How to Help Senior Dogs with Arthritis

20 Jul

old goldens

We can’t avoid our dog’s progression in age, but we can ease the transition from fit adult to senior. As dogs grow older, they typically develop some degree of arthritis, and may even had hip dysplasia or other ailments that affect their joints and movement. It’s a natural part of aging, and the body’s way of telling your pup to slow down and stop to smell some roses—but we can help them along with this phase of their lives and make life a whole lot easier with just a few simple steps.

How can you help your senior dog deal with his arthritis? Some things you may already be doing (it’s just good common sense!) and some you may not have considered. If you’re worried that your dog’s mobility has really begun to suffer, you may need to consult your veterinarian for a more focused approach on one treatment—but there are still some simple steps you can take at home and in your daily routine to help your old “pup” out!

Weight Control

A lot of our steps will have a lot to do (either directly or indirectly) with proper weight control. Just like us, when your dog’s body is carrying more weight than it needs to, it’s adding that stress right to its joints. Proper weight control through nutrition and physical fitness will really help ease the stress your dog’s aging bones and joints feel day to day.

Change in Diet

As your dog gets older and becomes a little less active, it may be time to talk to your vet about a change in diet. Less physical activity means they don’t need all those extra calories found in a regular, healthy adult dog’s food. You may also need to start tapering back their portion size to avoid over-eating and weight gain.

Supplements

Adding a few “extras” to their meals may greatly improve their overall health and quality of life. Things like fish oils, chicken powder, coconut oils, turmeric, dog food protein, and Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate supplements are worth looking into and talking to your vet about to see which is best for your dog. Should you be doing all these supplements at once? Er, no. But your vet will help steer you in the right direction. Some vets prefer fish oils over coconut oil, and vice versa. It’s about finding what’s right for your dog.

Smarter Exercise

When your dog begins to show signs of aging, it may be time to taper back their usual fitness routine and incorporate more low-impact activities. It’s not about just exercising, but getting that daily exercise in a smart way. Perhaps those games of fetch suddenly become games of catch (less running). In the warmer months, some routine trips to the beach for a swim would be ideal and less stressful on their joints. Be prepared to walk a little slower on your walks, and adjust your route to accommodate how far your dog can go before he gets too tired.

Keeping your dog fit into his later years in important, but it’s more important to be smart about how they enjoy their exercise.

Prevent Slipping

Have hardwood floors? Tile? Laminate? Any smooth surface may start posing a challenge to your senior dog—especially when it comes to stairs. A few strategically placed carpets on landings and in rooms their frequent will go a long way. If your dog must frequently go up and down stairs in your home, consider getting the carpet attachment for them to help prevent slipping or an elevated lip on edge of the step.

If you’re adding a carpet to a high-traffic area, consider adding a skid-resistant liner beneath the carpet to avoid that slide when your dog goes through with some momentum!

Encourage Rest

Our dog’s bodies—just like ours—use sleep as a time to allow the body to heal itself. Encourage this restful slumber by providing your dog with an appropriate dog bed that’s well-cushioned and placed in rooms your dog frequents (living room, a bedroom, etc.) and encourage them to use it rather than hopping up on the bed or couch. There’s less impact on their bones and joints when walking onto a plush dog bed rather than hopping up and down onto a couch or (human) bed.

More Visits with Your Veterinarian

An older dog should see their veterinarian more frequently than they did in their youth. It’s important to keep on top of their health and the changes their body is going through. Things like water therapy or acupuncture aren’t just for us—dogs can benefit from them as well! Talk to your vet about the options available in your community. Your vet will help guide you through each step, and advise the next move to ensure your dog enjoys their golden years.

Inspiring Geometric Tattoo Ideas for Dog Lovers

13 Jul

geometric tattoos

A few weeks ago, we looked at some inspiring and seriously kick-ass watercolour tattoos. Honestly, Lucy and I completely fell in love with the style. In our search, however, we found even more really awesome tattoo styles that we had never even thought of!

Maybe we were inspired by the geometric design of The Odin toy we reviewed yesterday, or maybe there’s just something to be said about the understated use of lines and shapes to create something beautiful and emotional—a tribute to a beloved pet in a style that just feels right.

If clean, simple design is your cup of tea, we think you’ll love these geometric memorial tattoos we found! Thinking of immortalizing your best friend with a memorial tattoo? Consider the geometric style with these inspiring tattoos below.

geometric tattoos

(Tattoos: @bartekwojda, @karlmarks1, @javiwolfink, @bicemsinik, @szejno, @lisaorth)

So, what do you think? What’s your style preference? Do you have a memorial tattoo to share?

Photograph courtesy of Javi Wolf.

