Good Dog: Behavior & Training
What non-essential dog items do you love?
As I get older I value my comfort just a little more. I appreciate cup holders, soft cozy blankets, and chairs whose designers were inspired by the human body rather than thoughts of fitting 100 chairs in a storage closet. When it comes to dogs, little luxuries mean more to me, too. Just today I walked dogs with leashes that have soft padding in the handle, and I realized that these are the leashes for me. It’s a little thing, that extra padding, but I just love the feel of it my hand. Even with dogs who have lovely leash manners (but especially if they are still working on them) that extra cushion protects my hands from any harshness, and I love it!
I felt the same way years ago when I first discovered the Chuck It. Okay, a little dog slobber never hurt anybody, but a quart of it on a tennis ball is not what I’m looking for in hand moisturizer, either. I’m also a big fan of the folding dog water bowl. To be able to hike with dogs and easily help them hydrate without having a big, clunky water bowl digging into my back through a backpack adds much joy to the outing.
While I am a huge fan of the stuffed Kong, sometimes it feels like a lot of work to stuff one. (I’m not proud of that, but it’s the truth.) When such an every day task seems hard, I’m grateful for Kong’s Marathon toys. They can keep a dog occupied for a long time but just take a moment for me to lock the compatible treat into the fitted slot.
Microfiber towels that absorb water and mud from a dog’s underbelly and paws are indispensable to me now. Sure, any basic towel works, but they don’t necessarily work as well as the microfiber ones. Even easier to use (and therefore better) are the microfiber mitts that dry dogs without slipping, which means that your hands don’t get wet and muddy.
There are so many items that I appreciate just because they make life a tiny bit easier and more convenient. Non-stick mats that go under food and water bowl keep bowls from sliding all over the floor are a huge plus—no scratches in the floor, easy clean-up of spills, and no racket from clanking bowls. Travel food bags that only take up as much room as the food you have left are a huge improvement over bulky plastic containers. Poop bag holders that attach to a belt loop or the leash free up my hands and pockets, and therefore belong on my list of non-essential dog items that make me happy.
What little luxuries in dog gear make your life just a little better?
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Insurance against the unexpected
We all go to great lengths to keep our dogs safe when they are with us, and also when we must be away from one another. Safety measures can be basic, like a leash or a crate. They can also be more complex, such as microchipping or an industrial grade fence. Information is big part of safety, which is why many people have their dogs wear identification tags or have their phone number embroidered on the collar.
I recently learned about a product that is another tool in the safety battle, and it’s one that is all about information. It’s called “Dogs on Board: Open in Emergency” and it stores information about your dog. It’s designed to attach to your dog’s crate or be stored in your car, and you can put any material in there that you need emergency personnel to know in any urgent situation.
Simple information can make a big difference in your dog’s safety in case of an accident or other incident. That’s the beauty of this 15-inch tube made out of 1.5 inch PVC pipe and covered in tough materials that make it resistant to being damaged with time or because of heat. Inside, you can store health records, a picture with the name and age of your pet, your veterinarian’s contact information as well as your own, and some pre-made Lost Dog flyers that just need the details filled in about when and where your dog went missing. There’s even room for a small slip lead.
The tube is brightly colored and easy to spot, with Velcro® straps for attaching it wherever you want it. One end stays securely closed, while the end marked “open here” can be unscrewed to reveal the pull tab that allows you to remove its contents.
We all like to think that our dog will never escape or be lost while traveling, but car accidents happen, and so do every other kind of accident. They happen to cautious people and to reckless ones, people who have prepared for a worst-case scenario and those who haven’t given it a thought. They happen to dogs who are calm in any emergency and those who freak out—perhaps bolting or acting aggressively in a most unexpected manner. These tubes are another way that we can help our dogs stay safe, no matter how life’s curve balls fly by us.
An Encore Performance by Crypton and William Wegman
Randy Rubin, co-founder of Crypton, launched the company’s first line of pet products back in 2004 in an inspired collaboration with artist William Wegman. A dozen years later, Rubin and Wegman are at it again with a brand new line of canine home products by Crypton.
