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.

Monday, April 11, 2011

It Pays to watch the Today Show: THE NEATER FEEDER!

   As you may have heard, I've wanted to a Neater Feeder for awhile, but just couldn't justify spending that kind of money (up to $66 if you need leg extenders for the Large size) on a product that I wasn't completely sure would standup to Cassie and her messy water-slopping ways!


 I think I should begin with some explanation:
  The Neater Feeder is a feeding station that simply suspends two metal bowls over a reservoir into which run off water is diverted.  The surface into which the bowls are inserted slopes gently toward a grate at the front that leads to the reservoir below. The reservoir is large enough to contain the contents of both bowls, but small enough to not make the feeder excessively tall.   The design is fairly simple, while the reservoir collects the spilled water, splashing and dripping are minimized by the tall walls at the front and sides and a neck-height lip at the front.  The body is made of a smooth but durable plastic and the bowls are your standard metal fare. The Neater Feeder comes in S, M, & L sizes and leg extenders can be purchased for taller dogs.  They even make a version for cats.

Bowl surface and grate

The Old Way
   Cassie's not a very messy eater, but she has a way of sloshing, dripping and slinging water that has to be seen to be believed...sometimes I wonder if there is something wrong with her mouth that so much water ends up on the floor.  In addition to being a sloppy drinker she has a what I call her 'doggie beard' that always seems to end up in her water bowl and results in a Hansel-and-Gretel style trail of droplets.  I've tried many products in the past, from doggie placemats, to bowl stands/holders and nothing made the problem better.  In fact the placemat collected water underneath and after about a week's use I was left with a mat-shaped watermark on my hardwood.  For months we'd been making due with a Tuperware tub and Pyrex bowls, because this was the only way to give some bowl height, that was easy to clean and that had a lip to prevent some of the water run off.

Hardwood Damage
   Regardless of my attempts, my hardwood has progressively become more damaged, until I now have several boards that are actually splitting and pealing away at the edges.  I'm not a big fan of these manufactured floors (they were in the house when we moved in and have proved less than durable), but the water problem has done nothing but exacerbate the damage.

    Then as if the Dog gods had heard my anguished cries, I was sitting on the couch eating my breakfast, watching the Today Show and low-and-behold the weekly 'Jill's Steals & Deals' segment featured the Neater Feeder.  When I heard that I could purchase any sized Neater Feeder for $15, I nearly spilled my coffee in the race to the computer.  After checking out the details and trying in vain several times to get through to, I decided I should make sure you all knew about it too!  Then for the next 30 min I repeated the process of getting through until my order had been successfully sent!  In total, I spent $24 for a large-sized Neater Feeder (including shipping and handling)!

  A couple weeks later and the Neater Feeder has arrived!   Since that moment not a single drop of water has hit our floors.  I'm at a loss to say much other than that it works perfectly!  Even Cassie's beard dripping has ceased.  What had kept me from rushing out to purchase this product in the past (besides the price) were these thoughts:

 1) With the Neater Feeder being made of plastic will Cassie just start chewing on the corners? This happened to the placemat on several occasions and ended with Cassie upsetting entire bowls of water on the floor!
 2) What size should I order?? The size recommendations suggested the Large, but that sounded so big for a medium sized dog.
 3) Will this be just another clunky thing taking up room in my house...along with the collections of mats and bowls??
 4) Will Cassie like drinking out of it? The tall walls made me worry she might be wary of sticking her head in to get a drink.
 5) Will it actually work for all the water dripping or just prevent big spills?? I really doubted the beard trails would ever be preventable.

