Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Dean and Tyler harnesses: a step up in harness quality.

You may have seen my post: Walkin' Easy with the Easy Walk Harness.  I've touted Easy Walk Harnesses for years and years and years.  And I still think they're a good tool to help an owner control their dog -- especially large dogs.

However, I've always had problems with Easy Walk harnesses rubbing the undersides of my dogs' legs.  Their skin gets red and their hair rubs off, and sometimes they would even get a rubbed a little raw.  Ouch!  And on Leopold, the straps would also rub his fur off his chest, too.  I ended up adding some fleece padding to help solve that problem, and it worked for the most part.

Then, years ago at this point, we took Halo to see a behaviorist.  While we were there, she noticed the fleece on our harnesses and asked about it.  I explained, and she pointed out that the harnesses rub because they don't fit right.  And the harnesses don't fit right because, lets face it, Easy Walk Harnesses are not high quality.
I'll be honest, part of me was a little miffed because if you go into Petsmart or Petco or wherever and look at their selection of harnesses, the Easy Walk Harness is on the more expensive end...!  (At least they used to be; I haven't been in a Petsmart or Petco, etc in years.) But then the other part of me thought "Oh, duh. That makes sense".
The behaviorist made a recommendation: Dean and Tyler harnesses.  She had some on hand and we tried them out on the dogs.  They looked smart and seemed to fit well.  So we took her recommendation and bought a pair for our pups.

Not only do Dean and Tyler harnesses look smart, but once they're fitted properly to the dog, they do not rub at all.  I haven't had a problem with raw skin or even fur being rubbed off since we switched.

We walk Leopold with his leash connected
to the front of the harness to help control
him if he starts pulling.
Some other nice features about these harnesses: they have multiple locations where you can attach your leash.  You can hook your dog up at the chest, which helps prevent a dog from pulling like the Easy Walk does, but you can also attach a leash to the back or the sides--a "pulling" function if you want to hook your dog up to do some work and pull something around.  There's also a handle, which I LOVE because it means it's really easy to grab my dog, and I don't have to grab them by their neck collar (seriously, how awful do you imagine it is for the dog to be grabbed and yanked around by their neck??).  There's also an option to add patches via velcro to either side of the harness.  Patches can say things like "Ask to pet" or "Therapy dog" or I've seen some that say things like "Lap dog" and "Mamma's boy". Ha!  Mine came with a blank patch, so I made my own with Leopold's name.

The downside is that the harnesses are a bit pricey.  And if you've got a deep-chested dog, you'll need to also purchase an extender piece for the belly (or multiple extenders...!).  Actually... I don't really consider Leopold a deep-chested dog; he seems pretty normal to me, but he needed the extender belly piece.  But you know what they say: buy right, buy once.

We love our Dean and Tyler harnesses and are very happy that we spent a little extra money for a product that works well and is more comfortable for our dogs.

Interested in purchasing your own Dean and Tyler harness?
Here's the product page on the Dean and Tyler website for Universal No Pull Plus, which is what I have.  And then here's the extender strap.
If you want it faster and have Amazon Prime, you can also purchase it from amazon.com:
Dean and Tyler DT Dog Harness.

happy walking!

Convenient Product Link (for amazon.com):

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Thank you, Bronwen Dickey, for writing this book.

This is my first post on pit bulls.  I've purposefully stayed away from this polarizing topic because of the intense love or hate infused in many people's opinions.  While I feel for the breed and have long thought them the victims of unfair judgement, I've also been skeptical of the claims of both side of the argument.  Skepticism, of course, is something my science background has ingrained in me, and I've daydreamed for years about doing hard-core research on the pit bull question both to satisfy my own curiosity and to be able to have complete confidence in the factoids I spout to haters and lovers alike.  But who has time to do that kind of research??

Bronwen Dickey made time.
And I am so grateful to her for spending years meticulously investigating the pit bull question and laying out both the facts, the missing facts, and speculation in a way that is logical, non-biased (or at least less-biased...), and very well researched.  Remember my post about looking for references when you do your research?  This book has 35 pages of references in the back under the heading "Notes" and " Selected Bibliography.  She did her homework.

Her book, Pitbull: The Battle over an American Icon, is the best comprehensive look at pit bulls and their role in our society that I've seen.  It is a fascinating and illuminating book that at first seems like the story of pit bulls, but is actually the story of people.  The history and fate of dogs is so intertwined with the going-ons of humans that I didn't even notice.  In a lot of ways, dogs are the result of ourselves as a species.  They are the result of our fears, of our needs, of our hopes.  They exist the way they do because we made them that way.  They are a part of our quest to better ourselves and live a happy and good life.  And their history as a species is a reflection of our own.

The author looks at the pit bull question from many angles: the pit bull's history as a breed, a fighting dog, a beloved pet, and as a scapegoat. And always right there with the dog and all it's histories stands mankind.  It's not really a "pit bull question" then.  It's a "human question".  And that is an important distinction.

