Wednesday, July 15, 2015

What Do You Feed Those Dogs to Make Them so Shiny?!

I’ve been asked about the kinds of food and treats I provide for our dogs because they “always seem to have such great coats.”  The answer is very normal and boring:  we buy a no-grain dry dog food produced and distributed by an American company.  Our older two Border Collies have allergies to grains and prompted a switch to no-grain foods about four years ago.  It’s been such a successful change that we have been amazed too.

Since switching to no-grain food, we noticed that not only did the more obvious signs of allergies clear up, but so did several other things we never considered may be tied to their dog food.  Gilley was most allergic and his allergic reactions were: a nasty body odor, constantly licking his front legs and feet, BAD dog breath; and a dull, oily coat.  Buzz had discolored whites of his eyes-often yellowy, bad belching; and emitting noxious fumes from his rear end that could peel paint.  Within less than two weeks of switching to the no-grain dry dog food, all their symptoms were gone!  Cinder has been raised on the same food just because it made the most sense to keep all the dogs on one type of food as long as we can.  Ever since the switch, their coats are wonderful too. 

As for treats, our dogs get a LOT of them.  I like to make homemade dog cookies and the basic recipe for them is here: Easy, Cheap, "Hypoallergenic" Homemade Dog Treats.  I’ve since altered some of the ingredients and methods to find what works.  You can basically add flavors by substituting different meat broths or replacing peanut butter with yogurt, apples, carrots, or bananas. I also use cheeses like cheddar or parmesan in addition to or replacement for peanut butter. 

I realize most people don’t really want to bake their own dog cookies so I also get lazier in the summer because I don’t want to spend my time in the kitchen. For those who still need a no-grain treat for your dogs, usually rice and oat based items can be used.  I have used plain Cheerios (the others have sugar the dogs don’t need), Rice Chex, and Oat Bran cereals.  Our dogs love these cereals just straight out of the package, but if you want to make them more interesting, dust some powdered cheese (like you get for popcorn) on it and watch them scarf those cereal bites fast!

For somewhat higher value treats, I like using dried beef liver.  You can find the recipe for that here: Easy, Cheap & Safe Homemade Liver Treats But, for those who don’t want to make the liver treats (which are actually really cheap and highly nutritious), I’ve begun using human turkey sausage snacks or turkey pepperoni.  The dogs love the turkey sausages or pepperoni, it’s relatively inexpensive; and it keeps really well in the fridge. You can also cut them into small bits to extend the value because all a dog needs for a treat is a piece big enough to taste, so the pieces can be pretty small.  Treats aren’t supposed to be or supplement food – they are rewards and only need be big enough to provide a tasty little bite.

For cool summer treats or as great PUPPY TEETHING treats, I make frozen yogurt cubes. We don’t give them a cube without inserting the cube into a Kong toy though!  Putting the cubes in a Kong toy takes them a little longer to eat and keeps them occupied for about 10-15 minutes.  You can find this idea explained here: Kong Toys are Wonderful Things  I use the cheapest vanilla-honey Greek yogurt to make the yogurt cubes, but other flavors like banana and blueberry are okay too.  I have also used some light fruit juices to make frozen cubes too. While they enjoy any of the cubes, I think our dogs prefer the yogurt cubes.  I have even made frozen peanut butter yogurt cubes by mixing very soft peanut butter with plain yogurt – our guys love those!  Once again, if you buy the cheaper Greek yogurt in a large container, it’s a fairly fast and easy frozen treat that’s also inexpensive.  One trick I’ve learned is that it’s ultra-easy to fill ice cube trays with the yogurt if you put the yogurt into a piping bag or a plastic baggy with a small snip off a bottom corner so you can use it like a piping bag to fill each ice cube space in the ice cube trays.  You can spoon it into the trays, but piping it in is faster and easier in my opinion.

There you have it – all the food and treats we provide for our dogs.  Our treats are very easy and the amount of homemade treats is so much higher than the amount you get when buying the store bought treats.  Aside from that, we know exactly what we’re feeding our dogs, unlike a lot of the store treats with questionable ingredient lists.  It’s also very hard to find cheap no-grain dog treats in our area so we don’t have to make special trips to pet stores to hunt for them, only to pay outrageous prices for small quantities of treats.

Truly, if you are willing to make your own, dog treats can be very cheap, easy, and your dogs will love them!



Pet Peeves About Pet Travel

Over the July 4th weekend I was running errands and preparing for my hip replacement surgery.  I can’t tell you how many things I saw that were scary for dogs because their owners were ignorant.  I’ve addressed these issues in the past, but I guess it can never be stressed enough given the number of people who seem oblivious.  Most of them surround traveling with your dog. My biggest pet peeve about pet travel is how few people think of travel with their pets as important enough to do a few simple things to help try to make it safer for them.

