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Tick'd off

Today was a sad day.  We found our first tick on Biggie :( 
Ticks are nasty parasitic creatures that prey on dog's (and human's) blood.  They're kind of like a cross between spiders and vampires (not the Twilight kind).  Anyhow, aside from being gross and a literal "pain in the neck", they can also spread harmful and incurable diseases like Lyme Disease. 
Advantix and Frontline Plus are two top products in prevention of ticks, fleas, and other nasty bugs that can infect your pet, home, and family. 
We had bought Frontline Plus (due to the better reviews of course!) but, unfortunately, I was 8 days late in applying it.  The good news is that as soon as I did, the medicine helped kill the tick immediately and made it easier to remove.  Needless to say, I have now added an alert on my calendar for the first of every month so I never forget to apply this again!  Make sure you get one of these and do the same.

Let's Take a Walk (Collar Reviews)

This is a continuation from the Let's take a Walk post.

Next you need a collar. In the beginning Biggie pulled like you couldn't believe. Lunging this way and that. So we went and bought the gentle leader halti collar. It works wonder that thing.
But although we loved it, Biggie hated having it on. So, if you're going to use it then introduce it to your dog very slowly with lots and lots of treats.
Regardless of Biggie's protest, we still used the gentle lead collar and thought all our problems were solved. That is, until we went to our obedience trainer and she insisted we learn on a flat collar!
In hindsight I'm glad she did because it's just easier attaching a leash to Biggie's everyday collar. Although we do use the prong collar as well for behavioral training aid on walks.
I'll go into more detail on the products above in the continuation of the blog below. Also see the section on flat collars in the essentials for new dog post.

Halti gentle leader.

Pros and cons. Pros are that it works great and does what it intends to, stops your dog from pulling. Every time your dog lunges, pulls, or gets ahead of you then the design of the leash sends their head towards you along wig a gentle tug on the dogs neck. This accomplishes a few things. One, in the dog world, dominant dogs (including parents) discipline or guide the other dogs by the neck. Such is the rationale behind the gentle tug on the neck in the gentle leader, pinch collars, and prong collars. So your dog gets immediate feedback of incorrect behavior in a language it understands. The gentle leader also fits over a dogs snout, which serves to make the dog look in your direction whenever the leash is pulled (by you or them). Going back to dog psychology the pack always looks to the pack leader for the next move; so mechanically you are teaching the pup that you dictate how the walk should go. The cons were: putting it on a dogs snout can be a (slightly) time consuming and awkward versus a standard neck collar. Although it doesn't interfere with the dogs jaw movement or vision, Biggie just didn't like the feel of something on his nose. It could be that we didn't introduce the collar slowly and with treats... But honestly, we didn't have the time to. Some people also viewed it as a muzzle and were hesitant to approach Biggie ( a con for us but possibly a pro for some). Overall I'd say this product worked as it was supposed to but wouldn't advise it unless other training efforts have failed using a standard collar.

Prong collar pros and cons. Against my wife's advice, I opted to get a prong collar. I know many people out there view them as inhumane, cruel, torture devices. However, there are many dog owners & trainers who swear by them. So let me explain my rationale behind purchasing the prong collar before you call PETA on me. First of all, Dogs are like Children in many ways. They depend on you for food, shelter, and guidance. Therefore a certain level of discipline is necessary for a dog to function in your family. I am a firm believer in positive reinforcement but also see the necessity for appropriate, in-excessive, and minimal negative reinforcement. So, that being said, as I mentioned above Biggie had a habit of pulling and lunging on the leash. Those behaviors are 90% cured using treat/obedience training. However, occasionally he still pulls, runs ahead, or lunges... especially when trying to meet other dogs or people. Before using a prong collar I would have to repeatedly yank on the leash while using verbal commands (that he was ignoring). Now we have tried (and continue to try) using obedience training but the scenario of new dogs and new people are not easy to re-create. So, I decided that in place of repeatedly yanking on the leash, which is probably contributing to cervical vertebral/disc issues, I needed a more effective solution. As I mentioned above, in the Dog world, the grabbing/mouthing the neck is a form of communication. Therefore, a prong collar sends a clear message to the Dog in his/her language that their behavior is incorrect. Believe it or not, Dogs don't understand English (or any other language for that matter) except for verbal cues they have been trained to recognize. You can't reason with a dog or explain why pulling on the leash is the wrong thing to do. So, speak in their language, use a prong collar. As with any other dog product, it helps to introduce the collar slowly with lots of treats. Now that I use the prong collar I have notice much less escalation of episodes then Biggie is pulling/lunging. The best part is that it takes one tug for him to get the message. He doesn't wince, yelp, or cower with the collar either so I know the prongs aren't hurting him. I've even tried the collar on my leg and, although it definitely is not a pleasant feeling, I did not experience inhumane, cruel, torturous pain. I have listed the Herm Sprenger brand here because I've heard from other sources (outside of Amazon reviews) that it is the best brand.

