Thursday, July 30, 2009

More Chewable, Playable, Durable Dog Toys

It's all about the toys! Your dog probably loves to play just as much as Kelly loves to eat...uh, I mean play. Recently, she was invited to test some amazing toys from

When the toys arrived, she immediately selected her favorite: an organic, half-moon-shaped canvas dumpling. It was difficult getting her to let go long enough to test the other toys.

Yummy Organic Cotton Tug Toy
This long, braided rope is so soft! But don't let that fool you. It's also durable. Kelly's razor sharp teeth have ripped apart almost every toy within their reach. Yet, this toy has experienced hours of play without significant damage (yet!). It's great for tugging too!

Wool Ball
Okay, I have to admit, at first we thought this was a cat toy. I mean wool...ball. But after browsing through Purrfectplay's website and seeing the many pictures of dogs enjoying the wool ball, we were convinced.

From the website:
"Wool balls smell of sheep and meadow air, reminding your pets of the great outdoors."
I don't know how they do it, but it must be true! Kelly definitely finds something attractive in the smell and taste of these toys!

I highly recommend the toys we tested. They rate extremely high for quality, durability and play value. Although all the toys are great, here you can see, the dumpling is still clearly Kelly's favorite.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

5 Ways to Ease Separation Anxiety

I was just visiting back home, and enjoyed spending time not only with friends and family, but also their dogs. It was interesting to see the different personalities, and how their different lifestyles affected their pets. Just like I recognize how my pampering has made my dog Kelly, uh...a bit spoiled. (Okay, so we'll work on that!)

My brother's dog, Lawrence, loves company. This big lab/akita/? mix welcomes anyone into his home. But try to leave--forget it! The minute you head for the front door, Lawrence starts barking frantically. After observing this behavior a few times, I could see that Lawrence actually started to get anxious the moment we got up and moved to say goodbye. It seems he becomes nervous when people leave, fearing being left home alone.

Separation anxiety is a common problem among dogs. Helping an anxious dog takes consistent work. Depending on the degree of the problem, you may need to consult with your veterinarian or a dog behaviorist. Here are a few tips to try to see how your dog responds. Not everything will work for every dog. Try to be aware of what sets your dog off, and what helps him feel secure.

Don't Make a Fuss- If you hug and kiss your dog whenever you leave, and say "Oh, poor baby, you have to stay home all alone," your dog is likely to pick up on your anxiousness. Try to get out the door without the fanfare, even if you're feeling guilty for leaving your dog alone.

Change Your Routine- Maybe there's something about your present routine that isn't working. If getting ready and out the door in the morning is a busy and stressful time, your dog will sense that. Try setting out clothes or packing lunches the night before, or getting up a few minutes earlier, and see if the stress level reduces--for everyone.

Provide a Lovey- Before you leave, be sure you've given your dog a security object. An old t-shirt maybe, with your scent on it. This may help her feel you're close.

Distract- If your dog loves to play, use that to your advantage. Toss him an engaging toy just before you leave. Keep the toys fresh and fun by rotating the supply.

Practice- Consider a helpful routine for your departure. Put your dog on a down somewhere out of view of the door. Spend a few moments calmly giving him attention. Give him a toy or a carrot to chew on. I wouldn't command your dog to "Stay" because you won't be home to release him from the stay. If he follows you to the door (and he will!) just calmly continue your routine. Practice the same calm routine every day and it may become familiar and comforting to your dog.

Separation anxiety is difficult to get over, but when both you and your dog feel secure, the process will become easier. Good luck. You can do it!

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Dog + a Dumpling= Great Fun!

Kelly didn’t know the toy was organic. She didn’t really care if it was safe and quality-made. But she knew it was fun. That’s what Kelly discovered recently when she tested Purrfectplay’s “dumpling” pet toy.

A few weeks ago, Purrfectplay owner Pam Wheelock asked if Kelly would mind sampling a few of her toys. Of course, Kelly was eager to oblige. When the box came in the mail, Kelly instantly sensed it was for her. She stuck her nose in my way as I anxiously ripped open the flaps. Three toys were packaged in neat paper bags, stamped with the Purrfectplay logo.

