Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Product Review: Huntboo Escape Proof Dog Harness

 I ordered the Huntboo Escape Proof Dog Harness off of Amazon as a mobility aid for my dog that broke her leg in December. After gloriously shredding a Ruffwear Flagline harness, I decided to save myself some cash by ordering the cheap off-brand version along with a giant donut cone to prevent future shredding incidents. How did it hold up?

Not very well. This harness is marketed as escape-proof due to the third strap that is intended to sit behind the ribcage to prevent the dog from backing out. It's basically a knockoff of Ruffwear's Web Master harness. The handle at the center of the back is intended as an aid to help your dog over obstacles on the trail, but it has a lengthy history being used for light mobility. The Web Master and Ruffwear's newer Flagline harnesses are a fantastic, durable option for dogs who don't need quite as much support as offered by a two-piece dedicated mobility device like the Help 'Em Up harness

But the Ruffwear harnesses retail for $60-$70. Two weeks into her healing process, Moon decided she was feeling a bit better and celebrated by ripping off her splint and shredding her Flagline harness. I could have ordered a new harness from Ruffwear and gotten all of their customer service and warranty value, but shipping would have taken well over a week and I was going to feel utterly ridiculous spending that much only to have another harness shredded. 

So I went with the cheap option and bought a $25 harness with two-day shipping from Amazon. I will say I got my money's worth. Right out of the package, I could tell I was working with a different level of quality. The straps on this harness are just sort of free-floating. The ends aren't sewed down, and can slide all the way through the buckles. Useful if I want to change out the buckle for some reason. Not so useful if I want to make sure it stays on my dog.

I was honestly expecting the straps on this harness to slide through the buckles more than they did. Especially when using it as a lifting harness, I genuinely expected it to loosen up right away. I did have to tighten the straps pretty regularly, but there was no catastrophic failure. The harness actually held up for the entire three months that Moon was in the cast. That is three months of continuous wear, since I was using it for mobility I left it on her. It was comfortable and didn't rub or cause any discomfort. 

That said, the harness barely made it three months and didn't exactly survive unscathed. The most obvious damage is to the top piece where Moon would occasionally scratch herself with a back foot. It was no excessive scratching by any means, but the harness started to fray right away. The damage so far only affects the top honeycomb fabric and currently appears to be cosmetic, but I question how well the harness would hold up long term after the first layer has been ripped apart. 

  • Affordable
  • Adjustable
  • Comes in a variety of colors
  • Supportive
  • Easy to fit
  • Comfortable for long-term wear on a fluffy dog, not sure about short haired dogs
  • Not durable
  • Straps need to be tightened regularly
Bottom Line

I got $25 worth of use out of this harness, but that's all. If I had invested in a higher-quality piece of equipment, I would have gear that I could use in the future or resell for a significant percentage of what I paid. 

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Most Durable Dog Toys: All-Stars

 I started buying dog toys in the mid-1990's when I got my first dog. The only toy that I bought then that I still buy for my dogs now is the blue spikey Nylabone Flexichew. I think I have consistently had at least one in my house for at least 25 years. Need to actually make a post about those sometime. Anyway, I was just scrolling through a decade of blog posts here and started thinking about the toys that were featured there that are still kicking around my house all these years later. This is several dogs, several houses, and a cross-country move later, so these are toys with major staying power. I'm not counting toys that I have replaced later because I or the dogs liked them so much. Just the ones where the original toy photographed and purchased is still here.

Tuffy Pteradactyl: Pictured in this review of Mighty Dinosaurs from the same company, I've had this specific toy since roughly 2007. It's a bit worse for the wear these days because it is quite popular, but it is easily the most durable stuffed dog toy I have personally experienced.

Blue Kong: I bought a few of these at once and then never again, so the ones laying around the house right now are the same ones I reviewed back in 2014. Apparently they last a while.

PetProjeckt Dogegg: Very stained and no longer squeaks after 9 years. 

Budy Buddy Booya: See above. Both relegated to the basket of ugly old toys we keep outside these days.

Tuggo: This hard plastic ball with a rope through it has been living in my yard since 2016. It gets dragged around quite a lot. The rope remains in decent shape and the toy is fully functional.

