Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Product Review: OutFox Field Guard

The OutFox Field Guard is a protective mask designed to protect your dog's ears, nose, and eyes from nasty foxtails and other evil weeds. This mesh hood allows your dog to see, hear, pant, drink, sniff, swim, play, and herd sheep without fear of icky burrowing plant bits. It is available in five standard sizes, and can also be made in custom sizes for very large or funny-shaped dogs. My girls wear a size small.
Protective foxtail hood

We have a massive foxtail problem in southern California. These nasty little grass spikelets actually burrow through your dog's fur. They expand and contract, pushing themselves into the worst possible places. Plenty of dogs have been killed by foxtails in their ears, noses, or even lungs. They've been known to burrow into a dog's heart, or spinal column. My vet treated a dog that had a foxtail enter a rear paw and burrow so far it came out a front paw.

I check Zip and Godzilla carefully for foxtails (and cactus spines, because cattledogs are crazy), but I still have to worry about the ones I miss. I wish that we could avoid them altogether, but here in southern California pretty much every outdoor area is filled with them. Fortunately, neither of them has a coat that picks up a lot of nasties.

The OutFox is a brilliant piece of protective gear. It's surprisingly unobtrusive, most of the dogs we've tried it on haven't minded it. The hood is essentially a shaped bag with an elastic drawstring at the neck. A pair of velcro tabs attach it to the dog's collar for security.
Protective hood for dogs


  • Protects eyes, ears, and noses from foxtails
  • Allows normal rage of outdoor activity
  • Makes my dog look kinda scary to grumpy sheep
  • Custom sizing available
  • Very easy to use
  • Easy to condition reluctant dogs to wear it


  • Mesh tends to collect slobber and dog snot, gets gross pretty quickly
  • Looks kind of weird, takes some getting used to
  • Collar straps aren't strong enough, ours is now missing in the field
  • Only available from the manufacturer unless you live in northern California

Bottom Line

These are becoming standard equipment on the ranch, and we now use them every day. Unfortunately, we lost our first one despite properly attaching it to Zip's collar. When she came bounding out of the head-high weeds without it, I almost panicked. It has taken us three days to get a replacement shipped here, and I've been worried the whole time. I might stick a TabCat tracker on it...

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Treat Tuesday: Blue Buffalo Wild Rolls

Blue Buffalo's Wild Rolls are kinda like a roll of salami, only with dog food instead of sausage. There are several different brands of dog food that come in roll form, and they are all very economical to use as training treats. They vary in value to the dogs, and the Wild Rolls seem to be especially tasty.
Dog food salami roll

Good For

  • Chopping into tiny training treats of the perfect size
  • Staying moist and non-crumbly even after several hours exposed to the air
  • Very high-value training treats
  • Feeding to picky dogs, as these are also complete and balanced dog food

Not Good For

  • Chopping into perfect neat cubes, this stuff is softer and squishier than any other food roll I've used
  • Diabetic dogs, or those that need to watch their glycemic index. All rolled dog food contains a lot of sugar

How Much We Like Them

Enough that I buy them on a fairly regular basis to use as training treats. For the price, it's hard to beat the number of treats I get out of one roll. Plus I can chop them exactly as small as I need them.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Dog Tech: LinkAKC Doesn't Work

My LinkAKC smartcollar finally arrived on Friday! It's so beautiful, with such unique package design. Too bad I'm going to have to send it back. See, this is a smart collar that works with a smartphone app, and the app doesn't work, making Link AKC a $150 plain leather collar with a big awkward hunk of plastic.

The Hype

Canister packaging for non-functioning smart collar with buggy app.LINK AKC is a smart collar with an unprecedented amount of hype behind it. I preordered mine back in December, and since then I have received AKC's smartcollar newsletter every other day. Yes, every two days I get an email packed with awesome stuff about how great this collar is. Over the last three months I have received 44 different promotional emails about the product I had already ordered and committed to buying. I didn't mind though, because I am a giant nerd and couldn't wait to get it.

The Arrival

The packaging for the collar was wonderful. Very easy to open, but secure with proper protection for the electronics. No horrible plastic to cut through, and the whole thing seems pretty eco-friendly as well.

The collar is a very nice stitched leather piece that is a bit stiff like all new leather. It feels a bit big on Godzilla, but looks great on Zip. The actual tracker and its holder also seem bulky on Godzilla's neck.

The Setup

Smart collar with useless smartphone appPutting the tracker onto the bracket and the bracket onto the collar was super easy and straightforward. I downloaded the Quick Start Guide to my phone, which instructed me to assemble the collar an then download the Link AKC app.

This is where things ground to a screeching halt. I should have been mere minutes away from creating an account, selecting and purchasing a service plan, and pairing the collar with my phone via Bluetooth. Upon opening, the app prompts the user to either sign in with Facebook, or create an account with an email address. I tried Facebook first, and after loading for a full five minutes, the app finally prompted me to choose a user picture. 

Smart collar cannot be paired with phone because the app doesn't workAfter selecting a picture of me and my dogs, it was time to activate the collar. The next screen prompted me to activate a service plan, with three possible options. I chose one, and was taken to a blank screen. Nothing ever loaded. Went back and tried again, same thing. Went back and selected a different service plan, same blank screen.

Being fairly tech savvy, I first tried uninstalling and reinstalling the app. No luck. Rebooting my phone had no effect either. Next I tried creating an account with an email address. The app informed me that I already had an account with that address. Login with my password failed, so I tried to reset the password. The password reset also failed. I tried uninstalling and reinstalling again, just in case. At this point I had been trying to get the Link AKC app to work for well over an hour.

