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.


  • 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


  • 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.


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


  • 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?


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.


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!


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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.