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Dog games to buy for your dog this Christmas

December 7, 2014 17 comments

A few people have sent me notes and private messages inquiring about the games I play with my dogs. They wanted to know what game or games would for their dog(s). I know Christmas is coming up, so I thought I would at least share my own experience with some of the games I have and tell you which ones I want to get next.

Trixie Chess Game

UntitledThe Chess Game by Trixie was the first game I ever purchased for my dogs. I thought it would be a difficult one  for them to figure out (it was labeled Level 3), and it was, but only for a short time. Cupcake was the first to figure out that there were treats under those golden cups, but it wasn’t long before Jasper and Daisy did too.

It was also Cupcake (Master Puzzle-solver) who first figured out that the red blocks slid sideways, and that they hid even more treats. She loves this puzzle, but mostly because it is so easy for her now.

I love this toy because it got my dogs started on puzzles. I also love it because it helped Daisy to gain confidence. When I first tried this puzzle with Daisy she was skittish and jumpy and nervous. She needed a lot of encouragement to keep trying, but she never stopped trying. Now she is a quick as Cupcake at solving it and she loves it just as much as Cupcake does.

My opinion? A great puzzle to start out on. If your dogs are a little more shy or tentative, this is a great one to start on. It’s also a great game for beginner dog gamers.

 

He is not going to let the game beat him. 😄Nina Ottosson Dog Tornado 

The next game I purchased for the dogs was the Nina Ottosson Dog Tornado Interactive Dog Toy. I was lucky this time because I was able to let my dogs try it out before I purchased it. The toy has 3 levels, with each containing 4 spots in which to place a treat. Each level spins around to reveal the treat. Dogs can nudge or paw each level to get it to move. The game also has 4 bone-shaped cups that can cover any one of the treat spots and prevent them from moving on to the next level until the cups are removed.

I love this toy because it allows me to increase or decrease the complexity of the puzzle based on which dog is doing it. For Maggie, I can leave it at its easiest level (no cups) and help encourage her to solve it on her own. For Daisy Game night!and Cupcake, I increase the difficulty by placing the bone cups on the higher levels so they can get them out. Jasper seems to have become more of a pro at this one, so I put the cups in the middle level and on the bottom so he really has to work to remove them and get to the treats.

There is only one thing I don’t like about this toy and that is the bone cups themselves. They are smooth and difficult to get out (especially for Cupcake with her limited teeth) because they slip out of their mouths so easily. If they had groves in them it would be easier but I still love this game a lot. I just put them upside down for Cupcake, so they are not a deterrent to the fun.

My opinion? A great game for beginners and intermediate dog gamers. The ability to make it easy or more difficult is fun for me and my dogs. They love this game.

 

The best way to solve a puzzle is to chew it up until the chicken falls out. 😄 #doggamesNina Ottosson Dog Twister

The most recent game I purchased for Jasper, Daisy and Cupcake is the Nina Ottosson Dog Twister Interactive game. By far, this is the hardest dog game we have in the house. I know for sure this is true because more than once Daisy has given up and tried to chew it apart just so she can get to the treats!

The Dog Twister is made up of ten sliding pie pieces within a circle frame. Each pie piece hides a spot in which to hide treats. A dog must slide each pie piece in order to reveal the treat hidden underneath.Can you help me mom? This one is hard! #doggames

Sounds easy right? Not quite. The game also comes with twelve bone inserts that can be used to prevent a dog from moving the pie pieces. The only way to move a pie piece after that is to remove the bone(s).  As the game master, you can put in one to two bones or all twelve and increase the difficulty of the game.

My dog love this one, but are also easily frustrated by it, so I help them out on this one quite a bit. So far, the only one to figure out that the bone pieces need to be removed is Daisy, and even she is hit or miss on this. I started all four dogs out with no bone pieces and have now worked up to two, with help from mom.

My opinion? This game might be a better choice for a more experienced dog gamer. If you want a game that your dog can grow into over time, this might be the game for you, but I think I would start with an easier one for dogs who are new to dog games.

Future game purchases

There are quite a few other dog games out there ranging from easy to more difficult. Amazon has quite a few of them. I already have my eye on a few more that I want to try out with my dogs.

