Friday, February 17, 2017

Mid-Month Update: Rachael Ray Nutrish Peak

Two weeks ago, Rye started trying the Rachael Ray Nutrish Peak food in the Open Range recipe as part of a Chewy.com 30-day Challenge. We were already big fans of Rachael Ray products, so we had high expectations for this new formula. 

After two weeks on Peak, I'm really pleased with how Rye is doing--and what's equally important, Rye is really pleased with the food! Rye likes food, but she's not as focused on it as Barley is. On her old puppy formula, she'd be happy to eat, but when I'd put food in her bowl and walk away to fill Barley's bowl, Rye would walk away from her bowl and follow us. But with Peak, even before I'd cut open the bag, Rye was sniffing around it and trying to find a way in. The first day I mixed it into her old food, she dove in as soon as I gave the ok and she kept eating even when Barley and I walked away. We've had to do more practice on waiting until I say she can eat over the last two weeks because she wants to dive in as soon as I set the bowl on the ground.


In addition to being a taste that Rye can't get enough of, it's also having good effects on the rest of her! The other day I was sprawled out in bed with a book when Rye came and sat down on my stomach, making it impossible to see my book and impossible not to notice her. As I was petting her, I noticed how shiny her coat was looking.


One of the things we've loved most about Rachael Ray foods in the past is how shiny and soft they've made Barley's coat, so I was happy to see Rye experiencing the same benefits. 

It's also the perfect size for some of our puzzle feeders. We don't do a lot of meals in puzzle feeders, but right now, with Barley's toe needing some rest, Rye's feeling a little neglected since she can't play with her sister. We've been doing dinner with puzzle feeders all week so that Rye can work her brain a bit and Barley can have some quiet time. The Peak kibbles are about the size of a Cocoa Puff, so they don't work in every feeder we haven't, but they're small enough to work in some of them and big enough that they make it more of a challenge than smaller pieces do.

Sometimes Rye gets so excited about the game that she misses the fact that a kibble has come out.
We'll be checking in again at the end of the month with our final thoughts on Peak, but halfway through our 30-day challenge, we couldn't be happier!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day!




We're sending you lots of love, tail wags, purrs, and kisses! Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 13, 2017

This Little Piggy Went to . . .

If you follow us on Instagram, then you know we've had a rough time with toes lately.

On Tuesday, we had a warm rainy day that melted all of our snow and made my yard look like it had a moat around the edges. This is nothing I've worried about before because Barley avoids puddles like the plague. She hates to be out in the rain and I have no worries about her wading through muddy puddles.

Rye, though, might be part pig. The muddier she gets, the happier she is. We'd hadn't walked in several days because my neighborhood is one big sheet of ice when it's snowy and I don't trust Rye enough to walk on ice with her (unless I can find a bubble suit and a helmet somewhere). Shortly after getting home from work, I let her outside, thinking she'd come in when Barley came back in. She was wound up and got the zoomies almost as soon as her paws touched the grass. Barley wants nothing to do with Rye when Rye has the zoomies, and she took care of business and trotted right back over to the door.

Rye stayed outside. And she ran and she ran and she ran. Through the mud puddles, under the house, behind the shed. I tried to call her in a few times and she just ran faster. At that point, she was already soaking wet, so I just watched her run until she slowed down.

When she came back in, I tried to towel her off before she got mud everywhere, but that set her off with the zoomies again (note to self: shut the gate to contain her in the kitchen when she needs toweling off). During my attempts to toss the towel over her as she ran by, I noticed a few bright read spots on the towel. At first, I didn't think much of it--it was an old towel that was retired to being a dog towel ages ago, so the likelihood of having some discoloration was high. But then I noticed little red splotches on the carpet.

My toe might hurt, but that won't stop me from climbing onto the arm of the couch.

Once I finally got Rye wrangled, I realized her toe was bleeding. I quickly realized that she isn't Barley who lets me do anything I need to to her. When I tried to clean her paw up so I could get a better look, she growled at me. I was able to get her to hold still long enough to put a little pressure on it to get the bleeding to stop, but getting a look at it and cleaning her up was a long, drawn out adventure.


After a few more days of rest and regular applications of salve on her toe, and she's fine now. My carpets got an impromptu mid-week deep cleaning, but I'm still finding little spots that need cleaning. My best guess is that all of the rain and puddles made some of the glass that I keep finding where the dirt was turned over when the holes for the fence posts were dug made more glass surface (I think my house may be on top of a mason jar burial ground--where is this glass coming from?!) and she must have cut her toe on something in the puddles.

Is this the culprit?

