Friday, March 30, 2012

My little graduate

Kerrigan graduated Basic Obedience class last night!  Not only did she graduate, but she also got that fluffy bone for winning a sit/down contest at class.

Whats next for us?  We still have a few months until she can take her CGC test.  I am anticipating it going well but we still need to work on supervised separation.  She does fine with me leaving, but knowing that I am just in the next room over can elicit some whining.  The rest will be easy.  Just like the CGC, agility has to wait until she is a year old.  In the meantime we are just going to be working on learning lots of tricks and socializing with lots of other people and dogs.

Happy Friday to everyone!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Kidney Brownies

Have you ever heard of liver brownies?  They are a super easy home made treat that dogs love.  Because they are cheap, easy and good for training they are a favorite of those of us who are high volume treat users like trainers and obedience people.  Well today I set out to see if the recipe would work with kidney.  Why kidney you ask?  I happened to get 4 pounds of local, pasture fed-finished beef kidney for very little money.  It has been sitting in a giant 4lb glob in a bag in the freezer taking up way too much space and I really needed it to go.  If I were to put this in to dog food (even if it was the only organ other than liver I used) it would take months for it all to get eaten.  Right now I am not short on organ and frankly the other stuff fits in the freezer much better.

So here is the recipe I improvised for kidney brownies-
4 LB of Beef Kidney
1 1/2 Cup Corn Meal*
1 Cup Flour
1/2 a Wedge of Parmesan Cheese
4 Cloves of garlic**

*Read what I have to say about corn if you want to.  If your dog is allergic or sensitive to corn you could use regular flour and an egg but I think it will be more crumbly like a traditional brownie and not a rip-able, pliable bar like I got.
**From what I read garlic can cause anemia in dogs if used in large quantities.  This recipe uses only 4 cloves to make an amount of treats that will last two dogs months.  I hear that dogs like the taste of garlic and it also made the cooking smell of this a little more bearable for me so I am glad I used it.  It is certainly not necessary if it makes you uncomfortable or if your dog can't have it for some reason.

First I assembled all my ingredients-
Then I preheated my oven to 350 degrees.  Next I covered a cookie sheet in foil and greased it (I used olive oil, but any cooking oil would do).  I put the cheese in a food processor with the peeled garlic.
And zap, zap, zap- tada!
I don't have any pictures of chopping and blending the kidney.  It was too gross and I just wanted it to be over.  My only advise is if you value the motors on your kitchen appliances use a blender, cut the kidney up small and pour all the blood from the bag into the mix.  Once it was all processed I mixed it with the cheese, corn meal and flour.
Spread the mixture into your greased and foiled cookie sheet.  I made it about 1/4 inch thick but I now see that either thicker or thinner would both work although it would be a different consistency treat depending.  I like my 1/4 inch and at that depth I got several cookie sheets worth.

Bake for 25 minutes.

Once it cools a little I turned the slab over onto a cooling rack and carefully peeled back the tin foil.  Without the foil I can't imagine I would have gotten it off the cookie sheet.
Because of the consistency of the sheet it was easiest for me to cut it with scissors once it was completely cool.  I cut it into strips and then cubes like you see in the first picture.
These treats need to be either refrigerated or frozen.  I froze most of mine because I made a lot of treats.  I do have a tip on freezing though.  If you first freeze the treats laid out on a cookie sheet THEN put them all into a bag it will help avoid clumping.  You should be able to just pull out what you need without having to thaw the whole bag.  This method works for veggies and most other cooked then frozen items too.

I got a LOT of treats.  Previously I had been buying Welness Pure Rewards for about $6 a bag.  This recipe made about 12 bags worth of treats and cost me $6.*
*I calculated $2.50 for 1/2 a block of Parmesan cheese at $4.99, $2 for the kidney, 25c for the garlic (although I did get it for free from a farmer we know) and $1 for the corn meal and flour then to make it a round number I pretended it cost me 25c in gas to run the oven.  Total- $6

These were a big hit with both Copley (who would eat anything) and Kerrigan (who it a little bit more picky).  They are the perfect consistency for training and once done don't really smell like kidney any more. 

