Growing up, I never had dogs that liked toys. No, really. My parent's miniature dachshund, Watson, is the first to even take to the infamous Loofa dogs, a seemingly universal favorite. When Arie was a wee bitty thing, she loved the loofa dogs as well--and then she discovered stuffing. After the stuffing discovery, a move to stuffing-less toys solved her tug o' war needs, but there was still something missing. Arie needed something to chew on when she just wants to lay down and gnaw away--something other than a wooden vase. Enter Kong.
Kong is one of the most quickly recognized dog toy brands on the market today. They tout their durability and enrichment for dogs, with the motto:
"We satisfy your pets' instinctive, predatory, and environmental needs in a safe and domestic way."
Consumer terms: We make things that make your dog happy that your dog won't break in five seconds.
As I mentioned in my first review of a Kong product, the Kong Tug Dog Toy, which we gave Arie on her birthday, German Shepherd Dogs have some of the most powerful jaws on a domestic canine, meaning that their chew toys have to be hardcore. So far, Kong has been the only brand that we've tried that has truly stood the test of Arie's mouth, so we do have quite the collection:
Do you have a lot of Kong toys for your pets? What are your other favorite brands? I don't want to just hear about them--I want to see them! Share photos with us on our Facebook wall of your pet and their favorite toy. Don't be shy! While your there, if you haven't had a chance to already, go ahead and "Like" us. You know you want to. ;-)
This post is a continuation of my A to Z Challenge and Ultimate Blog Challenge series. To see the rest of the series, find your favorite letters here:
A is for Alphabet Challenges, American Shepherds, Alsatian Shepherds, and More!
B is for Built-Ins for Pet-Friendly Homes
C is for…Cautious Car Rides for Arie
Deciding to Get a Dog: The Do’s and Dont’s of Adding a Pet to Your Family
Ears: Caring For Your Dog’s Ears and Discussing Arie’s Best Feature!
F is for Fleas, Facebook, Farm life, and Failure
Grain Free Diets: The Way to Happiness for Dogs with Allergies
Habit Forming Behavior: The Curse and Blessing of an Intelligent Dog
Ice: Could one of Arie’s favorite things be a health risk for dogs?
J is for Jellyfish and Other Fun Atlanta Animals
Additional posts for the Ultimate Blog Challenge: Happy Easter, Happy Puppy
**Fun turn of events: Today Arie was featured on Kong's Pinterest boards--Check it out!
First things first: Happy Easter! Easter is one of my favorite holidays because it's one of the first big celebrations of Spring, and because it holds extreme religious significance for me and my family.
Whew. So far I've made it through A-G in the A to Z challenge, and I've posted everyday (except one over-sleeping mishap) since April began to fulfill my Ultimate Blog Challenge. You can check out my post thus far in the A-Z Series by reading:
Needless to say, I'm a little tired, and was glad to have a nice, relaxing lazy day. I had planned to drive back to SC, but ended up spending Easter in Atlanta.
Today I started a new initiative with Arie--trying to exhaust my dog on a daily basis. I've noticed that on days when I really give Arie a true workout, she's much more laid back--helping with the issues we've had in the past with other dogs. Instead of her usual walks and potty breaks during the day, I'm going to add in running/walking the trail near our apartment with her twice a day to really get her tuckered out. Perhaps with a little bit more regular exercise, she'll be a much more enjoyable companion for my neighbors, so that they can see the true sweetheart that I know and love inside and outside of the apartment.
One thing I hate about long walks: Trying to carry everything I need. I need 1) my cell phone in case of emergencies, 2) treats for Arie, 3) My keys, 4) my gate card for my apartment community, 5) Arie. This means that, in my hands and pockets, I have several items that require my attention and space. The ladies out there know how problematic this can be, as the pockets in women's pants were apparently made for either women with no thigh definition at all or were not made to hold much of anything. Out of personal frustration and a hatred of fanny packs or most products of the sort, I made my own impromptu treat/keys bag, my second dog-centric sewing project:
I had a spare patch of wonky shaped fabric in this cute red and white polka dot pattern, so i trimmed it into a some-what decent rectangle. I then folded about a quarter of an inch over and each end and sewed them to form a smooth edge to avoid fraying. Then, I folded the fabric in half, inside out, and sewed the seams to make my little square.
Now, I needed it to be able to adhere to my belt loop on my jeans. I took the remaining strip of fabric and sewed a little strip of fabric--I sewed one end to the backside of the pouch, leaving space between the seams for a little loop of my own. To hook it my belt loop, I just loop the remaining part of the strip through my belt loop, then through the loop on the pouch, and tie a little knot or bow. Now, to add the treats.
