Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Falling for Pumpkin Pour Overs

Since Rye has been battling pancreatitis for the last month or so, we've had to get a lot more selective about the food and snacks that come into the house. Thankfully, our friends at Chewy.com have lots of options to keep Rye from getting bored with her new low-fat diet. This month, we got the chance to try the new Pumpkin Pour Overs from The Honest Kitchen.

The hardest part of reviewing these pour overs was choosing which flavor to try! There are three different categories of pour overs: pumpkin, bone broth and superfood and each of those categories has different flavors like turkey, salmon, chicken, and beef. We chose the Turkey and Pumpkin Stew variety because that seemed like the perfect fall flavor.

I wasn't really sure what to expect from the pour overs before the arrived, but they arrived in a case of 12 5.5-oz boxes of stew. Usually, the packing of Honest Kitchen products has thorough instructions and detailed descriptions, but I was surprised to find that these packages were lacking some information. As usual, they listed all of the great ingredients from turkey and pumpkin to apples and butternut squash, but there weren't really clear instructions on how much to feed your dog. The feeding suggestions say that the box is about 2 servings depending on the size of your dog, but they don't give details about how many servings a dog should have a day or what size dog they had in mind for the serving size. 

The packaging suggests pouring the pour overs over the dog's food. We've used that method several times. There are still a few days when Rye doesn't want to eat and some days she'll wait until I come home at lunch before she shows any interest in eating her breakfast, but most days, if I pour a little of the pour overs on her breakfast, she'll eat it.

The dogs' favorite method, though, is freezing the pour overs so they can have them as a snack while I grade. 

The stew is pretty thin--much runnier than canned pumpkin--so it lives up to its name and is easy to pour over or into anything! There are also some chunks of turkey and apples that are easily visible in the stew, which is one of my favorite parts of any Honest Kitchen product--you always know what your dog is eating.

Because the stew is so thin, though, it's not perfect for all of our snacking needs. Sometimes I like to give the girls a stuffed snack and when they saw that I was pouring some of the pumpkin pour overs into their tuxes to put the in the freezer, they immediately wanted to have some right then and there, so I poured a bit into another one of their feeder toys.

Rye was so excited to get her pumpkin pour over snack that she couldn't even wait for me to hand it to her. She stole it while I was putting the leftovers in the fridge!

In the process, she splashed pour overs all over the kitchen floor and the living room carpet. Thankfully, Rye, Barley, and Soth were happy to help with the clean up and there's no evidence of the mess on the carpet. If you still live in a world where you can have nice things, I wouldn't recommend serving this in a way other than in a bowl or frozen. Thankfully, we departed the planet of nice things years ago, so we were able to laugh about this and decide to try other methods in the future. 

Rye likes the frozen method just as much as the room temperature version.

A lot of Honest Kitchen products say that they're for cats and dogs, but this one just lists dogs on the packaging. That didn't stop Soth from giving it a shot, though, and he loved it. I have never been able to get Soth to eat pumpkin before--and when he was having digestive issues, we tried many times. As soon as I opened the package, Soth was sitting right by the girls begging for a bite. Since the ingredients didn't seem to have anything that a cat couldn't have, I've let him have about a teaspoon or so of the stew every time I've prepared snacks for the girls.

All three pets love this! If I have any complaints, it's that the packaging is a little hard for me to open. You have to lift the side flaps and then tear off the perforated tab to open the package and I've struggled with tearing that piece off every time. Once it's open, though, it's really easy to close the box securely and store it. The leftovers can be refrigerated for up to three days. My pets aren't letting any of it sit around that long, though. The packages are recyclable and even after they've been completely rinsed, Rye is still trying to pull them out of the recycling bin. 

These pour overs have been great fall snacks that all three of my loves, even the pickiest of them, can't get enough of. Once again, the Honest Kitchen has given us a great product that I feel good about feeding my pets and the pets feel very good about gobbling up. 

Disclaimer: We were given one case of Honest Kitchen Pumpkin Pour Overs in exchange for our honest review as part of the #ChewyInfluencer program. 

Monday, October 22, 2018

An Excellent Dog

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how Rye and I had been trapped in purgatory--or the second level of AKC agility, Open.

Two weekends ago, we partially escaped our purgatory. We earned our Open Standard Title on our first Standard run of the weekend.

I was a little nervous going into our run because Rye had had a meltdown when I took her out of her crate. The trial was in a wellness center where the staff does a great job keeping the floors clean by running large brooms over the floor several times throughout the day. Rye has seen this happening without any reactions, so I didn't think anything of it when I went to take her out of her crate for our run and there was a man sweeping in the corner near our crate.

