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Nothin’ like home cookin’

I spend a lot of time over on Pet Connection, the best all around pet information website out there. And after reading discussion after discussion on the pet food recall of 2007 and now the more recent peanut product recalls, I’ve come to the realization that our food system (be it for human or pet) has too many holes in it to be safe. And pet food, I fear, is even less regulated that the human food system. I’ve decided that I want to pull Kasey out of the kibble cycle and I’ve started to mix a bit of kibble with a homemade diet.

I didn’t decide on this lightly and I didn’t just jump into it. I purchased two books: The Healthy Dog Cookbook by Jonna Anne with Mary Strauss, Canine Nutritionist, Shawn Messonnier, DVM, Veterinary Consultant; and Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats by Richard H. Pitcairn, DVM, PhD. And I’ve read all I could find and asked people I trusted.

So far I’ve made three recipes in bulk, all of which Kasey seems to love.  He has noticeably (even!)  more energy, and his poop as been lovely…well, for poop, you know.  I weighed him a few days ago, and I’m going to keep close track of his weight to make sure that’s not being adversely effected in either direction. I’m also being careful to make sure that he gets his calcium and other nutrient by feeding a variety of different recipes.

I’ll keep updating on my findings and how he changes or doesn’t change with this new diet.


Back and hopefully better than ever

Long time no post I know. My last blog had a nice little following, and I’ll admit I was a bit disappointing to be writing to dead air. But if I don’t post, then no one will ever read. So I’m back with a renewed energy and some new ideas.

A little update on where we are:

Kasey is 18 months now. He looks like a big dog, but he’s still a puppy in a lot of ways.  I’ve noticed a bit of slipping in his general manners.  Meaning, for example, he doesn’t always plunk down immediately when I say “sit.” Unless, of course, I have food, then that’s a completely different story. I’m working on treating for the basics again and this spring I think I’m going to enroll us in a new class. It’s good for him and for me to make that kind of a commitment, even though it does cost a chunk of change. The first new class I think will be one called “Good Manners” as a refresher. Then…I really want to try out an agility class with him. I think he’d be a natural.

The other big news is I’ve made a committment to feeding Kasey homemade meals. Mostly cooked, but with some raw if I completely trust the source. I’ll do a whole post on that very soon, but I’ll say I see a marked improvement in Kasey’s…well..his poop is a lot more firm and not runny, which has always been a problem for him.

Right now I’m smack in the middle of reading The Other End of the Leash by Patricia B. McConnell, PH.D. It’s been very enlightening and I’ll post a review when I’m finished with it.

I’ll leave you with this thought:

If dogs could talk, it would take a lot of the fun out of owning one.  ~Andy Rooney

Training–Positive Reinforcement and one way we’ve adapted it

As soon as Kasey was vaccinated we signed him up for the puppy class at PetSmart. I suppose the training at PetSmart is pretty much a quality crapshoot, but we really lucked out. Linda was fabulous during both Kasey’s puppy and intermediate class, and I would have immediately signed him up for advanced if I wasn’t trimming down my expenses to only the most necessary things.

Linda is a proponent of positive reinforcement. Give a treat when something is done right, give nothing when something is done wrong. Never put a dog in a situation where he can’t/you know he won’t succeed.  From what I have have read as a layperson, this is the kindest and most effective way to get a dog to respond. (Another thing I learned from Linda was to get the dog to perform the behavior and then give the behavior a name. I think this was called “luring,” but I’m not absolutely sure.)

Positive reinforcement, while the best, isn’t always the easiest. It creates a certain amount of frustration in that you basically can never punish your dog for doing something wrong. Believe me I am not a proponent of ever laying a hand on a dog in anger, but it’s very hard to praise and reward them for coming to you when you didn’t want them to run away toward the neighbors in the first place. When you most want to use your angriest tone of voice is when you have to be the sweetest, or why in the world would the dog want to come back to you?

I read a lot of pet blogs, and I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a mention of just how frustrating training a dog can be–just how much self-control it can take. I can’t be the only one who has said “you hold his leash I have to walk away for a minute.” and then started crying out of utter frustration that me and my dog weren’t understanding each other at all that day. Can I?

