Review: Busy Buddy Bristle Bone

The girls were extremely excited to try this offering from Chewy.com: the Busy Buddy Bristle Bone.

Busy Buddy Bone review / Doggerel

This ingenious toy, devised for very heavy chewers (which both of our pups are), integrates thin, replaceable rawhide rings into the bone.

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We got to try the large size, which currently sells for $14.95 at Chewy.com. As soon as I let them try out the one we received, I knew I’d have to buy another one. They were both very interested in the bone and possessive over it. I bought another one in our next Chewy order, and they have both really been enjoying themselves with this toy.

They did figure out how to unscrew one of the ends of the bones and remove the ring, however, so I’d suggest that this is a toy for supervised play time.
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Eden went to the vet for her annual checkup just last week, and the vet tech, whose opinion we treat like gold, actually recommended this toy to us. Eden was developing some buildup on her molars, and the vet tech said she really liked this toy for keeping the plaque at bay.

We’re all very pleased with this bristle bone! It’s always a pleasure to discover a new toy that can stand up to these heavy-duty shepherd mouths.

Is your dog playing with anything new lately?

Disclaimer: We were provided with this product in exchange for our honest review. We never review products that we wouldn’t heartily recommend to friends.

Review: ZiwiPeak jerky treats

I don’t know about you, but we’re always on the hunt for high-quality, small-sized treats for daily training and practice. We’re perpetually working on leash reactivity, and so we try to always have some good reinforcement on hand to rebuild those neural pathways.

Doggerel

Accordingly, we were delighted to try this offering from Chewy.com: ZiwiPeak’s Good Dog lamb jerky treats, which originate in New Zealand.

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These are 95% lamb and grain free, and they come in these tiny, lightweight little strips, which are just perfect for handing out and training on the go.

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A bag of these treats currently sells for $7.22 at Chewy.com.

Pyrrha and Eden were VERY excited as soon as I ripped that pouch open. They were ready to throw out any trick or behavior to get a taste, and these little treats certainly didn’t disappoint them.

Pyrrha and Eden

What have you been using for training tidbits lately? 

Disclaimer: We were provided with a bag of these treats in exchange for our honest review. We were not otherwise compensated, and we only review products that we genuinely recommend.

Review: Purina Pro Plan Savor Tender Strips

As we settle back in to our normal life, the girls are pleased to know that we’re resuming some reviews of products from Chewy.com. We are not paid for our opinions, and we only review things that we feel comfortable about recommending. We are provided with a free sample and asked to write a review, which Pyrrha and Eden are only too happy to help with.

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This time, we got to sample Purina Pro Plan’s Savor Tender Strips.

This is a soft treat that is easily breakable into tiny bits, so even though the strips are big dog-sized (about 4″ to 5″ long), you could break them up into small pieces for training.

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We don’t feed Purina and haven’t been terribly interested in most of their offerings, to be honest, but I was pleased to see that lamb is the first ingredient in these treats.

A bag of the lamb and sweet potato treats currently sells for $5.99 at Chewy.com.

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The girls are trying to contain their excitement:

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(*Note that is a pinecone between them. Not something… untoward…)

They are big fans! I have been using broken-up pieces of these strips to entice Pyrrha while I apply some antibiotic spray to her in the morning (she has an ongoing minor issue), and it certainly helps distract her from any small unpleasantness.

Do you have a favorite type of treat that’s currently in rotation at your house? Do share!

In exchange for our honest opinion, we were provided with a bag of these treats from Chewy.com. I was not paid for my opinion, and I only feature reviews of products I am comfortable recommending to good friends.

Are you similar to your breed’s fans?

I am perpetually interested in how certain personality types gravitate toward certain breeds or breed types.

For instance, I have always loved dogs in the herding group most. I love their look, their intensity, their intelligence and drive to work with people. I grew up with a beautiful Australian shepherd, and I dream sometimes about getting an English shepherd. But I also have a soft spot for sighthounds and spaniels.

Through no clear intention of my own, I have become a “German shepherd person,” now raising two shepherds and having fostered six. (*German shepherds are technically in the herding group, according to the AKC, but many shepherds these days have lost that herding instinct. But there is a growing trend of getting working-line shepherds back into livestock herding, which I find very interesting.)

