Bitsy’s Bites

Bitsy is usually pretty well behaved and has been reasonably easy to manage, but rewarding her with treats for good behavior has been a fun and effective way to train.  I’ve put together a list of things to look for when trying to select the perfect treat for your dog and some selections that Bitsy can’t get enough of!

What To Look For in a Treat

Tasty
Treats should be flavorful. These are a reward for good behavior after all!

Easy to Break
Treats should be easy to break or small (pea sized) so that they don’t pose a choking hazard and also because if you’re trying to watch your pup’s weight, it’s important to keep calories under control.

Easy to Carry
Since you may want to treat your dog when you are not at home, it’s best to find treats that are easy to carry. Avoid anything greasy or crumbly.

Simple Ingredients
If your dog has a sensitive stomach it is especially important to stick with simple ingredients that are easy to digest. Low-fat meats, like chicken, usually work well. Even if your dog has a particularly strong constitution, you want to stick with simple ingredients because it is a healthier lifestyle choice.

Use a Variety of Treats
Variety is the spice of life and if you want to keep your dog from getting bored, you need to mix things up a little. It’s also helpful to have low-value treats (like kibble) so that you can reward decent responses with a lower calorie treat. For great responses, reward your dog with a high-value treat, like fresh meat or freeze dried meat.

Types of Treats

Store bought
When buying mass-manufactured treats, look for items that are made from high quality ingredients and in smaller batches. Healthy ingredients include meat, cheese, eggs, and nuts. Avoid corn and wheat, as well as ingredients that you can’t pronounce. Don’t just trust an “organic” treat – read the label. Manufacturers can be sneaky…

Homemade treats
You can sometimes save money on treats by making them at home. It’s also a great way to ensure that you know exactly what your dog is consuming. www.Dogaware.com has some great recipes, including turkey treats and tuna brownies. These are on my list for Bitsy as the weather gets colder. It’ll give me something to do indoors.

Bonus: Ice cubes can be a special treat too if you play your cards right… The only problem I have now is whenever I go into the freezer, Bitsy sits attentively waiting for her treat. If I don’t give her a cube, she looks so depressed. Who is training whom?
Regular Dog Food
Depending on how savvy your dog is, you can treat your dog with their regular food if it’s not around meal time. This approach works better for puppies. If you are using wet or canned food, you can use a food tube or a baby food jar. If your dog likes his dry food enough to do tricks for, then his kibble can work quite well. One way you can make dry food more exciting is to put it in a paper bag with some pieces of bacon for a few hours and let it soak up some of the odor. Nothing is better than bacon, am I right?

People Food
While I’m cautious to not let others feed Bitsy food from the table, people food can also work great as a treat and your dog will probably love it. You can feed your dog chopped fresh meat or cheese, chopped veggies, or maybe some gravy or liquid yogurt. Avoid foods such as avocado, grapes, raisins, macadamia nuts, and chocolate- these can cause, at best health problems, at worst, death… Don’t confuse the do’s and don’ts of human food.

Over the last few years I’ve bought and made a variety of treats for Bitsy, but we have settled on some favorites that she loves.

Fruitables  
There are a variety of Fruitables treats, both crunchy and soft. There are made from wholesome, healthy ingredients, such as yogurt, beef, or chicken. They also use sunflower oil and pumpkin. Bitsy particularly loves the apple bacon chewy treats. You can check out the Fruitables website to find a retailer near you that carries them: www.fruitablespetfood.com

Rocco and Roxie Supply Co. Jerky Sticks
Bitsy can’t get enough of these and I can’t blame her! (Not that I’ve actually tried them myself, but I’ve been tempted, they smell fantastic!) They are made almost entirely of pure beef and smoked for 15 hours in small batches. I think more care is put into making this treat than into most of the food items I consume. You can check out their website at www.roccoandroxie.com