The Good Things About The Neater Feeder:

   It does exactly what it says it will do, nothing more, nothing less!  From the moment I ripped it out of the box and set it up next to the old Tuperware tub Cassie showed not the slightest hesitation about eating and drinking out of it.  In the past she has been grumpy about using metal bowls and so I've used pyrex instead, but with these she seems to have gotten past that phase.  She's also not so much as nibbled on the edges, so either she doesn't see it as something worth chewing or she's just biding her time. Though it's big for a feeder, it's almost exactly the same size as our Tuperware tub and is much more attractive.
   Most importantly, it works!  I've left it out for days and my floor is completely free of water marks.  I've given it some swift kicks, sending water cascading out of the bowls like Old Faithful and its all swirled down the drain and into the reservoir, marring neither the floors nor the walls.  Even the beard trails, which I thought were a just fact of life with a long haired dog, have disappeared!  We have a miracle!

Facts That Are Going to Take Some Getting Used To:

  When I bought the Neater Feeder I knew I was going to loose the one big advantage of my Tuperware tub: the fact that I had an all-in-one kibble storage/serving device.  The Neater Feeder is not a storage/feeding device and it's not an automated feeder.  It's a mess-free feeding product, plain and simple!  That isn't so terrible.  I'm just going to have to find a more attractive way of hiding the dog food, while keeping it tolerably accessible.

The Only Real Area For Improvement:

  All that said, I do have one small quibble you should be aware of before ordering your own Neater Feeder (besides the fact that you can no longer pick one up on the cheap like I did):  the sizing recommendations can be confusing.  As I mentioned, the Neater Feeder comes in three sizes (S, M, L) and you can buy extenders for taller dogs.  However, strangely the size-recommendations the company provides are all figured by the weight of the dog with a minimum height, instead of a range for both.  For instance, they suggest that the Large suits a 35-100+ dog with a 15-20" shoulder height.   But what if your dog doesn't fall into those ranges?

  I know at least one of you got in on the deal with me, because Elizabeth over at The Chronicles of Cardigan blogged about it last week and noted this sizing conundrum.  Unlike Cassie, who the size recommendation ended up working out for fairly well (though I was nervous), Elizabeth's Cardigans are...well let's just say atypically-shaped breed.  They are shorter than you would expect them to be for their weight.  This is true of several breeds (standard Corgis, Bulldogs, etc) basically any dog that is longer than it is tall I think will result in some size confusion with the Neater Feeder.

  A simple solution is for the company to develop a weight-height comparison chart and suggest sizes for the various ranges (a bit like sizing pantyhose).  Better still would be a generalized breed appropriate size suggestion list like those commonly found with other products such as head halters, harnesses and some toys and chews.  I think this update would make customers more confident that they're purchasing the right size for their dogs.  I always think more information is generally better than less.

For your immediate assistance I've provided a photo of a recognizable dog standing next to a Large size without leg extenders:

Overall, I love the new Neater Feeder!  It's fit into my home with such immediate satisfaction that I can't help but be a little smug each time I pass it!  If you have a messy eater/drinker whose destroying your hardwood like mine was, I would dare say it's worth the investment!  I shudder to think what replacing this hardwood is going to cost when we go to sell!

 [I'll upload some video as soon as I can get the Cassie Dog to cooperate!]

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Neater Feeder Has Arrived

   You may remember that a few weeks ago I blogged about a great deal on the Neater Feeder that ran on the Today show.  It took a little patience, but our Neater Feeder arrived yesterday and so far so good!  We will be blogging about it early next week after Cassie has had a chance to put it through its paces.   A couple of our readers seem to have gotten in on the offer as well, so I'll be including links to their blog-posts, along with my own review!  I love it when we can all interact over our love of dogs!  Till then, you can check the Neater Feeder out at!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Wildcatch For Pets Salmon Jerky

    Jeff, the owner of our local organic pet food store (Bentley's Specialty Pet Foods) clued us into the new Wildcatch For Pets Salmon Jerky treats the last time I was in and I have to confess the dogs really loved them!  Wildcatch normally spends their time manufacturing for the human population, so you can be pretty sure that the quality's going to be high.  They boast that 47% of the Salmon Jerky comes from protein and of that 95% comes from all natural sustainable wild salmon.   What's in the other 53% of these treats is always of note for me, because I try to feed as grain-free as possible.  The answer: mostly organic Brown Rice flour.  Since they're just for a treat I'll let them get away with that.  I should note that this formulation seems to be somewhat new for Wildcatch, which had been producing a product called Wild Sky Sockeye Salmon Jerky Treats that look very similar to this and are still the only thing advertised on their I think it's just a marketing change.

