Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Downfall of Premier and Why I Won't Recommend Again!

   Hello ladies and gents.  I know I've been away for awhile, but I've come out of hiding to put my 2 cents in on the Premier sell-out debate.  I've been a long and loving customer of the Premier brand in all its forms and functions.  I've counted the EasyWalk as one of the best products in my dog training arsenal and recommended it to everyone I know.  That ends today!

   As some of you are no doubt aware Premier, a company long known for its  support of non-aversive and pet-friendly products has been sold to a company called RadioFence.  RadioFence makes their bread-and-butter off of shock collars & underground electric fencing, but in recent years has made attempts to distract from these practices by diversifying.  Apparently they now believe that we will overlook their encouraging the painful and cruel treatment of our pets, so long as they offer alternatives as well.  Having bought the most recognizable positive reenforcement focused company in the general market, RadioFence seems to believe that we will all just roll-over and go along with supporting their company's cruel & abusive practices.

   Recognizing the increasing backlash against the sale, RadioFence has determined that it will soon be dropping the Premier logo from their products and putting them under the heading of their PetSafe brand.  Do not be fooled!  All your money will be going to RadioFence to support the further manufacture of bark collars, shock collars, scat mats and electric fences.

   I don't like to preach.  I'm a firm believer in doing what works for you and what works for your dog, but I do not support the use of painful aversives in the training of animals and therefore can no longer support Premier as a brand.  I will be removing all posts that paint Premier in a positive light and you will never again see their products on this blog in any form.  I'll keep using the EasyWalks I do have until they are in tatters, but I'm removing all obvious branding from them and hope you will consider doing the same.

   I'm compiling my own list of products that can be used as alternatives to the Premier brand favorites, but in the meantime please visit a wonderful post from Success Just Clicks!

    Please join me in boycotting Premier, RadioFence & PetSafe.   We must all make our voices heard with our most powerful tool: our money!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Cover Your Ears! Kong's New Squeezz Line

   Wandering around PetSmart the other day I decided it would be fun to take advantage of their recent rash of sales.  The problem was there just isn't a lot of new stuff and I couldn't really think of anything we needed.  I turned out to be mistaken on both counts, as there was something new that we, of course, had to try:  Kong's new line of Squeezz toys.

     I'm very fond of Kong as a brand, but have in the past been a bit harsh on their overall durability (especially when they venture out of their traditional red rubber realm).   However, I inspected these pretty throughly and thought they were worth a try!  They're made of a transparent non-toxic thermo plastic rubber and come in a variety of shapes (balls, sticks, dumbells, rings, bones), sizes and colors, all of which come with squeakers and have a nice strong, but bendy quality.

Demon dog and her stick
     Cassie is very fond of the squeaky toys from JW Pet Co (the chickens are her favorite), but the Kongs came in such nice sizes and colors.  On top of that the Kong Squeezz's have a quality I look for in toys that's a bit hard to describe.  The best I can do is to call it "bite resistance."  I'm not talking about durability here, though that is very important too.  By "bite resistance" I mean the amount of give a toy has to allow the dog to bite down and derive pleasure from that chewing sensation, without the toy falling apart.  There must be a technical term, but when picking up a toy (especially rubbery ones) I always give it a squeeze to feel how much give the material has behind it.  Too much give or "bite resistance" and the toy is no more fun to play with than your average rock (and it probably won't bounce well either).  Your dog will most likely loose interest and you've wasted your money. Not enough "bite resistance" and the toy will be too prone to damage and not provide your dog with that real pleasurable sensation that dogs take from biting and chewing.  It's something I think Kong has always been really good at getting correct in the past with such lines as their tennis-ball material Kong Air Squeakair toys.

