Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Poodle?!?!?

I'm not sure I agree with this, but I guess others often have a better prospective on ourselves than we do.  No offense to Poodle people out there, but I don't think anyone would describe me as prissy.  Hmm...maybe I'll try again.

What dog breed are you? I'm a Poodle! Find out at

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Rubit (You'll Probably Want This)

 The Rubit
   I was introduced to the Rubit by Modern Dog magazine a few weeks before Christmas and low-and-behold it ended up in my stocking come Christmas Day!   Cassie has several harnesses and collars that I switch out depending on the day's activity.  It was a real pain having to switch out her dog tags each time or simply make her wear multiple collars because I was too lazy to do so.  Now, I just put all of the tags on this carabiner style clip and pop it onto whichever collar or harness she has on.  The only draw back I've found is that they do jingle-jangle a bit more than normal, but this hardly outweighs the convenience and safety.

    I can put her id, rabies, dog tax and her microchip tags on any collar in a second, which makes me feel safer taking her out.   I have the large round Rubit, which cost only $8 and was worth every penny.  They can be purchased directly from the Rubit source site or on Amazon.   The Rubit site has a bigger selection than Amazon.  It's a must for any busy pet owner.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Anything You've Been Wondering About?

  Just a friendly reminder that if there is something you'd like to see reviewed, just send me a comment and I'll happily try it out for you!

Times I've Been Led Astray

   Though by-and-large I actually do like most of the products I end up bringing (or having delivered) home, there are always those few items that go even more quickly than they came.  Here are two examples that I've either thrown away or returned in the last few months:

  1. The Inflatable Collar
          Around Thanksgiving time Cassie had some pretty extensive surgery along with a general spay.  This left her looking like a Franken-puppy and because of her history as a fixated licker, she was forced to wear a pretty uncomfortable cone to bed for about two weeks.  The basic plastic cone that the vet sent us home with was a bit awkward to get on and a little uncomfortable for Cass, but seemed to do the job.  That is until one morning when I came down to find that she had somehow gotten it off and spent a good portion of the night chewing on it.
          In desperation, I headed to our local Petsmart where instead of getting another cone I picked up an inflatable collar that claimed to do the same job with less stress on the dog.  It wasn't cheap (around $30) and more annoying was the fact that it took ages (and all of my cheek strength) to get the darned thing blown up.  Cassie adjusted to the inflated collar fairly quickly, but she always seems to be ok with wearing most things (the cone did take a little while).   Unfortunately, she adjusted to the new collar a little too well as she immediately lay down on the rug and started licking her stitches.  So, after almost 20 min spent blowing the thing up, it didn't work at all.  I put it back in the box, got back in the car and handed it back to the same woman I had purchased it from a few hours before.  When I explained why I was returning it she said: "Oh, this is the 2nd one that's been returned today.  That person said the same thing."
    The message I took away was this: These inflatable collars must work for some dogs, but clearly dogs with longer snouts (most shepherds and hounds) will be able to reach right past them.  Stick with tradition in this case and deal with fitting the cone.  Oh! And Petsmart are very good at taking returns without giving any grief.

  2. Bottle Buddies
      Bottle Buddies are basically just a soft shell on the outside of a plastic bottle, so your dog can enjoy the bottle without threat of injury.  I bought this one from Clean Run on the recommendation of one of my trainers who said her Frenchies loved it.  Cassie and I had a go in Tricks class with the trainer's Buddies one night and she did indeed seem to find the crunching and crinkling sounds a joy and continued tugging away all through class.
      I purchased one from Clean Run the next day (though I bought a fox shape that doesn't seem to be available anymore).  I knew Cassie already like foxes, because she loves the plush stuffingless Crazy Critters foxes you can get a Petsmart, Petco, Target, etc.  I was right, she really liked the Bottle Buddies!  So much so that it was in pieces within ten minutes, after which the bottle that came inside was out and being chewed as well.
     Granted, my dog is a super chewer and has a history of being tough on plush things (beds, blankets, socks, soft toys), but the company claims it is supposed to be able to stand up to chewing due to it's "durable ballistic nylon" lining.  All and all, I paid $7 + shipping for Cassie for it to go in the trash within minutes.  Not a toy for dogs that chew.  Boo hoo.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

My Thoughts on Dog Clothes

   I will begrudgingly admit that I am one of those people who look down upon owners who dress their dogs as dolls.  Every time I see a be-tutued Chihuahua coming down the street in someone's handbag I have to hold back a visible cringe.  However, I do think there are some very valid reasons for purchasing some minimal dog-wear for certain  situations and I have after many attempts found some pieces that I think do the best job with the least fuss.