    I brought these home the day before Jinx came to stay and from the video I think you can tell how popular they were.  I nearly lost some fingers there Mr. Jinx!  I mainly judge the quality of the treat by how well the dog works for it and how much focus it generates...this one was a clear success!

   The real test came a few days later when Cassie had her first hydrotherapy appointment.  We're still trying everything to work on this puppy sit, which is getting better, but just won't go away (we're still working out on our FitPaws Donut, with some success).  Cassie's not afraid of water, but she's never been terribly fond of swimming.  Therefore, keeping that doggie-nose pointed forward and walking on the underwater treadmill for the first time required some very powerful motivators, namely: cheese and Salmon Jerky.  I wish I could have taken video, but I was so focused on keeping her moving in the pool that I didn't have a free hand.

     Once she was harnessed up and inside the tank the water was filled up to just below her withers and she was huddled in the corner of the tank giving me an annoyed look as if to say: "What are you doing to me now?"  The goal was to turn her around, align her on the treadmill and then keep her walking for the next 20-30 mins.  We started with dry biscuits the physical therapists kept on hand.  Needless to say an epic failure, but I let them try it anyway.  I then moved onto Pure Bites Liver, which was still not enough to entice her normally greedy butt out of the corner of the tank.  Finally, I switched to string cheese and finally we had movement!  She was very slowly lured away from the corner and onto the treadmill, but once the belt started moving she quickly lost interest even in cheese.  So, I brought out the big guns: Wildcatch Salmon Jerky!

    As soon as I dropped my hand over the edge of the tank she was instantly moving forward, led by her ever curious twitching sniffer.  That the best thing about these treats: they're super smelly!  The physical therapists even commented on how strong smelling they were.  I say if it worked, it worked...we all seemed to survive the stench!

  Without a doubt, these treats are great motivators.  The dogs loved the taste and the smell and the jerky texture was solid enough that you could break them up with little-to-no mess.  What I didn't like so much was the price.   I paid almost $10 for a 5oz bag.  That means I probably won't buy them too often, but instead saving them for special day treats.  Anytime I have a competition, a really hard trick, or a place where I'm going to need extra focus Wildcatch Salmon Jerky is a great treat!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Firstrax Port-A-Crates: Definitely Not Aussie Proof!

    Jinx has been with us since Thursday and as he (and our dogs) is used to being crated at night and when the humans are missing his mom Tracey sent him along with a very sturdy looking soft-sided crate that she often uses at Agility and Flyball competitions.  Tracey won this crate new a couple years ago in a Flyball raffle and since then it has always been one of her favorite travel kennels.  Well, this weekend sort of brought an end to that love affair.

  The kennel was manufactured at the end line of a company called Backyardpets, which has since started operating under the Firstrax label (it took a lot of trademark research to figure that out).  Until recently they offered this exact kennel as their Firstrax Port-A-Crate E-28.  They've only just stopped manufacture on this specific item, but continue to have similar products on the market like the NoztoNoz line.  Therefore, this negative experience should be taken with that in mind.  The crate was a few years old and the new crates on the market from this company are somewhat different, though not much.  However, I'm sure many people still own this crate and should be aware of should I put it....limitations!

