product reviews
News: Guest Posts
FDA Launches A Pet Health and Safety Widget
An easy way to share alerts and tips

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration launched a pet health and safety widget for consumers this week as part of “an ongoing effort to provide timely, user-friendly, public health information.” The widget is an easy-to-load application ideal for dog-centric bloggers and website editors. It provides the latest from the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine on everything from how to report a food complaint or an adverse drug reaction to caring for your pet in a disaster. The updates tab provides those all-important, up-to-the-minute recall notices we’ve unfortunately become accustomed to.


Now if they could just figure out a way to make the food safer...

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
iPhone Amber Alert for Lost Pets
New app creates a wireless community for bringing missing animals home.

Lately several people I know from the local agility community have had a beloved pet go missing. Fortunately all of the lost pups were found quickly, but it’s a heartbreaking experience, even if just for a few hours.

For years standard protocol has been to call local animal shelters and post flyers around the neighborhood. More recently, technology has allowed us to cast a larger net by sending alerts over e-mail lists, message boards, and even Facebook or Twitter.

Now we have a new resource which combines the best features of the iPhone with a widespread cellular network of animal lovers. The new app, Community Leash, allows you to send an alert to other users when your pet goes missing. On the flip side, if you find a lost animal, you can check local postings and even take a photo with your iPhone’s built-in camera and create a "sighting."

My favorite feature of Community Leash is its use of the iPhone GPS capability to keep you updated on lost pets in the area. This allows you to keep an eye out for missing pets even when you’re away from home.   

Hopefully you’ll never need the Community Leash app, but at 99 cents it’s an affordable resource to have at your fingertips and a simple way to help pets find their way home. 

For tips on finding a lost pet, check out the ASPCA’s online resource. To see other canine related iPhone apps, see my previous blog post on the topic.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Apps for Dog Lovers
Teach your pup a trick or find an off leash park with your iPhone or iTouch.

As the Apple commercial suggests, there really does seem to be an “app” for just about everything. These applications can be used with the Apple iPhone or iTouch iPod. Many are even offered for free. 

You can download any of these apps by going to the Apple iTunes store through your computer, iPhone, or iTouch. Here are the canine highlights that received high reviews from users.

Clicker (free) – Never leave home without your clicker. This app makes the click sound at the touch of a button so you never miss a training opportunity.

Pet First Aid ($2.99) – Be prepared in the event of an emergency with videos and step-by-step instructions on pet first aid and other health topics. The content was written by an American Red Cross pet first aid instructor.

Dog Tricks & Bark Machine ($0.99) – Lugging around a training book is so last year. This app provides portable step-by-step directions with photos to train tricks, solve behavior problems, and play games with your pup.

Off Leash (free) – Ensure your dogs are never without a spot to stretch their legs with Off Leash, an app that locates the five closest dog parks. You can search by your current location with your iPhone’s Locate Me feature or by zip code. Currently, the app is limited to the United States but there are plans to expand to other countries in the coming months. The database is updated every 2-3 weeks.

Pet Notebook ($2.99) – Always have your dog’s most important information handy. The Pet Notebook provides record keeping for registration and health data.

Diagnostic Imaging Atlas (free) – Designed for veterinarians to educate their clients, this app is valuable for any pet lover. Diagnostic Imaging Atlas (DIA) features medical illustrations of dog and cat illnesses and health problems.

Have you used any of these programs before?  Makes me have serious iPhone envy!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Using Technology to Solve Canine Boredom
An engineering grad student invents a way to interact with his dog remotely.

Recently I stumbled upon an iPhone controlled dog treat dispensing device built by Stephen Myers. The Biomedical Engineer PhD student created the dispenser to interact with his dog Cooper during his long grad school days. 

The one-of-a-kind creation allows Stephen to monitor his pup by web cam and deliver treats from anywhere his iPhone receives service. He details how the dispenser was built on his blog.

I’m always on the lookout for new treat dispensing toys to keep my crew busy while I’m at work, so I was excited to discover such an innovative device. Unfortunately Stephen isn’t selling his creation and I definitely don’t have the technical expertise to build it (let alone in Stephen’s amazing one hour time frame!). 

So I’ll have to rely on my trusty Kong Time and collection of manual food dispensing toys, like the Buster Cube or the DogPyramid. However, I can only imagine the impact this valuable training tool could have on solving boredom behaviors like barking and furniture chewing.

How do you keep your dogs busy while you’re out?

News: Guest Posts
Dog Bowl Entrepreneur
Lapping up the big time with a bowl for Bo.

Here’s what I love. When someone creates a smart dog product—especially something simple that makes life better and easier for dogs and people—and then sticks by it, even if it means taking a drubbing from the venture-capital A-types on BBC’s Dragons’ Den. (They promised, "the U.S. will eat you alive.") Well, Brit entrepreneur Natalie Ellis, who has sold 80,000 of her Road Refresher (non-spill) bowls in the United States since the televised snub, recently got an order to meet the beveraging needs of arguably the most famous dog in the world—Bo Obama! I wonder what the dragons are thinking now?

Watch her Susan Boyle-moment.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Keeping an Eye on Your Pets
Surveillance isn’t just for the government anymore.

