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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.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Treat Tuesday: Bright Bites Daily Dental Treats

Bright Bites are star-shaped dental treats that are fully digestible. They are usually sold in large bags, but one of my local pet stores also carries individually-wrapped bites. The treats come in cinnamon, spearmint, and peppermint flavors.
Daily dental brushing dog treat

Good For:

  • Giving the dogs something to gnaw for several minutes
  • Making their breath minty fresh
  • Possibly reducing plaque and tarter if your dog takes their time and chews very thoroughly

Not Good For:

  • Being an affordable daily treat
  • A substitute for professional dental care

How Much We Like Them

The girls thoroughly enjoy chewing these things. However, the fun little stars cost $1 each when purchased in a big bag, and the manufacturer recommends your dog gets two of them each day. That's $60 a month in dental treats. How much are Greenies? I think I need to do a daily dental treat research project...

Monday, April 24, 2017

How Do Center Ring Collars Work?

Center ring collars are sold for hunting dogs, and are also commonly seen on herding dogs, but what are they for exactly? What is the benefit of having single O-ring right in the middle of the collar? These are also sometimes called "safety collars", and are supposed to allow the dog to escape if they get caught on something. How does that work?
safety dog collars

The mechanics of the safety collar allow it to be much more flexible than a standard buckle collar. The two strap ends can move 90-degrees away from each other. If you attach a leash to this ring, you'll find that it often assumed this shape as soon as the dog puts any pressure on the leash.

The ring also offers a convenient pivot point that allows the collar to flip over and basically roll off your dog's head. The greater flexibility and ability to roll means this collar is much easier for your dog to back out of if they get stuck on a fence wire or tree branch. That's important if your dog is running around in heavy brush. For that reason, a safety collar is usually fitted loosely enough to slip over the dog's head.

Aside from the safety aspect, these collars are also super convenient because they place the center ring right at the back of your dog's neck. Most safety collars also have a D-ring next to the buckle. Attach tags to this ring and they'll act as a counterweight, keeping the center ring right at the top all the time.

This type of escapeable collar is much less prone to getting lost than our KeepSafe breakaway collar. It's not going to just fall off.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Caturday: Instinct Limited Ingredient Rabbit Formula Canned Cat Food

I found these cans of Nature's Variety Instinct Limited Ingredient Rabbit Formula cat food at my local auction house. Yeah, I know that's kinda weird. They sell a bunch of totally random stuff aside from the auction items, most recently I got several cans of Surge soda and a bunch of bully sticks for the dogs. Anyway, these were $0.40 per can, not expired, and a super great deal.

Nature's Variety offers some of the few limited ingredient diets for cats, and the foods they make are quite high quality. They're also super expensive, which makes me glad that neither of The Hellions has food allergies.

The limited ingredient rabbit food is made from rabbit, peas, vitamins, and minerals. Nature's Variety also makes an Instinct rabbit-based cat food that contains pork, and the labels are very similar.

I'm a fan of Nature's Variety and the Instinct product lines, they're pricey but worth the money if you're battling food allergies. Brisbane, who was allergic to everything, particularly loved their canned dog food. This company does not own their own production facility, their cans are co packed by CJ foods, along with several other brands.

This is a loaf-style food that will appeal to a lot of cats. Mine go crazy for it, but they also just love food in general. I would absolutely try this for a picky cat, especially if I really needed to get them to eat.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Food Friday: Annamaet Sustain

I bought this bag of Annamaet Sustain because I wanted to try out another fish-based kibble. This company actually makes two different grain-free fish kibbles, the other is their Aqualuk formula. Sustain is unique because it is made with sustainabley-harvested fish. Knowing the current state of world fisheries, this is a pretty cool concept.

The Company

Dog kibble made from sustainabley-caught fishAnnamaet is named after the founder's mother, Anna Mae. Rob Downey is unique among the pet food company executives I've read about so far, because he has actually published papers on dog diets. He's been publishing in places like the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine since 1979. Are you impressed? I'm impressed. Rob Downey also races sled dogs, and a lot of his works have to do with stamina and effects of diet on working dogs.

Annamaet is definitely a company that is concerned with ecological sustainability, something I'm always happy to support. They're also concerned with contamination, and one of the few pet food companies that formulate their own vitamin and mineral packs rather than buying pre-made packs. The pre-made stuff usually has ingredients from China, which are more likely to be suspect.

