Friday, February 26, 2016

Fit Friday: Disc

Koira loves playing disc. She goes totally bonkers for it. But wet, soggy, slippery ground is too dangerous to play on for a dog who will push through anything when motivated, so we haven't played in quite a while. Luckily for her, the sun came out for the past week and dried everything up enough that we could play disc a bit at the park this week.

She bounced this one off her nose and then scrambled to grab it again.

I knew we hadn't played in a while, and even though we have tried to stay active this winter, it isn't the same as what she does while playing disc. There are some things you can, and should, do to help keep your dog safe while playing disc.

Early drop throw, it hit the ground before she got to it.

To try to keep the session as safe as possible, I did a few things. One, I worked a few years ago on improving my throws without Koira there. Throwing consistent and safe throws is essential to keeping your dog safe while playing this game. I have heard of more torn ACLs from bad catches/landings playing disc than any one other incident. The best throws for dogs are long and low with a good bit of lift, so the disc isn't traveling super fast and isn't diving straight into the ground. Dangerous throws are the ones that go high and cut to the side or drop abruptly, causing the dog to change directions suddenly or leap in ways where they can't land properly. And some dogs do really bad with "floaters" which are throws where the disc is super slow and lets the dog outrun and get underneath it. It is a delicate balance of having it slow and low enough, but not TOO slow and low. Everyone has bad throws sometimes, and you can't control a sudden gust of wind, but you can greatly improve your dog's safety in this game by practicing without your dog until you can pretty consistently get throws that are going to be safe to chase, catch, and land for your dog.


Since we hadn't played in a while, I also made sure to enforce breaks. We would do a few throws, and then do some downs, some posing for the camera, etc. In the middle of this disc session was when we did our photos for the Zukes Z-Bones we reviewed earlier this week. The short breathers helped keep her from getting tired and sloppy and increasing her risk of injury.


Something else I have been working on is getting rid of the crazy bonkers part of Koira's response to discs. It is great that she loves the game, but it is not great if she body slams, grabs discs while they are in my hand, goes after someone else's disc, etc. And those are things she always used to do. Luckily, keeping her from going after other people's discs was an easy fix, and was mostly just reinforcing her recall and leave it when she was excited. Now, we can go walk the paths through the disc golf course without her even looking at their discs. In fact, we had disc golfers playing through this field the entire time we were there, and she never once tried to go for their discs.

I've had these discs for something like 4-5 years and they have barely a dent in them. They are these Hero Discs.

As for the rest of it, we have been working on a lot of impulse control in various settings. Having her down before she gets to have a toy thrown, heeling while I hold a toy visible and within reach on that side (we do an off-side heel, so, on the right). She likes to lunge for the toy that is within reach, but we've managed, over time, to reduce that to almost nothing, though she will occasionally still try a snatch if she is really really up. Teaching her an off side heel gave her an alternative to body slamming or circling manically trying to get to the toy. I can now walk her to the park with a ball or disk or chuckit in my hand without issue.

Practicing down-stays as a means of taking a break between throws

The one thing that we still have problems with is her drop when she is excited. So we play with two discs, I throw one for her, and then have another one ready to throw when she gets back. When she naturally drops the first one, I give her the drop cue (out), and I have some hope that by reinforcing her dropping the disc by throwing the next one, it will help reinforce that cue even when she is in a high state of arousal.

Working on our down stays benefits in multiple ways. She takes a break so she doesn't get tired and sloppy going solid, she gets to work her brain a little and come out of hyper arousal states, and we get to take adorable pictures.

All of this said, we stayed at the park too long that day. When we finished up and headed home, Koira had a very slight limp going on. That night, she was pretty stiff. I have some vetprofen on hand for when we do a lot of activity and she needs a little bit of an anti inflammatory, mostly during flyball weekends. By the next day she was fine with no signs of a limp, but it reminded me that even if she acts young, she is 8, and she does have a lot of old injuries that can flare up and cause soreness. We took it easy the next day, and then did a shorter disc session, with more breaks for heeling and stay work and trick training in between throws, the day after that, and had no signs of soreness.

Feb 25th-9318
A tired dog is a happy dog.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Spring has Sprung in Oregon

I think spring has officially sprung in Oregon.

Feb 25th-9281

Our morning walks are filled with flowers.