   We'd planned to take the dogs hiking on Saturday, but it was so cold that we decided to leave them at home while we ran errands, putting them safely away in their respective crates.  About three hours later, Chris and I came home and opened the door to find Jinx eagerly awaiting our entrance.  That's funny...I don't remember leaving a dog running did he open his crate zipper without thumbs?  The answer: he didn't.  He just clawed his way out!  The super heavy-duty rubberized mesh was no match for a determined Aussie!  Luckily, there was no damage to report (other than to the crate itself), though I'm worried for Jinx's safety when his mom shows up to find her favorite crate in tatters! Just kidding.

   He must be a contortionist to have fit his butt through that hole...but I guess like mice, if it's a big enough hole to fit the head through the body will always follow!  Maybe Jinx's dad Steve was right when he resignedly explained why this happened: "Jinx is a freak."  A circus freak more like!  My curiosity implores me to try to get him to do it again so I can watch, but Tracey wants to try and repair the damage, so no fun can be had.   

  The company must be aware that this and others of their crates are not without fault, for they sell replacement covers at a little more than half ($65) the original price ($106) on Amazon!  That's great if your dog is at home as Jinx was when tragedy strikes, but if Jinx had been in the crate outside at a trial (as he often has been) when this happened he would have been long gone.  He could have ruined someone's run, been badly hurt or lost or at the very least ruined Tracey's day!  This crate appeared to be very sturdy, but this experience is perhaps best a reminder that soft-sided crates need to be used with care and supervision: No matter how durable the company claims they are!

A Tail of Things To Come...Our Weekend with Jinx

   Sorry we've been a bit out of touch lately!  We've had a house guest since Thursday morning in the form of our friend Jinx!  It's been fun, but we are all a little tired now (especially Jinx's ears, which Cassie seems to find endless fun in biting).  You may remember Jinx from the Bacon Bubbles review.  In honor of his visit we have a few reviews coming up this week that we think you will enjoy!   While I work on putting them together and recovering from the mealy here's a preview!

  • Bitter Apple: Other uses for the dog owner's long time love!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

We Got Through!! The Neat Feeder Is On Its Way!

   After almost an hour of trying to get through to the checkout page at Neat Feeder, we have a receipt in our mail box!  We bought the large size and with shipping to WV it was $24.99 ($15 for the feeder & $9.99 shipping, sales tax was $0)!  Less than the small size normally costs!
   I been debating whether to pick one of these up for oh about five months and the deal put me over the edge!  Very excited to see it arrive!  We will post a full review upon receipt!


If You've Wanted A Neater Feeder: Today is the Day!!

Hi everyone,
   I don't normally spread the word on deals too often, but today's is too good to miss... For today only, you can buy any size Neater Feeder from their website for only $15.  That's around a 75% savings for the large size!  Limit one per shopper! Today only!

Here is what you need to do:
   Go to the Today Show Website and Click On: 'Jills Deals'
   Find the Neat Feeder and Click on the link
   Select your size and click on the appropriate link
  Click 'Add to Cart'
   In the Coupon area type in 'today15' and then click 'apply'
   Check out as a new customer

   We are trying to get one now, but the site keeps crashing...Good luck getting through!

Great deal, we'll update if we finally get one!

Monday, March 21, 2011

JW Pet Co's Cuz: A Life Saver For An Anxious Dog

   Sorry in advance for the long review, but I write a great deal about Cassie and her exploits and thought for a change I would bring you up to speed on Tobey!  This is the story of how a simple toy, the JW Pet Co Cuz saved Tobey from himself.

   Tobers is a four year old Min Pin/Rat Terrier mix (we think) who came to my parents at about four months old.  Before he was picked up by the local animal squad it's believed that he spent much of his life, as my mother puts it with a pouty face, "on the mean streets."  As a result of this harsh upbringing, he came with some very significant guarding and aggression issues (not great in a house that at that time had two other dogs) that we have worked very hard to get him through.  In the beginning he was always tense, almost on a razors edge even when he was sleeping and would easily become fixated on guarding places, food, toys and people.  With some positive reinforcement and handling training and some exercise he has come a long way.  He still has a few grumpy moments, but his real 'problems' have pretty much disappeared, especially now that he's the only dog at my parents'.