Smart collar with app that doesn't work properly so it's basically an expensive paperweight.Tech Support

 Saturday morning I called Link AKC tech support and spent 20 minutes on hold waiting to talk to someone that couldn't help me. They didn't know why it wasn't working, said it was a known issue, and that they would pass my information along to the engineers. There is no timeline for when this could be fixed, and in the meantime my smartcollar is just an expensive paperweight. Unlike Whistle, Link AKC does not have an online version you can access via computer. The collar will only work with the smartphone app, and the app doesn't work so the collar doesn't work. It is literally useless.
Whistle is better than Link AKC in every way because Whistle actually works.
My LinkAKC collar is currently packed back into its lovely intuitive packaging awaiting its return to the company. They offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, and I have no way of knowing if it will become functional before that time is up. This smart collar is a huge disappointment. Companies need to be careful how much customer enthusiasm they drum up, as it easily changes to customer rage when the product fails to meet expectations. Link AKC has failed to meet my expectations in every possible way.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Caturday: Barncats

We were having an enormous rodent problem at work. The barns, the sheds, the tack room, pretty much everything resembling a structure was thoroughly infested with mice and rats. It got so bad that I could spot half a dozen mice in the barn if I kept still for more than a few minutes. I'm a wildlife advocate, but seriously, rodents suck. They eat small amounts of your food, or animal feed, and then pee in the rest of it so nobody else can use it. Gross, gross, gross.
Cat sitting in open door of red barn

As a wildlife advocate, I am generally opposed to keeping outdoor pet cats. They kill tons of songbirds, and really mess up the local ecosystem. My cats stay indoors, where they can be happy and healthy without murdering small animals. Would they be happier and more stimulated with access to the outside? Probably, but to me personally it's not worth their potential impact on the wildlife I share their neighborhood with.

That said, I do love our barncats. The local shelter adopts out nasty-tempered cats as barn cats, they are free to approved homes, and come spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and microchipped. Keep them confined, fed, and watered for a week or two after bringing them home, and then turn them lose to rain carnage down on the local rodent population.

We got our first set of barn kitties in December. a set of three four-month-old littermates. They don't want to interact with people, but are perfectly content to lounge around nearby as long as we don't bother them. They tend to show up around dinnertime, and the three of them can nearly always be found together.

The impact of the cats has been tremendous. I have not see a rodent in the barn in weeks. Everyone who lives on the property has noticed a dramatic reduction in rodent activity in their homes. I spotted a kitty carrying a mouse last week. Go little hunters! Murder everything!

The cats have had an impact on other wildlife as well. I no longer see cliff swallows foraging on the ground near the feed bins, and the cats may be affecting our robust population of big fat fence lizards as well. That said, I know their range is limited, and they can't reproduce. They aren't pets allowed to roam and kill just for amusement, and the pest control they provide means no more traps or poison or spoiled feed. These little working kitties are performing the ancestral job that resulted in the domestication of cats to begin with, and that's pretty cool.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Food Friday: Naked Turkey + Pea Formula Kibble

Naked's Turkey + Pea kibble is a grain-free, single-protein dry dog food that is very allergy-friendly. We received this kibble in our first Naked Dog Box (this is an affiliate link), a subscription box that arrives every two weeks. Ours came free as part of a promotion, but we may keep subscribing because this is such a great concept. If you'd like to try it out, you can use the coupon code thedoggeek10 and get $10 off your first box!
Subscription grain-free dog food box

The Company

Ok, you know how some grocery stores have bulk bins, where you can bag up your own beans, rice, or whatever in any amount, for super cheap? The Naked Dog has taken this eco-friendly and wallet-friendly concept and applied it to pets. You can can kibble and treats in bulk, and if you visit one of their brick and mortar locations, you can even bring your own bag to fill! 

I often comment on dog food companies and how they use package design to influence their customers. If the bags aren't covered in pictures of wolves and claims about "ancestral diets", they're splashed with images of fresh vegetables and cuts of steak and chicken that look fresh from the meat counter at the supermarket, yet bear no resemblance to the actual ingredients in the food. Naked skips all that and just puts the food in a plain bag, so you don't have to pay for their graphic designer, artist, or photographer. Heck, you don't even have to pay for a bag if you bring your own!

The Naked Dog, also known as Protein for Pets, was founded by the same mastermind behind Dogswell. It's a company and philosophy I trust. I don't think they have their own manufacturing facility, but I really hope their stuff is co packed by Tuffy's Pet Foods. They're hard to beat for high-tech kibble production.
Turkey and pea kibble

The Food

Naked refers to their food as "stripped down", and I can see why. This turkey and pea kibble only has turkey and peas in it. They didn't feel the need to cram some fish or egg into every recipe, or load up on five kinds of carbohydrates. Admittedly, they did some ingredient splitting with four different pea-based entries on the list, but turkey and then turkey meal come first. This is a low-glycemic food that is extremely allergy-friendly, and it would be a good place to start when figuring out potential food allergens for your dog.

The Verdict

Zip loves this food, which is nice because she's not always super excited about dinner. I mean, it's just food, right? You can't herd it or fetch it. It's too early to tell what effect the food will have on her skin and coat, but she's been doing pretty well as long as we keep the fleas under control. Long-term I think I'd prefer to have her on something with a higher fat and protein content, but I think this food is an excellent and affordable choice for most pet dogs that aren't herding sheep all day.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Scratch N' Squeak Dog Ball Launcher

I just found out about the Scratch N' Squeak, and it's so cool I have to share. This is basically an outdoor multi-tool for your dog. It's a ball launcher with a squeaker and a brush built in. It's brilliant!
tennis ball launcher for dogs
Photo by Erin Koski

Bring On the Fetch!

Godzilla is absolutely the Queen of Fetch, but Zip isn't always enthusiastic about bringing the ball back. My dearly departed Brisbane was even worse, he would chase the ball down, bite it thoroughly, and then stand there waiting for me to catch up. "My work here is done." 

Obviously the creators of Scratch N' Squeak have had a similar experience, because they built a squeaker into the handle of their ball launcher. Nothing amps my dogs up like a squeaky toy, and they can't run off with this one! Throw the ball, let them get it, and then squeak-squeak-squeak to help encourage them to bring it back again.