Starmark Treat Dispensing Looper: Has been tossed, carried, and attacked by litters of puppies with the ferocity of fluffy piranhas. Nobody has ever tried to give it a good gnaw though, maybe the shape makes it less chewable?

Original GoughNut: Another testament to the staying power of ring-shaped toys.

Planet Dog Diamond Plate Ball: Unless it has fuzz, balls are for fetching rather than gnawing around here.

West Paw ZogoFlex Air Wox: I think I got the first one at SuperZoo 2016. This is probably the toy that has seen the most mileage and the most playtime. A huge variety of dogs have had consistent access to it for the last 8 years and it is still holding up beautifully. This one probably deserves its own post too.

StarMark Bob-A-Lot: It's tough to clean so I don't trot it out that often. This is a puzzle toy that isn't just out for free play all the time, but I first reviewed it here almost a decade ago so it gets an honorable mention.

Ruff Roots Dog Chew: Currently one of our outside toys. I have no idea why this toy is still here because nobody has ever seriously played with it. I should have tossed it years ago. I think I keep hoping some dog will fall in love with it.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Fill a Bunch of Kong Dog Toys Fast

 Do you use a lot of frozen stuffed Kong or other food toys? Are you still filling them individually? You are definitely missing out. I have an ever-changing horde of dogs these days, ranging from puppies to seniors. There is often someone on cage rest or needing some extra enrichment, so stuffed Kongs are still my first choice for frozen licky entertainment. (That reminds me, I need to make a post about why I don't use lick mats.) 

I know West Paw's Toppl toy is becoming the new food favorite for the high-end dog snob crowd, and I have a couple of those as well, but I am still Kong fan for a couple of reasons. The first is durability, the reason I own two Toppls is because West Paw is wonderful and sent me the second after one of my dogs ripped a chunk out of the first. The second reason I prefer Kongs is price, with availability coming a close third. A large classic red Kong is currently $14 retail through sites like Chewy, and can also be purchased at a lot of big stores that have a pet department including Target and Tractor Supply. A large Toppl toy cost $25 and can only be found at pet-specific stores, and I'm not even sure it can be found at very major pet retailed. Do both Petco and PetSmart currently carry them in-store? I don't actually know anymore, I now live in the middle of nowhere and Tractor Supply and Walmart are pretty much it.

Anyway, I own a ridiculous number of Kong toys of various colors and shapes, and I know that filling them can be time-consuming and obnoxious. I used to use a baby spoon to scoop filling into each one individually. I no longer have time for that. What is the fastest method to fill a bunch of food toys fast? The pastry bag method. Not only is it fast, it is also very easy, makes minimal mess, and ha zero cleanup. Ready?

1. Find a container to set all your food toy in. They need to sit upright. I use a plastic storage bin from a discount store like Pic-N-Save. But it's not Pic-N-Save anymore, is it? It's Big Lots. Metal dog bowls can also work, or tupperware, or a cardboard box. No need to get fancy. Ideally you should have freezer space to slide your entire container in, but I won't judge if you need to stick the toys into nooks and crannies among your frozen foods either. I've been there too,

2. Gather your toy fillings. I typically use some combination of canned pumpkin, Greek yogurt, canned dog food, and peanut butter. It's ok to use the canned dog food with the chunks. You want your filling to be pretty thick, so it doesn't leak out before it freezes. You can get extra fancy and add in chunkier things like green beans and other veggies if your dog will eat them. You could even puree everything together in a blender or food processor, but that makes more cleanup.

3. Get a gallon-size resealable bag, Ziploc or whatever brand, and dump all your fillings in. Seal that bad boy, and start mooshing. Squish your filling goodies together as much or as little as you like. If there is something your dog doesn't particularly like, smoosh it together a bit more to get a good mix. If they like everything, maybe mix it a bit less so it's like that swirly ice cream with the two flavors together.

4. Cut off the corner of the bag, and pipe that goodness into your dog toys like a pastry chef. When you're done, toss the bag in the trash and stick your toys in the freezer. 

Did you know that you can stick all those toys in the dishwasher to get them clean? Kong and West Paw toys and natural rubber dog toys in general are dishwasher safe. I finally have a dishwasher so I am no longer scrubbing every food toy. Between the dishwasher and the pastry bag filling method, we have food toys down to a science. Maximum efficiency.  

Saturday, March 9, 2024

Is It Ok to Have a Favorite Dog?

