Saturday, December 20, 2014

Happy Solstice!

Sunday is the winter solstice and Copley, Kerri and Nova want to send out warm wishes and happy thoughts to all of our family, friends and blog readers!  No matter what you celebrate (or even if you celebrate nothing at all) we wish you a happy non-denominational gift giving season to everyone.  In the spirit of bringing cheer here are some out-takes from our holiday card photo shoot.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Happy Adoption Day Nova Bear!

I can't believe it has been two years since Nova came into our lives.  Two years since she was handed to me at a vets office as they warned me not to take her.  Two years since her bony little body shivered in the back of my car crate and I put on gloves to get her out.  Two years since we realized she was not adoptable, she was not a foster dog- she had landed in her forever home.  Two years ago we wondered if she would ever stand up straight, if she would ever eat in front of us, if she would ever pick up a toy.  Looking back on that time I'm not sure exactly what we were thinking was going to happen.  Personally I did not have a lot of faith in what kind of dog she was going to turn into.  I just knew that there was something about her that I knew deserved a chance, I knew Copley loved her immediately and more unconditionally than any dog he had ever met before and I knew she was family.  Not even metaphorical family- she was found within a mile of where Kerri was dumped and other than her height they look identical so who knows?

I was worried about her, and worried she would never adjust to living inside with humans.  I talked to our trainers and they helped, our vet came the house and had so much faith in her- maybe the most of anyone.  Still, the first week we had her this was what we saw-

Then she started standing up and walking around so we expanded her world to this pen-

Where she made a best friend

Then relaxed just a little bit and celebrated her first Christmas inside with a family.  She had a stocking and her Grandparents sent her gifts.  More importantly to her she was warm, and safe and full

Then tail tucked, backed into a corner she started eating in front of us

Four months later she played with me for the first time- with that green bone.

Slowly but surely she made progress.   Every day we worked on clicker tricks and she got more and more confident.  Then one day she let me pet her.  Just a little scratch under the chin.  Then a little later she sat next to me on the couch.  Then I pet her some more and before I knew it she was coming over to be pet every day.  Finally one day about a month later she realized she was not just a feral dog, she was a chihuahua!  And my lap has looked like this ever since-

With her nickname being changed from "Cheney" to "Snuggle Muffin" she celebrated her second Christmas with us.

 She even had a Secret Santa-

Then she started taking fun trips to the park

She took her first vacation- where we broke down and everyone got a little bit hot

Next she graduated obedience class

And finally she is all snuggled up ready for her third Christmas as a member of our little family

Some things are still a struggle for Nova but every day she gets better, even now two years later.  These days more often than not she is frolicking with her sister, cuddling on my lap or dropping all the toys in the house behind the couch.  She knows many tricks and loves learning so much I have to hide the clicker when we are not using it.  There is barely a trace of the scared little dog I brought home that first day.  I am so grateful to be Nova's person, she has taught me so much as we worked together to turn this scared dog-

 Into this silly, happy, smart and beautiful one!  (Who is perhaps a little pushy when she wants to play with her sister)

So happy adoption day Nova!  Also thank you to everyone with A Home For Spot (who still know her as Tire Store Chihuahua) who helped trap her and get her to me, particularly Diana, who trusted me with the more difficult dogs like Nova.  I am also forever grateful to my husband who slept on the ground in her pen for a month when she was too scared to go upstairs but unhappy when she was alone and loves her just as much as all our other dog even though she still wont let him pet her.

P.S.- For more adorable Nova pictures follow us on Facebook or Instagram @doginthedesert  In addition to being cute in real life Nova is very photogenic and gets a lot of posts dedicated to her adorable face on there!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Family (and Friends) Trip to Red Rock

The whole family and a few friends took a trip out to Red Rock for a hike the other day.  I have some great pictures, and we had a great time, but first I wanted to say a few things about hiking in places where there are a lot of other off leash dogs.

Now this particular trail was not actually in Red Rock national recreation area.  It was on BLM land, where there is no leash law, although this particular hike is a lot busier than any other BLM land area that I ever frequent.  I always keep Kerri on a leash because of hawks but I let Copley make his own way and the same is true for the other dogs we were with.  Most people on the trail had off leash dogs, but if we saw people coming we would call our dogs to us and leash them till we all passed each other.  Here is where it gets tricky for Copley.  He is a friendly dog but has gotten less and less tolerant of other dogs getting in his face as he gets older.  Nothing bad, but he just avoids situations where high energy dogs are in his face now, but if he is forced he may growl.  If everything is loose and off leash he smells a butt first and all is fine, but in these situations without fail the other owner is holding their dog back on the end of a tight leash with their dog flailing their front feet at Copley, so I just avoid greeting people's dogs with Copley and we move on.  Not because he is going to start a dog fight but because he doesn't like it.  Not all dogs love all situations and not all dogs need to be forced into situations they don't like.