These treats contain salmon which is great for Arie's coat, and they're also small enough for great training treats. We can do consistent training throughout her walk without me having to break the treats.
I didn't want the moisture of the treats to get all over my keys or to absorb into my newly made treat bag, so I put these tiny morsels into a plastic treat back that I received in a gift pack at an event---the treat that had been inside was laden with food coloring, and so not something I would give Arie, so I tossed that cookie away, trimmed the bag down, and used it as moisture defense.
With the treats, keys, gate card, phone, etc. stashed in my new handy bag or a pocket and Arie safely on her leash, we were on our way. We took a long walk around the trail several times. Throughout the walk, we practiced the "Look at me" command; this command requires that Arie stop whatever she's doing and look me in the eye. If she masters this command, it will be much easier to distract her from enticing situations with other dogs, squirrels, etc, and will have her looking to me for direction. We also spontaneously practiced her usual commands, like "sit" and "lay down" to test her recall. We definitely have some room to improve on recall in a stimulus rich environment, so we'll keep practicing. After we got home, Arie drank a little water and then settled into her favorite post-walk spot, the tiles by the front door. There's nothing like cold tiles on the belly after a summer walk.
Perhaps after we get over the hump of her training challenges now we'll be able to move into agility training. What do you do to exhaust your dog?
scratch-scratch-scratch-scratch-scratch. scratch-scratch-scratch-scratch-scratch. SCRATCH SCRATCH SCRATCH.
This used to the be sound that you could hear all over my apartment, coming from, you guessed it, Arie. Certain dog breeds are prone to allergies, including German Shepherd Dogs, and dogs with lighter coat coloration seem to be more susceptible to allergies as well, giving Arie a double dose of bad news when it comes to allergic reactions. Arie was scratching her skin constantly, and rubbing her face into the carpet, leaving the sides of her mouth red and irritated; even the skin under her fur started to darken in color from irritation.
When I went to the vet, I expected to hear that Arie's allergies were from the environment around her, like a persons' allergies to dust, grass, etc. Instead, I found out that her reactions could be due to a protein in her food.
"Food allergies are the over-response of your dog’s immune system to an invading protein. In the case of a food allergy, this protein is contained in your dog’s food. Proteins are present in most of the foods your dog eats. While most people recognize that meats are a source of proteins, there are also proteins present in grains and vegetables. Any one of these proteins has the potential to cause a food allergy." - Modern Dog Magazine, "Food Allergies 101".
In my research, I found that it's not exactly uncommon for dogs to have a bad reaction to proteins in chicken, which was the main source of protein in Arie's food. To help with this issue, I switched Arie to Nutro Natural Choice, a premium dog food made 100% in the US (very important to me considering all of the pet food and snack dangers that seem to be stemming from products made in China right now) that has a wide range of products with various protein sources. We started her out on the Nutro Natural Choice Venison and Brown Rice formula.
For a while, and I mean about a year, she was doing much better, but then her symptoms started to come back. After discussing the issue with 1) my vet, and 2) professionals Edna and Renee from Nutro, who can tweet with at @reneeatnutro and @ednaatnutro, I decided to switch out Arie's food with one of the new grain free formulas from Nutro, as grains are a very common cause of allergies in dogs.
Now, Arie is eating the Grain Free Lamb and Potato formula or the Grain Free Venison and Potato formula. We vary the two throughout the year (mixing the bags, of course) so that her body doesn't start to develop a resistance to either venison or lamb. The scratching is gone and she no longer tries to rub her face into the carpet. We've also introduced salmon treats from Blue Buffalo and from Zeke's, as fish and the healthy fats found in fish can be great for dogs with allergies. All of these changes and now paying more attention to Arie's diet has helped me to make Arie's life more enjoyable and itch-free.
Just as an FYI for this post, Nutro does not pay me in free product or monetarily to tell you how awesome their food has been. I do that all on my own.
Do your pets have allergies? How do you cope with them? Have you tried a Grain Free diet? Weigh in with your thoughts!
Who really hasn't cracked a smile at the sight of a happy puppy face in the backseat of a car? Those lolling tongues and happy faces are irresistible. They're also appreciated by the dogs---It always makes me think of the Disney movie, Bolt, and this scene:
***Note, I do not claim to own any of the content in this video. Video via YouTube
Maybe it's because many claim Bolt is designed to look like a White German Shepherd, but honestly, that's freaking adorable. moving on to the facts of the discussion:
Arie loves car rides. I now live in Atlanta, but my hometown is in the upstate area of South Carolina, a good 2-3 hour drive. Arie goes home with me often; I even had to choose a larger vehicle when I got a new car last year to ensure that she and her crate, as well as the cats in their carrier, could fit comfortably for a road trip every few months. Arie usually stretches out across the back seat, with the cats in their crate in the very back of the car. After a few quick break-slamming incidents thanks to Atlanta drivers on a handful of these road trips, I came to the conclusion that started this discussion: Arie needs a seat belt.