If you own a Chuckit or similar ball launcher, you've probably used it to scratch a dog before. It's kinda shaped like a back scratcher, right? Not every dog is thrilled with the idea of being rubbed with the instrument-o-fetch, but we've met plenty of dogs on the beach that didn't mind some tool-assisted petting.

Scratch N' Squeak is even better for petting dogs, because it has a contoured brush built in. Rather than just scratching your dog's rump, you can actually pull some loose hair off of him while you're enjoying the outdoors. It's perfect when your pup is resting after a game of fetch. 

If your dog is anything like Zip and Godzilla, they get excited as soon as they see a ball launcher, even if there isn't a ball in sight. I'm pretty excited about the Scratch N' Squeak myself. It's currently available for pre-order, and I'm looking forward to the one for larger-diameter balls that will hopefully be coming out next. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Product Review: Red Dingo Bucklebone Collar

Red Dingo's Bucklebone Collar comes in so many eye-catching colors and designs, it's tough to choose just one! Their ribbon collars stay fresh and new-looking for ages, and the designs hold up remarkably well. Each collar has their signature bone-shaped quick-release buckle. They also offer plain and reflective collars, but the decorative ribbon collars are my favorite. Bucklebone collars are available in four sizes, to fit dogs with necks 8-25"around.
Quick-release adjustable nylon collar with bone-shaped quick-release buckle
Photo by Erin Koski

This hot pink Stars collar is currently my favorite flat buckle collar for my personal red dingo. (Yup, Australian dingoes were used in the development of the Australian cattle dog!) I really love star patterns in general, and the lime green ones on this design stand out just right. They're not patriotic, just cosmic.


  • Available in a near-infinite number of color and design combinations
  • Bone-shaped buckle is secure and easy to use
  • Super durable
  • Resists fading in the sun


  • Lighter colors start to look dirty after a while

Bottom Line

This is an excellent choice of collar to leave on your dog for months at a time. It will still look pretty snazzy, and a trip through the washing machine will have it looking almost new again.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Naked Dog Box!

We got our first Naked Dog Box yesterday! It's a subscription box that arrives every two weeks. What's inside? Two weeks' worth of top-quality grain-free dog food, a scoop for measuring out just the right amount, and a surprise treat or toy! Ours also came with an adorable DIY paper bowtie because bowties make everything better.
Dog food subscription box
Disclosure time! I got this box for free as part of an affiliate program. The links from this page are also affiliate links.

First time using The Naked Dog Box? Get $10 off your order with code 10BUCKS now!

"Naked" is the name of the house brand food made by The Naked Dog, an online pet store. Their products have a limited ingredient list with single proteins, making them allergy friendly. My favorite thing about the bag of Naked kibble that arrived at my door is that it's in a plain brown bag. No money was spent on pretty pictures, or a bag designed to appeal to consumers. It's practically naked.
What's inside the box: a plain bag of dog food, a bag of treats, and a couple of cardboard postcards
Portion control is a big deal for keeping your dog at a healthy weight, so our box came with a 1.5 cup stainless steel scoop. How cool is that? The recommendation is that zip get 3 cups of this food per day. That sounds like quite a lot, as she usually eats two cups of most kibbles.

Each box includes a free goody, this time it's a bag of Tricky Trainers treats from Cloud Star. Since this company's pet food values line up with my own, I know I'll be getting treats that I feel safe giving to my dogs. I've had subscription boxes in the past, and the reason we stopped getting Pet Gift Box was because they sent dollar store treats and toys that didn't feel completely trustworthy.
Subscription pet food box

The more I find out about this company, the more I like them. They strive to have the lowest carbon footprint, and their food is made here in California. It looks like they have physical stores in my area too! We're definitely going to have to visit one soon!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

Happy Saint Patrick's Day from the Dog Geek and crew! We're not big fans of beer or corned beef or cabbage around here, but we do love some fairy tales. Here's one I particularly love, about the Irish hero Fionn MacCool, and how he got his dogs Bran and Sceo'lan.

Fionn MacCool, leader of the Fianna, was a legendary hunter and warrior in Irish mythology. His two hounds appear in multiple stories beside Fionn.

This one is not a long story, but it has a little bit of everything. Love, jealousy, fairies, magic, and a man who hates dogs. Like, really, really hates them. (It's ok, everyone lives happily ever after!)

Check out the Birth of Bran over at Sacred Texts!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Dog Tech: Smart Bowls

Smart bowls are the wave of the future when it comes to feeding or watering your pet. Some allow you to carefully monitor food and water intake. Others help you schedule feedings even when you aren't home. There's a lot of variety in this branch of the emergent world of pet tech. Let's take a look!

Obe ProBowl
No, not a bowl that makes your dog smart!

This is a dishwasher-safe bowl that connects to a smart base. The base works with a smartphone app that allows you to monitor your dog or cat's habits. Portion control is built in, there's an indicator that changes color when you've added just the right amount of food. It changes to a different color after your pet has eaten, so they can't convince anyone else in the household that they haven't been fed. Obe's ProBowl app will send alerts if your pet's eating or drinking habits change, as this can indicate a health problem. ProBowl's app will also somehow figure out if you are out of food, and order more on its own from Amazon. We have a printer at work that orders its own ink when it's about to run out. This feels like that only maybe a little creepier. ProBwl is currently in pre-order stage, with a projected shipping date of spring 2017. It will set you back about $100.

Eyenimal Intelligent Pet Bowl

This smart bowl is basically a food scale with a dog bowl attached, which is still pretty cool. Portion control is a huge part of keeping pets healthy, and it's really easy to add a heaping scoop of food rather than a level scoop, and end up packing in extra calories. Weighing pet food is definitely the most accurate way to go. The price on this one isn't bad, just $30.

PetNet Smartbowl and Smartfeeder

PetNet's Smartbowl is another scale for portion control, this time in a neat modern-looking square for $50. Their Smartfeeder is the real deal, though. It works with a smartphone app to schedule feedings, and lets you feed remotely and do custom portions for every meal. It also monitors your pet's intake. This device costs $150, but it's already on the market. I really like that it uses a stainless steel bowl insert, I'm not a fan of plastic bowls.