   1. The Martha Stewart Collection at Petsmart:
           As I've mentioned previously, Lilly weighs eight pounds, is nearly 14 years old and is becoming increasingly arthritic.  As a result, she easily becomes cold and will shiver even in the house.  This wasn't so much of a problem when she lived with my parents who keep the thermostat at a balmy 75 F, but we also have an Aussie puppy who lives in our house and she spends most of her indoor time panting.  The solution: Lilly now wears a very cute and simple Martha Stewart sweater from Petsmart.   I tried and returned a total of three sweaters before anteing up the few extra dollars for the Martha Stewart brand and I wouldn't go back.
    What I like about this sweater is that it's warm (made of a wool material).  I also really liked the fit.  Lilly is a bit difficult to find sweaters for because either the neck always seem too tight or the body always seems too long.  The Martha Stewart sweater seemed to fit perfectly without the need for any alterations and to top it off the front leg holes can be opened via two buttons.  This has been especially helpful with Lilly's arthritis, because it often hurts her to bend her front legs through traditional leg holes.  All in all, the best sweater I've found for a tiny dog and probably also the cutest.

   2. Ruff Wear's K-9 Overcoat:
    If you are looking for a simple and lightweight coat for your dog for misty mornings or (as I've found this morning) 7am walks in a foot of snow, the Ruff Wear Overcoat is one of the best items on the market.   I spent several months before Christmas pouring over reviews and online descriptions, before sending my husband down to our local REI (only 2 hrs away) and making him pick this coat up.  As an Aussie Cassie's natural coat is both very dense (it's actually a double coat) and waterproof.  However, we spend a lot of time outdoors hiking and walking and with Cassie's energy level we can't skip a day's walk because of bad weather.
   So I was looking for a coat that was easy to fit, light enough not to cause over-heating during long periods of exercise and that would keep her body dry in the rain.  This Ruff Wear coat wasn't inexpensive, but it was reasonable at $60.  It fits over the dogs head and then secures with two simple clips at the side and has two reflective band that run along the dog's flanks, making early mornings and winter evenings safer for both of us. The best part is that Cassie doesn't seem to know it's there.  She has in the past protested to having things put on her back (leashes, towels, etc), but after a few times out it was as if the coat had passed her "you're alright" test.  And that's alright with me.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Mat of All Mats

    One of my favorite secret gems of dog training equipment sites is Clean Run.   You can find everything you need to perform dog sports at any level, but you can also find some high quality and fun toys and equipment for the average dog owner.  I've spent so much money at Clean Run it's really not funny and my favorite all time purchase (and something Cassie uses on a daily basis) is the Mutt Mat.

    The Mutt Mat was developed to act alongside the training style of Control Unleashed creator Leslie McDevitt.   One of Leslie's founding principle's is the use of mat-work to give your dog a safe place to stay in public, to develop longer down stays, and to help reactive or sight-stimulated dogs control the impulse to run.   Cassie and I have used the mat to gain better focus in Obedience classes (down stays are hard for energetic puppies), to give her a solid and comfortable place to stay when I am taking instruction during class and as a place to hold and stay when guests come to our house that don't particularly like dog kisses.
    Leslie's program is amazing and totally positive, but the mat has been the biggest take away for us.  The Mutt Mat is made of a soft, but strong material that, while not chew proof, has stood up to Cassie.  They are sleek, come in a variety of colors and fold up like a half-sized yoga mat with a drawstring for convenient transport.  I can also attest to the fact that the mat stands up well to machine washing, as I've washed it over a dozen times and it still looks like new.  My friends Jack Russell even peed in the middle of it and it washed out with no discoloration.  Even if you don't want to go through the Control Unleashed process you will still benefit from having a transportable mat for you dog when you leave the house, because you are giving your dog a safe place no matter where you go.  It's a great trick indoors and out, from a very useful site.  So get your mat-work started!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Dogzilla Turbo Disc (Another Frisbee Toy Down the Drain)

Most average dog owners love a game of ball or frisbee with their pups, but you have to be careful that the product you pick up at the market is everything you need.   For example, I love the Tuffy's rings that are soft, but still fly quite well with little effort.  I even recommend the Kong Frisbees that don't fly as well, but are pliable enough not to hurt your dog or you when it's caught and then returned.  A frisbee I'm not going to recommend is the Dogzilla Turbo Disc.

