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It's been a long time since I last ventured onto Dooyoo, and sadly there have been some changes since my last review. After a brave fight, Benson our big beautiful Bernese lost his battle with cancer back in May leaving us totally and utterly devastated. It goes without saying that our world crumbled around us but probably worst affected was Grace, his loyal sidekick who had never known life without her big brother.
After his loss, our nutty loopy little girl turned into a virtual recluse - she didn't want to know her toys and when heading out for a walk we couldn't get further than the end of our driveway without her digging her heels in and refusing to move. She is usually such a people dog - loves everyone she meets, but she wouldn't allow anyone to make a fuss of her apart from us, and perhaps most worryingly, the dog who is usually a canine dustbin refused her food.
In the initial weeks after we lost Benson, getting her to eat anything was a struggle - she could barely muster a passing interest in all her usual favourites such as hot roast chicken, scrambled eggs and tinned sardines, and anything remotely like dog food was completely out of the question. Looking back, I'm not quite sure how we managed to get her through those first few weeks, she was eating far less in a day than one of our cats would eat - anything she did eat was only after sitting on the floor with her for hours hand feeding her tiny morsels, and there were plenty of days that went past without anything at all passing her lips.
As a big athletic Rottweiler, Grace is usually a good weight at 33-35kg but all the upset saw her drop down to just under 28kg and whilst I like my dogs slim and lean, she looked awful and there were times it very genuinely felt like we were loosing her too.
During the days when Grace physically wouldn't eat anything, my secret weapon was this Calopet Paste. It is something I had used an awful lot during my time as Veterinary Nurse and I had called on it in the past with Grace when she was a gangly youngster struggling to keep weight on as she grew, I had always seen good results with it. It had also been invaluable to us in Benson's final weeks, ensuring he received enough nutrients when his appetite was intermittent and he was only eating treat foods.
Calopet is essentially a high calorie nutritional supplement paste which is packed full of essential vitamins and minerals and is aimed at any cat or dog who may need a bit of extra support - whether they're convalescing, very old or very young, have a poor appetite or generally just need a helping hand maintaining a healthy weight. Although labelled and referred to as a 'paste' the texture of Calopet is actually much more similar to a thick sauce, mid-brown in colour and with very little noticeable odour, making it easy to hide or distinguish in other foodstuffs in required.
The paste can be administered directly via mouth, mixed into food or water and has a sweet taste making it quite palatable for animals who do not have a lot of interest in other foods - I used to get it into Grace any way I could - sometime she'd be happy to lick it off a spoon or my fingers, but on her worse days when she wouldn't take it readily, the soft consistency made it easy to just smear inside her lip for her to lick.
It comes with a suggested daily allowance of one teaspoon per 3-5kg of bodyweight for cats and one tablespoon for every 10kg in dogs, but it's the type of product that can easily be tailored to individual needs and there is nothing in it that can harm if the recommended dosage is exceeded - when Grace was refusing all food she would quite often have up to six spoonfuls of it a day but on the better days when she could be tempted by something, I'd drop the dosage back down to just 2 or 3 spoonfuls, depending on what I could get her to eat.
Calopet is readily available online and can be purchase from veterinary surgeries too. It comes in 120g tubes and cheapest retail price I've found is £8.18 from VetUK.
It consists largely of a mixture of water, glucose, cereals and oils - so ingredients wise, it's not the best but it really does work wonders - and I think the proof of that is in how it managed to get a pull a Rottie through days of no food, surviving at times on just a few teaspoons of this stuff. It was hugely comforting to know that Grace was at least getting something inside of her during her very worst days, and I have no doubt in my mind that it saved her from getting very ill. With a fat content of 35%, it gave her some energy and much needed calories and of course, a good supply of vitamins and minerals to help keep her body going in-spite of the insufficient food intake.
My only gripe is with the tube size! 120g really doesn't stretch far, it equates to about ten tablespoons worth, and considering the amount Grace was having, a tube barely lasted us two days - it clearly wasn't designed with supporting a fully grown Rottweiler in mind! However, that's about the only thing I can find any fault with, the product itself is flawless.
It's now been five months since we lost Benson, and although I don't think Grace will ever be quite the same dog again, she's started to emerge from her sadness and we're seeing more and more of her old self filtering back in each day, and thankfully, her appetite has since returned. Not quite as strong as it once was - but there none the less, and getting her to eat is no longer the constant struggle that it had been. Most days she's quite happy to polish off a good serving of food, and she's now regained five of the seven kilos that she had lost, so she's well on her road to getting back on form. We're not quite ready to get rid of the Calopet just yet though - a tablespoon with a drop of goats milk before bed will remain in our routine for a good while yet!
An excellent quality, indispensable product - it doesn't really bare thinking about what we would have done without it.
It's been a while since I last wrote on dooyoo - a combination of various different things had seen my enthusiasm for the site rapidly decline - but after a much needed break, I'm glad to be back! And whilst I may have been away for some time, there are some things that just never change - and the lights of my life still remain to be my fantastic dogs.
Just incase you've forgotten about them (and don't worry, I won't tell them, they'd be hugely offended) - there's my lovely old bear Benson - an almost seven year old Bernese Mountain Dog who is starting to slow down a bit these days, and has a slightly calmer attitude and outlook on life than he once did, and then there is his 'little sister' Grace, the nuttiest dog I have ever met and is as far from gracious as you could possibly get - she's a four year old Rottweiler and continues to produce enough energy to power a small town.
Just as all is still the same in my world - nothing much has changed with them either. They still remain as tennis ball and frisbee obsessed as ever, they still firmly believe that everybody loves them as much as I do and appreciates being mugged for fuss and frisked for biscuits, and they still remain loyal to their one true love - food! They may not be the most intelligent dogs in the world, nor the most obedient or beautiful (although in my eyes, of course they are!) but if there's one thing they excel at, it's eating!
They love their grub - whether it be edible or absolutely not, whether it's something fresh and gourmet or something festering and rotten, they'll gladly chow it down like it's the first thing they've tasted in six months.
They don't get care what they eat - but fortunately (or unfortunately, as they might think) - I do!
Whilst I am happy to fill my face with Sainsburys Value and have never so much as looked at an ingredients list for my food in my life, I insist on proper nutrition for the dogs, and have the bar set high when it comes to their diets. After all, given all the joy and love they give me, it's the least I can do in return.
For some reason, still unbeknown to me, the likes of Bakers have dominated the dog food market ever since they were launched - and I can't help but wonder, if owners truly knew what was in these foods, then would they still be so keen to offer them up to their dogs? Many of the popular diets such as Pedigree, Bakers and Wagg are full of artificial junk and e-numbers, cheap fillers such as wheat and maize, they have a shockingly low meat content, some contain alleged carcinogenic (cancer causing) additives, and contrary to popular belief - they are actually more expensive than the better quality diets, since you have to feed copious amounts more, given the terrible low-grade ingredients that they contain.
I'm lucky with my dogs in that they do not have any specialist dietary requirements or allergies, and can do well and thrive on whatever diet I offer up to them - I stick with the high quality options, but do rotate brands according to whatever I can find on a good deal at the time - they're my 'bargain bin pups', as my husband likes to call them!
A food I buy again and again is this Fusspot kibble produced by the Barking Heads brand. A British based company, they create a variety of premium quality dry kibble diets for dogs (and cats, under their Meowing Heads brand), and amongst their selection is this salmon and potato kibble, designed for adult dogs aged 1 to 7 years.
As you've probably guessed by the name, the Fusspot variety is their diet aimed at fussy eaters - the fishy salmon flavour tends to be favoured by alot of dogs, and hence quite palatable to picky eaters. Fussiness certainly isn't something I encounter with Grace and Benson, but they adore fish so it's a good choice for them.
Salmon is the first ingredient in the food, accounting for 45% of the total ingredients - which is a far cry from the likes of Bakers and Pedigree, who include a pitiful 4% of the stated meat in their diets - and Barking Heads shuns the use of cheap cereal fillers such as wheat, rice and maize - and instead opts for the use of potato, sweet potato and a small amount of oats as a source of carbohydrates, tomato and seaweed for a variety of vitamins and minerals, and sunflower and salmon oils for a selection of essential fatty and omega acids, which play a vital role in supporting the joints and promotes healthy supple skin and soft shiny coat.
It contains no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives, and the food is presented in dry extruded oval shaped kibbles - approximately the size of a five pence piece - which make them suitably sized for all breeds of dogs, except the real biggies - the kibbles are adequate for Grace, but Benson - a big lad at almost 50kg - tends to wolf them down without quite as much chewing as I'd like. The hard, crunchy and slightly abrasive texture of the kibbles also aid dental health - helping to scrap the teeth free of plaque and tartar when crunched through, and the no added sugar formula further assists in promoting good oral health.
Price wise, the food is pretty standard for a premium range kibble - a 12kg bag retails for about £41, although smaller bag sizes are available, and there is even a large 20kg sack available if purchased direct from the manufacturers. I tend to purchase our bags online from VetUK, but it's available from popular pet store Jollyes (although not Pets At Home). The price may seem expensive initially, but when you take into consideration the recommended feeding allowance for a 15kg dog fed on Fusspot is just 200g, whereas the same weight dog would require 350g of Bakers - you can instantly see that Barking Heads is good value for money when compared, - especially considering it's a far superior diet.
Grace and Benson love any food - and Fusspot is no exception. The kibbles do smell very strongly but that just adds enjoyment for the dogs and they always eat their meals with enthusiasm (they'd have you believe they're only fed once in a blue moon, but I fed them twice daily, I promise!).
They have good coats anyway but I always notice a bit more of a mirror like shine to their fur when they've been on Fusspot for a couple of weeks - obviously due to the high salmon content of the food, which is naturally high in omega oils. They have cast iron stomachs - seriously I'm sure they could eat a vat of toxic waste without any side affects - so their digestion is unaffected when eating this food, but due to the easily digestible salmon/potato combo, and very few cereals (just a small amount of oats), it's a good option for dogs with sensitive stomachs, and because it's hypoallergenic, it's a sensible choice for dogs prone to skin irritations and itchiness too. Unlike a lot of the popular dog foods such as Bakers, none of the Barking Heads food, including Fusspot, contain any artificial additives or e-numbers which, just like children, can have an adverse affect on dogs behaviour - so if you've a hyper unruly hound, a change to a natural diet such as Barking Heads Fusspot could certainly help.
If you're looking for a natural, high quality, palatable dry dog food, I'd be happy to highly recommend this kibble to anyone - the ingredients are fantastic, the price is reasonable and the condition of the dogs really speaks for itself when they've been eating it.
Grace and Benson are brilliantly friendly dogs - they're too daft to know how to be nasty, they think everyone wants to be their best mate, and they've got dozens of slobbery kisses for anyone they meet, they're just two great big soppy lumps who just couldn't be horrible if they tried.
Well, almost. You're fine if you are a person, another dog, a cat or a kid - Grace and Benson aren't fussy whom they mob for attention, but seemingly innocent soft toys are always guaranteed to turn my placid pooches into vicious killers!
Very, very few lucky ones last more than a couple of seconds before meeting an ugly death of being ripped to shreds and having the stuffing strewn across my living room, before my delightful creatures morbidly and proudly parade around the house with the empty 'skin' of their toy in their mouths - incredibly pleased with themselves!
Hence the reason I gave up buying soft toys for them a long time ago - they're just money down the drain and I really couldn't be bothered getting the hoover out each time and listening to them make their wretched sounds as they try and cough up the bits of stuffing they've managed to swallow and get caught at the back of their throats!