    With their new Squeezz line they get the "bite resistance" balance spot-on!  Another thing they got right was the squeak-factor.  The squeakers are actually buried inside the body of the toy, which makes me feel safer, but this also seems to produce the most joyous, gleeful squeak I've ever heard!  Cassie seems to agree.  I selected the large stick for Cassie (due to her size and bite strength).  I figured we don't need another ball and a stick would make it like we were playing a good-old-fashioned game of fetch (she normally gets real sticks taken away).   She loved it!  She ran like mad first around the house and then around the yard happily skipping and flipping the Squeezz stick in the air and thoroughly enjoying the sound it produced as she chewed on the trot!  As a play-by-yourself-for-awhile toy it was a great success.

   I do have some reservations about these toys though.  Firstly, the sticks (and other longer shapes I tested) don't seem to bounce much when thrown.   I tested the stick indoors on hardwood and carpet and outdoors on grass and decking...a dull thud was pretty much the best that could be expected (I managed to catch the best one on video).   This shape certainly doesn't, as Kong claims, "causes [a] fun, erratic bounce."  Well, I should be fair and say it doesn't create a big bounce, but rather nobbles around for a second on the ground.  It was a bit of a let down for our game of fetch...though I guess real sticks don't bounce much either.
Hard to see recessed squeaker
    The other area for some worry is that (once again) I'm not entirely confident about the toys durability.   Care should be exercised any time that you give a pet a be-squeakered toy, as those little noise makers are just too easy to dislodge and swallow.   Though Kong points out the toys have a "protected recessed squeaker," I'm always a bit cautious.   So far, Cassie's not succeeded in so much as scratching the Squeezz stick.  I did, however, also buy one of the Squeezz dumbbells for the infamous Guinness after his Hol-ee Roller escapade  and it had to be taken away from him fairly quickly as the damage ensued (he's a toy monster to be fair)!

     The Kong Squeezz line ranges in price from $3-9 depending on size, shape and where you buy your toys (available at Petsmart, Petco, Amazon, etc).  For most dogs they will be a load of fun and should remain very durable.  The squeakers do appear very well encased within the body of the toys and should prove difficult for  a dog to remove and even more difficult to swallow.  Kong's really got it right with these toys and I think from the video you'll be able to tell that the only thing that these toys are lacking are ear plugs!  That's some squeak!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Introducing Rylee & The Tuffy Ultimate Tug-o-War

    During our break from blogging our household was very excited to take care of my sister's Golden Doodle puppy Rylee.

     Rylee was just over three months old at the time and is, at present, smaller than Cassie.   Though I didn't let my sister know (I wanted her to enjoy her vacation), I was a teensy bit worried that Cassie might be a bit too...shall we say...rambunctious for her little Doodle to handle.   As you may remember (if you have very good memory), while Cassie has always loved playing with dogs of all sizes she has a tendency to play a bit rough.   In the past some smaller dogs, especially a certain MinPin who is now on her way to her 15th birthday, have found Cass a pushy pest and a little bit of a bully.   It was with this in mind that I thought Rylee might be a perfect device to teach Cass a new skill: channeling her play/prey drive off of another dog and onto collaborative toy play (ie tugging together).

     Before our hiatus I had planned to review Tuffy's Ultimate Tug-o-War toy. That was going to be the first negative review Tuffy had received from me.  I picked the toy up almost six months ago and Cassie had rarely been inclined to use it for more than a trophy to parade around the basement.   It was initially purchased as a means of encouraging her tugging with me to amp up our bonding and excitement before and after an agility run.  For this purpose I was very disappointed with the Tug-o-War, whose handles seemed to be too wide or uncomfortable for Cassie's mouth (surprisingly).  This didn't make for very fun or effective tugging, as she would always drop or loose her grip on the handle when I gave a tug.
    My opinion was softened as I watched Cassie drag the Tug-o-War around the house with Rylee firmly attached to the other end.  It was a wonderful way to make sure they were playing without injuring each other too much....those puppy teeth can be very sharp.   They still didn't seem to get as much of a hold on the tug, as I'd have liked and there are several pauses in play as a result.  However, they really didn't seem to mind as Cassie very happily pummeled Rylee's face with the toy until play eventually resumed.  So sweet how dogs play!