So here is my predicament.  Copley would be 100% fine off leash where he could circle around back and sniff the other dog, or at least where he could take on the situation or not.  It is the smush together of dogs on the end of tight leashes in a small space that makes him uncomfortable and he will occasionally growl, but typically I just pick him up.  That works for me most of the time as long as the other dogs we are meeting are not totally out of their owners control.  I COULD just keep on going and call Copley to me without leashing him and we would have much more positive experiences.  The problem with that is I think it is kinda rude.  I thought that etiquette in an off leash area was that you leash everybody when passing, and although many people don't do that I feel like I need to be the good example and do it myself.  Maybe I should throw etiquitte to the wind and just do what I want- or perhaps only hike on remote BLM land where I will never run into another human or canine.  

While that is pondered take a look at some more picture from our fun hike!

 Kerrigan climbs "Mt. Osprey"

 On the Trail

There are burrows in this picture if you look really close.  Try clicking on it- it's like where's waldo wilderness style.

Have a great week everybody!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Happy 3 Year Adoption Day Kerri!

Last week we celebrated Kerrigan's 3 year adoption day!  How fast time flies!  To celebrate we took her shopping at a outdoor mall with a doggie bakery.  Here she is enjoying her purchases.

"I smell that this bag is for me"

"I am a tiny dog- that pup-cake is too big for me, please break it up"

"Much better- yumm"

Then we went to hang out with her friends Harvey and Mosby!  I only have one blurry picture of that play time.  I thought it was fitting to hang out with her friends who also came from the same kill shelter as she did.  All of them are pretty lucky to have gotten out of there alive and it is certainly reason to celebrate!

She had a great day hanging out with us and her buddies (even though she of course has no idea it was her birthday).  I try to do something special for our dogs adoption day every year although Copley's adoption day is our wedding anniversary and Nova's is a week after Ben's birthday and two weeks before Christmas...  so Kerri tends to get the biggest party.  Do you guys do anything for your dog's Birthdays or adoption days?  Let us know in the comments, we would love birthday ideas!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Things only Tiny Dog Owners Need To Worry About

Most people who own dogs from the toy group enjoy them for their size not in spite of it.  After all people have spent hundreds of years breeding an animal that naturally weighs 30 or so pounds to be the size of a loaf of bread, we must have done it for some reason.  I love my 6 lb dogs for a lot of reasons- portability, how cheap they are to feed, how little and adorable their faces are...  Needless to say there are plenty of good things.  With that small size however comes a set of special worries reserved for owners of dogs less than 8 lbs.*