The pit bull has been painted as a demon by some and as an angel by others, but really, it's just a dog.  Don't believe me?  Then you should read this book.  I highly recommend this book to anyone, the lover, the haters, the skeptics, and everyone in between.  Chances are you'll learn that at least some of what you thought you knew isn't true.  And besides engaging in pit bull enlightenment, it's a good read.

Check out your local library for a copy, or you can always purchase Pit Bull: The Battle over an American Icon from amazon.com.

"Pit bulls are not dangerous or safe.  Pit bulls aren't saints or sinners. They are no more or less deserving than other dogs of love and compassion, no more or less deserving of good homes. They didn't cause society's ills, nor can their redemption--real or imagined--solve them. There is nothing that needs to be redeemed, anyway; they were never to blame in the first place. To frame anything in such narrow terms is to look at human-animal relationships through the wrong end of the telescope.  More important, there never was a 'pit bull problem.' What happened to these animals was a byproduct of human fears, and what humans feared most was on another."
~ Bronwen Dickey, Pit Bull: The Battle over an American Icon

Convenient Product Link:

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Doing your own dog research: separating turd articles from gems

And.... six months later I finally have some time to do some writing.  ha-HA!  Holy wow does time fly when life is happening with a toddler...!

At the end of my last post, I mentioned that I would talk about how I do my doggy research.  So here it is.  Better late than never, right?

Why am I writing this post?
For the last post, I did some research on turkey + dogs + pancreatitis + triptophan...
and during my research I came across a lot of bad information.  Real turd articles.  My experience researching the topic was not unique.  In fact, one of the reasons I started this blog, as you may have read on my About page, was to share the conclusions I've come to after filtering out the crap from the mountain of dog-related information out there.

It's funny that I say I filter out the crap, because while in the process of writing this post, I learned that there actually exists a "C.R.A.P." test for evaluating sources (Shout-out to my librarian friend Amy who made me aware of this useful tool!).  And a lot of what I already do is in the C.R.A.P. test, so that's awesome.

And while you could just go check the C.R.A.P. test (and you totally should!), a promise is a promise, so here's what I do when I'm researching information for a post on Leopold's Crate (or when I'm researching information for any reason, really...):

Wikipedia = like asking a really smart friend
Wikipedia can be a good place to start
But the information on wikipedia is populated by anyone who wishes to do so, which means that it's possible that some of the information is incorrect.  I keep that in mind.  Someone once told me that using wikipedia for information was like asking a very smart friend: chances are they know what they're talking about, but it's possible they're wrong.  Information that has a citation (an associated reference) is more trust-worthy, though it's smart to double check that the reference isn't crap.

I try to stick to websites that I know and trust.
But, if I'm unfamiliar with the website, I read the "about" section to see if I can figure out where the information on the site is coming from and/or who is doing the writing.  For exampling, petmd.com provides articles that are apparently written and approved by petMD's "trusted veterinarians".  That's good.  I am the ever skeptic, though, and know that self-proclamations aren't always trustworthy, so sometimes I also google the credibility of source.  For example, when I googled "credibility of petmd", I found a page on Boston Street Animal Hospital's website that mentions that yes, petmd is credible, but the information isn't always accurate.  (Bonus: the article I found on the animal hospital website has a list of "credible and verified" websites for pet parents to use when researching pet-related stuff).

I look for articles that provide references, especially peer-reviewed article references.
What are peer-reviewed articles?  They're articles that have been through a rigorous process of anonymous and unbiased review by experts in that field of study.  Articles are not published unless they pass the scrutiny of expert peer reviewers and the journal editors.  Peer-reviewed articles are pretty much the gold-standard of credibility when it comes to researching a topic.  A word of caution: there do exist "predatory journals" that appear to be peer-reviewed, but they are NOT and they will publish just about anything, which means their articles are not credible.  Not sure if the reference you're looking at is a peer-reviewed article?  Google it.

Media sources are NOT good references.  
A well-researched news article can be a good way to find new paths to venture down for information.  But, generally speaking, a news article is not "proof" of anything.  There is often some sort of spin put on the article to lead you to believe something in particular, so be wary.

I look for facts, not opinions.
Sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference between facts and opinions.
This is because some writers present their opinions as facts.  It's important to be able to tell the difference.  The proclamation that "I know for a fact that cats are vile" is presented as if it's a fact.  But it's actually an opinion (one I do not share, by the way.  Cats are great! They just make me sneeze a lot...).
It's imperative that you know and understand that there are websites out there on the internet devoted to anything you can imagine, no matter how absurd, how biased, how ignorant, or how dangerous the ideas are.  Just because you found a website devoted entirely to an idea does not make that idea right.

I look at more than one source. 
I like to find multiple trust-worthy sources and compare information.  If it's hugely different, there might be some opinions sneaking in there instead of facts.  Or one source might be outdated.  Research is constantly advancing, so the date of a published source can matter.

