Monday, October 15, 2018

Soth Tests the OurPets Alpine Climb Cat Scratcher from Chewy.com

Soth has been left out of the #ChewyInfluencer reviewer since he's been put on a strict diet after last year's bladder surgery. Since most of the review items are food items, there aren't many options for him to test out. Until our friends at Chewy.com gave us the opportunity to test out the OurPets Alpine Climb Cat Scratcher.

Rye thinks #ChewyInfluencer reviews are more fun when she gets to do them.

I'd always wanted to try one of these scratchers, but when Soth was sick, he would often pee on cardboard instead of in his litter box, so it seemed like a silly purchase. Now that Soth is healthy again, we could finally try one out.

OurPets offers a few different styles of scratchers, but Soth likes to scratch at an angle, so we went with the Alpine Climb version. The first thing I noticed is that it is some assembly required.


The back of the packaging gave clear instructions and even if it hadn't, the assembly was really easy: open the box, fold in some flaps, and close it like a shoe box. Rye thought that I needed supervision anyway.


Once the base was assembled, all that was left was peeling off the double-sided table, sticking the scratcher to it, and sprinkling some of the catnip that came with it on top.


Soth was skeptical at first. 


And to be honest, so was I. I don't know what I expected, but I wasn't expecting a seemingly flimsy base. Soth is a chunky monkey, so I was not sure that this was going to hold him.

Since Soth wasn't too excited about climbing onto the scratcher, I decided we'd test out the little hole in the bottom. I tossed a hair tie inside and that did the trick. Soth was sold on the scratcher.


It wasn't long before he was jumping on it and tossing hair ties on it and in it all by himself.


The one thing I haven't seen Soth do much of is actually scratch on this. We've had this out for the last week and he's regularly lounging on it.




I've only caught him in action once, but from the look of the scratching pad, he's been using it quite a bit.


Now that he's had a few days to get used to the scratcher, Soth really seems to like this product. There's really only one complaint that I have--if I don't have it pushed up against the wall where it butts up against the air vent, it slides across the floor. That's a small thing, though, compared to how much time Soth spends relaxing on the scratcher.

Another feature I really like is that the scratcher part is reversible, so you can take it out and switch it to a brand new side. Since Soth only seems to be scratching at the top, I think I could probably take it out, switch the top side around so the unused bottom part is at the top and we'll get lots of use out of the scratcher. These scratchers are reasonably priced, too, so when the whole scratcher gets used up, it will be easy to replace. We might even try one of the other styles, too!

Disclaimer: We received one OurPets Alpine Climb Cat Scratcher from Chewy.com as part of the #ChewyInfluencer program in exchange for our honest review. 

Monday, October 1, 2018

Does my Dog Really Need to go for Walks?

When Barley and I first started our reactive dog training, the first thing our trainer told us was that we shouldn't go for a walk for two weeks. I was skeptical. I had a 1.5-year-old border collie mix living in an apartment. We didn't have a fenced in yard where we could play and burn off energy. We were not going to survive two weeks without a walk.


Our trainer told me to trust the process and give it a chance. She wanted Barley to learn to focus on me and to start learning to relax instead of always being on high alert. She explained that those goals would take much longer to achieve if I was exposing Barley to distractions on walks before she had a strong foundation in low-stress environments. She assured me that if I was working Barley's brain, she wouldn't miss the physical exercise as much. I decided to believe her, and I'm so glad that I did.

We immediately got started on mental exercise. We spent most of our time working on the It's Your Choice Game and seeing just how many treats we could get stacked on Barley's front legs. We also spent a lot of time on the one-hour down game. We didn't go for a single walk and the apartment didn't come crashing down around us.


Barley's too smart for her own good, so she caught on to these games really quickly, but our trainer told us to start playing them in areas with more distractions instead of going on walks before the two-week period was up. We played in the backyard where there were neighbors, squirrels, and traffic going by. I was on summer vacation, so we were able to do many short training sessions every single day.

When our two weeks were up, we went back to our trainer and she was impressed with all of the progress we'd made. At our first session, we'd spent a long time waiting for Barley to choose to lie down and she'd never really turned her hips to put herself into a relaxed position. She was ready to pop up and go at any moment. In our next session, Barley settled immediately and by the end of the lesson she was relaxing on the floor while I chatted with our trainer.