 This company does use a co packer to manufacture their food, they do not have their own production facility. I do not believe their co packer has been involved in any recalls though.

The Food

The first ingredient in Sustain is cod heads, from line-caught fish. The second ingredient is turkey meal, so this is actually a turkey-based food. These are followed by chickpeas, sweet potatoes, both green peas and pea protein isolate, and tapioca. The two pea ingredients mean that peas should really be a bit higher on the ingredient list, but overall this is a good grain-free food. It is not currently lsted on the Dog Food Advisor website, but all of the other Annamaet grain-free dogs foods rate five out of five stars.

The Verdict

At 33% protein and 13% fat, this food is an interesting combination of high protein and relatively low fat. This might be why my girls didn't do very well on it, as highly active working dogs they really need the energy provided by a higher fat food. Still, I think this is an excellent option for a less active dog. I would definitely consider Sustain for an overweight dog, as it offers lower fat without being packed full of carbohydrates.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Product Review: K-9 Komfort Deluxe Leather Center Ring Collar

I bought this K-9 Komfort Deluxe Leather Center Ring Collar from GunDogSupply.com. It features brass-plated steel hardware, beautiful stitching, and a custom brass nameplate. K-9 Komfort's products are all handmade in the USA, and this collar was surprisingly inexpensive for the quality. This is a 3/4" wide collar, available in three sizes to fit necks 11-19" around. There is also a 1" wide version in sizes that fit up to a 28" neck.
Handmade leather dog collar made in the USA

Center ring dog collars are pretty standard on working dogs. The girls run through a lot of heavy brush, and these are the least likely to get tangled on something. The engraved nameplates mean I can have identification on them without dangling tags, and the center ring design would allow them to back out of the collars if they got caught on something.

I hadn't seen the K-9 Komfort brand before, but I was looking at center ring collars on GunDogSupply.com and these caught my eye because they were so inexpensive. They were easily half the price of similar-looking products. I am shocked to learn that they are handmade in the USA!

Having done some leatherwork myself, I know what kind of effort goes into the details for a collar like this. The edges are beveled and finished so they are rounded, allowing the collar to slide along the coat nicely. If you leave the edges of a leather strap squared off, the corners can be quite pokey.
Safety center ring collar

The hardware is also quite nice. It's brass plated steel, so all the beauty of brass without the softness.

Pros

  • Beautiful, long-wearing safety collar
  • Strong but beautiful hardware
  • High-quality stitched leather
  • Made in the USA
  • Somehow only cost me $18

Cons

  • New leather is a bit stiff

Bottom Line

I can't figure out how K-9 Komfort is making collars this nice for this price. Maybe some kind of voodoo magic?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Lower Jaw Entrapment

A friend's tiny dog recently had a major scare with an OurPets IQ Treat Ball. This is a hard plastic ball with a round hole that allows food and treats to fall out of the ball as the dog rolls it around. The ball comes in two sizes, but both have the same size of exit opening.

Sedated, unhappy, but ok.
The poor little papillion got her lower jaw stuck in the hole, and panicked. The pup began bleeding from the mouth, and her tongue was turning purple. She was rushed to the emergency vet, where the was sedated so the ball could be cut off her jaw.

The packaging for the IQ Treat Ball says it should not be given to dogs large enough to fit the entire ball in their mouths. It does not, however, have a warning about giving it to small or toy breed dogs. In fact, it is actually advertised as being perfect for small dogs.

It's worth noting that this dog was being closely supervised as she played with the ball, and immediate help from her owner did not prevent her from panicking. The dog ripped both dewclaws off trying to get free from the ball.

Dogs getting their lower jaws caught in toys is a fairly common occurrence, I've seen pictures of dogs stuck in marrow bones, classic Kongs, and Kong Wobblers. There were a couple of reports of dogs getting their mouths caught in P.L.A.Y.'s Wobble Ball, however the company has since redesigned the toy to make it safer.

Amazon.com has a surprising number of reviews that mention small dogs getting stuck in the IQ Treat Ball. This seems to be a somewhat common occurrence, and that really bothers me.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter from The Dog Geek! The pups got Easter baskets, of course!