Rye definitely thought something of it, though. Usually, I take her out of her crate, let her stretch, and then grab our treats so that we've got snacks while we wait for our turn and have the really good rewards waiting on the bleachers by the exit gate. When I did that this time, Rye lost her mind. Her hair raised and she bounced and barked and wanted to chase that man out of our corner. He, of course, was oblivious to her distress and kept going over the area again and again.

The only way to calm Rye down was to pick her up and carry her away. We went several feet away and talked to one of our former classmates while keeping our fingers crossed that the man would move on in time for us to grab Rye's chicken.

Rye was still agitated while we waited for our turn at the gate, but we played some focus games and it seemed like she was going to be willing to work with me. Then we had the prettiest run we've ever had--minus a table fault when Rye bounced off of the table for a second.

The only effect the broom guy seemed to have on Rye was making her suspicious of the judge. Rye can be weird with men and once she got on the table, she kept looking at the judge and then looking back at me and barking. But our table fault was the only fault we got, so we got our third Standard Q for our Open Standard title and were able to move up to the next level, Excellent.

The next day was bonkers after we moved up. Our first run was our first Open FAST course. I've mentioned before that I love fast because it's a good warm up for Rye. Her first run is always a little wild, so having one where there are only 2-3 obstacles that you have to do in sequence is always nice. She can get a little energy out and I can predict more of what she'll need from me in future runs that day. 

For this course, we had to go over a jump and then send to the far side of a tunnel without me crossing the line on the floor. We'd watched several of the Masters and Excellent level dogs miss the correct side of the tunnel, but I felt really confident in my plan. I knew what line I needed to set for Rye to go to that side of the tunnel and I stuck to my plan. We missed a couple jumps that I'd planned because I didn't set clear lines, so I knew to pay attention to that later in the day. We also had the same judge we'd had for the Standard run the day before and at the end, he was a bit in the way when Rye came out of the send challenge and she was not happy to see him. I was actually a little nervous that she might nip him! But she did a great job coming back to me and we just went straight to the finish line before she had a chance to get distracted again. We ended up with 72 points and only needed 55, so we got our first Open FAST Q.

About an hour later, we were running our first Excellent Standard course. Once you move to Excellent, you're only allowed time faults (which I can't imagine ever being an issue for my speed demon!). The second obstacle was the weaves and this was a day Rye was not feeling the weaves. She missed the entrance on our first try, which meant we got a refusal and already hadn't Q'd by the second obstacle. That meant we could go into training mode. We missed a couple other obstacles, but she got her contacts and stayed on the table. I'd watched the areas that had given the taller dogs problems and come up with a plan to help Rye in those spots and I couldn't be more proud of our first Excellent run.

We were the fifth 16-inch dog to run Excellent Standard and as soon as we crossed the finish line, the briefing for the Open Jumpers course was starting in the other ring! I ran back to our crate and got to the ring just as the briefing was ending and the walk-thru was starting. The course was big and flowy--exactly the kind of course Rye loves--but I set terrible lines from the very beginning (I'm blaming the lack of oxygen to my brain after all of that running!) and Rye took the wrong end of a tunnel twice and we didn't Q on that course, either. She did do exactly what I asked her to do, though, and she did the weaves like a champ, so this one was all on me.

We have finally had some success in Open Jumpers, though. Earlier this month, we got our first Open Jumpers Q! Once again, Rye did such a good job of listening. For some reason even though I don't even take Rye's leash off until I see that the dog before us has its leash clipped on, the dog before us was still on the course after we went over the 4th jump. Rye wasn't entirely sure what to think about that and thought about going to check it out, but she came back when I called her and even though we missed the weave entrance, she got right back on track and finished the course strong.

This weekend, we got our second Open Jumpers Q when we went to another new location.

Rye didn't know what to think of this large cat in the lobby of the trial site!

Of course, we didn't ask anyone to video us since our normal group of classmates and friends weren't at this trial, so we didn't get it on film, but she was such a good little girl! This judge had some challenging courses with lots of opportunities for off-course jumps and Rye sometimes thinks the judges make the courses too short and wants to add on to them. We usually do best on wide open flowy courses, and this course made us change directions almost every 2 obstacles, so I had to be really clear with my cues and let Rye know where we were going in plenty of time.

We're really starting to feel like a team. Every weekend we go to a trial, Rye pays more attention to me and I'm learning more of how to communicate with her. Running courses with Rye is some of the most fun I've ever had--even when things don't turn out perfectly. It's hard to believe she's only been doing this for seven months! We're taking the next month off from trials--mostly because our usual locations don't have any, but also because Barley's entered in a C-WAGS scent trial one weekend and I just need a some time at home to do laundry and deep clean the carpets and sit on the couch. Our next trial will be our first time doing all three days of a trial because it will be Rye's adoption weekend and I couldn't think of any better way to celebrate two years together than by spending all weekend doing what Rye loves best. 

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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