I realize this is a long post... so my next post will be a few tips on how to train your dog to walk well on a leash and use these leashes/collars to your advantage.
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Let's go for a walk

Walking the dog. What comes to your mind when you read that? A peaceful walk in the park with your companion happily strolling next to you? Being pulled mercilessly along the sidewalk trying to avoid losing your balance and being dragged on the pavement? A yo-yo trick that wows the crowd (that I could never master)?
Hopefully it's the foremost scenario mentioned. Like any good thing, it takes a little work to achieve. But, trust me, it's worth the effort up front for a doggie lifetime of great walks. In other words, it could arguably be the best investment you make with your pup.
Ultimately, a trainer/obedience classes, videos on YouTube, clicker training, and practice will get you and your dog walking peacefully and in sync. But a few products may help speed up the process.

There are many types of leashes available for your walk and even more types of collars. The ultimate goal is not to need either of those, but I know Biggie and I have a ways to go before walking off-leash is a reality.

Anyhow, based on what I've read and been instructed I would recommend a 4, 5, or 6 foot leash with a comfortable hand grip. This leash seems to be the favorite on amazon (and good for the environment). We also have a retractable leash for times Biggie needs room to run (but read the cautions below) and recently got the buddy system leash (which we love)

for jogging with Biggie.

4-6 foot Leash. Pros and cons. The pros far outweigh the cons with these leashes. Really the only con is that your dog is limited to a 6 foot radius if and when you are willing to let him/her explore. But other than that they are ideal for the every day walk and potty time scenarios. You want a comfortable hand grip for you. You can get a 29 cent leash to an expensive designed leash and they all serve the same practical function. The best I found on amazon is this Planet Dog natural hemp leash.

Retractable leash pros and cons. I really like the retractable leash but it has some major flaws to keep in consideration. It is great to allow Biggie extra room to roam if we are hiking, doing longer distance obedience training, even for potty time to give Biggie more options on where to go. Here's a great picture of Biggie braving rapids while I stay on the river bank.
The black you see on the leash is this handy leash accessory bag
The major con is that it can be dangerous. Yes. Dangerous. The medium and smaller dog leashes are rope (the large has a tape leash). Imagine 20 plus feet of thin rope with an active dog on one end and, on the other, a spring loaded coil. A warning notice that came with the leash warns of anything from rope burn to rope cuts to broken fingers to lost fingers and you get the picture. Unfortunately my wife was subject to a nasty cut/rope burn on her hand so be careful. Another big con to the retractable leash is that it is is easy to let the dog have control over the walk. Since there is more room for him/her to explore they don't learn that they need to walk closely and behind you (acknowledging you as pack leader). So behavior issues can stem from and/or be exacerbated if you don't teach your dog the correct way to walk on a leash.

The Buddy System leash is great for running, jogging, or any other activity requiring hands free leash control. One thing to keep in mind is that you have less control over the leash if it isn't in your hands so make sure to teach your dog how to walk on leash before using this. Other than that, we have yet to find any cons to this. Both my wife & I jog and felt an imbalance/awkwardness when having to hold a leash in one hand. It restricted our natural arm movement and running form. So, this leash came to the rescue and does exactly what it is supposed to.

I go into collars in this post.

High energy Dogs

We are not sure why Biggie ended up in a shelter. He's adorable, doesn't bark, the opposite of aggressive, he loves people and other dogs. But one thing he does have is a lot of energy!
Being first time dog owners my wife and I had some ideas of what to expect but, the truth is, we didn't know much.
We gained a lot of our information from watching Dog Whisperer and if any of you watch too, you know Cesar Millan promotes draining energy.
We thought we'd be fine with a 20 min walk in the morning before work, one in the evening, then another before bed.
We were sure exhausted so we thought Biggie was too!
Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. He was hardly breaking a sweat (actually dogs don't sweat, they pant).
This all goes back to the genetics of dogs. Most dogs were domesticated as working dogs. In Biggie's case, his ancestors were bred to run and herd sheep or cattle for up to 12 hours a day! So 3 spread out twenty minute walks were barely scratching the surface. If you're like us, you don't have time for much more. But the good news is there are other ways of draining a dog's energy. And it's true, a tired dog is a well behaved and happy dog.
These are some of the things we use to help in draining Biggie.

We alternate between the Buster cube, premier busy buddy twist, or premier tug-a-jug

for feeding. These are great because they challenge Biggie to figure out how to get the food out then require him to chase these things all over the house to get his food. They take a little bit longer than a bowl to load but it's worth the effort!