Thursday, April 13, 2017

How to Protect Your Dog From Foxtails

Foxtails are a particularly nasty sort of grass awn that can injure or even kill your dog. Common on the west coast of North America, these barbed seeds get stuck in fur and then migrate. They're known for burrowing through the body and causing all sorts of infections and complications. Foxtails most commonly get stuck in paws and armpits, but they're more dangerous when they end up in your dog's nose, eye, or ear.

Several of the most easy to find resources on foxtail safety recommend keeping your dog away from all foxtails all the time. However, that's not practical for everyone. I know my dogs aren't the only ones that have to run through vast fields of foxtails to do their jobs. Grass awns are a big risk, but are they dangerous enough to be worth giving up hiking or hunting for months out of the year? Are there ways to help reduce the risk without just staying indoors?

Grooming

Protective hunting vest
Photo by Erin Koski
Regularly inspecting your dog is the best way to prevent foxtail injuries, as you can remove the grass awns before they have the chance to work their way into the skin. I always check Godzilla and Zip's feet, armpits, and bellies after they run through the field. Good grooming can also help prevent embedded foxtails, as the grass is less likely to stick for long in a clean and combed coat. Matted fur is a magnet for them though, and unshed undercoat traps them quite easily.

Conditioner

A spray-on conditioner like ShowSheen can help prevent grass awns from sticking in your dog's coat, even if she isn't all clean and brushed all the time. Used as a hair polish for show horses, ShowSheen coats the fur and makes it nice and slippery. Foxtails don't tend to stick in either of the girls' coats, but ShowSheen helps make sure even the tenacious ones fall out.

Body Armor

There are a variety of different types of body protection designed to prevent various things from poking or scratching your dog. These are usually made from thick nylon or other tough fabric. Brush guards cover your dog's chest, while vests offer protection up the sides and in the armpits as well.

There are even entire suits designed to cover your dog, though they can be uncomfortable in hot weather. (I'm in southern California so it's hot at least nine months out of the year.)

Head Protection

The OutFox is so far the only product that I feel really offers adequate head protection from grass awns. There are other products that just cover the ears, but I'm far more worried about my dogs getting a foxtail up the nose or even in their lungs. I love this thing so much that the girls each wear one every time we go out into the field. They do seem to run a little hotter in it, and one of our coworker dogs has some visibility issues in it, but so far it's well worth the extra effort to keep them cool.


Saturday, April 8, 2017

Caturday: What is the Most Affordable Wet Cat Food?

I've been considering switching The Hellions to mostly wet food for a while. While kibble seems to help keep kitty teeth clean, wet food provides a lot more hydration. It also makes portion control easier. Solstice is a fatty, so I'm hoping to help her slim down without making her feel like she's starving all the time.

Kidney Health?
Clearance rack cat food is the best cat food.

For years I truly believed that the dental benefits of dry kibble made it the superior choice for cat food. Then I started hearing about urinary tract and renal health, and started thinking that wet food might be the better option. Fortunately, I was determined to find some actual scholarly sources to back up my preconceived notions. What I found was FelineCRF.org

This site is put together by someone who, as far as I can tell, doesn't have an agenda other than presenting as much well-sourced information as they can about chronic renal failure. Their statements are backed up with articles from peer-reviewed journals. I love this, because so many websites and blogs have statements like "wet food is necessary for proper hydration, kibble will dehydrate your cat and eventually cause kidney failure!" This is apparently not true, the jury is definitely out on whether dry or wet food is better for cats with healthy kidneys.

Portion Control

We do know that cats tend to take in fewer calories when eating canned food. This can make it a good choice for slimming down a tubby kitty. It also provides its own portion control, because there's only so much in a can. I'm currently feeding them half a 5.5oz can, twice a day. 

Heavy and Expensive

The downside to feeding wet food is that it is bloody expensive. Also quite heavy. Trying to make this new concept work has been a challenge. James and Solstice each eat a 5.5oz can per day, for a grand total of 60 cans per month. Considering that most foods in the store cost more than $1 per can, that adds up fast. I have had some luck shopping the clearance shelf at Petsmart, I got a bunch of grain-free Wellness cans for $0.37 each. Surprisingly, the big cans of Wellness aren't a particularly better deal per ounce than their smaller cans.