And lastly, I take everything with a certain grain of salt.
I know that there are a lot of weirdos out there who may not actually be who they say they are, so I try to keep that in mind when I'm reading things online.  Additionally, I know that even scientists get it wrong.  And sometimes different studies will give opposite results. The scientist part of me really wants to explain to you all the ways a study can give bad results, but I doubt you want to hear that.  Lets suffice to say that scientist aren't always right, BUT what they have to say is more likely to be correct than someone who doesn't study that topic as a way of life.

Time for some examples:

Here is an example of a real turd of an article:
Love Your Pets, Just Don't Feed Them Turkey
No references, and more importantly it's an article on NBC, a major media company, so, you know.... sensationalism.  Whatever sells, right?  Not surprisingly, the information in this article is wrong and misleading.

Here's one that I feel a bit skeptical about, but it may have some clout:
Dog Pancreatitis Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment
There are no listed references on the webpage, which is why I feel more wary of the information.

YESSSSS.  This "About" page on Science Dog
makes me feel good about trusting the writer.
Here's one I feel is truly a nice, shiny gem:
Talking Turkey
There are references cited at the end of the article, and the author of Science Dog is schooled in the topic of both science writing and animal nutrition.  Her credentials as listed on her "About" page are stellar.

Want more information on how to research pet-related topics?  I found this article that has a list (and links) of helpful websites:
YOUR WHOLE PET/ I read it on the Web: A pet owner's guide to finding good health information online

Happy researching!  And good luck.

Have any questions?  I've love to answer them!  Leave a comment or send me a message and I'll respond as soon as I'm able!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Last night I was told that turkey can kill my dog.

Leopold eyeing up some leftover turkey from last night.
Deep fried myths.
Last night my husband and I threw a "fry party", where we heated up a deep fryer in our back yard and guests came over with ingredients of their choosing to drop in the vat of peanut oil.  It was a night of indulgence for sure.  My favorite fried goodies included oreos, bananas, and the large turkey my husband prepared.

At one point Leopold was eyeing up that turkey (and by eyeing up I mean sniffing awfully close!).  I don't blame him. It smelled good and tasted better.  A couple of the guests were watching and said something to me, in what I thought was jest, about how turkey can hurt dogs.  I laughed and said "Leopold seems to disagree".  They then proceeded to tell me that turkey can, actually, kill dogs.
I responded by saying "What? That's not true".
 Yes it is, they said.  Tryptophan, they said.  Then they told me of their relative who's dog ate a bunch of turkey and turkey fat and then died from pancreatitis.  (which is very sad)

I hope I didn't come off as rude to the well-meaning guests, but in my years working with dogs in both a professional and personal setting, I have never once come across that little factoid.

And that's because it's not... actually.... true....
(sorry, friendly guests!  Either your information is outdated or just...er... false. =/  )

Online myths propagation.
I'll admit that I was terribly afraid that I was wrong. So I did some research online.

I did find articles and blog posts about the dangers of turkey.  "Skip the turkey at Thanksgiving for your dog!", stuff like that.  Or this one from NBC that contained a subheading "Toxic Turkey" and advised people to "Refrain from giving any part of the beautiful bird to your cat or dog".
(NBC.... come on man....)

But the articles that made claims about turkey toxicity had no cited references.  No quotes from veterinarians.  So, I'm not sure where they were getting their information--possibly other websites that were getting their information from other websites that were getting their information from a random stranger who claimed turkey killed their dog.  (Apparently if enough people believe something, that makes it true.  ...Except that it doesn't.).

The articles I found that did have any sort of clout explained that turkey, as a meat, is fine to give to dogs.  In fact, it's a high quality protein source.  That's why you can find it as an ingredient in some dog foods.  In fact, "smoked turkey" is on the list of ingredients in the kibble I feed MY dogs -- Taste of the Wild, Wetlands recipe.

So what's the poop?
The poop is that sometimes the manner in which the turkey is given to a dog can cause gastrointestinal upset and in some cases pancreatitis.  It's not the turkey, it's the fact that a dog isn't used to eating turkey, and/or the fat content of the turkey tidbits they're eating is too high (the skin has quite a bit of fat in it, for example).

Thanksgiving is often the time we give our dogs turkey, or maybe even a whole meal comprised of the different delicious dishes we, ourselves, enjoyed.  Thanksgiving turkeys and side dishes are more likely to be decadent, full of extra butter and oil.  At least that's how it is in our house...  Most dogs don't eat this kind of food on a daily basis, and therein lies the problem.

Have you ever tried to switch your dog's kibble to a new brand or a new recipe?  If you try to switch outright, the result is a sick doggy who probably needs to be let outside many many times if you're luck or hours of cleaning for you... (ew.....)!  To switch a dog's food, you're supposed to slowly introduce the new food over time, gradually adding more of the new and less of the old over ten or so days.  And switching dog food brands/recipes is a much more innocuous event than is offering Thanksgiving leftovers.
Imagine, then, that the Thanksgiving meal you're giving your dog is not only atypical to their diet, but is very possibly higher fat that normal.  There's a good chance that it's not going to sit well.  And in some cases can result in pancreatitis and even death, such as the case my guests were relating to me.

