Product Review: Wet Noses

Wet Noses Little Stars Treats are my new BFF.

 

If you’ve been around here long, you’ve heard me complain that all the treats Silas can eat are too big for training. They’re both too big and too expensive for things like counter-conditioning the yard maintenance. They don’t fit in kibble/treat dispensing toys, like the Buster Cube.

These “tiny organic training treats” are perfect. Each little star is about the size of my smallest fingernail. Even in Silas’s small size Buster Cube, the treats both go in and come out easily. When the lawn people come, I can toss a whole handful onto the ground. They still aren’t incredibly cheap–they’re about $7 for an 8oz package–but his turkey-based treats run $10 for half as much. The tiny size also helps to stretch them a lot further than similar weights of other treats.

The only downside is that they aren’t a really high-value treat. He’s more than happy to eat them at home, but they aren’t something that he’ll work for in training class or eat outside. They also aren’t grain free, which I’m not wild about.

These are listed as 6 calories a treat, so don’t let the tiny size talk you into giving too many.

Ingredients:
Organic Rye Flour
Organic Ground Peanuts
Organic Whole Eggs
Organic Canola Oil
Organic Molasses

Labels and Surprises

I’ve always been very hesitant to give Silas any of those handy labels that we have for our dogs. I don’t just mean the dreaded “dominant/submissive.”  We have a vast array of supposedly descriptive terms that become self-fulfilling  and create limitations that didn’t really exist. The more precise labels are better than things like “manipulative” or “destructive” or “stupid,” but they can work in the same way. Resisting the label is a fantastic tool for figuring out exactly what your dog’s real problem is. Then, call it whatever you want–it’s an accurately diagnosed problem, not an excuse. (Try it–turn your dog’s problem into a sentence, rather than a phrase. Which one seems more like a training opportunity?)

On Tuesdays we do a combination of counter-conditioning and hiding from the lawn service. They come by a few times earlier in the day, but around 3:00 they leaf blow right against the door. So, we work on being less scared of the leaf blower through the earlier passes, then I try to have Silas gone before the really terrifying part.

This week Tuesday was cold and gloomy. We went to the park on Monday, and Silas hadn’t had a great time. Instead of going back, I decided to do something I’ve been meaning to try for a while.

I took Silas to PetSmart.

Because I’ve been refusing to give his fears an easy label, I know that he’s only scared of people who startle him. In an environment where he expects to meet people and can see what’s going on, like the park, it is extremely rare for him to bark at anyone. We desperately need to get him a more consistent exposure to strangers that he isn’t likely to be scared by. So, I decided to risk PetSmart. We used to go a good bit, until he stopped needing so many new leashes/collars/toys/beds/crates. I knew that in the past he could handle the store, but I wasn’t sure about how he would handle people coming around the aisles.

He was amazing. Not only did he not bark at a single person in the store, he didn’t even pull on his leash. He had a very nice greeting with a Scottie (unavoidable–Scottie was on a retractable leash). When he started to get a little excited, we left before it turned to overstimulated anxiety.

It was still way too early to go back home, so we went to the local pet place. It’s a nice 15 minute drive, which was plenty of time to calm back down. Because the local store is much smaller, it is harder to avoid up-close interactions. Again, this is a place we used to go to all the time. We stopped taking Silas there after a few bad encounters with other dogs, and then I started buying his food elsewhere. Silas met the three employees in the best-behaved, sweetest possible way. He did bark at one of them, one time, for being a little too excited to see him, but he got over it immediately.

It’s a nice feeling, knowing that he really can still go places. Neither of these visits were long, nor did I manage to actually buy things, but we went. Trauma free, even. Now I just have to do my part and keep taking him out.

Summer Dog

I mentioned last week that Silas was really cold on our trip. We even had to break out his adorable little jacket a few times. Now the cold has caught up with us at home.

Now, what Silas says is “cold” is what most of us consider “pretty pleasant.” Those of you who live north of Kentucky or so probably consider it borderline warm. Silas, usually an independent little guy, is glued to my leg, covered up in a fleece blanket.

All this because it is 67 degrees in the house. It’s 55 outside right now, and Silas looked deeply betrayed when he went out.

Yesterday at the park Silas was twice as anxious as usual. The heavy underbrush is dying back, so the park is louder, more open. The wind was blowing. The water in his beloved turtle pond, where he does the Silas version of playing in the water (that is, delicately putting his feet in, then getting back out) was so cold he had to run around like a crazy to warm back up.

Poor summer dog. I guess I need to buy him some clothes. I’m too cheap to run the thermostat much warmer than this, even once I do crack and turn the furnace on.

Marvelous Monday, Nov 12

Silas did not throw up today!

And why is that marvelous?

Because he had an ounce of pork in his dinner last night.