My current cat food bill is around $30 a month for a bag of dry food. To match that with wet food, I'd have to find cans for $0.50 each or less. Barring opportunistic clearance food, I don't think I can manage that. However, I was quite pleased to find that Tractor Supply sells 5.5 oz cans of their grain-free 4Health brand for $0.70 each. At this point I'm pretty happy to find anything under $1 per can. I'll still get them some other stuff occasionally for variety.

4Health is so far the most affordable wet cat food I've found that meets my personal standards. That said, everyone's budget is different, and cats can be picky little buggers. If your cat will only eat the cheapest wet food at the grocery store, by all means feed that. Don't feel guilty about it, either.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Food Friday: Pulsar Pulses and Fish Formula

Pulsar's Pulses and Fish Formula is a grain-free kibble made with red lentils, peas, and salmon. This is a potato-free food with a low glycemic index. Pulsar strives to make high-quality grain-free food that is still affordable.The Pulsar foods are all formulated for all life stages. There's a lot to love about this company.

Pulsar salmon, lentil, and pea dog kibbleThe Company

Parent company Horizon actually owns their own production facility in Saskatchewan, Canada. No co packers here! To date, they have never had a recall. They've only been around since 2007, making them seem rather new compared to giants like Tuffy's and Fromm. Still, a newer company with their own facility is pretty awesome, some of the older and larger companies have been guilty of letting their equipment get old and icky. (I'm looking at you, Diamond.) They opened a second production facility next door in 2016. 

Like Champion Pet Foods, Horizon seeks to source their ingredients as locally as possible. The company is located in an agricultural basin, surrounded by farmland. They get a whole lot of their ingredients directly from the growers. Yes, another Canadian company with grower-direct ingredients and control of their own production means, that sounds very much like Champion, makers of Acana and Orijen. However, Horizon also places a lot of emphasis on affordability. Their foods are made with the same integrity, but without the sticker shock.

Salmon, lentil, and pea dog foodThe Food

Ok, I can't be the only person who looked at this bag and went, "Pulses and fish? What the heck is a pulse?!" I kinda figured it was a creative made-up term, like Blue Buffalo's "lifesource bits". I was wrong though, it turns out that "pulse" is another words for legumes. Yes, beans, peas, and lentils are all pulses. Thanks to pulses.org, I now know that pulses are a great form of sustainable agriculture. Hooray for Google!

I had been wanting to try out some fish kibbles, so I ordered this bag from Chewy.com. Admittedly, mostly I got it so I could tell you the story of how I learned what pulses are. Horizon makes four brands of food, and Pulsar is their most affordable option. This means it has the lowest amount of meat ingredients. This food has a lower protein and fat content than I'd like for my dogs in the long-term, but it was still worth trying.

The ingredients for Pulses and Fish starts with salmon meal, followed by red lentils, peas, and pea starch. This means they use ingredient splitting to make it look like there's less peas in their food, but they only have pea products on their twice and don't do that with any other ingredients. That's not nearly as bad as foods with ingredient lists that look like, "salmon, peas, pea starch, pea protein, pea flour..." There's more peas in that food than fish. Horizon is a bit more honest with us.

I'm not super thrilled that they chose to put egg product in this food. Horizon appears to be one of those companies that thinks eggs are so awesome that they should be in everything all the time. Having owned a dearly beloved dog with a major egg allergy, it annoys me that this can't be considered a limited-ingredient or allergy-friendly food.

The Verdict

While I love the company and their philosophy, and wouldn't hesitate to recommend them to other pet owners, I don't think Pulsar is the best choice for my high-energy working dogs. Both Godzilla and Zip have had rather dull coats lately, and I'm looking for a food with enough fat and protein content to have them looking and feeling their best.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Product Review: VetOne ElizaSoft Recovery Collar

VetOne's ElizaSoft Recovery Collar is a flexible alternative to the traditional Cone of Shame. The soft cone is machine washable, folds flat for easy storage, and is made in the USA. It is available in six sizes.
Soft and comfortable Cone of Shame
Photo by Erin Koski

I can't remember where I got this soft cone, but I've kept it around because it's so convenient. It's soft enough for the girls to wear in their crates, which is impressive if you've ever tried to crate a dog wearing a traditional cone. It also doesn't hurt when a boisterous puppy smashes it into your shins.