If you want to keep track of your pets via a live online video feed, you can now do that. The Vue personal video network lets guardians watch their animals at home while they’re at work, or anywhere else with Internet access. If you worry about your pets when you’re away from them, this system will allow you to see with your own eyes that they’re okay.

The system uses small wireless cameras that can be put anywhere in your home, and the batteries last up to a year. By logging onto a secure website, guardians can ease their minds by seeing how their pets are doing. You can even set it to record for short times, so that you can watch past events, too.

Of course, cameras with a live feed can be used for a variety of purposes, and the company is not just marketing this product for pet watching. A traveler can watch a family member blow out the candles on a birthday cake, employers can check up on their telecommuting employees, parents can track their kids---the possibilities for suspicious spouses are endless. The company considers these options among the many features and benefits of their system, which costs just under $300.

As a behaviorist, I’m intrigued that this system could reveal more about what is going on when there are behavior problems. For example, if I wanted to know which dog in a multi-dog household is soiling the carpet or chewing the couch, The Vue could help. In cases of possible separation anxiety, it’s useful to know when the associated problem behavior starts. When the barking, destructive chewing or eliminating happens immediately after the guardian leaves, that’s consistent with separation anxiety. If the problem behavior starts hours later, a more likely reason for the trouble may be boredom, inadequate house training, or a reaction to some other stimulus.

I will be curious to hear about anyone’s experience with this system. Would you consider buying it, and if so, what is it you hope to see?

News: Guest Posts
Win A Dream Trike
At last, a ride worthy of your furry co-pilot.

How does one describe the very cool tricycle created by Dublin Dog in Charlotte, N.C.? If we were in a pitch meeting with a movie producer we’d say it’s Breaking Away meets Easy Rider meets Benji—a wicked-cool pair of wheels with a dog-friendly sidecar that, with a donation to a good cause and some luck, can be yours.

Here’s the back story: The folks at Dublin Dog do more than create rockin’ canine hardware (leashes, collars, etc.). They also run a foundation to “foster the therapeutic and service roles of dogs in the development, support and inspiration they provide their human companions.” Putting two and two together, they decided to raffle this aquamarine beauty with the neon flames to raise $20,000. That money will pay for training, food and medical bills for a service dog for his or her lifetime. And that dog will help Terry, a Winston-Salem resident with Cerebral Palsy, maintain her mobility and independence.

On July 4, the Dublin Dog Dream Bike and Sidecar will be pedaled 400 miles in the 2009 Let Freedom Bark Ride, a charity ride from Charlotte to Washington, D.C.—where the winner of the raffle will be announced. Learn more about the Foundation and buy your tickets here.

News: Guest Posts
Dogs in Cars
Arizona cops test heat protection device for police dogs.

The other day, I left my dogs in the car. We’d just returned from a visit to my off-leash area. The dogs were quiet. I was distracted. I walked inside, put my coat and keys away, checked for new phone and email messages, and suddenly realized my glue-dog was not using my legs as weave poles. As always, they took it in stride.

So when I read the story today about the new warning system at the Peoria Police Department in Arizona, I instantly appreciated the conceit. When the dog is in the car, his weight on a mat keeps the engine and air-conditioning running even after the driver removes the keys from the ignition. If the A/C fails, the mat triggers an alarm. A few weeks earlier, I might have thought this was overkill but I know different. And I’m not a cop with urgent, life-and-death business on my mind.

It’s a smart response. Protecting the K-9s, who protect us, is a fitting tribute to Chandler, a police dog who died from exposure in 2007 after his handler forgot he was in the car. The rest of us need to rely on our faulty brains, and remember the serious risk posed by heat to dogs in cars.

News: Guest Posts
Channel Fido’s Inner Felix
Thrill your dog with a Chase It Pet Toy.

Do you have a dog who would give his right paw to chase after a squirrel, a cat or a plastic shopping bag fluttering down the street? I do, his name is Wally, and Wally loves his Chase It Pet Toy. The Chase It is simple in concept: You hang onto the end of the pole and flip around the stuffie, which taps into the dog’s instinctual drive to chase small, fast-moving prey. The ensuing game is hilarious to watch (ever see a canine back-flip?) and physically exhausting for the pup. A game of Chase It wears out my high energy Pit Bull Terrier in twenty minutes, which makes the Chase It Pet Toy a godsend for those mornings when I choose to hit the snooze button instead of the road for our predawn walk.


Check out the Chase It Pet Toy in action:

News: Guest Posts
No More Bad Fur Days
Attack of the hairballs? Furminator to the rescue.

Where there's a dog, there's dog hair, and if you have double-coated dogs, you’re looking at dog-hair dust bunnies the size of, well, actual rabbits. After living with Huskies for more than 25 years, I was skeptical that any single grooming device could make a difference. Until I tried the FURminator. This cool tool with a silly name is almost magic. Not only does it leave the dog’s coat tidy and sleek, it’s nicely weighted so it’s easy on the wrists. Plus, it doesn’t get jammed up with hair and won’t scratch your dog’s skin. Watch the video on the FURminator website--that carpet of loose hair isn't advertising exaggeration. This is one tool I'd hate to be without.