Renowned for his whimsical photographic portraits of Weimaraners, Mr. Wegman is also famous for his work in a variety of media—photography, video, painting and as an author. For decades, while Wegman was creating art in New York, Crypton was at work in the heartland, revolutionizing commercial fabric with the introduction of a patented process that produces a virtually indestructible, stain and odor-resistant material appropriately named Crypton Super Fabric. They’ve also launched soft, luscious Crypton Home Fabric, using a new performance technology especially for residential interiors, offered by major furniture and home fabric brands in stores and showrooms from coast to coast.
Wegman provides the art and Crypton supplies the science with their permanent stain resistance properties—ensuring neither microbes or odors penetrate these dog beds. Crypton founder Randy Rubin (right).
The creative collaboration between the textile innovator and the downtown visual artist has proven hugely successful, with a visual style that is once recognizable and inspired. Combining the ultimate in function and aesthetics, the resulting beds, pillows and throws (christened Throvers) are elegant, bold and sturdy...fulfilling the must-have checklist for stylish dog lovers. The line is offered exclusively at crypton.com.
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Does it reflect something about you?
Though few dogs wear actual clothes or costumes, a great many of them wear collars, and they are often chosen with great care. The individuality of a dog’s collar is likely to express something about the guardian. It may reflect a particular hobby or interest or may simply be a style choice. The majority of collars mean something to the people who choose them.
What it means may be very simple. For example, my favorite color is red, and I gravitate towards red collars. One of my best friends uses green collars for the same reason. Many people put far more thought into the collars with which they adorn their pets. Practical choices for collars include ones with the dog’s name and guardian’s phone number embroidered on them or ones that are reflective for extra safety at night.
I have a client whose dog’s collar is by Harley Davidson, which means that the dog matches most of the client’s clothes. Other dogs may wear collars that express support for a professional sports team or a college program. I’ve seen collars that express support for political candidates, breast cancer awareness or say, “Happy Birthday!”
If style is the major consideration, there are plenty of options. Collars can be pink with sparkly gemstones, made of black leather with spikes, or anything in between. There are patriotic collars with flags on them, tartan plaid styles, and those that have flowers or ladybugs on them. Some people change their dog’s collars seasonally with Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Spring, Fourth of July, Halloween and Thanksgiving collars making up an extensive wardrobe.
If your dog has a decorative collar, what made you choose the one he wears?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Get bright smiles with one of these image-rich treasures.
In Bread and a Dog, Japanese food stylist Natsuko Kuwahara combines delightful photographs of enticing morning fare (the bread) with the internal ponderings of Kipple (the dog). Delectable recipes are included, including a few for traditional Japanese breakfast dishes. (Phaidon, $14.95)
Pete Thorne’s Old Faithful captures the essence of the beauty and serenity of dogs of “a certain age.” With personal stories of each of the 75 dogs profiled. (Harper Design, $19.99)
Brazil-based Rafael Mantesso’s whimsical drawings of his Bull Terrier Jimmy Choo are one Instagram sensation that actually merits the attention. Now, with A Dog Named Jimmy, which includes 100 images, Mantesso and Jimmy’s fame will surely spread. (Avery, $19.95)
British designer Fenella Smith teams up with her brothers Greg and Myles McLeod to create Breeds: A Canine Compendium, lending their delightful and humorous touch to a guide to more than 100 different breeds. (Flatiron, $16.99)
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Pet safe way to prevent slipping on snow and ice
As so much of the eastern part of the United States is dealing with near record levels of snowfall, I celebrate for the kids who have snow days and sympathize with the people whose days (and backs) will be ruined by hours of shoveling. I also worry about the dogs who must deal with their playground (and bathroom) being covered in snow and ice. It’s bad enough to have to wade up to the belly or beyond to visit the potty. What’s even worse is the danger posed by many products that people put on their sidewalks to melt the snow or to provide traction in it.
Dogs’ paws can be injured by salt and many de-icing products, and ingesting them can be even more hazardous as so many are toxic. I don’t have a perfect solution, but I can say that there is a product I like because it is pet safe and does prevent slipping for dogs and humans alike. It’s called EcoTraction and may help you and your pet have a better winter experience. It is made out of a non-toxic volcanic material.
At the top of the list of good features of EcoTraction is that it is pet and child safe. Additionally, it does not damage lawns, it can be swept up and used again once the snow and ice melt, and a little of it goes a long way. I also like that it works instantly. The moment you put it on top of snow and ice, those surfaces are far less slippery and you can feel the traction under your shoes.