I’m not wild about feeding him pork for lots of reasons, so it will probably turn out to be something he can eat. Logic was on pork’s side, though, and I’m getting desperate. The Orijen Regional Red kibble that we were using as Silas developed his food allergies had both wild boar and pork. When we switched to raw, we were using a pre-made food that didn’t come in a pork variety.

About a month ago, it hit me that he kept having symptoms until we pulled him off of everything except turkey, about a month after we switched to raw. While the pork could certainly have been problem, it was, logically speaking, not the problem, or he would have gotten better that month. That skyrocketed pork right to the top of my list of foods to try.

Today doesn’t really prove anything, except that he is not instantly and catastrophically allergic. He had to get all the way to whole meals of duck before it starting making him obviously sick. (The duck thing was weird in a lot of ways, though, so I’m not sure how representative it will be.) We’ll see.

Around here, “cautiously optimistic” about new foods is definitely a marvel.

Cheater

Last night I gave in to a base impulse.

Poor Silas has been in a real chewing phase lately. His beloved antler chew has mostly given up the ghost. We buy antler sections on a rope, because the rope keeps him from being able to really bite down hard. Also, the cut-up sections have a middle that is fairly soft. Well, while he was working on his last one, our local supplier stopped carrying them. (I’m really on the fence about the antler chew–we bought the first one because Silas tried to shoplift it, and it turned out to be MAGIC. Please don’t fill my comments with stories about broken teeth, or I might cry.)

Anyway, there I was, with my dog who has been on the prowl for things to chew, in the pantry gathering up forbidden foods to send along to a friend. And I found his pack of TerraBones, with the “Natural Chicken Flavor” right there on the label. He was so excited!

So I gave him one.

I probably shouldn’t have done it, but the TerraBones came after I already knew he was allergic to chicken. A store clerk gave him one, and then I went back and bought a pack. Back then I wasn’t an avid label reader. By the time I realized they had chicken, he’d already had several of them with no trouble. At the time I wrote it off as either a quantity issue or that the flavoring was purely chicken fat, rather than protein. Who knows, though. I wasn’t as “up” on my allergy symptoms back then, so I may have missed something.

It made him happy for a while, at least. We’ll see what happens.

Product Review: Honest Kitchen Embark

Thanks largely to M.C. over at The House of Two Bows, we tried The Honest Kitchen’s Embark food last week.

Honest Kitchen Embark

It looked so perfect. The ingredients are: Dehydrated cage-free USDA turkey, organic flaxseed, potatoes, celery, spinach, carrots, organic coconut, apples, organic kelp, eggs, bananas, cranberries, rosemary, tricalcium phosphate, choline chloride, zinc amino acid chelate, vitamin D3 supplement, vitamin E supplement, potassium iodide, potassium chloride, iron amino acid chelate, copper amino acid chelate.

Good for the allergies, which seem to be entirely protein related. Good for staying with the family, who are freaked out by the dog chowing down on assorted turkey parts. (Our original plan for the trip was to stay with my in-laws, who are both vegans and germophobes.)

It was, indeed, a wonderful, easy food to travel with. If you haven’t seen the Honest Kitchen foods before, they’re a powdered, dehydrated raw food. Just add water, wait five minutes, and serve. Much easier than raw, much more compact than kibble. I had visions of how very easy it would be to go places now, without having to worry about the cooler and the turkey parts. The clouds parted, and the sun shone down upon us.

Except Silas hates it.

For most of this trip, he was getting ten times the exercise he usually gets. He was convinced that he was starving. And he still wouldn’t eat the Embark. Added peanut butter. No. Added eggs. No. Added pumpkin. No. Put treats on top. No. Did all of those things in one meal. Still no. In fact, all that I managed to do was make him extremely suspicious of his food again and re-teach him that if he walks away from his food I will do something to make it “better.”

It wasn’t, in all fairness, the most slow and gradual introduction to a new food, especially for a dog who is already suspicious. We did have other food with us, and we did mix small servings of the Honest Kitchen food with those, but it’s possible I should have started even smaller.

He will eat it mixed with his tripe, so that’s how we’ll use up the box. (Tripe hoarding status: 50 cans.) Half a can of tripe is slightly skimpy for one meal, so it will be a nice way to round that out. Maybe if I’m lucky it will also teach him to like it in a larger quantity.

Acknowledging, Working Through

I just spent a week and a half banging my head into the wall of Silas’s limitations, and I’m a little frazzled and testy. Let me complain for a few minutes, then I’ll try to put positive-self back in the driver’s seat.

Silas is not great with people. If you are in a place he expects you to be, he’s fine. Say, the park. Or, already in a store or room when we go in. Anything else startles him, and he barks. In most cases, it’s something he can work through pretty quickly. Bark bark bark, realize person is okay, solicit attention from person in some inappropriate way. I don’t usually let him meet people, because his soliciting attention can look a lot like “ATTACK!” to a person who was scared by the barking. Also, some people will set him off again trying to pet him.