   When he moved in it was also difficult to teach Tobey to play.  He was (and still is) very food motivated, so teaching tricks was easy, but really playing with him was hard to even get started.  I found he liked to chase balls, but was not happy to bring them back.   People often don't realize when they adopt a shelter dog that many have missed out on those important weeks of puppyhood where they learned things like socialization, sharing and yes, even play! This is no excuse not to adopt an older dog, but still an important factor to keep in mind.  Many shelter dogs will need some help learning the basics of what we consider 'doggie-hood.'

    My mother, for instance, was very sad that Tobey was not acting like a 'normal' dog and determined to find a toy he would like.  After some tennis balls and soft toys (which he liked to sit on), she brought home a red Cuz that came to be known as Tobey's friend.  This one toy would, in my opinion, go a long way to helping Tobey overcome not only his guarding issues, but his general day-to-day rubberband-like tension.

   It started out simply enough.  We gave him the toy and treated him for sniffing it and then picking it up.  After a little while we took it out back and gave it a toss and off he went as if it were a tennis ball.  We stood there watching him run like a shot in the direction the Cuz had disappeared and then started across the yard after him ready to lure it away with a treat when he ran off with it.   To our surprise a great squeaking could be heard and from the other end of the yard Tobey came charging with the Cuz in his mouth giving a squeak with each stride.   He loved it!  When he reached us I quickly pulled out a treat and as he opened his mouth I said: "Drop it" and placed the treat in his mouth.

  From that moment he wouldn't let the Cuz go...he raced around the house by himself squeaking the Cuz as he ran, he would chase the Cuz when we threw it for him and bring it back.   Interestingly, he would even lie on his blanket and just squeak the Cuz with his eyes closed.  I wish I had pictures of this, but sadly I don't.   The Cuz did more than give Tobey an outlet for his nervous energy (though that did help I'm sure), it's hard rubber had just enough give to make squeezing it pleasurable.  As when people who are stressed grind their teeth, nervous or anxious dogs often carry a lot of pent up energy in their jaws.  T-touch massage techniques teach you to massage the anxious dog's jaws by holding thier heads or using a circular motion, but for Tobey (who didn't like people touching his face), chewing on the ball seemed to relieve his anxiety.  The Cuz acted as a self-soothing device and allowed Tobey to see that when he was more relaxed the world wasn't such a scary place!

   He has gone through many Cuzes since that first one and now doesn't really need to use it that much, though he still loves it.  Since then he has learned to love other types of play as well and I am thinking about starting him at home with some agility training very soon.   He's very smart and still super fast!

  Though this is a great story it's not much of a review, so here you go:

   The Cuz, like most JW Pet Co toys is very durable.  The hard pliable rubber is a joy for dogs to chew, but seems to outlast even the strongest chewers I've seen!  Cassie has a few of these types of toys and they have lasted well over a year.  With Tobers, his first Cuz lasted about a year before the squeaker fell out inside of the Cuz and a new one had to be purchased.  We've since bought him two others and the squeaker always seems to be the fail point.   They bounce very well and because of the odd shape and the feet at the bottom the bounce is unpredictable, making the dog have to think while they are chasing it.  The squeaker is the best part; it gives a loud and satisfying sound that seems to drive the dogs crazy!

