Thursday, February 26, 2009

Monday, February 23, 2009

It's Food Switch Time

Itching paws. Itching face. Dry skin. Diarrhea. Loose stools.

Ugh, dog owners, this is the worst day ever. Especially when you've bought a 30 lb bag of dog food that cost lots of money.

Rusty unfortunately has an incredibly horrible food allergy to chicken products/byproducts/etc...

Food allergies and food intolerances (oops, shall I say food that is too rich for their doggie system) is fairly common. You just have to find the right food.

After doing some googling, posting on doggie message boards and searching high and low for the correct food, I've gotten a few suggestions.

I'm going to start off with the research -

Signs & symptoms with recommendation of home cooked diet for 12 weeks

Signs & symptoms with recommendation of venison, fish, duck OR home cooked diet (and then an exclusion diet if the above proteins are still making it worse)

More exclusion diet (but totally biased)

Duck and potato based diet recommendation

And then there's hypoallergenic dog food. But that's well, what we need, right?

As I sat on the floor in the living room, I realized I had been awake for a long time, trying to research dog food. I hate researching dog food. It's for a dog. They should be able to eat anything but the poop soup in the backyard tells a different story.

After researching and trying to wrap my mind around the innerworkings of dog bowels, there are several options, all of which depend on what your dog is allergic to. So far allergy = deboned chicken, chicken meal, ground chicken, chicken by-products.

You should do an elimination diet and switch to something completely different. Check.

You can home cook food. Ok, but how expensive is that?

You can go purely raw food diet and do no kibble at all with Nature's Variety. Um, Ok. I could be up for that if we didn't have painted wood floors.

Or you could just do what Bimmer Man wants and buy Lamb & Rice formula dog food because that's what his family has done in the past. Ok, but he didn't buy dog food.

And then, BAM! I double checked a golden retriever message board and someone else had the same problem!

They just recommended adding pumpkin to firm up stools. Um, this was a doggie allergy, thank you very much. I need a different dog food.

I got a recommendation for Solid Gold and also for California Natural. After comparing the ingredients I bought a 5 lb bag of California Natural Lamb Meal & Rice.

We had to switch instantly, so the best way to do it is mix with homecooked rice OR cottage cheese to prevent diarrhea.

No loose poops since Friday. No nasty itchies yet.

But then again, I feel like I've been discussing poop for awhile now. So don't be surprised if poop comes up again.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Deep Chested Health Issues

Bloat is a gigantic risk factor in the death of deep chested dogs in the United States. Unfortunately, Rusty is a mix of two breeds of dogs on the list that are prone to bloat - Golden Retriever and the Irish Setter is much closer to the top of the list.

Bloat is built up gas that can cause the stomach to distort and twist. This is an immediate medical emergency that needs surgery to correct the stomach and relieve the bloat. It can be fatal - kind of how in the MOVIE Marley & Me, Marley dies. The book is a whole other story...

Signs of bloat include:
  • Attempting to vomit, occuring every 5 - 30 minutes
  • Doesn't act like the usual self
  • Significant anxiety and restlessness
  • Lack of usual gurgling stomach sounds
  • Bloated abdomen that feels tight

Those are only a few signs and symptoms of bloat.

So all in all, even if you have a lovely mutt like Rusty (oops, sorry Rusty, I mean hybrid), health problems are still possible. These are just some of the few issues that we have to keep an eye out for, nevermind the usual signs of hip dysplasia or allergies.

Elephant? A Dog?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Video: Teaching Leave It

How's The Training? Week 5

Eventually I'm going to do a post with all of our hand signals so that you can see what we do. Generally we stuck to the class, but with some commands we didn't (like DROP instead of DOWN and GIVE instead of DROP).

Here's what on the training menu this week:

Automatic Sits

The Stay

What you'll need: tasty treats, lots of patience

Step 1. Have some tasty treats readily available - the goal of the sit is to work it up to 5 minutes. Yes, really, 5 minutes. We're going to work in 10 second intervals, then 30 seconds, then 45 seconds, etc... Build the time up gradually.

Step 2. Put Rusty in a sit but do NOT treat or praise - that's not what we're working on because he already knows how to sit.

Step 3. Show the hand signal (hand straight out, palm facing the dog) and say, "Rusty, stay!"

Step 4. Treat. Treat. Treat. But only if he stays in place. If he inches forward even one inch, start from the beginning. See if you can get him to stay for 10 seconds.

Step 5. Release and praise.

Step 6. Keep practicing! Do it in different locations around your house, your yard, at the park, on walks, etc...