© Mike Hale (Flickr). Creative Commons license.
© Mike Hale (Flickr). Creative Commons license.

And yet I feel very different from the typical German shepherd person. Allow me to stereotype, will you?

The typical German shepherd person

  • ascribes to traditional, dominance-based training
  • often has a military or law enforcement background
  • is concerned with being “the alpha” or the “pack leader”
  • has no problem with shock collars, prong collars, and choke chains
  • finds schutzhund very appealing
  • is likely a gun owner
  • finds “toughness” and even mild aggression to be a virtue

Clearly, not everyone who has a shepherd fits most or even one of these stereotypes, but I find these traits to be more true of shepherd people than of other groups aligned with other breeds.

This person loves his or her shepherd as much as I love mine, and the generalizations are not meant to discount that but rather to say I often feel very, very temperamentally different from the typical German shepherd owner.

I am not tough, and I am not impressed by machismo. I do not and never will own a gun. I follow the science-based philosophies of positive reinforcement training and would never use a shock collar on my dog or on any dog. I do not think my dogs are trying to “dominate” me, a concept I find simultaneously laughable and dangerous.

For these reasons, I stay off the German shepherd message boards and have honestly distanced myself from a lot of our dogs’ rescue representatives, most of whom have bought into a shock-collar “training” franchise and encourage adopters to put their shepherds through their expensive programs, which promise fast results for “problem” dogs by the widespread use of e-collars. I’m OK with being an outsider.

My idea of a good night: wine, "Breaking Bad," and a shepherd sleeping in my lap. #draco #gsd
Draco, one of our fosters, and me.

It makes me curious, though, about other breeds, so I’d love to hear from you. What are some of the stereotypes of people with your dog’s breed? Do you fit those generalizations? 

My dad’s off-leash experiments with the dogs

Dogs at summer camp
Photo from Dad; Eden in far background, waiting for the team to catch up; Pyrrha dragging her rope; my mom in the foreground.

Dad calls me every so often to give me dog updates. Unequivocally, Pyrrha and Eden are loving life with him and my mom this summer. They get tons of exercise, personal attention, and play time with Dublin (which is especially great for Pyrrha, who really depends on other dogs to teach her how to behave, and Dublin is a model canine).

He also really likes taking them to a nature preserve and letting them roam off leash. This makes me very nervous, because of all of the contingencies and because we haven’t had a lot of solid practice with off-leash recall, but he doesn’t ask my permission and only tells me about their outings after the fact. Which I am honestly OK with. I would be an anxious mess if he asked me about it beforehand.

Dad called me last week to say there was an “incident” with Pyrrha at the preserve, and I almost had a heart attack waiting for him to tell me what had happened. Did she bite a child? Did she get in a dog fight? I felt like I couldn’t breathe.

But this was the incident: Pyrrha saw a deer and took off into the woods after it. Instead of going after her, Dad said he decided to keep hiking along with Eden and Dublin, who always stick close to him, and hope that Pyrrha would figure out how to find them. He said they walked for a good while, and Pyrrha was completely out of sight. After some more time passed, he started to get concerned that she was lost for good. Just as he was about to backtrack and start hunting for her, he said he heard these pitiful whines from the forest, and Pyrrha was darting around, crying, because she couldn’t find them. When she finally made her way back to the pack, he said she was the happiest he’d ever seen her. I am not sure if she learned anything from this “incident,” but I’m relieved that nothing more dire happened.

Dad said that shortly after she rejoined the group, two big dogs who were also off-leash came into the clearing, and everyone did their greetings politely and tossed off a few play bows. No barking! No lunging! No inappropriate greetings whatsoever. Pyrrha and Eden love other dogs, but they absolutely cannot greet them on leash. They lose their minds and look like vicious monsters if I can’t divert them or increase distance. So, this was a very happy outcome to hear about. Both of our dogs really love other dogs, but you would never guess that if you saw them pass dogs on leash. I’m always happy when they get to interact in an appropriate, happy way with other dogs off leash.

More to come on some theories about off-leash life and well-adjusted dogs, particularly reflecting on my time observing dogs in Europe…

Still alive

Dog life in May 2015
Still living!