     The Tuffy Ultimate Tug-o-War rates a 9 on the companies Tuff-scale and I don't doubt it.  Cassie and Rylee gave it a real working over (as I'm sure you can tell) for an entire week and it still looks like brand new!  I've always been very impressed with the quality of Tuffy's toys, especially those that are based on shapes, instead of animal forms.   They are always a long lasting purchase, well worth the price tag.   I was underwhelmed by the shape design of the Ultimate Tug-o-War, which didn't lend itself to really fitting inside a dog's mouth securely during play.  Though the dogs did love it for running around together, I found they could do (and probably preferred doing) the same thing with a $4 rope tug I bought at Walmart.  In the end, I'm not sure I would purchase the Ultimate Tug-o-War again, which is a rare miss for me on Tuffy's Ultimate line in general!  Let me know what you think looks like more fun...the Tug-o-War or the Rope.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

JW Pet Co's Hol-ee Roller (Take 2): Destroyed by An Anxious Dog

      I had wanted my first product review coming back off of vacation to be a positive one (I'd even written it already), but when the following occurred today at the shelter I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to share.

      Most of my formerly regular readers will be aware of how fond I am of JW Pet Co's products, primarily due to their durability.  Cassie's pretty tough on toys and I've always felt safe about leaving her alone with JW Pet Co products!  The Cuz and Hol-ee Roller are particular favorites.

      When I started working at the shelter I quickly realized that many of the dogs had little or no interest in toys, so the first thing I bought for my adoptable pups was a Hol-ee Roller ball to encourage playtime.  It's a great toy (as I noted in my very first review).  At our house we own three Hol-ee Rollers of varying size and shape.   There is even one at our dog park that has survived two years of play with dozens of dogs and constant exposure to the elements!  However, it was once again underlined for me today that no toy is beyond destruction, even the amazing Hol-ee Roller!

       One of the dogs we currently house at the shelter, a lab named Guinness, is obsessed with toys to the point of really becoming a psychological fixation.   He came in while I was away one week and when I returned the Hol-ee Roller I had purchased for the communal play yard had somehow made its way into Guinness's run.  When I asked about it, one of the techs said a bit breezily that 'he just loves it so much.'   I let it go, though I explained that I didn't think it was good for Guinness to be quite so fixated on toys.

Guinness the Roller Killer
      When I returned one day I found that Guinness had begun chewing on the Hol-ee Roller in his kennel, which I decided to keep an eye on (experimentally).  When I came back an hour later the poor dog had ripped the thing to pieces.  Everyone at the shelter was heartbroken that Guinness had destroyed the object of such great affection.   So I, like an idiot, went out and bought him another one reasoning that the other one must have gotten too old or had some flaw I'd not noticed before.   I left the new Roller with by my bag on the other side of the big dog kennels, resolving to give it to Guinness under supervision and keep it from him if any further attempts at destruction ensued.   Unfortunately, one of the junior volunteers must have thought nothing of my grand plans and threw the new Hol-ee Roller in for Guinness' enjoyment.

    And what a grand time he must have had!  The new Hol-ee Roller lasted about twenty minutes before I returned to find Guiness' kennel lined with red rubber bits!  Here are the results of his intense focus:
20 Minutes of Hard Focus!

    Does this make me love the Hol-ee Roller less, not really.  Guiness it great and so is the Hol-ee Roller!  It simply reminded me that nothing is bomb proof when it comes to dogs!  I doubt if any toy could stand up to Guinness' onslaught (though I'm currently using him to test out two Kong toys).  Though the Hol-ee Roller finally met it match, I love it no less!  I thank Guinness for showing me that even the Hol-ee Roller can be destroyed, when a pup puts his mind to it!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

New Page on Adoptable Dogs

   Hi everyone!  I've been doing some belated spring cleaning on the old blog.  I hope you like it!  One of the new features will be a weekly link to adoptable dogs at the Humane Society where I volunteer.  Please give our new ADOPTABLES page a gander and let me know what you think!


   To all our lovely friends both on blogger and on twitter, Cassie and I (well mostly I) would like to make an apology for our extremely extended absence.   Originally, we took off for a couple weeks during  vacation and somehow things just got rolling after that.   Needless to say, I've felt guilty just about everyday between then and now!  I'm all apologies and promises to be better in the future.