Hoison Pet Care Robot

This one is part interactive webcam, part automatic feeder. It has an HD camera and two-way audio. You can set a predetermined feeding schedule, or feed remotely. If you lose connection, the robot will automatically feed your pet at the preset time. It even has an internal power source, so your pet will still be fed in the event of a power failure or general apocalypse. This robot is $130, and already available for purchase.


Ok, this one's actually about making your dog smart. It's like a videogame for dogs. It opens to reveal their meal (in a stainless steel bowl!) when they correctly nose the lit touchpads. The game gets more difficult as they learn to touch only the lit pads. Of course, CleverPet also has a smartphone app that allows you to monitor what your dog is up to. I'll be honest, this thing is so freaking awesome it makes me wish I left my dogs at home now and then so I could have an excuse to get one for them! Alas, the girls will have to settle for herding sheep at work with me insteadof playing video games. This masterpiece of dog technology costs $300, about the same as I've paid for a videogame consol in the past. Seems fair.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Product Review: Freeze Tag

Freeze Tag is the perfect holder for dog tags. I've been looking for the ideal tag holder for years, and I've finally found it. This amazing little device holds tags securely and silently, without dangling too far from the collar. It's fast and easy to change from collar to collar without losing any tags, and it's easy to add new tags as well. Freeze Tag comes in three bright colors.
Dog tag holder
Photo by Erin Koski

As you probably know, I own an infinite number of dog collars and like to change them often. Obviously a standard split ring wouldn't do for all those wardrobe changes. We've been through a bunch of different tag holders, and along the way I've come up with six requirements for my perfect tag holder. It must be:

  • Quiet
  • Reliable
  • Holds tags close to collar
  • Easy to change collars
  • Easy to add/remove tags
  • Tags don't fall off when switching collars.

Doesn't seem that hard, right? Wrong. Every single product was missing at least one of these...until now. The Freeze Tag people gave this to me at SuperZoo 2016 to try out, and it is amazing.

Tiny Hardware

Freeze Tag has a little screw that runs through the holes in the tags, and a nut that attaches to the end. It's long enough to accommodate multiple tags, as long as you don't have anything super chunky like the Bog Tag. (Which doesn't fit, I tried it.) This holds the tags together securely, keeping them quiet and also preventing them from rubbing together and wearing the engraving off.

A silicone loop attaches to the screw on one end, and then pops over the nut on the other side. It's easy to get on and off, but also takes enough effort that I'm not worried about it falling off on its own. The loop is wide enough to fit around any collar hardware, but keeps the tags up close and doesn't allow a lot of movement. Of course, the tags are all still readable with this holder.

It Has Everything

The Freeze Tag dog tag holder is pretty amazing. It fills my entire wishlist. I can add or remove tags at will, but I don't have to worry about them falling off when switching collars. It holds the tags close to my dog's collar, so they aren't flopping around or making a racket when she herds sheep. It has a reliable design, and has stayed on through six months of herding, hiking, and cattledog gymnastics. What more could I ask for? I need to order one for Zip, who is still wearing a noisy tag holder.

For some other innovative ways to attach tags to your dog's collar, check out my reviews for the Rubit, Tagnabbit, and LINKS-IT.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

TreatTuesday: Wellness Petite Treats

Wellness makes these little grain-free Petite Treats for small dogs, but they work especially well as training treats for any size dog. The soft treats come in turkey and lamb varieties. These stay moist for a while when exposed to air, and the dogs thing they are pretty awesome.
Tiny soft grain-free dog treats

Good For

  • High-value training treats
  • Carrying around in pockets for a few hours without going hard or crumbly
  • Small and picky dogs

Not Good For

  • Regular training sessions, they only come in very small bags.

How Much We Like Them

I've been taking these hiking when I think we're going to encounter a lot of trail traffic. Zip isn't crazy about treats, but she likes them enough to eat them on the go. Ru also think they're pretty awesome.

Monday, March 13, 2017

New Toys from P.L.A.Y!

P.L.A.Y. is coming out with the CUTEST toys that I've seen in a long time! I just found out about their new Safari and International Classic toy collections, and I can't wait to get them for my dogs. Pets Lifestyle And You makes some of the most adorable toys out there, and ours are still going strong after months of rough play. What durable, fun, and functional toys have they come up with now? Let's take a look!

International Classic Toy Collection

Adorable, durable food-themed dog toys
This toy collection features classic international foods in plush toy form. There is a knotted German pretzel, a set of three sushi pieces strung together on a rope, and a taco. Super cute, right? Wait, there's more!

The taco actually comes apart. Each of the components has a different texture, and they all velcro together into a fun package that dogs can rip apart without actually ripping apart.
The International Classic collection is a fun variation on P.L.A.Y.'s American Classic toy line, featuring a burger, hot dog, french fries, and all that terrible food we love.

Ru is a huge fan of real tacos, he's got the nose of a bloodhound when it comes to following a plate of hot Mexican food. I think the girls are going to enjoy this toy more than he will, though. 

Safari Collection

Large ball-shaped wild animal dog toys
This toy collection features ball-shaped African wildlife that looks kind of like it rolled out of this video. Each is equipped with a large and unusual squeaker that doesn't sound like the average squeaky toy. Their limbs also have ropes inside for tugging fun. 

The Safari toys are just the sort of thing I've been looking for, in my quest for larger ball-type toys that don't present a choking hazard. We're definitely going to be getting one as soon as they hit the market. 