It’s been a long time since I last checked in, and although I don’t think I will take up the regular posting schedule that I once did, I may endeavor to write a bit now and then. Because I’m still obsessed with dogs. As much as I may pretend that I’m not.

What’s new with the pups since January 2015:

  • Eden’s itchiness reached desperate levels. She was scratching constantly and causing hot spots. After hundreds of dollars and a series of unhelpful tests (including a $300 allergen panel that came back saying she had no allergies whatsoever) and false diagnoses, it seems that she may just have environmental allergies. So, she’s now on a daily dose of Apoquel, and that seems to be helping her. Sigh. Makes me think about what I wrote about a while ago, musing on the misleading health of expensive purebreds versus sloppily bred/mutts.
  • On the whole, however, they are happy and fairly healthy. Pyrrha is now 5 and Eden turns 3 in July.
  • They are currently living with my parents for the summer, because my husband and I are living/working in London right now! We miss the dogs, but they are having a great time. I don’t think they miss us at all. Eden is getting lots of daily exercise with my dad (including Frisbee, morning runs, and rollerblading sessions), and Pyrrha is just happy to be with Dublin on a daily basis. We’re really grateful that they can have such a happy temporary home.

Not having them around right now makes me think about them more and about all of the training goals I have for them when we come back home at the beginning of August.

Three main things I want to work on:

  1. Eden developing some impulse control, especially at doorways and when greeting house guests.
  2. Pyrrha’s tendency to be the “fun police” with Eden and other dogs; specifically, her very annoying habit of explosive barking every morning and redirecting it at Eden when they are let out of their crates.
  3. Putting daily walks back in my schedule. I was good about this with Pyrrha, but I got lazy when we added Eden to the family, and having two leash-reactive German shepherds made me even less inclined to take them out on my own. And so it became a vicious cycle, in which I rarely walked them because of the reactivity and their reactivity never improved because I rarely walked them. Mea culpa!

More ideas on this later, but I have been doing lots of behavioral refresher readings during my lunch breaks in London. (Eileen and Dogs seems to always know what I want/need to read!)

Simultaneously falling asleep
Napping in synchrony.

What’s new with you and your pups?

The irony of the champion bred vs. backyard bred

I hesitate to write this post, lest anyone think I’m championing lackadaisical backyard breeders or puppy mills. Not at ALL. This is just a weird, little personal observation…

When it comes to purebred dogs, sometimes the haphazardly bred turn out healthier than the ones from ribbon-winning breeders.

Our dogs are a case in point.

Ready to rumble
Pyrrha, February 2013.

Pyrrha came from a terrible place — this neglectful man who had a dozen shepherds in tiny cages outdoors — but she is the picture of health. She’s never had a serious health concern (knock on wood), her skin and coat are shiny and robust, and she has a better, stronger build (no exaggerated back lines or hocks). Plus, her teeth look much better than Eden’s, despite the fact that they are on the same diet and that Pyrrha is a full two years her senior.

Dogs in May
Eden, May 2014.

Eden, on the other hand, was a very expensive puppy from West German lines. (Her papers are completely in German.) Her parents are both titled schutzhund champions. And health wise, she’s been a huge pain. Thankfully, there’s nothing seriously wrong with her (yet), but she is the reason we spend a small fortune at the vet on a regular basis. Her skin is bad and she’s constantly itchy. Her teeth are already showing signs of wear and tear. Her back hocks are sadly sloped.

I mentioned this little observation to one of the vet techs, when we were back in with Eden, and she laughed and said she had the same experience. She rescues Boston terriers, and her terriers from puppy mills and backyard breeders have been quite healthy. But her most recent acquisition, an expensive puppy from a supposedly good breeder, has been a complete genetic disaster.

So. Conclusion? If you want a purebred, do your research and find a really excellent, thoughtful breeder. But also acknowledge that purebreds are just a gamble. Don’t give money to the horrible human beings who churn out puppies in miserable conditions, but also don’t think that a well-bred purebred is going to be perfectly healthy. The odds are somewhat against them.

Wednesday afternoon

We love our ladies, regardless of their issues. But my big conclusion is: Get a mixed-breed dog. This would definitely be my next move, as much as I love our purebred ladies.

What do you think? Am I totally insane? Anyone else have a similar experience with purebreds from disparate backgrounds?