What about tryptophan?
Tryptophan is an amino acid found in turkey.  And tahini.  And yellow mustard seed.  And parmesan cheese.  And seaweed....
It does not kill dogs.  It doesn't harm dogs.  In fact, there are even supplements on the market that use tryptophan specifically for dogs to help relieve anxiety (research suggests these supplements don't work...).
If you want to know more, I found this great science-based article online that gives the rundown of tryptophan and dogs.
I'm not sure why my guests thought tryptophan was the blame for the pancreatitis of their family's dog.  I hope their vet didn't tell them that...!

Moral of the story.
Turkey does not kill dogs.  Tryptophan does not kill dogs.

BUT, be smart about the little extras you give your dog.  Is your dog on a low-fat diet? Don't suddenly give them a bunch of fat.  Does your dog never get to eat "people food"?  Don't suddenly give them an entire meal of "people food".  Also, it's a good idea to cover and put your leftovers away so that your dog doesn't sneak onto the counter and help himself.

PetMD.com has a great article that gives easy guidelines on how to safely share your special holiday meals with your dog.  And if you're worried about the fat content of the turkey you're giving your dog (for example, if you deep fried it....!), then maybe boil it in water first to remove some of the fat.

yes... yes... I did give Leopold a taste of turkey.  Halo, too.  How can I say no to those faces??

I did research online to write this article.  Part of feeling confident in the information I present to you, my reader, is knowing what to look for in an article that tells me it's a reliable source.  Interested in learning how to research dog-related topics (or... any topics, really), for yourself?  Stay tuned.  I'll work on that blog post next.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

If your dog is ever admitted to a veterinary emergency clinic: Here's one small way to help them stress less during their stay.

I worked at a veterinary emergency clinic for over 4 years before having to quit my job (because it's hard to make a living in the veterinary business...!).  I loved my time there.  I saw and learned a lot; even up until the end new scenarios would come into the clinic and I'd learn new things (always, it seemed, when I was training a new employee...  Murphy's law at work there...).  I'd like to share an observation with you in hopes that it could possibly help your dog be less stressed out if it ever has to stay at a veterinary ER, though I hope it never does (quick, knock on wood!!).

A stressful experience.
As you can imagine, it's a stressful experience for a pet to be at an ER.  And while I know taking a pet to the emergency clinic is stressful for the owner, too, this post is about it being stressful for the animals.  
How could it not be??  They're sick and injured, so they're already stressed about that, and then a barrage of strangers poke and prod at them while in a strange place with, sometimes, lots of other animals around.  We always tried our hardest to keep animal stress to a minimum (while still treating the animals and making sure they were receiving good care), but some amount of stress is inevitable in a place and situation like that.

Less stress.
One thing I noticed was that dogs would often panic less and were more calm if they were walked away from their owners as opposed to their owners walking away from them.

Let me explain.
Sometimes dogs needed to be admitted to the clinic for continued treatment and observation.  In that case, dogs would be brought back into our treatment area, where they would be housed in their own kennel or pen.  Often, especially for dogs who stayed extended periods of time, owners would come to visit their injured or sick furry family member.

When an owner came to visit, we would do one of two things:
A)  Have the owners walk back to the treatment room and visit their dog in/around their kennel, and then the owner would walk back up front when they were done.
B)  We would bring the dog to them to visit in one of the private rooms out front (normally used for veterinarians to first see a new patient).  When the owner was done visiting with their dog, we would come get the dog and bring it back to it's kennel in the treatment room.

There are always exceptions, but in many cases, scenario A would result in a very upset doggy.  Something about having their owner walk away from them while they're left behind in a strange place seemed to trigger anxiety.  Dogs clawed at their kennel door, barked, whined, and/or cried, sometimes for hours afterwards.  
Scenario B resulted in a stressed out dog much less often.

All humans subjected to constant barking can confirm that it's an unpleasant experience, but perhaps more importantly is that the increase in anxiety and stress does not promote healing for the animal itself.  It can also cause an increase in anxiety and stress for other animals currently at the clinic.
And while it probably doesn't mean life or death for your dog, if you're anything like me, I prefer to reduce the amount of stress and anxiety my dogs experience as much as possible.  And in emergency cases, I would want to give my dog the best chance at getting better as quickly as possible.

Scenario B isn't always possible; sometimes dogs are hooked up to so many life-saving things or need extra oxygen (and so are in a special oxygen cage) that they can't really be moved from their kennels.  And it's possible that a clinic could be so busy that there aren't any rooms available for an owner to visit with their dog.

But if it is possible when visiting, having your dog brought to you and then taken back to it's kennel by an ER staff member is one way you might be able to reduce the amount of stress your dog is experiencing if it has to stay at a veterinary emergency clinic.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Frustrated by a non-stop, stubborn sniffer? I may have a solution for you.