For a look at some of P.L.A.Y.'s earlier collections, check out my reviews of their Giant SquidGarden Fresh Carrot, King Crab, and Star stuffies. Our crab lost its squeaker a few months ago, but otherwise everything is holding up amazingly well to the insane amount of chewing, unstuffing, and fetching at goes on around here.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Product Review: Kurgo Reflect and Protect Active Dog Vest

Kurgo's Reflect and Protect Active Dog Vest combines high-visibility safety-orange with flashing red lights, so that everyone can see your dog. This vest is made from lightweight durable fabric, including mesh areas for better airflow. Reflective piping and tape runs around the sides, top, and front. There is a row of flashing red LEDs along the back for even greater visibility. This vest is available in five sizes, to fit dogs with chests 14-45" around.
High-visibility reflective orange dog vest with LED lights.
Photo by Erin Koski

I really like the concept of Kurgo's visibility vest. It's much sturdier than our OllyDog vest, and feels like it will hold up to romps in the woods through major brush. I think it's important to have safety-orange-colored stuff on Godzilla when we're hiking, because she moves in a way that makes random people on the street ask if she's part coyote. I like to make sure everyone that sees her knows she is definitely an owned domestic animal and not a chupacabra.

The vest does have some serious sizing issues. Ours is a size small, intended to fit 18-25" chests. Sisci Godzilla measures 22", but this vest barely fits her when adjusted all the way out. It's also surprisingly short. Like most of Kurgo's smaller-sized jackets, it appears to have been made with very short-backed dogs in mind.


  • Easy to put on
  • Lightweight and comfortable
  • Good for hot weather or over winter jackets
  • Flashing lights increase visibility


  • Surface area is lacking a bit
  • Not offical "blaze orange", slightly duller color
  • Sizing runs very small

Bottom Line

This is more of a road safety vest for leashed walks at night, and less of a "please don't shoot my dog in the woods" safety vest.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Caturday: An Escape-Proof Cat Harness?

It's Caturday, and I'm taking James out for a little stroll in his Ruffwear Webmaster harness. It was designed for dogs, but this is the closest thing I've found to to an escape-proof cat harness. It definitely feels more secure than PetSafe's Come With Me Kitty harness. Plus it has a handle, and cats should have handles.
Cat wearing secure Ruffwear harness

Cat Physics

Cats are basically slow-moving liquids. They flow to fit the shape of any container, they spread out when left on a flat surface, and you can pour them. Keeping one in a harness can be a challenge. Most dog harnesses are not designed to be escape-proof. They fit comfortably around the chest and shoulders, and a determined dog can usually slither out of them. Cats are experts at oozing out of regular dog harnesses.

The Web Master harness is designed to be supportive, so it has an extra strap that fits further back on the dog's undercarriage. When fitted well, this strap sits behind the ribcage, around the abdomen. This prevents most dogs from backing out of the harness, because the belly strap is cinched down tighter than the ribcage.


Cats are pretty amazing at getting out of harnesses, so I'm not going to declare this one to be escape-proof. However, the Webmaster does feel secure to me. I can pick up James by the handle, and he feels comfortably supported, not like he's about to slide out of the thing. Sometimes I hoist him up and stick him in trees just for kicks. I do put the harness on very snug, as tight as I can get it, for my own piece of mind.

Solstice is, unfortunately, too fat for the XXS web master harness. I can barely get the back strap buckle snapped, and she complains a whole lot about it. I'm currently looking for an inexpensive XS size to try on her, hopefully the rest of the straps won't be too big. She's basically got a normal-sized ribcage and then a giant expanse of catflab.

Other Options

I've heard good things about the Kitty Holster and Lupine's cat harness. Both of these prevent escape by adjusting snug around the neck, with no strap running up the chest between the belly and neck straps. I have not tried this style of harness on The Hellions yet, but they aren't particularly interested in escaping so they don't make very good product testers.

Do you have a harness for your cat?

Friday, March 10, 2017

Food Friday: Homemade Dog Food, Round 1

So I finally got educated enough to make my first batch of (presumably) nutritionally balanced homemade dog food. I had a lot of help. Specifically, I joined the Home Cooked Dog Diets group on Facebook. They're like wizards over there. They're not all about sharing recipes, either. This is a place you go to learn how to develope and evaluate your own dog food recipes.

Nutrition Data

Ingredients for a home-cooked dog diet laid out on the counter.
Ready to cook!
Nutrition Data is a free online tool you can use to evaluate the nutritional content of a recipe. You just search for your ingredients, add them to your recipe in the right amounts, and then his "analyse". The results include what percentage of the calories come from fat, protein, and carbohydrates. It also gives you a good idea of the calcium and phosphorus content so you can add supplemental calcium as needed. You can continually change a recipe and reevaluate it, so you can add or subtract ingredients, or change amounts, and see how it affects the analysis.

The food processor is your friend.
This tool is absolutely amazing because it allowed me to alter my dog food recipe on the fly. I went into the grocery store with the plan to buy the cheapest meat to start with. I expected this to be a bone-in pork picnic shoulder, a super fatty cut. Turns out they were having a special on boneless sirloin chops, a significantly leaner cut. I stood there in the meat department, fiddling with the recipe on my phone, until things looked right. Here is what I ended up making. This recipe has a fairly high fat content because my dogs do well with that. It is also grain-free, because quinoa doesn't count as a grain

Finding Balance

The Home Cooked Dog Diets group has an amazing library of files to help both beginner and serious dog food geeks. One of my favorites was a nutritional analysis of homemade bone broth. Turns out it has a lot more phosphorus than I thought!

The file I use the most so far is the checklist for a balanced food. It helps me remember that my recipe needs either fish or fish oil to make sure I have the right omega fatty acids in there. It reminds me how much calcium I need to add, which always matches the amount I calculate from my Nutrition Data results. There are quite a few other important bits in there, and between that list and the nutrition tool, I'm pretty confident in my ability to formulate recipes for my dogs. The Home Cooked Dog Diets group gave me a whole lot of confidence because they encourage newer members to post their recipes for critique. They also post various recipes from around the web for members to practice analyzing. So very geeky!

The Results
Weighing homemade dog food for portion control
Portion control done right.

I baked porkchops and butternut squash in the oven, and cooked the quinoa, eggs, and pureed liver and veggies in a pot on the stove. The cooked meat and squash went through the food processor, and then everything got mixed in a big bowl with seaweed calcium, cottage cheese, and canned salmon. I could probably get away with chipping things finely for the girls, but Ru would definitely avoid veggies unless everything was very well mixed.