It is ok to have a favorite dog? Definitely. Dogs don't know who the favorite is, and as long as their needs are getting met, they don't care either. It's not like human siblings who need to be treated as equally as possible by their parents lest they face lifelong psychological issues. Dogs aren't that complicated.

This wasn't totally clear to me when I began my journey as a dog-owning adult. Brisbane was the very first dog I owned as an adult, and he was my entire world. The best term I have found to describe him is "heart dog". A dog you well and truly connect with on a deeper level than any other. A dog that makes your heart swell with love when you look at them. I still get a wonderful warm feeling when I think about Brisbane and how looking at him made me feel. He was the greatest dog influence in my life. 
When I got my second dog, Ru the chihuahua, I didn't feel the same way about him. I tried. I loved him very, very much. But we didn't have the same bond and he didn't occupy the same spot in my emotional center that Brisbane did. I thought it might be because he was such as easy dog and I didn't spend nearly as much time training with him or orchestrating my life around him. 

Next came Sisci Godzilla, and I thought for sure I would build the same type of bond with this new cattledog training project. It didn't happen though. For a while I thought I must not be trying hard enough with these new dogs. When Brisbane was fighting his terminal cancer, I was taking a beginner agility class with Sis. One day I brought Brisbane along and the instructor let me run him through a short sequence of obstacles for fun. The jumps were the wrong height for him, so I asked him to lay down and stay while I went around moving them. Brisbane was perfectly happy to stay until I told him to take the first jump. This impressed the rest of the class, and I was so proud of how much time I had put into that dog. 

After I lost Brisbane, Zip the border collie came into my life. Zip and I learned a lot about herding sheep. So much that we have done many public demonstrations and been the subject of multiple YouTube videos and even got a spot on a Disney+ show. Zip is an absolutely amazing dog. But I still don't feel that tug at my heart the way I did about Brisbane.
But then Puff came. Puff is my new heart dog. She is my favorite dog and also my naughtiest dog. Puff can jump fences. Puff can open doorknobs. Puff lets other dogs put of crates. Puff is a shameless counter surfer. Puff is missing the part of the typical border collie brain where she cares what I think. She has no shame and thinks she is not only a good Puff, she is the best Puff a Puff could be. Puff makes my heart melt every time I look at her, and I can't stay mad at her no matter how terrible she is.
Your favorite dog might be your oldest dog. It might be your best behaved dog. Maybe your favorite dog is the one that was by your side through a rough patch in your life, or that arrived when you started a new chapter. Your favorite dog may be the one you have spent the most time training, or the one that just likes to cuddle and doesn't demand so much effort to keep happy. Sometimes your favorite dog ends up being your favorite for absolutely no reason other than that your heart just chose that one. 

Sunday, March 3, 2024

I Bought a Klimb Despite My Own Objections

The Klimb is an egregiously overpriced dog training platform that sells for the princely sum of $160. Made by Blue9 Pet Products, makers of the Balance Harness, the Klimb features removable legs. It floats and can be connected to other Klimb platforms on the sides and stacked for amazingly expensive group photos. But seriously. $160. For something I could make myself or find similar at a thrift store. But I am a sucker for dog products, so many years after the Klimb was released I finally bought one. 

The Klimb is a training platform. I have used all sorts of different training platforms for many years. Everything from plyometric jump boxes to children's step stools to cot beds to homemade plywood tables. They each have their own attributes. Cot beds are large, light, and portable, but also flexible. Wood tables are solid and sturdy. Plastic step stools are light and portable. But none of the platforms I have used have been large, light, portable, solid, and sturdy all at the same time. 

The dogs love it. I don't know why, probably because it is big enough to get all four feet on easily, low enough to climb onto without jumping, and large enough that I can drop treats on it either for luring a dog up there or building value once they are on it. Whatever the case, it has been incredibly easy to build value for being on it and they bound onto it at the first chance I might be handing out cookies. Or just because it's there. Sometimes it's tucked under other furniture for storage and they will shove themselves up there just in case I feel like rewarding them.

I use it a lot more than my other platforms.
I have all kinds of different things around for them to stand on, depending on whether we're working on pivots, rear foot targeting, or stays. Platforms are great for teaching stays because the criteria is much more clear than when the dog is on the floor. This thing is so easy to slide out of the way, or lean up against a wall, or shove in a closet, so it's always ready when I feel like using it. The legs come off and snap into storage spots on the bottom, but I don't usually bother taking the legs off.