What I noticed instantly was that these weren’t your typical, gaudy glitzy pet shop toys. They were shades of beige and brown; simple and attractive. All Purrfectplay toys are free of plastics and chemical dyes.

Why Dye Free?
From Purrfect Play website:
Why we use only dye-free organic natural fibers.
Toys spend a lot of time in your pets' mouths. Toys are sucked on, chewed on, and licked. You are concerned about your pets' food-- you should also be concerned about what their toys are made of. We are!

I soon discovered that I could believe what was said on the website. As I was reading “Organic dye-free fibers are naturally attractive to your pets.” Kelly was trying desperately to tug the “dumpling” –a crescent shaped heavy fabric chew toy-- out of my hand. Before I pulled the toy out of its brown paper bag, she was clamoring to get it into her mouth.

The website explains:
“Dogs and cats have a strong sense of smell and are sensitive to chemicals. They love the fresh softness of natural dye-free fibers. Dogs and cats see less color than we do-so why buy them a bright orange or purple toy, especially if it smells and tastes funny to them?”

Well, Kelly has spent hours and hours playing with this toy, and it’s one I can highly recommend.

Our observations:
Playability: This toy instantly rose to Kelly’s favorite. She carried it around for days (still does!) and even lugs it up to bed with her. Something about the shape is very appealing to her. When she carries it in her mouth, it looks like a giant smile!
Durability: Most pet shop toys last about 15 minutes around Kelly. Even ones marked “most durable” are shredded, de-squeaked and abandoned in no time. This toy was especially durable. After day one, (and a lot of play!) it was still intact. On day two Kelly managed to rip a hole in one side. This hole has gradually become larger but, guess what? No stuffing is strewn across my carpet! That’s because the stuffing is cleverly contained inside a second, smaller pouch. Kelly has not broken into that yet. And the squeaker still squeaks!

Drawbacks: The color, a light beige, shows the dirt—a lot! After only a few minutes it looked pretty yucky. Owner Pam Wheelock explains that the natural fibers don’t repel dirt like synthetics. She also explains that the toy should wash up just fine. I can’t get it away from Kelly long enough to wash it, though!

If you like what you’ve read, visit Pam’s site and check out her line of dog toys and cat toys. The company is members of Co-op America and the Organic Trade Association, and they donate 5% of each sale to no-kill and rescue organizations. Purrfectplay is “a young company following our hearts and joyfully engaged. That makes all the difference.”
I agree.

Next time, we’ll take a look at the wool ball.

What I Learned From my Dog: Organic fibers just feel better! And, maybe you can tell if a product is made with TLC.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Awkward and Lovely Blog Book Tour

I was delighted to meet up recently on Twitter with Quinn Cummings--partly because I remember her as the precociously adorable child actress in The Goodbye Girl (and also in the TV series, Family). Then I discovered her blog The QC Report and realized that she’s also an interesting, witty and compelling writer. Best of all, she now has a book NOTES FROM THE UNDERWIRE: Adventures from My Awkward and Lovely Life (Hyperion/July 7, 2009).

And best, best of all, she’s joining us here, as a stop on her Blog Book Tour, to talk about her new book! Check out her answers here, and then go to visit her blog, and then run to the book store to buy her book! When you’re relaxing at home or sitting on the beach, laughing, sniffling, and nodding your head in recognition as you turn the pages, you’ll be glad you did.

Me: Congratulations on your book release! If I was holding a Book Group discussion about Notes From The Underwire, what is one good question I should bring up to discuss?

Quinn: Nice question! I think everyone imagines themselves to be a good person. My entire book and, arguably, my life is predicated on my being a good person, a responsible person, all the while knowing I'm really just a big screw-up most of the time. Maybe the question is, what makes a good person to you, the reader? Are you being that person? Has your definition of goodness changed in your life? Are you still being a good person if, like me (Quinn), you hardly ever reach it?