  1. Birds of prey.  That's right, my dog is hawk bait!  I don't let my chis off leash in wide open areas because they can easily be eaten by any number of raptors.  Being the same size as, but slower than a rabbit makes them an easy meal.  Also to all the people who think I am crazy on this one- IT HAPPENS.  I personally know one yorkie owner who lost their dog to a bird of prey and a chihuahua owner who's dog was attacked by one while on the end of the leash. Still don't believe me, try these articles from various local new stations: Hawk Flies Away With Family Pet, Hawk Tries to Fly off with Toy Poodle, or from the AKC a few stories of people whose dogs have been attacked are in this Q&A.
  2. Peeing in tall grass.  When grass is just a little too high my female chis have a hard time peeing in it because when they squat down the grass pokes them in the tummy.  It is pretty funny to watch, but they never really get used to it.  Luckily in my backyard my dogs pee on the rocks so it is not a problem.
  3. Doors slamming shut on them.  When it is even the slightest bit windy my back door can blow closed if not stopped properly.  That door slamming shut on my chihuahuas would end them for sure, no matter what part of their body gets hit.  Same thing with my garage door.  That one has a spring closure, so if you open it and let go it naturally falls closed behind you.  We stop and close that door by hand every sing time we open it because of the chihuahuas.  While it probably would just bounce off a bigger dog, or the dog would hold the door open, it would be sure to crush a tiny chihuahua.
  4. People picking them up without permission.  On several occasions people have reached down and picked Kerri up without asking my permission.  Two people have even continued to grab her after I told them "don't pick up my dog" usually telling me "it's ok, I love little dogs!"  I know it seems like I would really have to not be paying attention for this to happen but it is just so fast.  I only have to turn my head for a second and suddenly a person who was walking by is picking her up.  For a lot of reasons this is really unnerving.  Particularly the people who pick her up even after I tell them not to.  One women even refused to put her down and I reached over, put my hands around Kerri and told her if she didn't let go I was going to start screaming for the police.  Actually my plan was to start screaming and kick her but luckily she just let her go and I walked off.  I don't think she meant any real harm (although you never know) but she just didn't see what the big deal was picking her up.  Personally I think it is very reasonable to keep your dog out of the arms of strangers.  They could easily drop her, or otherwise injure her.  Also Kerri loves being picked up by anyone but that is not the case with all dogs.  Going around picking up strange dogs is certainly going to get you bit eventually.  This is not to say that I don't want ANYONE to pick up Kerrigan.  After all she does love it.  I don't mind my friends picking her up, or my neighbors when we see them out on walks.  There are also a few people at the library where we do therapy dog visits who pick her up every time we visit, but those people I know and they were given permission to pick her up.  For some reason I don't think that Mastiff owners have this problem.
  5. Rolling over/sitting on/falling on them.  I check under throw blankets before I sit down on the couch, I don't fall hard onto my bed and I have to watch where I step around the house.  Having a dog that could be fatally crushed by you plopping onto a couch cushion they have burrowed under just changes how you do things.
  6. Keeping them warm.  I know people often judge "dressing up" small dogs, but as I have written about before, we have bred dogs to be very tiny.  So tiny that in some cases they are no longer able to regulate their body temperature as well as "full sized" dogs.  In the case of my 6 lb dogs and many other small dogs they need to wear sweaters for most of the winter.  Even in a mild winter like we have here.
  7. Finding treats that are small enough.  I do a lot of training and also a lot of hiking.  These are both activities that require a lot of healthy, small treats.  I need them for training to keep her interested and for hiking to keep her energy up.  Unfortunately most hiking food is GIANT and even training treats are absurdly large for my dogs.  To give you an idea Kerri could not eat a regular sized milkbone because she can't get her mouth open wide enough to get a piece off of one (not that I would feed milkbones anyway).  I buy cat treats, make my own treats and also have found a few select dog items that work great for training.  I find myself using freeze dried just meat treats a lot because I can "count" them as part of my chihuahuas meals.  With them eating so little food in a day every little bit counts and sugary or starch filled treats can really add on the calories for the day for a tiny dog.  A friend of mine used a training treat for their high energy mastiff puppy and three of them equaled Nova's entire caloric intake for the day!  Those are even healthy treats that work great for their training, but as you can imagine they would quickly be a problem for us.  In other news I am an expert in how much dust comes off every commercial dog treat available when you break it into 8 pieces...  Some hold up better than others.
I don't mean to say that little dogs can't do what big dogs do- because they can!  Kerri can do a six mile hike like a champ, eat an entire raw game hen and run an agility course.  She just needs a little extra thought when it comes to certain things.  Anyone else have a particular challenge with their little dogs?  Feel free to share in the comments!

*I didn't mean to exclude anyone here, many people probably have these worries with slightly bigger dogs too.  HOWEVER I am tired of hearing from beagle owners about how tiny and fragile their dogs are.  I own a 18lb dog.  I also own a 5.75 lb dog.  There is a big difference between your worries with a 6 lb dog and a 20 lb dog.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Beautiful Nevada

 Valley Of Fire State Park (You can click on the pictures to see them full size)

A lot of people like to talk about how miserable this state is.  Particularly after the horribly hot summer we just had (are still having?  It was 94 today).  I must admit I often wish there were are few more trees around or at least an ocean BUT Nevada does have it's great qualities.  I was looking through old pictures and have stumbled across a few that really capture how great The Silver State is.  Here they are!

A STREAM at Red Rock National Conservation Area

A beautiful campsite on BLM land near Searchlight, NV

Another BLM campsite at Wee Thump Joshua Tree Forest.  The largest old growth Joshua Tree forest in the world.

Valley of Fire State Park

More Valley of Fire

A final shot at Valley of Fire

Wildflowers on BLM Land near Zzyzx

Not my best picture but a great one of a favorite trail on BLM Land outside of Red Rock National Conservation Area


A trail between Lake Mead National Recreation Area and Valley of Fire State Park

 Same trail as above

Ben and Copley forging an icy river (yep, it does get cold enough here to make ice!) at Red Rock

Sunday, October 5, 2014

A Confused Stranger

 Watching the bass at Bass Pro Shop

I am an avid Bass Pro shops shopper.  I buy camping food and cast iron skillets, clothes and boots, fishing poles and firearms.  I am about 6 blocks from one and I go there almost every week.  While I prefer REI for a few camping things and anything for backpacking I do spend A LOT of money at Bass Pro.  So much money that I am a premium member and they have special events with food and specials for only like 15 of us.  It is so like me while my friends have personal shoppers at department stores I am the one getting special invites in the mail from the fishing and camping store.