It's pretty slippery. The textured plastic surface isn't terrible, but an enthusiastic border collie goes sliding right off when they hit it at speed. Which they do a lot. Because they love it. But don't worry, Blue9 will happily sell you a $40 custom Klimb traction mat. Cha-ching. Or you could cut a yoga mat to fit, which is what people were doing before the accessories came out. 

I still can't believe I spent $160 on this. Yes, it's a fun training tool and the dogs love it. But it's still just a big piece of plastic and the price feels outrageous for what the production cost must be. I guess all the Klimb buyers are funding further innovations from Blue9. But I would not be surprised to see some more affordable plastic dog training platforms from overseas popping up eventually. Those probably won't hook together though. Maybe I should buy a second one for better group pictures.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Numbercrunching: Kibble with the Lowest Fat, Lowest Calories, and Best Value

 What is the lowest fat, lowest calorie dog food currently on the market?

Sisci Godzilla has pancreatitis. Not the acute hospitalization kind, and not even the kind where she needs to be on prescription food. It's more like a chronic tummy sensitivity. This started a few years ago with very occasional but severe episodes of vomiting. She would puke and puke until the only thing coming up was bloody foam. I would rush her to the vet and they would give her a shot or a pill of Cerenia, an anti-nausea medication. Maybe a short course of famotidine or sucralfate to help her feel better. She would be fine for a long time, six months or a year, before it happened again. It didn't seem to be correlated with feeding her anything in particular.

A couple of months ago, Sis had three vomiting episodes in one week. When I took her to the vet, I asked for bloodwork. I was worried about her kidneys and liver, but it turns out her pancreas levels were high. Not super high, just elevated. Not bad enough for acute treatment or a prescription diet. She was put on omeprazole and given more Cerenia for the nausea, and a diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome as well. 

Prescription diets for pancreatitis have very low fat, around 5% for products like Purina's EN. Sis had been eating Diamond Adult Maintenance kibble with 12%, and I decided to look at food options with lower fat to help keep her body comfortable and hopefully settle her stomach. Calorie count was also a consideration here, as she gets fat on air like many cattledogs. With these factors in mind, I started collecting data on dog foods. I stuck with formulas marketed for weight management to help narrow the search. I started with the values for Diamond Maintenance and excluded any foods with a higher fat percentage.

Diamond Maintenance36012%$0.94
Victor Purpose36011.50%$1.68
Wellness Healthy Weight40510%$2.70
Eukanuba Fit2679%$3.22
Royal Canin Weight Care2569%$3.67
ProPlan Weight Management3309%$2.12
Blue Buffalo Healthy Weight3249%$2.03
Science Diet Perfect Weight2999%$3.44
Iams Healthy Weight3049%$1.61
American Journey Healthy Weight2999%$1.77
Merrick Healthy Weight3559%$2.92
Purina One Healthy Weight3208%$1.37
Beneful Healthy Weight3418%$1.13
True Acre Foods Healthy Weight2698%$1.43
Natural Balance Fat Dogs3157.50%$2.47
Pedigree Healthy Weight2807%$1.21
Nutro Healthy Weight2317%$2.50
Solid Gold Fit3306.50%$3.05
Diamond Care Grain-Free3046%$2.12
Diamond Naturals Weight3106%$1.39
Kirkland Signature Healthy Weight Formula2756%$0.83
Science Diet Light2715.50%$2.64

Here is what I came up with. First, there is a huge range of different calorie content for different "weight management" dog foods. Wellness Healthy Weight offers 405 calories per cup, while Nutro Healthy Weight only has 231 calories per cup. That's a difference of 174 calories and means a dog can eat significantly more of the Nutro food while consuming the same amount of calories. That's something to remember when putting a dog on a diet. I could add a cup of green beans, or I could just feed more of a lower calorie food.