And the STAY command brings us to the AUTOMATIC SIT command, which isn't really a command, it's more of body language.

So the automatic sit is this: every time you stop, the dog sits. And yes, it can be done.


What you'll need: leash, very tasty treats, the dog and go for a walk

Step 1. Have tasty treats available, but don't have too many. The dog will only be rewarded randomly and when he sits automatically!

Step 2. Have fun. Go on a walk.

Step 3. Start off your walk with Rusty sitting, say "Let's go!" and walk about 15 feet.

Step 4. Stop and put the dog in a sit. Don't treat - he already knows how to sit.

Step 5. Start walking again with the "Let's go!" command.

Step 6. Stop after 10 - 15 feet. Don't say anything to Rusty, instead wait until he sits on his own (you can use the watch me command, but you have treats so you may have to hold one in your hand).

Step 7. When he sits on his own, treat, praise and jump for joy!

Step 8. Practice over and over and over. Do it at intersections, in front of houses, at the park, in front of buildings, in the pet store, anywhere and everywhere.

Step 9. After he now knows the automatic sit, you can slowly fade the lure (oops, I mean treat) by treating randomly and giving out jackpot treats. Then he'll know that he's going to get a treat, but not know when so he HAS to do what you ask of him.

Woo hoo! Got it??? Maybe...

But now we move on to the GREETING. This follows the automatic sit because, every time you stop Rusty should be sitting, right? So when you go to meet another animal, dog, person, you generally stop right? So then that means that Rusty should be sitting. Treats will do well here, because for greetings, you want treats every time until they're paying attention to you fully.


What you'll need: the dog, another dog/cat/animal/person, LOTS of tasty treats, leash

Step 1. Find something to greet.

Step 2. Put your dog in a sit.

Step 3. Repeat as many times as it takes to either do it automatically or after you can ask the dog only once to sit.

And yes, this goes for children that would like to pet him too - always, always put your dog in a sit or drop position.

Eh, Rusty is ok. Now we can go running with him and he'll be at a run and drop in a sit to a dead stop. We've got the automatic sit down but we still have to work on greeting. Sounds easy, right? Not if your dog isn't tired or generally easily distracted.

Good luck!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tuesday Treats

How about bully sticks? They're stinky. They're kinda nasty looking, but man, dogs love these! Just remember - don't let them chew them on light carpet if your dog is a drooler, otherwise Nature's Miracle (an enzymatic cleaner) will be your best friend. Rusty gets these in either his dog box (crate) or on his dog bed.

Generally you can find them at a pet store for cheap, but lately I've been preferring order doggie treats and pet supplies online. (Mostly because I've been finding great deals AND free shipping)

Best Bully's has great deals AND you can order in bulk. So if you want to save money - go for broke and go in on a box with a friend.

You can also order individual bully sticks, and I tend to go with the larger 12 inch THICK bully sticks instead of the regular ones.

Have fun with bully sticks!

Photo Cards? Remember These?

I only got two comments... which means...

Carrie AND Nicole with get personalized photo cards!

I'll be in contact soon!

Sunday, February 15, 2009


So, on my other blog, Rusty's nickname is the MONSTER. He's generally NOT a MONSTER but he has MONSTER tendancies. Like sitting in a chair.
Always being around chicken. Or turkey. Or cheese. Or peanut butter.
And trying to use his cute face to get. He only get peanut butter (and sometimes cheese).
And he's so cute.
Even when he's sitting on MY chair. It's MY spot, MONSTER. My spot. And that's my blanket too.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Blog Give Away for February

So for those of you that don't know, I make photo cards (link to Etsy shop here) but I don't really advertise too much. Mostly because I don't have time! I work full time, photograph everything from weddings to weather and clean up doggie fur, a lot. And I cook, but then we got a Wii and well, I haven't been on the computer in quite awhile at home.

Instead, I have these super cute animal print cards and decided that I'd try and figure SOMETHING out, like possibly creating doggie photo cards and then donating the proceeds to charity. But there's a twist - not everyone wants MY dog on THEIR cards...

So I'm doing a giveaway.

Normally my cards retail for $3 each OR 6 for $15.

For the giveaway -

You'll get a set of 10 cards

Here's the catch: If you have a favorite picture of your animal, it goes in the card. Send me the photo by e-mail, I'll make it even prettier, put the cards together and mail them to you.

Voila! Your own personalized greeting cards, for free!

To enter, just leave a comment with your favorite animal blog along with a way to contact yourself.