Feb 25th-9285

Most of this week has been full sun and in the upper 50s or lower 60s.

Feb 25th-9282

I think it is safe to say we are enjoying it. The rain is supposed to be back starting tomorrow, but I think we are well on our way to spring.

Feb 25th-9309

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

February is Pet Dental Month

This month, to celebrate Pet Dental Month, sent us Zukes Z-Bones to try out. They are a dental chew meant to help keep dogs' teeth free of tartar. As usual, while I did get this product for free to try out, all opinions shared are entirely our own, and we were not compensated in any other way.

Chewy Z Bones-9113
She's a little drooly and foamy from playing frisbee before our shoot

I've actually been using the Z-Bones as a treat when Koira gets in the car. I hand them to her shortly before we reach the "scary" part of the drive (roads over 35 mph) to try to help her stay calm while traveling. The Z-Bone doesn't last too long, maybe 2-3 minutes, but it is longer than handing her a small training treat. I do really think it has helped distract her during the scary transition part of the drive, and is hopefully helping her associate driving faster roads with good things rather than scary things (though she has such long lasting, ingrained fears I don't expect a magical cure, just a slightly better than it was before change).

Chewy Z Bones-9115
Perfect barbell balance

I'm not totally sure how well the Z-Bones work for cleaning teeth. I've always sort of felt that if food items could be used to effectively clean teeth, we would have teeth cleaning chews for humans too. That said, I don't think it hurts at all, and for all I know, it does help. Koira's teeth are in really good condition for being 8 years old, and she only had a teeth cleaning once, last year, which we did because she was under anyway to get her canine out, so the extra $60 or so seemed like, why not.

Chewy Z Bones-9117
If you look close, you can see the Z-Bone on her nose

The Z-Bones do smell delicious, and Koira seems to like them. I think I will plan on continuing to use them in the car, at least for a while, and if they help her teeth as well as making her less freaked in the car, that would be great.

Chewy Z Bones-9120
Om Nom Nom

Friday, February 19, 2016

Fit Dog Friday: Car Safety

Keeping your dog fit and active is important. Slim, well muscled, and with enough endurance to go out and do most anything with minimal risk of injury.

Impact Kennel
But part of keeping your dog fit, active, and uninjured is how you travel with them. Where does your dog sit in the car? Do they ride shotgun, in the back seat, in a seat belt, in a crate? Where your dog is in your car, and how they are restrained, can have a huge impact on their safety if an accident happens.

Gunner Kennel
For years, I let my dogs ride loose in the car. Koira always chose to burrow down onto the floorboards behind the driver's seat, and that seemed like a safe enough place to be. Pallo was good about staying put in his bed on the back seat. Neither of the dogs interfered with my driving or caused distractions to me while driving. But that doesn't mean they would have been safe in an accident, and I had to own up to that. I've seen way too many "lost dog" posts on Facebook where someone gets into a car accident and the dog or dogs in the vehicle get loose and bolt, terrified. And who could blame them. But too often those dogs are injured or killed, not in the accident, but from running loose afterwards. Or sometimes they are just never found, which is heartbreaking in a totally different way.

Ruff Tough Kennel
You can research this subject to death, and at the end of it, you will find that there are things you can do to increase safety, but that at the end of the day, riding in cars is dangerous. That applies to humans too. You can be as safe as you possibly can be, but that will not guarantee that nothing bad will happen. Cars are dangerous. All we can do is minimize the risks.

The safest place for your dog is in a properly secured, crash tested crate, within the passenger compartment of your vehicle. There are crash tested crates out there, and they range from kind of expensive to selling your first born child to afford. Variocage, Impact, Gunner, and Ruff Tough Kennels are probably the four I hear about the most, and that have the best ratings. Many people will also choose to go custom, having a metal worker/welder create a customized crate that perfectly fits their car and their dogs. As long as these crates are properly secured, they are the safest option for your dog. Which one you would get would depend a lot on your car, your dog, and your budget. Just because Variocage has the best ratings doesn't mean they have one that will fit into your car, or fit into your budget.

This is my current car set up. I just rearranged things a little bit a couple days ago, and am so far liking the new set up.

My car is a two door hatchback, so Koira enters the car through my door

Her kennel is in the back seat and is secured as well as covered with a blanket

These beds are here for her if she is left in the parked car, such as during flyball practice. She does not ride in these while the car is moving- if the car is moving, she is in her crate with the door closed. 