Next, there is a wide range of fat values in food marketed for weight management, with 9% the most common. There isn't an official feed definition of "weight management" food the way there is for puppy food, or adult food, or all life stages food, or large breed puppy food. Dogs use fat for energy, so for my active working dogs I look for higher fat. Most dogs don't need an incredibly low fat diet, and too little fat in their diet can leave them tired with a poor coat. Anecdotally have known people feeding vegan dog food that struggled with energy level and poor muscle tone in their dogs. While many people would be quick to blame the vegan food, I would more readily cite the 8-10% fat levels in commercially available vegan dog foods. But some dogs can benefit tremendously from a low fat diet, particularly for things like pancreatitis.

So what food gives me the most bang for my buck in terms of low fat and low calories? A number of pancreatitis prone dogs eat Science Diet Light (not Science Diet Perfect Weight) as it has the lowest fat content and calories per cup on the lower end of the range. I was about to order a bag, but needed to make a Costco run and decided to check out their house brand Kirkland Signature food just to grab another data point. I was pleasantly surprised to find a similar nutrition profile, at a much lower cost. So that is what Sis is now eating, and so far it seems to be helping. At least, she hasn't had any more uncontrollable vomiting episodes since the food switch.

Sunday, February 18, 2024

First Impressions of Scentwork

I have been wanting to get into scentwork for years. I took a couple of private lessons a decade ago, but couldn't continue for various reasons. I have been actively attempting to get into a scentwork class either in person or online for the past two years with no success. I now own a book on getting myself started and am working through it, but I'm not really enjoying the process and so far I am massively underwhelmed by this sport. Here are my impressions of scentwork as a completely inexperienced outsider attempting to get into the sport:

Patiently waiting to be released to eat treats off the floor.
1. We don't want newbies. Scentwork as a whole is trying to keep new people out. This seems weird at first, both online and in person training programs for scentwork are everywhere. My local kennel club has half a dozen different classes every session. There are clinics and seminars everywhere all the time. BUT, the prerequisite for all of these things is to have taken the intro beginner class. The beginner class is only offered once a year. The class at my local kennel club only has space for six dogs and has filled up in under 15 seconds one year and under 26 seconds the other year I tried to get in. I know this because that's how long it took me to fill in my information and hit the submit button when registration opened. So I started looking for an online class and found a great website for a great trainer with all sorts of online classes. BUT, she only offers her intro class once a year and it was last month so tough luck. This is proudly announced both at the kennel club and with this online trainer, they are very open about how few people they introduce the sport each year.

2. Odor is a sidequest. Scentwork is mostly just sniffing around for treats. My outsider impression is that scentwork is almost entirely about finding food. I had originally believed it was modeled after narcotics detection rather than foraging around on the floor for crumbs. A friend who managed to make it into the kennel club class reported that after a year of classes they were still hunting for food with no plans to look for anything else. My book teaches searching behavior entirely with food and says you don't ever need to teach them to look for anything else unless you want to compete. Another training website I looked at had a bunch of different exercises and said they could all be done with food and even if the dog can search for a specific odor they should mostly still be searching for food.

3. There is surprisingly little sniffing involved. I am working my way through the book with Sisci right now, and three weeks into it the "searches" consist entirely of scattering food on the ground around various objects. The dog is supposed to learn to carefully sniff around the object to find the treats, but Sis just cannonballs over and slurps them all up as if the object isn't even there. She can clear the room in seconds even when there are several objects to be searched. We can use up her entire daily ration of kibble in five minutes of "searching" and it takes less time than if I just threw it out on the lawn. I'm probably doing something wrong here, but so far I'm not seeing the fascinating searching behavior and puzzle-solving that I keep hearing about from scentwork fans. Maybe at some point the book will instruct me to start hiding the treats instead of just scattering them on the ground around boxes and bags. But then, having had multiple completely food-obsessed dogs in the past, I'm also not entirely comfortable encouraging my dog to forage everywhere for potential food. 

So there's the current state of our scentwork journey. I am throwing treats on the floor for my dog to eat while ruminating on why the sport doesn't want new people to get involved and wondering how this is even a sport in the first place. I am currently looking for an online class or program that isn't entirely about searching for food in the hopes that eventually I will discover why so many people like scentwork. Feel free to set me straight in the comments if your opinion differs.

Sunday, February 11, 2024

My Dog is Always Wet

 This is Puff. Puff likes water. We live on a farm. There is lots of water on the farm. There are stock tanks and water tubs all over the place. There is also a pond. It rains a lot, so there are also puddles. Lots of puddles. Puff loves puddles. 