I’ve addressed safe traveling with your dog before so most of you who follow regularly know my feelings about the topic.  I’ll summarize the key points:

  • ·        Letting your dog sit in your lap while you drive may seem cute, but it’s not. It’s dangerous, especially if your dog is one that likes to stand up with his front feet on the steering wheel, your arms, or generally bounces around. One wrong move and your dog in your lap can cause you to have an accident.  I saw a woman nearly wreck over the holiday weekend because her dog jumped on her singular arm on the steering wheel, and caused her to veer sideways, almost careening into a car beside her on the highway-mine! Your dog has no business in the front seats, but especially not in the drivers’ seat! It’s not cute, it’s scary!
  • ·        If you don’t have a vehicle in which to carry your dogs in crates that can be tied down within your vehicle, then your dog should be tethered in your vehicle and not just confined by a divider that keeps your dog within a defined space.  If you’re involved in an accident, tethering the dog will at least keep your dog from making a daring and potentially deadly exit out an opened/broken door or window and escaping or being hit by surrounding traffic. Tethering your dog also ensures that the dog is limited within the vehicle following an accident in which emergency responders may need to extract you/your passengers. The dog being secured is the first step in enabling first responders to provide assistance without concerns regarding the dog attacking or escaping.  Tethering your dog isn’t necessarily about being the safest thing for your dog in event of an accident, but it is about being the safest thing for everyone if the worst should happen.  Smart people always PLAN/EXPECT the worst and hope for the best.
  • ·        Don’t  leave windows down or leave your pet in an open truck bed. Many dogs sustain eye, ear, nose, and mouth injuries because they travel with the wind blowing in their faces. While that may seem to make dogs happy, it’s totally unsafe because objects can be easily blown into their faces; and without helmets and face shields, the dog can be pelted by bugs and debris that cause injuries.  Another issue with open windows is that if the open window enables a dog to stick his head out, then he can actually get his body through it too-this is NOT a wives’ tale. You may think your dog is completely safe and will never be motivated to exit your vehicle-especially via a window-but that’s not always true and it’s also not the only problem.  If your dog can stick his nose/face out of the window, that means nasty people can also stick their hands IN your vehicle; and that means nasty individuals may do harm to or even steal your dog in your absence, while you just “run into the store for a minute.”  Likewise, leaving dogs in the back of pick-up trucks is dangerous for the same reasons as leaving windows down, with the added danger that in your absence, your dog may become territorial and aggressive toward anyone coming near the truck. If someone innocently walks too close to your vehicle and your dog becomes aggressive enough to bite, your dog may be picked up by police/the dog warden and taken to the local pound as a “dangerous dog” and may be legally mandated to be euthanized. You would be responsible for any injuries your dog caused to someone. 
  • ·        When traveling with your dog in warmer weather, I strongly urge that you always carry bottled water and a small bowl or cup for your dog.  You may be planning a quick trip to the store and back, but even on a 75 degree day, if you break down or are away longer than you anticipated, your dog could get quite warm in the car.  If you always carry a couple bottles of water in the car and replenish them as needed, your dog should never lack the ability to have a drink when he gets too hot or you’re gone too long.  I’ve had break-downs on the road and been quite grateful to have some bottled water in the car for myself and my dogs while I waited in the heat for roadside assistance-which can often be for several hours.
  • ·        Once it’s 75 degrees or more outside, decide whether your dog really needs to go to the store with you or not.  75 degrees in the sun can mean over 95 degrees inside a car in under 20 minutes. Your dog doesn’t need to go for a car ride to the store to sit in a hot car.  If you’re taking him to a dog park, pet store, or somewhere truly fun for the dog, that’s different, but just taking the dog to go to the store in a hot vehicle is not fun or safe for your dog. You may enjoy taking the dog and think it's nice that you do it, but your dog doesn't want a car ride to the store to sit alone in the car and be hot while you shop.
  • ·        During a holiday such as July 4th (in the U.S.) or other holidays, avoid taking your dog to parades and public events, especially if fireworks and loud noises will be prevalent.  Many people take their dogs to a picnic or parade and lose their dog because he suddenly got scared or was otherwise motivated to run away.  Holiday events are for humans and not dogs.  If you leave your dog home during a holiday when they will be able to hear/see fireworks around them, please be sure they’re secured IN your home or garage with no open doors or windows through which they can escape. More dogs are lost during such holidays than any other time of year because people take their dogs to events and lose them; or they left the dog outside at home and the dog got scared and escaped their yard or home via an open window.
  • ·        Check your dog collars and leashes regularly-at least weekly. If you’re required to have dog tags on your dog at all times (in most cities of the U.S.), you need to be sure the proper tags are intact and the information is still readable. You need to also be sure the collar itself is in good condition; and not too tight or loose for your dog.  Leashes need to be durable when your dog is excited so checking leash condition is a good idea.  Many people use the extendable dog leashes (which I do not advocate using-ever), so be sure that the leash retracting mechanism works appropriately; and the leash is kept clean so it doesn’t gum up the retractor and keep it from working properly.
  • ·        The biggest danger of all: people who think and say, “My dog would NEVER do ____” and, “My dog ALWAYS behaves.”  Any dog can be motivated to do things you never dreamed of when you're not around. It’s all about timing and opportunity coming together to create a situation you never thought your perfect pooch would engage in.  Your best option is to always plan for the very worst and hope for the very best-the key being, “plan.”

I don’t pretend to be an expert or have all the answers for things, but some things really are just common sense. Dogs rely on us to keep them safe.  If you really love your dog, be proactive by planning ahead and thinking about things that COULD happen so you can try to avoid them. It's no different than thinking about what goes in the diaper bag for a baby; being sure to secure a child in a car seat or appropriate seat belt; and being aware that what the dog may like isn't any better than some things children may also like.  You wouldn't let your child travel with his/her head hanging out the window; and you wouldn't leave your child in the car alone-especially in the heat. If you wouldn't do it with a child, then odds are good you shouldn't do it with a dog. 

I surely hope you will be mindful of your special dog friends as you travel and share life with them.