Winner will be announced (and decided by on Tuesday, February 17th.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Take A Bow: Pet Project Rescue

I have these fabulous friends, Matt and Maia who are incredibly passionate about rescuing animals. From small dogs to big, their hearts have endless room for furry friends. Every time we visit we get to meet a fabulous new friend who just loves to cuddle or play.

And then we got Rusty from the White River Animal Shelter in Bedford (which I'm positive is a kill shelter, but I can't be too positive because I think it depends on the amount of animals they get).

Ever since, I've been a little gung ho on getting animals from shelters! There's way too many of them out there to go to a breeder (but by all means, if you want a purebred retriever for hunting, go for it, I'm not stopping you because you have a purpose for the dog that enhances its natural talents & instincts but if you want a designer dog, well, then you have a mutt just like me) and shelters are always over flowing.

So if you're in Minnesota and looking to adopt, please check out Matt & Maia's rescue. Apply to foster, donate crates, toys, time, energy or whatever you have. These dogs need the love and attention of a fabulous family.

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Happy Birthday Bimmer Man!

And Bimmer and Rusty will get a treat. I'm cooking, and I even made a cake! Hopefully Rusty will enjoy a chicken wing and dog food.

I need to learn how to bake dog treats myself. Hmmm... research....

Dog Food - The Realities of Cheap Crap

Cheap dog food is just that - cheap. Cheap dog food can actually create problems rather than give your dog the proper nutrition it needs to thrive. Imagine if you're a carnivore and yet people kept feeding you vegetables and you became anemic because of deprivation of iron (Ok, totally off topic and incredibly far fetched, but...).

Remember, dogs were once wild. They ate raw meat, which is the best possible diet for your dog, but trust me, feeding anywhere from 2 - 3% of Rusty's body weight per day is NOT going to be cost friendly to my wallet. That's um, well, a few pounds of meat. So he can get an occasional chicken thigh, but that's about it. If you're interested in a raw food diet, I'll post more on that topic later as Rusty gets older and I begin to give him more raw meat. For now, here's a few websites that have a ton more information on raw diets - and Jane Anderson's Raw Learning Site.

Let's start with the basics. Look at the ingredient list. Are the first three products not by products of meat? If so, then you have a winner, if not, don't buy it. Back to the basics of dogs - what did they originally eat? Meat, keep the food as close to their natural diet as possible. I know it's crazy, putting this much time and effort into your dog, but trust me, they'll live longer and have much healthier lives. The better you feed them, exercise and train them, the longer they'll live and the happier you'll be.

What do we feed?

Old Mother Hubbard is the maker of Wellness products. At first I was little leery of purchasing more expensive food. We've always purchased Purina ONE... so why switch?

You'll notice Oatmeal is listed as the third ingredient and why would I purchase this if there isn't more meat? Well, because there's no meat by-products and oatmeal is a good grain if you're unable to feed grain free food which comes to my next point -

Grain free is just that - there's absolutely no grains in the dog food meaning more meat for your animal. Because it's all meat, there's more protein. Dogs under the age of 2, especially large breed dogs should not have a grain free diet. What happens is protein makes them bulk up so much that their bone structure can't keep up with the growth coming from protein. In effect, they'll have bone, joint and cartilage problems later in life. Not so good, eh?

So as you can tell, deciding what to feed your dog can be a conundrum. I suggest trying a variety of better dog foods and seeing which your dog prefers.

TIP: Gas and loose stools mean it's too rich, while you can tell the stench of anal glands and then they probably need to poo... so make sure you pick something that's not too rich to start off with!

ANOTHER TIP: Try to compare foods!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

February is National Pet Dental Month

Get your pet's teeth cleaned! Or brush their teeth yourself.

Also, take a look at The Recycled Retriever.

A super cute store with super cute stuff.

Want Free Samples?

Me too!

Life's Abundance Pet Food Sample

Greenie's Dental Chew

Register to win a year's supply of Nutro brand dog food

Purina Snack Lover's Club

Purina One food sample


Tuesday Treats

Free samples tend to end up in our treat bag such as this - Rachael Ray's Nutrish. (There's a link for a free sample too!) Now, you have to understand that we're not FEEDING Rusty this, nope, this is part of his treat bag. I personally don't see better nutritional value in this dog food than what we already feed him - Wellness Super5Mix, which he loves.

This is considered a low value reward (cut up cheese, hot dogs and tennis balls are Rusty's high value rewards), so he gets this for doing basics, like sitting, drop and walking. The command leave it will get a higher value reward - like a toss of a tennis ball!

Free samples of dog food make great low value treats, but try not to get 'Ol Yeller because that has no nutritional value at all. Each of the different pieces of Nutrish looks different and it must taste different too - but since I haven't tried her dog food yet (human grade treats I usually try, but shhhh... don't tell anyone!), I can't tell you what it tastes like!