However, one of my friends owns a Shih Tzu - a nice enough little dog - but very gentle and delicate, and that plays nicely and happily with soft toys, and never shreds them - so she always seemed to think my two would do the same and would bring them soft cuddly toys whenever she visited - bearing in mind the words ''gentle'' and ''delicate'' just aren't in Grace and Bensons vocabulary, and they're about as far away from a Shih Tzu as you could get!
Needless to say, Grace and Benson had always conveniently just got a new toy when she visited, and "not wanting to spoil them", her kind presents would be put up for a later date - or rather, they'd be put in a bin bag waiting for the next trip to the charity shop, dreadful of me I know!
One day however, she witnessed my killer hounds in full on murderous mode - Grace swiped a teddy of my god-daughters from the sofa, and her and Benson swooped in for the kill. Not resting until they were thoroughly satisfied said teddy was well and truly dead - believe me, you'd think you were in the middle of the Serengeti given the fierceness Grace and Benson like to kill their stuffed prey!
After a few moments of shock from the friend upon realising that not all dogs are like her darling little Shih Tzu, she laughed and said perhaps it was best she didn't bring them stuffed toys anymore, and I agreed (although I did wonder if the local charity shop would go out of business, I'm sure our soft toy donations kept them going!).
Anyway, a couple of months later, my mate popped round for a cuppa and couldn't wait to show me what she'd found - enter the Skinneeez toys!
Skinneeez toys, have I'm sure, been designed with the likes of Grace and Benson in mind, since they're soft toys, but without the stuffing! So in theory, they offer the fun of a cuddly toy, but with no mess, no Serengeti re-enactments and none of the wretched cat coughing up a hairball sounds as the mutts try to retrieve a piece of stuffing that's tickling their throats.
Sounds good eh?!
The Skinneeez toys come in various creature shapes - there's a fox, skunk, squirrel, rabbit, duck, chicken and a racoon, and they come in three different sizes - small (13 inches long), large (23 inches) and giant (35 inches). They've got a squeaker in the head and another one in the tail part of the toy, are machine washable and claim to be strong, durable and able to withstand tough play.
My friend kindly brought Grace and Benson two of the squirrel shaped ones - both in the large size, which I've since found out retail for £6.99 each. SEVEN QUID FOR ESSENTIALLY HALF A TOY?! Yes, my first thought was that my mate needed her head testing too!
Anyway, Grace and Benson are worse than kids at Christmas when receiving new toys, and were absolutely delighted with their presents. They pranced around the room with them, showing them off to the cat (yeah, because she really cares!), shaking them and generally flinging them about all over place.
It soon dawned on them though that they were soft toys, and as soon as this was realised, they went in for the kill! Grace soon managed to rip her toy but was most disappointed when she found there was no stuffing inside - I swear she only likes destuffing toys because it makes a mess for me! And after she realised that, she simply wasn't interested - the poor little squirrel got abandoned and she's never really played with it since.
Benson was marginally more impressed, but only slightly so. After he discovered there was no stuffing inside he largely lost interest too, but will very occasionally play with it. He has a habit of bringing guests toys when they're sat on the sofa - he'll go off and get something and then present it to them, and you've guessed it, nine times out of then, it's the flippin' squirrel he plonks on their laps.
And believe me, these things look really rather morbid! They're furry so actually look quite realistic, especially if they've been out in the garden and are a bit grubby and wet from slobber, so when Benson drops it on a guests lap, they're generally not too impressed when they think they're been given a gift of roadkill!
We've had the toys about four months now, and have probably been played with only a handful of times since the initial excitement of them - the dogs have used them to play tug with and they've withstood the roughness of that, so for soft toys, they're pretty durable, and they've coped with a couple of spins in the washing machine with no ill effects.
But as far as entertainment goes - these things are pretty rubbish and failed to hold the attention of the dogs, even with the squeakers which are generally a hit with my two. Grace and Benson love toys - they're more toy orientated than they are food orientated and if they get a new toy, they normally consider it the best thing in the universe for at least a couple of weeks, but they only found these Skinneeez exciting for about five minutes, and their interest has never really returned.
Clearly, for Grace and Benson at least, the best part of soft toys is the stuffing, and being able to destuff them and create a lot of mess - so with that taken away, they're really not bothered and would much rather a tennis ball!
All in all, I just can't recommend these at all. Grace and Benson are playful dogs who get very attached to their toys, so for them not to like something, is a pretty good indication they're rubbish!
I'm sure there will be a dog that enjoys them - one that is a gentle player and treats toys with respect, but my boisterous two clearly just get their fun from destroying soft toys, so find the Skinneeez really rather boring indeed! If you are interest though, and have a dog with good manners that treats toys nicely - they're available from several places on the internet and I recently saw them in Asda too, rather random but there you go!
At 5 years old, you'd think that Benson, my lovable rogue of a hound, is still quite young, considering it's not at all uncommon for dogs to live well into their teens nowadays.
However, poor ol' Benson, as you are probably aware of, is a Bernese Mountain Dog (and a very handsome one at that!) - and whilst these are an amazing breed they have one very major drawback, and that is unfortunately their heartbreakingly short lifespan. The Bernese is perhaps the breed with the shortest life expectancy of all canines, with a cruelly young 7 years being the breed average - a lucky one might reach 8 or even 9, but any older is virtually unheard of. This is due to a number of factors - namely their large frame putting a lot of strain on their hearts, but also because the dreaded ''c'' word is very rife in breed, taking the lives of the vast majority of Bernese.
So whilst 5 years old would still be considered to be very young for a Collie or Labrador for example, a 5 year old Bernese is actually getting on quite a bit!
On the whole, Benson is fortunately still a very active and healthy dog - he does have cataracts which are causing him to slowly loose his sight but apart from that, he's generally as fit as a fiddle - he'll walk miles with me everyday, go for a jog with my husband of an evening, he competes in agility, he'd play fetch until he drops and would swim to France and back if given half a chance. Nothing stops that dog and he certainly doesn't act his age!
There is one part of ''old'' age that even Benson hasn't managed to escape though, and that's the inevitable changes in his joints. It was about a year ago that I really began to notice Benson slowing down in that respect - he's a large, heavy dog so even as a youngster, he could never quickly and effortlessly get up from resting, but it was getting to a stage that, after waking from a long sleep or getting particularly damp and cold, that Benson would really struggle in getting to his feet.
From a very young age I've given Benson fish oil and a low dose of basic joint support for his bones, which have most definitely helped to keep him as active and healthy as he is now, but I was eager to nip this new, slightly concerning joint stiffness in the bud, so I set about finding him a more specialised joint care supplement, to help keep his joints supple, bones strong and help eradicate any discomfort Benson may have been in.
My husband is a vet and had heard lots of good feedback about a supplement called Pooch & Mutt Mobile Bones both from his colleagues in the industry and the owners of his patients, so he was keen to try it with Benson, so this was the brand we decided to trial first with our boy.
I purchased our 200g packet from Pets At Home for £10.29. It is available cheaper online but I wanted to try it as soon as possible, so we paid for convenience!
The rather catchy named Mobile Bones is an entirely natural dietary supplement that is designed to be added to your dogs regular food everyday and contains 14 active ingredients including glucosamine, omega 3 & 6, B vitamins, yucca extract and calcium to help support the daily wear and tear on your dogs joints and promote healthy, supple and pain free movement.
All the ingredients in Mobiles Bones are ethically sourced and organic where possible - and the product does not contain chondroitin, as although this is a useful ingredient in joint care supplements, it is often derived from battery hens or sharks, thus does not fit in with the companies ethical, animal cruelty free beliefs.
The day after purchasing our packet I began giving it to Benson and our trial began - discontinuing the use of his current low dose joint support, to ensure a fair test.
The product comes in a slightly grainy powdered format, with a slight green tinge to it, but no obvious offensive smell. Administration was simple - Benson is about 47kg, so falls into the 25-50kg weight bracket for which Pooch & Mutt recommend 3 teaspoons of the powder daily, so I simply sprinkled this over Bensons dry food and it was wolfed down without any fuss. Benson is by no means fussy, he'll eat absolutely anything, so certainly wasn't bothered about the supplement being in his food!
Pooch & Mutt suggest the product is trialed for at least 3 weeks and after this amount of time, you should be able to see if the product has made any difference. I regliously stuck to his recommended serving of 3 teaspoons a day, and in all honestly, it was by the middle of the second week that we began to notice a difference.
Benson was only slowly signs of joint stiffness and discomfort at certain times - namely after waking up in the mornings, or if he had gotten particularly damp and cold on a walk, and went to sleep like this but a marked improvement at these times was quickly shown.
Of a morning Benson was able to stand up quicker and wasn't as stiff when getting out of his bed and this wasn't followed by his usual few seconds pottering about to ''get going''! Also occasionally you could hear his front legs clicking when he jumped on the sofa or stretched out but this was also reduced soon after starting the supplement.
It's now been about 11 months since we started using Mobile Bones and we're still exceptionally happy with it - it has certainly improved Bensons mobility and I'm confident it has banished any slight joint pain Benson may have been in prior to using it. With Bensons dosage, a 200g packet lasts us around 3 weeks, give or take a day or two, so cost wise, it's not too bad - especially since it does seem to be doing its job so well.
How it would work for a dog with more severe joint complaints as arthritis or hip dysplasia, I don't know, but for easing the symptoms of natural joint decline that come with senior dogs, then I can't fault it. It works quickly and effectively and has helped Benson to continue with all the things he loves doing such as long walks and agility, so it gets a huge thumbs up from us.
I can't say we shall be using this supplement indefinitely - there are still a couple more similar supplements out there that I would like to try him on which may work out slightly cheaper, but I certainly have no qualms about recommending Mobile Bones to anybody with an older dog, or one who needs a bit of extra help where their joints are concerned (for working dogs, or for those recovering from injury for example), and we shall certainly be using it for the foreseable future or be returning to it if the other supplements on my 'list to try' don't suit Benson.
When it comes to buying things for my dogs, especially treats, I have a bit of an addiction! I genuinely struggle to come out of supermarket before buying something for them, and if I stumble across a new online pet store whilst browsing the internet, I simply have to order something regardless of whether I need anything or not!
I thoroughly believe in spoiling my dogs rotten - after all, as I always say, they're here for a good time, not a long time! They give me some much love and laughter that it only makes sense to give them something back - I've no kids to worry about so the dogs are my babies, and they're very much responsible for where the vast majority of my wages disappear to each month!
The two spoiled mutts in question are, as I'm sure most of you know by now, Benson my devilishly handsome Bernese Mountain Dog and his younger 'sister' Grace the fruitcake of a Rottweiler. To say I love them both to bits is an understatement.
The dog treat supply is always well stocked - whilst their drawer is often struggling to shut, our food cupboards are quite often bare (indeed as my husband made a joke of recently - after returning from a week away I got a text whilst at work saying ''well, there are plenty of dog treats, but where on earth are the human ones?!'' oops!). That still doesn't stop me from picking up a few different bits for them during my weekly shop!
My local Sainsburys recently closed down, and a new hideously large store opened in its place - and whilst as much as I hate the new store that takes half a day to walk round, has parking spaces that a wheelbarrow couldn't comfortably fit in and has seemingly employed the entire bunch of this years local school leavers, the new store brought with it a new selection of dog treats, so I suppose all can be forgiven.
