Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Fundown: Kongs

Classic Kong
With the slew of dog toys out there that claim
hours of fun and mental stimulation to occupy your dog, it's hard to know where to start. The Fundown (get it???) will be a series of dog toy product
reviews that will hopefully give you some insight in choosing where to spend your money. In addition, we've come up with some fun ways to vary the type of play your dog can get from just one toy!

Kongs - $7
Puppy Kong size S (5-10 lbs)
Peanut butter face!
Kongs are likely the most popular toy associated with boredom relief--and with good reason! They definitely keep a dog busy. What makes them so great is the versatility in which they can be used. Not only do they promote good chewing behavior, but they are also very durable (a good investment!). There are many ways to "make" a Kong for your
dog with varying degrees of difficulty. This is what provides the mental stimulation that so many toys aim to accomplish. Your dog's challenge, or his objective, is to figure out how to get the treat(s) that you've stuffed inside. In order from least to more expensive (as well as easiest to most challenging) you can:
  1. Fill with peanut butter/chicken broth/bouillon. You can freeze this as  a cold treat in the summer, to soothe a teething puppies' mouth, or just to increase the amount of time it will take to finish.
  2. Fill with kibble and seal the end with some peanut butter. (Freezable)
  3. Fill with an appropriately sized biscuit (like   a Milkbone). 
  4. Fill with a Kong Ziggy Chew (a stick-like   chew designed specifically for the toy). $0.99     -$2 individually, better value in a pack.
  5. Fill with a variety of biscuits of different sizes and seal with Kong Stuff'in or peanut butter.
Feel free to mix it up! Try not start your new
puppy out with something too difficult, as he will give up and lose interest.

Proper sizing is important as well. Don't let your puppy outgrow his Kong. This can lead to tearing
off chunks of rubber that can become a choking hazard.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Oh No You Didn't!

...take a pee on my carpet and poo in my kitchen!

Potty training is perhaps the most daunting/frustrating/rewarding task that any new owner is going to face. Personally, most intimidating for me was the fact that housebreaking was to be my first exercise of discipline--and it's so hard to discipline a sweet little puppy without feeling guilty. But keep in mind that dogs, as pack animals, are most content when they know their place in the pecking order, and what seems harsh is merely a step toward establishing your place as alpha in your household.

1. Always be sure to clean up any accidents including getting rid of the odor. After dogs go to the bathroom, wiping up their mess isn't enough. They can sniff out the same spot where they peed and recognize it as their "toilet" area. When I brought Leo home from the shelter, he did not know how to pee outside. It was the most frustrating thing, baking outside in the sun for half an hour with no success before walking inside to the A/C (finally!)...only to have him take a leak right when he hits the kitchen. If your puppy doesn't understand the concept, keep a paper towel used to clean up any of his accidents inside, and bring it outside with you the next time you take him to potty. Set it on the ground next to him. He'll take a whiff, recognize it as his bathroom, and hopefully pop a squat!
$9/bottle. Nature's Miracle is definitely the best odor and stain remover for housebreaking. There are other brands out there, but in my experience they're a lot less effective. The price isn't too steep, and neither Leo or Charlie (the other puppy he grew up with) pottied in the same place more than once after using this stuff! Photo Source: Drs. Foster Smith
2. Discipline, discipline, discipline. There are numerous ways to housebreak your puppy. This isn't the only way, but I preferred using positive and negative reinforcement. Using time-out was very effective for Leo. If he had an accident, I would push his head down toward his mess and say "No" firmly before saying "Time out!" and putting him in the bathroom and closing the door for 20 seconds. NEVER put your puppy's nose in his accident as it can cause an infection. He just needs to be able to smell it and associate it with something he has done wrong. Puppies' short term memories are very short (up to 20 seconds). If you leave him in time out for too long, he will forget why he is being isolated. After a while, he'll be able to associate the word "time-out" with a disciplinary action. Even today, Leo understands that when I say "time-out", he needs to haul ass to the bathroom.

While many people say that you need to catch your dog in the act to discipline him, that isn't always necessarily true. Though he may not remember peeing in the house, as long as he is forced to smell it and recognize that it isn't supposed to be on the carpet or anywhere inside the house, he can and should be disciplined. Puppies' long term memories are still developing at this point, but they will quickly grasp the concept of not pottying inside with consistent reinforcement and training from you!

