by Ryan Krogh | on December 20th, 2011 | in Features, Pampering, Swag the Dog
The problem with most dog beds is that they look like, well, dog beds. They’re basically round (or square) pillows that squash down into wafers after a few month’s use—or, worse, get chewed to pieces in the course of a few days. And their style choices: if you’re not a fan herringbone, tweed, or tartan, you’re out of luck. Enter San Francisco pet company P.L.A.Y (Pet Lifestyle And You). Started in 2010, their beds are functional, durable, and, dare we say it, stylish—more than two-dozen beds come in a plethora of colors and patterns, including denim, bamboo, and the company’s artists collection. They’re also eco-friendly, because the filling is constructed from a high-loft (and soft) polyfiber that is made from recycled plastic water bottles.
And dogs love them, if my one-year-old yellow lab is any indication. Before getting P.L.A.Y’s bed, she’d been subverting me at night by crawling into bed after I’d fallen asleep. She was sneaky about it, too, quickly retreating to the floor when I woke up in the morning. Not exactly the Wildrose way. Now, after getting the bed (and a little extra cajoling from me) she sleeps the entire night on her new bed. (From $95, petplay.com)
by Ryan Krogh | on August 25th, 2011 | in Features, Training
This past weekend, Mike Stewart and our friends over at Wildrose Kennels put on one of their popular Adventure Dog programs in Buena Vista, Colorado. The class is designed to show dog owners all the skills they and their pups need to do everything from float rivers to mountain bike together. I was at the class with Magnolia, my eight-month-old yellow lab, and came away with plenty of new tips. I also came away with a new appreciation for the mistakes I was making with her that kept setting her back. And I wasn’t the only one. Here are the seven mistakes that nearly everyone in the class, included me, made—and how you avoid them with your own pooch.
Mistake #1: Not Mastering the Basics
Most dogs sit and lie down at home just fine. They’ll even heel around the block. But add in a new location, like hiking on an unfamiliar trail or walking down a crowded Main Street, and the dog is pulling on the leash, trying to chase rabbits, or chomping at a four-year-old’s ice cream cone. It’s simply because the dog hasn’t mastered all the fundamental skills: Sit, Stay, Here, Heel, and Leave It. As soon as you add in a new stimulus or a new location the dog goes off track, because those skills haven’t been fully ingrained yet.
Correction: Dogs are place-oriented. Your pup may be able to sit still in the house, but not so in the campsite while you’re roasting marshmallows. So practice having him sit in multiple locations. Same with heeling: Don’t always take the dog on the same after-work walk. He’ll do fine in familiar territory, because the routine is familiar, but he’ll run off as soon as he sees a chipmunk while hiking. Mike Stewart’s rule is that if a dog can consistently perform the skill five times in five different locations, with a distraction or two thrown in, he’ll be able to do that skill nearly anywhere.
Mistake #2: Being Inconsistent With the Dog
The tendency for most dog owners is to want a dog that is chill around the house but on point as soon as you step out the front door. It’s impossible to get that unless you act nearly the same in the house as out the door. As Stewart is fond of saying, “Dogs are not an On/Off switch. They’re creatures of habit.” What he means is that if you let a dog run roughshod over the house, that’s exactly what he’ll do when you open the door.
Correction: You need to be consistent with how you reward and scold them, so that the dog actually learns. If you want a dog to sit and stay still whenever you want, you need to work on that in the house first. And yes that means you’ll need to change your routine with the dog, because your daily routine with him needs to line up with your end goal. Instead of letting him have the run of the house, make sure he sits still on a mat. Then do that in five different locations. The add in a stimulus, like a kidding running around or a ball tossed in front of him. When it comes time to sit around the campfire, he’ll be ready sit calmly and not dive after your marshmallow the first chance he gets.
Mistake #3: Using Rewards Indiscriminately
All weekend long, we saw various dogs misbehaving, wandering around, and then getting petted when they sidled up to someone. That’s rewarding the dog for misbehaving, even if it wasn’t you that did the misrewarding. The indiscriminate rewarding also happened with owners who were petting (or worse, feeding) their dogs when they came up while we were sitting around a picnic table eating lunch.