     By and large the Dogzilla line (available online and from Walmart) is a good one.  They offer a great range of products from tug balls to freezer pops (Arctic Bones) that Cassie really loves.  Unfortunately, the Turbo Disc just doesn't come up to snuff.  First of all it does not fly very well thanks to the large hole in the middle.  I like this feature in theory for it makes the disc easier for the dog to catch and carry.  However, in this case the hole makes the disc fly awkwardly and not as far.  It really frustrated my husband who is a long time Ultimate player and expects a lot of out of a frisbee.  Secondly, the disc is made of a hard plastic that is too rigid for the average dog.  Yes, there are dogs who will go all day long for your average run of the mill frisbee, but most dogs prefer a little give.  Overall this is not a big deal.

      What does make me unhappy is that I can't leave this frisbee around in the yard or the house because Cassie likes nothing better than to chew on the rigid plastic.  I wouldn't normally mind except that the packaging clearly states that the Turbo Disc should not be used as a chew (translation: we know your dog will want to chew it, but we haven't been able to make it so that it can't be torn into little indigestible pieces).  Also, as Cassie has helpfully demonstrated, chewing the edges of the disc affects how it flies and makes the whole flight even worse than before.

    In summation:  There are a cast of great frisbee toys on the market for all levels of frisbee dog, this just isn't one of them. Sorry Dogzilla.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Time Has Come to Name and Shame

   In contrast to my list of wonderful everyday dog products that I can't live without, there are a few items off the bat that I want to point out as having a number of fatal flaws.  These were items I was excited about at the time of purchase, but that upon use were clearly not up to the job and some were even dangerous.

1. The Premier Eco Line
    Now a days, everyone wants to believe that they are doing their part for the enviornment and like most people I subscribe to the 3 R's (reduce, reuse, recycle).  In theory, Premier has done a good thing by attempting to source materials from recycled sources for their Eco line.  I have to admit what drew me to this selection of products originally were the bright colors (especially the granny smith green) as opposed to the more muted shades of the traditional line.   I was to be disappointed on many fronts.
   Firstly, a cursory look at any of the Amazon comments will lead you to see that many people are upset with the quality and durability of the product.  It is very light weight, but not strong enough to stand up to any pulling dog.  It also stretches to a degree that makes it useless for traditional Obedience training (stick with leather on this front).  It won't withstand even the lightest chewing.  Worst of all, I took it to an agility class (because it was light enough for a puppy to drag) and before we got in the door a squirrel sent Cassie on a tear and ended up costing me several bandaids worth of cut fingers and blisters.  The leash sliced right through my skin and basically ruined our evening before it had begun.  I know that some pain may have been caused by any leash when a dog takes off full sprint, but the thinness of the leash mixed with the material acted almost like a knife.  This has never happened with any other leash I've owned (even the cheap ones from Walmart).  I wouldn't by the Eco line from Premier in any form or for any function.  It just isn't worth the money (or the pain).

2. Target's Fold 2 Go Travel Pet Bowls 
I bought these to take to class and to take hiking so that I would have something easy to pack and then fold up when we were done. The first time I used the water bowl was on a hiking trip.  I filled it, the dog drank out of it, I zipped it and put it back in my bag and an hour later all of my field books were soaked.  I thought this might just be a problem I was having, but other reviewers have commented on the same problem.  The food bowl, I never used so I can't comment. Both bowls ended up in the trash a few weeks later.  A cheap and useless product that causes more harm than good.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Let's Get Started: A Few of My Favorites

  I believe it is always best to start with the positive, so here are a few of my favorite products on the canine market today:

1. JW Pet Company Hol-ee Roller 

      This toy is as wonderful as it is simple and can work for any dog that loves to tug, fetch, chase, and throw.  This is far and away Cassie's favorite thing in the world (next to chicken).  It is pretty much indestructible, flies through the air, has just enough heft to be a something fun to carry around (for the dog, not for you).  More practically, it's easy to clean and comes in a number of sizes, colors and styles.  It is an essential part of my dog's life and I think yours will love it too.

2. Tuffy's Ultimate Ring Dog Toy

         Tuffy's products are always one to recommend for strong chewers and this ring is no exception.  Cassie has had the same one since she was a puppy (and Daddy still harbored hopes of her ditching agility for Disc Dog).  It flies just like a regular frisbee, but is soft on the mouth.  It stands up to the strongest chewers and the hole in the middle provides an added way for the dog to carry the ring back to you.  Unlike a regular frisbee it is soft on both mouths and hands and it bends when someone runs into Mommy's leg.  It also has a couple of squeakers thrown in, so you can get your dogs attention during play or it can be used to encourage dogs who don't normally play with frisbees to bite and squeak a disc shape.  However, like a frisbee it flies far and fast, can be used for tugging and can be thrown as a target for the dog to begin practicing tricks like flips, air spins and over the back jumps.  The only draw back for this toy is that the fuzzy material does get very muddy and can be a bit hard to keep clean.  I put mine in the washer and though the squeaker faired alright, there was some residual water in them.