I weighed out everyone's portion, Godzilla and Zip got 3% of their bodyweight while Ru got 5% because chihuahuas are not fuel efficient. Everybody loved it! Even Ru! He dove right in and gobbled down the whole bowl. That never happens. Of course, I offered him the same thing a day later and he took a few bites and then lost interest because the only food he really loves is tacos.

Financially, this is not a viable way for me to feed my dogs everyday. Gone are the days when my beloved Brisbane and Ru could eat the same tiny portion of food and I could feed them both on half a cup of kibble a day. These days, we're going through closer to 4+ cups, and the cost of food is a much bigger consideration. This batch of food cost me $20 to make, and fed all three of my dogs for three days with a bit left over. It was a lot of fun to make though, and I do plan to include more home cooked meals in their diets. If you are interested in making your own dog food, I highly recommend the Home Cooked Dog Diets group as a wealth of information!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Product Review: Spunky Pup Alien Flex Flying Saucer

Spunky Pup's Alien Flex toys are made from tough candy-scented rubber. They are extremely sturdy, and made for dogs that are hard on their toys. These toys come in innovative shapes for tossing, tugging, and chewing. We have the Flying Saucer.
Tough candy-scented rubber frisbee for dogs
Photo by Erin Koski

Super Tough

This is easily the most sturdy flying disc toy I've found so far. It's heavy, thick, and very rigid. It also flies like a frisbee, though not nearly as well as the SodaPup bottle top disc

The big dome in the center of the disc makes it very easy for the dogs to pick up and carry. This is important, as flipping or picking up a flat disc can be difficult for the thumb-less.


The Alien Flex toys smell a lot like bubblegum, much better than the old tire smell some rubber toys carry. The other toys in the line include two different sizes of treat-hiding meteor, and a couple of tug toys. I have some concerns about the size of the other Alien Flex toys, and possible choking hazards, but this one is definitely safe.


  • Toughest disc toy for dogs
  • Easy for dogs to pick up after it lands
  • Can handle tons of biting and some major gnawing
  • Actually flies


  • Disc shape makes it vulnerable to power chewers
  • May be too heavy for smaller dogs

Bottom Line

If your dog loves frisbees but can't pick them up off the ground, or destroys them too easily, this is the toy you're looking for. If you need something soft that throws like a real frisbee, check out my review of SodaPup's Bottle Top Flyer. For puncture-resistant competition-legal discs made for dogs, I highly recommend Hero and Hyperflite.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Treat Tuesday: Earthborn Holistic Earthbites

Earthborn makes these soft little sausage-shaped Earthbites that work well for training. These are grain-free mostly made out of chicken meal and peas. These also come in lamb, peanut, and cheese flavors. They're not terribly crumbly, and they break apart easily, which is nice because each bite is about six times the size I want for a training treat.
Soft meaty dog treats

Good For

  • High-value training treats
  • Riding around in a baggie in my pocket without going all crumbly

Not Good For

  • Staying moist for very long when exposed to air

How Much We Like Them

I used an entire bag of them on the trail while practicing tolerance of mountain bikers with Godzilla.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Product Review: Starmark Treat Dispensing Football

Starmark's Treat Dispensing Football is a crunching toy that can be filled with treats for added fun. It is, or was, available in two different sizes, but does not currently appear on the company's website.
Treat-dispensing crunching football toy
Photo by Erin Koski

The girls got this toy for Christmas because I found it in a clearance bin, but so far it has been a major hit. It makes a crackling noise similar to the Kong Squeezz Crackle Ball, but is much, much more durable. IT is currently the favored fetch toy in the house, and they haven't managed to fetch it to death yet.

There are a lot of reviews of this toy that mention dogs being able to pull the treat-dispensing bits out of the ends. It's possible that is why the ball is not currently described on Starmark's website.
Crackling crunchy treat-dispensing ball
Photo by Erin Koski


  • Makes a crunchy sound
  • Pretty durable, will handle endless squishing/crunching
  • Can be stuffed with treats


  • Treat-dispensing ends may be easy to rip off (my dogs have not though)

Bottom Line

As a fetch toy, this thing is pretty awesome. We've had it for over two months and they have not managed to fetch it to death yet. It might be the most durable crackle toy out there.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Tikr by Sbark

Sbark has invented the most amazing puzzle toy, Tikr is a super-durable food-dispensing toy that opens with a timer. It's like an egg timer and a Kong Wobbler that dispenses different types of treats at different times. You can set the timer for up to 45 minutes, and the toy will open bit by bit, allowing the goodies out.
Timed treat-dispensing toy for keeping dogs busy.
Photo by Erin Koski

 A Kong and a Egg Timer

I got to meet the inventors of the Tikr at SuperZoo 2016, and hear firsthand how they came up with this idea. They had been using regular Kongs for years to keep their dogs busy. You know the drill, stuff it with goodies and watch your dog empty it out in a few minutes. You can freeze it for a longer unstuffing session, but your dog is still going to empty it in well under an hour.

The idea for the Tikr came when one of the creators set a classic Kong toy down on top of a magazine with an egg timer on the cover. Thus came the idea of incorporating a simple torque timer into a dog toy in order to stretch out playtime.
Timed food-releasing dog toy
Photo by Erin Koski

A Puzzling Puzzle

I came home from SuperZoo and immediately preordered a Tikr, and it finally arrived a few weeks ago. Sbark was even kind enough to send along some extra Tikr treats with my order. This thing is so cool!

The Tikr has one inner treat chamber, and three different-sized openings. Wind the timer, and the green chamber slowly rotates. When the opening in the green chamber matches up with one of the outer holes, treats come out! 
Torque-timer food-dispensing puzzle toy for dogs
Photo by Erin Koski
The genius is in the size of the openings. The smallest one opens up first, releasing only the smallest treats. The medium-sized one opens next, and then final the biggest hole releases anything left.