Me: The subtitle for your book is “Adventures from my Awkward and Lovely Life.” What is an example of something awkward that’s happened to you? Okay, and now--something lovely?

Quinn: Well, in the book I ran into a plate-glass window. If that's not awkward, how about the time I fell up a flight of stairs and landed on my own fencing foil, taking out a chunk of shinbone? I think the "Awkward and lovely" subtitle comes from the fact that I know it looks cobbled-together from random objects one would find in her purse, but my life gives me great pleasure. Any night I can go in and watch my sleeping child, being guarded by her watchcat, is a lovely night, even if I have been to the ER that day.

Me: My dog Kelly notices that you have a picture of a cat on your Twitter page. Do you prefer cats to dogs, and if so, what can I tell Kelly to make her feel better?

Quinn: Tell Kelly that I'm all about the dogs. Just spent a half-hour introducing a friend and her family to a lovely dog I hope they adopt. It's just that I love the picture of Clementine my former foster cat so much that I'm loathe to change it. Truly, though, and never tell Kelly this, I fractionally prefer cats to dogs because I'm a maschocist and I love an animal which usually ignores me and makes me use my inhaler.

Me: You’ve been blogging for a while. Do you ever feel stumped about what to write in a blog entry?

Quinn: Luckily, I'm not under contract to write the blog. If I'm truly flummoxed and out of material, I either put up a rerun or I miss a week. Yes, I feel guilty but I'm Quinn; guilt is my default emotion. Usually, though, I manage to say or do something stupid by Sunday which becomes a blog by Tuesday.

Me: I also discovered recently that you invented the Hip Hugger baby sling, obviously intended to comfortably carry a baby. Has anyone ever mentioned a creative alternate use for your sling?

Quinn: I heard tell of some women using it to carry their small dogs. For liability reasons, I cannot encourage that usage but am pleased that a Peke owner or two has been able to make their lives easier.

Me: Do you really prefer underwire? Because I find it bites into my ribs.

Quinn: It was actually a meaningless phrase which pleased my ear. But, without getting too far into the details here, I've been pregnant and nursed a child. My feelings about an underwire bra are something along the lines of "Thank you. No, really."

Me: I always end my blog post with What I Learned from My Dog. What is one lesson you’ve learned from your dog?

Quinn: He's the most congenial being I've ever owned. If I were to learn anything from him, it would be "Choose to be happy. When the bad stuff comes, hide under the bed, then forget it, and then choose to be happy again."

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Those big brown eyes...could it be the guilty look?

Where to hide the chocolate cake? Well, in her teeny tiny kitchen, my mom decided the best option--where her two black labs couldn't get at it--would be inside the (cold) oven. So she hid the cake, went out and...well, you can guess what happened next. She returned to find two dogs rolling on the floor with apparent belly aches, ears back, eyes cast low. (Luckily they didn't get really sick, because we all know that chocolate is bad for dogs.) She went to the kitchen--the oven door was closed, but the cake pan was still inside the oven, licked clean! How did those dogs accomplish that?

Sometimes when Kelly's snitched a bit of my sandwich on the coffee table, or shredded a sock she found on the floor, she gives me that look. You know, that guilty look. Like when your puppy pees on the carpet and looks up at you with those BIG sad eyes. But can dogs actually feel guilt?

According to a study published in the July 2009 issue of Behavioural Processes, the answer is no.
In the study, 14 dogs were videotaped over a set of trials that included the opportunity for dogs to eat a treat when their owner left the room. In each case the owner had no idea if their dog actually ate the treat or not. Owners then were asked to view the dog's expression and determine if it looked "guilty" or not. The researchers concluded no correlation between the assumed guilty look and the dog's actions.

I guess this leads us to assume that the big sad eyes, the tail tucked between the legs, and the guilty expression, is more a reaction to our own words and expression when we catch our dog in a naughty act.

What I Learned from My Dog: Looks can be deceiving. Sometimes, we inaccurately read into situations with our own perceptions. Of course, we can't help but let our perceptions play a part in what we observe. How does this effect the way you make judgments? Handle disagreements?