Training with clicker and treats. Ever feel exhausted after a long day at work, after a hard test, or maybe even after visiting an interesting museum (anyone?) The same principle applies to your pet. Mentally stimulating exercises like obedience training are fun ways for you to interact with your dog, challenge them, drain their energy, teach them manners, and create some cool tricks. The clicker is awesome for training, do a youtube video search for clicker training and/or look up a local obedience class and you'll learn why.
Biggie on the way to training:

Laser light. I know. I know. There's that dog whisper episode that has the dog obsessed with the laser light. So I reluctantly, defiantly, hesitantly, yet confidently add this to the list. As with all things in life, it requires balance. It isn't a quick fix, nor a substitute for anything else on this list. But used occassionaly and in addition to walks and training this can be a fun game for your pet. Especially on rainy days when your time outside may be limited. Although this dog rain jacket helps for wet days.

Backpack during walks. Chances are your dog was bred to work and love it. So a doggie backpack serves multiple functions. It allows your dog to feel important as well as draining his/her energy. It is important to introduce the backpack to your dog slowly with lots of treats so they associate it as a positive thing. Then use it to get the mail, carry water on jogs/hikes, etc...
Biggie resting his back & pack

Dog park. Check out your local dog park for a romping good time fo your pup. There's no substitute for the amount of running, romping, and playing that Biggie gets with other dogs. We even walk a mile to and from the park to really drain him well.

Lets face it. Our dog aren't the only ones that are happier and better off with a little exercise. So take advantage of the situation to help yourself as well as your dog! Get out and bike, jog, rollerblade, and walk your dog. It's got my wife and I more active and it feels great.

Walking and Jogging. You don't need much more than you already have to start walking with your dog. Some comfortable shoes and a leash is all you need. A 4-6 foot leash is all you need or check out the buddy system leash for hands free jogging. For a leash & collar review check out my other post. And, especially if your dog is pulling you, see the link on leashes, collars, and another on walking the dog. So what are you waiting for? Get to it!

Rollerblading and Bike rides are a lot of fun, and to be honest, most of us walk and even jog too slow for our dog. You can hold the leash in your hand, use the Buddy system leash, or even the walky dog bike leash attachment. Be careful with your dog's pads though, they can get raw with the faster pace on pavement. Unfortunately Biggie and I learned that from experience. Poor guy was licking his paws and limping for a few days. I bought this Musher's secret soon afterwards to stop that from happening again.

Essentials for a new dog (part 2)

If you haven't already seen part one then be sure to check that out as well. I'm writing on the best products to get that are essential to having when you bring your dog home.

Shampoo. There are a few good shampoos out there for dogs but a major factor in our decision was to prevent shedding. So we opted for the furminator shampoo. It works awesome. It leaves Biggie soft and smelling good. But more importantly it cuts down on his shedding and since he's an indoor pup this was very important. I will post more on the subject of being vigilant against shedding in another post. But back to this shampoo, we had got Biggie washed at a groomed a few times without this shampoo and, therefore, got to see firsthand the shedding that ensued! We also got the waterless furminator shampoo, which we actaully use more often, to make Biggie smell fresh and clean when guests come over or after a rainy day.

On that same note you will need a good brush to help keep the coat from getting mangled or tangled as well as limit shedding. Ask your breeder and/or groomer for what products work best on the coat your pup has and how often you will have to groom it. We got lucky in that Biggies coat is low maintenance requiring a regular hair brush daily and this de-shedding brush once a week.

Collar with ID tags. Aside from being practical for using a leash the ID tags on there are super important. In our search for a new pup we visited lots of shelters and saw how many dogs are lost or displaced from there owners. I also realized the fast turn around for dogs at some of these shelters. I learned that at some of the overcrowded shelters that do euthanize dogs they only have at most 2 weeks to be rescued or found before they are put down. It's a sad reality. So an ID tag is crucial to making sure your pup is returned and, if you can, get the dog microchipped that is another insurance. Since we rescued Biggie he was already chipped and the ID tags are cheap at the local pet shop

Back to the collar. I can't say that I've found one amazing collar based on reviews. This is something where your and your dogs personality will make the decision. There's the classic spike collar or fancy bling bling collars and everything in between. Have fun! As for pinch, choke, gentle leader, etc. I'll cover those in another post. Here I am reffering to a flat collar everday leash.

here's Biggie's:
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Leash. At this point we have 3 leashes for Biggie. A 4 foot leash for walks. A 26' retractable leash for times when we want him to have room to run or distance training and a buddy system leash for hands free jogging. I'll go in to more detail on leashes in another post but I'll say a little bit here. I'd reccomend the 4 or 6 foot leash first. That is the best all around leash. Great for training, walks, jogging, biking, etc. Even around the house if your pup is not housetrained yet. Leash training is very important from the beginning and therefore a retractable leash should only be used after you have solid control of the dog. Same thing for a hands free leash.

