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Archive for August, 2009

Tributes to Senator Ted Kennedy, Dog Lover

August 27th, 2009 1 comment

Senator Edward Kennedy passed away August 25, and many eulogies are being offered for his public service by people on all sides of the current political debates.  But some people are remembering Senator Kennedy for his legendary love for dogs.

Author Christy Keith at Pet Connection has a lovely tribute to the late senator in which she describes his devotion to his dog Splash – a devotion all true dog lovers will recognize in themselves.

In the National Journal Online, Senator Judd Gregg recalls spending hours negotiating with Senator Kennedy on policy matters in Kennedy’s office.  And Senator Kennedy’s dog Splash would always be there, locked away with the lawmakers as they debated the issues.

A Seattle Times piece recalls Senator Kennedy’s final days, including his “sacred” morning ritual that included “scratching the bellies of his beloved Portuguese water dogs, Sunny and Splash.”

The Los Angeles Times notes that Senator Kennedy is remembered by many as a dog lover and an animal advocate, stating that the senator was influential in passing animal welfare legislation, including laws aimed at preventing dogfighting and cockfighting and legislation that protected farm animals.

Senator Kennedy penned the children’s book “My Senator and Me:  A Dog’s Eye View of Washington, D.C.” which the Times calls “an introduction to the political process aimed at elementary-aged kids” told from the viewpoint of Splash.

And of course, Senator Kennedy recently gave us our new First Dog of the United States when he presented Bo, a Portuguese water dog, to President Obama and his family as a gift.

The Los Angeles Times piece sums it up very well:

Say what you will about Sen. Ted Kennedy — he certainly had his share of faults — but the man sure did love animals.  We’re thinking today not just of the human family he left behind, but also of Sunny and Splash, who we’re sure are among those who will grieve the most for their master.

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Categories: Dogs in the News

Tough Dog Toys: Finding a Durable Dog Toy is Challenging

August 26th, 2009 6 comments
Picking Dog Toys that are Tough Enough can be a Challenge

Picking Dog Toys that are Tough Enough can be a Challenge

Finding dog toys that can stand up to a couple of rowdy, toothy dogs can be difficult.  Many toys that are advertised as tough, indestructible or durable fail to live up to the billing.  Other toys that appear too flimsy to survive the chompers of our two mutts end up lasting a long time.

Why Bother with Dog Toys?

It is important for dogs to have a number of fun and distracting chew toys around.  Chew toys serve several functions.

  • Some types of chew toys can help keep your dog’s teeth clean and her breath fresh.
  • Chew toys can help get a puppy through the uncomfortable teething stage.
  • Chew toys can be very entertaining, giving your dog an excuse to run and tug and chase.
  • And if you don’t want the legs on your dining chairs to sport teeth marks, you might want to keep a handful of chew toys around just to keep your furry friend amused.

How to Choose Tough Dog Toys

Some dogs are harder on dog toys than others.  Our two young Lab mix dogs are about as rough on dog toys as any dogs can possibly be.  When they play together with a toy, it is usually a fierce fight-to-the-death (of the toy, that is) game of tug o’ war.

When they play individually with any given chew toy, they both tend to fixate on finding a weak spot and tearing the toy to pieces.  It simply does not occur to dogs to think of a toy as a keepsake, or as something too cute and expensive to demolish.  For example, of the five toys we gave Frankie for Christmas, only one – a soft rubber football – survived to the end of the day.

So, through trial and error, we have learned a thing or two about choosing durable dog toys.

There are no Indestructible Dog Toys

The first rule to keep in mind is that there are no indestructible dog toys.  No dog toy lasts forever, particularly if a dog actually plays with it.  All toys wear out or come apart or break.  That is why dogs should be carefully supervised while playing with any toy.  Dog chew toys often come apart or fray during play.  You don’t want your dog swallowing pieces of any dog toy because the pieces might not pass easily through his digestive tract.  This applies to toys made from any material, natural or synthetic.

For Rough Customers, Dog Toys with Rounded Edges Fare Best

It has been our experience that dogs who tend to fixate on destroying a dog toy will focus on finding a weak spot in the material.  For Frankie and Lucy, the weakest spots tend to be angled edges.  This is especially true for rubber dog toys, whether they’re made of soft or hard rubber.

We bought Frankie a rubber dog toy shaped like the classic comedy prop, the rubber chicken.  He loved it, carrying it everywhere around the house the night we brought it home.  By the next morning, Frankie had relieved the poor rubber chicken of its beak.  The beak was an angular appendage, so to speak.  It gave him something to grab hold of and tug with his teeth.  And it didn’t hold up very well.

For rubber dog toys, we have found that some of the most durable products are manufactured by JW Pet Company.  Their toys are made from pliable, natural rubber, which tends to hold up better than hard rubber or plastic.  The soft rubber football that survived Christmas is a product of the JW Pet Company.  Their products are available all over the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and elsewhere.

A couple of caveats are in order, though.  Many of the toys manufactured by JW Pet Company have squeakers inside.  The squeakers do not seem to last very long at all.  But that is not necessarily a bad thing, for the humans anyway.

The other caveat is that JW Pet Company does make several toys with angled edges.  One example is the Ruffians Large Dog Toy™ shaped like an octopus.  The little octopus arms provide a perfect weak spot for pulling the toy apart.