Naturally I couldn't help myself from having a nosey at the new products and selected a few different things for Grace and Benson to try. Generally speaking, I tend to stay away from supermarket pet foods - the brands sold in supermarkets are largely full of junk and nasty ingredients, but I don't mind the treats too much as the dogs are only having them for an occasional snack, not as a large part of their diet.
One of the new products that caught my eye was these Deli Tripe Sticks, a product from Sainsburys own range. Now, I'm a veterinary nurse - disgusting smells are part of my job, and I have a very good nose that I am capable of turning off when needed - but, try as I might, even after years and years of dog ownership, there is still one smell I just cannot stomach and that is tripe! Anybody unfortunate enough to have smelt it will know what I'm talking about - and for those who are currently blissfully unaware what tripe is, then let me enlighten you - it's the lining and contents of a ruminants, quite often cows, stomach! So there is no doubt this stuff is going to smell bad!
The dogs are awkward little brats and of course, they absolutely love the stuff - and to be fair, it's exceptionally nutritious for them, so I'm on the continuous look out for a tripe containing treat that the dogs will love, and get all the goodness from, but that doesn't require a peg for my nose.
I decided to take a chance with these Deli Tripe Sticks and slung them in the basket. At just £1.53 for 15 sticks, it was hardly going to be a disaster if they followed the trend of most tripe treats in being exceptionally stinky, and ended up in the bin.
Back at home, as soon as I brought the shopping in from the car, the dogs had their noses stuck in the bags as they always do - they've got their mum sussed and know that whenever I return home with bags that there is going to be something in there for them! They weren't long in sniffing out the bag that contained their goodies and I opened up the pack of these Deli Tripe Sticks for them to sample.
The sticks - true to their name, were just that, they resembled little brown knobbly twigs! They were only about 5 inches long and about the thickness of a pencil, and low and behold - the pack was open and I wasn't gagging! Top marks straight away, the first tripe treat we've found that doesn't stick to high heaven! There was a very strong meaty smell, with a very definite tripey whiff somewhere in there, but they were manageable! The dogs obviously thought they smelt delicious though and they waited somewhat eagerly at my feet for me to hand out the goodies.
Once they'd got them they scurried off to their beds to eat them. Now, like I say, the treats were pretty small which made them barely two bites big for my oversized mutts. A couple of bites and they were gone - the treats seemed crunchy rather than chewy, like a stick of natural dried tripe would be, but none the less, the dogs clearly enjoyed them and came back for seconds (which me, being the soft touch that I am, granted!). The crunchiness and rough texture of the sticks would have been beneficial to their teeth, so that's another little extra brownie point for them.
Checking the pack of the packet, I was rather pleased to discover these treats were actually pretty healthy for something that's sold in a supermarket. The sticks are made up of 90% meat and at least 65% of that is tripe so as far as supermarket treats go, these are pretty damn good - and certainly miles better than the offerings from companies such as Pedigree and Bakers. There is no mention of what kind of actual meat the treats are made up from nor are we told what animal the tripe is from, but given the price of the treats, I'm presuming both the meat and the tripe is beef - no problem for my 'eat anything' hounds but could be problematic for dogs with skin allergies.
The 65% tripe content is probably the reason these don't smell anywhere near as bad as pure tripe sticks, since the smell is 'watered down' with other meats, but it's still a respectable quantity and will be delivering all the goodness tripe has to offer such as essential fatty acids, probiotics and a variety of micronutrients, so I'm happy to continue buying these for the dogs.
My one little niggle with the treats is merely the size of them - they take my dogs swift twenty seconds at the most to munch through and I'd of liked the treats to be a little bit larger and chunkier to provide a longer lasting chew for them, and I'd like to be able to buy them in packs larger than 15, as I often give my dogs 2 each at a time, which means the pack doesn't last very long. But regardless, they're cheap, reasonably healthy, the dogs love them and they're perfect to give as a quick little nutritious snack, they'll be a regular in my Sainsburys trolley from now on.
Here in Essex, with the glorious sunshine beating down and temperatures set to apparently rival those in Turkey and Greece today and tomorrow, there's no denying we've got the makings of a perfect bank holiday weekend!
It's the perfect weather for barbeques, beer gardens, paddling pools and beach visits- but if you own a dog, it's also the perfect weather for deadly heatstroke.
Many people will say I worry too much about my dogs, after all there are dogs that live happily in hot countries all year round, but I personally think this isn't a fair comparison- we get so few really hot sunny days in England therefore dogs just aren't used to it and in my experience, it can hit them like a tonne of bricks. This is especially true for my Benson- he is a Bernese Mountain Dog, a breed that originates from the mountains of Switzerland and has an incredibly thick, dense coat for keeping them warm in the sub zero snowy Swiss mountains. If you're not familiar with the breed, punch it into google and you'll find plenty of pictures, and instantly appreciate how miserable the hot weather can make them!
Keeping dogs happy and healthy in the hot weather isn't hard, it just takes a bit of common sense- walking them in the early morning and late evening, keeping them inside or in the shade during the hottest parts of the day, and providing them with lots of fresh water and adequate means of keeping cool.
On hot sunny days like today, the best place to be, in my opinion, is in the garden! A pair of sunnies, a nice reclining chair, an ice cream in one hand and a glass (or jug!) of Pimms in the other- bliss! For the most part, the dogs are happy enough to chill out in the shade, we've got plenty of trees in the garden and they're usually sensible enough to take shelter under these and snooze most of the day away- note I use the word ''usually''!
Those familiar with Benson, and my other mutt Grace, will know they're hardly the brightest crayons in the box. They do have brains in there somewhere, but it's very seldom they get used, and whilst they may have enough sense to spend some portion of the day in the shade, there are times when they think it's a good idea to charge around the garden in the full sun in the heat of the day, or lay ''sunbathing'' whilst panting like mad dogs the entire time.
So I like any good 'parent' I have an army of different toys and activities that can be used in the shade, to encourage my babies to play somewhere safe!
Todays choice is the Kool Dogz Ice Treat Maker. The simple yet absolutely genius idea has been a firm favourite with us since I purchased it last year, priced at £25 from Canine Concepts.
The set simply consists of a large re-usable bucket in which you fill with water and selection of treats or toys and then freeze. Once frozen the idea is to take the frozen ice block from the bucket and secure on the included stand, and set out in the garden to provide a giant ice lolly for your dog! I brought the set at the beginning of summer last year, and it has been invaluable to us on hot days since.
The whole thing is completely idiot proof- you just take the large plastic bucket, secure the metal centre pole (with the bone shaped cap) into the allocated spot, fill it with water and then toss in anything your dog likes- chews, balls, treats, toys etc, and pop in the freezer until completely frozen. It generally takes about 6 hours to completely freeze, so I always tried to remember to do it overnight in hot weather, so it was ready for the morning of the next day, and it'll fit in the drawer of most standard sized freezers.
Once frozen, the ice block slides easily from the bucket and all you need to do is attach the ice block to the deep reservoir base by inserting the metal centre pole into the hole in the base and then using the pitch fork to secure the piece of kit into the ground.
The idea is that your dog will then spend ages licking and chewing away at the ice in order to melt and grind away at it until they can retrieve the toys or treat from the ice- thus keeping them cool, stimulated and constantly taking in water, which is essential on a hot summers day.
My two, to put it simply, absolutely adore the thing. They go absolutely barmy when they see me setting it up and they love playing with it- they'll chew and lick at the ice endlessly until they get a treat or toy, then they'll go play with that and come back again and again until all the items are released from the ice. I set it up in the shade under one of the trees in the garden so it keeps them playing in the shade and also the shade helps prevent the ice melting too quickly, so they get a decent 3 or 4 hours, if not more, of playtime with it.
The sky is really the limit in regards to what goodies you put in the ice block. Sometimes I'll use a selection of their toys- making sure I put some that don't float in too, so they sink to the bottom of the bucket and remain there when frozen, other times I'll use a mixture of toys and treats, and other times I'll use just treats- biscuits and what have you do obviously go a little soggy in the water but harden up again once frozen and the dogs really couldn't care less! Commercial chews like the Pedigree dentastix, jumbones and rodeo chews (some chopped up and some left whole) are perfect since they retain their texture and consistency after being in the water, and freeze absolutely rock solid therefore giving the dogs a bit of a challenge when they try and eat them after getting them out of the ice.
I'll also make them with chopped fruit and vegetables, which they adore and there is nothing stopping you flavouring the water either- the majority of the time I admittedly do just use plain water as my dogs aren't fussed, but as a treat sometimes I'll mix a few gravy granules in or crumble a stock cube to give the water some flavour, or as an extra special treat- a dollop of yoghurt or a dash of fruit juice goes down a storm (although do take into to consideration sweet things will encourage bees and wasps during summer!).
My dogs are happy to share the treats and toys they find in the ice block, but please remember if you have a 2 or more dogs that aren't so keen on sharing their goodies, then you may well need multiple sets!
All in all, I can't recommend the Kool Dogz ice treat maker enough- it's such a simple idea but brings hours of enjoyment to my dogs, and helps ensure they stay cool and well hydrated in the hot weather. The stainless steel construction of the set makes it sturdy, robust and rust resistant and withstands plenty of batterings when my dogs are eager to get at their goodies. The reservoir base is deep enough to catch any drips from the ice, thus preventing the grass around the set going muddy, and the pitch forked stake that secures the set into the ground efficiently holds it upright and doesn't wobble or fall in the slightest.
As I speak (well, type!) the dogs are out in the garden playing with their Kool Dogz set, which is filled with gravy flavoured water, two tennis balls, a Kong toy and a handful of different treats... and I'm going to go out and join them... with that jug of Pimms I mentioned earlier!
Traditionally, a stick was perhaps the most common dog toy- after all they're free, you can find them anywhere, it doesn't matter if you loose them, and they're easy to throw long distances for dogs to chase after. They're great, right?
Well, that was always what I thought too- I grew up with dogs and we'd always take them to the park and of course, just like any other dog owners, we'd find sticks along the way that we'd throw for them, and the dogs would have a whale of a time chasing, catching and chewing them. A second thought was never given to the dangers.
It was only after moving to England and qualifying to be a veterinary nurse that my eyes were opened to the dangers of these seemingly innocent dog toys. I hadn't long been qualified when a young Labrador was rushed into the surgery- his owners had thrown a stick for him, the dog had jumped up to catch it, but mistimed the catch, and instead of catching the stick horizontally in his mouth, it went vertically down his throat and had firmly lodged itself there. The owners had tried to pull it out, but the stick had snapped and there was a piece stuck- long story cut short, the ending wasn't a happy one and the poor Lab had to be put to sleep at just 18 months old, his life cut cruelly short.
And over the years, this story, and variations, have been repeated all too often. There have been countless cases of dogs not only having sticks lodged in the throats, but impaling themselves on them after the owner had thrown them and they've stuck in soft ground and the dog hasn't been able to stop running before ploughing into them, there have been dogs with shards of broken stick stuck in their gums or mouths when they've bitten down on a rotten one, and many, many other gory stories. Nearly all of which that have ended in surgery and a very hefty vet bill at best, or at worst, a dead dog.
So it probably doesn't come as too much of a surprise for me to tell you that my dogs are NEVER ever allowed to play with sticks. They love to carry and play with things on walks, so we always take our own toys for them, to discourage them from finding their own things to play with- such as the dreaded stick!