On the down side, just so you know, it does not actually melt the ice and snow—it just provides traction. If more snow falls and buries the EcoTraction, more of it needs to be applied. Also, if it is stuck to your shoes, it can scratch delicate floors, so shoe removal and a quick toweling of dogs’ paws is in order once you come inside.
I love getting out in the snow, and heaven knows that almost all dogs feel the same way. However, slipping on ice or having paws damaged by salt and snow melting products can ruin all the fun. I hope all the people in the snow zone are able to minimize the hassle and maximize the fun of this storm—for themselves and their dogs!
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
The electronics world loves it, but will the dog world embrace it, too?
At the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) start up competition last week in Las Vegas, a game console for dogs called CleverPet took first place, beating out accessories for virtual reality experiences and a number of smart home products. The prize was a free booth at the evening’s ShowStopper Event, guaranteeing more press for this product.
There are already plenty of digital products for dog guardians, such as pet trackers and health monitors, but this product aims to serve the needs of the dog directly, not the needs of the people. CleverPet is a digital entertainment device that can help dogs who are bored and lack mental stimulation. There are several games available, and they update automatically by Wi-fi. In one game, dogs must remember and correctly respond to patterns of lights and sounds. Puzzles start out simple and progressively get harder. In another game, they must respond to words such as “left” and “right” to hit the correct touch pad. In the squirrel game, the dog must properly respond to catch the squirrel as the light (the squirrel) darts from pad to pad at increasing speeds. In all games, correct responses lead to food rewards. Videos of dogs engaged with the device look promising.
Many people may be put off by the thought of their dogs learning how to respond to this device, but as the inventors point out, it’s not really a new concept. Mice and rats have been asked to perform similar tasks in the interests of scientific research for years. CleverPet is simply bringing this concept directly to consumers for the benefit of our dogs.
The benefits of mental stimulation and the relief of boredom are obvious. Additionally, I think dogs benefit by being successful which makes them feel good. I’m not one to underestimate the advantage of earning food by making choices and being right to dogs’ self esteem and happiness. On the other hand, there could be drawbacks to this product.
It can become a digital pet sitter, meaning that people could use it to keep their dogs busy instead of engaging with them directly. If people find that their dogs are entertained by CleverPet, they could use it as an excuse not to walk them or to play with them. Lack of exercise and a decrease in social interactions can make for less social dogs who are more prone to weight gain. As long as people limit the amount of time that their dogs spend having fun with it, there’s not a problem.
I’m curious about the physiological affects on dogs of this product. Will the lights influence their sleep as screen time does to us? Will they become frustrated if they do not succeed often enough or if the device is turned off? Can dogs become addicted to digital play as so many human gamers have?
Even with the possible drawbacks to having dogs play with CleverPet, I’m enthusiastic about the potential it has to be a positive experience. People can track a dog’s progress, game levels and food intake throughout the day on their phones. They can set CleverPet to be on at only a certain time of day, or turn it on and off remotely.
It’s no surprise to me that this product is already making such a splash in the electronics world. After all, in addition to videos of dogs using CleverPet, the inventors had an exceptionally clever pitch to the judges: “Our users literally have nothing better to do with their time.” (You can argue whether or not that statement is true, but it’s hard to argue that it’s not a good sales pitch.)
CleverPet will be available in April 2016, and like game consoles for people, it’s pricey, going for $269. Are you interested?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
The training app iClicker (iOS) is easy and free, and it’s particularly handy if you can’t find your clicker, or want to do a quickie lesson while out at the park. The noise-box feature also works as a “say cheez” prompt for photo ops. (App Store)
WoofTrax’s Walk for a Dog app (iOS, Android) makes fundraising easy and healthy for you both of you. When you and your dog start out on your walk, press “Start Walking for —” for a prompt to choose an organization. (More than 4,000 organizations are registered; if your favorite rescue or shelter isn’t in their network, you can request that it be added.) After your walk is finished, hit “stop” and the walk is credited to the org. The app also tracks walk distance, duration and route, making this a good way to record your rambles. Just think of the miles pro dog walkers can rack up!
