'N Squeak. This one's a bit shorter and doesn't launch the ball quite as far, but it also works in my smallish yard and doesn't have to be stored like a piece of sporting equipment. 

Tog brush squeaky tennis ball launcher
The circular ball compartment means I can also pick up and launch other toys with it. The Dogegg works if I balance it right. The Wox flops nicely over the end.


 It Grooms!

If you've used a ball launcher and then not scratched your dog's back with it, you're probably doing it wrong. This one goes step further with grooming bristles along the back. You can have a nice game of fetch, and then brush some loose hair off your dog in the great outdoors where you wont have to sweep it up. 
Dog tennis ball launcher

Pros

  • Allows you to pick up and throw tennis balls and other 2.7" balls without touching their slobbery wetness
  • Tough and durable squeaker built into the handle for building excitement
  • Brush bristles allow for a quick groom while on the beach or at the park
  • Long enough to throw balls a long way, short enough to fit comfortably in a bag or backpack
  • I am significantly less likely to whack people nearby with this thing (may not be true for everybody)

Cons

  • Currently only launches standard tennis balls, large and small sizes are not out yet.

Bottom Line

I love the amount of innovation that went into designing the Sns launcher. It was clearly developed by people who used existing products and went, "you know what would make this even better?" We haven't been doing much with standard tennis balls lately after learning about some unfortunate choking incidents, but I am thrilled to know that a large size is in the works. I can't wait to see this product in stores!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Is the Nuzzle Collar a Scam?

I've been an enthusiastic supporter of Nuzzle and their incredible smartcollar for a few months now, but things have changed and I am now seriously concerned that the whole thing is a big scam. Is the Nuzzle collar really as great as they claim? Can it really do everything advertised? Is the company being honest with their customers. In a word, no.

Open and Honest

In the beginning, everything looked great. The Nuzzle collar sounded amazing. It was going to have highly accurate GPS tracking, alerts when your dog left a specified safety zone, a virtual leash to let you know when your dog strayed too far, activity monitoring, and temperature alerts. 

It was the temperature alert feature that really got my attention. Still, I had some questions, so I reached out to the Nuzzle team. I ended up spending an hour on the phone with one of the developers. By the end I was convinced this was going to be the greatest smartcollar, the yardstick by which other smartcollars would be measured. 

When I ordered my collars in January, the shipping date given was in February. When that date rolled around, I received an email explaining how a manufacturing flaw was going to delay shipping by a couple of weeks. We were given a very specific timeline as to when they would be leaving the factory. The collars were supposed to ship out on March 13th.

Hiding Something?

The promised shipping date came and went, and eventually we got an extremely vague update. There were some minor software issues that needed to be addressed, but the team was working hard to get them fixed and would give us a shipping date as soon as they were able.

That was well over a month ago. No details or further updates have been given. Attempts to contact the company have been met with either generic responses that they would be shipping within a week or two, or no response at all.

Sell, Sell, Sell!

Look, I understand that product development is a rocky road. I understand that Nuzzle is supposed to be breaking new ground. What I don't understand is why they continue to aggressively promote their product when they have yet to ship any of them to anyone beyond their original IndieGoGo backers. They are busily doing giveaways and sweepstakes. They are aggressively advertising on social media. They still have not shipped a single collar.

Most disturbing is the prominent claim on their website that "new orders ship in approximately ten days". That claim has been up for weeks. Multiple people have messaged the company via Facebook, asking them to remove this blatant falsehood from the website, but it remains up. Nuzzle is lying to sucker in new customers, they know they are lying, they know we know they are lying.

Nothing But Disappointment

The limited reviews available from the original product backers reveal some disturbing details about the Nuzzle collar. You won't see those on the website though, as the company is heavily censoring both reviews on their own site and any negative comments on their Facebook page. They don't currently appear to have a lot of audience engagement on social media, aside from angry customers asking where the collars are.