Toys that the dogs bring on walks must be a number of different things- they must be strong and durable since they'll be played roughly with by two big dogs, they must be relatively easy to clean as they'll no doubt be dropped in muddy puddles and lastly, they can't be too expensive- because Grace and Benson are a few sandwiches short of a picnic- they'll be carrying around their beloved toy, and then get scent of a rabbit and be off, previously loved toy dropped without a second thought, and they can never find it again when they go back to look!
I saw this Kong Pet Stix whilst browsing online and thought it looked good fun- made from high quality ultra durable nylon and a small amount of stuffing, it was in the traditional stick shape which dogs are drawn to, but came without all the dangers that come with natural sticks.
It is made by Kong, an American company, that I trust greatly to produce decent quality dog toys, so I didn't hesitate in purchasing one. They're available in 3 sizes: small (22cm)- £3.48, medium (26cm)- £4.63 and large (35cm)- £6.04. Pet Supermarket offer the best prices and that's where I purchase our one from, in the large size for my Rottie and Bernese.
When the toy arrived I was instantly really impressed with it, like all Kong toys we've had in the past, the Pet Stix was exceptionally well made- all the fabric was tightly stitched together with no loose bits for the dogs to get their teeth into and begin to rip it up. The whole thing just felt really sturdy and well made, and it looked great. They're available in 3 different colours- green, brown and camouflage, and it's pot luck as to what one you receive. We got the brown one and it looked boring and plain- we'd have much rather of got the camouflage one!
Grace and Benson weren't long in clocking something had arrived for them and we eager to try it, so on our next walk, the Pet Stix came too. It was lightweight enough for the dogs to carry, and large enough that they could both carry at the same time, walking side by side with either end in the mouths, and they had great fun running around like loons with it like this. As durable as Kong toys generally are, I had to discourage them when they tried to play tug of war with it, as the Pet Stix just isn't made for games like this- it's intended use is for fetch games, it won't stand up to chewing or extremely rough tugging play.
As soon as we were in an open field, we got to trial the Pet Stix at its intended use- a good old game of fetch! Grace and Benson suffer from a slight identity crisis- they think they're retrievers. Neither of their breeds are gundog breeds, bred to retrieve, but none the less, Grace and Benson beg to differ and would fetch and retrieve thrown objects until they were fit to drop, so they were more than up for a game with the Pet Stix.
I'm the first to admit I'm a pathetic thrower, and the dogs know this by now! They have learnt to realise that unless the object I'm throwing is a tennis ball, and I have one of those ball thrower arms with me, then they can only expect a few little steps until they've reached the object. The look on their faces when I threw the Pet Stix and it sailed through the air, was a pure picture. ''Eh?! Mum?! Since when you can throw!''.
The Pet Stix, I'm pleased to say, was an absolute breeze to throw! It was light weight, but yet weighted enough to enable a good throw, and even myself as a self acclaimed worlds worst thrower, could get it to travel a reasonable distance- much to my dogs delight! The rounded ends of the toy prevented in from lodging in the sound ground and creating a hazard and the soft construction of the toy made it gentle and safe for the dogs to catch, and easy for them to pick up and retrieve. It does, after a few throws, turn into a slobber soaked minging mess since the material doesn't absorb, but we tend to find this with most toys anyway- after all, I do own a Bernese Mountain Dog, who is a professional slobber gob.
We've now have the Pet Stix for about 4 months, and it's still a regular on our walks. It's coped with all sorts- from being smothered in mud, caked in sand, dropped in cow poo and taken in filthy puddles, and it's still looking good. A simple blast with the hose to get the worst off, and then a quick rinse in the washing machine gets it up as good as new. Some of the stitching on the toy has come ever so slightly loose now, but that's to be expected given the regularity we use the toy, and the roughness in which the dogs play with it, but all in all, I've been extremely impressed with the Pet Stix, and Kong has delivered once more.
My one little gripe with the toy however, is the colour! At first I thought the funky 'natural' coloured appearances of the toys was quite cool, but it's just not at all practical, because the colour makes the toy blend in with the surroundings! Quite often when the dogs have forgotten about it and left it in the grass or mud, I've had to go back looking for it and it takes me forever to find the damn thing! The other two colours the toy is available in (camo and green) are equally daft- bright blue or yellow would have been much more practical!
That isn't enough to stop me recommending the product however. The Kong Pet Stix is a great, durable, hard wearing toy that offers a safe alternative to natural wooden sticks. It's well made, exceptionally strong and affordable too- at six quid for the large size, it's hardly going to be the end of the world if it does get lost on a walk!
I'm the first to admit that Grace and Benson are spoilt rotten, they're my babies, I love them to bits and I shamefully admit to treating them better than I treat most people. They bring me so much joy and want for nothing in return, so naturally they deserve little treats from time to time.
In the evenings, after the busy rush of the day is out of the way, walks are complete, dinners are sorted and the housework has been done, it's settling down time. Me and the hubby crash on the sofa to watch a bit of telly, and the dogs either come up for cuddles, or stretch out on the floor by the fire. It's probably my favourite time of the day, and whilst bottle of wine or a bar of choccie are enjoyed by us, the dogs obviously aren't left out, and get something suitable of their own to have a chew on.
As I'm sure the majority of you know by now, Grace and Benson are big dogs- and with big dog come with big teeth and big strong jaws! Meaning the vast majority of dog chews, even those claiming to be long lasting, are devoured in a matter of minutes. Commercial chews like dentastix don't touch the sides and they make light work of rawhide and pigs ears, so I'm constantly on the look out for new things for them to try and if a new chew becomes available, branding the claims of being long lasting, I snap it up!
I first noticed these Burgess Supadog venison paddywack chews in a small local pet shop about a year and a half ago, when I think they were relatively newly released, but on sale for over £4 a packet, I hastily declined and thought nothing more of them until I noticed them again a couple of weeks ago browsing online- priced at a much more sensible £1.92 on VetUK, I ordered a pack for the mutts to try.
Paddywack has been a very popular dog chew for many, many years- I can remember my dad buying it for our dogs when I was a child, and for those of you who don't know- paddywack is the strong, elasticity ligament in the middle of an animals neck that helps support the weight of the animals head, it is simply cleaned, dried and then sold as dog chews. Lovely eh?! Traditionally, paddywack chews are from cattle, but as we know, the pet care industry are never one to miss a trick, and these particular chews by Burgess are sourced from venison.
Nothing is added to the chews- they're completely natural and made from 100% British venison, which is high in protein and low in fat and calories. Venison is also a hypoallergenic meat, which means it is less likely to cause allergic reactions in dogs, meaning these chews could make a suitable treat for dogs with sensitivities to beef who are unable to enjoy regular paddywack.
When my packet from VetUK arrived, my first thoughts were ''I'm glad I didn't pay more than a couple of quid!!''. Presented in a massively oversized clear, gold foiled backed packet was 3 measly pieces of paddywack (30g). My dogs have had regular beef paddywack in the past, and the pieces have always been nice and chunky, but these venison chews were approximately 4 inches long, and just an inch or so wide. I was a little disappointed but none the less, later that evening the dogs got to sample their new treats.
Upon opening the packet, you're hit with a rich, strong meaty smell which drew the dogs attention immediately and they gathered at my feet as I handed them both a piece of the paddywack. To the touch they were a little greasy, so care should be taken when feeding on carpeted surfaces-not a problem for us however, carpets are long gone in this house, having previously been naive enough to think I could have nice carpets and dogs, and proved spectacularly wrong!
The dogs settled down with the treats held between their front paws to have a good chew, like they always do, but due to the small size of the treats, they struggled to get a good grip on them, which clearly frustrated them a little. Determined as always though, they soldiered on and tackled their paddywack.
As they chewed away, you could hear their teeth grinding away at the paddywack, helping to give them a good clean so one bonus we have already is that these treats are good for dental hygiene, something I'm very particular about. The chews seemed hard and brittle, and the dogs had to work hard to break small pieces off, rather than chewing until they go soggy like they would need to with a rawhide chew. This was another bonus with the paddywack- they were clean to eat, unlike rawhide which has a tendency to go all gooey and glue like, and leave a horrible sticky residue on the wooden floor, and it also gave the dogs a bit of a change- differently textured chews are always good for ensuring variety.
Despite the small size of the chews, they lasted my big dogs about 15 minutes each, which wasn't too bad and I was quite impressed with this. I'd of liked to seen bigger pieces, similar to beef paddywack, as these are much more suited to dogs like mine- bet then I guess we have to have things available for little dogs too!
The dogs love venison, being the posh sods that they are. I buy them venison steak from time to time as a very occasional treat and they go mad for it, and these treats gave them a little taste of it, whilst being easier on my purse. They loved these paddywack chews, but I can't say they ate them with anymore enthusiasm than they'd eat a pigs ear or beef paddywack.
All in all, I'm not quite sure what I think about these chews. They provided something a bit different for the dogs to chew on, and venison is a low fat/high protein meat so therefore they offered the dogs a reasonably healthy treat. Lastly the texture and hardness of the chews were good for oral health, and helped to give the dogs jaws a good workout.
But priced at £1.92 for 30g (3 small chews) they're incredibly expensive when compared to regular beef paddywack, which can be purchased for about £1.50 for a 200g bag, with bigger pieces better suited to big dogs. The venison paddywack could be ideal if you have a sensitive dog with allergies to beef, but if not, I'd personally stick with regular paddywack- I can't see myself buying this again, unless I can find it on a very good offer!
My loopy Rottweiler is the Peter Pan of the dog world! She may be over 3 years old now, but she shows no sign of growing up any time soon, and I suspect she shall remain as nutty as she is now for the rest of her life! Don't get me wrong, it's good in a lot of ways- she's the life and soul of everything so there is never a dull moment, and she is always up for a game or a walk, so you could certainly never get bored with her around, but of course there are a couple of downsides too...
Namely, her chewing. Grace still acts like a puppy in a lot of ways, and one of her retained puppylike traits is the need to chew! Thankfully, she's now passed the destructive chewing stage, where sofas, cats and coffee table legs were all fair game, and like a good girl, will now only chew things she is actually allowed to chew on. Here however is where we encounter the problem of trying to find things that to stand up to the powerful jaws of a young, fit adult Rottweiler!
Over the years, we've a tried seemingly endless amount of products- various chews, treats and toys that all claim to be long lasting and virtually indestructible, only to meet an ugly death a day or two at the most after being given to Grace. Extra tough Kongs, certain Nylabones and raw marrowbones are the only items that have passed the durability test so far, but after all, variety is the spice of life, so I like to continue trying to find her new things as much as I can.
Up until a couple of weeks ago, I'd never even heard of Stagbars, and it was only after a member on my forum brought them up in discussion, that I became aware of them, and instantly had a browse online to find out a big more about them, thinking they might sound like something worthwhile for Grace.
I soon discovered that Stagbars, manufactured in the UK by a company called Puredog, were simply 100% British deer antlers- nothing added and nothing taken away.
My first thoughts, with myself being the naive person I can sometimes be, was how awful it was that they were hacking off a deers antlers to produce as dog chews, and proceeded to announce to my husband how cruel these things were! But following a fit of giggles from the hubby, and a little more research, I soon discovered that deers naturally shed their antlers, and that's where the Stagbars come from- so with my panic over, and myself left feeling a little silly, I was happy to purchase some for Grace to try!
Being made from 100% deer antler, these chews are obviously completely natural, and claim to be extremely safe, non-splintering, non-chipping and with no risk of causing blockages, which can sometimes happen with bones or rawhide chews. They're also exceptionally low in fat, and boast that they contain important minerals, no artificial colours or flavours and are excellent for keeping teeth clean. With all those apparent benefits, I was sold on the idea.