As if that weren't enough for my poor floors, on Saturday I let the girls outside and went to wash Soth's bowl and make my coffee. Before I could do any of that, I heard the dino dogs next door grumbling at the fence, so I called the girls in. Barley came right in at the mention of breakfast, but Rye wants to play with the dino dogs and she doesn't want to come in when they're out, and I'm pretty sure she could hop the fence to visit them if she really wanted to, so I had to go wrangle her.

Once everyone was inside, I noticed blood on the kitchen floor. (Side note: In college, my roommate and I would watch ER and she would have to tell me when it was safe to look at the tv because I couldn't watch tv blood--my pets have changed me.) My first thought was that Rye had reopened her cut, but then I saw Barley sitting in the corner holding her paw up. One of her nails was hanging on at a right angle. She let me put a little pressure on it to get the bleeding stopped, but she cried and it looked awful. Our vet was set to open in 30 minutes and we have about a 20 minute drive to the office, so I figured our best bet was to just get dressed, hop in the car, and be there when they opened.

Even wen she's in pain, she's still smiling and trying to make friends with everyone in the lobby. 

The nail was not salvageable, so they had to numb her toe and cut the whole nail off. She came home with a bandage that matches her leash, some antibiotics and pain meds, and instructions to try to keep her foot wrapped up until Monday.


A rainy Sunday made the enforced rest a little easier, but Rye has made it her personal mission to try to help Barley get the bandage off early and took a nip at it every time she walked by her sister. She's ready to have a friend to play with again.


Keep your fingers crossed that my girls and their toes can all survive the rest of this short month that feels especially long already!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Positive Pet Training Tools for Reactive Dogs

Last month, I was asked to be one of the new co-hosts for the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop. For those of you who are new to the blog, training is what got this blog started! My dog Barley is reactive and I realized we needed help early on in our relationship. We found our first trainer about 5 months into our relationship and have been on an incredible journey ever since--most recently with adding another dog, my puppy Rye, to the family.

Barley loves her baby sister now, but it took a lot of work to get here.

I'm so excited to be part of hosting the hop with Tenacious Little Terrier and Wag n' Woof Pets. Each month, the hop will begin the first Monday of the month and continue all week; we'll have a different theme each month, but we welcome any positive training posts!

This month our theme is training tools, so without further ado, here are our four essential training tools for reactive dogs.

A Variety of High Quality, Easily Breakable Treats
Barley is highly food motivated. When she encounters one of her triggers (barking dogs, loose dogs, birds, kites, bikes, joggers), she has no interest in toys. To help her deal with those triggers, I need something that makes me more important than those distractions. 

The smellier the treats, the better because in high-stress situations a lot of times the only way I can get her attention is by sticking the treat right in front of her nose and using it to turn her back towards me. We use a lot of salmon jerky--but for special occasions (like introducing Barley to her sister), we break out the big guns: hot dogs and cheese.

We also need treats that can be broken into smaller pieces easily because no matter how full my treat pouch is when we set off for a walk, it's never quite enough, so having treats that can easily multiply into more treats is essential. 

I try to keep a variety of different treats in my pouch because variety is the spice of life (or so they say). If Barley constantly got the same treat, they'd lose their value because they aren't new and different anymore and she'd start slowing down on her response to commands. If she never knows what she's going to get, there's always a chance there's something really good coming, so she pays more attention to me. Usually, I have one bag of treats (most recently some duck jerky sticks) that I only break out for agility class so that Barley keeps her focus on me because there's something different coming out of my pocket.

A Mat
Our mat is one of our most important possessions. It's our place where the dogs know they can relax. It's a safe place. It's a place where I can send them when I need to not worry about them. We've spent a lot of time working on going to the mat (I wrote about that ages ago when my sister was my only reader) over the years. After working on getting the dogs to the mat, then we work on relaxing on the mat. Barley knows that when I send her to her mat, she's supposed to just lay down and relax. We've used it in classes before and it's helped Barley stay calm around other dogs. We also use it when I do dishes or cook dinner.

We have a mat that stays in front of the fridge, one that stays in the car, and one that moves around the house.

Rye was introduced to mat work a few days after coming home. She caught on quickly and it's been a great tool for her! Rye's a bit of a chicken when her big sister isn't with her. On her first day of obedience (which is a story I still need to tell), she was shaking and panicked as we walked into the building. As soon as I put down her mat, she ran to it and laid down. Having that safe space gave her the confidence she needed to focus for class. 

Mats help contain the crazy that's bubbling right below the surface.

We also have a couple intangible tools that are essential to any training, but especially for training a reactive dog.