Walking Gear for Reactive Dogs

9 Mar

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Ages and ages ago, during the days of our Walk to Rivendell challenge, I wrote a little bit about the gear we use for our regular walks. Over the last 2+ years we’ve tried a perhaps ridiculous number of walking setups with a variety of collars, leashes, harnesses, halters, and more. Between working on Topher’s reactivity in training classes and our usual walks, we get a lot of use out of our gear and I always want to make sure what we use and carry around truly works for us. Because, in certain scenarios, these are the pieces of equipment we rely on the most to keep ourselves and others safe. So, what do we take on our daily walks?

Martingale Collar

We switched to martingale collars after a recommendation from our trainers and have used them almost exclusively since then. We clip directly to Topher’s martingale collars on casual short walks, and we love the sturdy support provided by our go-to collars from Dog + Bone.

Identification Tags

While we’ve never had an instance where Topher has gotten off his leash and gotten lost, but that doesn’t mean it could never happen. So, it’s important for your dog to have proper identification when you go out and about. Need more convincing? Here are a few more reasons you should get your dog’s identification in order sooner rather than later.

Front Lead Harness

Up until recently we were using a head halter on walks, rather than a harness. About a month ago, we decided to switch back to using a harness. Why? It all has to do with reactive classes. While Topher accepted and happily wore a head halter without incident on walks at parks and in the neighborhood, he’d become a terror during reactive classes. When stressed, he’d take it all out on the halter, pawing at his muzzle and even scratching himself several times in an attempt to get it off. We tried more positive reinforcement with the halter, to make it as positive an experience as possible, but this did not seem to make much difference.

Currently, Topher’s lunging has diminished pretty significantly. This means the need for the halter as a method to not be knocked off my feet has diminished with it. Over the last month, we transitioned to a harness and Topher has been doing very well with it. Our training group recommended the Freedom harness, and we absolutely love it so far.

Double-Ended Leash

Because of our walking setup, we use double ended leashes—ones that have clips at both ends. We use this Halti leash because it has a ton of different ways you can use it and I’ll happily buy it again if the one we have ever breaks. Our Freedom harness also came with this great double ended leash with a handle and I’m very interested to see how much more control we’ll have with this harness and leash combination in our future classes.

Waste Bags

Can’t leave home without them! We still tend to use grocery bags (after checking for holes of course) but we have a backup roll of actual waste bags if we ever run out of the ones we get from the store.

Pepper Spray

For over two years now I’ve carried pepper spray when I walk Topher by myself. Thankfully, I’ve never needed it. However, it gives me a small sense of security, should a loose dog encounter ever go truly awry. Since the dog attack, we’ve had plenty of encounters with off-leash dogs running up to us; however, through educating myself, learning how to handle Topher, and a little luck, none have led to a scenario where I feel it’s necessary to spray a dog. I still hope I never have to use it.

Microfiber Towel

We call Topher the King of the Slobs because of his ridiculous ability to go from clean to covered in drool in about ten seconds. Nobody wants to greet an outrageously slobbery dog, so I make sure to keep a washcloth-sized towel in my walking bag for quick, on-the-go clean up. It also helps keep Topher camera-ready…most of the time. Sometimes the thought of treats creates more drool than one small towel can defeat.

Plenty of Treats

The final thing you can’t leave home without! At least, you can’t if you’re me and trying to give your dog lots of positive rewards for interacting nicely with the world. We’re lucky to be so well supplied, between treats we get from BarkBox and the ones we make ourselves.

What do you take on dog walks?

Review: Dog + Bone Black Label Collars & Leashes (and a Giveaway!)

7 Mar

dog plus bone

It’s been exactly one year since we first reviewed and fell head over heels in love with the Martingale Collars & Leashes from Dog + Bone. Even longer since we reviewed car odor eliminator products from SafeSpace. Lucy and I were both so pleased with the quality, style, and durability of our first sets of Dog + Bone products that they became our go-to gear. We were elated when Ivan and Anne (the faces behind the Dog + Bone brand) came to us for another review. This time, for their new Black Label edition of collars and leashes.

With all the same features we’ve come to know and love from Dog + Bone, the new Black Label edition of martingale collars, snap collars, and adjustable leashes have a lot to offer. We’re so excited to review them for you today, and give an update on just how durable the entire Dog + Bone line can be after a year of rigorous wear!

Style Simplified

When Dog + Bone first hit the market, they quickly made headlines with their bright and colourful style. There is no mistaking a Dog + Bone collar, and I can’t tell you how many compliments we receive about how fantastic Archer looks in her purple and hot pink martingale collar. Quite honestly, there are no other collars quite like them.