I have done that.  Does it mean I shouldn’t have a dog? I don’t think so. I think someone who wouldn’t know when to walk away shouldn’t have a dog. At least I know when I need to distance myself.

I think we’ve worked out a pretty good compromise to let Kasey know when he’s done something wrong, however, and this eases my frustration mightily.  I have to thank Victoria Stillwell for this technique, which she used on an aggressive husky on her show, It’s Me or the Dog. By the way, my own trainer, Linda, said she fully endorses just about anything Victoria suggests.

Generally in the warmer months our family eats meals on our screened-in patio. Kasey’s favorite place is generally where ever we are, so his bowl of kibble gets set down on the floor about 3 feet from the table. However, he developed a bad habit of finishing (or not eating his kibble at all) and then walking around the table with his nose as close to it as possible.

We tried various already known commands and nothing was curbing his desire to see if our meal was better than his. Finally I decided that whenever he came nosing I would say “no begging” and then take him into the house and shut the door. I waited about 1 minute, watching his nose at the window and then let him back in. He immediately came to the table. I repeated “no begging” and then put him back in the house. We repeated this about 4 times and he caught on, he doesn’t want to be separated from us. Now when we say “no begging” he leaves the table and lies down on his bed in the corner.

Occasionally, something is so tempting that he has to be put in the house again as a reminder. This definitely isn’t positive reinforcement.  It is, however, working for us, and I wouldn’t hesistate to use it to teach him something else.

Kasey’s Story

As close as we can figure, Kasey came into the world around sometime in August 2007.  We have no idea what his mother or father looked like, and only guesses as to what breed they are. Two vets have said “probably lab with border collie” and his personality seems to match up with that–so that’s what we tell people who ask. We also have no idea why he ended up in a cage at the North Shore Animal League shelter at 8 weeks old. But we ended up at the shelter because we wanted a puppy.

It seemed that most of our local shelters had a foster set-up, not many puppies, and somewhat understandable but prohibitive application processes. At North Shore we could walk away with a puppy that needed us and for whom we knew we were prepared. This did come with some assumed risks: no background story on the puppy, for example.

Kasey was a quiet little angel puppy in the first days after we brought him home. Then one Sunday he started to cough. We waited a few hours, but ended up having to take him to the area emergency vets. Kasey was diagnosed with kennel cough that led to mild pneunomonia. That was a scary few days while he had to stay on meds in the hospital. We were quite sure he would get better, but not so sure he would even remember us after only a few days of bonding. He came out perfectly fine, but it was quite an introduction to the expense of properly caring for a dog. And we realized after a few days that the reason he had been so quiet and snuggly was because he was sick. We basically brought home a different dog, but it was the dog Kasey was supposed to have been all along.

He grew really fast and we grew to not remember life before him. He was neutered early at the request of the shelter and with the approval of our vet. (Recent things I’ve been reading make me wonder if this was the best choice, but he doesn’t seem to have had any problems.) He showed his smarts and we had him sitting and doing down long before we took him to his first puppy class, which he passed with flying colors.

Toward the middle of his 8-week intermediate class he got a bit of ringworm on his jowl, but other than that he’s been a healthy dog since his hospital stay as a bitty wee thing.

Kasey is a lovely almost-one-year-old puppy now. He’s extremly affectionate, and the “worst” punishment for “bad” behavior is to be separated from us for a minute or two. (That’s how we’ve been working on “no begging” and it has been working wonderfully.) He does get bored sometimes when it’s been too hot to be outside or we’ve had so much stuff going on that he’s only going out on his zip line and not getting walks and dog park time. This boredom is bad, though, because he’s quite likely to zip out the door and go for his own run. This has happened twice and he always comes back to us after he’s had his fun, but it’s horribly scary to be out there shouting for him. Luckily we live in a quiet neighborhood without much traffic.  It’s our fault entirely and we’re trying to be much more careful about doors, since we can’t afford to fence in a whole acre right now, and to make sure we wear him out as much as possible.