Correction: Make sure you’re not reinforcing bad habits by encouraging them. The classic example is whining or barking. If walk outside every time they whine, they’ll quick put two and two together and keep on whining to get you to come out the door. The dog is training you at that point. Leave them be until they’re quiet, then go over and pet them. The same thing goes for feeding. If your dog is begging you for food at a BBQ and you feed him, don’t be surprised when he starts hopping up on your lap at the dinner table. Playing tug of war with the dog? No wonder he chews on everything and then brings it to you to destroy further. Instead, play games with a purpose so that you can focus the dog on things you want. Around the house, you can work on getting your dog to “Shake” hands with you or jump “Over” your lifted leg. They view this as fun. On a walk, don’t let them retrieve tennis balls randomly. Throw one that they have to ignore, and then another that they can pick up by you calling their name. That way you can reward good behavior at the right time and keep the dog focused. The mental energy expended on these games will often be more than enough to wear the dog out.
Mistake #4: Relying Too Much On Verbal Commands
“Dogs don’t talk,” Stewart said all weekend, earning him a chuckle every time. But he’s right: dogs have no idea what you’re saying. They only associate a verbal sound that you make with a behavior that you’ve reinforced. The much stronger message is always sent via body language or the tone of your voice. Most people were yelling a screaming at their dogs in long complicated sentences to get back in line—all of which meant little to the dog.
Correction: Dogs are extremely perceptive. Try a training session in which you don’t say a word and only attempt to communicate to the dog via your body language or hand signals. You’ll be amazed at what the dog picks up. Now add that same “language” to the specific command you’re working on. Be stern when the dog does something bad, but effusive when he does something right.
Mistake #5: Missing the Dog’s Signals
Just like your dog picks up on your nonverbal cures, you can pick up on the dog’s noverbal cues. If he is supposed to be sitting still but he’s leaning a little too far forward as another dog passes, you can bet they’re about to break. Same thing goes for a high tail, or a raised head. A dog is always communicating.
Correction: At least three times during the weekend I saw dogs give signs before they bolted away from their owners, snapped at another dog, or barked at a waitress. It’s only because I happened to be watching them at that exact moment. Pay attention to your dog, and make mental notes on any signs he gave that preceded an unwanted behavior. If he gives those signs in the future, rather than testing the dog, simply call their name to have them refocus on you. That way you don’t have to continually make harsh corrections when the dog gets out of line.
Mistake #6: Forgetting that Praise Is Just as Important as Scolding
We saw this one all weekend, and I’ll admit that I’m guilty of it myself. When a dog does something bad, everyone’s natural reaction is to scold him immediately so the he learns not to do it again. But many people forget to praise is just as effective, except you have to be just as effusive with it. More often that not, when a dog does something good, that’s all they’re rewarded with, a terse “good.”
Correction: If the dog has just done something exceptionally well, or done something for the first time, don’t be afraid to get down and make a show of it. Praise him while petting. Tell him “Good Sit,” “Good Stay,” “Good Backflip,” or whatever he did right. That way he learns without harsh corrections exactly what it is you want him to do.
Mistake #7: Expecting Your Dog to Change Overnight
It’s just not going to happen, unfortunately. Younger dogs will pick up habits, so instilling them with correct habits is much easier than correcting bad habits. Older dogs with ingrained habits will be much more difficult to change. (But it’s not impossible.) It just takes time, and you need to be realistic about how much time it actually takes, whether to train a new pup or retrain an old dog with new tricks.
Correction: The good news is that dogs are sponges: they pick up whatever you’re throwing at them. You just need to keep practicing it with them until it becomes a habit (again, older dogs will be harder but not impossible). But it’s your responsibility to incorporate that training or retraining into the dog’s everyday life. And do it consistently over many days and months. Stewart reiterated multiple times over the weekend that “You need to begin with the end in mind.” He meant that if you don’t have a vision for what you want out of your dog, you won’t be able to recognize the necessary steps that you need to do in order to get them there. Make the training and dog’s daily life line up with what you want. And again, don’t expect change overnight. But if you’re consistent and diligent, pretty soon the dog will be heeling on command, coming back to you every time you tell him to, and getting a beer out of the fridge, if that’s really all you want.
by Ryan Krogh | on August 18th, 2011 | in Who's Cutest?