The inner chamber has a peg sticking up from the center, onto which a softer treat can be impaled for an additional challenge. The largest Tikr treats have a hole in the center, presumably for sticking them on there. Unfortunately, the  treats are pretty crunchy and so far I've only succeeded in shattering them when I try that. gonna have to try sticking a chunk of cheese or something there instead.
Durable rubber high-tech dog toy
Photo by Erin Koski

Tikr Treats

You can put any kind of dry or semi-moist treats in the Tikr, they even mention kibble and have pictures of dog biscuits. However, Tikr also sells nifty little gear-shaped treats in three sizes. The teeth on the gears lock together when you cram them into the toy, and of course they are just the right size to fall out when the right hole opens up.

The Verdict

Timed treat-releasing toy for dogs
Photo by Erin Koski
Godzilla and Zip love this thing. It has a timer that goes off when a new aperture opens up, to let them know when it's time to play again. I do have a small concern about Sisci Godzilla getting her lower jaw stuck inside the biggest opening, though. There are reports of lower jaw entrapment incidents happening with a bunch of different puzzle toys, and for this reason I am going to be supervising my dogs with the Tikr.

This is a flexible rubber-compound toy that stands up to some chewing. A ton of research went into finding the exact formula that would be durable enough without damaging anyone's teeth or clunking around on hardwood floors. Sbark currently recommends the Tikr be used by dogs under 50 pounds, only under supervision, and that owners should discourage dogs from gnawing on it.
Food-dispensing timer toy
Photo by Erin Koski

Our Tikr has taken some minor damage around the top, because Zip enjoys gnawing stuff. So far it's only cosmetic, though. I expect this toy to last forever. Sbark is currently developing an Extreme version for larger dogs, and I look forward to seeing what else they come up with!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Caturday: How to Keep the Dog Out of the Cat Food

It's Caturday, and we're fighting a neverending battle to keep the cat food out of the dogs. Lets face it, dogs love cat food. Whether it's wet or dry, they can't resist. A bowl of cat food left on the floor is definitely going to get devoured. Keeping the cat food in a dog-free zone makes perfect sense if you've always had a dog and just added a cat to the family, but I met plenty of cat people that got a dog and then discovered their pup would do anything to get to the cat food. How do you win this arm's race?

Put the Cat Food Up High
They were just sitting on my lap like that.

Dog can reach the counter? Put the cat food on top of the refrigerator. Dog can get on top of the refrigerator? Put the cat food on top of a tall bookshelf. Dog can get on top of the bookshelf? Mount shelves on the wall. I had been feeding my cats on a windowsill until Godzilla discovered that she could climb on furniture to get up there, now I feed them on the cat shelves I added a few months ago.

Make a Cats-Only Zone

You can use a baby gate to keep your dog out of one room, but I still highly recommend putting the cat food up high anyway. That way your dog won't have an incentive to bulldoze through the gate for an easy snack. If your dog is bigger than your cat (I'm looking at you, Ru.), you can also put a hook or a nail in the wall near the door frame, and loop a string from there around the doorknob so the door only opens a crack. This works well if you have a dog that can jump babygates. Again, put the cat food somewhere inaccessible so your dog won't have an instant reward for thwarting your plans. 

The string and door method also works for cabinets, and can help make a dog-proof place at ground-level for cats with mobility issues.


There are some interesting products out there for solving this particular issue, though I have my doubts about them. SureFlap now makes a SureFeed bowl that reads your cat's microchip and only opens for the right cat. This seems like a good solution for feeding two cats separately, or keeping your small or mildly interested dog out of the cat food. I can't imagine it would thwart a large or determined dog. There are several other smart feeders out there, I plan to write more about them in the future.

The Feed-Safe is a plastic dome that you stick your cat in to feed them. You can lock the main door, and there is an escape flap that will let them out but cannot be opened from the outside. This doesn't allow the cat the access their food anytime though, you have to put them inside there. I can also imagine a large dog knocking this thing around like a giant puzzle ball.

Go Big.

No matter what you do to keep the cat food out of the dog, make sure you do something effective. Take several different measures if you can. The last thing you want to do is enter an arms race where your dog continually learns new skills. Example: Cat food on floor of bedroom with large piece of cardboard across doorway. Dog learns to push down cardboard so you replace it with a pressure-mounted babygate. Dog learns to push that over so you put the cat food up on a dresser. Dog learns to push down babygate and stand up to reach top of dresser, so you move the food to a higher shelf. Dog learns to climb on top of dresser to reach shelf. If you had started with both the babygate and the food on the shelf, the dog probably wouldn't have had the motivation to learn how to push the babygate down in the first place.

Do you have both a cat and a dog? How do you dog-proof your cat's food?

Friday, March 3, 2017

Happy Birthday to Zip and The Dog Geek!

Today is a very special day here at The Dog Geek, because this is Zip and this blog's third birthday! Though Zip the border collie entered the picture long after I started the blog, she was born on the same day I made my first post. That was March 3rd, 2014,  making today Zip's golden birthday. Happy birthday Zip!
Dog birthday cupcakes with number candle

Brisbane's Bark Blog

I started The Dog Geek as Brisbane's Bark Blog, focusing almost entirely on my most amazing dog. Along the way, we fostered some dogs, added Sisci Godzilla, moved houses, changed jobs, and spent a lot of time with friends. A little over a year ago, Brisbane was diagnosed with cancer. I decided to change the name of the blog for a few reasons, partly because I knew he wasn't going to be with me forever.

Brisbane's Bark Blog became The Dog Geek in June 2016. Brisbane himself left us in August. Zip joined us in September. The blog continues, with near-daily updates and over 1,000 posts. The cast of characters has changed a bit, Ru is the only dog that started the blog with me. The setting is different, we no longer live a mile from the beach. We've picked up quite a few readers and a whole lot of dog gear in the last year, and I'm delighted to hear from all of you!

Zip Turns 3!