Leopold being stubborn on a walk.
So you're on a walk with your dog, and your dog pulls you over to a bunch of grass to sniff around.  Then he spends a while there before walking three more feet and stopping again to smell a stump. Then more time passes and he finally moves on: four more feet and he stops at a rock.  Then two feet and it's some random bit of who knows what that you can't even see because it's so small.  And every time your dog stops, you stop, because you're attached to him.
Sound like your experience?

It's certainly my experience with one of my dogs:  Leopold will stop dead and dig in his heals in order to thoroughly inspect an area with his nose.  If I let him, our walks would take hours.  I don't have hours, so Leopold's excessive sniffing behavior just can't happen.  I used to spend a good deal of our walk hollering at him to get a move on and eventually putting my weight into the leash to get him walking again.  Let me tell you, 70 lbs of stubborn dog can be hard to get moving, and all the hollering and pulling sure puts a damper on our walk.

But dogs like to sniff, and it's good for them.  It's an engaging activity that's great for mental health.  I'm all for doggy mental stimulation, but I'm a busy person and can't spend hours on walks.  I concluded that Leopold should get to sniff, but I get to decide when enough is enough and it's time to move on.  The trick is communicating this to Leopold so that I can avoid the whole forceful haul.

My solution was a countdown.
Here's how it works:
Leopold gets to stop and sniff, but when I feel like we need to continue on our walk, I say "Leopold, Three, Two, One" and then I start walking again.
And it works--Leopold starts walking again without me having to pull and yank on the leash.

It took a little time to teach Leopold the countdown, just as it takes time to teach anyone anything.  In the beginning, I would count down, and then give him a pull to get him walking. It didn't take long for him to learn that the countdown means he better get in one last sniff or finally pick something to pee on already, because when I get to "one", we're headed away from the area.

Both of us are a lot less frustrated, and walks are much more pleasant.  As with so many things, communication is key.

If you're frustrated by a dog that likes to sniff non-stop on walks, you might give this trick a try.  If you do, leave a comment and let me know if it worked for you, too!

Leopold gets to stop and sniff, but when I want to keep moving, I do a count down.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Have a short-haired dog? This brush is perfect for grooming!

Leopold sniffs a ZoomGroom

Short hair stumped

My childhood dog, Max, had medium-ish fur.  We used a human bristle brush to brush his fur, and it worked great.  We'd brush him, the brush would fill with fur, we'd pick the fur out and throw it away or toss it in the wind, and then repeat.  Fun for a kid.  (Even funner was shedding season-- lots of "pick-ables" to pull right off his rump...!)

Leopold, however, has short fur.  One layer. No undercoat.  Short and bristly.
When I first got him, I was kind of at a loss on how to brush him -- and I really wanted to brush him because the more loose fur I got out with a brush, the less would end up on my floor... and on my clothes... and in my food...

I tried all sort of brushes including fine-tooth combs and even a brush meant for horses (ha!).  None of those worked very well, though.  I was stumped.

Brush discovery

knobby brush
And then I started volunteering at a vet clinic.  The clinic started me out with brushing dogs. Yep. That's all I came in for: brushing the dogs they were boarding. Hey, you got to start somewhere, right??

The clinic had a great arsenal of brushes, and one of them was the answer to all my short-hair fur problems: the ZoomGroom.  It was not a brush in the traditional sense; it was more like a knobby piece of silicone that could be used to push loose fur out of a dog's coat (as opposed to pulling it out like traditional brushes and combs).  And once I discovered how well it worked, I bought one for myself and have needed no other brush since.

It works well on Halo, too, who has longer fur and an undercoat.  The product description says that it works for all coat types, though I can't speak to that because I've only used it on dogs with shorter fur.  And there are lots of brush choices for long hair dogs, so who cares.  Finding a brush that actually worked on short-hair dog is all I cared about!

fur pile pushed out by a ZoomGroom!

Advantages of using the ZoomGroom

1.  It works SO well!  I'm really amazed at the amount of fur I get out with this brush.  And fast!  Though... somehow we always seem to still have dog hair tumbleweeds rolling through our house.  I can only imagine how bad it'd be if we didn't brush our dogs!

2.  Can be used to help with baths.  This brush is great for scrubbing a dog really well and really working in shampoo.  Fingers work to lather a dog, but the ZoomGroom works better.

3.  Easy to clean.  Not a lot of hair gets stuck in the brush, except sometimes when it gets used during doggy baths. I just run it under some water, though, and the hair washes right out.  And because the knobs are so far apart, the brush doesn't really retain any water so it dries quickly.

4.  Massages your dogs while you brush.  This is a feature that I love!   The knobs are big enough and spaced far enough apart that they also massage your dog as you apply gentle but firm pressure to push loose fur out.  I've tried it on my own skin -- it feels nice!  The fact that this brush also massages helps make brushing my dogs a bonding activity.  My dogs were a little unsure of the brush when I first introduced it, but after some sniffing and a little brushing, they decided they love it.  Both of my dogs sort of melt when I start brushing them.  And then their eyes start to close in that contented sort of way. You know what I'm talking about--The look of a happy and relaxed dog.