Silas and I have been staying at my parents’ house alone for a week. My husband was there for a few days, but then he needed to go back to work. My grandparents share the house, which was set up as a duplex until my grandfather had a stroke. Now there’s a door between the two sides. Grandpa has a constant stream of people in and out–family members, nurses, etc–some of whom are very scared of dogs.

So, this week I have needed to:
1) Issue dire warnings about opening the adjoining door. It wasn’t there the first few times we stayed with my parents, and it Freaks Silas Out.
2) Check before we go outside, to make sure that none of my little cousins are around.
3) Scream at a toddler I missed in my sweep, who was running up to Silas to “play with the doggie” (who was seriously upset, not just having his usual “work through it” reaction. Child+running+waving arms+talking loudly=perfect storm of Silas’s least favorite things. And the kid would not stop coming toward us. WTF, parents? Now, because I also freaked out when the kid came up, Silas will be that much more scared of them.)
4) Carefully plan my every attempt to leave the house around guaranteeing that nobody would come in the house and upset Silas while he was in his crate.
5) Skip seeing a large part of my family and going even dog-friendly places, because Silas couldn’t go with me and I had used up his crate-time on hospital visits.

I also spent a lot of time saying, “Oh, I can’t, because of the dog” to people who don’t even let their dogs in the house. Couple that with the constant stream of inedible objects that Silas found to chew on, and you’ve got a frustrating time.

If I put the positive hat on, he actually did pretty well, aside from the toddler incident. I was watching my 14 year old nephew while I was there, and Silas did fine with him. Silas adores my mother, and mostly reacted very well toward her the few times she was around. She even let Silas out of his crate one day. (She’s usually our dog babysitter on our regular visits.) My brother stopped by a few times and committed the big no-no of coming in the door without meeting the dog first. Silas handled it without freaking out too much. He met one of my aunts. My husband says that Silas even came to a detente of sorts with my father-in-law. Last time we were home, Silas barked what seemed like every time that my father-in-law moved, for eight hours.

I would now like a vacation. Something without so many “opportunities for growth.”

Clean and Tidy

One of the questions I get a lot is “How do you keep him so white?”

The truth is, I don’t have anything to do with it. This week has been good proof of it. Silas spent three days running like mad at my in-laws’ place, rolling in who knows what, eating animal poop, and scrounging through the underbrush.

At the end of day three, I said, “Wow; the dog is getting stinky. I should give him a bath.” The next morning, he didn’t smell at all.

Sleeping

Does he look dirty to you? Even his feet are still pink. I did bathe him the afternoon after I took that photo, but only because he was itchy.

Some of it is that he’s an obsessive cleaner. He licks his feet and legs clean like a cat. I have to watch him, or I can easily miss the beginnings of an allergy flare thinking that he’s just washing.

He’s also just magically dirt-resistant. I’ve seen him turn his muzzle completely grey digging, and in an hour it’s like it never happened.

Somebody should figure that out, and put it in the fabric of my next sofa.

How to go over budget, lesson one:

So, everything was looking great in October. Up until about the 20th, Silas was well under his usual budget. Then things went a little crazy.

Our final breakdown looks like this:
Food: 194.10
Supplements: 43.65
Treats: 50
Training: 95
Assorted: 37.70

Total: (gulp) 420.45

The food costs are high for two reasons. I bought duck at the beginning of October, which it turned out that Silas couldn’t eat. This meant I had to go back and buy more food mid-month. There was also the tripe debacle, so I bought $100 or so of canned tripe. We have about a year’s supply now, so I’m feeling slightly less anxious about it. The sad fact is that the food cost is actually not right–I bought a box of Honest Kitchen dehydrated food as emergency rations when we left town, and the charges haven’t shown up yet.

I also finally found a greens supplement that didn’t have a meat product in it, so YAY!

Treats are expensive because they are. I’ve talked about this before. I had to stock back up when we went to training class. Turns out that I (way) overbought, so maybe I’ll get through next month with fewer. I’m seriously looking into a dehydrator to make these myself. A pound of turkey hearts costs me about $2. 3 oz of dehydrated turkey hearts (a pound before dehydrating) is $10.

Training: $95 may or may not seem high to you, but its a going rate for where we are.

Assorted: This is a collar and a magazine subscription. I’m hoping that the collar will stop some of Silas’s over-the-top neck scratching. It’s been really bad this week, which coincides perfectly with him having to wear his collar around the clock. Now, if it will just come in. I’m a day or two away from having to e-mail the company.

Happy news, though, is that there are No! Vet! Bills! One whole month!

City Dog in the Country

I’m still away from home, with the world’s slowest internet connection, but I thought I’d share some photos of our trip so far:

Cold

yum

Silas

Silas is running an experiment called “How many rabbit droppings can I eat without getting tapeworms?” (alternate title: “How long can I con that lady into believing that I’m just sniffing the grass?”). Aside from it being a solid twenty degrees colder than he’s used to, he’s having a fantastic time.