Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Treat Talk: 5 Doggy Snacks in Review

As the slave, er... owner, of a very spoiled dog, I buy a lot of treats. We've tried tons of different brands, which have had varying results. Some treats Maizy will jump the moon for. Others have led to some literally shitty situations. (Note: Cheese treats need to be introduced slowly, lest you want to clean up runny poop for days.) Like with Maizy's dog food, I'm pretty obsessed with find her the "best" treats - the freshest, healthiest ingredients madfe by the most reputable of companies. However, I do give a little bit of leeway when it comes to treats. Dogs, like humans, can handle a bit of "junk food" in moderation.

Wellness Wellbites

This excellent photo is from
"Her Dog Blog". Read their
review  of this treat here.
These are known around the house as "dog crack", which pretty much says it all, doesn't it? Maizy goes bonkers for these soft and very smelly treats. They come in 1" squares which are easily ripped into smaller pieces for training. However, because these treats are SO AMAZING (Maizy said that needed to be in capitals), Maizy has a hard time focusing on training. Her brain goes "Oh my god food food food food" and she proceeds to rush through all the tricks she knows in hopes of getting a treat. I also think these treats are a bit expensive. If you get the salmon ones be prepared for your hands to smell like fish forever. 

Price: 10.99 for 8oz at Ren's Pet Depot
Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars. These treats are too perfect, if that's possible - Maizy loves them too much to concentrate. 

Milkbones (Minis)

Milkbones: the standard, grocery store, run-of-the-mill treat. Some people won't feed these to their dogs because they are definitely not the healthiest treat on the market. Take a look at the first 5 ingredients: "Wheat Flour, Wheat Bran, Meat and Bone Meal, Milk, Wheat Germ". Not the best, right? These are the dog equivalent of potato chips and that's okay, as long as they are fed in moderation. We use the mini size (5 calories per treat) and these bite size treats are great for training. Plus they're cheap - with the amount of treats Maizy goes through, cheap is good!

Price: 3.19 for 1lb (200+ treats) at PetSmart
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars. Good size, great price, but definitely doggy "junk food".

Old Mother Hubbard Classic Minis

These are my favourite "biscuit" dog treat and Maizy loves them too. The first 5 ingredients are "Whole Wheat Flour, Oatmeal, Wheat Bran, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), and Chicken", which is somewhat better than the Milkbones. The additional ingredients, however, are much better than the Milkbones. We love the Mini size for training and they are easy to break apart into even smaller pieces. These are my "go to" treat and we always have a cookie jar full of these on the counter. 

Price: 12.49 for 3lb at Ren's Pet Depot (we buy the big bag, clearly!)
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars. Our favourite dog biscuit - could only get a higher rating if the ingredients were a bit better, but the "bad" ingredidents are needed for biscuit making and certainly don't hurt in moderation! 

Balancing Old Mother Hubbard Minis.
She hates this trick (can you tell?).

Zuke's Mini Naturals

I originally looked into Zuke's because it had a lot of good reviews and the "Mini Naturals" were an ideal size for training. The company is very reputable and the ingredients are great. I really, really wanted to like these treats, but Maizy had other ideas. We tried the chicken flavour. We tried peanut butter. We tried duck. But Maizy just doesn't really care for them, she'll eat a few and then lose interest. 

Price: 5.99 for 6oz at Ren's Pet Depot
Rating: 2.5 / 5 Stars. Good ingredients, good size, but Maizy could take or leave them. I do know lots of dogs who love these, so it's just a Maizy thing. 

Crumps Freeze Dried Beef Liver Bites

We have a winner! 
This is a treat we started using recently and it has quickly become my favourite. Maizy absolutely loves it too! They are pricey but so worth the cost. One of these is easily equal to 5 MilkBones, in Maizy's mind. She loves these treats but is still able to concentrate on the task at hand - our training has improved leaps and bounds since we started using these treats! I have tried other freeze dried treat brand but these are my favourite becuase they come in bite sized cubes, perfect for training. The only ingredient is beef liver, making these super healthy. 