My dad laughed at me when I mentioned pet seat belts. No joke. Still, such safety precautions are becoming ever more popular, present on the market, and encouraged for pet owners. My father grew up on my grandparent's dairy farm (Remember Arie showing off next the tractor?), and they took a very casual approach to pets. Pets were to stay outside---dogs didn't sleep at the foot of your bet, let alone in it, and their food sure didn't cost what Arie's does. With changing times, however, our approach to our pets is adapting. My parents even have a little dachshund now, who wears a sweater in the winter to deal with cold. Dad has come a long way.
People have done a great job of branching out into items for their pets, from fun and colorful toys and puzzles to designer pet beds and clothing, but our eye for design and our eye for health and safety seem to following slightly behind our more frivolous pursuits. I'm trying to play the catch up game now, adding grain-free, all natural kibble, vitamins, and more to ensure that my big girl has healthy hips and joints and lives a long and healthy life. Protecting her in the car is the next step, and pet safety belts are paramount for your pet's safety in accident.
FACT: " A 25-pound, unrestrained dog can become a deadly, 1000-pound projectile in the event of a 40 mph crash." - Pet Travel Center
You only need to picture your shih-tzu bouncing around between the seats during a bump up or a golden retriever thrown into the back of your seat to understand the need. While that picturesque puppy face lolling out the window is adorable, having them smile safely from their belted seat in the center of the car is still cute and much safer, for them and you.
The New Problem
Now that I know that I want to get Arie a safety belt, I have to find one that I like and that works for her. Some of these items are more complicated than a brand new car seat, and if you've ever had to hook one of those into a car (years of babysitting taught me better than a sensei ever could) you know that is no easy feat. Others only come in tiny, petite, small, medium, normal, and large sizes, leaving out the "holy-crap-is-that-a-miniature-pony?!" size harness that Arie will need. I'm still on the search, scouring various stores and websites and reading tons of reviews.
Where You Come Into Play
During #Petchat this past Monday (Twitter chat, Monday nights 8 PM EST for pet lovers) we discussed pet products we love and hate. Upon learning that I blog about my life with my pets, a fellow chatter asked me if there were any go-to blogs I like to read for product reviews. Well my lovelies, that really includes all of you. Whether your new to this blog and wondering why this lady cares so much about a freaking dog seat belt or a long time reader that totally gets it, having your opinions on this is much appreciated. Do you have a safety belt for your pet in the car? Why or why not? If you do, what brand/style would you recommend? So far I've heard a lot about Kurgo, but I'd like to learn about other brands as well.
Pets become a huge part of your life--as in an overwhelming one. Even when you're dog isn't physically larger than some of your friends, like mine, they still take up a great amount of real estate in your home, your car, your life, and your heart.
Now it's time to make the home part a little more attractive and functional with today's letter b: built-ins.
After developing an amazing addiction to Pinterest (because after all, who hasn't?) I was exposed to some amazingly fabulous pet-friendly built-in ideas, such as this super amazing dog bed tucked within a kitchen island:
To avoid stepping all over copyright, you can see the rest of my pins of fabulous pet-friendly built-ins on my "Life with Arie" pin board, or see this compilation from Pawsh Magazine. Most built-ins focus on setting aside a reserved space for pet beds or bowls, food storage, or even litter box hiding places.
At some point, I would love to add these ideas to a home, and I'm definitely not alone. In fact, this trend has grown astoundingly in popularity in Atlanta itself, the city Arie, the cats and I call home. Ili Nilsson, co-owner of the design-build firm TerraCotta Properties, spoke with AJC Home Finder about pet parents and home design:
"“For every client that has a dog, we do something specific for that dog,” said Nilsson. “You can fit the needs of your pet very easily with good planning.” That includes the clever location of built-ins for pet items or the installation of a hot water faucet outdoors for mess-free dog-washing.
The American Pet Products Association bears Nilsson’s opinion out. The APPA estimates that in 2011, Americans spent $50 billion on their pets." - AJC Home Finder
Design decisions by Atlanta area pet parents range from choosing rugs based on their pet's coat color and shedding to home owners choosing carpet tiles instead of a solid roll so that the squares are easy to replace if chewed or used for an accidental potty break. How far would you go to incorporate your pet into your home design?