We were told that we could start going for short walks. At that point, I wasn't tracking our mileage and assumed we were walking many miles every day--but our longest walking route at that point was probably 1.5 miles and all of our walks immediately after starting training were shorter than that. We wanted to make sure that Barley had success on her walks, so we limited the amount of time she spent being exposed to distractions. We introduced the "What's That?" command to help Barley learn to look at her triggers and then look back at me without having a meltdown. The goal of our walks wasn't to get great physical exercise; instead, we were trying to get more mental exercise by upping the level of distractions Barley was exposed to.

Because she already had a strong foundation in focusing on me and staying relaxed at home and in the yard, Barley did great on our walks. When I said, "What's that," she immediately turned to look for me because I'd built so much value for paying attention to me during our two-week training period. I doubt she would have caught on to that command as quickly if we wouldn't have put in so much work to build a strong foundation before introducing bigger distractions.

Because of that strong foundation, I feel confident taking Barley anywhere that I know there won't be loose dogs running around as long as she can be on a leash at my side. When Barley's on her leash, she knows she's working and she pays close attention to me for cues on what we're doing next. She's perfectly content to settle in next to the table at a brewery. She's capable of walking in a city where there's a lot of traffic, cyclists, walkers, and other distractions. She can stay focused on me if deer bound across a trail a few feet ahead of us. She's unfazed by horses coming down the trail or kids riding bikes and skateboards. She knows that if she sees something weird or concerning, she needs to look at me for direction.


Walking is such an integral part of daily lives now--we average 3.3 miles a day--that it's hard to imagine not walking with my dogs. But my early months with Barley taught me that walking isn't necessary. Mental exercise wore Barley out more than physical exercise ever has. When I can combine the two, life is even better--but the best thing I've ever done for Barley's training was trusting our trainer and taking that time off from walking. With National Walk Your Dog Week occurring this month, there are lots of great reasons to walk your dog--but there are plenty of reasons not to walk your dog, too, so make the choice that's best for your dog's physical and mental health. Sometimes that means staying home.


This month, our theme for the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop is Training and Exercise, but we welcome all positive training posts. Be sure to check out our co-hosts Wag 'n Woof Pets and Tenacious Little Terrier as well as all of the other great blogs joining us this week. 

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Saturday, September 29, 2018

Exploring for Snacks from Chewy.com

Recently, I found a little backpack for Rye and I couldn't wait to try it out. I wasn't sure what Rye would think about wearing a pack and I didn't want to weigh her down too much the first time she tried it out, so I spent some time thinking about what to put in there. Then I realized the pockets were the perfect size to fit the bag of PetKind Lamb Tripe treats we'd gotten from Chewy.com. Every good adventure scout needs a good trail snack, so we thought these would be a great item for our first outing with our pack.


While the treats were soft, jerky-like strips, there was one line on the packaging that made me skeptical about them. The front of the package says the treats have a "friendly smell," and I know from all of the treats we've tried that the grosser the treats smell, the more the dogs like them--a friendly smell didn't sound like something they'd be as excited about.


And I was right. Rye and I went on an adventure on one of my favorite trails after a barn hunt lesson, but Rye is very jumpy in nature. To keep her calm and focused, we need high quality treats that get her attention. Treats need to be more exciting than squirrels and chipmunks and tasty enough to keep her from thinking about people she can hear but not see when we're on a trail. The PetKind Lamb Tripe treats were not interesting enough to get Rye's attention. She wouldn't turn to look at me when I called her name and unless I stopped her and stuck the treat in front of her nose, she didn't show any interest in the treats.


This was a bit of a bummer because otherwise these treats are perfect. They were easy to break up into smaller pieces and the bag had a lot of big pieces inside, so they were just what I look for when it's time to choose a treat for training. Barley thought they were excellent, though, so she was happy to finish off the bag for us.

Since Rye wasn't crazy about these, I probably won't be purchasing these again just because it's easier to have treats that everyone will eat when I'm walking both dogs. If you live in a multi-pet home, the bag does point out that these are appropriate for dogs and cats. Soth couldn't try them out because of his dietary restrictions, but if I had a normal cat that could eat any protein, that would definitely have been another selling point for these treats, too. Overall, I like the treats, but I'm not the one that has to eat them, so I have to go with Rye's review on these.