Trixie Mad Scientist

Tribe Mad Scientist for Dogs

Number one on my list is the Trixie Mad Scientist for Dogs. This one requires that treats are placed in the beaker-shaped modules suspended above the game’s base. In order for a dog to get the treats out, he must spin the bottles with his nose. I think Jasper would really love this one. They say it is a Level Two game, but I have a feeling it will be more difficult for all my dogs.

Trixie Gambling TowerThe other game I am looking to buy is the Trixie Gambling Tower. This one requires a dog to pull pieces out with their teeth and to remove cups to get to the treats. This game is labeled Level 1 (Easy), but I still think it would be a fun one to do with my dogs. This is a great one for beginning dog gamers too.

Whatever toy you decide to get your pet, make sure it is fun for them and you. Give your dog time to figure it out on her own, but if you see her becoming frustrated, help her out.  I promise you, you won’t be giving her the solution to the whole puzzle. I have shown my dogs how to do something on each of their puzzles and they rarely take that information and use it again the next time.

I hope you all have a great time! Let me know how it goes!

(Side note: I was in Petco this weekend to get new leashes and they had a whole wall dedicated to dog toys! You don’t have to wait for it to be delivered. You can go get one now. )

Yes. I tend to go a little overboard for my dogs. Am I alone?

November 30, 2014 29 comments

If you ask, I am sure many people would tell you that I tend to go a little overboard where my pets are concerned. (I know for sure my family would!) I tend to buy them things that I think will enrich their lives and make them happy.

I think in the case of my dogs, I wanted to make up for the bad lives they had early on. I also want them to have lives that is enriched by a wide variety of fun experiences. (What’s the fun in having a dog if you can’t enjoy the fun they have with you?)

So while I do have a logic behind what I do for my pets, I also know that I am not the norm.

After all, I …

Buy dog games for my dogs, just so they can work their brains on a cold winter’s night.

Waiting his turn

Can you help me mom? This one is hard! #doggames

Game night!

Have at least 20 tennis balls so my crazy Sheltie has plenty to play with throughout the year.

Ball in play #Sheltie

Jasper action shot

A morning walk alongside the Mississippi River with my sister and dogs. Jasper had fun. :)

Purchased a leather couch immediately after the last one got rained on (don’t ask) just so my puppy mill girl, Daisy, could have her “safe place” back again.
A rare moment. She let me take pictures of her.

Take my dogs to a wide variety of parks so they can explore something new and different.

Cupcake and Jasper on the footbridge. #lebanonhills #mn

Photobomb. Courtesy of Jasper.

I'm going in #Daisy

Hello turtle! #nature #sheltie #turtle

Hide treats in the yard so my dogs can have fun using their noses and their brains to find them.

Is there something in there? #doggames

I think there’s a treat in there.

Cupcake smells cheese. #doggames

Maybe the treat is in here!

I think mom his some treats under here. #doggames

Yup. There is most definitely a treat in there.

Even placed a step stool next to my tall bed just so my dogs can come up when they want.

The bed and the step up.

But this weekend I think I may have gone a little overboard (even for me). On a trip to Costco I found a dog bed that was the absolute ultimate in dog bed luxury.

How could I resist?

It contains orthopedic memory foam with cooling gel and has a plush pillow top cover. It’s softer than a baby’s bottom and it is so squish-able, in that memory foam kind of way, that even I want to lie down on it.

It’s too bad I didn’t think about the size. Hmmm… crazy? Overboard?

Maggie on the new dog bed.

So, what over-the top-kind of thing have you done for your pet(s)?

Rabies Vaccinations – Caring for Critters

October 20, 2014 15 comments

Caring-For-Critters2-400Due to computer issues (a crashing hard drive), I was unable to participate in the Caring For Critters Round Robin at my assigned time. My sincere apologies to Jodi from Heart Like a Dog for this.

I had planned to write about pancreatitis, but changed my mind at the last minute and decided to write about canine vaccinations.

Let me state up front, I am not one of those people who is going to tell you to avoid vaccinating your pet. While I may believe that we are over-vaccinating our pets, I am not someone who believes we should skip them altogether. The risks are too great to assume we know better than our veterinarians.

Instead, I want to share my own experience with vaccinations and what I do now to, hopefully, prevent the same thing from happening again.

