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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Gadgets I Like

I believe in giving credit when it's due and this week I've had the pleasure of dealing with a company that has incredibly good customer service. We all deal with so many companies that either don't respond at all, or if they do they don't give a very satisfactory response to a problem with one of their products.

Last week when I put Noah's life jacket on him, I attached his leash to the ring on the back of the jacket. I didn't give it much thought. I was just taking him across the parking lot to the boat. The ring, which was plastic, not metal snapped and Noah was loose. In this case it wasn't a dangerous situation. There was no traffic and Noah comes happily to us when we call him. I said some bad words, hooked the leash to his collar and went on.

In other situations this could have been a disaster. Suppose we had been crossing a busy street or if I had secured Noah and left him. That evening I emailed the company Kyjen and complained. The next morning I had an email from them apologizing. They said they were sending out a new life jacket for Noah. They explained their reasons for using a plastic ring, which are not good ones in my mind, but they did the right thing with no hesitation. Kyjen is a good company to deal with.We were chatting about toys in our last post and here is what I would want if I was a cat. Do any of you have a 'kitty condo' for you cat? Do they use it and like it? I think if I were a cat I'd spend all my time playing on this thing.

While I' m discussing toys, I learned from you that this thing is a 'Cuz'. I don't know exactly why it's called that, but that's it's name. In our house we've always called it a football because it's a ball with feet.

Another thing that popped into my mind is a good place to shop for pet toys. In our area we have a discount store called 'Big Lots'. They get the things that didn't sell out in other stores, so the merchandise is different every time we go there. They carry good brand dog toys such as AKC and Milkbone at greatly reduced prices. AKC toys can run $10- 16, but at Big Lots we get them for $2-3. We were able to fill our big dog bone toy box at Christmas for around $80.

If there is no Big Lots in your area, check out some of the dollar stores to see if they carry pet toys.

Now I want to share some gadgets that I really like a lot.

These scissors make me more comfortable trimming around eyes and ears. If one of the dogs moves a little I don't worry about stabbing them.

Those of you with heavy shedding dogs probably recognize the 'Furminator'. This thing is great for pulling out the dead undercoat. The blades leave the top coat and grab the fuzzy stuff that gets all over the carpets and furniture. It works great on Morgan and Tsar. The PWDs don't have undercoats, so this isn't the tool for them. If only it was wider to cover more of Tsar at one time , I'd be a happy groomer.

This is a wonderful container. This was in a basket I won at a dog show and was filled with dog biscuits, but it's become our traveling feeder.

It has this handy little handle that snaps off.

Then you're left with a container for dog food and two good sized, heavy plastic bowls for food and water. We take this thing with us whenever we travel and even on the boat. These are available in pet stores and in catalogs. It's handy and would also make a good gift for a friend with a pet.

Finally, this silly looking thing that I call a bumpy bowl has saved us time, money and aggravation. Sky is one of those dogs that inhales his food. His food is gone by the time I set all the bowls down. Then within 30 minutes he vomits up his entire dinner. We went thru this for two weeks and I was ready to take him to the vet for tests when I decided to give this bowl a try.

The food fits between the protrusions, but Sky's head doesn't. He is forced to work the food out with his tongue. It slows him down and he chews the food instead of just swallowing big amounts. It worked the very first day we tried it and Sky has not vomited up his dinner since we started using it. Better for him and much more pleasant for us.

He didn't like the bowl at first and would bat at it with his foot and complain about it, but now it's his bowl and he looks forward to getting it.

What special gadgets do you use on or for your pets that you really appreciate? Would you recommend them to others? Are there some you've tried that didn't work out as well as you had hoped? I always love to hear about something that will make my life easier and my pets lives happier.

Monday, July 27, 2009

TOYS !!!

OK, today we're going to talk about our favorite toys and why we like them from both a canine and a human point of view. We're going to talk about where to buy them. I have even done some homework and have found some places to shop in Europe and Australia. I have found which US stores ship internationally.

Most dogs like plush toys or stuffies. Mine like the sound of the squeakers. Why then do they almost immediately set about removing the squeakers? Four of my dogs Morgan, Tsar, Sky and Bailey play with a stuffie for a few minutes, then start to destroy it. All but Bailey will play with the unstuffed skin of the toy for a long time. Bailey either shreds it or tries to eat it. My other dogs enjoy playing with stuffies and will carry them forever.
This is an average stuffie. They come in all sizes, shapes and colors. They almost always have a squeaker or some sound maker inside and they are filled with cotton fiberfill. It's always amazing to me how much fill they can squeeze into one of these. The dogs can cover a good size room with the filling from just one of these toys.
This is a great toy for sharing if you have multiple dogs. It has a squeaker in each arm and my dogs really enjoyed playing a concert for me with this.
If you are absolutely sick and tired of picking up the stuffing from their toys, here's an option for you. These are flat, unstuffed plush toys. They do have squeakers, but you won't have to pick up a mountain of fiberfill. They're called Skinneeez.

