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product review: Kong Quest – Wishbone

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Border Collie product tester, hard at work.

So, ages ago, my friend Amanda over at Pawsitive Aussies showed me these new Kong products. They looked neat, and I found them in the store some time after but didn’t buy them as they looked too easy for my dogs to figure out. Amanda posted some photos of her Aussies working on them, and told me what she stuffed them with and so I took the plunge. And let me say, it has exceeded my expectations.

I learnt a few things pretty quickly:

1. Soft balls of meat (like 4 Legs) work well. Or you could do some 4 legs to plug the holes at the end, and kibble in the middle bits. For Loki, stuffing the whole thing with 4 Legs is difficult enough to keep him working at it for 30+ mins, but with enough success that he’ll keep trying. I’m certain you could stuff it with any kind of meat or meatlike substance and freeze it for an even longer-lasting challenge.

2. Lumen is too wiley to be fooled by balls of meat, so I found these dried sausages that are the perfect size for the long straight bits AND fit perfectly in the holes. It took her AN HOUR of working at this thing the other day to get the sausage out, and still couldn’t get it out of one of the holes. HA HA! Considering it takes her about 20 mins to get through a regular peanut-butter-and-biscuit type kong, this was great. Loki finds this too hard and gives up.

3. If you want to put kibble in you definitely need to plug up the end holes or it just falls straight out. Bigger kibble would be better than smaller as it still falls out a bit easily for my guys, unless you get creative.

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“Gah, so hard to get into the nobbly end bits and hindered by overbite!!”

I haven’t tried it with peanut butter yet and I don’t know how much of a challenge it would be, since that’s more about licking – I found if they actually had to try and get something out with their teeth they’d get really stumped.

None of my guys have destroyed it, though Loki has tried gnawing the ends to get the sausage in his more desperate moments of frustration, but they don’t show any signs of damage. That being said, NONE of my guys are strong chewers and have plenty of their original toys left, and don’t tend to destroy stuff. I reckon this rubber is soft enough that if your dog was a strong chewer, they’d get destroyed pretty quickly.

 

"Promise I won't destroy it, see, I'm only licking it"

“Promise I won’t destroy it, see, I’m only licking it”

We’re still learning the optimum way to stuff this for maximum duration but also letting them experience some success so they don’t give up, but it’s certainly got more longevity than I thought it would.

I’d give this product an A.

 

Kong hasn’t given me any of these for free or asked me to write this post so this is really my opinion having spent $20 on the thing then having found out I could buy them with free shipping for $13 on eBay. 

Silvia Trkman’s long distance class: review

I remember when I was considering doing ST’s class, I really wanted to find a review to help me make my decision. I’d found some other blogs that talked about what they’d been working on, but nothing to say how they found the class.

So, I’ll write my own.

Keep in mind the class hasn’t finished yet, that I am who I am (eg. Husband tells me I analyse my videos obsessively, which means I usually solve my own problems or answer my own questions for Silvia) and that I run the dog I run.

Firstly, the pros:

It’s great to be able to get Silvia’s feedback on your videos, suggestions for improvement and idea on where to go next. Of course, this is the main draw-card of the class.

A program to follow to build on skills and exercises that progress you from one thing to the next, while working on things you weren’t aware you were working on (eg. I’d say Lumen’s obstacle focus has improved immensely but I haven’t been ‘focusing’ on obstacle focus, if that makes sense).

If you’re so inclined, heaps of other videos to watch, to see how different people are doing things, how they’re working through training issues, etc. I don’t watch other videos because some of the dogs are so drivey and fast that it makes me sad that Lumen’s not like that, then Husband got grumpy at me for getting sad, so I had to stop watching them.

I can definitely see improvement in Lumen’s speed, obstacle focus, understanding and drive, but of course this comes down to what you do as a handler, too.

Silvia is happy to answer questions on most anything, from the course itself, weaves, seesaw, running contacts, stays, recalls while out walking, how to condition your dog, etc etc.

Now for the cons:

I feel like the class was too busy. Perhaps it needed to be capped at a certain number of people. Which isn’t to say she doesn’t reply to every comment, she does, but I found that particularly at the start when I was really working on Lumen’s wrap speed, that the comment might be “Looks great! Keep doing that!” to which I’d be thinking: well, it doesn’t look great, she’s still slow, and I don’t want to keep doing it if it’s not speeding her up. I felt like I was ‘on my own’ a lot because of this. Part of this problem, as I mentioned above, may have been because I enjoy solving the problems myself, I know how Lu works, and I was trying different things already so she didn’t need to make any suggestions, but I felt a bit like sometimes the feedback was positive, but not helpful. Particularly as a teacher where you’re taught to give useful feedback that will help the student improve. I suppose this is my biggest (and possibly only) con, as it covers so much of how I felt about the course. Sometimes you could get her in a kind of ‘conversation’ to discuss more and more of whatever issue you’re having, but the majority of my feedback was “Looks really cool, keep doing this, and maybe start from further away” or something, and that would be about it. I suppose I was just expecting more. Being so analytical of myself I found this ‘on the surface’ feedback, well… on the surface!

