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!