Having a large dog is fun. Arie is the same size as some human beings, so she's an expert cuddler. She can keep up on walks and runs. She can actually jump up and look you in the eye. I just love having a large breed dog, especially a White German Shepherd. :) That being said, there is one thing that I miss about tiny dogs--Large dogs are harder to accessorize. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a person who puts my dogs in clothing or gets them a little bling. I do however, like to give them pretty collars, especially when your dog is always assumed to be male instead of the sweet girl that she is.
I have a crafty streak, though I haven't yet found the project style that really fits me. My friend Tori makes amazing jewelry that you can find on Etsy through her store, V. Carol Creations (you can also read her blog, Home Sweet Washington, to get to know the person behind the great earring options.) I cannot make jewelry. My friend Carolyn is an amazing artist, and her husband Daniel is a silversmith (how cool is that?!). You can see Carolyn's work at Carolyn Horne Illustration. I cannot paint or make silver into pretty things.
I am, however, learning to sew, and I love it. Kelly from Sew Alluring and I are learning together, and it's been great fun. For my first project, I picked something very unconventional. I decided to make dog collars! I found these adorable prints in the super cheap fat quarters section at Jo-Ann's. They were just long enough to make Shady (my roommate's dog) a few collars. One was a really cute shamrock print:
I loved the print, and decided that I would try to make Shady a collar by St. Patrick's Day. I haven't had much time to sew, and I'm terrible about reading directions, so on a handful of occasions I was able to sit down and practice making dog collars off the cuff. My attempts weren't always fruitful:
For the hardware, I used some very strong plastic fasteners that I also found at Jo-Ann's, and a metal d-ring I bought there as well. The D-ring did not hold up to Shady's walk, and pulled lose. Ugly first sewing attempt I can deal with---Impractical and unsafe breaking collars? That's not acceptable. For my second attempt, I got the hardware off of an old collar we had hidden away in the closet. It had a different form of buckle, so I had to learn to work with that as well:
This time, I was little more proud of my collar. I'm making them out of recycled materials by lining them with strong denim harvested by old pairs of jeans instead of they typical nylon. I made this collar thicker to be stronger, and also used the stronger hardware from Shady's old collar. This time, I tried a new kind of stitch around the D-Ring and fastener to make it stronger. The end could not be made attractive because I didn't have enough fabric, but I'm working on it for next time. Flaws and all, Shady is set to be styling St. Patrick's Day style as we celebrate all that is Irish.
Are you craft-tastic? Have you tried making anything for your pets? I'm going to continue to try to perfect my collars, and then move on to a nice, big dog bed. I'll keep you posted on my projects--If you have any suggestions for future projects or sewing tips, please let me know!
I'm off to enjoy a few ciders (a great alternative to beer that I learned to love while in Ireland) and the holiday. Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone!
We mentioned a few posts ago that Arie's birthday had come and gone. Our little lady just celebrated turning 2! To celebrate, I got her a few toys and threw them in a bag (because the Martha Stewart section of my soul thinks that everyone deserves a pretty gift). Here's our photo collection from the celebration!
Each of these presents has a special significance for Arie. The Nylabone bone is to replace a bone she recently destroyed but loved--We hope this option will be more durable. The Moose tug toy feels durable and sturdy, and Arie ready, but here's a fun fact: I love moose. Oh, it's true. If Arie had been male, her name would have been Moose. The dental chew bones hope to keep Arie's teeth clean when brushing her teeth is a true chore (our experiences are much like those of our friends, Lauren and Claire, when it comes to the toothbrush).
After photographing the bag and the toys within, it was time to give big girl her present. Arie is pretty good about knowing what's intended for her and what's not, so she went straight for the toys.
As the toys came out of the bag, one by one, Arie wanted to experience everything all at once. Here's the progression from one toy, to two toys, to two toys and a treat:
Please forgive me for taking more photos than an unemployed pageant mom; it's not often you get her to hold still long enough for a decent photo!
Let’s get something clear: I usually hate retractable leashes. Usually.
Many people who use them do not teach their dogs proper walking habits. If they get away from you, they go bouncing after your pet, popping up to hit them along the way. They give tons of space between the pet parent and the pet, and with an untrained dog, this can end up in a tangled situation with others, or even a dangerous one with dogs at odds twisted together.
At Bark World (you can read about that here, here, and here), however, I was introduced to the LeashLocket, a new kind of retractable leash. Here are a few of the things that first attracted me to this leash:
I was generously given one of these products to try and to write about, so here is my review after using the LeashLocket:
First impression? I was right about the small casing being easy to carry. I have hands like a pygmy…no joke, and I can hold this comfortably and easily.