As you walk your dog he/she will inevitable "pop-a-squat" in the neighbors yard while the neighbor is sitting on the porch staring at you two. So make sure you attach one of these to each leash. And, trust me, you'll need these refills.

On that note, every dog practically comes with a guarantee of accidents. We have used this more times than we'd like to admit (especially to the landlord!) but luckily we're still on our first bottle!

Treats. This is a broad topic so I'll just say a few things here and cover more in depth in another post. You'll want treats because these are like currency in the dog world. One thing Cesar Millan emphasizes in picking a dog is to test their food drive. It's because treats make for great positive reinforcement for good behavior, tricks, training, etc. You can also use toys, affection, games, or anything your dog loves as well but most dogs love food. As with dog food you want to make sure it's a healthy treat. Its hard to go wrong here but I'll make a post in the near future listing some top rated treats.

Toys. Again, this is a broad topic but I'll say just a few things and expand on this in another post. You'll want a few toys but there's no reason to buy one every week. Although, as my wife will tell you I'm guilty of this - it's very hard not too! But you'll want toys so your buddy can entertain him/herself, feel comfortable, and, most importantly, can be taught what is ok to chew on. A great way to save your furniture is to stop your dog from chewin on it then give them an acceptable chew toy so they learn what's ok to sink their teeth in to. If a puppy is teething this is especially important. There are so many kinds of toys that you'll just have too see what your dog likes. Biggie is now limited to tough toys only. Although he absolutely loves soft stuffed toys he rips them apart in minutes! I'll have a whole post with some top rated treats soon.

Well that's it for the essentials! With those products you are set to be a great dog parent/pack leader! Thanks for reading!

essentials for a new dog (part one)

Don't make the same mistake we did.  We waited until the night before we were to bring our lil buddy home to buy everything we needed.  As such, we ended up at a local pet store and payed twice as much as we should of for all these essential items.  So I'd like to share the items we should have gotten, and ended up getting when the other stuff didn't last.

1.  The first thing you'll need is a crate
This is definitely essential for your new dog.  It will be a safe haven for your new canine family member.  It's perfect for potty training, safe driving in the car, giving your dog his/her own "room", a place you can leave your dog for short periods of time when you need a break, and the list goes on.  Just remember, never to use the crate as a punishment tool. Midwest Life Stages Double-Door Folding Metal Dog Crate is the best crate that I've seen and for half the price you will find at pet stores.  And a comfy dog pillow is a nice touch but not necessary. 

Biggie relaxin in his crate:

2.  A dog's gotta eat right?  When we rescued Biggie, they sent us home with a bag of food.  I'm not sure if all rescues do that or if breeders do that as well.  Apparently if you change a dog's food too fast they can get stomach upset.  But either way you want to make sure you're feeding your pup good quality food.  There are plenty of debates out there on the best dog food.  Most people agree that its worth paying more for good quality dog food since you want the best for the health and well being of your pup.  We want Biggie to be happy and healthy and hopefully live a long life with us.  We went with Wellness Super 5 Mix Complete Health based on, what else?, the reviews :)

3.  Dog food & water bowl.  We went for a dog bowl that slows Biggie down like this brake-fast bowl
That way he can digest his food and doesn't swallow as much air, which makes for a better companion (less gas). Ultimately though, we usually feed him with toys like the Buster Food Cube, Premier Tug-a-Jug, and Premier Busy Buddy that drain Biggie's energy while he eats (remember a tired dog is a happy and good dog).  I posted more on ways to drain a dog's energy here

4.  A Kong.  The ultimate dog toy.  The genius behind this understated shape of rubber is immeasurable.  We put some peanut butter mixed with some treats in this thing, freeze it, then use it whenever Biggie goes in his crate.  He loooooovvvveeeesss it!  So much that he runs from the kitchen to his crate in anticipation.  Definitely a must have. 

5.  Frontline Plus Tick & Flea control. I never realized the true necessity of this stuff until I forgot to put it on and within a week our little buddy had a nasty, gross, lump of a tick on his neck.  I'll put another post on that later.  But for now, trust me, you definitely want this stuff. 

6.  The next thing you want is a chew toy.  Chances are your dog (especially a puppy) will want to chew anything and everything - and it's up to you to make sure he/she is chewing on his toy versus your furniture.  You'll find out fast how much a chewer your dog is.  Biggie went through a few chew toys like they were treats so we went straight for a super chew toy, the Nylabone Galileo.  If you don't need that much chew power then the Nylabone Wishbone or Dental Dinosaur are good options.

Biggie & his nylabone:

We hope this helps a bit with getting you started.  I will add more in the next post and then move on to the other fun dog products!

too be continued...