A Plan
One thing our agility trainer always stresses is that people get into trouble when they don't have a plan for what to do when things don't go as expected: what will you do if your dog doesn't get their contact on the dogwalk? how do you respond if your dog goes around a jump instead of over it? You can't just keep going because then your dog will start to think that they don't have to do whatever it is they didn't do. Having a plan in place helps you help your dog master the skills you're working on. It also helps reduce frustration for everyone because you've already accepted that things might not go the way you expected, but that's ok because you know what to do next.

With a reactive dog, having a plan is a non-negotiable. When we go for walks, we have a plan A, B, and C. Before I leave the house, I have to decide what we're going to do if we see another dog--and which plan we go with depends on a lot of factors, including time, weather, Barley's mood, my mood, location, and the other dog.

Usually, with Barley, if we see another dog, we go with Plan A: cross the street and get distance, but keep walking--she's been training long enough that as long as she has some space, she can keep walking with no issues as long as the other dog can't get to her.

Barley only lets her sister pounce her.

Sometimes, though, it's Plan B: turn around and walk in a new direction--Barley doesn't do well with off-leash dogs approaching her, so if we see one, we immediately go in another direction; if we cross the street to get space from an on-leash dog and that person crosses the street, too, we'll just turn around; if it's icy out and I'm not feeling brave, we'll turn around.

Then there's Plan C: have Barley sit a little off the path/sidewalk and turn my back towards the other person and dog while giving Barley lots of treats. This happens a lot when we're on trails--some of them don't have good side trails to take in a new direction and turning all the way around just means that we're going in the wrong direction or we'll have this other dog following us all the way back to the end of the trail. We do this when Rye's with us and turning around isn't an option (although we usually combine with plan A) because Rye wants to meet every dog we see, so if I can get them both calm and focused on me, there are fewer issues.

This helps reduce stress on walks. I don't have anxiety when we see other dogs because I know what we're going to do about it. When I don't have anxiety, Barley reacts less drastically to the other dogs.

Patience
This is the hardest part for me, but without patience, you won't get very far in your training. Dogs know when you're frustrated. Rye and I have struggled many times on walks. I'm so used to Barley sitting, staying, and posing for pictures on our adventures. It comes naturally to her and I didn't have to do any work to get Barley to model on our walks. With Rye, she'll sit and stay very nicely--but as soon as I pull out the camera, she's having none of it. I've found myself getting frustrated with her and the more frustrated I get, the less likely she is to stay still. Then when we start our walk again, she'll be done listening to me, no matter what kind of snacks I have, so any loose leash practice I wanted to do goes out the window. I finally had to accept that Rye needs more practice with sitting and staying in different locations, especially outside when her hound nose is working overtime, and maybe she will never be comfortable sitting in front of the camera. I don't bother pulling out the camera when Rye and I are out walking together anymore--or if Barley's with us, I just let Barley pose and Rye does her own thing for a second.

Sometimes that means cropping a Rye butt out of a picture.

Patience is essential with reactive dogs. Reactive dogs have things that are upsetting to them--whether that's other dogs or other people or certain noises--and it takes time to help them learn those things aren't bad. It was exactly one full month from the day our trainer first came to help with introducing Barley and Rye and the first time they were ever loose in the house together. There were so many days when I wanted to just open the gate or the crate and see what would happen, but I knew we needed to go at Barley's pace. She had to be the one to decide when she was ready to be around her sister. Even then, it was another two weeks before I even let them into the backyard together.


Dogs will have the most success with training when you go at their pace. That doesn't mean that you can't challenge them a little bit, but if your dog is telling you they aren't ready for something, be patient and listen to them.

When you combine great treats, a mat, a plan, and patience, your dogs can achieve things you never thought were possible.



Barley, Rye, our co-hosts and I are all excited to read about the different positive training tools you're using! Be sure to check out the other blogs participating in this month's Positive Pet Training Blog Hop. You can also join our Positive Pet Training Blog Hop group on Facebook and follow our new Travels with Barley page to stay connected with us.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Northeast Ohio Rocks #MyMuttRocks

Way back in September, Barley and I found a rock with the word read and an image of the book hidden beneath a shrub outside the library. I almost missed it as we strolled by, but it caught my eye--we stopped, moved it out a few inches, took a picture (it was Banned Books Week after all), and then slid it back to where it had been.

A photo posted by Beth (@eedevore) on
Over the next several months, we found painted rocks all over our neighborhood. We started stopping and taking pictures with them. It was like finding hidden treasure every time we left the house.





We even found a Christmas treasure in December.