I haven't yet needed to use it, so I have no idea how the ElizaSoft Collar compares to my other two Cone of Shame options, the ZenPet and the Cloud Collar. Both of those are inflatable donuts, I could use this with either of them for extra protection.

There are a lot of practical reasons to love this collar. It doesn't distort sounds like a big plastic cone. It's way easier to store, too. I think my favorite feature is that it is machine washable. We got to test that when Zip barfed all over it. Went through the wash and came out like new!

Pros

  • Soft
  • Quiet
  • Doesn't smash into things
  • Doesn't distort sounds
  • Fits in crates and through doorways
  • Folds up and fits in a drawer easily
  • Machine washable

Cons

  • Probably not as protective as a rigid plastic cone

Bottom Line

This is the perfect in-case-of-emergency cone. It's great for sensitive dogs, as well as those that like to use their rigid cone as a bulldozer.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Dog Tech: Link AKC is Not for Us

We've been using Link AKC for less than a week, but I've already determined that it's not the right product for us. This groundbreaking smartcollar is supposed to be able to track your dog, help you find them if they get lost, let you know how active they are, and even alert you if they are getting too hot or cold. Unfortunately, like all new technology, it has quite a few bugs.

A Rocky Start
Large bulky smart collar attachment

The company has chosen to make Link AKC an entirely app-based product. This means the collar only works as long as the app works. I ran into a software bug two screens into setting up my account, and this prevented me from using my Link AKC smart collar for the first week I had it. Eventually this was resolved, not through a software update, but through a customer service manager taking my credit card information over the phone and handing it off to the engineering team so they could create an account for me on the back end. 

Yeah, I never got to check out the account creation process. I also learned that the entire device is one software bug away from total failure. Even once we got everything working, the number of error messages and false alerts was really disheartening.

"A Smartphone for Your Dog"

One of my wonderful readers described Link AKC as being "like a smartphone for your dog", and I cannot think of a better way to put it. Using this device feels exactly like buying a smartphone and then strapping it to my dog's collar. Think about that for a second.

Yeah. It's a cool idea. Having a GPS/Bluetooth/WiFi tracker on my dog should give me some piece of mind, but instead it just fills me with concern. Is the smartphone still attached to her collar? Did we break it yet? What if it gets caught on something out there? It's a huge chunky thing that sticks way out from her neck, and she does a lot of squirming under fences and shoving her head down squirrel holes. It also keeps sending me false notifications, which is alarming. I got two notifications that Sisci Godzilla was getting too hot, both when she was with me, cool and comfortable, and definitely not laying on the tracker or trapping heat in any way. I also got notifications that she was away when she had been sitting on my lap for an hour.

The battery life is reminiscent of a smartphone. You're supposed to take the device off your dog every night to charge it, and just hope your dog doesn't get lost at night. They recommend you charge it right beside your smartphone, which is cute, but I'd rather have this safety device on my dog 24/7.

For Civilized Dogs

I don't think the makers of Link AKC were thinking about me and my dogs when they designed their product. This thing has no business being on a dog that runs through thick underbrush and jumps into a stock tank or pond to cool off. It's great for urban and suburban families that have civilized adventures, but it was clearly not made for rugged working dogs, rough terrain, or long days outdoors.

While I'm sure the software will get better with time, I am absolutely certain we are going to break the hardware in short order. After two days the spring latches that keep the tracker on the collar mount are already moving noticeably less smoothly. I had grand plans to compare the tracking ability and accuracy of various smartcollars, but I can't justify keeping this one when we're just going to destroy it. I am using Link AKC's 30-day money-back guarantee, and continuing to look for a GPS tracker with long-lasting interchangeable batteries, durable hardware, and a low profile.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Treat Tuesday: Dog for Dog Dogstreat Mini

Dog for Dog makes their soft and chewy Dogstreat Minis in duck and peanut butter flavors. These little nuggets are a nice size for training treats. I like this company because they donate an equal amount of food to shelters when you buy their products. We haven't tried any of their dog food yet, but these treats are nice.
Dogstreat Minis

Good For:

  • Mid-value training treats
  • Dog with tiny mouths
  • Dogs with sensitive mouths or teeth
  • Dogs that need portion control