There are toys for chewers that can't be bothered with stuffies. The one above has a number of discs held together by the rounded end pieces. My pups loved these when they were young. They are great for teething puppies and small dogs. Beware if you have a power chewer. Morgan and Bailey were able to get the end caps off and take the toys apart. You then have small pieces that you don't want your dog swallowing.
These are fun for small dogs, too. Again these are not for power chewers. The little 'foot balls' are of light rubber, easily chewed and the woven ball is great until someone chews thru one of the links. Then the whole thing comes apart.

The clamshell worked for us with most of the pups and it kept them quiet for a long time. Put small treats or pieces of dog food inside and screw it closed. There are two small opening thru which the dog can work the treat out. It takes them a while to get all the food out unless Morgan lives with you. She just ate part of the shell away and got all the food.

Kongs are great toys. They're good for just playing with, throwing, or fill them with either peanut butter or canned dog food, stick them in the freezer and serve to keep the tongue in action for a long time. The only one of my dogs that has misused a kong is Bailey who ate the kong along with the peanut butter. My dogs like them stuffed, but get bored with a plain old kong to play with.

This is a toy I've heard a lot about, but haven't tried yet. Several of my friends say their dogs love it. Fill it with treats, put the top on and let them tug and work the treats out.

Most dogs love balls. My dogs are very active and love to chase balls. Some of them carry balls around with them or always have one nearby. Sky is almost never without a ball in his mouth. Every evening someone brings a ball over and puts it in my lap, a gentle hint.
A tennis ball is a universal favorite. Do, however, watch for anything growing on the fuzzy surface. Dogs can pick up nasty bacteria that like to grow on the surface of tennis balls. If your dog leaves his ball outside, you might want to inspect it and either wash it or replace it.This is called a 'holee roller'. It's what I use to teach my dogs to catch. Most pups up to about six months of age don't have the eye to mouth coordination to catch. If you toss a ball at them it will probably hit them in the nose and bounce away. Around six months I start gently tossing this to the pup and he can snag one of the holes. With a lot of praise, he gradually gets the concept of catching and can move on to regular balls.

If you follow my blog, you know that these are our absolute favorites. These are glow balls. They soak up light and reflect it back in the dark. My dogs love these things and they can chase them after dark because of the glow. The bright colors gradually fade, but they continue to glow forever. The large size fits my dogs perfectly, but they also come in a smaller size for you petite pups.

Does your dog love to retrieve?

This is the flying squirrel. This was one of our first throw toys. It flies great and the dogs all loved chasing it. Morgan ended it's life by chewing it's legs so that it no longer flew. Again, if your dog is not an aggressive chewer, this could be a great toy for you.

This is a great toy. It's called a 'Wubba' and it does everything. It is made by Kong and it is covered with tough canvas. It also squeaks. My dogs like to carry it around, Morgan can chew on the tails and it's wonderful for throwing. It flies well and you don't get your hands all slimed the way you do with a ball. Just grab the tails and fling it. All my dogs like playing with the wubba. It comes in several sizes for small, medium, large and extra-large dogs and there is also a floating variety for dogs who like to do water retrieving.

Speaking of water retrieving, H2O makes a variety of toys to play with in the water. We have this disc that my dogs enjoy and I just ordered a dumbell and a training dummy. These are my favorite water toys. I like the colors that are easy to spot in the water and the fabric dries quickly

This is probably our very favorite toy, both mine and the dogs. I keep this on a shelf and when I reach for it, they all start barking and jumping around. We have three of them because they are so popular that there would be fights if they all had to compete for just one. This is the 'Flying Cow' by Bamboo. Bamboo toys are made of tough fabric and are simple in construction. This frisbee is soft enough that Sky can catch it without fear of damaging his dental work and yet will stand up to a lot of chewing.

Morgan did manage to chew our first one and because Bamboo guarantees all it's toys, I sent it back to the company. They sent me two brand new one as replacements. That made them my favorite company. They actually live up to their guarantee.
This is another Bamboo toy that we own. We've had it for about four years and it only has a few minor chew marks.

Here are some of the places where you can buy these and other wonderful toys for dogs, cats, birds, ferrets and just about any other animal.

SitStay sells all sorts of pet supplies. It's where I buy our glowballs. They always include a sample of a treat in each order which makes them popular with my canine box inspectors. They ship worldwide. sells pet supplies for all types of animals. They also have some terrific sales if you get on their e-mail list. They ship to the US and Canada.