Well I was at one of these events the other day with Kerrigan (our local Bass Pro is dog friendly- not sure if that is a national thing or not) and she was getting a lot of attention.  We were sporting our DreamChii bag, in a camo fish print and making a lot of friends like Kerri does.  There were a lot of  the regular "look how well behaved that chihuahua is" and a few kids petting her and the one stranger making kissy noises at me who I almost punched before I realized he was directing it at Kerri.  We did meet two people that left an impression and I thought I would share.  One was kinda hilarious and good the other is a scumbag.

Riding the escalator in her fish print camo bag

I will start with the hilarious guy.  I will call him "The Defensive Raw Feeder."  He came up and asked to pet her, where she was from and all that.  It turns out he had a rescue at home too- a fox terrier mix.  He showed me pictures on his phone while we sat waiting for a raffle.  He at one point said "yeah, all I feed my dog is raw meat, he is so healthy we never have issues and it is so great."  I was like- "Me too!."  That is where he got really confused, as if his brain could not process the fact that other raw feeders exist in real life.  Here is how that went;
       "No, I mean I just feed them raw meat, bones, organs, and a little bit of veggies I put in a blender."
       I respond, "Me too, they eat a lot of beef I get from a rancher in southhern Arizona, and actually I use a lot of game hens cause she is so small."
        Clearly still confused he continues, "Look, what you can do is go to the supermarket and they sell frozen chicken backs, then buy those tubs of liver and try an ethnic market for other organs.  She can eat chicken bones, don't worry."
       I have to admit I was becoming frustrated.  "I know.  I have been feeding raw for over 4 years, since before this one was born.  I try to get as much locally and pasture raised meat for them as I can but it does get tough with the bone.  Have you ever fed rabbit?"
       Still in shock the stranger keeps going, "Rabbit, no?  I mean I feed them RAW meat and organ, that's it.  I give them veggies every so often, but remember no onion.  They love apples and carrots."
       Finally I just about had it.  "I feed EXACTLY what you are describing.  I have for years, in fact I have a blog where I talk about it a lot.  This dog right here has never eaten kibble in her life.  You don't run into many raw feeders in person do you?"
From there the raffle happened (I actually won a $300 rangefinder I have little use for) and that was pretty much it but I think he finally understood me.  Really I think he has so many conversations with clueless people about raw that his brain could not comprehend a conversation with someone who actually already fed it.  He did seem nice though, and clearly loves all dogs so he gets an A-OK in my book.

Now moving to the other notable encounter.  Kerri was walking on her leash and a few kids were petting her. As that group of kids walked away a boy, probably 10 or 11 walked towards her, his Dad saw the kid too (I assume Dad, it was an older adult man with him).    As the kid was going to move towards us the Dad said in the most exasperated and disappointed voice "Don't pet that gay little dog."  Something about the way he said it, like he was embarrassed that his kid would even look at a chihuahua.  Honestly it was the homophobia if it that bothered me more than insulting Kerri.  People think that chihuahuas are mean, or that they bite and are scared of letting their kids near them and that I can work with and educate about, it does not offend me.  This was different.  This idiot was suggesting that his kid was somehow less of a man for just going near my little dog and that pissed me off.  I looked the Dad in the eyes and said "jackass" loud enough for him and the kid to hear me then I walked away.  Honestly I feel bad for the kid.  Even if he is naturally the most masculine boys boy out there and the constant reminders to stay that way don't scar him I bet it is not fun to be raised by a bigoted idiot. 

That's it for story time, but I want to remind you all to follow me on Instagram @doginthedesert, Facebook, and Kerrigan's twitter account @doginthedesert  I am doing a great job with this blog thing according to my little google dashboard but the other social media not so much.  Let's change that people!  Go follow me- I promise it is both cute and informational and you won't regret it.  In the next month or so I am going to be hosting a contest on my social media and you would not want to miss out would you?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Why My Dogs Shouldn't Exist

I first posted this in 2013 in response to people on a message board who either wanted to breed their chihuahua simply because they are "cute" and it would be fun to have puppies or wanted to get a dog from a pet shop, puppy mill or otherwise shady and irresponsible breeder even though they know better.  When I wrote it I was angry, ranting, and more than a little bit upset- but my ramblings seem to have touched a few people so I have edited it and re-posted it again.  I share it today because this Thursday is Remember Me Thursday.  A campaign to remember the thousands of animals who have lost their lives in shelters and to shine a light upon the many waiting right now for homes of their own.