That being said, I might take the course again with Lu next time it runs as I’ve definitely seen improvement and know we have a lot more work to do, and as she gets better and better, our questions should become more and more technical and possibly move beyond my experience to solve them. I think I’ll know what to expect this time in terms of feedback, and will anticipate replies will be helpful when uploading these issues, rather than ‘checking in’ to see how we’re going as I was doing at the start. Then again, having just looked back through all my videos from when we started the class I’m not sure why I felt we were slow because she doesn’t look THAT bad… Maybe it was more of a feeling than what showed up on film. Weird.

Product tester hard at work.

product review: ComfortFlex Sport Harness

Now reviewing a toy this week but something very dear to my heart all the same: harnesses.

Sometimes I hate the internet for all its information, which then turns out to be disappointing or misleading.

About a week ago, against my better judgement, I logged on to CleanRun’s free shipping section, measured Lumen, and clicked ‘buy’ on a ComfortFlex Sport Harness. Now, as you’ll be able to tell from the review, I’m certainly not being sponsored to write this post, and am not affiliated with ComfortFlex or CleanRun in any way.

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I’d read heaps of positive reviews. Only one negative review that complained that although the girth fit the dog, the chest was way too big. Well, your dog is weird, I thought. I’d even read reviews from someone who had very touch-sensitive rescues who were quite happy with this harness. That’s promising!

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it here yet but Lumen is a cat. Her Mum is very flighty when it comes to putting things on her, over her head, etc, and Lumen is exactly the same. And I promise you, this is not through a lack of socialisation as a pup because she loves cuddles and pats, everywhere. But, drape a lead over her back and she’ll crab-walk to avoid it. Put a lead in her path and she can’t bring herself to push under it, and does a big song and dance about going around it. Then, there’s harnesses. Every harness I’ve ever tried on her (bar one, and it’s not this one), results in a frozen, awkward, crab-like dog who walks with a stiff tail and can’t move faster than a weird walk, and won’t play with toys. Not exactly conducive if you want her to be doing full-on running in the harness. So, for whatever reason, I thought maybe this one would be different.

It arrived quickly- a week after I’d ordered, folded up in a little parcel. I opened it and it felt a bit stiff. I did some clicker training with Lu, getting her to nose-touch the harness, and then gradually to put her head through the head hole. The hole was generous, meaning that, amazingly, she was actually happy to stick her head through. As always, she baulked a little the moment it sat on her back, but she was ok with it.

I did the harness up, and she seemed ok. Once we’d played around with it initially like this, I did it up – the medium size girth was too big for her, despite her having a 24 inch girth, which falls into the medium size I bought- as she’s only 7 months old, I didn’t want to order the next size down incase she still had filling out to do, since the maximum size of the Small/Medium was 25 inches. So, I couldn’t really do up the girth tight enough and also do the buckle up… it was either velcro by itself and tight enough, or too loose with the buckle. Hmm. Also, the chest strap was huge. I’m talking it stuck out off Lumen’s body by a good 4 inches. I know she’s a baby but she’s a female- I don’t think she’s going to be getting that big of a chest any time soon.

Harness done up, I pulled against it, and felt her resist – that was nice, and a nicer feeling than her other harness that I don’t think pulls on her as comfortably. I threw a treat forward and….

Tail frozen… awkward crab walk.

Ah, darn.

Look, possibly I could spend the next few weeks trying to clicker-train her into liking this harness on her but I honestly don’t know if it’s going to happen. She’s pretty strongly hard-wired to hate anything on her (thanks, Lumen’s mum, for that) and doesn’t ever relax enough for me to reward her for wearing the harness and being normal. The thing is, she’ll let me put it on, and do it up, but try and get her moving and you can forget about it. If anyone has any bright ideas, please let me know.  I’ve borrowed one harness from a friend and it’s the only harness in existence so far that she moves normally in once it’s on, so it can be done! Just this particular harness doesn’t work for my dog.

So, to all those positive reviews out there, I’m sure the harness works well for you, but I’m in the category of having a weird dog with a small chest, who hates wearing harnesses, even nice, soft comfortable ones that would be really fun to do agility in.

Unfortunately, I think I’ll be sending this one back to America.

Product tester hard at work.

product review: lemonade bottle.

In my never-ending quest to find a highly motivating toy for Lumen, we’ve probably spend a few hundred dollars buying toys. Balls, tugs, fleece, fur, soft-toys, hard-toys, rubber toys. You name it, I’ve probably bought it (much to Husband’s dismay). Lu seems to ‘like’ everything, and ‘love’ very little. Which is to say, she’ll play half-heartedly, or even whole-heartedly with almost everything, but get very excited and ‘drivey’ over almost nothing. So I, like many others, scoured the internet searching for the perfect toy. Here, I’ll review some that I’ve found particularly exciting for Lumen, though she’s a bit odd, so don’t take whatever we say as gospel. 