The only disadvantage, really, is that the brush doesn't collect the hair, like traditional brushes do.  It might gather some, but most of the hair get pushed out of the coat and onto the floor.  This is why I like to brush my dogs outside.  Then the hair just blows away and gets recycled back into the ground (eventually).  When I do brush them inside, I like to work the fur into a little pile on their rump and then scoop it all off at the end. But you know... do what works for you.

There are other rubber/silicone brushes out there, also.  I have one that fits over my hand as a mitt and has smaller teeth-- I think it's Petmate brand.  I don't like it as much as the ZoomGroom.  I haven't tried some of the other brands.  If I do, I'll report back.  But for now I'm quite pleased with my ZoonGroom.

Think your dog would benefit from a ZoomGroom?  I've seen them at most pet stores.  The brand is Kong.  Otherwise, you can buy one here from amazon.com: KONG ZoomGroom, Dog Grooming Brush

Happy Grooming!

Also, this:

Convenient Product Link:

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Where's the poop! In a bag, because you're a good owner and you picked it up.

If you're one of those lucky people who have enough land that your dog can go poop in the woods or field, and you can just leave it there without fear that you or someone else will step in it (or that your toddler will pick it up.... which happened to me not long ago...) then this post isn't for you.

If, however, you're one of the many, many people who don't have that luxury, then let's talk poop!  That's right, I'm blogging about picking up dog poop.

I realize this is maybe an odd topic to discuss, but I just can't help but feel that I'm somewhat of an expert poop picker-upper considering the sheer number of poops I've bagged--and in different climes, too (which can make a difference!).  I've even been praised for my poo-bag-tying abilities (thanks for noticing, Dad! :-D  ).  Basically, I've got the poo-grab down to a science and can knot a bag up with a flip of the wrist.  Bingo, bango, bagged.

Want to be an expert, too?  Then let's talk about some of the different ways to pick up poop in different poop scenarios:

Poop in grass
This is probably one of the most common scenarios you'll run into.  I've found there are two ways to handle the poo-grab when a poop is in grass.  One, I push back the blades of grass as much as I can, because grabbing a stalk is a good way to make a mess of the whole grab because then the poop gets smeared on the grass and you either have to leave the poop grass (and pray the owner of the yard doesn't accidentally walk in the poo smear!) or somehow break off the poo-grass blades mid-pick-up and get it stuffed into your bag, which doesn't always work because if the grass is too long, it can flop around and risk getting poo on the outside of the bag or on your hand, a scenario that I've had happen, which was clearly a traumatic experience because it has caused me to write a horribly run-on sentence.
The second option, then, is to purposefully grab the grass below the poop and pluck it as you're picking up the poop.  I find that this method works well if the poop is too "embedded" in the grass.

Soft serve poop
Which brings me to what husband and I refer to as "soft serve poop".  You know what I'm talking about... When it's soft, but still forms a pile?  These poos are tough.  Probably the toughest to pick up aside from runny poops, which don't really have a chance of being picked up at all unless they've been deposited on leaves or debris or sand.
But you do have a chance with the soft serve poop.  Usually just one chance.  You've got to get it right if you want to get it all.  You may be temped to do a full-out grab, but that's a mistake!  And usually results in a quite a bit of poo-smear residue (that I've seen my husband try to basically wipe into the ground... ha! He's adorable).
The trick is to use a light touch and roll.  Don't push down, because that causes the smear.  Just grab as much as you can with a very light touch and gently roll the poo to the side and into your bag.  If you get it right, you won't even be able to tell there was a poo there at all.  If you can master this poo-grab, I recommend you add "dog-poop picker-upper expert" to your resume, because that's what you are.

Runny poop
Unless the runny poop has been deposited on leaves or debris or sand, the method we use for runny poops usually goes something like this:
Blurt out "Crap!" (which functions as both an exclamation of discontent but also points out what is now on the ground), curse our dog's gastro system for having issues, attempt to pick up at least some of the poo--usually just so that any passers-by know we at least tried, and then walk away quickly from the scene of the crime and hope that no one notices the nasty poo we just left on the ground!  And then we hurry home in case there is more runny poop on the way.  If it has to be in someone's yard, it's only polite to have it it my own.  Plus then I can wash it away with a hose if I want.

Poop in leaves or debris or sand
This has got to be my favorite substrate from which to pick up poop.  So EASY.  And if it's a sloppy poop, all you do is pick up a little of whatever the substrate is around the poop and ta-da! Not a bit of poop left behind.  A clean grab.  When I lived in South Bend, IN, I would purposefully take Leopold for walks on routes that had areas like this, and I would encourage him to poop in those areas.  We don't really have leafy or sandy or debris-y areas like that along our walking routes now here in South Texas...  But it was nice while it lasted.