I am sitting here with three dogs that me and my husband love more than anything. They are family and I am so incredibly grateful to have them in my life. Copley was my first dog and he taught me to take a break and look at what is important in life. He gave me friendship, a hobby, and a reason to get out of the house every day. He has brightened my world in a way that ho human can and I LOVE him. And Kerri- she is beautiful, just gorgeous, so happy and goofy! She not only brings sunshine and light into my life but into the lives of so many other people as a therapy dog. Then Nova, my beautiful little diamond in the rough. She has been through so much in her short life yet she still has so much enthusiasm and desire to love!  They are just amazing wonderful creatures.

But dogs don't have to suffer for us to have them in our lives. In a perfect world I would be sitting here with three different dogs. Dogs who didn't go through hell to get where they are today. Dogs bred by responsible, caring breeders who know what they are doing. Copley has structural faults so bad that he is sure to get arthritis later in life. In fact he already sees a chiropractor! And his teeth- they are so messed up. He is like you took random parts from two totally incompatible breeds and just glued them together.

But people will always say that their pet store/puppy mill dog is healthy, has good knees etc. So lets say the puppies will not have totally messed up joints and teeth. Where will they go for the rest of their life. Can their homes afford to fix them? Will you be able to keep track of every one of the puppies and know how everything works out for them. If not I have news for you. Odds are one of those puppies is going to get thrown out a window in a supermarket parking lot, left at a bus station or dumped in the desert. In fact the LUCKY abandoned dogs are the ones that end up at the pound. The unlucky ones get out and fend for themselves, half starving out in the elements. The unlucky ones get used as bait dogs in a dog fighting ring. The unlucky ones get locked in a kennel for the rest of their lives being bred.

Some dogs win the rescue dog lotto. In my county sadly it is only about 50% of abandoned dogs who ever get a new home. Those 50% get picked up by people like me, and other wonderful rescuers who are cleaning up the dirty messes left by irresponsible breeders. We take the traumatized, beaten, abandoned dogs of the world and we spend the rest of their lives trying to convince them everything is going to be ok. That they can finally relax a little bit and enjoy life.

And what about me? One day I want to have a dog that has never been abandoned. A dog that has been raised properly and right by caring people who love it and are smart enough to keep it safe. I want vet bills to come from unexpected accidents and illnesses that no one could have predicted- not from lack of health testing and vet care. I want a dog with really short nails- you know that have nice short quicks because they have been trimmed regularly from puppyhood. I want a dog that I didn't have to drag terrified from a shelter the day I met it.

So if you want to breed your dog because it is cute, it is friendly and it would be fun to have puppies- wake up!!!!!!!! I know you may not think right now any of your puppies will end up abandoned- but they will. No one breeds their pets with the intention of them ending up unwanted- but it happens.

The absolute terror that guides every decision Nova makes is the responsibility of exactly one person- the one who bred her, or her mother, or whatever generation in her line first ended up on the street. But the saddest thing is that I bet that person is still doing it. Because they are living- like most other people- in ignorant bliss. They have no idea that the cute puppies they sell end up suffering these horrible fates. The best tool we have on our side is education. I can volunteer and save as many dogs as possible and it still won't stop the problem if we can't get to it's source and educate people.

So to responsible breeders- keep up the good work! The more puppy parents that are educated by good breeders and the more dogs sold to responsible owners and with spay/neuter contracts the better!

EVERYONE ELSE- wake up and smell the roses. My dogs may be the bees knees but I still wish you never bred them. The tired old argument "well my dog wouldn't exist without a puppy mill/BYB so therefore I can't say they are all bad" does not work on me. You don't need suffering to have a good dog- in fact they are much better off without it.

Please take the time today to think of all the unwanted pets out there and make sure you are not one of the people unknowingly making the problem worse.  If you are then what better way to honor the lives lost than to start doing something about it!  Spay or neuter your pet before they have another litter, educate yourself about homeless animals and think twice before you "rescue" that puppy in the window at the pet shop.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Copley Has A Great Picnic

A few weeks ago we attempted to go on a picnic with some friends (human and canine).  The picture above is what we ended up doing instead.  By "we" I mean me, Ben and Kerrigan.  Copley had a great day enjoying a picnic with his friends in a beautiful mountain meadow.  At least one of us got to enjoy the day.

We had packed up Copley, Kerri and a giant picnic to take up a mountain an an effort to get out of the impressively oppressive Vegas heat.  We met some friends and started a caravan up the mountain to meet even more friends, then our car broke down, then another car broke down.  To make a long story short we ended up leaving Copley to have a fun picnic with his friends Harvey and Mosby.  It is times like this that I am so grateful for amazing friends that I totally trust my dog with.  We were looking at the prospect of a tow truck ride in 100 degree heat and a long day at a car dealership- neither things that having a full sized dog at really seemed like a good idea.  Since then I have realized it is not normal to trust your friends so much with your pets- but I know that not only was Copley in good hands, but he enjoyed hanging out with some of this favorite dog buddies.