3. Always bring treats with you outside when your puppy goes to potty! Never walk out of the house with him without some type of treat to reward him for pottying outside. It's all about continual positive (and negative) reinforcement. Once he's outside, you can say something like "go potty." If he starts going to the bathroom, wait for him to finish, give him a treat, and drown him in praise! I've found that puppies tend to work harder for the "stinkier" treats, i.e., wetter treats that aren't biscuits. Those can be a little expensive, but food rolls are a great value that are just as tasty. All you have to do is cut up the rolls into small pieces (saves on the calories, too), toss them in a sandwich bag, and refrigerate them. Most popular are:

Natural Balance (find it at Petco
or local petstores)
Photo source:
Pet Botanics (find it at Petsmart)
Photo source: Petworldshop

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Speaking Dog: The Basics Pt. 3

"The Gangsta"
Dogs have different personalities. Okay, so you got a purebred, and the standard description for his breed indicates that he will be friendly, playful, eager to please, quiet, and love children. Dogs are bred for certain personality traits, but that doesn't mean there isn't variation among them (thank you Mr. Darwin). Expecting your dog to live up to that kind of standard is unrealistic and unfair to him, not to mention disappointing for you. Embrace his quirks and/or flaws! 

Moreover, not every dog can be trained the same way because his unique personality may have him respond differently to a particular disciplinary action. Dogs who are more sensitive or skittish (like Leo) might do better with a time-out rather than physical correction. Learning about who your dog is, not just as a pet, but as another soul is one of the most rewarding parts of being an owner. Applying his little personality nuances to your interactions with him will make it that much more fun! :)

"The Snugglebug"

"Miss Independent"
"The Rebel"




"The Princess"

Speaking Dog: The Basics Pt. 2

Dogs are smarter than we think! They are able to detect microexpressions in our faces and the smallest changes in our body language to discern what it is we are trying to communicate to them. Sometimes what we mean by our words can completely contradict what dogs perceive our bodies are saying. For instance, bending forward to face Leo and telling him to "Come!" goes against what he as a dog thinks "come" means. Instead, to Leo and the rest of the canine world, the direction my feet point indicate where I want Leo to go. You never see a dog signal "come follow me" by bending low and facing you. If anything, that's a signal to play. Instead, his body moves in the direction he wants to go and he turns his head to indicate he wants me to follow. So to tell Leo to come (at least before he learned the come command), I turned my body in the direction I wanted him to follow, clapped my hands, and called his name. Once your dog understands what it was you want him to do, it's up to him to decide if he wants to listen or not. If you've earned his respect, he will follow your instructions (so long as he isn't rebelling)!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Speaking Dog: The Basics Pt. 1

Let me be the first to say that I'm no dog behaviorist or expert when it comes to dog talk. Let's just say though, that it's a language you'll most definitely pick up as you spend more and more time with your dog(s). Supplement the awkward confusing "conversations" you've had with Fido with a couple of books written by PhDs, and swap stories with fellow dog lovers and you'll find your English-Dog Translation Dictionary a whole lot bigger. For now, suffice it to say that your dog is never intentionally trying to tick you off---and if he's being cute...well that's not too intentional either. They're trying to learn our language just as much as we're trying to learn theirs. To get a head start, here are a few basics that will hopefully save you and your dog some frustrating initial training sessions and/or future headaches.
    Brotherly Love
    Basil & Leo

    1. Dogs are pack animals. It's one of the reasons we love them so much. They love giving and receiving attention as much as we do. The key difference is how we humans have structured our societal/cultural norms and mistakenly expect the same of our dogs. Where we tout egalitarianism and strive for equality, dogs still work (and thrive) within the medieval norms of hierarchy. Dogs are most content when they know where exactly they stand in the pack order. Discipline and consistency will help him learn that you are his alpha. Even when your heart breaks a little each time you discipline him, just keep in mind that he's going to be happier in the long run. When the pack order is ambiguous and uncertain, it'll be exhausting for your dog to constantly try to figure out where his place is in your home. This can also lead to behavioral problems later when you're attempting to train a dog who doesn't respect you.

    Say Uncle!
    Wallie & Leo
    No, Really...Say UNCLE!
    Wallie & Lexi

    Chillin' with the gang
    Leo, Mocha, Lexi, Basil, & Wallie

    Saturday, March 5, 2011

    You Had Me At Ruff

    I first met Leo, my Chow Chow/Collie/Lab mix, almost a year ago at a local shelter. He was a tiny squirmy fluff ball who was apparently still learning the art of balance and coordination as he flopped and tripped his way over to me to say hello. Needless to say, I was smitten. I took him home the next day, and it's been a blast having him in my life ever since!

    Bringing Leo into my life wasn't always easy, but after learning lessons and making mistakes, we've picked up some cool tips, tricks, & friends we'd love to share! From learning to swim to choosing the funnest toys, hopefully our bag of tricks can save you some time, effort, and/or money!

    Below is the most basic recipe for a happy healthy dog that any dog lover already knows by heart.



    5 cups love
    1 cup exercise
    1 cup food
    1 cup discipline
    8 tbsp patience
    4 tbsp shelter
    2 tsp mental stimulation
    3/4 tsp vaccinations & checkups
    a pinch of pleasant surprises


    Mix constantly and consistently, and add a dash of flavor with some pleasant surprises and tricks!

    Happy playtime! :) :) Thanks for stopping by. We hope to see you soon.