When we lived in the desert, rain wasn't a thing most of the year. There wasn't ambient water just laying around. Puff would jump in stocks tanks and water tubs, and then dry off very quickly in the single-digit humidity. Now she is perpetually wet. This has caused some unexpected issues. The first is her collar. 

Obviously biothane was the obvious choice for Puff's collar. It's waterproof,  non-permeable, doesn't soak up nasty swamp water, and lasts forever, right? I usually see it touted as an analog to leather for dog gear and horse tack, and I have leather tack that's older than I am. In practice, I keep seeing people say that a couple of years is a good lifespan for a biothane collar. However, a lot of websites that sell biothane collars say they will last a lifetime with proper care. The biothane collars I have on my sheep tend to get stiff after a while, but that probably doesn't count as proper biothane care. 

Puff has been wearing a Farm Diggity Farm-Proof collar for three years, and it has been wet for three
years. The biothane material itself is still going strong, but the rivets are rusting out. This is not a dig at Farm Diggity, almost all my dogs are wearing their collars and they are incredible. I also have several of their dog tie-outs and some farm-proof crooks. I have nothing but good things to say about the company and their products. But farm-proof is apparently not Puff-proof.

I could just replace the rivets and wait for them to rust out again, but I am also exploring other collar options for the perpetually damp dog. Maybe stitched biothane from a company that makes horse tack. Maybe I'll have a go at making my own biothane collars. Maybe I'll have Puff DNA tested to see if she's all dog and not part seal or otter. (Just kidding, the DNA test said 100% border collie without any fun surprises.)

Sunday, February 4, 2024

The Changing Landscape of Dog Products

 Since I started this blog almost a decade ago (it will be a decade this March) the world of dog products has changed dramatically. There used to be a relative handful of companies and makers, making distinctive products. I purchased many of the products featured on this blog in secondhand stores, but they generally came from identifiable companies with an online presence that I could link to. Often those companies had their own stories, and I have loved researching them as I go along, finding out who merged with who and which products they kept in the lineup (spoiler alert: Outward Hound buys everything) post acquisition. 

When I started this blog, there were two manufacturers of inflatable donut cones. Today there are dozens of different products available from dozens of different manufacturers. There was one recovery suit, and it was not available for sale but had to be purchased from a veterinarian. Today you can find hundreds of different products in all sorts of designs. They are easier to find, less expensive, and becoming more common and popular because they get shared a lot through word of mouth. 

As the products become more commonplace and widespread, the companies behind them are all sort of blurring together. In writing up my recent posts on dog pants and recovery collars, I found that several of the products I had purchased or screenshotted were no longer available on Amazon. In fact, some of the companies were nowhere to be found. The current trend I am seeing is lots of similar or identical products offered from various different companies, with a slightly different brand logo or no logo at all. Obviously they are all coming from the same overseas manufacturers. 

Imported products are nothing new. What has changed is the quality of some of those products. Our familiar and beloved manufacturers like Ruffwear and Lupine and Hurtta haven't gone anywhere, and nobody matches their quality and customer service. But there used to be those guys, and the affordable pet store stuff, and then stuff from unfamiliar overseas manufacturers. That stuff was reliably poor quality. I know most of the dog products I buy from familiar and well-established brands are also manufactured overseas, but those had the security of being from a familiar company with a reputation to uphold. 

Today, I can buy a recovery suit, cone, collar, leash, bowl, toy, etc from an unfamiliar foreign brand on Amazon and be relatively certain it will hold up at least as well as the affordable pet store option. My no-name dog pajamas do not have a familiar company standing behind them, and they don't have the design consideration or quality found in my Medical Pet Shirt. I may not be able to find that company or product again when I want to share it with a friend or write about it here, but there will be ten more just like it waiting for me. Maybe even more, in even more different styles.

So what am I paying for when I buy a RuffWear Front Range harness instead of a RabbitGoo harness from Amazon or  a no-name harness from Temu? I am not only paying for quality and customer service. I am also paying for innovation. Companies like RuffWear are the ones creating not only new products, but new kinds of products. We didn't have mass marketed, high-quality escape-proof harnesses or structured, padded walking harnesses until RuffWear showed us how great they are. Everyone else is copying. 