While Copley enjoyed his picnic we took Kerri on her first tow truck ride (the driver also has a chi at home and was so nice) then she took her first trip to a car dealership (where she was a big hit- they even brought her a little bowl of water in the waiting room).  Luckily the car only needed a little bit of warranty work and we were out for free in less than two hours.  Later we ended up picking Copley up at our friends house where he was having a great time barking at the neighborhood cats with his buddies.

So it may have been a bit of a bust of a day (and I had like cooked for days for this picnic) but it left me grateful for a few things-
  • A dog that is so well behaved that she is not trouble inside a car dealership
  • Friends who I trust totally and completely with my dogs
  • Hyundai warranty and roadside assistance
  • My new camo chihuahua sling by DreamChii that we not only used that day in the tow truck but have since taken hiking and to stores and we LOVE.  It both holds the dog close enough to your body that they don't swing around but also folds up tiny and looks like a tote bag for when the dog is just walking around.  Since I am a believer in my dog walking where ever she can I like a bag that just looks like a bag, not a giant dog purse when the dog is not in it.
  • Also a husband that thinks gender norms are stupid and chihuahuas are cool so he is willing to wear said chihuahua bag out in public.  Then let me post about it on the internet.
So not all bad right?  We are going to try to do another picnic again soon- please put a good word in with the universe for us on this one.  I really would like to spend the day relaxing in a meadow.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Dog In The Desert's Guide To Treats- Part 2 Chew Treats

As I said in my last post I have been getting a lot of questions from friends and on the blog about treats.  Part one was an extensive post about training treats.  I had a LOT to say about training treats, so it was a pretty thorough post you should check it out.  Now I am going to bring you part two of our four part series-
  1. Training Treats
  2. Chew Treats
  3. Treats to Occupy Time
  4. Biscuits and novelty treats for you to let guests hand out in an effort to stop them from giving your dogs table scraps
 Despite being an only occasional use item in my house chew treats seem to be like the number one discussed thing for dogs and they take up aisles at the big box pet stores.  My personal opinion is that chew treats are often used to mask other issues.  Maybe your dog is digging up the yard or chewing on your couch because they are bored, lonely and you aren't giving them enough exercise, not because they actually want to chew on something.  Before you go out and buy a pile of bully sticks make sure that your dog actually might want to chew on them, they don't just want to take a walk with you.  With that said- a lot of dogs do have a pretty strong desire to chew and chew treats can give you a break from your dog by occupying them for quite a while and redirect their natiral desire to chew to something productive- and not your furniture or carpet!

I am not going to cover chews your dog shouldn't have because that is over discussed on the internet or raw edible bones/hunks of meat because to me those are part of meals as far as I am concerned, not something that is a "treat."

With that said there are really only three chew treats I use in my house regularly.  Bully sticks, antlers and The Honest Kitchen Beams.

Lets start with bully sticks.  They gross a lot of people out because they are dried out bull penis, but it does not really bother me.  That part of the cow is going in the trash anyway so why not make it into a dog chew!  I love bully sticks because Copley is a very fast and hard chewer who will break off bits of things and swallow them whole.  Bully sticks are one of the only chews I feel safe giving him because they don't break apart, they are fully digestible and they take him a while to get through.  Copley will take about an hour to finish a thick eight inch bully stick.  Nova can chew down about an inch an hour, and Kerri could chew a bully stick for three months and not make a dent.  When the dogs get down to just a little piece that they might swallow I always take it away, but I have dogs that gulp food.  I know many dogs that safely work bully sticks all the way to the end, so that is up to you.  As with all things you need to watch your dog and make reasonable decisions based on how they chew things.  Also remember that anything edible has calories and bully sticks are not a low calorie food!  If your dog is needing to loose weight be sure to include the bully sticks in the calories they have eaten for the day.

This brings me to antlers!  I love antlers because they are not really edible per se, but the dogs can work pretty happily just to shave off little bits of it.  Antlers are the one chew that last and last in my house.  When I first get antlers the dogs always go crazy for them, but will loose interest after a month or so.  Lately I have been handing off my antlers to a friend when my dogs loose interest and that has worked out well for everyone.  The friends we hand off to are pit/GSD/Aussie combinations and they can put a much bigger dents in the antlers than my guys do in their month of excited chewing.  The one downside to antlers is they can be very expensive!  In the pet store the prices are ridiculous.  We get ours from a friend of a friend that picks them up on their property in Montana.  We cut up the racks with a dremel and give them to the dogs.  If you are looking for a bargain but don't have a friend with elk on their property try e-bay.  An antler is an antler so even if it is not marketed as a dog chew they are absolutely usable as long as they are not treated with anything.  Many people sell the naturally shed antlers in their property on e-bay as craft supplies.  I find my dogs enjoy them better if they are split in half.