Disclaimer: We were given one bag of PetKind Lamb Tripe treats in exchange for our honest review as part of the #ChewyInfluencer program through Chewy.com

Friday, September 28, 2018

Sniffing Out Snacks from Chewy.com

Ever since our scent league ended, Barley has been looking for new opportunities to use her sniffer. Usually, she finds an odor in a box, but this time she found something even better: Stella & Chewy's Wild Weenies. Everyone knows that the best things come in Chewy.com boxes, so Barley knew she'd love what she found in this box.


Right off the bat, I was excited by these. I'm such a sucker for cute packaging and when I went to open the package, I saw that instead of just having a little "tear here" notch, these have a little bone shaped pull over the seal.


Barley was also excited as soon as we opened the package. The Wild Weenies are about the size of a little smokey breakfast sausage and they're all meat, so Barley couldn't wait to dive into them. In fact, they were so appealing to her that when we tried to use them for rewards for finding actual scents, Barley started alerting at every single box in hopes that she'd get one.


If we were judging these just by packaging and the dogs' reactions to these, we'd give them 5 stars. But there were a couple things I didn't love about these treats. First, while they were relatively easy to break up into smaller pieces, they were very crumbly. At home, that's not such a big deal but it automatically disqualifies them from being treats that we can use in class because we can't use anything that's going to leave a trail of crumbs on the floor while we're training. 


The second problem I have with these is the fat content. The minimum crude fat content is 37.0%. I'd honestly never looked at that with treats before--we've always been pretty good at adjusting food based on how many rewards the dogs are getting with training and Barley's a tank, so we'd never had any problems. Unfortunately, though, Rye and I have been working through some training issues, which has required more high value treats than usual, and last week she ended up at the vet with pancreatitis because her pancreas was inflamed and not able to function properly. The vet suspected this was from eating too rich of a diet. To be clear, these treats were not responsible for Rye's pancreatitis, but the high fat content of the treats when combined with all of the string cheese and other high value treats probably contributed to the problem. The vet recommended we stick to foods closer to 10% when it comes to fat. 


For that reason, Barley will get to finish off the rest of the bag since she has a stomach of steel and we won't be getting any more of these treats in the future. I'm sure both of the girls will be sad about that and if there are other Stella & Chewy's options that have a lower fat content, we'd totally buy their products in the future, but these just aren't the right fit for our training needs or for Rye's health needs. 

Disclaimer: We were provided with one bag of Stella and Chewy's Wild Weenie treats from Chewy.com as part of the #ChewyInfluencer program in exchange for our honest review.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Welcome to Purgatory

When we first starting competing in AKC agility, we ran into one of our old classmates who had just moved up to Open--the second level--with her dog. She mentioned that everyone told her that Open was also referred to as purgatory because people spent so much time working on getting their three qualifying runs. We laughed about it and I went back to racking up successes in Novice--the first level--with Rye.

It didn't take Rye long to move up to to Open and I was sure we'd be in Excellent--the third level--in no time. It didn't take me long to realize that we had officially entered Purgatory.


We moved up to Open in the Jumpers with Weaves class the first weekend in June. Since then, we've run 9 AKC Jumpers courses at the Open level--and we have yet to qualify once! 

We've been running some beautiful courses, though. As you move up from one level to the next, you're allowed fewer faults. In Novice Jumpers courses, we could get two refusals--where the dog goes past the obstacle and you have to bring them back to take it. We had some clean Novice runs, but Rye also jumps really big and sometimes we needed those two refusals to qualify. 

In Open, you only get one refusal. Now, we're trapped in this two refusal purgatory where on all but one of our 9 courses, we've earned two refusals. In the one course where we didn't have any refusals, Rye dropped a bar, which is an automatic NQ. 

This past weekend, we finally seemed like we were on the same page. She was responsive and collecting well. We also had the kinds of courses that Rye lives for--big flowy courses that have beautiful arcs of jumps where she can run full speed ahead. She didn't go past a single jump, but we still got two refusals thanks to our new nemesis: the weaves.


Rye is a beautiful weaver. But lately she's been struggling with the weaves. Sometimes she struggles with the entrance and that causes mini meltdowns on the course. Rye doesn't like to be wrong. She's eager to please and she really truly wants to do what I want her to do, so when she misses the entrance and I pull her back around to start over (you get three tries--even though if it takes you more than two tries, you get two refusals), she usually starts barking in frustration and sometimes pounces on me. That makes it hard to get a clean entrance the second time. Other times, she enters the weaves beautifully, but pulls out close to the end--usually around pole 10 of 12--and that makes her equally frustrated when we have to start over.