A photo posted by Beth (@eedevore) on
As we posted pictures of them, my friends and family started wondering what the story behind them was. I was also curious, but also enjoyed the mystery of the rocks, so I didn't really try to find any answers. A few family members decided to start painting their own in various states because everybody needs a little more joy in their lives and finding treasures is any easy way to do that.

Then last week, we went to agility class and our trainer walked over to get a sip of water and started laughing: "There's a rock over here! It has a note saying to re-hide it!" I was so excited and told the class about the treasures we'd been finding for months. Our trainer said someone should re-hide it, so I picked it up and took it home for our next adventure.

What was this cat doing in an agility gym?! 

The rock had a little slip of paper sealed onto the back that said "Find us on Facebook at Northeast Ohio Rocks. Post a picture and re-hide me." I visited the Facebook page and was amazed by how many incredible rocks people had painted (seriously--there are full landscapes on rocks. Check out the page and be wowed!) and all of the different stories that were being shared by the people who found them.

Rye was acting silly right outside the frame--Barley was not happy.

By the time we got home from re-hiding the cat rock, a newspaper article was going around about the story behind the rocks. They started as a sort of random acts of kindness activity and now people all across our area are participating.

Once I knew what the story was, I wanted to be a part of it, too, so I ordered all the supplies I needed from Amazon and anxiously awaited for them to get here! 

The supplies trickled in all week and last night I sat down and got to work. I knew I wanted a few lines of Emily Dickinson poetry on my rocks. I also wanted a few that felt kind of valentines-y to be a bit seasonal. Some of the rocks also just seemed to be calling for certain designs. I ended up with 10 rocks to hide in our neighborhood or on our adventures.




The girls were not happy that we were not playing, but eventually they settled down and let me create. Hopefully, they'll forgive me when I take them on adventures to distribute our treasures. 

Can we please stop crafting now?

The group suggested creating a hashtag that ends in rocks to put on your rocks with the instructions on the back so that you can easily track them (with several thousand people in the group, it would be easy to miss your rocks' pictures when they're found!) if people decide to use the hashtag. I decided to go with #MyMuttRocks, so if you want to follow along on my rocks' journey with me, you can search #MyMuttRocks on Facebook (and it looks like some people share the rocks on Instagram, too, with #NortheastOhioRocks)! There's no guarantee that whoever finds the rocks will post the pictures or use the hashtag--and I really just want people to feel the same joy I've felt finding the rocks--but I do hope that I get to see where at least a few of the rocks go on their journeys!

If you want to spread a little joy around your state, too, you don't need much! All you need are rocks (I ordered these because I'm too impatient to wait for them to dry after cleaning mud off ones I find, but any rock will do), paint, paint brushes, modge podge (if you want to attach instructions on the back), and a waterproof sealant to protect your art.  I also got some paint pens because I don't have the patience to write full things with a paint brush. 

We'll hopefully be heading out on an adventure this weekend to hide a few of these, so stay tuned for more stories!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Rachael Ray Nutrish Peak: First Look

Normally, I don't talk much about what food I feed the girls because that's such a personal and often controversial topic for so many people.

We're a kibble family. I have a hard enough time convincing myself to prepare meals for myself much less figure out proper nutrition to do raw feeding. Every now and then, we use wet food for a special treat or if someone needs something that's easier to digest, but the majority of the pups' meals are kibble. Kibble was also essential to introducing Barley and Rye since the bulk of that training involved hand-feeding them side by side, kibble by kibble for weeks.


When I chose a kibble, it was also important for me to have something that was easy to get locally. I chose a food before I'd ever heard of Chewy and all of their awesome options, and the nearest pet store is almost an hour away--and even though I know about Chewy now, as great as Chewy is with their fast shipping, living in a place where there's unpredictable lake effect snow that can delay deliveries or keep us snowed in for a while makes me want something that I can toss in the grocery cart if it looks like we're running a little low on food before a storm.

I did some research and Rachael Ray Nutrish Zero Grain was available at my local store and was higher quality than what I had been feeding Barley. The Nutrish website even points out that part of the company's mission is to make it possible for people to find "great-tasting food made with simple, wholesome ingredients where they shop for their family's groceries." That means that if we're running low between Chewy orders, we can still get our food easily! We've been using the Zero Grain forumla for years and have loved it.

So, when our friends at Chewy.com asked if we'd be interested in doing a 30-day trial of the new Rachael Ray Nutrish formula Peak, I thought it was a good opportunity to talk about a company we really love.

It's taken a long time to get Barley's portion size to a place where she doesn't gain weight, so Rye's our tester for our 30-day trial and if we end up loving it, I'll consider figuring out the math for Barley to make the switch.