Fortunately, the company cannot censor the Amazon reviews for the product, which are universally bad. The battery doesn't even last one day, the boundary notifications are a joke, and the temperature monitoring was an outright bogus claim. The comments from the IndieGoGo backers aren't any better. The Android app has nothing but bad reviews, and the iTunes store isn't much better.

Buyer Beware

I finally asked for a refund for the three collars I ordered when the social media team spent an entire week claiming there would be an email update with a shipping timeline either "today or tomorrow". That was over a week ago. There is still no update.

They delete negative comments on their Facebook page very quickly, but if you're quick you can read some before they delete them. Some people placed their orders and gave Nuzzle their money well over a year ago. To date, nobody has received a Nuzzle collar except the original IndieGoGo backers.

The Nuzzle website and Facebook are designed to deceive you into thinking you are buying a finished product that is all ready to ship. When I bought mine, I believe I was just waiting for the manufacturing process to be complete. However, it turns out that Nuzzle is still very much a product under development. It is by no means a finished product. It is not a functioning smartcollar. 

When you give this company your money, you are not purchasing a smartcollar, you are funding product development for a project that may never be finished. Like Buddy and DogTelligent, this amazing dog tech project appears to be slowly sinking. If you purchased a Nuzzle collar, I advise you to get a refund quickly before the company goes under. No matter how much you want a Nuzzle collar, please be aware that it is, in fact, too good to be true.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Remembering Brisbane

Brisbane would have turned 12 years old a week ago. I did a birthday candle picture for him for each of his eleven birthdays. Tomorrow I will be making the last payment on the vet bill for his palliative cancer treatment. He was a beautiful, brilliant, fantastic dog and I miss him every day.










Thursday, April 27, 2017

Product Review: PAWZ Dog Boots

PAWZ are disposable, reusable dog boots that are basically balloons you put on your dog's feet. They are made from natural rubber, and it's difficult to overstate how much these look like party balloons. It just occurred to me that I have yet to attempt to inflate one though. Anyway, these are available in seven sizes to fit paws up to 5" long. Each size is a different color.
Comfortable disposable rubber boots

It took me a long time to fall in love with PAWZ. They're basically the Crocs of the dog fashion scene. Cheap rubber shoes that are surprisingly comfortable and get the job done while looking cringe-worthy. I mean, they look like I put balloons on my dog's feet.

You wouldn't think that thin, unpadded rubber boots would work very well. They don't have any insulation. They don't have a hard sole. They don't have grippy treads. They don't offer very much protection, but they do offer a small barrier between hot pavement, cold snow, abrasive gravel, and your dog.

We use these at work quite a bit. They are worlds better than most of my impressive collection of dog shoes because they stay on pretty good, and it's not the end of the world if we lose one in the field. At $18 for a pack of 12 boots, I just kind of shrug when Zip comes out of the brush without one.

Most dogs are willing to wear PAWZ even if they hate other shoes, because these don't feel like wearing much. Their toes can expand naturally. Their nails can grip like normal. They have almost as much traction in these as they do in bare feet. There aren't in constricting straps either, the boots just pop on. I've seen people use vetwrap and bandaging tape to help keep the boots on, but honestly my dogs don't lose them unless we're working in really rough terrain.

Pros

  • Inexpensive, easy to replace
  • Really genuinely waterproof, at least until they develop holes
  • Durable enough to handle an entire day's herding, sometimes two or three days before they really fall apart
  • They actually stay on almost all the time
  • Comfortable for dogs

Cons

  • Not protective enough for really hot or really cold conditions
  • Look absolutely ridiculous
  • Not breathable at all
  • No color choice, my dogs wear medium so we only get blue

Bottom Line

These are surprisingly effective without throwing my girls off their groove too much. I am hesitant to put anything on them that could change their gaits, limit their traction, or change the way they move. We work on really abrasive, rocky terrain most of the time, and PAWZ hold up well enough to spare their feet when they start getting sore.