Finally we have the honest kitchen beams.  They are 100% fish skin chews and our dogs all love them.  They are the least durable chew out of all I have listed here, Copley can eat one in about five minutes and the chis each take about an hour to get through one of the beams.  I don't mind that they are so fast going because they are just fish, and I include them in the dogs meal calculations for the day.  It is always good when you are feeding home made food to make sure there is plenty of variety and besides being a tasty chew these are also a great way to get some fish (an item I don't buy the dogs a lot) into their diet.  I was hesitant to buy them at first because of the price, when looking online it was not a lot of weight for the price.  Once I saw them in a local pet store however, I got them right away.  They may be light but you get a lot of chews in a package.

To finish off I will give my opinion on several chews I have bought but don't use very often.  Here it is.
  • Himalayan Dog Chews- People go crazy for these but they just didn't work in my house.  Copley, at 20lbs, broke the one for 55lb dogs into three pieces and swallowed it all in less than a minute, then puked them up later.  Maybe if your dog isn't a big chewer these would be the way to go.
  • "Dental Chews" of any kind.  These may or may not actually work, and similar to the Himalayan chews above Copley can eat one in seconds.  He also is sensitive to potato and most of the premium ones are made out of potato s owe don't really keep them around.  Regardless of Copley's issues they are just a ball of dense starch and even if that is good for your dog's teeth is it really worth consuming that much highly precessed carbohydrates?  That is a question only you can answer.  Maybe though, if your dog has bad teeth try large meaty bones and bully sticks or the only really effective thing TOOTH BRUSHING!
  • Trachea, gullet, tendon and other dehydrated animal part chews.  My dog's LOVE trachea and tendon but they just eat them so fast!  It is much more worthwhile to me to buy bully sticks but I will occasionally pick up trachea or tendon as a treat if I see some that is sourced from the USA in a local pet store.

That is all I have to say about chew treats.  What are your dog's favorites?  Am I missing something good here?

Although over the years a few of these companies have given me free samples I was not in any way compensated for this post.  Having received probably hundreds of bags of treats via this blog I believe I am becoming a bit of an expert on what is on the market.  I decided to share my opinions all in one place and that is precisely what this is- my opinion.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Dog In The Desert's Guide To Treats- Part 1 Training Treats

Is that bacon in your pocket or did I do something right?

Lately a lot of my friends have been either getting new puppies, starting agility, or doing other things that require treats.  With so many out there (and so many iffy ones on the market) it is a confusing topic that I have been answering many questions about lately.  I thought it might be good to put all my thoughts into one place I'm calling DogInTheDesert's Guide to Treats.  Keep in mind I am very careful about what I feed my dogs, I do not support the major pet food companies and I never would feed treats made in China, so you will not find any of those in this guide.

I'm going to split this up into sections as follows-
  1. Training Treats
  2. Chew Treats
  3. Treats to Occupy Time
  4. Biscuits and novelty treats for you to let guests hand out in an effort to stop them from giving your dogs table scraps
Lets start with Training Treats
There are a lot of things to think about when you are looking for training treats.  You need a few things in your arsenal ranging from very high value to just ok, they need to be small (or in the case of chihuahuas tiny) and they need to usually be something that your dog can eat a lot of and not get sick.  For me I also want something that I can put in my pocket or training bag without getting too gross.

Many people make their own training treats.  That is commendable and sometimes I will do that too HOWEVER time is precious.  My dogs eat an entirely home prepared raw diet and that takes a lot of my time.  Rarely do I have the extra desire or ability to spend the day baking and rolling and dehydrating training treats.  If you are the make it yourself type a lot of dogs go crazy for plain ole boiled boneless chicken breast.  Chicken is pretty easy on most tummies, easy to break up and really cheap.  On the home made front another popular training treat is string cheese.  Those are easy to store in your pocket, very high value and if your dog is tolerant of cheese it is a great way to go.  Just be sure to do that in moderation as cheese is both fattening and a little hard on the tummy sometimes.  I used string cheese at agility with Kerri for about 6 months before she started throwing it up in the car on the way home but many use it with total success. 

Moving away from cooking required but sticking with "human food" there are a lot of staples that people go to.  Hot dogs are always an option.  Watch out because there is a lot of salt in hot dogs but many of the natural all beef dogs out there at the health food store are actually better for your dog than many sugar and salt filled soft dog treats out there.  They can be an option if you need something really good and don't use too much of it.  Another popular option with little dogs is plain Cherios.  Cherios are a lot of grain for my taste but they are small, visible on the floor if you are looking to throw them and good sized for littler dogs.