With their new Black Label comes the same unbeatable quality and durability, but with a more subdued colour palette. Whereas their initial line of colourful collars and leashes are akin to your favourite happy hour cocktail, their new Black Label is like a fine whiskey. It’s stylish but simple.

Built to Last

It’s one thing to put a product through its paces for a few weeks, but it’s a completely different ballgame when you have a full year to test it out. To be blunt, our first set of Dog + Bone collars and leashes were put to the ultimate test with Topher and Archer’s daily walks, obedience training, weekends at the cottage, and romps on outdoor trails. With large dogs, there really is no such thing as staying clean. Thankfully, as great as Dog + Bone collars look, all it takes is a quick wash (read: throw that dirty collar in with your next load of laundry) and voilà! Good as new!

Let’s talk about durability. Not just regular durability, but the kind of wear and tear and whoa that comes with using the Dog + Bone martingale collar and adjustable leash for Topher’s reactive dog class. Think 100 lbs of drooling anxiety lunging forward, and then repeat that scenario weekly for about a year. At the end of the day, Topher is still happily strutting his stuff in his red and blue martingale collar with neither worse for the wear.

Room to Grow

These collars stood up great to the wear and tear Archer and Topher put them through, but more than that, they’ve proven to be perfect for a growing puppy. At six months old it was difficult to find an appropriate collar for Sirius to grow into; likewise for Topher’s “cousin” Duncan. Thankfully, both the snap collar and martingale collar offer ample room to adjust and grow.

Likewise, the adjustable leash is all about offering flexibility. With Sirius’ puppy class, he had to have a 6 foot leash for good leash training, whereas we prefer using a shorter leash for Archer on walks (she’s so tall, we don’t need all the extra slack!). No matter your preference or style, the adjustable leash fits the bill.

Something for Everyone

The addition of the new Black Label line to Dog + Bone’s already stellar line of martingale collars, snap collars, and adjustable leashes makes this an easy win for us. In over a year—despite our best efforts to put these products through hell and back—we just haven’t found anything to complain about. Whether you’re drawn to the bright bold colours of the original line, or the suave and understated elegance of the Black Label, Dog + Bone has a little something for every pup!

Enter To Win a Dog + Bone Martingale Collar and Leash!

It’s time to share the love! Want to win an awesome martingale collar and leash from Dog + Bone? Entering is simple! Comment below or on our Instagram (that’s right, two chances to win!) and tell us which colour combination is your favourite from Dog + Bone’s new Black Label line!

6 Social Media Strategies for Dog Rescues & Shelters

2 Mar

social-media-strategies-for-dog-rescues

Even though we’d been talking about (and looking into) adopting a dog, the week we adopted Topher was a whirlwind event. It started with a photo in my Facebook feed, shared by a local rescue group; less than 48 hours later, Topher was settling into his new home. Whether this is a normal scenario or not, one thing is clear: social media changed the game for rescue groups and shelters, for better or for worse.

Currently, social media is heavily integrated into our daily lives; it’s only natural for companies and charities alike to leverage it for greater success. In many cases, non-profits like animal rescues and shelters don’t have as many resources at their disposal, nor do they possess the time or tools to craft the viral, spot on messaging you see from big corporations. We all love to commiserate over the emotional power of those Sarah McLachlan commercials, but can social media strategies for dog rescues attract even a fraction of that response? We think so. Here are just a few ways rescue groups and shelters can make the most of their social media accounts.

Cover The Basics

Though it seems obvious, many small organizations seem to operate online without any clear contact information or “calls to action.” If your goal is for interested parties to get in touch with you, this is a huge mistake! Make sure information is correct and clearly listed on all social media channels you operate. The website link you use on all accounts should also be the link you want to direct the majority of your audience too. That means if you’d rather send potential adoptive families straight to Facebook, always link to it directly in every profile!

In the same vein, always make sure you’re sharing photos of adoptable animals with all important information a potential adopter will need—location, ID numbers, availability date, contact info—so it will follow that pet’s photo if it’s shared by other people.

Focus on Photos

One picture is worth a thousand words—or at least a few hundred retweets—when it’s a good one. We’ve shared tips for taking great photos of your pets that you can use regardless of your equipment setup. It doesn’t take a big, expensive setup to take a lovely photo of a dog! If we could give one tip to every shelter and rescue group, it’s this: get out of the cage, or even get out of the building if you can. Natural light and a little time out in a grassy area with a camera (or just a phone) will help show off an adoptable dog’s “good side” and keep their mugshots from looking the same as all the rest a potential family might be hunting though.

Simple, Positive, Honest

Once you have a photo, it’s time to share a dog’s story and rustle up potential adopters. These are the three pillars of messaging we feel every shelter and rescue group should focus on.

