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.