Poop in snow
When I lived in South Bend, we knew it was spring when we started to smell the malodorous stench drifting off the large piles of accumulated dog poop as they emerged from the melting snow.  I can only assume that no one in South Bend knew how to pick up their dog's poop when it fell in snow and would instead just kick a bit of all-too convenient and abundant snow over top to hide it.  Good thing I'm writing this post.
And while it's going to be some time before I need to pick up another snow-poop, I have spent the majority of my life, so far, in areas with winters, so I've picked up my fair share of turds from the snow.  I'll admit that snow-poop pick-ups were kind of hit or miss for me at first.  If you just go for the turd, there's always a bit of brown left in the snow, which is just gross.  To avoid leaving brown snow, I would often try to also grab a bit of the snow that was under and around the poop.  Occasionally, though, I would misjudge and grab too much snow, making it hard to then close the bag.  And then I'd have to compress the snow inside the bag, sort of like making a poo snowball, in order to get the bag tied shut.  But in my opinion, better a poo snowball inside a bag than gigantic poo mounds on sidewalks and back alleys come springtime.

Baked poop
Partially petrified poop.
I currently live in South Texas, where the sun is fierce.  Around here the poops that my dogs leave in the yard bake in the sun so fast that I actually leave them on purpose (unless we're having company over or my kid is running around in the back yard!), because a baked poop is infinitely easier to pick up than a freshy.  Dog leaves a pile in the morning, and by the afternoon the poo has a hard exterior and is a breeze to pick up and leaves little, if any, residue.  And if I miss a poo (it happens... even to me!), by the time I find the pile, it's often petrified to the point that I have to look twice to tell if it's a poo or a light-colored rock.  As a midwest girl at heart, I've been trying to find the bright side of living in South Texas; the sun's poo-baking abilities is certainly a benefit of being down here.

Poo too far up the side the bag
If you pick up dog poop on a regular basis, you're bound to mess up the poo-grab at some point.  If you end up with poo smears too far up the side of the bag, I recommend that you do NOT try to tie that bag shut.  You will almost certainly end up squeezing the poop out and onto your hand.  Again, this has happened to me.  Instead, just toss the now-compromised bag onto the ground and try again with a second bag.  I recommend grabbing the open side of the messy bag to make sure any errant poop ends up in the bottom of the second bag.

Poop walker trails
Most dogs squat and deposit their poops in a nice, singular pile.  However, some of us have a special breed of dog: the poop walker.  Halo is such a dog.  Sometimes she starts pooping before she stops walking, which results in a trail of turds.  If you have a poop walker as well, just remember to back-track a bit and try to find all the offending nuggets.

Just picked up some trash bits, now time to pick up a poop!
(Seriously... where does this stuff come from??)
Double dooty
I'm always pleased when my dogs decide to poop at the same time while on walks.  It means I can use one bag for two poops!  And saving bags saves money and resources.  Helps offset the occasions when I mess up a grab and need to double bag....!  A tip for cramming two piles in one bag: it sometimes helps to reposition your hand between poops in a way that sort of partially closes the bag around the first poop.  Sometimes I even use two hands: one to secure the first poop in the bag and the second to grab the second poo.  Otherwise, it's very probable that little poo nuggets will drop out as you're picking up the second poop, and then more will drop out when you go to pick up the firstly dropped poo nuggets, and so on and so on.

Another way to use a bag for "double dooty" is to pick up some trash in the bag, also.  We moved into our house about a year ago and are still finding little bits of pieces of plastic and who-knows-what in our yard (I think I've got it all and then more appears... I don't get it!).  When I'm picking up poops in our yard, I keep an eye out for some pieces of garbage that I can pick up, too.  This practice can also be applied to dog walk poops.  Look for some litter on the ground, pick that up first, then pick up your dog's poo.  It's just one small piece of trash, but could you imagine if everyone picked up one small piece of trash every time they picked up their dog's poop?
I suppose that would require everyone to pick up their dog's poop...  But that's another issue. And not one that applies to you, because now you know how to pick up every type of pile of poop in existence.
...Except runny poop. If you figure out how to do that, leave a comment with instructions, and know that you are a true poo-grab master!

This is from my amateur comic strip "Living with Animals".  I felt it was relevant.
Though I should add an event: "(g) write a blog post on dog poop"; it would cause a rather large spike in the graph!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Do you need to trim your dog's nails? Probably.

I took Leopold to a low-cost vaccine clinic last month to get him updated on his rabies vaccine.  While I was waiting (and I had to wait a while...), I enjoyed some small talk with other fellow dog-owners who were also waiting around with their pups.
One lady had a pair of adorable shitzu puppies: one was taking a pup-nap (I'd say cat-nap, but that just seems wrong) in it's little stroller, and the other was snuggling with it's owner.
Apparently the snuggling pup had long nails, because the owner complained more than once about how sharp they were.  She said she wasn't sure if she should cut them, and that her veterinarian told her the nails would wear themselves to a short length just by the pup running around outside.

I wanted to laugh at the veterinarian's advice.  But I didn't.
So I'll laugh now.  AHAHAHAHAHA!

Woooo...! It feels good to laugh.