Simple: Pick out two or three of the best qualities this dog may have, and write one or two short sentences about them. While it might be tempting to write out an entire life story to set a dog apart from the masses, sticking to a few positive qualities will give potential adopters something to latch onto and remember, without diving into four paragraphs on why this particular dog is so great. Social media moves faster everyday—keep things as short and sweet as possible.

Positive: Some dogs come from truly terrible situations and are literally fighting for their lives when they arrive with rescues or shelters. In those cases, it’s common to showcase their story, because those kinds of situations and how a dog survives them will dictate their story as they move through the rescue system.

However, a majority of dogs come into rescues with no backstory, or a pretty common one: they simply aren’t wanted. In these cases, it’s better to focus on the positive. Don’t demonize previous owners or dwell on past transgressions. Focus on the reasons why this dog is ready for a new home with the right family, and those families will—with any luck—be drawn to those positive messages.

Honest: Rescue dogs can sometimes be tricky to place, and it’s important for shelters to be honest about a dog’s potential issues. Animal reactivity, experience with children, and any special needs should always be clearly listed when you’re giving a description of an adoptable dog. All of these things help potential adoptive families to see, at a glance, if this dog is one they can work with or not.

Go Local

If your rescue is not focused on getting out of state adoption placements or transporting animals, it’s important to stay local in your social media efforts. List your location when sharing animals, target your post with that location on Facebook and Instagram. Make use of local hashtags when it’s relevant, or create your own so local audiences can track your new rescues and success stories.

Give Updates

Even if a dog’s status hasn’t changed, it can be helpful to share new photos of them—perhaps with something you learned about them recently—to keep any dogs from falling through the cracks. Smaller rescues can even go as far as keeping a Facebook album for each of their dogs, updating with new photos or new encounters when applicable.

Share Successes

If one of your dogs has been recently adopted, share it! Happy endings and positive messages are shared more often and more widely, so any good news for you is also good news your followers can help celebrate right along with you.

16 Beginner Dog Treat Recipes with 5 Ingredients or Less

24 Feb

beginner-dog-treats

Over the last two years we’ve amassed quite an impressive collection of dog treat recipes—and we’re constantly thinking up more! Trying your hand at the humble and hard to screw up dog treat is a great way to play around with baking. After all, dog treats are just very stale, sugarless cookies and dogs aren’t the pickiest when it comes to pet food ingredients. It’s a perfect combination when you’re just starting out as a baker.

If you’re looking to experiment in the kitchen a little bit, consider trying a few of our beginner dog treat recipes! We’ve rounded up a a few classics and a few interesting flavor combinations to try, all with five ingredients or less.

One (or Two) and Done

These treat “recipes” are the easiest of easy to make, because they contain one ingredient, maybe two at the most. Got a sweet potato or a banana on hand? Then you’re ready to get started.

  1. Dehydrated Bananas: If it’s safe for dogs, you can probably dehydrate it into a delicious treat for them! We’ve given our pups dehydrated bananas and mangoes, but the possibilities are pretty endless.
  2. Sweet Potato Jerky: We discovered sweet potato jerky very early on, and its still one of Topher’s favorite treats to work out of a Kong. Or, if you’re looking for a way to literally spice up your jerky treats, these turmeric and coconut oil “fries” were a huge hit last year!
  3. Dog Bone Fillers: Once you realize how easy it is to fill or refill an empty dog bone, you may never buy filled bones again. Last year we tested out three easy dog bone filler recipes, and we continue to use them to this day!
  4. Mango Coconut Fruit Leather: Fruit leather makes a great dog treat, or a great people treat! While the strawberry fruit leather technically has three ingredients, you could definitely leave out the honey if your strawberries are at their peak ripeness.
  5. Chicken Protein: It’s easy to add chicken breast protein powder to a dog’s treat. It provides a boost to their immune system and gives them a healthy dose of the protein they need.

Beginner Dog Treat Recipes

We started making treats at home because we wanted dog treats that weren’t a mash of strange chemicals or fillers. Then we kept making treats because it’s so fun to invent new combinations! Here are some of the treats we go back to again and again, because they come together almost effortlessly.

  1. Vegan Greenie Treats: Our take on the breath freshening treat, without all the ingredients you can’t pronounce. Want more breath freshening power? Just add more herbs!
  2. Peanut Butter Banana Oat: An effortless treat for when your dog has cleaned you out of house and home (what? Is that only Topher?) that uses true staple ingredients in our households.
  3. Classic Frosty Paws: While it might still be a bit too chilly for a frozen treat recipe, our classic take on Frosty Paws should be on any list for beginners. Simply pop all the ingredients in a blender, pour the mix into molds, and freeze! Easy peasy.
  4. Strawberry & Carob: Think chocolate and strawberries, for dogs! The carob and buckwheat makes these treats delightfully dark.