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
There’s no denying my life involves dogs
The man had to bend over awkwardly to hold the dog’s collar as they walked down the block. Assuming that he was holding on to prevent a lost dog from running into the street, I pulled over to ask, “Did you just find that dog?”
“No,” he replied, “My leash broke, and I’m just trying to get home.” With his other hand he held up a mangled non-retracting retractable leash that was now worthless. I told him I had a leash he could have, and gave him the 6-foot lead that I keep in my car. The friend with me pointed out that I always have dog gear with me, which I had not really noticed. She was right, though.
I’ve seen dogs out in traffic and stopped to help out, using whatever I had on hand to lure them away from trouble—squeaky toys, tennis balls, treats, rope toys, Kongs. At any point, I’m likely to have some treats and toys in my car.
Once on the way to the park, I saw a woman who was not picking up after her dog, and suggested that she do so. “I would, but I don’t have a plastic bag,” was the insincere response. “You’re in luck! I have one right in my purse,” I said and handed it to her. She looked anything but grateful, but she did use it to clean up. A similar bag once came into service on a school field trip when a child was carsick. On that occasion, the bus driver, the teacher and the student all seemed genuinely appreciative.
I often keep a plain squeaker in my pants pocket during my private consultations, and I’m very poor at remembering to remove it. (They go through the laundry completely unaffected, in case you were wondering, which is more than I can say for the treats that end up in my washer or dryer from time to time.) That has worked out well on multiple occasions. I once used that squeaker to help lure a dog back to his guardian when he jumped out of the car in the parking lot of the mall. Another time the surprise of that sound distracted a toddler who had become bored and fussy while his mom was trying to pay for her groceries, making the situation easier for her, and faster for the rest of us in line behind her.
Some of the gear I have with me is planned because I like to be prepared. Some of it is just residue from my daily life. It happens to be in my car because I have my house call bag with me or it was left in my pocket by mistake.
What do you always have in your car, purse, backpack or pockets that would make it impossible to deny that your life involves dogs?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
With many new products on the store shelves, these caught our eye.
Keep floors dry and clean with CarpetSaver’s absorbent foam-backed (non-skid) fabric that grabs debris and water. Just shake it out or toss in the washer when it’s dirty. Comes in two widths, three colors and a variety of lengths.
Minnesota’s Mendota Products is in the “pink” over a new color they introduced to their pliable, durable safety collar line. Pink teams up with yellow, green and orange as the high-visibility colors now being offered. Cleaning is simple—dirt and odors are quickly rinsed off.
Ma Snax’s sweet smiling leprechaun cookies are sure to bring good luck. Wheat/ corn/soy and preservativefree. Baked in small batches in Sonoma, Calif., to ensure freshness; hand-decorated.
Skookum Dog makes a synthetic sheepskin, memory foam bed whose curvy design looks like the “real” thing. Perfect for a nap out on the porch or anywhere inside too.
Sleepypod’s Clickit™ Utility claims to be the world’s first three-point dog safety harness, offering a safer ride for your favorite co-pilot. It was named the 2013 Top Performing Pet Safety Harness in a Subaru and Center for Pet Safety collaborative study to test the effectiveness of pet harnesses.
Add new flavor and zing to your dog’s kibble meals with Doggie Shotz. It comes in six flavors including Three Cheese, Chicken Stir Fry and Turkey ’n Mash. Just shake, pour on and stir into kibble.
Moso Bags are a safe, natural way to purify and dehumidify your home. Made of bamboo charcoal, it’s non-toxic and fragrance free. Great around dog beds, litter boxes and anywhere odors linger in a house!
These useful microfiber cleaning cloths from Poochie-Pets feature fun “Live in Dog Years” designs, and are great for cleaning fingerprints or nose “kisses” off your tablets and phones. Available in six designs.
For a soft, durable collar, Timely’s rounded styles are handcrafted from the finest Italian and Finnish leathers. Developed by a small family-owned Danish company, they are designed with a unique “inside stitch” technique with no outside edges.
The Loop is an easy, stylish way to carry the all-important poop bags with you. “Loop” it through a leash, or even through your handbag strap; refilling is simple. Comes in six fashionable colors.
Dexas presents its H-DuO, the first bottle carrier designed for both you and your active dog! Carry two drinks at the same time—one for you, and one for your dog. A companion cup collapses flat against the side of the bottle—it’s BPA-free too.
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