  Cuzes come in a variety of sizes (S,M,L) and colors, including: red, green, purple and yellow/orange.  They also come in both a Good Cuz  (no-devil horns) and a Bad Cuz (with devil-horns)...Tobey started out with the Bad Cuz, reflecting my mother's feelings at that point in his life and now has two Good Cuzes.   You can buy a Cuz at Petsmart, Petco, Amazon or many other places online from between $5-$10 depending on size and style.   They're a great foundation to JW Pet Co's squeaky toy line from which many other shapes can be purchased, even a Cuz with a fluffy tail!  Overall, a stimulating alternative to a boring old tennis ball and one that will last for ages!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Some New Ideas

  I'm trying to come up with some fun new ideas for the blog that will help us all interact.   One thing I'm hoping to start is a page for photos and videos of all you bloggies testing out products I've reviewed on American Dog Shopper!   So if you have tried anything I've reviewed, whether you read about it on here first or not, please email me some cute pics to put on our soon to come "friends" page (including pet names and a small caption)!    I give you this photo of Cassie as inspiration!

Look out Mom!  Here I come!

   I'm also planning some more polls in the near future, so look for these too!

   If you have any ideas...don't be a shy...send them my way!  Till then, I'll keep thinking....

Monday, March 14, 2011

Save Some Bones by Making Tugs At Home!

   I'll be honest and admit (as you may have already guessed) that I spend way too much money on dog toys/treats/food/training etc.   This isn't really a problem in my mind, but my husband thinks I'm a little bit crazy.   In order to assuage his exasperation there is a solution: make some toys myself!  There are several books on making dog toys and clothes, but by far the easiest project I know and one I've used repeatedly is the fleecy tug!

Cassie picked her own colors
    For example, I went to a JoAnn Fabrics sale a few weeks ago and for $7 bought two yards of pill-free fleece (in my favorite combo, blue and green) and made a total of 7 tugs of varying size.   The fleecy tug is a must have for agility, fly ball and trick dog training and a great pleasure for any dog that loves to play with its person.  They're also wonderful for encouraging puppies to play interactively and to bond with their owners!  Online I've found small tugs going for $4-10 from companies like Kyjen and they look pretty much just like what I've made, only smaller!

   So you can buy these tugs, but I say why buy when you can make them in minutes so much less!  You'll need a few tools before you begin including: a sturdy rubber band, a pair of sharp scissors, a minimum of a 1/4 yard of pill-free fleece and a friend or good hitching post!


1) Decide the size tug you want to make (both length and girth).  Length will tell you how long you want to cut your three strips and girth will tell you how wide to cut them.  Obviously, the longer your strips the longer your tug and the thicker your strips the fatter the braid will be!
Step 3: Finished sides up

2) Cut three strips of approximately equal length and width

3) The fleece will have two sides a rough fleecy side and a slightly smoother underside.  You want to arrange your strips in a stack with the fleecy sides facing up.  If you're making a two/one color combo, like I am, put your odd color in the middle of the stack.

4) Loop a rubber band tightly around the top of the stack about 3-5 in. down, depending on the length of your tug.

Step 4: Rubber-banded
5) If you are making a fatter tug read this step carefully:  fan the strips out slightly and then roll each strip in on itself, so that you end up with a long fleece tube that has only the fleecy sides showing.  Tie a knot at the bottom of each individual strip when you are finished rolling so that the roll stays in place.  It doesn't have to be perfect and as you braid the tug it will come unrolled at some points, but this one     step really does make the tugs both more durable and nicer looking!

6) Hitch your rubber band end to something in your house like a hook or have a friend hold the end while you braid...the more tightly the end is held the easier and nicer the braid will be!
Step 5: Fleece Tubes
            7) Start braiding, doing your best to keep the tubes rolled while you do    so and keeping the braid as tight as possible.
            8) When you reach about six inches from the other end take the longest strip and untie the knot you made to make the tube (it also helps to have a friend at this point, but I do it on my own just fine).  Loop the untied strip around the other two, overlapping where you just finished braiding.  Then tuck the looped strip under itself to make a knot around the braid and pull as tightly as possible.  Then untie the knots at the end of the two remaining strips

            9) Remove the rubber band from the other end and repeat the end knotting process.

The Finished Product!