3. Premier Easy Walk Harness

     I would not be able to survive walking four miles a day without the Easy Walk by Premier.   Aussies are strong pullers and in order to save her neck as a puppy I put Cassie on the Easy Walk at the suggestion of one of my trainers.  After a little help from a clerk at my local Petsmart in properly fitting the harness, Cassie took to it almost immediately and became much more manageable both on walks and in class.  At a year old, we are now transitioning to a martingale collar and guess what: she still doesn't pull.  I still take the Easy Walk when we are going to be somewhere that I need more control: shopping centers, parks, places with kids, and hiking.  It offers that extra assurance that she won't be able to wiggle loose and I can keep her close without putting any strain on her neck or throat.  
    I will offer a few caveats:  Sizing and fit are both very important with the Easy Walk.   If you size too small you risk causing discomfort and irritation.  Whereas, if you size too big or do not adjust the fit properly the Easy Walk will become too loose to do its job and you risk your dog getting free.  Luckily, the gods at Premier seem to have recognized these issues and offer a very wide range of sizes, though only small, medium and large are commonly available in stores like Petsmart and Petco.  Cassie now falls into what is called a "tweener" size, which I've had to order through Amazon both times (I left her unattended once and came back to find she had chewed through the first one: this was my fault not the Easy Walk's).

4. Dogswell Vitality for Dogs
    I use a wide variety of treats for our dogs and I've tried even more.  When I want a packaged treat that is easy to come by and isn't going to cost the moon I turn to Dogswell Vitality (which is just a dehydrated chicken breast).  Cassie and Lilly both seem to love this and it makes a great everyday treat (Tobey doesn't really like it, but then I am starting to wonder if he is a vegetarian).  I take it to training and use it when I think Cassie has already had too much string cheese.  It comes in strips that make it more convenient to transport, but must be broken up into smaller pieces prior to training as it can become a bit fiddly.  I mostly use it around the house for training or good girl biscuits.   I like that it has such a high chicken content and that it also offers some essential oils, but most of all I just like how much the dogs seem to like it.   The fact that it's real chicken means that is has a pleasing smell even for humans (not something I can often say of the smelly treats my dogs enjoy) and it is very clean on the hands leaving no bad smells or residue.  If you carry it around in your pockets like I do for training you will find chicken dust in your pockets, but that is true of almost all treats that have to be broken up.  Cassie likes these much better than any flavor of Zukes (which I'm sure I'll get to in another post), though the Vitality does loose out to fresh cooked chicken (sorry Dogswell).   
   Vitality can be conviently purchased at Target, though I haven't seen it at Petsmart of Petco yet.  It can also be found online at Amazon.

Welcome to American Dog Shopper

Lilly & Cassie
    I'm here to answer your questions about the latest and greatest (and the worst) dog products on the market today.  I'll tell you what I've bought, how it performed and give you tips on the best ways to play with your canine companion.  I'm no expert dog trainer, my dogs don't hold a million titles and I would never call myself anything more than an enthusiastic owner of two the sweetest and orneriest dogs in the USA.
     This blog came about mainly from my own desire to share my thoughts and feelings about dog products and the treatment they received from my less than gentle Australian Shepherd puppy Cassie, her older sister Lilly and my mother's little boy Tobey.  I won't often write about dog food (there are some really great sites for that already) though I will discuss certain treats and chews on the market.   I will also try to avoid links to obscure products that I don't think the average dog owner will enjoy.  Most of the items I'll bring before you can be purchased at your garden variety mega-mall pet stores (Petco, Petsmart etc) or online from Amazon.  When I do direct you to something outside of the general market it will only be because it was wonderful and I think your best friend will really enjoy it.  
      Whether you own a 100 lb ball of energy or a 5 lb snoozer (or any combination in between) you'll find  info here on the best and worst of what is available to dog owners on the market today, as seen through the eyes of my own furry friends.  Feel free to send me questions about products that I don't have up and I will let the trouble makers try them out and let you know what to expect before you shell out anymore cold hard cash on a toy or harness or bed that isn't fun, doesn't work or is way too easy to destroy/hard to clean.