At present, the Stagbars seem to have limited availability, but can be purchased online from the Puredog website, where prices are as follows:
Small (for toy breed dogs)- £2.99
Medium (for small to medium dogs)- £4.99
Large (for medium to large dogs)- £6.99
Extra Large (for giant breeds or powerful chewers)- £8.99
Seeing as Stagbars are completely natural, the chews are not a uniform size or shape, and the sizing is based on the weight of the Stagbars, rather than length or thickness. They can also vary in shape, with some having a forked appearance, and others being a more stick shaped chew.
A couple of days after ordering, our Stagbars arrived, and I didn't hesitate in giving them to the dogs to sample. On first impressions, I wasn't sure what to make of the Stagbars, they were much lighter than I expected them to be, but were much harder. I don't quite know how soft I was expecting deer antlers to be (!), but I had it in my mind that the chews would have at least some degree of flexibility in them, but they didn't- they're rock solid and as hard as nails. They had absolutely no odour to them whatsoever though, which can only be a good thing.
Curiosity soon got the better of the dogs and they came over to investigate what new goodies I had for them. Benson wasn't in the slightest bit interested, up until recently he was as mad on chewing as Grace but has really settled down and matured in the past few months (a bit sad really- I miss my puppylike Benson!) but Grace on the other hand was chomping at the bit to get her paws on her Stagbar and wasted no time in taking it off to her bed for a good ol' chew.
Personally, I can't see the attraction in chewing a lump of rock hard old deer antler, but clearly there was something about them that Grace adored, and it took her a good 2 and a half hours before she chewed herself to sleep! Upon examining the Stagbar after her first chewing session, I was rather shocked to find hardly any damage whatsoever- not a tooth mark in sight! Over the next couple of days, Grace kept at her Stagbar and I remained very impressed at the durability of them.
It wasn't until three days after I first gave Grace the Stagbar that I started to question them! She came down with an awful stomach bug and my first thoughts were blaming the Stagbar, since it was the only thing she'd had which Benson hadn't, so they were confiscated! However over the next couple of days, a virus was diagnosed, completely unrelated to the Stagbar, so I let them off the hook, and once Grace's tummy was fully better, she was allowed the Stagbar back again!
It's now been just over 3 weeks since we first got the Stagbars, and they're still looking as good as new, a little colour has been worn off of the end that Grace prefers to chew, but that's it! Since Benson was uninterested in his Stagbar, Grace has claimed the both of them- we received a stick shaped one, and a more forked style one, and it's definitely the stick shaped one that is the favourite, presumably because it is an easier shape to hold and chew, but unfortunately you cannot choose which style you'd like, so it's pot luck as to what you receive.
If you've got an ultra strong chewer, I wouldn't hesitate in recommending Stagbars. Like I mentioned earlier, Grace has previously been able to demolish nearly every other apparently long lasting chew or toy, but with Stagbars, I think she has finally met her match. They don't dissolve or break up like many chews, they remain solid only wearing away every so slightly as your dogs grinds their teeth against them.
They're low fat, 100% natural, very healthy, are packed with minerals, fantastic for helping to clean teeth, entirely mess and odour free, and are exceptionally durable. If you are wanting to be picky, you could consider the price as their only downside (they're a little 'deer'!) but if you add up the money you've wasted in the past on supposed durable chews, only to throw them in the bin minutes later, Stagbars reflect very good value for money indeed.
Dog training is an activity very close to my heart, and aswell as being a necessary part of dog ownership, it is also something I enjoy immensely and see as a hobby. When you take on the responsibility of owning a dog, it's down to you to make him or her a good tempered and well trained member of the society, as lets face it, nobody likes an unruly dog. I adore dogs, but am the first to admit I dislike nothing more than a disobedient, untrained pooch running riot around a park!
Owning two large and potentially very strong and powerful dogs means it is absolutely vital they are well trained and obedient, and can be relied on to do as they are asked when they are asked, and are capable of greeting absolutely everybody they meet in a friendly manner. They'd be a nightmare to own otherwise! They come to work with me everyday and are often around children, so I need dogs that are pretty much bombproof. Also, of course one of my dogs is a Rottweiler, a breed often unfairly tarred with the 'aggressive' brush, so to me, putting good manners on Grace to show people how lovely Rotts can be, is extremely important and something I'm exceptionally keen on doing.
Even though Grace and Benson are now 3 and 5 years old respectively, training is still a part of their daily routine. It helps keep their minds active, helps strengthen the bond between me and my dogs, and is something we all enjoy. But! As any dog owner will know, the key to successful training is TREATS, and lots of them! After all, we wouldn't go to work for nothing in return would we? So why should dogs go unrewarded for their hard work and effort?!
The method I use to train my dogs is called the 'Positive Reinforcement' method which simply involves rewarding all good behaviour, and merely ignoring the bad- so as you can imagine, we get through an awful lot of treats. For this reason I need something small and healthy, since training treats are part of their daily diet, but also something they enjoy and are willing to work for.
Enter Thrive treats! I first discovered these little gems about 18 months ago, and have been using them regularly ever since. Designed especially for training, these treats are made from 100% natural ingredients, with no junk, cheap fillers, artificial nasties or added salt or sugar. They're just pure meat or fish, with a little rice, oats and minerals added, and then baked into small crunchy pellets, absolutely perfect for rewarding dogs during training sessions.
*Price & Availability*
Thrive treats are sold in small 45g tubes, which retail for approximately £1.99. They're readily available online, and in most pet shops too. Thrive treats are available in three different flavours- lamb, salmon and chicken.
It saddens me when owners are of the opinion that once their dog reaches adulthood, and has learnt the basic commands, that training should cease. ''You can't teach an old dog new tricks'' is nothing but a myth, and I personally believe training should be an ongoing activity throughout a dogs life. It mentally stimulates them- makes them use their brain, gives them a job to do, allows for one on one time between you and your pet and overall, can be a lot of fun if done the right way.
As I mentioned earlier, even though Grace and Benson are well into their adult years, I still do training with them on a daily basis. They both have their Gold Award of the Kennel Club Good Citizen Scheme, and both compete in flyball and agility, and Grace is a registered P.A.T (Pets As Therapy) Dog, so there are plenty of different things we have to work on, both learning new commands and keeping old commands polished and fresh in their minds. I always keep training sessions short, no more than 10 minutes long, but even so, a tasty high value reward is essential.
This is what has lead me to the regular use of Thrive treats. They tick all the boxes of what I look for in a training treat. Firstly, they're healthy and actually good for the dogs, they don't contain any nasty ingredients, which is great and gives me confidence knowing I'm not filling my dogs with junk. Secondly, they're the perfect size- small, crunchy and easy for any dog to easily eat on the go, and lastly, they stink! Some would consider this a downside, but for me, it's perfect. The stinkier the training treat, the better in my opinion. If something has a strong smell, it captures and keeps Grace and Bensons attention, and makes them work that little bit harder. Yes, they'll make your hands smell, but nothing a bit of soap and hot water won't sort!
Grace and Benson are clicker trained so see the click of the clicker as a mark of good behaviour, so they certainly don't get a treat every time they do as they are asked in training sessions, they'd be the size of a house if they did! Only every 3rd or 4th command will they get a treat, and they're always eager to work for a Thrive treat. In a typical training session I might use say 10 Thrive treats per dog, and there is well over 200 treats a tube, so they last ages- great value for £1.99.
The only downside I can find with the product, and I'm being rather picky here, is with the packaging. The treats are packaging in a cardboard tube with a separate lid, and there are a couple of problems with that! Firstly, if you're anything like me you'll loose the lid during the first use of the product and secondly- the tube is far too narrow to put your hand in, so you need to tip the tube up to empty the treats onto your hand, and you end up getting half the contents! Only two minor niggles, and are easily solved by popping a portion of the treats in a training pouch during sessions, but I do feel a larger/wider pot with an attached lid would be useful!
But all in all, it's hard to find any fault with the actual product. Being small, healthy and clearly tasty, they offer the perfect training rewards. Of course I don't use them all the time- my clever mutts wouldn't work for the same thing every time, but I do keep coming back to Thrive again and again. Grace and Benson will work nicely for them, and they absolutely adore them, which of course is the main thing.
As healthy for our dogs, and as easy on our wallets, as a diet of dry food may be, I can't help but think how mind numbingly boring such a diet is. After all, I know for a fact that I'd very quickly get bored of eating the same thing everyday, especially when that thing is hard, dry crunchy biscuits, all the same size, shape and flavour! It's hardly the most exciting of menu is it?
So always liking to spoil my dogs, and thinking of them more as humans than I perhaps should do, I always like to make sure their meals contain plenty of variety, whilst at the same time still being healthy and good for them- I like to think they appreciate the effort, but then again, these are the same dogs that will happily graze on grass all day if allowed in such a way it puts cows to shame (no tummy probs- they just like the taste), and who chew on plastic bottles as if they're going out of fashion, so maybe not!
Breakfast never changes, they always get a meal of plain dry food, but for dinner I like to mix something a bit tastier in with their kibble- they're rather partial to wet dog food, so this is something I'll use 3 to 4 times a week, and consequently, this is what led me to the purchase of these Deli Dog Food Pouches.
I spotted the box on the shelves of Pets At Home, and being a product the pupsters had never tried before, they soon made their way into our trolley. The Deli range is part of Pets At Home own brand products, and comprises of a wide selection of gourmet treats and moist dog foods.
The Deli pouches are a complementary food for adult dogs, meaning they aren't a complete food and should only be used in conjunction with a complete diet- as an occasional treat or topper to kibble. Each pouch is made with a minimum of 40% chicken breast, so as far as dog food goes, these are pretty much middle of the road- miles better than the likes of Pedigree or Chappie tins, but they've a long way to go before matching the likes of Naturediet and their 70%+ meat content.
The pouches are available in two different multipack, which all contain 2 pouches of each 4 flavours.
Hearty Meaty Menu
- Chicken with ham
- Chicken with beef
- Chicken with lamb
- Chicken with liver
Mouthwatering Chicken Selection
- Chicken with duck
- Chicken with chicken liver
- Chicken with vegetables
Personally, I can't see the point in having two different multipacks available, because as you can see, every single one is chicken based- meaning you're a bit stuck if you've got a dog that's allergic to, or not keen on, this meat! Other than meat, these pouches contain only tapioca starch (and veg in the case of the chicken & veg pouch) so you can be sure you are not packing your dog with animal derivatives, cheap grains and nasty additives.
*Price & Availability*
Being a Pets At Home own brand product, these pouches are obviously only available from Pets At Home, and can be purchased both instore and online from their website. Both the Hearty Meaty Menu multipack and the Mouthwatering Chicken Selection multipack retail for £6.42 for 8 150g pouches.
Grace and Benson could be described as a lot of things- they can be noisy, slobbery, clumsy, stupid and grumpy amousght other things, but the one word that could never be used to describe them is fussy! I'm sure they'd not really care less if they ate nothing but dry food for their entire lives, and I probably only add extra bits in to please myself, but never the less, I intend on carrying on as I am, and like to think they appreciate it somewhat!
Since Pets At Home launched their own range of products several years ago they seem to be constantly adding more and more products, and they seem to have introduced a new little sub-brand almost every time I go in there, with the Deli range being a relatively new addition to the shelves of Pets At Home.