   There is lots of good news!!  During our time off I have:

  1. Done a lot of shopping
  2. Started a new round of dog training (with the amazing Pat Miller!)
  3. Started working at my county's Humane Society
    In the coming months there will be a host of new videos featuring some of the great dogs from my local area in need of a good home.   They can be pretty rough on toys and surprisingly picky with treats, so I think it's safe to expect some pretty intensive testing!  Never fear, Cassie and Lilly will still be more than happy to try out all the toys/treats/products along with the pups at the shelter.

     So we hope you will wag around to see what we've got coming up around the corner!

Puppy Kisses and Wiggle Butts!
Jess the Dog Shopper (& Cassie)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Bark Off - As Seen on TV

    I've never really gone in for infomercial shopping, but I do admit to every once-and-awhile taking a spin around out local "As Seen on TV" outlet store.  As many of you may have seen on TV recently they're advertising a product called the 'Bark Off' that the manufacturers claim will bring an end to all those annoying noises your dog makes to ruin your TV watching experiences.  It's not typically something I would rush out to get, but when it was in the store (no shipping & handling fees) and at 50% off the original price ($4.95), I thought why not.

    Cassie is an attention barker, which as a positive trainer I would normally handle by just ignoring her, even when she progresses to some heavy mouthing.  I've tried squirt bottles, bad smells and the only thing that has ever seemed to deter her are my threats of beating pots and pans together, which as you can imagine makes for a perfectly delightful evening!  I don't like painful or stringent punishments and simply crating her only staves off the problem, so sound aversion didn't really bother me as a concept, especially since it had been so successful in our pots-and-pans past!  Having a version that I didn't have to carry around or even listen to was like music to my ears (pardon the bad pun).   I should have been clued in to the 'Bark Off's possible faults when the cashier of the store said he had not heard the best reports from other purchasers as a means of explaining the heavy discount.

What it is:
   The 'Bark Off' is a plastic encased device that sets off a high pitched squeal (imperceptible to human ears) anytime it detects a sound it considers to be within a typical dog-bark frequency.  The 'Bark Off' is equipped with two levels of sensitivity, so that, if you choose, it will only react to strong loud barks, as opposed to softer whining and yips.  The intensity of the squeal it puts out is meant to never change.

  My only real concern, besides it not working at all, was that it would not be very selective about setting off the that a dog bark on the TV or a similar sound to a bark might set it off when Cassie hadn't even done anything wrong.   Not such a big deal when it's only Cassie around, but in a multi-dog home when only one of the dogs is a barker, how would you keep from punishing the whole group?

How It Worked:
   Regardless, home I went and started searching for a 9 volt battery, happily finding one at the back of a drawer.  I let the dog out, placed the 'Bark Off' on a low shelf about five feet away switching it to the 'low' setting and waited to be serenaded!  Within minutes the 'play with me' dance started and I ignored it for the sake of study.

    Cassie then gave a very loud and pronounced bark and then stopped, turning her head to question what had just come from the bookshelf.  She'd definitely heard something that gave her pause and then proceeded to experiment with the sound in what can only be described as a game of "Barko-Polo!"  It did stop her from barking the first night, a little.  She didn't like the sound and was clearly confused by it, but after having it set to varying intensities for the last few days she now seems content to ignore the strange noise and has gone right back to barking her head off whenever she feels like it.

   I've tried it on Tobey and his 'killer dogs walking past the house' barking routine and he too just doesn't seem to care about the strange noise...he's too focused on scaring away that big German Shepherd Dog from down the street!  How dare it go to the bus stop to pick up its children each day!

Final Verdict:
   The final verdict on the 'Bark Off' is that if you can find it cheap why not give it a try on your dog, if you're ok with aversion tactics.  If you're suffering from insomnia one night and see it on TV, I really wouldn't waste your time.

   If you've had success with the 'Bark Off', please let me know and I'll update with your comments.