Monday, March 26, 2012


I know two posts in one day.  It might turn into three, I am on a roll today.  Anyway...

I have been goggling treat recipes today and I found a lot of crazy ranting about corn out there on the interwebs.  I thought I would put out there my stand on the plant just so we are all clear on it in the future.*  Feel free to agree or disagree, for I am no corn expert.

Firstly- Corn is used as a filler in a lot of dog food.  So is potato, grains, pea fiber, tomato, rice and lots of other plants.  All kibble use carbohydrate fillers- to me no one of them is any better or worse than another.  Especially the way it is done in kibble.  That's why I don't feed commercial dog food.

Secondly- Using corn gluten as a replacement for meat protein in dog food is also not so good in my opinion.  This is where corn as an ingredient in dog food gets it's well deserved bad rap.

Thirdly- Corn is not evil.  I am about to bake treats using cornmeal as an ingredient.  Corn had gotten a bad rap because it is used rampantly in kibble as a protein source.  Using 1/2 cup of it in my treats is no worse than using rice or oatmeal.  It is just another carbohydrate that I don't believe will do any harm in the small amounts I need it to hold my treats together.  The people on the internet raging in the comments about every treat recipe I find with corn clearly don't understand this complicated issue.  Putting a little corn in treats is a totally, totally different issue than the use of highly processed corn gluten as a protein replacement in your dogs diet.

Lastly- Lots of dogs have allergies to corn.  If your dog is allergic to corn then don't give them corn.  My dog is intolerant of potato, sweet potato and carrot.  I don't go around telling everyone I meet to stop feeding their dogs carrots.

Thanks for listening to my rant, feel free to rage at my non hatred of corn.  I am sure some of you are convinced the pet food companies are paying me to say this as part of some massive conspiracy.  Others I am sure will think me a crazy granola muncher (or whatever) for not accepting corn gluten as a legitimate protein source.  I will take that as a compliment.  Pissing off both sides is what I do best :)

*Only in the dog world would something like corn cause rage of this magnitude on the internet.

The Zoo

Remember this post where I had a great idea about taking pictures at the zoo and talking about our dogs wild cousins.  Well I also promised that I would be going to another zoo to take pictures because all of the dogs/wolves/foxes were hiding at the first zoo.  Well it turns out that the problem was not the heat, dog-like creatures just make for bad viewing at zoos.  I had my break through about this while photographing a monkey. 

I asked myself "why are all the monkeys so interesting and the dogs are not?"  Then I hit myself in the side of the face.  For being so stupid.  Primates love eye contact, they, like us, take the world on face first.  Dogs hate eye contact with unfamiliar people and animals, approach others from the side and usually greet nose to but.  So guess what?  They put their butts to you at the zoo because making eye contact with a million new people walking by every day would just be no fun.  At least that is my read on the situation.

So here is a picture of a monkey.  He was very, very interested in staring directly into the lens of my camera.  Try getting your dog to stare that deeply into something that looks like a dilated pupil.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


I just got back from vacation!  That would explain the lack of posting lately.  Given all the unpacking I have to do I am going to keep this short and sweet.  First I would like to share a picture of where I have been, I think you will all understand why I wish I was still on vacation.
The dogs seem to have had a good time while we were gone.  Friends stayed with them at the house so I think they were much happier than when they were kenneled.  Copley was so incredibly happy to see us when we got back.  I don't think that he ever thought about us NOT coming back, because other people just came to the house and his routine stayed the same.  When we did return though I think it was a surprise because of how long we had been gone.  He wagged his whole butt and was sooo happy, but then he followed me around all night nervously shaking and panting.  As far as I can see this behavior was a combination of two things.  Firstly Copley does not like changes to his world view.  He is totally cool with new objects and people and activities, but if you do something like change his bedtime routine or (shudder) try to change a command to a different word (up to stand comes to mind) he becomes very upset.  Us returning- while happy- was also a change in his worldview and he was awfully upset about that.  The second thing is that I do believe Copley remembers being abandoned.  I just ignored his upset behavior but made sure I stayed home all evening so he could see I wasn't going to leave.  He seemed to return to his normal Copley self by morning.