Indy

Indy was the very first dog I had ever adopted. She came into my life at a time when I was really missing my childhood dog, Alicia. Adopting a new dog after losing one that had been a part of my life for 15 years was hard, but saying yes to adopting Indy was never in question. She picked me as much as I picked her.

IndyIndy was a Shepherd/Collie mix and the absolutely perfect dog one could ever have. She was well-trained, attentive, smart, a quick learner and very, very sweet. I loved her with my whole heart. Some of my favorite memories of her are of our walks together in the woods. I used to love hearing her rumble up behind me to catch up after she had stopped to sniff something alongside the trail. The sound of her thundering feet when she ran, the smile on her face when she knew we were heading out on the trail, and the swish of her tail in complete happiness; these were all things I loved about her. She was a very special dog.

Like most pet owners, I was diligent about getting Indy in for her vaccinations and yearly check ups. When she was 9 years old, I brought her in for her usual vet visit. Everything that visit was normal, completely normal, even the vaccination portion of the visit. Indy received all her vaccinations at once – rabies, canine parvovirus, distemper and bordatella, and appeared to be fine. But, as it turned out, all was not fine.

The next morning Indy had a major seizure and was rushed to the vet and then on to the emergency vet. She had to be given Valium to stop another seizure and to let her body rest. The vets suspected that Indy was having a reaction to the vaccinations she had been given the day before. The rabies vaccine seemed to be one of greatest concern.

Indy spent the night at the emergency vet so they could observe her in case she were to have another seizure. She was released the next day – groggy and disoriented.

At home, she recovered quickly and soon we were taking our walks in the woods again. All was well.

Until the next month.

Indy 2Indy had another seizure. We made another trip to the vet, but by then she seemed to have recovered. I was given a Valium pill to take home with me as a precaution. I was nervous and afraid and worried. The next month, Indy had yet another seizure, and then another one the month after that. As the months went one, Indy’s seizures increased in frequency. Now they were every 3 weeks, then every two and finally every week.

Each time she came out of it extremely disoriented and unable to really understand me. She would stumble around the house, despite our best efforts to keep her lying down. She would eventually collapse on the floor and sometimes drool. Often she would sleep the rest of the day, her body exhausted from the seizure. Sometimes she had accidents as her body was wracked by the seizure. It was so sad to see her this way.

When her seizures became more frequent (every other day), we made the difficult decision to say goodbye. It was probably one of the most difficult decisions I have ever had to make.  She was one of the best dogs a girl could ever want.

In every other way, Indy was a healthy 10-year-old dog, but her quality of life was not what it had been. She was not the happy dog she used to be. Each seizure seemed to take something from her, leaving a confused empty shell of a dog behind. We said good-bye with her lying in my arms.

What I learned

What I did not know then but I know now is that the rabies vaccine can cause serious side effects. It is also the one that can be the hardest on your dog’s system. The vaccine stimulates an animal’s immune system in order to create protection from specific infectious diseases. This can create mild symptoms, ranging from soreness at the injection site to fever and allergic reactions, to severe reactions like seizures, muscle weakness, autoimmune diseases, etc. Because of the virulence of the rabies vaccination, it is best to avoid giving it with the other vaccinations.

Don’t give any other vaccination in combination with the rabies shot. Veterinarians have reported that risk of reaction increases with the number of vaccinations given. Request that your veterinarian not give your dog a combination shot and wait a few weeks before giving another vaccination.

 

What I do now 

I can never know for sure that it was the rabies vaccine that caused Indy’s seizures, but in all likelihood it was the culprit. Although it is not a an experience I ever wanted, my experience with Indy did teach me a lesson I will carry with me the rest of my life  – my dogs will always receive the rabies vaccine separately from the rest of their vaccinations. It is not an option for me.

My vet is aware of my concerns and supports me fully. We usually schedule my dog’s rabies vaccinations so they are 3 weeks before or after their other core vaccinations. This may be a slightly more expensive route to go, but the peace of mind I get in return is worth it. Does this mean none of my dogs will ever experience what Indy went through? No. I know there is never a guarantee of that, but it does make me feel like I am doing everything I can to reduce the chances it will happen again. Titers are another route to go if you choose to do so. I have chosen not to do so. Yet.

Disclosure: Please keep in mind that while I have consulted professionals regarding Indy’s care, this post is not advice on how to heal your pet, but more of a cautionary tale that may be worth heeding.  As always, please consult your vet before making any health decisions for your pets.