Not Good For:

  • High-value training treats, Sisci Godzilla actually started spitting them out after a while
  • Dogs with poultry, grain, or pork allergies, these things have a surprising number of ingredients

How Much We Like Them

I like to give Ru a few of these when I have to leave him behind to take the girls out to do real dog stuff.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Product Review: Sylmar Body Guard Dog Vest

Sylmar's Body Guard Vest is a high-visibility vest designed to protect your dog's chest and belly from burrs, sticks, barbed wire, and other nasty stuff they can run into out in the field. This vest is made from heavy duty nylon, with three adjustable buckles along the back. It comes in Safety Orange, High-Viz Yellow, and camouflage. The basic Body Guard is available in eight different sizes, with optional neoprene lining for warmth.
Protective high visibility safety vest for dogs
Photo by Erin Koski

This product was originally designed for hunting dogs, but it will work for any dog that needs protection on their underside. We've been using it to keep the foxtails to a minimum, and it also protects Zip from cactus spines and barbed wire.

The Body Guard design is different from the standard visibility vest, though it serves that function nicely. This vest has two leg holes, and provides full chest and belly protection as well as visibility.
High visibility safety chest protector
Photo by Erin Koski

Pros

  • Thick ripstop nylon protects against thorns, cactus, barbed wire, burrs, and foxtails
  • Genuine Safety Orange and Safety Yellow colors for high visibility during hunting season
  • Open back design allows body heat to dissipate
  • Sylmar says they do custom sizing and colors, small company eager to wok with customers

Cons

  • Leg-hole design may cause chafing if the fit isn't right
  • May restrict range of motion

Bottom Line

While the Body Guard does a nice job of keeping the foxtails off Zip's chest and belly, I feel it restricts her range of motion when she runs full-speed. Since most burs and stickers just fall out of her coat, I don't really need to keep her covered like this. However, her dad has a curly coat that picks up every nasty thing in the field, and this vest does wonders for him. Sylmar also makes sleeved suits for maximum protection, and we're seriously considering one for him.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Dog Tech: Link AKC First Impressions

It took an entire week, but my Link AKC smart collar is finally working...ish. Probably. Really, the issue isn't so much the collar hardware as the smartphone app. It's buggy as hell, and when the app doesn't work the collar doesn't work. So far the only dog GPS tracker I have personal experience with is the Whistle 2. Whistle has browser-based option that allows users to log on from regular computers. This means that a bug in the app won't render to collar useless.

Bugs, Bugs, and More Bugs

The first software bug I ran into was the inability to set up a subscription plan, the app took me to a blank screen and nothing else ever loaded. The workaround for this was to talk to a support manager after several days of phone tag, give them my credit card number and all of my personal information over the phone, and have them set up my account from the back end.

This brings me to the second software bug, the inability to log in via email. First I tried logging in through Facebook, and when I hit that blank screen I tried logging in through email instead. The app said there was already an account with that email address, but not with any password I ever set up. Attempts to reset the password just got me the error message "Password reset failed". 

This is awesome, because my weirdass backdoor account set up by the support team was supposedly done with my email address. The app opened to the collar pairing screen after they did that, so I actually still have no idea what my account password is, or anything else about it.

Upon finally pairing my collar, I tried setting up a profile for Sisci Godzilla. So far I have been unable to upload a picture to her profile, I get a weird error message that I should probably copy down and send along to the support team. "There was an error communicating with the Link AKC server: Object version mismatch Dogld 878". (I'm sure they're tired of hearing from me by now.)

Battery Life

Link AKC must be removed from the collar and placed on the base station to charge. The company recommends you charge it every night, just in case you need to use the GPS tracking feature. This means no tracking, temperature alerts, or anything else at night. I'm surprised at this decision by the development team, it seems like all the other smartcollar companies are touting the battery ife of their products. Our Whistle 2 lasts about five days between charging, it's kind of weird for Link AKC to not be intended to last more than a day.

I had originally planned to use this GPS tracker for Zip, because she likes to range further than I'm comfortable with when exploring. However, due to my concerns about the reliability of the product, I'm leaving the Whistle 2 tracker on Zip for now. It may not have as many features or options, but right now I trust it a whole lot more than Link AKC.