For Sensitive Dogs

For dogs with sensitive stomachs or food allergies, finding store-bought treats that don’t set off those sensitivities can be difficult. These five recipes are meant for dogs who can’t handle things like dairy or gluten. The best part? There are no strange fillers or unpronounceable chemicals, either!

  1. Gluten Free Ginger Apple: We call this one the ultimate stomach settler. Great for a pup who’s been feeling under the weather or for a simple treat that won’t aggravate other allergies.
  2. Cinnamon Sweet Potato: Another grain free treat that will make your house smell divine. We’d be lying if we said we weren’t thinking about making a cookie version of this for ourselves.
  3. Vegan Sweet Potato: The ultimate treat for dogs with allergies, this contains no gluten, no dairy. Plus, it needs only three ingredients!
  4. Quinoa, Peanut Butter & Carob: Gluten-free flours can be a little tricky, but they’re worth it in the case of these carob treats. If you can’t give your dog eggs, you can substitute coconut oil instead.

Weekend Fun

If you’re looking to step up from the beginner treat recipes and start playing with some new ingredients like herbs or funky vegetables, try on some of these treats. With only five ingredients, they won’t set you back much at the store while still allowing the chance to work with something new and different!

  1. Beet Mint Dog Treats: Since Ivana posted this recipe, I tried beets and they are indeed quite delicious. Your dog will think so too, trust us.
  2. Rosemary Sweet Potato: Inspired by some delicious gnocchi, the rosemary in these treats impart some great health benefits in your pup.
  3. Apple Cheddar: Cheese and apples don’t sound like a great combination, but Topher goes wild for these apple cheddar treats. Although, it might just be that sweet, sweet bacon grease.
  4. Beef & Carrot: Okay, I cheated by adding this dog treat recipe, since it has six ingredients—but these are a big favorite with Topher, and a fun treat to whip up on a weekend. Especially so if you’re like me and dabble in growing your own herbs.

5 Things Purebred Dog Owners Are Tired of Hearing

22 Feb

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I always get a certain sense of anxiety whenever I find myself inspired to write a piece specific to purebred dogs. Truth be told, there can be a lot of negativity. Whereas owning a rescue tends to be seen as a noble, even heroic endeavour (and it is!), owning a purebred dog can sometimes be seen as an act of vanity.

Actually, it’s the negativity that made me want to write this even more. We’ve had the pleasure of meeting dog owners of both sides of the spectrum and everywhere in between, which means there’s a good chunk of the Good Dogs & Co. community that are proud purebred dog owners who have done everything right (breed research, breeder research, etc.) and still get bombarded with questions.

Below are five things purebred dog owners are tired of hearing—but we’re also more than happy to answer these questions when they come from a place of genuine curiosity, and not with a negative inflection. All of that to say: if you’re thinking of getting a specific breed of dog, go on and ask anyone and everyone who already owns that breed every question you can think of. Being informed is a big deal.

Doesn’t that breed have health problems?

Yes, because my dog is of a well-established breed, there has been enough data collected to determine which health problems are common. That’s why I spent time searching for a good, reputable breeder who is aware of such problems, and thus has tried to better the breed through meticulous and thoughtful breeding pairs.

How much did you pay for him/her?

As much as a dog from a reputable breeder costs.

No, really! I mean, have I scoffed at the price I’ve heard for certain purebred dogs? Sure. But the people I know (and also from personal experience with Archer) who have done the research, vetted a few breeders, and decided on one they really feel comfortable with… the price you pay is what you—personally—are willing to pay for that dog. It’s your choice, not mine or anyone else’s. Whatever makes sense to you is what is reasonable.

Have you bred him/her yet?

No, and I don’t ever intend to. I purchased a family pet, not a dog prostitute.*

Why didn’t you crop his ears/dock his tail?

Because I—like many other people in developed countries, aside from Canada and the United States—believe cosmetic alterations like cropping a dog’s ears or docking their tail is cruel and unnecessary.

If you aren’t adopting a rescue, you’re part of the problem!

Thank you for your negativity.

There are two things that bother me about the rescue vs. purebred dog debate. The first is a blindness to the need for purebred dogs—that is, dogs bred for a specific purpose. Take our newest Good Dogs & Co. office pup (who belongs to my friend), Sirius. After much research, my friends knew they wanted a dog who could hunt, but also one with high energy to be a running buddy. A Vizsla made sense for their lifestyle. Could they have found a high-energy dog in a shelter? Probably. But the hunting quality is a little more tricky.