Now I have to go take a nap- traveling really takes it out of you.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Necessity is the mother of invention

We are starting clicker training with Kerrigan.  We never did it with Copley, but he just moved so slow we always had plenty of time to say "good dog" as his marker.  With Kerri being energetic and a quick learner it seemed time to introduce the clicker.  Only one problem, it is so loud it makes her jump.  She is not so much scared of it as she is just startled by the noise and it distracts her.  That is just about the opposite of what you want the clicker to do so we needed a solution.  I have to give some credit for this idea to our wonderful instructor who suggested a pickle jar lid.  I tried that and it was ALMOST perfect.  My two problems with it were size (too large) and consistency (it made a different noise depending on how it got pressed, and about 50% of the time it was way too quiet.)

So I put my thinking cap on and have made the perfect clicker.  It also has the added benefit of being nearly free (1cent if you want to count the penny you have to dig out of the depths of your purse.)  For this clicker you will need.
  1. The small top of a container with a safety seal button (we used one of those Starbucks drinks that comes in a glass bottle).
  2. A penny (or similar coin)
  3. Tape
The steps are simple.  Assemble your supplies.

Place the penny over the top of the security button.

Tape in place

Congratulations!  You have a quiet (but not too quiet) clicker!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Tug a Jug

Remember that last post when I couldn't upload the videos?  I finally made a youtube account and it seemed to work.  Here they are-

New Toys! And Beds!

Lets start with the beds.  Our crate pad situation was getting a little sad around here.  Kerrigan still had the cheap crate pad we bought in a pinch the day we adopted her.  Copley had a crate pad made out of recycled bottles but it was very lumpy and didn't look so great.  With Copley still on his slow return to normal activity after a possible knee injury he spends a lot more time than he used to.  Getting him a memory foam mattress seemed like a good idea.  It would support his joints and hopefully hold heat a little better in the winter.  Unhappy that I couldn't get anything locally that I liked I turned to online shopping.  Copley got a new crate, orthopedic crate bed and crate cover.  Kerrigan is staying in her airline type crate for the time being but she got a nicer crate bed.

As you can see Kerri likes Copley's crate too :)  Overall I am happy with what I got but I still wish someone would make a high quality crate pad/bumper/cover set.  This stuff is good for what I need but I would gladly pay more for slightly higher quality stuff that was not made in China.  Maybe I need to start a business here...

On the toy front I got this thing called a Tug a Jug.  Copley had one before but got bored with it before he ever got anything out of it!  Then one day it broke (human error) and I just never replaced it.  Well I saw them on sale so I got one for Copley and one for Kerri thinking Kerri would love it.  In a strange turn of events Copley loves it now and has figured it out a lot better.  He can get every last treat out of it this time.  No idea what changed but I am glad I gave it a second try.  The jug is a good toy for Kerri too, but being a little less food motivated she tends to get out a few treats then go look out the window... then get another treat... then sniff around... then discover Copley got all her treats while she was distracted.

[Insert cute videos here]  Seriously though blogger hates me.  I have been trying for days to get these videos to upload.  You will have to settle for pictures until I have time to make a youtube account and hope they upload easier there.  The videos are really cute and show how Copley has mastered the perfect technique for removing treats from the tug a jug.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Monday, March 5, 2012

Fat Dogs

You know how I know most people's dogs are fat?  The general public can't even recognize a healthy dog anymore.  People constantly remark about how skinny my dogs are.  Just today someone told me how my dogs looked really skinny and unhealthy.  Even asked what I feed them.

As you can see Copley is totally skin and bones-
We never give him any treats-
And we work him so very hard-
If he could talk all he would say is "feed me, please feed me".  (actually that one is probably accurate)
As you can see the chihuahua is skin and bones too-
Seriously though, my dogs are a healthy weight.  Here is a copy of the chart my vet uses.  At our last visit Copley was a 5 and Kerrigan was a 4.  That's right, Copley, the dog I get the most comments about is not even borderline skinny!  He is on the HEAVY side of good.
Also why does everything my vet do revolve around products from what I consider to be one of the most evil companies on the planet?  I spent a lot of time cutting Nestle out of my life before I got a dog and now I am posting a chart made by them on my very own blog.  Sigh.
If only I ran the world, if only...