As regular readers of my reviews will know, I'm a little bit obsessive over what my dogs eat, and I don't like to give them anything for their main meals that contain too much junk- I like to buy high quality products with a good high meat content, and no artificial junk or fillers wherever I can. Containing over 40% meat and no animal derivatives or artificial additives, these Deli pouches fitted the bill nicely, and I didn't hesitate in adding a multipack of each variety to my basket.
Back home that evening, I was keen to see what the dogs thought of them. I opened up the meaty menu multipack to find 8 little plain silver pouches- for some reason I had expected the pouches to be individually printed like most pouches in multipacks are, but these Deli ones were plain silver with no decoration at all- just a small line of writing indicated what flavour the pouch contained. No big deal of course, but it was just something I found it a little unusual, especially for a big company like Pets At Home.
I ripped open a pouch of the chicken with ham variety for Grace and squeezing it into her bowl, I was a little surprised by the appearance of the food. I had expected chunks of chicken in a sauce/gravy type product, but infact the food was actually copious amounts of jelly dotted with chicken pieces, and small slivers of ham. The same went for the chicken with liver variety I chose for Benson.
I suppose for a product that is only 40% chicken, I couldn't have expected much more, I just wasn't expecting to see quite so much jelly, which is essentially a 'empty' food- it has little or no nutritional value to the dogs. None the less, I was only using the product as a topper for the kibble, so wasn't worried too much by the nutrition content.
Trying to mix the contents of the pouches with the kibble was a tricky task! Whereas most pouch/canned foods seem to coat the kibble nicely, these pouches were a nightmare to break up and even when mixed around the kibble, the jelly stayed in big hard lumps and didn't stick to the kibble at all. They had a very strange texture indeed, and even odder was the smell- these pouches smelt unusually sweet, a scent you wouldn't expect from a meat based product!
Grace and Benson clearly found the smell quite appealing however, and were trying their absolute best to wait patiently for their dinner. As per usual, there is nothing much to report here- when I put their bowl down they tucked right in- they both loved the pouches and that was that really, they're not the greatest of dogs to try food products on because there is just one possible outcome- they're going to like it regardless!
Undeterred by the slight let down of the first two pouches I used, I continued to work our way through the remaining fourteen pouches over the coming weeks, and was rather disappointed to find all the flavours followed the masses of jelly dotted with meat theme. As we worked our way through the pouches even Grace and Benson seemed to become a little bored with the odd texture and excessive amounts of jelly- the pouches and kibble were still eaten, but bowls weren't liked spotlessly clean.
Credit where credit is due however- the chicken pieces contained within the pouches looked of decent quality- they were nice chunky pieces of white breast meat, and looked and smelt like the real deal- not the artificially reformed grey chunks of meat found in a lot of pet foods, and the same goes for the other meats used in the pouches- they all looked like what they were supposed to look like. The vegetables in the chicken with veg pouches were a bit of a let down though, my dogs love vegetables but all that was in this pouch was peas (despite the ingredients list claiming carrots were present too!).
So, to finish up, would we buy these again? No, I doubt it, unless they were on an exceptionally good offer!The food inside the pouches looked nothing like the pictures printed on the box- there was masses of rubbery jelly with a small amount of meat in comparison to the amount of jelly, and I wasn't overly impressed with this. But, at the end of the day, they still contain no nasty junk or waste parts of the animal, and I was only using them to add a bit of variety to plain kibble, and that's exactly what they did. Grace and Benson liked them, and working out at 80p per pouch, they're not too bad value, considering they are 40% chicken breast... but then again, for 6p more you could get a 390g tray of Naturediet, which contains no jelly and has a much higher meat content!
Cats! They have a wonderful life don't they? They sleep wherever they please for as long as they please, then they wake up and have their servants serve them their dinner, perhaps go for a wander outside around their 'patch', then maybe grant you a little bit of attention if you're lucky before they retire to bed again. Not bad eh?!
I'll be honest and admit I'd never been much of a cat person. Growing up we always had dogs, and it wasn't until I moved to England, and had a little stray black cat turn up at my door who made himself quite at home and ended up staying for the next 5 years, that I got into them. I wasn't really looking to get a cat, but I didn't have any choice in the matter, Jet decided he wanted to live with us, and that was that really. Sadly, we lost him after being hit by a car about 18 months ago, and it was only then I realised how much I'd fallen for felines!
So since him, two more have came along. There's Meg, who we had as a foster kitten at the time we lost Jet, so we decided to keep her, and then there is her ''little sister'' Poppy, another rescue kitten who also ended up staying for good after tugging at our heartstrings. They're 2 years and 11 months old respectively, and are both black & white moggies. They drive me absolutely crazy at times with their quirky ways, but I love them to bits and couldn't be without them.
We hand reared Meg from just a couple of days old, so she was never around her mother, hence she never learnt any feline lifeskills, and consequently, this has left her a bit of a whimp. She has the option to go outside, but prefers life as a housecat. Poppy on the another hand, was a stray found on the streets, so had presumably been around her mother and littermates fending for herself for a little while, which has made her that bit more independent! She loves to go outside exploring, and will always disappear first thing after breakfast, and not wander home again until it starts to get dark.
This would be great, apart from one problem- she can't, or rather, won't use a cat flap! We've tried tempting her through with treats, shutting her in and giving her no other way to go outside apart from use the flap, but she just doesn't have any of it, and will only enter or exit the house via doors (damn fussy cat won't even jump through downstairs open windows!).
This left us with a little problem- myself and my fiancé work full time, so there is no one at home during the day, so when Poppy left the house in the morning, then that was that, she had no way of being able to get back inside again should the weather turn bad, she get hungry or gets scared of something and wants to come inside, until we returned from work in the evenings.
So we started to look for some kind of shelter for to be able to use outside, and we come across the Katkabin.
The DezRez Katkabin has been designed as an outdoor kennel like structure for cats to be able to use in situations like ours- where the cat won't use a cat flap, or if the owners do not want one installed for whatever reason.
It has been made from high grade, weather resistant plastic and at 55cm x 41cm x 33cm (LxWxH), provides ample space for felines to shelter away from the elements. It has been produced in a tunnel shaped design, which apparently allows air to circulate around the kabin better than traditional box or A frame shaped kennels, and comes complete with a funky cat head shaped entrance and back panel. A see through flap on the entrance comes as standard, offering extra protection from foul weather, and this can be removed or left on, depending on your cats preference or individual needs.
*Price & Availability*
The DezRez Katkabin comes in one standard size, and in 6 colours- chocolate, blue, red, green, purple (pictured) and bright pink.
I've yet to see the Katkabin available for purchase offline, but many online retailers stock it. We purchased our red Katkabin direct from the Katkabin site (www.katkabin.co.uk) from £49.95.
When I started looking for an outdoor shelter for Poppy I merely had in mind something simple like a small lean-to style shed, or even a small wooden dog kennel, I had no idea anything like this even existed. But when my google search threw back pictures of the Katkabin, they were too cute to resist and I had to wander onto the website for a little look. I had a budget of £100 to spend on something for her, so at less than half that, I snapped a Katkabin up instantly.
I went for the original DezRez Katkabin, and ordered direct from the manufacturers website, it came 3 days later, which I was very impressed with. There was no assembly which was great, and when it arrived, it was looked every inch as cute as on the website!
The quality and the strength of the build of the product was very pleasing, everything was really sturdy and I knew it'd be able to withstand life in the back garden, and all the knocks and bumps it was bound to endure out there. Following the manufacturers recommendations, I kept the Katkabin in the house for a few days to allow Poppy to become accustomed to it, so she saw it as her own safe place, and thankfully she took to it like a duck to water. Pops is a very confident cat, she'll go up to investigate anything, and after putting her dinner bowl in the Katkabin, she went straight into eat.
She spent the next few days sniffing around it, climbing on top and getting inside it for a snooze, so we soon took it out to the garden to be put to its proper use. I positioned it slighted under a bush for added protection, with the entrance about a foot away from a wall, to prevent rain blowing right in, and it looked great in the garden. The red colour looked bright and interesting against the garden, but didn't look too obtrusive at the same time.
I lined the Katkabin with some vetbed and a couple of blankets to create a cosy place for Pops, and left her to it.
We brought the Katkabin at the end of July, and nearly every evening when we've come home from work, Poppy has only emerged from the Katkabin about 2 hours later! Even when we are at home, she'll go outside in the morning, have a little wander then retire to her Katkabin for a couple of hours, before having another wander outside and going back to her Katkabin. In the warmer months, we've seen her sunbathing on top of it too, and when her and Meg are having a rare play session together, they'll tear around the garden, jumping up and off the Katkabin pouncing on each other.
For under £50, it has given me great peace of mind knowing that when I am out, that Poppy can get somewhere warm and dry should she want to, and she isn't shut completely outside throughout the entire day. Previously, I'd been coming home to a soaking wet and very miserable cat if it had started raining whilst I was out, but now I know she has the option to shelter should she wish, and this is very reassuring.
Obviously we can't have the cat flap on the entrance, as that defeats the purpose of buying it in the first place, but given the good length of the Katkabin, this doesn't pose a problem as Poppy can simply go right to the back of the Katkabin and snuggle up, and she is far enough away from the entrance to be protected from the rain, cold and any draughts.
After being outside since July, it has coped with sun, rain, wind and it doesn't have a mark on it- the colour has remained vivid, the plastic nice and strong and it is still 100% waterproof. As I look outside the window now, it has about 5 inches of snow settled on the top, but I fully expect it to be none the worse for wear after it's all melted.
If you have a nervous cat, who can be unsure of new things, then I dare say you may need to do a fair bit of persuading to encourage them to go inside, and for some cats, they probably may never like it. I know we wouldn't stand a change in hell of persuading Meg to go inside, even if we filled it with tiger prawns, her favourite thing in the entire world!
Also, if you live in a urban area, and have lots of other cats visiting your cat, you may well experience problems with cats other than your own using the Katkabin, as there is no option to use magnetic collar keys with the flap on the Katkabin, although according to the website, this is something they are looking to doing in the future.
But for us, I can't fault it. The Katkabin is inexpensive, and was delivered super quick direct from the manufactures site. It is of perfect size- big enough to allow your cat to stretch out comfortably (or fit two cats inside) but not too large that it doesn't retain heat, it is waterproof, raised from the ground and creates a warm, safe, dry and cosy place for your cat to shelter when they are unable to get back inside the house. It offers protection from predators and the elements for the cat, and excellent peace of mind for the owner.
I fully expect our current Katkabin to be a permanent fixture in our garden for many years to come, but should it need replacing, I'd have no hesitation in purchasing another, and I'd gladly recommended them to anyone looking for means of shelter for their cat, avoiding the use of cat flaps to the house.
It's that time of year again. When the clocks have gone back and the misery of pitch black dog walks are upon us once more, as owners everywhere find themselves doing the before and after work dog walks, in the gloomy depths of darkness!
It's rarely good fun, especially when the wind is howling and the rain beating down, and you are struggling to keep an eye on your off lead dogs as they run after every squirrel or rabbit that tickles their fancy, completely oblivious to the fact they are giving yourself a headache straining your eyes trying to keep track of them in the dark! It's a scenario I'm sure nearly all dog owners are familiar with, and I am positive I am not alone in having thought I'd rather a goldfish as a pet during these times!
My two dogs, like a lot of others I'm sure, would turn into unbearable hyperactive maniacs who'd be bouncing off the walls all day if they did not get an opportunity for offlead, free running exercise, so keeping them confined to the end of a lead really isn't an option for me, as easy as it'd make in-the-dark dog walks! So every winter I seem to find myself purchasing another new product that promises to make keeping track of dogs in the dark, that little bit easier. Over the years, we must have tried every gadget going, from those little flashing blinkers, to hi-vis collars and even these little contraptions that looked like a glow stick around their necks, making Grace and Benson look like they were on their way to some mad rave up!