In that sense, comparing purebred dogs to rescues is a lot like comparing apples to oranges.

The second thing that bothers me in this debate is the just the pure negativity. Don’t yuck my yum. I adore my purebred dog, and you adore your rescue—and that’s a wonderful thing.

* This seems to be a question heard by all dog owners with fit, good looking dogs. Lucy gets the same question when walking Topher, and we kinda-sorta-maybe know what breed he is, probably? I see red flags the minute a stranger asks me if I’ve already bred my dog, or want to breed her. The answer is no, and go away please.

Introducing TruDog: A New System for Complete Health

17 Feb

trudog-raw

Around this time last year, my husband and I had to really crack down about our own nutrition. It required a fair amount of work to shift our eating and cooking habits, but the results have made those changes more than worthwhile. All these changes got me thinking about our pets’ eating habits as well: not just what we were feeding them, but how and when as well.

I’ve always been pretty picky about what we feed our animals, but that came more from the knowledge that we wanted to stick to a certain level of quality and avoid common health pitfalls—obesity being the main one—for our dog and cats. But did my general desire for quality translate into a diet that meets all of Topher’s needs?

Even though I’ve been doing research on this question for a few months now, I’m still working on my final opinion. But today I’m very pleased to introduce TruDog, a company formed by one family that set out to answer a very similar question: we’ve been taking care of ourselves, nutritionally, but what about our dogs? They depend on us for their diet, so how well are we really feeding them?

Freeze Dried Real Ingredients

TruDog’s food products are made by freeze drying real ingredients: beef, beef tripe, beef lung, ground beef bone, beef liver, etc. Freeze drying is a delicate process that preserves the structure and nutritional integrity of fresh whole food. Only water is removed, preserving the characteristics and natural nutrition of fresh real food. This process creates a freeze-dried, “raw” product that needs no refrigeration. Simply store it in a cool, dry place and, before feeding, just add water. Precise feeding instructions are included with every pack that are effortlessly easy to follow.

We knew this product would be a hit when we had to hide it away to keep our dogs and our cats from finding and ripping the bag apart. In fact, Ivana’s cat Ace chewed on the bag itself before she could even open it!

No Fillers, Ever.

TruDog’s food products are wheat, gluten, corn, and soy free, and that’s just the beginning of the list of things they don’t include in their products. This makes them an ideal choice for dogs who have digestive issues or allergies. We know how important a good diet can be for keeping a more sensitive dog healthy and symptom-free, and love seeing companies working on making the pet food industry a little safer for these dogs.

A System for Complete Health

TruDog’s food products are designed to be fed on their own or as a mix-in with other products. All their product lines are meant to be utilized in conjunction with each other, providing optimal health and peace of mind for owners. Each product manufactured is carefully scrutinized to ensure it’s not overlapping other products—in the end providing a complete system that works.

While switching large dogs like Topher and Archer completely over to a TruDog diet would be pretty pricey, the supplements and the variety of products allow us to make sure our big dogs are getting everything they need out of their daily meals.

Made in the U.S.A.

All TruDog’s food products are made in Wisconsin using U.S. sourced ingredients. Their beef and bison are free range and grass fed, antibiotic, and hormone free. The TruDog family is committed to a lifestyle that provides the opportunity to live a life full of abundant health and happiness, inspired in no small part by their beloved Great Dane, Truman. After discovering Truman had a tumor in one of his legs, the family fought valiantly for his livelihood. After an agonizing six month battle, including surgery to remove his leg, they lost him to cancer.

This tragic loss provided the inspiration behind TruDog, to offer a healthy alternative dog food for dogs everywhere. If you ask us, they’re doing a wonderful job.

Puppy 101: Recall

15 Feb

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Puppies are clean slates of fluff. They don’t know what it is to be a good dog—ahem, an obedient dog—but they’re eager to learn and ugh, do they have to be so cute? One of the most important (perhaps the most important) commands you will teach your puppy will be recall, and it’s important to maintain a positive training regimen for your recall command throughout your dog’s life.

Archer’s new best friend, Sirius, just started puppy school a few weeks ago. Due to scheduling with the classes, and his vaccination schedule, this was the earliest he could enroll—at nearly six months old. In this time, his training has been done at home with focus given to various different commands—specifically, recall.

Being a vizsla (a Hungarian hunting dog), it was important that Sirius learned good behaviour on offleash trail walks, and Archer has made for a great teacher in this respect. As a hunting dog, we’re already seeing that he is prone to chase small game and get over-fixated on scent trails—because of this, it was crucial that he be familiar and responsive to recall.