Aspen Pet Products makes the Dogzilla® line of rubber chew toys.  These toys may or may not be very durable for dogs that are tough on their toys.  For some reason, our dogs are just not very interested in these toys.

We have had mixed luck with Kong­® products.  The Classic Kong™ holds up quite well as a treat dispenser and chew toy.  However, Frankie figured out very quickly how to best the Wubba™.  All it takes is a few minutes of relentless chewing on the fabric covering the small ball on top, and that toy is destroyed.

Fabric Dog Toys

The rounded edges rule applies to fabric dog toys as well.  We’ve had mixed luck with toys made by Fat Cats, Inc.  Some of the stuffed animals have been known to last only 20 minutes before the fabric is ripped and the stuffing is everywhere.  The tossing rings (e.g., Chuck-A-Duck™) are fine for playing fetch games with the dogs.  But they won’t last long if the dogs are left to play with them on their own.

Rope Dog Toys

Rope toys are wonderful for cleaning and flossing a dog’s teeth.  Some rope toys are treated with fluoride or baking soda to make them even more effective as a dental aid.  Rope dog toys also provide hours of tugging fun for the dogs.  Aspen Pet Products makes a spearmint flavored Fresh ‘N Floss™ rope toy for large dogs that is quite durable.

Trial and Error

Finding the right dog toy is a matter of experimentation.  Our dogs are large and very rough on any kind of dog toy.  Smaller dogs, or dogs that are less destructive with toys may do just fine with stuffed toys or toys with angled edges.  Such toys do not stand a chance with our toothy beasts, though.  And at an average of $15 to $20 per toy, the toys we buy need to last longer than a few hours or a few days.

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Help for Dogs with Itchy, Sensitive Skin

August 20th, 2009 7 comments

Some Dog Breeds are Prone to Skin Sensitivities

Some Dog Breeds are Prone to Skin Sensitivities

Some dog breeds just seem to have sensitive skin.  All breeds of dogs (including mutts) can have skin problems.  But Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, and some breeds of hairless dogs are particularly known for skin problems, including hot spots, allergic reactions and eczema.

A friend recently told me about problems her otherwise healthy Scottish Terrier has developed.  Poor Scottie is scratching all the time and has developed patches of dry skin and “doggie dandruff.”

It turns out, these problems arose immediately after Scottie’s most recent grooming and hair cut.  It seems my friend took Scottie to a different groomer this time, and she could not be sure what products they used for Scottie’s grooming.

Skin Problems Resulting from a Reaction to Grooming Products

It could be that Scottie has experienced a bad reaction to the shampoo the groomer used.  Unless you specifically ask for something different, groomers often use soap-based shampoos.  These tend to irritate the skin of dogs that are prone to skin sensitivities.

Being a Labrador Retriever mix, Frankie has had his share of skin problems similar to the ones Scottie is experiencing.  He would get dry, scaly patches on his skin that he would scratch.  With all the scratching, he often had the “doggie dandruff” as well.  Even when those symptoms were not obvious, he would sometimes flinch when we tried to brush certain areas on his back.  It was clear that something was irritating Frankie’s skin and causing him a lot of discomfort.

Hypo-Allergenic Dog Grooming Products are Best

Our veterinarian recommended we avoid any soap or detergent based shampoos and use only hypo-allergenic products on Frankie’s skin and coat.  We switched to an oatmeal-based shampoo containing fatty acids.  We follow that up with a skin and coat conditioner containing colloidal oatmeal.  We avoid bathing Frankie unless he really needs a bath – usually every other week.  And on those rare occasions when Frankie visits a grooming salon, we specify an oatmeal-based shampoo and conditioner.

For regular baths, we use GlenHaven brand products, which are available only through Banfield Pet Hospitals; however, there are many other soap-free dog shampoos and conditioners on the market.  In addition to soap, it is also a good idea to avoid grooming products that contain added colors and fragrances.

The changes we have made in grooming products have gone a long way toward giving Frankie relief from itchy, scaly skin.  He has been free of the “doggie dandruff” since we stopped using soap-based shampoo, and he never flinches or otherwise shows signs of pain or irritation during brushing any more.

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Categories: Dog Health

More Commentary on Michael Vick

August 17th, 2009 1 comment

The hilarious dog blog, Life With Dogs, has a commentary on Michael Vick’s 60 Minutes interview with James Brown over the weekend.  We at Frankie the Law Dog couldn’t agree more with their assessment.

Meanwhile, Sports Illustrated is reporting that James Brown has one regret about an unasked question during the interview.  Vick indicated that he “allowed” things to happen to the dogs.  Brown regrets that he did not follow up on that with additional questions, seeing as how Vick actually killed dogs with his own hands.

Suggesting that he “allowed” things to “happen” to the dogs is a cop-out and not an acknowledgment of responsibility.  It certainly is not an indication of remorse.  Apparently, Vick is still reluctant to fully acknowledge that he personally – with his own hands – tortured, maimed and killed dogs.

Mason Lerner of thefastertimes.com says he believes (or wants to believe – Lerner admits he’s skeptical) that Vick’s statement “I could have put a stop to it” amounts to putting “all the blame squarely where it belongs.”  In other words, Lerner believes that statement is a full acknowledgment of responsibility.

Judge for yourself.  The entire interview is embedded into the article.

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Categories: Dogs in the News, Opinion