As far as pre-made training treats there is one thing that I recommend above all else.  Stella & Chewy's Carnivore Crunch.  For starters it is typically irresistible to dogs.  I discovered the stuff because a friend at agility class had it and all the dogs went so crazy for it we had to borrow some to get our dogs out on the course.  When I took basic obedience with Nova the same thing happened to me but in reverse and the other owners joked I had bacon in my pockets.  The other great thing about S&C is that they are made from pretty much just ground protein, bone and organ (so exactly what I am feeding the dogs anyway).  For a raw feeder they can even replace a whole meal every once in a while without any stomach upset at all.  For those dogs with sensitivities they come in three different proteins for you to choose from and have no added anything.  The only downside to S&C Carnivore Crunch is that they crumble up pretty bad in your pockets.

Now let's talk semi-soft treats.  For the most part (other than the carnivore crunch) dogs tend to like soft training treats more than hard ones.  This can be tricky because so many of the soft treats out there are full of sugar and other things that can really mess with the tummy in high volume.  I used to love Zukes brand, but since they have been bought by Nestle-Purina I am no longer supporting their products.  Some good semi soft treats would be Cloudstar Tricky Trainers, and ThinkDog Alligator Jerky.  One warning with the jerky though- it smells really bad.  I try to avoid anything with "natural smoke flavoring" in it because it makes me want to puke.  In fact I might have actually had to pull over once after opening some of that Jerky in the car.  If you are not someone like me who is bothered by smells you have a lot more options in the semi-soft treat category.  The important thing is to read the label, don't buy anything made in China, stick to things with named proteins high on the list and avoid a lot of treats high in sugar.  Or at least reserve the sugary treats for when you are looking for a very high value treat.  I am not very brand loyal when it comes to semi-soft treats and while I do keep some in my training bag it is often whatever I picked up that looks good.

There are a few more options I would like to talk about so I'll add those here in no particular order-
  • Recently Wellness came out with a line of soft treats for small dogs called Petite Treats and they seem to go over pretty well at our house with all sized dogs.  As a training treat they are actually very well sized for even a larger dog.  Along those lines Wellness Pure Rewards and Just For Puppy treats are great training treats for the slightly bigger dogs.  I get frustrated having to pull them apart into so many pieces for the chihuahuas but for a bigger dog they would be great.  Those are all available at big box pet stores so if you are looking for off the shelf Wellness might be the way to go.
  • WholeLife is a company that makes a large variety of quality freeze dried treats.  I always keep their sirloin Burgers in my training bag because they are pretty durable in a pocket, easy to break into small pieces for the chis and are a good higher value treat to add variety to my Stella & Chewys.  For dogs larger than a chihuahua their other treats would be great too depending on what your dogs liked and many are low in fat and calories and would be great for the chubbier dog that is still needing treats for training.  We have tried their sweet potato, liver, cod and cheese treats- Copley has loved them all.  The pickier chihuahuas have preferred some over others- you just have to experiment based on what your dog likes.
  • Kibble.  I know- to many raw feeders and people who feed a more natural diet to their dogs kibble is a dirty word but hear me out here.  If you feed kibble (or any other small dried up food like Ziwipeak that may not necessarily be a kibble) then stick some in your training bag!  Particularly for puppies it is great to use part of (or all of) their meal as training treats.  Usually for a kibble fed dog kibble is not very high value but you can always throw in something higher value every so often or just use it for lower intensity training if that's the case.  In our house where we never would actually feed kibble as a meal I will pick up sample bags of premium kibble and use it as treats.  Ziwipeak is great for that, it is a very high quality food that most dogs love and even some raw feeders use it as a backup for the days when dinner is rushed.  Just be careful if you are using kibble as treats because it is very dense, full of carbs and can bulk up a dog really fast if you are not careful.
  • Max & Ruffies is a brand that makes all vegan dog treats.  Typically I like to stick with meat based treats for my dogs but these are really a great product.  While I am not in agreement with them that dogs should be fed a vegan diet- their all veggie treats are made with great ingredients that I am happy to feed my dogs.  The mini bites are the perfect size for training treats if your dog likes crunchy things.  I also love that you can just throw them in your pocket if you need to for a walk or therapy visit.  They don't fall apart and you don't end up smelling like meat.

Although over the years a few of these companies have given me free samples I was not in any way compensated for this post.  Having received probably hundreds of bags of treats via this blog I believe I am becoming a bit of an expert on what is on the market.  I decided to share my opinions all in one place and that is precisely what this is- my opinion.