So how do you teach a puppy good recall, and ensure they are always responsive to your cues? Well, puppy school is absolutely great for a focused training environment, but good recall should start early, with continuous training and reinforcement throughout the dog’s life.

Start Small

When first starting good recall, start your training in a quiet, distraction-less room. You want the bulk of your puppy’s attention on you. Starting brand new commands with puppies can be difficult, so it’s important to associate the exercise with nothing but positive experiences. In a quiet room, there are very few chances for your puppy to “fail” or become so distracted he doesn’t notice you. Be patient and be positive.

  1. Wait until your puppy is coming toward you on his own.
  2. When he is close (within a few feet), say the word “come” (or whatever you wish your recall word to be).
  3. Praise your puppy when he reaches you.

Regardless of how long it took for your puppy to come to you, the reward should always be the same. High praise and lots of affection. You can also up the ante with a treat, toy, getting excited, or even running away from your puppy (their instinct will be to chase after you) to help reinforce that coming back to you is a good, positive experience for them.

Reinforcing Your Recall Cue

A great way to reinforce your recall cue (the word “come,” for example) is to play a sort of game with your dog and another person. We did this in puppy school, which was always a little interesting. Some dogs became distracted by the other puppies in the class, while other dogs knew exactly what to do and charged to their owners with a full head of steam. Don’t be discouraged if your pup becomes distracted, just remember to always praise them when they eventually (even if it takes a really, really long time!) come to you.

This training exercise requires two people. Both people should be someone your puppy is familiar with and trusts.

  1. One person sits with the puppy at one end of a room (or yard, depending on how difficult/distracting you want to make this!) and the other stands or kneels a fair distance across from them.
  2. The person with the puppy holds them by the collar to prevent them from moving.
  3. The other person begins to get excited (can use toys, slap their legs to make sounds, etc.) and draws the puppy’s attention to them, without saying their name or recall cue.
  4. When the person holding the puppy is satisfied they are focused on the other person, it’s time to finally say their recall cue. For us, it would be “Archer, come.”
  5. The person with the puppy will release the puppy. With all the excitement, the puppy should run right to the other person.

This is how you reinforce your recall cue. Try 20 feet and grow the distance as your puppy gets better and better with the command. Remember: more distance means a greater risk of distraction! Start small, then gradually increase your distance. If your puppy falters and becomes distracted, close the distance and start over again.

Vocal Cue + Hand Signal

We always encourage building hand signals into your vocal commands. Dogs are visual creatures, they react to our body language more than we realize. It’s good to incorporate hand gestures in combination with vocal commands. Once your dog is familiar with their verbal recall command, you can start including a hand signal along with the verbal command in your training.

As with the verbal recall command, begin their training in a quiet, distraction-less environment and keep a short distance between you and your dog. Gradually increase the distance between you and your dog to increase the difficulty and possibility for distraction.

When you start your training, remember to use their name + recall command + hand gesture. Make sure your hand signal cannot be confused with another hand signal you’ve already used with your dog for another command.

Give Them Foolproof Opportunities

When outside and offleash (whether it’s in the yard, an offleash trail, etc.) and there are limited distractions, give a recall command when your puppy is relatively close. These are situations where he is most likely to succeed, so it helps reinforce the command in a one-on-one environment, even if though there is some wiggle room to fail.

Be patient. If he take a little time to sniff a tree before returning to you, that’s okay! If your puppy does ten things before returning to you, or takes a few minutes, just remember that one key aspect: he came back. Praise him for coming back to you, always.

You Are Not More Interesting Than Other Dogs

One recurring theme with puppy training, is that it’s easy to get discouraged. Puppies are just bubbling with excitement, and are terribly curious—which can make training difficult. Instead, remember to have patience and to embrace the distractions as they come. Use them to enhance your puppy’s learning experience.

Don’t set your puppy up for failure by attempting a recall command when he is clearly distracted/overwhelmed by another situation. Typically, this means playing with other dogs (or people!). Odds are, your puppy will not respond to your recall command. Does that mean your training is slipping? No! It just means that you’ve put your puppy in an almost-impossible situation where he just can’t succeed (other dogs are way cooler than you are, and you know it).

Wait for a lull in the action, then attempt a recall command when you know you can get your puppy’s attention.

This makes for a tricky but rewarding exercise for your puppy. It can be a difficult exercise to master, and in this situation, treats are a great reward.

Things to Avoid

I don’t mean to sound like a hippie with my peace, love, and happiness mentality, but it really is vital when dealing with recall. It needs to be a positive experience for your puppy, and patience is key.