Nope that’s Sadie’s birthday hat. Yep, she turned two years old today, only two days after stepping on broken glass and cutting the artery in her left front leg. Luckily, her owner, Outside’s Alex Aufman, was able to staunch the bleeding and rush her to the ER. The much bigger break, though, was that the glass didn’t cut a tendon, which could have caused permanent damage. As is, Sadie escaped with a handful of stitches, a slightly diminished ego, and a new party hat that’s getting decorated tonight!
by Ryan Krogh | on July 27th, 2011 | in Features, Swag the Dog
1. Food and Water Bowl: The bread and butter of owning a dog. Invest in a stainless steel version like PETCO’s Stainless Steel Non-Tip Bowl (from $6; petco.com) for a every-day use. To keep it clean, all you’ll need to do is rinse it out and let it air dry. And you won’t have to worry about breaking it, which is an all-too-common problem with trendier ceramic bowls. For hiking, rafting, and road trips, invest in a collapsible one like Ruffwear’s Bivy Bowl ($20; ruffwear.com), which is wide enough at the top to allow even large breeds to scarf from it, but is light enough (less than two ounces) to fit unnoticeably in the corner your backpack. [Quick tip: For dogs that spill water on the floor while drinking—i.e. every dog out there—Orvis offers a highly-absorbent mat ($39; orvis.com) to keep the kitchen tiles dry and our friends at Wildrose Trading Company offer a spill-proof Buddy Bowl.]
2. Collars: They’re as important as food bowls. Two things that you’ll want to consider: 1. They’re like clothes for your dog. After a while, Fido will look naked without one. 2. As such, using the same collar for more than a few months gets boring. Change it up. Every pet company out there makes a collar, which is perfect. Here are three of the best: 1.) Dublin Dog: The best part about them? They’re stench-free, thanks to the a blend of nonporous polymers. They also come in a variety of colors and sizes. (From $22; dublindog.com) 2.) Filson Leather Dog Collar: Classic. Classy. Durable. The only downside is they’re not waterproof, which means they’re perfect for a German Shorthaired Pointer, but less than ideal for a water-loving Lab. ($36; filson.com) 3.) TufFlex Center Ring Dog Collar: It has the look and feel of leather but it’s made from a special type of plastic that is mildew and bacteria resistant, meaning the collar is maintenance free. Plus, it’s practically indestructible. (From $10)
3. Lead: You can’t walk your dog, or train her to heel, without a good lead. Filson’s Leather Dog Leash ($46; filson.com) is both stylish and effective. For leash work, though, you can’t beat the horse-reign dot tread used in the Wildrose Kennels Combination Training Lead Set ($40; uklabs.com), which, because it’s made from plastic, won’t absorb water, and is damn near chew-proof—not that you should be letting your dog chew on her leash. [Note: retractable leashes are good only if you like teasing your dog—“I’m free! … or not. I’m free! … ow, my neck …”—and instilling bad behaviors like running away at all times.
4. Beds: Some dogs will ignore them and sleep on the carpet. (Grayson’s dog Danger only sleeps on the sofa.) But most dogs end up loving them. Ruffwear’s Mt. Bachelor Pad ($60; ruffwear.com) is easy to clean (i.e. machine-washable), rolls into a beach-towel-sized bedroll for easy transport, and has its velcro straps that are smartly hidden underneath the mat to keep chew-prone dogs from going after them. And REI’s inflatable Dog Dream Bed is so comfortable that if it were two feet longer it would make a perfect camping mat—for humans. ($55; rei.com).
5. Crate: Yes, crate training can be traumatizing (mostly for you and your hippie roommate’s Dr. Doolittle friends, not the dog), but consider it a necessary evil, like your kids’ percussion lessons. The more comfortable a dog is in her crate, the easier it is for you to travel with her—and the more settled they’ll be around the house. Also, they’re great house-training tools. Every time you take her out of the crate, usher her to the same spot in the yard. Just make sure you get the appropriate sized crate: it’s better to be too small at first than too big. For larger breeds that grow quickly, you’re better off investing in a starter crate that’s smaller in size and then getting a full-sized one later on. For the house, Grrreat Choice’s Dog Carrier is a cheap, easy option (from $20; PetSmart.com), and is airline safe. For road trips, get Orvis’s Collapsible Dog Travel Crate (from $179; orvis.com), which can be broken down to fit easily into the trunk or backseat of a car. It’s a little finicky, but durable enough. For young pups or smaller dogs, the SleepyPod Air is perfect for traveling ($160; sleepypod.com). At six weeks old, I drove back from Mississippi (to Santa Fe) with Nolie and she slept nearly the entire way.
6. Poop Scoop: What else can we say: It happens. And you’re going to have to clean it up. Every local pet store will carries a scoop. Bog-box-store PetSmart sells a basic spade and scoop pan for $24 (petsmart.com)—a no-brainer bargain.
7. Indoor Cleaner: As much as we’d all like to think our pup is perfect (or will be), accidents are bound to happen. Be prepared with a pet-specific cleaner like Nature Miracle’s Stain and Odor Remover ($7; ilovenaturesmiracle.com).