    From there it's just use your imagination!  You can cut the tails short or slice them up the middle to make them more pompom-like.  You can add jingle bells.  I've seen people braid loops into one end of these tugs (I'm not that talented), drill holes through tennis balls and thread one end of the tug through it, add plastic balls or tire toys and even turn them into leashes!  My friend is incorporating jump-rope as one of the strips to make her tugs have less give.  If you have the imagination and the plaiting skills the sky is truly the limit!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Our 1st Toy From The Tester Program: Tuffy Ultimate 3WayRing

  Sorry I've been away for a few days...I think I need to slow down on the reviews or I'm going to run out of products to talk about by the end of the summer!!  But back to the present:

  The UPS man dropped off a present for the Cassie dog yesterday and since then she has been busily testing its durability and general 'funness.'  You may remember that a couple weeks back we signed up to be a toy tester for (a website that represents VIP Products including: Tuffy, Mighty Dog Toys, Silly Squeakers, etc).   For agreeing to buy a certain number of toys from throughout the year (you decide which toys and how many) and reviewing them on their website you receive a discount that increases with the number of toys you agree to buy.   Though most of the toys on the website are more expensive than buying them from Amazon, the 'tester discount' makes them cheaper.  It's a good program if you can afford to buy a number of toys throughout the year and they are some of the best toys I've ever found for durability and fun!

   Our first selection was the Tuffy Ultimate 3WayRing in Camo Blue (which is neither sold in Petsmart nor on Amazon)!  This toy is much like the standard rings, but because it has three nicely sized openings it keeps your fingers better protected during enthusiastic games of tug and makes it easier to keep a good hold.  Despite it's odd 3-D shape it also throws pretty far without much effort and Cassie has not had any trouble picking it out of the air when I toss it up for a catch.  She seems to find the revolving motion very stimulating and hasn't grown bored of tossing it up in the air herself and catching it.   The 3WayRing ranks a 9 on the 10-point Tuff-scale designed by Tuffy (who don't make a toy that scores below a 5), so durability is a strong selling feature with this toy.  Cassie has put that to the test with an onslaught of chewing and very strong tugging and so far not so much as a stitch has popped!  I expected this due to our previous experience with Tuffy toys, which seem to be nearly indestructible and highly weather/washing machine proof!  This  toy comes in four very pretty colors: Camo Blue, Pink, Red & Yellow.  We don't have many blue toys, so I went with the Camo looked even better in person (and show dirt less than the pink and yellow).

   The only problem I found with our 3WayRing is that none of the 3 squeakers work!  One of them makes a small sound like a baby-bird chirping, but the other two not so much as a peep!  It's a shame, because Cassie does love running around the yard squeaking whatever is in her mouth, but it's only a small flaw in what is otherwise a wonderful toy!

   I typically recommend Tuffy toys to anyone whether they have a heavy chewer or not, because they are very long lasting, easy to wash, and are a lot of fun...that said my next review is going to be another Tuffy toy that Cassie got for her birthday...for the first time it won't be such a ringing endorsement...till then:  the 3WayRing is a winner!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Saturday Pet Blog Hop!

  This is our first time on the Blog Hop and we are very excited!  I'm off to see what everyone else is on about, but welcome to everyone who is visiting!  Hope you have a fun time!

May we suggest the following archived reviews of items you might enjoy!:

  1. The Rubit
  2. The Mutt Mat
  3. The H2O4K9
  4. Our Favorite Treat Review
Thanks for visiting and we hope you come again soon!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

What's In A Wubba?: With Guest Bloggers Elyse & Riley

    A few weeks back I had the good fortune of running a poll about desired reviews in the same week that one of our readers/favorite doggie bloggers had a very eye opening experience with one of the items on the list...the Kong Wubba line!

    I asked all of you to tell me which dog items you would most like to see a review of and Wubbas came in a very close second to Treats!  So I did the treat review and thought why not let Elyse provide  her thoughts on Wubbas!