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Dog in a Cast

 My dog broke her leg and I am here to share with you the products and activities that are making our lives easier as we navigate eight weeks of crate rest. It's going to be a long eight weeks.

This is Moon. Moon knows how to herd sheep. Moon knows to run a big circle around the sheep so she can get behind them and fetch them to me nicely. Moon sometimes decides to freestyle it and run through the middle of them. In a total freak accident, Moon found herself under a particularly large sheep, and got her tiny little leg stepped on. Both bones were snapped, fortunately it was a clean break and the vet said it went back together very easily so she should be back up and running again eventually. In the meantime, she is on total, absolute crate rest. I carry her out to te yard for a brief potty break every few hours, and then it's right back into the crate. 

In this picture, Moon is modeling the Ruffwear Flagline harness. It has a rear belly strap and a lighter, lower profile than the Webmaster harness. The handle on the back is well placed for using this harness as a mobility air, and really helped me keep a grip on a wiggly border collie as I carried her outside. Until she ate it. RIP Flagline harness.

Since she is going to be in that splint until spring, I wanted to keep it clean and also jazz it up a bit. I bought a pack of child's kneesocks that fit perfectly. They are colorful, fun, easy to put on, and washable. Why have a boring cast when you can have a unicorn cast? I also got this durable cast cover by MediPaw from Chewy, but it's a lot more difficult to get on and off and Moon doesn't seem to like it. At least she puts up a fight every time I try to put it on.

Keeping a cast or splint dry is essential, but how? Grocery bag? Bread bag? Plastic wrap? I found this unicorn print waterproof cast cover on Amazon and it is incredibly useful. Easy off, easy on, durable enough to handle some hobbling around on the grass, and reusable. Also totally waterproof, which is very helpful since I left the desert and relocated to somewhere that actually has rain. Real rain. And me dancing around in it with glee while the natives shake their heads. It's been three years and the novelty of water falling from the sky has yet to wear off.

Moon is also modeling my Zumi Dual Lead in this picture. The length is perfect for short potty breaks with limited movement. It also matches her new pink harness. The keyword for finding harnesses with a rear strap and a handle is "escape proof". It has fewer adjustment points and is lower quality and has less resale value than the Flagline harness she ate, but the price was right. One big functional different I anticipate is that he straps will loosen over time and need to be adjusted on a regular basis. To avoid further gear-eating incidents, she also now sporting a neck donut which prevents her from chewing on her splint or harness without taking up all of the space in her crate.

To keep Moonbaby busy, she has lots of fun things to gnaw on. We are also having a go at learning how scentwork works, which is its own future blog post. I'm not doing very well with it and I have a lot of feelings about the sport. We have plenty of time to delve into it though.

Friday, January 19, 2024

Can We Talk About Cones?

A cone, also known as a recovery collar and an Elizabethan collar if your are feeling particularly fancy, is a great management tool for a lot of different dog problems. Injuries, surgery, hot spots, any reason you need to keep your dog's face away from the rest of their body, or their feet away from their head. There are lots of different kinds to choose from, I currently own and use three types. This is continues my series of accident-prone dogs having accidents. Mostly border collies. Because border collies. Their giant brains are filled with sheep and problem-solving and there's no room left for self-preservation. But also the cattledog because she got hurt recently and has had me running through my collection of recovery solutions.

IT is a pretty flower.

Option 1: Soft Cone
These come in a variety of designs like flowers and clouds. I own one flower cone and one lion mane cone from Alfie Pet but can't currently find a link.
Pros: Totally adorable. Fits in a crate. Doesn't hurt when your dog runs into the backs of your legs. Works exceptionally well for pointy-eared dogs with ear injuries as it prevents their ear from slapping into their skull when they shake their head. 
Cons: Easy to get out of. There's no way to attach the ones I have to a collar, they just velcro around the neck and the dog can slip it off if they want to. Flexible so a clever dog can scrunch it out of the way if they want to. Not going to deter a very determined dog.

Option 2: Donut Cone
Sis is much happier in the donut.

These inflatable rings also come in a variety of designs including rainbows and the obvious donut. I own two of these, a Large and an XXL. 
Pros: Also totally adorable. I mean look at this. Also fits in a crate and doesn't hurt or break things when your dog is catapulting around the house in it. Works for restricting access to the dog's body. Can be sized up for more protection. Very secure as it has loops to run through a snug collar. Easy to store when not in use.
Cons: Protection is only as good as its ability to remain inflated. A determined dog would be able to pop it. Also scares the bejeezus out of certain other dogs in the house.