Halo enjoying a mid-afternoon nap.  Or was this her morning
nap...? Maybe her late afternoon nap?? I can't remember!
In my experience, most dogs need to get their nails trimmed by their owner (or a professional if the owner can't do it).  It's true that some dogs run around enough outside for their nails to self-maintain at the proper length, but it's rare.   In the four years I worked at an emergency veterinary clinic, dogs that came in with naturally trim nails were the exception, not the rule.  The truth of the matter is that a lot of dogs spend a good chunk of the day napping or just lazing about. According to an article on sleep.org, the average dog spends about 50% of the day sleeping and another 30% lying around awake.

Sounds about right for my pups!  I let Leopold hang out in our back yard as often as he "asks" (so long as it's not too hot outside) and he'll wander around and sniff things, but mostly he's incredibly content to just lay in the sun and sniff at the wind or take a nap.  He likes to run and play, too, and we make sure he gets exercise every day, but the majority of his day is spent deciphering smells on the breeze, woofing at passing cars, and catching Zs.  Halo prefers to be where the humans are, so she ends up spending her time inside a lot.  But she, too, naps a lot.  There's stuff for her to do and she'll chew on a bone or toss around a toy if she feels like it, but again, she doesn't run around enough for her nails to self-maintain to a proper, short length.  

Leopold's nails could use a trim.  Ideally,
I would trim his nails regularly enough that
they don't touch the ground at all.  His nails
are a little long here!

Of course, the best way to know if your dog's nails need a trim is to look at them.  Do they touch the floor when they walk?  If yes, then they're probably too long and need a trim.  Do they cause your dog's toes to push out in funny angles?  If yes, then you definitely need to trim those nails and stat!  If you don't, your dog's nails could grow into their paw pad, which is very painful and could potentially result in an infection.

Having trouble trimming your dog's nails because your dog won't let you?  Check out this post for some tips on trimming your dog's nails.

Leopold partaking in his favorite activity: sun-bathing while sniffing the wind.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Cleaning your dog's teeth by rubbing with a wet cloth: does this method work?

Rubbing with a wet cloth: will this method sufficiently
clean Leopold's teeth?  I decided to find out.
I moved to Texas a year ago.  That meant finding a new vet, again, for my dogs.  Thanks to yelp and google reviews, I found a vet that I ended up liking quite a bit!  He seemed to know his stuff. <phew>

He was examining Leopold (who was just there for a check-up), and I mentioned that I had been doing a bad job brushing Leopold's teeth.  I was feeling guilty so I wanted to mention it, I guess.  After using some dental tools to pick off the worst of the tartar on Leopold's teeth, our new vet showed me an easier way than brushing to clean a dog's teeth.  He grabbed a wash cloth, put a little water on it, and rubbed Leopold's teeth!  And that was it.  He said that if I did that once a day, that would be sufficient.  Whoa! So easy!  And cheap! --who doesn't have an old towel or wash cloth lying around, right?

I like easy and cheap. But does it work?  In the past I've used an enzymatic toothpaste and toothbrush method.  How does this new method compare?
I put the "rub with a wet cloth" method to the test to find out.

I started cleaning Leopold's teeth with this method on November 14th, and other than missing a week over Thanksgiving (I wasn't going to make my dog sitter deal with this!) and a couple days here and there, I cleaned Leopold's teeth once a day until December 28.  So a bit over a month of cleanings.

Leopold's teeth before (left pic) and after (right pic) a month of cleaning by rubbing with a wet cloth.

Here's what I learned:

1.  Leopold is not a fan.
After a week or so, Leopold started to run from me as soon as he saw me approaching with the cloth.
I tried to massage his face while I was rubbing his teeth to help him enjoy the experience more, but in the end he just didn't like it.  Bummer.
The toothbrush/toothpaste method is a treat for Leopold:  He enjoys having his teeth brushed because he likes the way the toothpaste tastes and because he likes chewing on the brush.

2.  It's difficult to clean every tooth.
Dog teeth overlap, so there were some teeth that were never touched by the cloth.
When using toothpaste and toothbrush, Leopold is chomping away, opening and closing his mouth, which allows me to work the brush onto every one of his teeth.

3.  It's difficult to clean ALL of every tooth.
The cloth doesn't really get to the gum-line.  It also doesn't get behind the teeth.
A toothbrush allows brushing on the back of teeth and is also so much better at getting into crevices and making sure the gum-line sees some actions; this is important for healthy gums!

4.  It seemed better for getting crud off broad surfaces.
I think.  I thought I noticed a small difference over time, but I don't actually see a lot of change in my before and after photos.  You can press more firmly on the tooth with the cloth rubbing method, which could potentially help to get more crud off.

Cleaning your dog's teeth by rubbing with a wet cloth is maybe better than nothing, but I think brushing with a toothbrush and enzymatic toothpaste is a better option.  If you're brushing and still having trouble getting crud off some of the broad areas (I always seem to have trouble with those back molars!!), rubbing with a cloth might help as an addition to your toothpaste/toothbrush routine.

For more information on keeping your dog's teeth clean, check out my post on cleaning your dog's dirty teeth.