This weekend, she wasn't having quite as much of a meltdown when we'd start over--but it still took all three tries to get the weaves on our first Jumpers course of the weekend. She also wanted to make up her own course, but I was so proud of how she came when I called and got back on track.


Our second Jumpers course of the weekend was even more beautiful. The judge even told us during the briefing that he liked to design flowy courses because he likes to see dogs in extension and having fun. (Yes, I will be signing up for any trial where I see his name on the premium as the judge!) Rye and I were really clicking. In the one spot with some tight turns, she read my cues perfectly and I couldn't have been more proud. But we also took three tries at the weaves.


Rye had the time of her life even though we didn't qualify. To be honest, this weekend, I was having the time of my life, too. I've probably watched each run at least 5 times just admiring the way we were moving together. 

We also spent lots of time connecting in the park across the street.

At the last trial, our judge gave all of the Open teams a pep talk during our briefing. She pointed out that Novice is where your dog is learning the game. Open is where you're learning how to run the dog you have. Excellent and Master's are where you're really a team. She told us to cherish our time in Open because that's where some of the best memories and stories are created. She also mentioned that it took years for her to get out of Open with her own dog (and we know several other people who have taken 2 years or more to get their 3 Qs!). 

Each time Rye and I go out on a course, it seems like we're more connected than we were the last time. I'm learning to anticipate her moves and she's learning to read mine. 

We still have a few moments when we don't communicate well or she gets a little wound up and forgets some things. Like our first Standard course of the weekend. She ran a beautiful opening sequence and then missed her contact on the dogwalk because she was going so fast and I was way too far behind to reinforce her wait at the end. But she got a challenging tunnel entrance after the dogwalk and did her weaves perfectly. She also got a little wound up on the table and pounced on me after bouncing off the table once. The judge was chuckling so much that I could hardly make out the numbers in his table countdown to release us to the next obstacle! 


Thankfully, we have had a little bit of success in Open. While we don't have any Jumpers Qs, we do have 2 of the 3 Qs we need for our Standard title. 

The only Q we earned this weekend, though, was in our Novice FAST course. We're really loving FAST--or Fifteen and Send Time--where there's a distance challenge (or send) that you have to complete, but the rest of the course is made up by the handler. The goal is to get a certain number of points--in Novice FAST it's 50 points in addition to completing the send and you qualify. We've only run in FAST four times, and this weekend we got the third Q we needed to move up to Open FAST. The best part of FAST is that the only fault you get is if you fail to get the send when you attempt it--knocked bars, missed contacts, failed weaves aren't a problem. FAST has given us a chance to get a little of the crazy out before moving on to Standard and Jumpers and Rye loves that I can choose the types of lines she enjoys running. This weekend, we ended up with 64 points and could have gotten more because we crossed the finish line with almost 4 seconds to spare, but we had enough to secure our Q and earn first place.


With weekends like this, Purgatory doesn't seem like such a bad place (although I still don't want to stay for long!). Rye was happy and tired even after the hour-long car ride home.


And I bought a shirt to remind myself that this is really all about having fun. It says, "The best handler in the world is the one whose dog is having the most fun" and has a little stick figure dog bouncing around like Rye. (I also had to get a shirt to wear for Barley outings.)


We have one weekend off and then we'll head off to a CPE trial, so I'm hoping that the slightly more lax rules will give us a chance to build even more confidence and be ready for our next AKC trials in October where maybe I can get a belated birthday present and get our first Open Jumpers Q!

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

These Are A Few Of Rye's Favorite Things

Anyone who follows us on Instagram knows that we've been spending an insane amount of time at agility trials since we started competing in March. When we go to a trial, one of the most important things I toss in Rye's agility bag is a variety of high value, easy to break apart treats.

This month, we had back-to-back weekends of agility, so we needed something new to make sure Rye stayed focused on me. Chewy.com had just what we needed: an I and Love and You Nice Jerky Bites Variety Pack. This pack comes with three 4-oz. bags of jerky treats in beef and lamb, chicken and duck, and chicken and salmon flavor. 


When we have multiple flavors of treats, I've always let Barley pick out which flavor she wanted to use for training or to take to class or scent trials. I tried to let Rye decide which flavor she wanted to take along, but she just couldn't decide.


So, I chose. Salmon treats are usually pretty stinky, which makes them especially good for keeping the focus of an energetic little dog, and these were no different. As soon as I opened the bag, I was hit with that strong fishy smell. Rye was immediately interested in what we were going to do.