This is Zip's first birthday with me, but she get a number cake picture anyway. It's kind of a tradition. She also got a new Zogoflex Air ball that's way too big to choke on. It's the first in what will eventually be an impressive collection of large-diameter balls. Keep an eye out for the review!

Thanks for joining us for our bloggiversary!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Dog Tech: Interactive Webcams for Dogs

We've been keeping tabs on pets via webcam for as long as we've had webcams, but did you know that there are two-way devices specifically for remotely interacting with your dog? Wall-mounted, freestanding, or even interactive, they allow your pet to see and hear you while you're watching them. Some devices move, or even dispense treats, all controlled from your smartphone. 


I got to see the PetCube in person at SuperZoo 2016, and it's pretty awesome. Their flagship product is a little 4" cube with a webcam and two-way audio. Other features include sound and motion alerts, digital zoom, and the ability to capture video and pictures on demand. The original PetCube streams 720p video and has a 138-degree view.

They've since released the PetCube Play and the PetCube Bites. The Play is a smaller 3" cube with night vision, 1080p video, and an interactive laser pointer that allows you to play with your pet remotely. The Bites is a treat dispenser that can fling goodies up to 1" in size either on a schedule, or on demand. All of PetCube's devices are both iOS and Android compatible. The original model will set you back $150, the Play is $200, and the Bites is currently in pre-order stage for $250.


Furbo is another treat-dispensing petcam. While PetCube is designed to sit on a counter or table, Furbo sits on the floor where it somehow resists destruction. Furbo uses yellow and blue lights to signal to your pet when you are monitoring remotely and are available to dispense treats. It can be loaded with any treat that will fit through the dispenser hole, the company recommends using round ones that are less than a centimeter in diameter. To keep pets from knocking it over, it includes adhesive tape and also a tripod mount. 

Furbo has two-way audio and the camera has a 120-degree field of vision. Video quality can be set to either 320p or 720p. It is both iOS and Android compatible. Despite the appearance of this puppycam, it cannot be rotated or moved remotely. Furbo is currently selling for $211.


Petzi is another remote treat dispenser petcam. The website is pretty short on details, but it apparently dispenses any treat less than 1" in size. It has night vision and two-way audio, and runs about $170. The website describes the camera as "wide angle", but doesn't give specifics on either the viewing angle or the video resolution. It does offer a number of different mounting options, including screwing it to the wall and strapping it to furniture.


PetChatz is unique among the petcams because it offers two-way video as well as audio. That's right, it has a little LCD screen so your dog can see your face. It also features a remote treat dispenser and a remote soothing scent dispenser. PetChatz mounts to the wall over a power outlet, without offering any cords and highly-chewable corners. The option PawCall accessory allows your pet to initiate video calls with you. It looks like PetChatz only uses their specific treats. This one is both iOS and Android compatible, and it's also made in the USA! All these features come with a hefty price tag, just the basic PetChatz unit will set you back $380. 


Playdate is a petcam inside a remote-control ball. Yes, it's an interactive moving camera. The outside is a hard polycarbonate ball that can be replaced if damaged, and the whole thing charges wirelessly without having to take it apart. You can take a picture or record video with PlayDate, use two-way audio, and even make it squeak remotely! The camera is stabilized to prevent that shaky camera effect. Unlike many petcams, PlayDate has a website interface in addition to the iOS and Android apps. PlayDate's IndieGoGo campaign was fully-funded in May 2016, they missed their December 2016 ship date and are now hoping to ship in July of 2017. You can still get in on the campaign, for $190 you can get a PlayDate smartball if and when they finally ship.

I'm usually very skeptical of IndieGoGo campaigns with endless delays, but this one somehow feels more genuine. I think it's the pictures and stories about Hulk, the creator's lab/ridgeback mix and inspiration for creating a way to remotely interact with dogs. Nothing makes a company seem more honest and trustworthy than personal pet stories, in my book.

For wearable ways to monitor your best friend remotely, you can follow along on my search for a dog GPS tracker, explore the world of cat wearables, and check out some upcoming smartcollars that I'm looking forward to.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Product Review: Genuine Dog Gear Tug Leash

Genuine Dog Gear makes tug leashes, tug toys, bungee leashes, bungee tugs, ribbon collars, and a ton of other agility stuff. These fleece tug leashes have a nylon webbing strap braided in for strength. They are available as basic snap leashes, slip leads, and limited slip leads. Standard leashes are 5' long and legal for AKC agility. These can be ordered in a near-infinite number of color and pattern combinations!
Braided fleece agility tug leash
Photo by Erin Koski

Tug leashes make a lot of sense when your dog wants to bite everything on earth. Sisci Godzilla cheerfully chomped through all of my nice leather leashes, so now we're using either steel cables or tug leashes. 

I bought this leash at the Hoots and Hounds booth at Bark at the Park 2016. I always hit the vendor booths filled with hope that I'll meet some amazing new vendors, and Hoots and Hounds inevitably ends up having the best booth there. They just have so much more stuff than everyone else, and so many different options! 

It's tough to buy gear online without being able to touch it and feel the weight and workmanship myself. This leash caught my eye immediately, not only because of the colors, but because it is perfect weight and length for me and Godzilla. The clip isn't super heavy, and the leash itself feels sturdy without being bulky.
Braided fleece strong tug leash
Photo by Erin Koski

I like this leash so much, that I bought a second one after Godzilla ate the first one on our camping trip. I foolishly left her tied up while setting up my tent. Tug leashes aren't chew-proof, but they stand up to interactive tugging nicely.


  • Lightweight
  • Sturdy
  • Incredibly customizable
  • Easy on teeth


  • Not the perfect leash in all situations, fleece picks up burrs and stays wet on outdoor adventures.

Bottom Line

This is now our primary dog sports leash. I love that Godzilla can chomp and tug to her heart's content, it really helps keep her focus on me and off the multitude of things happening around her. It's also the perfect shade of pink, not too light, not too fluorescent, just right!

For a genuinely chew-proof leash, check out my reviews for the Vir-Chew-Ly Indestructible Leash and the Last Leash.