This post is part of the Caring for Critters Round Robin hosted by Heart Like a Dog. You can find a huge list of helpful posts about a variety of pet illnesses and needs by clicking on the image above. Check out last yesterday’s post from Cascadian Nomads on the dangers of Salmon poisoning. 

Giving my dogs a Christmas gift really want

December 10, 2013 17 comments

Daisy and her Woobie

Daisy and her Woobie

If you celebrate Christmas then I am guessing many of  you will be buying a gift or two for your dogs in the coming weeks. I’ve been debating whether or not I will be doing the same.

Two years ago I chose not to buy my dogs any gifts because they already had SO many toys in their toy basket. Then last year, I broke down and purchased a new Woobie for Daisy (that Jasper destroyed fairly quickly), some stuff-less squeaky toys for Cupcake (that she still has and loves) and new Kong Squeaky balls for Jasper (one of which still survives) for Christmas.

This year I am leaning towards not buying them any more toys. Don’t get me wrong, my dogs would be happy to have a new toy to play with, but they also wouldn’t mind not getting toys either. The things that make my dogs most happy are not “things.” They love what cannot be bought. So this year I am thinking I will give them more of what they really want:

  1. Longer walks in the park.
  2. Longer walks in new parks.
  3. More time learning new tricks and commands.
  4. More time playing outside in the snow.
  5. More time cuddling and playing inside (when it’s cold).

What are you getting your dogs (and cats) this year?

 

There may not be any of this going on this year, but maybe that’s okay.

A Pet Sitter’s Review: Dynamo Dog Treats

November 5, 2013 11 comments

IMG_9468Back when I was a pet sitter, I was known for carrying a treat pouch with me everywhere I went. The dogs knew it, their humans knew it, even the neighborhood dogs knew it.

There were several reason I did this:

  1. To mark a desired behavior (like loose-leash walking) in one of my doggie clients while out on our walks.
  2. To train new dog tricks to some of my doggie clients (like the adorable Teddy) as a way to add a little variety to our walks.
  3. To toss to an oncoming dog who may be a threat to my client. (I even threw the whole pouch at a dog just to slow her down!)

I always felt like I was prepared when I had my treat pouch with me.

One of the treats I used to use most often (and still use) was Cloud Star Soft and Chewy Buddy Biscuits. I originally hose them because they are a high quality treat that is made in the U.S.A. by a family owned business and because they are grain-free (no corn!) and do not include artificial preservatives, but I soon realized that they were also a high-value treat for almost all my doggie clients. Dogs love them, including my own dogs.Dynamo dog hip and joint

So when I was asked if I would be interested in reviewing the latest Cloud Star dog treats, I (of course) said yes.  I don’t often do product reviews, but this one I was happy to do because they are a company I trust and one I have purchased from many times before.

Our dog park friend. He loved them so much he tried to get some from me a week later.

Our dog park friend. He loved them so much he tried to get some from me a week later.

Our box of treats arrived on the same day I purchased a new bag of Soft and Chewy Buddy Biscuits at the pet food store. It made me laugh. What are the chances?

I opened the box to see a new line Cloud Star dog treats called Dynamo Dog. All the bags were clearly labeled and indicated they were grain free on the package. They also clearly identified a specific dog need they were designed to meet. The four bags in the box were:

  • Hip and Jointmade with Bacon and Cheese, contains Glucosamine HCL and Chondroitin Sulfate.
  • Hip and Jointmade with Chicken, contains Glucosamine HCL and Chondroitin Sulfate.
  • Tummy treats, made with Pumpkin and Ginger (both of which are great for dogs), contain several types of probiotics to help create good bacteria in a dog’s tummy.
  • Skin and Coatmade with Salmon, contains Vitamin E to help with the skin and coat.

I started my dogs off with the Tummy treats the first night. They were an absolute hit!  I laughed as my dogs offered me all sorts of behaviors (downs, sit, watch me, turn, etc.) just so they could get a treat. They loved them.

Dynamo Dog Body and coatWe tried them again at the dog park the next day. They were a hit there as well. I was starting to feel like the Pied Piper after a while because I had so many dogs coming back to me for more! One dog actually came back to me today (several times) looking for more treats! Clearly, the dogs loved them.