In use? This leash doesn’t come out the usual 16-20 feet—That’s a good thing. It’s actually, a great thing. The leash only lets out about 6-7 feet, keeping your dog in the socially acceptable social bubble, so that they’re close enough to you in case something happens, but with enough leeway that they can still run about and have a good time.
The LeashLocket available for trial was under Arie’s weight class (she’s just big boned, I swear!) so I tried it with Shady. He didn't seem to notice or care that the leash could attach to his collar, and seemed comfortable and at ease.
After my review, I can say that if you enjoy using a retractable leash, the LeashLocket is the perfect leash for you. For the family on the go, this makes a good option as well, as it can stay on your pet’s collar in the car, making the leash convenient to grab when it’s time to get out. The casing is small and easy to carry for smaller hands and children’s hands, making it easier to use than your standard retractable leash. If you’re looking for a little more ease to your routine, give it a try.
White German Shepherds are great for active, playful people. They love a great game of fetch, to run, and to play games.
They are also very expensive playmates. Why? Their teeth and chew power. German Shepherds have some powerful jaws. In a study conducted by National Geographic's Dr. Brady Barr, the bite force of a German Shepherd, a Rottweiler, and a Pit Bull were all put to the test. For the Pit Lovers out there (including myself) you can tell people who constantly say that pits are dangerous because of their bite to shame--They didn't have the strongest bite force! The three dogs averaged at a bite force of 320 lbs, and the German Shepherd and Rotty passed up the Pit in the power department.
These bite facts aren't to scare you, or to reinforce the stereotype that these sweet babies are aggressive. It's to let you know how much we have to spend on chew toys.
Arie can chew through toys in a heartbeat--So called "durable" chews have been destroyed in a matter of minutes. Over time, we've found a few tried and true toys to stand up to her play time, and have established the 3 day test: If a toy can make it through 3 days, it's a fairly stable toy. If it makes it through longer, It's a winner and a staple in our home.
So far, the stuffing-less animal toys, the traditional Kong, and the Holey Roller have made it into our hearts. Now, we're adding the Kong Tug Dog Toy.
We discovered this lovely treasure in an order from PetFlow, a great online website that allows you to get your pets toys, food, and treats delivered right to your door. (Shameless and honest plug: If you start using PetFlow, use this link to sign up! I can earn perks if you do!)
Arie immediately fell in love with the Kong Tug Dog Toy. She carried it around with her everywhere, and if you sat down, it was immediately in your lap for a game of tug o' war. I wasn't able to get a picture, but she even cuddled with it to take naps the first few days we had it.
As you can see, this toy is both mom and Arie approved for fun and durability. What are your dogs favorite toys? Any suggestions for powerful chewers?
**WOW! Arie's love for durable toys caught the eye of Kong on Pinterest! Check out their recent repin of Arie going to town on her toy, and follow our dog-centric pin boards for the latest images of doggy goodness.
Today marks the Chinese New Year as we welcome in the year of the dragon. It's been a while since I made Arie some treats, so I decided to put a fun twist on it: Let's make fortune cookie treats for the new year! Fortunately, someone had already had that creative genius . The Doggy Dessert Chef had a recipe and a game plan ready for use! I put to to the test tonight in the kitchen.
You're going to need whole wheat flower, two eggs, chicken broth, butter, and baking powder.
Get your ingredients ready to mix. You'll need a cup of butter, 3 and 1/2 cups flower, 1/2 cup chicken broth, and 1/2 tsp. baking powder.
You're ready to make the cookies!
I love my rolling pin. It's so much better than the empty wine bottle I used to use (no joke).
Okay okay, so the inspiration cookie isn't an actual step. Still, I did find that having this cookie (preserved from the Chinese we ordered a few nights ago) was helpful, even though the Doggy Dessert Chef's directions were simple and easy to follow. Also, who doesn't love fortune cookies? This little baby was set to be my reward while the pet-friendly ones were in the oven.
While the cookies baked, I wondered if Arie would enjoy them as much as she was thinking she would. My inspiration cookie had the answer.
The cookies cooled after coming out of the oven. While not as pretty as the Doggy Dessert Chef's, I still think they were a valiant effort.
Answer to my question and the smart ass fortune? Arie loves the treats. This is a recipe I have to use every Chinese New Year, otherwise there might be a strike on White German Shepherd cuteness in my apartment. Happy New Year everyone!
***Even though we wrote this on Monday for the holiday, our friend Kol suggested we include it in the Tasty Tuesday blog hop! Be sure to check out the other tasty recipes!