Kasey does sit, down, roll over, bring it (periodically), give paw, no begging (he lies down and looks at us with sad eyes); go lie down, go to your bed, and go to your mat (three different places). He can heel quite well if we remember to work on it with him. He usually does well with “leave it,” too. We cannot get him to stop chasing the cat, but he and the bird are pretty good friends.

Kasey really is the joy of my life. I’m so lucky to have found him.

You expect him to eat out of that?: Sticky bowls

When Kasey was tinier, his crate seemed so big. So his food and water dish being on the floor of his crate didn’t make much of an impact on the available space. But he sure didn’t stay tiny, and soon the bowls seemed to cramp his style a bit. Yet, I really wanted to keep them inside the crate: that was to be his special area, when he went there good things would happen, like food, or a treat.

The first bowl I tried hooked onto his crate by means of a ring that tightened up with a wing nut and the bowl fit into the ring. It sounded great in theory, but in practice I couldn’t keep it from tipping sideways. The metal on metal with just one wing nut meant that it would never really be tight. And since Kasey is a picky eater in the first place, it didn’t surprise me that a tilted bowl would halt his mealtime completely.

Petsmart carried a smarter design from the makers of his crate. This is what he is using now:


There’s two wingnuts to tighten, and a metal brace for support. You can get these much tighter, and the bowl slides in fairly easily. BUT…

I have one question for the makers of this product. And I know I’m not alone in my wonderment, because I’ve seen the same comment here and there on the web: WHY WOULD YOU PUT A STICKER THAT DOESN’T PEEL OFF EASILY IN THE BOTTOM OF THE BOWL? All-caps are annoying, but whatever thought process came up with that idea deserves all-caps. The bowl had to soak in hot water for hours before the sticker began to peel up, and then more scrubbing was required afterward to get all the goo off so Kasey didn’t end up with it in his belly.

The sticker is pointless anyway; there are stickers all around it, why did there need to be one in the bottom of the bowl itself? That’s the only complaint I have about these. Otherwise, they’ve been a great solution to keep Kasey’s food and water in his crate.

No More Stuffies! Just Rubber or Tuffy’s…

Kasey is a good boy. He doesn’t chew things he isn’t supposed to, like shoes or furniture. But when he gets a hold of something he can chew, he chews the ever-living out of it. Kasey came home from the shelter to a pile of cute, cuddly stuffies. By the time he was 5 months old, he had destroyed them all.

Ok, I thought, we need to find better stuffies. I bought him a hedgehog with a tennis ball in it. First he ripped the hedgehog off the ball and then chewed the tennis ball in two.  He tore his cool fleecey ball into a cute fleecy stole…

I’ve finally reconciled myself to the fact that no matter how cute the stuffies at PetSmart or Cutter’s Mill are, they’ll never last long enough to justify the cost.

We’ll be sticking with Kongs now. Maybe a rope (supervised, of course). And this:

He’s had this for at least 4 months and there’s not a tear, hole, or ripped seam. Wonderful! And the bonus about this one?  It’s made of  7 layers of fabric, so the squeaker is just barely audible, instead of high pitched and annoying. They’re expensive, but I highly recommend them.  And there are all sort of cute designs to choose from.

Kasey Update-Icky Green Eye Boogers

About 2 days ago, Kasey started getting more noticable “sleepies” or, as I like to call them, “eye boogers.” I would wipe them away with a warm cloth, but I was watching. Then I started the invevitable internet research and got worried. Concensus: Eye Boogers, kinda normal; icky green eye boogers mean an infection.

It’s the same for humans with mucus, so it makes sense.

I just called the vet and they are going to see him this very night. Fingers-crossed for my bubba.

UPDATE: Good news! Our wonderful vet found no infection in Kasey’s eyes. She thinks it is probably allergies. (Maybe it’s green from the actual color of the pollen–I know my car currently has a green tinge whenever it’s not raining.) Kasey has to have goo put right on his eyes (makes my eyes water to even talk about it) twice a day for a few weeks.