Friday, February 6, 2009

How's The Training? Week 4

You know, I love that Rusty knows how to sit and drop and leave it, but honestly, if we didn't go to training I don't think that I'd know where to start!

Leave it is hard and well, so is being a rescued dog.

This week's new commands are leave it randomly AND come.

The dog needs to know how to come. And we need to majorly practice. He's not very good at coming when called when there's distractions. That's going to take some work so here's how to teach come.

Be prepared:
High value treats
20 - 30 foot lead
Open space
2+ people

Step 1: Get a 20 - 30 foot long lead and snap it on to their collar.

Step 2: Find an open spot to train. We prefer the park with distractions.

Step 3: Have high value treats for all those involved whether it be cheese or hot dogs.

Step 4: Standing a ways from each other, but close enough to reach you on the lead, begin with the dog starting at one person.

Step 5: Have the other person say, "Rusty, come!" in an excited manner.

Step 6: Only say it once. No need to say it more.

Step 7: As soon as the dog starts heading to you, jump up and down, act excited, wave your hands in the air, say, "Good dog!!!" over and over until he gets to you.

Step 8: Make sure you put your hands on the dog. Come is not a game, there will be no darting away, no chasing, etc... When your hands are on the dog, reward with the value treat.

Step 9: Go back and forth for awhile and practice. Move around the park to different areas, do it in your backyard, family room, etc... And PRACTICE!!! Come is for safety.

Leave It Randomly

Be prepared:
Shoes (wear them please)
Random items you don't want your dog to get

Step 1: Drop quite a few treats on the ground (See? Way different but totally new and exciting!) along with books, etc... Whatever you don't want your dog to get into.

Step 2: Walk along the path of dropped treats and stuff - randomly say "Leave it" if he notices a treat. If he starts to go for it, step on it with your foot. Remember, only say leave it ONCE. As soon as he stops looking at the treat/item, reward with treat FROM YOUR HAND.

Step 3: Walk along the path again, only this time, randomly say, "Take it" for treats or toys that you'd like him to have.

NOTE: Take it is the beginning of something beautiful. Drop your keys? "Take it!" Drop a sweater? "Take it!" Want Rusty to get something for you? "Take it!" This is a fabulous command that will come in handy more times than you think!

Step 4: Practice, practice and practice. Do this in different places with all different treats. Generalize as much as possible so that Rusty will do this in any place, just like any other command.

Good luck and have fun!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Tug-A-Jug

What happens when your dog gets bored? A lot! Or not a lot! Rusty is known for stealing socks, chewing on the corner of the coffee table and generally being a MONSTER. He gets two walks per day plus playtime and then what most dog people call mental stimulation.
If you're dog does not get enough healthy exercise and mental stimulation, this can lead to many problems down the road! They can learn how to jump up on countertops and eat your dinner, chew on your deck, couch, chairs, mattresses, etc... Mental stimulation helps to curb that, plus it's a great help for when you want your dog to learn - the brain needs stimulating to learn new things.
For example, before we go on a walk we practice sitting, drop, leave it, take it, finding me, etc... to be able to try and identify new smells on the walk. It's like an old person, you'd lose your mind too if you didn't use it!
So give the Premier Busy Buddy Tug-a-Jug a try. Stick about a half cup of food in it at first, then either up the contents or just put in what's needed to feed for the day. This tool (notice I didn't say toy) also helps fast eaters to slow down. They have to work to get their reward. Pretty cool, huh?
We never leave this out if there's more than 1 cup of food in it - we don't want a fat dog!

Tuesday's Treat

Most large dogs have some sort of hip or joint problem. We're working on having that NOT happen. Larger dogs can get what's called hip dysplaysia and dogs can show signs of it as young as, well, puppies which is unfortunate. Dogs will show signs of pain and discomfort after exercise, long periods of sitting, standing or lying down. Happy Hips includes all the vitamins and minerals that your dog needs to help either with the pain OR to prevent it. And no, I'm NOT paid to advertise it - it's just what happens to work for us!

Make sure you have your dog x-rayed at a young age to determine its joint issues. Some dogs may NEVER have this happen and are happy as a clam until they die. Others have hip issues around 6 or 7, sometimes they don't even start until they're 10 or 11.
Bimmer Man and I had to put the Bimmer Dog to sleep last October because of bone cancer (which I'll get to at a later date, especially the signs and symptoms) so health issues I watch for every single day and anything that happens to enhance Rusty's health, I'll definitely give a try!