Illuminated collars have always been something I resisted purchasing however. The simple reason being that Benson is an exceptionally hairy dog, and his normal collar disappears into a mass of fur within moments of being put on, so I'd always imagined illuminated collars would do the same, and the lights would be blocked by the ridiculous amount of fur that Bernese Mountain Dogs feel the need to have!
Last year however, fed up of ''loosing'' my dogs in the dark whilst on the field, going into a complete mad panic that I couldn't see them, shouting their names at the top of my voice, only to turn round and see them standing there as if to say ''what on earth is your problem?'', I took the plunge and ordered a couple of Visiglo collars to try.
According to the Visiglo website, these collars have been made focusing on four crucial factors- safety, value, functionality and style- resulting in an end product of a high quality, good looking dog collar, which offers peace of mind and safety for pets in the dark, whilst at the same time, being affordable and available to all. The collars are made from strong, durable heavy duty nylon with snap shut plastic buckles, sturdy steel D-rings and lined with soft touch material to ensure a comfortable fit for your dog.
What sets Visiglo aside from other dog collars however, is the addition of ultra bright LED lights, stitched all around the outside of the collar, allowing your dog to be seen from all angles, thus eliminating the problem that often arose with traditional flashing blinkers that hang from collars at the front of the dogs chest- meaning when the dog has it's back to you, the light, and therefore the dog, can't be seen! Reflective piping is also sewn all around the collar, for extra added safety on night time walks.
*Price & Availability*
I've yet to see Visiglo collars offline, but they are readily available for purchase on many online websites. The collars are available in three colours- black with green lights, blue with blue lights and red with white lights, and in three different sizes. The prices from DogOnline (www.dog-online.co.uk), where I purchased our collars, are as follows:
Small (to fit neck size 25cm to 35cm)- £13.03
Medium (to fit neck size 33cm to 51cm)- £14.05
Large (to fit neck size 41cm to 61cm)- £15.07
When the weather is OK (cold as it wants, as long as there's no rain) and I'm actually able to see my dogs (!), walking Grace and Benson in the dark is actually something I quite enjoy. There is just something weirdly relaxing about having a peaceful walk in the dark, just the three of us. When the dogs go out of my sight however, this is when I panic, so some form of lighting on the dogs when out in the dark is an absolute must to ensure my blood pressure levels are kept down, and an enjoyable walk is had by all!
Grace and Benson are both predominately black dogs, with just the little tan Rottie markings on Grace, and a few patches of white and tan on Benson, so it really is absolutely impossible to see them when I have them out in the dark, especially when they are off lead and enjoying their walk, running through the long grass, unless I have some form of light on them to keep track of where they are!
Working full time, this unavoidably means the dogs must be walked first thing in the morning between 6-7am before we go to work (they come with me) and then again after work, at about 6 o'clock in the evening, so both these walks take place in complete dark, from start to finish. Not as nice as bright spring morning or summer evening walks, but the dogs don't seem to care, and it doesn't particularly bother me either, as long as I can see where they are.
Enter the Visiglo LED Dog Collars! We seemed to have exhausted every other method of dog safety lights, and not had any huge success with anything we tried, so these collars were a last resort product, before I considering draping the dogs in battery powered Christmas lights, or sellotaping bike lights to their heads and bums!
I came across the collars online, and after reading up a bit about them, I decided they were worth a try, ordering a couple of the large sized collars for Grace and Benson, and when they came a few days later, I was eager to try them out.
On first inspections, the collars look just like any other nylon dog collar. The battery compartment that powers the lights is craftily hidden in the buckle of the collar, so it's nice and unobtrusive, and there is nothing big and bulk to annoy the dogs. Likewise, the lights are stitched on really securely, so there is no danger of them coming loose and presenting a choking hazard to the dogs or anything like that. Overall, they looked very sleek and smart, and were very easy to adjust to correct sizes for the dogs to wear.
The collars are powered by two replaceable CR 2025 batteries (if that means anything to you!) and two buttons operate the lights. The first is a small button on the side of the buckle- this is the test button, which when pressed, will activate the lights briefly for a few seconds before turning off again, and the second button is a larger button on the front of the buckle marked with a paw print design. This is the on/off button- press once to turn on, and then again to turn off, so pretty idiot proof really, which is great for technically challenged people like myself!
Inside the house, the lights looked nothing special, infact, they didn't even look particularly bright, but later than evening when we went out for our walk, I got to road test the collars for real, and any disappointments I previously had were banished!
Once out in the dark, the collars really came to life. I'd ordered a black collar with green lights for Grace and a red collar with white lights for Benson, and they looked absolutely fantastic worn by the dogs outside! The lights were bright, vivid, colourful and chased continuously around the collar, giving off light from all angles, and ensuring Grace and Benson were easy to spot whatever position they were in. The dogs never go more than, say, 100 meters away from me, but even at this distance, the lights were as bright as if the dogs were right next to me, so are perfect if you have dogs like mine, that like to hang back sniffing at something whilst you keep walking, and then bomb towards you as fast as they can when they realise you've continued without them!
Unavoidably, Benson's collar did sink a little down into his fur, but this was expected and couldn't be helped, and the lights remained bright and vivid, even when partially covered by fur. The collars performance on Grace however was faultless.
The collars can be worn alone, in place of your dogs regular collar, or aswell as your dogs regular collar. If I am walking Grace and Benson in rural areas (like we do 99% of the time) and they are unlikely to be put on leads for whatever reason, then I'll use the Visiglo collars alone, and they function just aswell as a regular collar- the D-ring is ample to hold an I.D tag, and they are strong enough for me to grab to quickly restrain the dogs should I need to in an emergency. On the rare occasions we do road walking however, I use the Visiglo collars alongside their regular ones, purely because I wouldn't attach a lead to anything other than a leather collar, given the potential strength of my dogs.
Overall, I'm extremely impressed with these Visiglo collars, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them to any dog owner. They are affordable, have a long battery life (I haven't had to change our batteries yet, and we've had the collars over a year, being used in winter months for 2/3hrs daily), the lights are bright and vivid, they're comfortable for the dogs to wear, they look great and offer peace of mind. They make your dog not only more visible for yourself to keep an eye on, but also more noticeable to other walkers, horse riders, cyclists and motorists.
My one and only niggle is that the collars are not waterproof. They'll cope with a bit of rain or long wet grass but shouldn't be submersed in water. This can be a bit problematic if you happen to own a fruit loop of a Rottweiler (mentioning no names... Grace!) whose recall goes out of the window and turns into a dog on a mission when hurtling towards a lake at 100 miles an hour and you'll probably find the collars won't survive perhaps as long as they should (although we've been lucky, and her collar has thankfully always dried out and remained working after an night in the airing cupboard!).
*What is the Clix Car Safe Harness?*
This car harness for dogs is produced by the Clix company, a division of the worldwide established Company Of Animals who make and produce a huge range of pet care equipment including Kong toys, Halti headcollars and Clix practical dog equipment.
*The product itself*
Having suitable means of restraining dogs whilst travelling in cars is something that naturally needs to be given quite some thought. The lovable family pet sitting loose on the back seat could potentially turn into a deadly missile- flying into the front of the car, with death an almost certainty for the pet, and a extremely high chance of injury for the passengers occupying the car, if sudden sharp breaking was to occur for any reason.
None the less, if still never ceases to amaze me how many people I see driving around with their dog either sat unrestrained on the back seat, peering between the gap of the two front seats, or jumping all over the passenger seat at risk of distracting the driver. Why it isn't a heavily enforcement legal requirement that dogs must travel suitably restrained I'll never understand!
Like a lot of owners, for many years I always put my dogs in the boot when travelling in the car- to me it seemed like the sensible option- I had a dog guard fitted so they couldn't climb into the main body of the car, and since I have two large dogs, the boot was the most roomy and comfortable place for them to sit. It wasn't until we very nearly had a very large lorry plough into the back of the car whilst on the motorway, that I had cause to drastically rethink my dogs travel arrangements! Naively, never before had I given any thought to the possibly of another vehicle going into the back of my car, which would, the in absence of a travel crate to take the impact, instantly kill my dogs.
From that moment onwards, I wanted the dogs in the main body of the car with me, but I knew I needed to have something to keep them restrained and safe whilst sitting on the back seat. I went online and ordered a couple of Hi Craft car harnesses, and these served me and the dogs very right up until the end of last year when they began to look a bit tatty, meaning replacements were needed. I'd of quite happily ordered another pair of the same brand, but upon trying to locate some, I quickly discovered they'd been discontinued! The next similar item I came across was these Car Safe Harnesses by the Clix brand, so that's what we went with.
The Clix Car Safe Harnesses is, as the name suggests, a harness that is designed to be worn by the dog, to keep him safe and securely restrained whilst travelling in the car. The harness is made from the same approved safety standard seatbelt material that regular car seatbelts are made from and follows an 'X' shape design, which keeps the harness securely in place and helps to ensure that pressure is evenly distributed in the event of sudden breaking. It features two snap shut buckles which allows the harness to be fitted to the dog in such a way you needn't have to awkwardly try and get them to step into it- it simply slips over the head, and is secured either side of the body.
The harness clips directly into the seatbelt socket, ensuring your dog of the same level of protection a regular car seatbelt gives yourself. The one main thing that sets the Clix harness aside from other regular car harnesses, is the chest piece. The Clix harness features a large, triangular shaped chest piece, made from ultra soft neoprene material is heavily padded, meaning that should in the unfortunate event of an accident, the dog be thrown forward, the chest piece will comfortably absorb any shock or force, and help keep your dog as comfortable as possible.
*Price & Availability*
The Clix Car Safe Harness seems to be one of the most popular and readily available dog car harnesses, and is available from numerous places both on and offline. It comes in 4 sizes, and the prices (from www.pet-supermarket.co.uk) are as follows:
Extra Small, to fit chest size 35-65cm (Yorkies, Toy Poodles etc)- £10.49
Small, to fit chest size 55-65cm (Jack Russells, Westies etc)- £11.99
Medium, to fit chest size 60-75cm (Springers, Collies etc)- £16.49
Large, to fit chest size 75-95cm (Labradors, German Shepherd etc)- £17.90
Personally, I found sizing to be pretty generous, to give some idea of actual size- Grace, who is a female Rottweiler, wears the medium size, and Benson, a male Bernese Mountain Dog, has the large.
I'm one of those people, as you've probably realised by now, who are absolutely dotty about their dogs, and I like to take them everywhere with me that I possibly can! They always come to work with me, so this guarantees at least two car journeys per day, and then we'll often drive somewhere nice for a walk after work, meaning they can often have in the region of 4 or 5 trips in the car per day. Seeing as they are in the car so much, having means to transport them in a safe and comfortable manner is paramount concern.
Both Grace and Benson are big, large breeds of dog, so the boot of my Land Rover Discovery always seemed the most practical way, for them and me, for them to travel. There's plenty of room for them to lay down, there was no risk of them being thrown forward thanks to a fitted dog guard and after a wet muddy walk, all the dirt and grime was in the back with them, and not spread over my car seats- so everyone was happy!