8. Grooming Tools/Health-care items: This category could fill it’s own list because of how important it is to keep your pup healthy. But three things you should always have on hand: Brush. Nail trimmer. Saline solution. 1. Brush: It’s a basic self-explanatory item, but different coats will require different types of brushes. A pin brush, which has rounded mental “pins,” is a standard go-to for most breeds but is best for dogs with long-haired, thin coats, because it will easily comb the hair without pulling it out. JW Pet GripSoft Pin Dog Brush is good choice ($10). Curry brushes are better for dogs with smooth coats, like Labs. Top Paw’s Rubber Curry Brush is a great, cheap option. ($8). Slicker brushes, with their narrow, stainless steel pins on a flexible rubber base are the go-to choice for removing knots and tangles. Four Paws Ultimate Touch Slicker Wire Brush is a standard choice ($12). 2. Nail Clipper: Your dog’s nails will grow, and if they grow too long it will increase the chance that they’ll break off while your dog is running on pavement or rocks. As a general rule, the nails should be trimmed when they reach the ground in a standing position. ConairPro Yellow Dog Soft Grip Nail Clippers will do the trick ($10). 3. Saline Solution: This one is often overlooked, but eye issues are an extremely common problem with dogs—especially ones running through tall grass or on dirt trails. They can easily develop an infection from a seed or piece of dirt in their eye. The easiest preventative measure is to wash a dog’ eyes out with a saline solution like Vetericyn Animal Ophthalmic Gel ($30).
9. Toys: Some people let their dogs chew; some don’t. It depends both on the trainer and dog whether chew toys instill bad habits or give the dog a healthy outlet. Without toys, most pups will just make their own—out of your shoes, socks, and table legs. Just keep the “toys” separate from the “training tools”. For retriever-training, Avery’s HexaBumper is cheap and comes in different colors and sizes ($5; averysportingdog.com) while Real Duck’s firehose bumpers are more expensive but have a more natural feel ($20; realduck.com). Around the house, I let my Lab pup chew on a Dublin Dog Roxxter toy ($14; dublindog.com) to keep her from hiding (i.e. losing) all of my socks in the backyard.
10. Food: Last here, but it’s probably the most important item to consider when getting a new pup. The main things to think about are getting your new pup quality protein and fat (the carbs are mostly filler) in the right proportion. Many kibbles these days are too high in protein content. You’ll want food that has about 30-percent protein and 20-percent fat. Some dogs, based on their eventual adult size and how active they are, will require a slightly different ratio of carbs and protein, but this is a good starting point. And make sure the carbs and proteins are coming from quality sources: chicken, lamb, and beef are all fine as long as they’re coming from actual scraps of meat and not just rendered bone, blood, and ligaments. Adding human table scraps—or, if you can, whole chicken backs or low-grade meat from your local meat counter—is a good way to supplement what’s obviously lacking in, well, all dry pellet kibble. Check the labels on all foods and follow their feeding portion guidelines based on how much your dog weighs. As a pup, I fed my Lab Eukanuba’s Puppy Natural Lamb and Rice formula, which has high-quality ingredients, but isn’t ungodly expensive ($27 for a 15-pound bag; eukanuba.com). And one more quick note about food: for young pups—15 weeks or younger—try not to switch foods on them. If they’re started on Eukanuba and you want to switch, gradually mix the other food into the original food. New foods can create problems, both for the pup and your carpet.
by Ryan Krogh | on January 21st, 2011 | in Features, Media, Tidbits, Time Wasters
In three weeks, I’m bringing home a new pup—a yellow lab (girl) from Wildrose Kennels, in Oxford, Mississippi. Crates, water bowls, beds, food, insurance: that’s all been a cinch compared to coming up with a good name. Everyone I ask (and trust me, it’s been just about everyone) has a different opinion about what and how I should name my new girl. Considering that I’ll say her name something like 30,000 times over the course of her life, it’s a big decision. And I want it to have some sort of meaning. As a kid growing up in North Dakota, we named pets in one of three ways: after literary or movie characters, after flowers or trees, or after one of the booze bottles we found discarded in my uncle’s defunct chicken coop. (One notable stray was named 99 Bananas.)
But now when I mention that I’m getting a dog, people give me nothing but different answers and conflicting advice: name it a human name (“it’s original because it’s a human name”), a southern name (“because she’s from the south”), a southwest name, (“you live in Santa Fe, after all”). The only way to settle it, I’ve decided, is by a handy poll, below. I’ve included my childhood methods and offers that may work. And I’ve offered some names that I like, too. But the question remains: what’s the best method for naming your new dog.