In addition to being high value, the other most important quality in treats we take to trials is the ability to break them into smaller pieces. We do a lot of focus exercises between runs. Sometimes Rye has to wait as many as 4 hours between runs, so it's important for us to do things during that time that keep her engaged. One of our favorite ways to do that is to make "treat art" and practice Rye's spelling with treats. 


These treats are perfect for that! These treats were soft and easy to break into pieces. I could get each piece into about 6 pieces (and I probably could have made those smaller, but Rye objected to that), so the bags went a long way at the trial. 

Rye really enjoyed these treats--and she wasn't the only one! Barley thought they were swell, too. Any treat that can be broken up easily is great for sticking in our treat pouch for walks. Both dogs have different triggers, but I can't say "what's that?" and give one dog a treat without the other one looking at me expectantly, so I need treats that can easily become multiple treats. 


The one thing I didn't love about the I And Love And You Nice Jerky variety pack was that two of the flavors contain chicken. I usually avoid anything with chicken in it just because there have been so many problems with chicken jerky treats. I And Love And You knows that people worry, though, and their bag advertises plainly that there's nothing scary in these treats. 


I did a little digging on their website and in the FAQ section, they point out that they don't source any of their proteins, fruits, veggies, or other major ingredients from China. They do acknowledge that some vitamins are only available from China, so their cat food blends use a small amount of Taurine that may be sourced from China. There are no vitamin mixes in these treats, though. It's all meat, brown sugar, natural hickory smoke flavor, and natural preservatives, so I felt ok about feeding these to the dogs. I'd feel even better if the chicken was eliminated completely and I did limit the number of treats I used per day when we were using the chicken varieties just in case. 

Overall, these treats are really nice! The dogs loved the flavors and they were perfect for my needs with training. You can also order individual packages of the Nice Jerky Bites on Chewy, so I will probably just order the Beef and Lamb bites since those are the proteins I'm most comfortable giving the girls. They'll be very excited when they see another bag showing up in our next Chewy order!

Disclaimer: We were sent an I and Love and You Nice Jerky Bites variety pack in exchange for our honest opinion as part of the #ChewyInfluencer program.

Monday, August 27, 2018

What We Do For Love

It's no secret that Soth is my heart. He's the first pet of my adult life. He was by my side during my first post-grad school job. He moved across the country with me. He was with me when I bought my house. He's been there for all of the biggest moments of my adult life.

It's also no secret that loving him isn't easy. We spent years trying to get his FLUTD under control--and as a result, we spent hours every month deep cleaning carpets and we saw the wonderful staff at our vet's office more than we saw our family.

But I love him. And when you love someone, you do things you might not normally do.

Like sacrifice some of the containers for your herb garden for catnip plants because that makes him happier than anything else you've ever done for him.


Or stay snuggled up on the couch under a blanket even though you have a lot of work to get done because you don't want to disturb him.


Or scribble out algebra equations and do conversions of decimals into fractions even though when you got your AP Calculus results and learned you didn't have to take math in college you vowed you'd never do math again.


But that's just what I found myself doing early last week. Soth had his 10-month post-cystotomy evaluation on Tuesday. He's been on potassium citrate since his 4-month evaluation, which has gotten his pH levels exactly where we want them for the last two check ups. We've been getting the potassium citrate from our local Wal-Mart pharmacy, but it's expensive and it comes in a pill form that I have to crush every day to mix into Soth's food because that's the only way he'll take it. It's also expensive. I got proof that the internet stalks me when I saw an ad for a potassium citrate powder with cranberry on Chewy.com. It's about 1/3 of the price of the pill form, so I printed the details to take to our 10-month appointment to see if our vet thought it would be a good option for Soth. After she did a little research, she said we could try it--but the dosage in the serving size of the powder is different from the pill, which meant I had to do math. The powder comes with a 5 gram scoop, which contains 300 mg of potassium citrate. Soth needs 540 mg, so I had to set up some little equations to figure out how many grams of powder he needed to get that dosage. Then I did some more math to figure out how many scoops that would be--and then I promptly found a sliding measuring scoop that will allow to me measure anything from .5 grams to 13 grams so that I can avoid ever doing math for this again!

I guess it's ok, though, because Soth does a lot of things out of love for me, too.

Like pose for pictures to tweet to the Pittsburgh Pirates announcers every single Pup Night.

Cats like Pirates, too.