There are more things I would like to do. I would first like to save up for and purchase a Ruff Tough Kennel. The appeal of the Ruff Tough Kennel above the other crash tested crates available is two fold for me. The first is that it can actually fit in my car. Since most crash tested kennels are rigid, they can be difficult to get through a small space. The medium size RTK can fit through the front door into the back seat of my car with a little effort, which isn't true of the other kennels. Well, a Variocage would fit (because it comes in pieces that you assemble yourself), but it wouldn't be able to be properly secured since it is supposed to be against the seat back of the back seats. My hatch doesn't have enough room for a Variocage large enough to fit Koira, and even if it did, I am leery of putting a dog, even in a highly rated kennel, in the crumple zones of a car.

The other plus for the RTK is that it is more affordable than pretty much all of the other options. It has downsides, yes, and isn't super affordable ($179 for the size I need), but it is the one that is the most likely to work for us. In the meantime, though, using A crate is better than using NO crate, even if it isn't THE PERFECT crate.

If a crate isn't an option for some reason (space, dog's behavior, etc), a crash tested harness is the next best thing. Sleepypod, Kurgo, and AllSafe are the harness names that most often come up for a crash tested harness. Kurgo is the most affordable of the harness options, followed by Allsafe, and then Sleepypod. Of course, Sleepypod is also the top rated harness.

Sleepypod Harness
 Sleepypod does have the highest rated harness on the market right now, and it is good for dogs up to 90 lbs. So if you drive a small car that doesn't have physical room for your large dog, but you want a restraint option for your dog, the Sleepypod is a great choice. They actually do make an excellent crash tested crate as well, but it is for pets up to 15 lbs, which makes it not an option for most dog owners (unfortunately, since it is the one I would love to have).

AllSafe harness
 I've never used the AllSafe harness, but have heard good things about it. It is supposedly the most crash tested harness on the market.

Kurgo Harness
The Kurgo harness is the cheapest of the crash tested harnesses that I am familiar with. It is actually what Pallo currently uses. All of the adjustments and clips are metal, not plastic, and are made to hold in an accident. I reviewed this harness last summer and was pleased with it.

The point of a harness is twofold- it keeps your dog from doing something while you are driving that distracts you, like jumping on your lap, but it also tethers your dog to the car, so they cannot run loose after a crash. They also act somewhat like a seat belt does for humans, by preventing the dog from becoming a projectile, which can be bad for both the dog and the humans in the accident if it happens.

This is a long post, so I'll wrap it up. Crate if you can. Buy the highest quality crate that will work for your dog, your car, and your budget. If you can't crate, use a car harness to help protect your dog and yourself in case of an accident.

I also highly recommend that you have a contact number on your dog's tags for someone other than yourself who you would trust to make medical decisions for your dog in case you are injured beyond the ability to do so yourself. I also personally wear a Road ID, with my name, date of birth, three emergency contact numbers, my personal allergies, and the note "dog is with me" so first responders will know that a loose dog on the scene is mine and hopefully make an effort to corral it, or at least let my emergency contacts know about the dog. I wear my Road ID 24/7, and rely on it being my way of contacting the people I care about to take care of me and my pets should something happen- you don't want to be Jane Doe or John Doe after an accident if your ID isn't on you or can't be found.

Road ID has a lot of different options.

Moral of the story- do what you can to keep your dog safe and secure in your vehicle in case of an accident.

None of these companies gave me anything to write this, and they are totally unaware that I am writing it. If you purchase a Road ID through the link above, I do get some credit towards product for referring a friend, but that is the only form of compensation I would get for anything in this post. Of course, if any of these manufacturers would like send me a product to review, I would love to talk to them.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

WW: Oregon Coast Aquarium


With the high surf warnings at the coast on my birthday, I decided to come up with an alternative plan. We went out and hiked at Mike Miller, and took a peek at the beach (while staying up on the dunes for safety), and then, since it had been forever since either me or my mom had been to the Oregon Coast Aquarium, we headed over there. (Did you know you get into the Aquarium for free on your birthday?! I didn't before this year!)






Not pictured are the otters (who we got to see get fed, which was adorable and fun, since they did some positive reinforcement training with them during feeding time), seals, sea lions, octopus, sharks, various fish, treasure ships, etc, that were all there and fun to see, but hard or impossible to get a good photo of.