Chewy sent us a bag of the Peak Open Range Recipe, which includes beef, venison, and lamb. Usually, we stick to turkey recipes, which Peak also has, because beef recipes tend to be higher calorie meals, but Rye burns calories like crazy, and this recipe isn't significantly higher in calories than our usual recipe.

The ingredients are very similar to the ones in our usual formula. Most importantly, meat is the first ingredient. This formula has beef first, so it meets my number one requirement for any food. There is chicken meal, lamb meal, and fish meal--but there are no by-products.

Nutrish formulas also have several ingredients that are included to provide skin and coat support--in this formula, those include lamb, chicken fat, and flaxseed; every year at Barley's annual vet check up, our vet raves about how great her coat and skin look, so I was happy to see that Peak included those ingredients as well.


I also like that the price is comparable to our regular formula. Feeding my dogs quality food is important to me, but it's also important that I don't break the bank, either.

Another thing that's important to me is that a company gives back to animals in need. A portion of every sale goes to animals in need through Rachael's Rescue. According to the Nutrish website, more than $17.5 million has been donated to help with caring for rescue animals.

For the first few days, we'll be mixing the Peak with the Zero Grain formula to make the transition a little easier on Rye, but check back in about two weeks to see how we're both liking the food!

Disclaimer: Chewy.com provided us with one bag of Rachael Ray Nutrish Peak in exchange for our honest opinion; however, we only share information we think is valuable or interesting to our readers. 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Hashtag Training

Critical Thinking is one of my favorite skills to work on in my writing classes. I love to see my students question the things they read, do unprompted research on subjects, notice tiny details in an image, and break down arguments. A lot of times, though, they don't want to read or they don't have the time to really read as closely as they should and they miss the main point of the reading.

For example, I often assign Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery," which is a deeply disturbing short story. Knowing that most of the class probably didn't read the story, I always have them listen to an audio version of the story and answer questions as they listen in class. When the last line of the story--which is like a punch in the gut--is read, I love to watch their faces to see which ones didn't read the story the night before and it sinks in that this lottery is not one that involves choosing the correct numbers on your Powerball ticket and it is not one anybody really wants to win.

Thanks to the joys of social media, I've learned that there are a lot of people out there who aren't investing much time in critical reading or thinking outside of the classroom, either. Almost any piece of satire shared on Facebook has countless comments from people who took the article seriously. My most favorite example of this, though, comes about thanks to everybody's favorite punctuation--the hashtag.

It's no secret to long time readers of the blog that training is a big part of my life with Barley and Rye. We've spent countless hours doing reactive dog training, agility training, and basic manners training. I also take a lot of pictures of the pets during these sessions (because really what better way is there to practice a stay than to have to pose while I take 10,000 versions of the same picture). I don't use as many hashtags as most people do on Instagram, but occasionally an agility picture will turn out better than expected or we'll reach a reactive dog training goal and I'll add in #training to the post. Like this one:

A photo posted by Beth (@eedevore) on

One day over the summer, I noticed that I was getting a lot of people with fitness-related handles or profile pictures of people lifting weights or doing kickboxing liking my posts and following my account. I was a little confused because the majority of my Instagram posts are books, beers, a sleeping cat, a sleeping dog, a dog with a toy, a dog with a treat--not necessarily things that suggest I spend a lot of time in the gym. But I know that a lot of fit people love dogs, so I just figured they must have needed a break from fitness posts and searched for dog-related posts.

Then I posted this picture.


Someone commented on it with an invitation to try out a Crossfit gym if I was in Arizona because I would find a lot of people just like me. While I try to reply to every comment, I had no response to that. Crossfit is pretty much the last type of physical activity I want to do, so I'm pretty sure that I would find people I had very little in common with there (although I appreciate the invitation--but if I change my mind, I'll check out the gym in the plaza with our agility gym instead of going to AZ).

After a second of confusion, I realized that #training must be the reason all of these healthy people were following me and liking my pictures. I'm relatively certain that particular Instagram user never looked at the picture and certainly didn't read the caption (because as the caption states I'm almost as far from AZ as you can get). It made me wonder how often this happens to other people. These are real accounts with real posts--not just spammers or scams to get more followers--so I wonder if they realize these #training posts aren't exactly what they thought they'd be seeing when they search through them. Every single time it happens, it makes me chuckle, so I hope that these bodybuilders and soul cyclers keep finding us--but I also hope they genuinely like Barley and Rye and aren't just liking any picture with #training because my girls are definitely worth liking!

Have you ever had surprising accounts find your Instagram posts? (On a semi-related note, recently a former contestant from the Bachelor liked one of my dog pictures--that made me laugh, too!)