While the Old Mother Hubbard treats live on the counter, the bag of Crumps lives at our back door. The only time Maizy refuses to recall is when we ask her to come into the house. Now, with Crumps, that's no longer an issue. 

Price: 19.99 for 20oz at Ren's Pet Depot
Rating: 5 / 5 Stars. You couldn't ask for a better treat! 

Vegetables and Fruits

Okay, I know I said "5 Doggy Snacks" but I wanted to include this as well. We also use vegetables and fruits as training treats - cucumbers, carrots, strawberries, blueberries ect. These need to be fed in moderation (especially the super sugary fruit) but are a great, healthy snack. However, some fruits and veggies (garlic, grapes and raisins, fruits with pits, and onions, to name a few) are toxic to dogs. Be sure to do your research before mixing a salad up for your dog.

What are your favourite treats? Tell us in the comments or send us a tweet! We'd love to hear from you. 

Happy snacking! 

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Rainy Day Games

Mother Nature has decided that Southern Ontario should be endlessly rainy and unseasonally cold. Maizy and I are no stranger to having adventures in the rain, but even we have to call it quits at some point... Like when there are tree branches blowing past you like tumbleweed at the dog park. Yeah, that happened this weekend.

Soaked after a game of fetch in the rain.
Maizy recently has decided that she is an adult dog now, and is actually much quieter. Something seems to have clicked in her brain over the last month. However, she is still a very active dog and staying inside and snoozing on a rainy day is not her forte. She needs exercise - both mental and physical - regardless of the weather.

So what can you do with your dog when its pouring outside?

Fetch Plus

Fetch is an excellent game for rain days. While you may not have as much space, it will still get your dog moving. Not to mention it's a great way to reinforce behaviours such as 'drop it' and 'bring it here'. But for an extra tired dog, you need to spice things up, hence the "plus" part of this game:

  • Incorporate your 'sits' and 'downs' into the game. Before throwing the ball, ask the dog for a sit or a down, and when they comply reward by throwing the ball. Mix up the commands: Ask for sit three times, down twice, then go back to sit. This will make your dogs responses quicker. For a real brain work out, ask your dog to sit and stay while you throw the ball. Only allow them to chase when you give the 'get it!' command.
  • Ask your dog to fetch up and down the stairs. This one is pretty simple but it's a tough work out for the dog. It will work on their body awareness as the navigate up and down the steps. Make sure you don't over do this one - it gets tiring quickly!
  • Work on fetch with household items. Does Fluffy frequently steal your socks? Grab a sock and play fetch. This reinforces Fluffy giving you the item, so in the future you won't have to chase the dog around trying to retrieve the pair of panties that she decided to parade around the house.

Targeting

Targeting is a great way to get your dog moving and thinking. It's fairly easy to teach and can be simple or difficult. Basically, the idea is to get your dog to touch a target with his nose. The target can be anything - a sticky note, your hand, a container lid. This is very easy to teach using clicker training, but it's not nessecary to use a clicker. 

I'll go over the steps to train this behavior quickly, but for more in depth information check out this article.

Step 1: Select your target. It can be something like your hand or a container lid. Make sure it's visible to being with. We started with the lid of a sour cream container and are now using a smaller, less visible mason jar lid.
Step 2: Place the target in front of your dog. When your dog touches the target with his nose, reward the dog. If your dog isn't investigating the target, place a treat on top. Repeat until this is easy for your dog.
Step 3: Once your dog had Step 2 down pat, start to add your verbal command. Maizy and I use "touch!"
Step 4: Begin to move the target farther away from the dog.

Here's a video of Maizy practicing targeting. This is quite difficult because she doesn't know where I've placed the target, only the general area, so she has to search for it.

video

Rally-O

This one requires a fairly large area, so push back those couches and clear a space. Rally-O is a great way to work on obedience. Basically there are a number of "stations" which make up a course. The stations ask for a specifc behavior or group of behaviors. You can download and print out the signs from the Canadian Association of Rally-O as well as learn more about Rally-O.