Newport Bay Bridge, taken from the south side of the bay

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Caturday Saturday

I did already post one review for in January. But, I was lucky enough to receive two products from Chewy to review last month, and managed to totally space out on getting the second review done until I looked at my supply of canned cat food and saw the ZiwiPeak sitting there!

But I figure, late is better than never, right?

So while in January the dogs got to test out a kibble toy (with the assistance of Bugsy and Thimble), the cats got to try out some ZiwiPeak canned cat food. It also happened that it was time to deworm the cats. Lucky for me, Theodore Trex actually is easy to give pills and medication to. You just hold onto him, pop it into the back of his mouth, and he swallows it down no problem. Martha, on the other hand, has other ideas about taking pills. So after about the fifth time Marthe spit the nasty, crumbly, coming apart pill back out, I opened up a can of ZiwiPeak and coated the pill in it, and tried again. And while she still didn't seem particularly pleased with the situation, she actually swallowed the pill, so I call that success. After both cats were wormed, I split the rest of the can between them as a reward and as an apology, and they seemed to take it as the peace offering that it was.

Overall, I would say both of my cats were big fans of this food. They get a mix of dry kibbles, raw, and canned food. There are a few canned foods that they don't care for at all. Martha is picky about texture on some of them (especially the gravy-and-chunks style wet foods), but this food seemed like a pretty big hit. Plus, the ingredient list is pretty excellent, meaning that I am happy to have it in our regular food rotation.

Disclaimer from Chewy's Legal Team:
Because we like to be truthful and honest with all of our customers, we ask that bloggers who receive free samples and other goodies from us in exchange for a product review, acknowledge in any related comment or post that you received the product free of charge. We also ask that any non-opinion, factual claims you make about the product be truthful and consistent with the product information sheets provided to you or found on the manufacturer’s website. We encourage you to share your honest experience and opinion with your readers and we will never direct, alter or edit your content in any way

Friday, February 12, 2016

Coast Hike

Every year, I go to the coast for my birthday. It has been something of a tradition for years now. This year, there was a high surf warning. Basically, that means stay off the beach so you don't get killed by 15 foot waves throwing huge logs at you. I debated coming up with a different plan, but ultimately decided that there is a lot more to do on the Oregon Coast than just walking on the beach. My mom found a nice short hike at a park called Mike Miller, which is just south of Newport, near South Beach, the aquarium, and Rogue Brewery.


The trail may have only been about a mile long, but it was through a beautiful coastal forest. Lots of ups and downs, and lots of tree roots through the trails.


The park is through an old growth spruce forest. Spruce used to make up most of the forests in this part of Oregon, but when spruce forests were logged clear, they were replanted with faster-growing fir trees, causing fir forests to become the new normal.


Part of the trail was closed due to danger of falling trees, so we only did one trail loop. I would like to go back in the future and walk the rest of the trail, because the part we saw was gorgeous. The whole time I was walking through it, I kept thinking what a classic Oregon forest it is. It looks and even smells like Oregon.


Of course, even with the high surf warnings, we had to go take a peak at the ocean. We went to South Beach State Park and took one of the trails through the coastal pine forest along the land side of the dunes. It was low tide, so a good deal of the beach was exposed, and without anything for scale, the waves weren't all that impressive, so I didn't even really take any pictures of them. I did get one that I like (even if it is just a tad bit out of focus) of Koira headed toward the beach through the dunes, though.


And a final shot of me and Koira on the beach. I turned 29 that day, and it marked 8 years since I brought Koira home as a tiny, 8 week old pup. I am hoping for many more years to come.


Tragic news from one of my flyball teammates, who lost her young, active dog to a horrible accident yesterday, really reinforces my desire to spend time with my dog, do fun things together, and to make sure I have pictures of us together. You never know how much time you will have. But I know no matter what, I will want to look back on the great times we've had together.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Wordless Wednesday: Fleece Jumpsuit


For my birthday last week, I went out and spent a few days with my mom. One of the things we did was finish this sewing project for Koira- a custom fitted fleece jumpsuit. It is super soft on the inside, shiny on the outside, and water resistant. A zipper added on the top from her neck to halfway down her back makes it easy to put on and take off.

The zipper causes the lumps on the back of the jumpsuit when Koira holds her head high.