Maximum cone:dog ratio.

Option 3: MegaCone
The good old classic you come home from the vet with. Cheap and effective.
Pros: Maximum protection for your dog's entire body plus everything else if the cone is big enough. That mouth isn't getting near anything. I might try this for nail trims. Very secure, this one is zip-tied to a snug collar and could be zip-tied to a harness for a noodledog that slips collars. Maximum cone:dog ratio.
Cons: Does not fit into a crate, or my house, or anywhere else. The world is not big enough for this cone. Your house is definitely not big enough for this cone if you have a dog that runs around with reckless abandon. Prone to cracking and breaking with too many impacts. A lower cone:dog ratio may not provide adequate protection for a dog determined to reach their tail or paws. 

Of course there are lots of other options out there these days. DIY options with pool noodles. Cones that are more secure than my pink flower cone but made from nylon fabric and buckram so more flexible than the basic plastic cone. Face shields that sit in front of the ears and are narrower than a basic cone. Neck braces that limit flexibility. There are new companies producing new sizes and styles all the time!

Sunday, January 14, 2024

If a Dog Wore Pants...

 Since I began herding sheep and training dogs full time, I have a cause near and dear to my heart: Injured dogs. Mostly border collies. This is not a breed with self-preservation of any kind built in. We've had all sorts of injuries on the farm, from the mundane to the bizarre. The vet should offer frequent flier miles of some sort at this point. 

A brief rundown of non-dog vet visits since we relocated cross-country:

  • peahen with eye infection
  • ram rammed something immovable and rammed his horn right off, leaving a gaping hole in his head
  • small, hairy goat was losing a significant amount of hair
  • sheep sliced her shoulder open on a sharp bit of fencing wire

Our delightful country vet practice only takes walk-ins, and they know whatever we roll in with is going to make everyone's day a little more interesting. But they see the dogs a lot more than they see the livestock. 

I have discovered, through a ridiculous amount of experience, how much opportunity there is for accessorizing when it comes to an injured dog. From recovery suits to inflatable cones to mobility harnesses, there is something out there to solve every problem. And I'm going to buy it. I think it might be a coping mechanism. 

Last summer, Zip went out to the pasture to get the sheep during the construction of our duck barn. There was a piece of metal roofing on the ground, and she sliced her leg open on it as she ran out to gather the flock. Being a serious working border collie, Zip completed her mission and went about her evening as if she did not have a 6" slice on the side of her hock. Naturally, this happened on a Saturday evening so upon discovery the next morning there was an emergency vet visit.  The dogs prefer to time their disasters well outside normal vet hours as often as possible.

Zip came home from the emergency vet in a cone, with stitches in her leg, and an order for two weeks of crate rest. Crates and traditional lampshade cones are a bad combination, I would need to put most of my dogs in a 42"+ crate for them to be able to turn around wearing a giant cone. We only have one size of cone around here and that size is giant. Several inches past the end of their nose. They can't reach any part of their body. Better safe than sorry. But it's a very big cone.

I love recovery suits, but the vast majority of products out there are intended to cover the abdomen rather than the legs. The ones with legs are rarely long enough to cover all the way past the hock. So I embarked on a journey to find pants for Zip. I'm inviting you to join me on this journey. Ready?

1. Dog leggings. I can't find this particular set to link on Amazon, but these are a lot like https://walkeepaws.com/ and I can't get those to stay on to save my life. These would not go up high enough to securely cover the hock.

2. Fou Fou Dog Bodyguard Pants. These actually look like a pretty good idea for mud. A plausible option for Zip's injury.

3. Mozzie Pants. These could also work, but reviews say they don't really stay on that well.

4. Comedy option legwarmers. There is no way these could cover or protect a hock injury. But I laughed. 

5. The Onesie. I actually bought this one and it worked great. I've been able to use it for other dogs injured in other places since it covers the entire dog.

6. SurgiSnuggly with legs. I have the no-legs version of this suit and it works well. I also bought this one for Zip and it worked well.

In the year and a half since Zip's injury, there have been a few more products released that could have worked to protect her stitches. The key search word is apparently "recovery".