Today I’m reviewing something a bit unexpected. If you google ‘motivational toys’ you’ll get a huge array of particularly tugging things, and particularly fur or fleece things.

Lu doesn’t have an issue with any of these things, but I’ve known since she was a puppy that she adores chewing up plastic plant pots. One day she found a half coke-bottle in the backyard and has proceeded to prance around merrily with it, or spend hours chewing it up (but not destroying it, interestingly enough).

Husband suggested the other day that we should get her another plastic soda bottle, since she loves the first one so much. No worries. I went down to the supermarket and got a home-brand one for 99c.

I decide to giver her a go on cik/cap with it- my ultimate test for how much drive it helps her obtain. I rev her up with the toy, she’s biting it, launching at it, tugging it – I’m hitting her on the side with it, using it as a shield so she doesn’t bite my hands.  I don’t restrain her into the wrap, but rev, rev, ready, ready- we run- I hold the bottle out like a lure, and– lo and behold! More than a lazy canter!! Her exit was slow, but her entrance was fast- exits I can work on when I have more space than my backyard, it’s the entrance which is our real problem.

All this to say that I just had more success using a 99c soda bottle than with a myriad of other toys. Don’t be afraid to use things that you might have lying around. I reckon if I tied a glove to a string she’d be pretty excited about that too, and I’m thinking I’ll tie some rope around the neck of the bottle so I can run off with it bouncing along the ground. Lu also loves long bits of bark that come off gumtrees and can be dragged, chased, caught and tugged (and they taste like wood but are soft, so no danger of splinters or sticks). I just made a tug-toy out of an old t-shirt of Husband’s (Lu seems a little overwhelmed by my creation, and plus it might smell too much like clothes and therefore might be considered ‘off-limits’ for tug?), and one out of a tea-towel that had a hold in it as well. I once found that my usually mellow and hard-to-get-excited-about-toys dog Mal, went absolutely bananas over oven-mitts, channelling Shutzhund-style dogs as he bit into them and growled with excitement.

Obviously a bottle isn’t the most durable toy on the market, and you probably don’t want to leave your dog unsupervised with it (eaten bits of plastic aren’t the best thing for a pup!) but if your dog is like mine and enjoys chewing on plastic things rather than soft things, it might be a good idea to give it a go! And at 99c it doesn’t really matter if you go through a few here and there if it’s working.
Does your dog like unusual toys? Are there things around your home that your dog might really enjoy playing with? Or do you have a normal dog that just loves playing with normal toys? 😉

Product tester hard at work.

product review: JW hol-ee roller

I’ve always wanted to do a product review, and I’m guessing we’ve spent a couple of hundred dollars trying to source the perfect and most motivational toy for Miss Lu.
Everything from tug ropes including real fur or fleece (extremely against my ethical beliefs as a vegan, but I’m willing to try anything and the fur one is apparently sourced from op-shop fur coats, neato), different balls and plush, or not-plush toys… flying disks, flying rings, and a myriad of others..

I have 2 toys in circulation at the moment that seem to get ‘the best’ out of Lumen, and I’d like to write a review of the one I’m using the most.

Keep in mind, this post is not sponsored by anybody, I’m just writing this because I think it’s a great toy, and anybody trying to get into dog sports needs a toy their dog is super enthusiastic about, and in this case, the toy is super versatile, too. Big plus!

I’d seen Silvia Trkman training with a version of this toy initially, so I thought I’d give it a go.

Hol-ee roller in action. Look at that stretch! Look at that tug!!

I bought the ‘medium’ size which would be better suited to a border collie I think, as Lumen’s lower jaw often gets stuck in the holes already, and she’s still meant to get bigger. That being said, she doesn’t mind, and just pulls it off with her foot or manages to spit it out.

The best thing about this toy, as I said, is its versatility. You can throw it, tug on it, skitter it around on the ground, all without your fingers or hands being chomped on (Lu likes to tug and tries to play with a traditional tennis ball. Uh, no). This is the toy that Lumen has actually managed to learn to TUG with. She was an average tugger before, but she puts all her strength into tugging this one. I think she can get a great grip with her teeth (ropes she’s always found a bit hard to grip- a bit slippery) and because it’s rubber, it’s sort of bouncy and stretchy, meaning no jarring when she tugs back.

Because it can be thrown, brought back and tugged, this opens up a great amount of possibility for games – if she lets go during the tug, I’ll throw it, keeping her prey-drive high.. I can throw it as she comes out of a tunnel, or use it as a target to latch on to after a tight turn.
It seems very sturdy for my girl, though I wouldn’t leave a serious chewer alone with it- she’d have no inclination to destroy it – and despite all the full-on tugging we’ve been doing, I haven’t been concerned about it breaking from being over-stretched at all.

Price was pretty reasonable, I guess, given the price of most toys and tug-ropes. If you compare it to a tennis ball, sure, it’s going to come out more expensive.

I bought mine from Game on Dogs, who have a huge selection of great toys for motivating your dog. I also got my ‘lamb tug’ from there too- our other favourite.  Check it out if you’re looking for an affordable, versatile toy for motivating your dog!