Elyse's Wubba Tale:

   Hi, my name is Elyse and my Australian Cattle Dog, Riley is a notorious toy destroyer around our house.  Riley is a medium to medium-large size dog (53 pounds of muscle).  Stuffed animals don't last more than 5 minutes around our house, Riley has destroyed at least 3 different types of frisbees, tennis balls don't last, and Nylabones are typically chewed down in a few days...just to give a little background.  I would classify Riley as being an aggressive or serious chewer.

 I had been thinking about getting Riley a Wubba and when I got an e-mail from Barking Deals that they were offering 3 Large Kong Wubbas for $13.99 and free shipping, I jumped at the chance to purchase them for her.  The Wubbas got here within about a week and I decided to give one of them to my sister for her two Boxers.

 Riley took to the Wubba right away.  I just squeaked it and tossed it to her.  She had a grand time holding it by one of the fabric tails and shaking the daylights out of it.  We played fetch with it for a while, then she decided she would lie down and get to work on tearing it apart.  This is where I should have stepped in and confiscated it, but I didn't want to spoil the fun.  Here are day 1 pictures:

Day 1

 The tips of the tails were easily chewed off and the stitching around the body of the toy was easy for her to get apart.  Needless to say, this is what the toy looked like on day 2:

Day 2
Riley has had great fun playing with the big squeaky ball (that has since lost it's squeak) and really enjoyed tearing that little fuzzy, yellow tennis ball into microscopic pieces all over my bed.

 We're now on our second Wubba which I've only allowed her to play fetch with outside and not chew.  We've been playing with that one for about 2 weeks or so (only under supervision), and it has held up reasonably well.  She has managed to sneak in chewing off the tips of the fabric tails on it, but the side stitching is still intact.  If you don't have a serious toy destroyer on your hands, they're probably safe to leave alone with the Wubba.  If you've got a "destructo" dog like mine, use this toy only under supervision.  Despite this experience, I would definitely buy Riley another Kong Wubba to play with only while I supervise her because she's had so much fun with the first two.  It is a really fun fetch/shake toy and those are the two things Riley really loves to do.

  My Thanks to Elyse, who writes a wonderful blog called Adventures of A Cattle Dog about her certified therapy dog Riley the Australian Cattle Dog!

  I don't think I have to say much more, but it is my blog so I guess I should add my own thoughts:

   I completely agree with Elyse that Wubbas should be used only with "parental supervision" especially if, like Elyse and I, you have a super-chewer in the house.   Wubbas are great things to play a light tug and fetch with, though in my opinion they don't actually throw very well (I much prefer the Dogzilla Throw Toy available at Walmart stores).    Wubbas come in various sizes, colors and forms (regular, Tugga, fleecy Snugga, animal-shaped Friends, etc) each one less durable than the last.  Kong has recently come out with a "Ballistic" line, which I have yet to try, but will soon!   In addition, Wubbas can get to be pretty pricey ranging between $8-20 retail (though there are some good deals on Amazon) and when you think about how long they last in my opinion they're often not worth the money unless, like Elyse, you get a good deal.   

  Cassie always seem to get them as gifts and I have to smile and say thank-you knowing that the well meant and expensive present will probably be dead a few minutes after we get home!   I've put up two of Cassie favorites, the Tugga Wubba and the Snugga Wubba, to supplement Elyse's experience with the traditional Wubbas.  Cassie has succeeded even under my watchful eye to eat all the arms off the Tugga Wubba, though I have to admit she does love playing with it.  I've just made the mistake of leaving the Snugga Wubba on the table and in a matter of moments some one (whose name rhymes with Wassie) quietly took it off the table and to the corner and chewed a hole through the snuggy material...which does just seem to beg to be ripped open!   
For any dog that likes to chew even the littlest bit this must be a throw, play and put away toy!  Most importantly because, as Riley has demonstrated perfectly, though the Wubba might be correctly sized for your dog the little tennis balls inside are certainly not and can easily become a trip to the ER!