We have since tried the Hip and Joint and the Skin and Coat. All have been popular with my dogs and the dogs at the dog park. I even used them in the dog’s chess game to see if they could find them quicker. They did.

We’ll be buying these treats again.

Update: I came home yesterday to torn up packages of Dynamo Dog Treats. The bags were already empty, but clearly the dogs love them. :)

IMG_9469

The demise of Daylight Saving Time and the Dawn of Dog Game Nights

October 28, 2013 14 comments

IMG_8929It’s getting to be that time of year again. The time when darkness pervades our mornings and our nights and Daylight Saving Time (DST) ends. it’s my least favorite time of year because it means the dogs and I will be relegated to walking in the dark or just on weekends.

Cupcake is a pro at Chess

Cupcake is a pro at Chess

If I lived in Arizona or Hawaii or Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands, I wouldn’t have to set my clock back at all and the dogs and I could walk in the morning. But since we live in Minnesota, and no one has seen fit to get rid of this archaic and outdated policy, we will be making the best of it by playing dog puzzles and other silly games.

Truthfully, the dogs actually love our dog game nights. They look forward to taking their turn at finding treats in the dog chess game or digging a Kong out of a box and taking it out of a sock. It’s a challenge and something different and interesting for them to do.

Cupcake has gotten especially good at playing dog chess, so I am thinking it may be time to try some new games. Here are just a few I am looking at. Have any of you tried these? I would love your opinion on which ones might be a challenge for my little dog prodigy.

Nina Ottosson Brick Game

Nina Ottosson Brick Interactive Toy

Nina Ottosson Dog Tornado  Interactive Toy

Nina Ottosson Dog Tornado Interactive Toy

Nina Ottosson Dog Turbo Interactive Toy

Nina Ottosson Dog Turbo Interactive Toy

Hagen Dogit Mind Games

Hagen Dogit Mind Games 3-in-1 Interactive Smart Toy for Dogs

Operation Thundershirt gets underway

July 1, 2013 35 comments

IMG_4514Operation Thundershirt has officially begun at Casa del Mel. On Saturday evening the first real barrage of fireworks mayhem began. Unlike many of the ones I usually hear at this time of year, these were pretty mild, but it didn’t matter because Daisy was already in full fear overload. It was time to bring out the Thundershirt.

This time of year can be very frustrating for me and very stressful for Daisy. As a fourth of July baby, you would think I would be a lover of all things fireworks. Um no. Not so much really.Even as a baby my mother said I would cry when fireworks began. Like Daisy, the noise hurt my ears.

I am not opposed to people having fun with fireworks, but the constant barrage over the days and weeks before and after the 4th of July can be a bit much. On top of that is the randomness in which they occur. Day or night, I never know when someone will set off the odd bottle rocket or the humongously loud firework that booms with such intensity one has to wonder if they wouldn’t be better suited for a city’s firework’s display than a small cozy little neighborhood.

I feel fortunate that I only have one dog who is inconsolable this time of year (instead of three), but it doesn’t lessen the stress we all feel as Daisy deals with her fears. The Thundershirt helps, but  it isn’t a cure-all. Unlike thunderstorms, where the Thundershirt will calm Daisy so much she will go back to her kennel and fall asleep, fireworks are much more nerve-wracking for her. At best, I can hope it will take the edge off and make her less jumpy and less unsettled. Often, I just have to settle for cuddling with her and soothing her with my touch or voice. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

Last night was one of little success. Even with her Thundershirt on, Daisy was displaying all of the signs of a dog with a sound phobia:

  • Excessively panting
  • Pacing
  • Shaking
  • Curling up into a tiny little ball
  • Getting as close to me as possible and hiding her head in my lap
  • Refusing to go outside as soon as the sun started to go down
  • Unable to leave my side when she does get outside
  • Jumped at the slightest noise or movement (often unrelated to fireworks)
  • Inability to sleep or relax

It was only when the noises stopped that she fell asleep. Thank goodness they stopped fairly early. I cannot not hope that this will be the case as we get closer to the 4th.

Operation Thundershirt is underway, but Operation Melatonin may have to be implemented as a supplementary action. How are you and your dogs faring out there? Are you having much success calming your dogs this time of year?

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