  • DO NOT chase your puppy. Your dog will think it’s a game, and the inclination is to run further away from you.
  • DO NOT reprimand your puppy or be negative in any way. You want to reinforce the idea that coming back to you is always (always!) a good, positive experience. Is it annoying when your dog ignores you? Sure. But to reprimand him for being tardy in returning is sending the wrong message to your dog. Simply put: if he returns to you, no matter how long it took, he’s a good dog.

6 Reasons to Stick to Positive Reinforcement Dog Training

3 Feb

positive-reinforcement-dog-training

Before starting to work with a training company, I didn’t have any particular philosophy on training styles or a preference towards techniques for figuring out how to get Topher to behave. However, one thing I knew: we would not be using any kind of force collar like choke, prong, or shock collars. Later, we updated that “not under any circumstances” list to include things like dominance rolling and hitting. Instead, we’re sticking to positive reinforcement dog training.

Though you might not expect it given his size (and his bark), Topher is a dog who shuts down at the drop of a hat. Our big oaf is eager to please, but he’s also easily scared and came to us brimming with anxieties. To work with Topher is to constantly take baby steps, making progress by overcoming these fears a bit at a time. However, even without our large dog’s equally large anxieties, the decision to stick with positive reinforcement dog training is a no brainer.

What Is Positive Reinforcement Dog Training?

Positive reinforcement training, in a nutshell, is all about rewarding your dog for behaviors that you like, so there’s a better chance of that behavior being repeated. By praising good behavior and redirecting any unwanted behaviors, you change your dog’s habits without the use of force.

The more I seek out information on dog training, the more convinced I become: we’ll stick to positive reinforcement for the long haul. Here are a few reasons why.

It Strengthens Your Dog’s Bond with You

Here’s the tricky part of positive reinforcement training: before you can begin redirecting and solving your dog’s “bad” behaviors, you must first find out the causes of those behaviors. Only then can you work on how to change them, by giving your dog opportunities to learn and act differently. By connecting with your dog and working out these problems using humane methods, you strengthen your bond through mutual trust, affection, and encouragement.

The strongest bonds between dogs and their people are based on kindness, not dominance or fear. If your dog trusts you and feels good around you, they’ll be happier, more confident, more well behaved, and more responsive to your cues in the long term.

It Helps You Understand Your Dog

To change a dog’s actions using positive reinforcement requires an understanding of life from the view of your dog. First, you have to identify why they’re doing a certain behavior. Dealing effectively with those behaviors won’t work unless you know their root cause. When you know why, you can move onto the how: what can you do to treat of change this behavior? Answering “how,” will always lead to a greater understanding of your dog—which will help you learn how to communicate with them more effectively.

It Teaches Cooperation

By building the relationship with your dog positively, you’re teaching your dog to cooperate with you instead of teaching them to be submissive or suffer the consequences. A dog whose been constantly yanked around by their leash may eventually learn that yanking and pulling means they shouldn’t pull, but it won’t mean that dog has learned to cooperate or understand what you’re asking of them—to walk beside you, or to give you their attention—they’re simply avoiding certain behaviors out of fear.

Consider this: your dog doesn’t come into your home with all the knowledge of how you want them to behave. They make it up as they go. It’s up to you to teach them what you expect of them and how to cope with any situation that may come up by framing these lessons with positive experiences. Otherwise, you’ve got a dog walking on eggshells, never knowing what they’ll be yelled at for next.

It’s Less Stressful for Your Dog

Recently, positive training methods have proven to be more beneficial to our bond with our pets, in addition to having a positive effect on animal welfare in general. A 2014 study even showed that dogs trained using forceful or aversive methods show more signs of being stressed by these encounters than their positively trained counterparts. While its the first study to have been confirmed by a trained, observing researcher, it upholds several other studies that claim positive training strengthens our bonds with our pets and significantly lowers their stress.

It’s Safer for You and Your Dog

Many pet owners may not realize that punishing your dog in a dominant or aggressive way can actually increase the chances that your dog will respond aggressively. In 2009, a study conducted on the effects of confrontational training methods found that those owners who were the most aggressive or dominant towards their dogs experienced the most returns of aggression from their dogs.

Since then, there have been several other studies confirming similar findings: attempts to “assert dominance” using aggression or force results in even more aggression from our pets. If we can teach so many different undomesticated animals to respond to cues using only positive reinforcement, certainly we can teach our own pets without the use of aggression or force.

It Doesn’t Mean Total Anarchy

There is a common misconception that positive reinforcement creates an environment where owners indulge their pets in whatever behaviors they see fit, good, bad, or even ugly! Force free training doesn’t mean becoming a door mat for your dog; however, it does mean teaching your dog how to make good decisions without bullying, force, or domination. It takes patience and hard work, but in the end positive training sets your dog up for success that is long lasting and healthier than any dominance method we’ve seen.