JeffersPet carries supplies for dogs, cats, birds and horses. They have very reasonable prices and some super sales. I got a set of agility equipment including weave poles, two jumps, a tunnel and a chute for around $200 from them during one of their sales. They ship to the US, Canada, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Guam. They have some of the best customer service I've dealt with. Morgan was having surgery and I contacted them the day before the surgery. They overnighted me a special collar for her at no additional cost so she would have it after the surgery.

Pet Edge sells to groomers, breeders,kennels and other retailers. You can buy in large quantities. They have some of the lowest prices, but unless you buy a certain amount, there is a surcharge. What we do is get together with a couple of friends and place an order together. They ship worldwide. They carry lots of toys and clothes as well as grooming supplies.

CentralBark is in Australia and sells internationally as far as I can see. I have not dealt with them and so can't endorse them. If you have shopped with them and can tell us about them, please leave a comment.Here is one for our friends in Great Britain. If you have shopped with Dog-Toy, please let us know what you think.
Another online place to shop for toys is PetPlanet. It's located in the UK, so if you know anything about them, please share.

Alpha Dog Toys sells worldwide. Please let us know if you're familiar with them.

Two of the best places to check out, no matter where you live, are and E-bay.

I'm sure your dogs have some favorites and that you have a store that you enjoy doing business with. Leave a comment and let us know. I'll post them so we can all share and make playtime even more fun.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Which Harness?

Even if your dog usually wears a collar, there may come a time when you want to use a harness. There are many types of harnesses for different dogs and situations. You need to think about why you want a harness and how you plan to use it. They aren't all interchangeable.

This is what we usually think of when someone mentions a harness. It's a normal style, especially useful for small dogs or cats. My dog Lucy was twelve pounds and when I walked her on leash I wanted to avoid applying too much pressure to her throat. She wore a harness like this one and loved it.

A slight variation and good for larger dogs is the step in harness. It is easy to put on. Generally, you lay the harness on the floor, have the dog step into the leg holes and clip it together. Easy and again it keeps the pressure off the dog's throat. It does not, however, give the control you might need if the dog doesn't walk nicely on a leash. If you have a dog that pulls, this might not be for you.

The manufacturers recently have come out with some little vest style harnesses. These are cute for small dogs, but they also serve an important purpose. If your dog is very small, has been sick or has had an injury, these harnesses distribute the pressure away from the neck and shoulders.

They come in many colors and styles and are a good choice for some dogs as well as being unbearably cute.

This is a step in variety of the vest harness.

There are other harnesses designed for specific purposes. Years ago we bought car harnesses from AAA. They did the job, but had some minor flaws.

Morgan was kind enough to model this one for you. The harness fit well and had a padded chest but it had this flap on the back for the seatbelt to go thru. That was OK, but when you got to your destination, you had to either remove the harness or figure out how to attach a leash to this flap. It didn't work very well for walking as the flap got twisted.

They made the changes and this is the newer version of the Easy Rider car harness. Fudge is the model because Morgan got tired of it. They replaced the flap with a metal ring. Good thinking. Now you simply attach the leash to the ring and you don't have to fumble getting the harness off and back on again.

The best change was making this strap that hooks on the harness ring and the other end slides into the seatbelt lock. Quick and easy and it works.

This is how the system looks in use.

If you have a big dog that pulls there are a number of harnesses made to address that situation. The one we like best is the Easy Walker. It has the leash ring in the front so if the dog tries to pull, his head and shoulders swing toward you. At the same time it applies a little pressure behind his front legs.

I have two pullers, Samba and Morgan and this is the only harness I have found that really works on both of them.

The Easy Walker is not for running with your dog or for long hikes. It can chafe the front legs if used for those situations, but for normal walks, it works. My only complaint about it is that I find it difficult to put on the dog.

Some people love the Gentle Leader or the Halti Head Harnesses. They work on the principle that where the head goes, the body will follow. I tried one with Monty and he hated it. He got very good at pushing it off with his foot. I didn't like it because I like my dogs to have more freedom than it allows. Still, for some dogs it's the answer.

We all know there are special harnesses for sled dogs and there are harnesses with attached saddle bags for hiking with your dog, but there are others you may not have come across.

Morgan is wearing a water harness. It's made for dogs that work in the water. It has padding on the chest and around the legs and it has a handle on the back for helping the dog into the boat.

This harness is for helping dogs that have injuries to their backs or back legs. Often as dogs age they have arthritis in those areas and this is a way to give them some support on steps or getting up and down. We used something similar to this for Bentley who was badly crippled with arthritis in his last years.

This is a special harness made for dogs with injuries to the back or legs. It has lots of padding and numerous support straps.

The harness makers have come a long way in recent years in addressing the varied situations that pet owners face. If you're thinking of getting a harness, think about what you need it to do and do your homework online. There is probably a harness avavilable that will work for you and your pet.
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