It's safe to say however that never in my life have I been so scared as I was when I saw that lorry hurtling up behind me, and with cars either side and ahead of me, knowing I could do absolutely nothing about it! Thank god, the lorry driver managed to slam on his breaks in time, but with Grace and Benson in the boot, the thought of what would have happened if he didn't, doesn't even bare thinking about. I knew from that moment I'd be a lot happier if they were on the back seat, meaning in the event of an vehicle hitting the back of my car, the boot would hopefully take the majority of the force before reaching my dogs on the back seat.
After our near miss, car harnesses for the dogs were ordered immediately to enable them to travel safely on the back seat, and our trusty Hi-Craft branded ones served us brilliant up until the end of last year, when these Clix ones took their place.
A couple of days after placing my order on Pet Supermarket, our Clix harnesses arrived and the moment I took them from their boxes, I was instantly very impressed with them. I'd always thought our Hi Craft ones were of good quality, but the Clix ones were far superior. The whole construction of them just felt incredibly strong and durable, and I liked the fact they were made from the same seatbelt material that is used in cars- the chest piece was also a high point. It was nice and large to cover the whole chest area and at around 1 inch thick, it was more than adequately padded. Another little feature I liked was that on the chest piece, underneath the product logo, the size is written in a little red circle. This is only a minor touch but for me, with two different sized harnesses, I could see at a glance which harness was for which dog, so that was great and much easier than having to hold them up to compare them like I had to with the Hi Craft harnesses!
I called the dogs over to try their new harnesses on, and was very pleased to find that they were incredibly easy to fit. Grace is a bit of a fidget and hates to stand still for a split second longer than she has to, but even she didn't protest at the harness being fitted. You simply need to pull them over the dogs head, then lift either side up and fasten to the buckles on the dogs back. It's as easy as that- no need to try and lift the dogs legs, or place paws here, there and everywhere! Once fitted, you can then use the little sliders (I'm sure that's not their technical name, but you know what I mean!) to adjust the straps to make the harness a comfortable fit for your dog. Both Grace and Benson needed their harnesses slighted tweaked to make them snug and close fitting, and this was very easy to do.
Once on, they looked great. The harnesses are red and black, so when worn by my predominately black dogs they looked sleek, smart and unobtrusive. Neither of the dogs were in the slightest bit bothered by wearing them, so that was a plus point also.
The picture dooyoo have provided makes it unable to see, but on the back of the harness there is a short strap, with a clasp on the end that slots straight into the seatbelt sockets- this is a great feature as our Hi Craft harnesses, and several other brands I've seen, don't clip directly into the seatbelt socket- they required the car seatbelt to be slotted through them and then clipped in as usual, so this was a great aspect of the Clix harnesses- being able to plug them directly into the seatbelt socket made them much more sturdier in my opinion. I'm not entirely sure if the clasp would fit all models of car, so it'd probably be best to double check with the Clix company before purchasing if you're concerned but they do fit my Land Rover Discovery and my fiancés Ford Focus.
The length of the strap from the harness to the clasp is admittedly short, and the dogs can do nothing else other than sit (or lay at a push) on the back seats, but they need to be like this for safety reasons- any longer and the dogs could get down into the footwells, climb about or even try and get over to the front seats of the car.
We've been using the Clix harnesses for nearly a year now, and they're still looking as good as new with numerous journeys worth of use on a daily basis. They're strong, sturdy, well made and more than capable of restraining my two big burly dogs, and what's more- they're less than £20!
Thankfully, we've never had to put them to the test for real, and hopefully we never will do, but I'm safe in the knowledge that god forbid, we do have a car accident, then the dogs are securely restrained, and are of no danger to myself, passengers or themselves.
You may never need to use the full benefits harnesses such as these offer- but why take the chance and gamble with yours, your families and your dogs life?
*What is the Trixie Adjustable Elevated Dog Bowl Stand?*
This adjustable raised dog feeder is produced by the Trixie company, a well established pet care brand that produces a wide range of products such as toys, housing, bedding, feeding equipment and grooming tools for cats, dogs and small animals.
*The product itself*
If you own a dog, then the chances are high that you would have heard about, or seen, stands for raising feeding bowls at some point but have shrugged them off, thinking they're only necessary for the 'giant' dog breeds, such as Great Danes and Saint Bernards. In reality however, ANY dog, regardless of size, will benefit from eating from bowls raised to a suitable height, and this is for a number of reasons.
Firstly, it is simply much more comfortable. If you've ever watched a dog eating from a bowl on the floor, you will notice the awkward, bent, crouched down position they are in, which puts unnecessary strain on the front legs, back and neck- raising the bowl to a suitable height makes for a much easier, comfortable eating position. Secondly, it minimises the amount of air dogs swallow whilst eating their food, and subsequently this helps prevent vomiting and the risk of choking, not to mention drastically reducing the chance of potentially fatal ''bloat'', which is when the dogs stomach turns inside of them. Lastly, they offer extra piece of mind for the owner- safe in the knowledge your pets food is up and away from the floor, and away from any bacteria, dirt or germs.
Owning two large dogs, who resemble giraffes bending to drink, when trying to eat from bowls on the floor, means a raised feeder is an absolutely essential piece of equipment in my household, and this Trixie Adjustable Elevated Dog Bowl Stand is our current model of choice.
The design of the feeder is quite simple. It consists of a large 'H' shaped base, which has two upright poles, that join at the top and these poles feature two ring attachments, with an adjustable sliding fitting, to enable you to fit your dogs feeding bowls, to raise them up to a suitable height. What sets this particular feeder aside from other raised dog bowl stands however, is the ability to be able to have the two bowls raised at different heights, to cater for two different sized dogs- rather than having them both set at the same height, like with standard raised feeders.
The feeder, made from strong sturdy steel enables you to set the bowls at a maximum height of 43cm and on the lowest setting, you could have them just a couple of centimetres off the floor, thus making this feeder suitable for the vast majority of dog breeds, and will be a particularly good purchase for a puppy owner, as the stand can grow as they do.
The Trixie Bowl Stand comes complete with two stainless steel dog bowls that slot perfectly into the rings on the feeder- with the bowls being supported by the ring running around the rim on the top of the bowl. These bowls have a diameter of 24cm, and have a capacity of 2.8 litres, making them more than adequate for any dog, including the big 'uns.
*Price & Availability*
I've yet to see this particular model of the Trixie Bowl Stand in any offline pet shop, although it seems to be readily available online. I purchased our stand from Amazon for £31, but recently I've seen the price as low as £23 on some sites, so make sure to shop around first!
When I got Benson as a puppy, he was my first ''all mine'' large dog. I'd had a Rottweiler and a Great Dane cross amousght others whilst growing up, but since leaving home and having dogs of my own, Benson was the first biggie, only having a little Cavalier prior to him. So the world of raised feeders was a bit bewildering to me! I knew a needed one, I could remember my mum would always sit down and have the dog bowl between her knees when our big dogs were eating when I was a kid, so even back then it was recognised large dogs need to be fed up from the floor, but I didn't have a clue what one to go for, and ending up purchasing the first one I saw whilst in Pets At Home.
Thankfully, it turned out to be a good purchase, and that particular raised feeder served us very well, and stayed with us right up until about one year ago, and that was through no fault of the product, our needs merely changed.
You see, when I just had Benson, I had both his water and his food bowls raised, and he had the raised feeder to himself, but when I got Grace, big bad me was a bit of a meanie, and made him share! Relegating the water bowl to the floor, and allocating the space to Grace for her feeding bowl, once she was of similar height to Benson (having used Yellow Pages and Argos catalogues to raise her bowl whilst she was growing!!!). This was never really ideal however, since Benson is a larger breed of dog to Grace, and since our older feeder only allowed us to have both bowls at the same height, this meant I had to find a medium height to suit them both, and this was a little too low for Benson, and just a tad too high for Grace!
So when I spotted this dual feeder, previously unaware they existed, I snapped one up right away!
Like I mentioned in the opening section of my review, this feeder has two separate poles, rather than just the one, meaning you can attach one bowl to each pole and set them both at different heights, thus making it absolutely perfect for people in my situation, with two dogs in need of a raised feeder, but not wanting two different feeding stands cluttering up the kitchen.
Once our order had been delivered, I wasted no time in setting it up. Assembly was very minimal, all that was required was to fix on the fittings that enable you to attach the bowls, slot the bowls in the rings and you're done.
Once pieced together, you can then tailor it to suit your individual needs. Benson stands at 59cm at the withers, so I put his bowl right to the very top of the feeder (43cm) and for Grace, who is around 46cm at the withers, I put her bowl about 4cm lower, which adequately raises the bowls for both dogs, but if you've got an extremely large breed of dog, this feeder probably won't be tall enough. Adjusting the height of the bowls is very easy- you simply need to unscrew the knob on the fitting, and slide it to the desired height, and then tighten the knob again to prevent the bowl from slipping down, and you can adjust the positions of the bowls as many times as you like- making this product ideal for puppy owners, who can adjust the height as the dog grows. The knobs do need to be done up tightly however, so this could be problematic for those who struggle with strength in their hands.
The feeder has a nice, sleek silver finish to it which looked much smarter than our older feeder, which was coated in white, and it fitted nicely into our kitchen. I liked the wide base of the stand, and the little non-slip pads on the bottom of this- our kitchen is a busy place with a lot of hustle and bustle, and the dogs eat with a lot of enthusiasm, so I knew both these features would help ensure the stand remained upright at all times.
The bowls that come supplied with the feeder are of a good large size, and whilst they may be a little bit too big for smaller breeds of dog, they were perfect for my two- well able to contain their food portions, without having to fill them to the brim. They were also very easy to get in and out of the feeder. When the bowls are removed, you're left with two metal rings, and this is what supports the bowls- the rings sit just underneath the rims of the bowls.
Come tea time, we were able to put our new feeder into practice, and placing their bowls into the rings, I allowed them to tuck him. The new feeder by far outperformed our old one on all counts- the whole construction of it was a lot sturdier, meaning it didn't wobble when the dogs were eating, the supplied bowls were much deeper meaning food did not spill over the edge and the customised positions of the bowls suited both of the dogs perfectly.
It should be pointed out however that Grace and Benson are perfectly happy to eat side by side but please bear in mind this style of feeder is NOT suitable for two dogs that have issues over food, and other dogs being near them whilst eating. The two poles of the feeder are positioned around 5 inches apart- and whilst this is an adequate distance to prevent food from one bowl being over spilled into the other, it still means the dogs head are very close together whilst eating, and I know some dogs just wouldn't tolerate another dog so close to their meal. So it's worth taking into consideration the temperaments, and feeding behaviours, of your two dogs before purchasing this feeder.
We've had our Trixie feeder for just over a year now, and I'm pleased to say it is still looking as good as new. I haven't needed to replace the bowls that came supplied with the product, and they're still sparkling and looking good- I just give them a quick wash with hot water and washing up liquid after each meal, and then soak them in pet safe disinfectant for 15 minutes each week, and this keeps them nice and clean. The deep bowls largely prevent any food from over spilling, but unavoidably the occasional drop of food will make it's way onto the main body of the feeder, so a quick weekly wipe over with some wet kitchen roll and a spray of disinfectant keeps it in a good clean condition.
Overall, I'm extremely impressed with this Trixie feeder and can see it being a permanent fixture in our kitchen for years to come. It allows me to situate the bowls of my two different sized dogs to heights to suit them without the need to have more than one feeder, it is strong and durable, easy to clean, keeps food off the floor, is well designed and all in all, just a fantastic piece of equipment that makes eating a lot more comfortable, not to mention healthier, for my two babies.