Plato Original Duck Dog Treats
Bitsy doesn’t have any allergies that I know of yet, but some dogs can be allergic to different types of meats, so duck can be a great alternative. These treats are made in the U.S. and you can get a pound for under $9, which when you consider the cost of duck at a restaurant, is a good deal. All ingredients are all natural and fortified with vitamins and antioxidants that will keep your dog happy and healthy. Check them out at www.platopettreats.com

Nesbits
This brand is fantastic. Their treats are handmade from scratch with human grade ingredients.  They only have a few ingredients per flavor and are great if your dog has a sensitive stomach. I went through a time when Bitsy couldn’t keep anything down and discovered that Bitsy particularly loves the Breakfast Biscuit! You can purchase them at www.nesbitsdogtreats.com

Any tips for new treats I should buy for Bitsy? What are some of your favorites? Comment below and I’ll put some in her Christmas stocking this year.

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Keeping The House Clean with Dogs

Adopting Bitsy was one of the best decisions of my life. She adds a ton of excitement, joy, and adventure to every day. Bitsy also adds quite a bit of mess! Prior to Bitsy moving in I had the ultimate bachelor pad and only had to worry about cleaning up after myself. Now that I have my furry roommate I have to be on top of keeping my home clean. I’m not always the most successful at it, but she these tips have helped me and I hope they can help you, too.

1.) Hair of the Dog

Dog hair is one of the biggest cleanliness challenges for dog owners. Some dogs don’t shed as much as others but if you have a “double-coated” breed of dog such as a Siberian Husky or Akitas, they shed their soft undercoats twice a year, leaving huge furballs around your home.

A way to cut down on this a little bit is to brush your dog regularly, aim for a few times a week. If you are able to brush your dog outside it will cut down on your post-brushing clean up session. Of course, your dog is going to shed regardless so you want to make sure you have your preferred clean up tools on hand. Some people like the old fashioned and ever reliable dustpan and broom method, while others prefer a handheld vacuum. I have hardwood floors so I’m a Swiffer guy myself. I just got new Swiffer from Target and was probably a little more excited about it than I should have been. (But it just gets everything so clean!)

Fur balls laying around the living room are easy to spot, but make sure to pay attention to your air filters. If you check your air filters every two to three weeks you can determine how much pressure you are putting on them and how often they need to be changed. If you keep your filters clean your heating and cooling system won’t have to work as hard and you can save money as well.

2.) Get Moving!

Exercising keeps me and Bitsy happy and energized! If I know I’m going to be out of the house for any length of time, I make sure I get in a nice workout with Bitsy beforehand. A tired dog is much less likely to get into mischief and mess up the house than one who is bored and desperately craving some stimulation. It’s also helpful to keep chew toys easily accessible for your dog to play with when you’re not home. I just ordered a few new toys for Bitsy from http://www.petsmart.com and she is loving them.

3.) Stop in the Name of (Puppy) Love

A way to cut down on mess inside of your home is to stop dirt and mud at the door before it even enters your home. Keep a towel and a small container of room temperature water by the door to wipe down muddy paws before your dog comes into the house. You can place mats inside and outside of your doors and train your dog to wait on the mat.

4.) Splish Splash Taking a Bath

You don’t want to bathe your dog too often- this can strip pups of the natural oils in their skin which can lead to increased dryness. I usually bathe Bitsy about once every three weeks unless she has gotten particularly rowdy and dirty. Bitsy and I are partial to Burt’s Bees Waterless Dog Shampoo – the apple extract and honey keep fur shiny.  Castille soap in lavender or peppermint scent also works well and is helpful in the prevention of fleas.

5.) Toy Time!

Some toys can be cleaned and disinfected while others will eventually need to be tossed.

Discard Pile

– Toys with dangling parts and stuffed animal eyes can be choking hazards.

– Toys that have been heavily chewed or have missing parts.

– Toys that your dog is eating. With the exception of treat toys, your dog should not be eating his toys. If you catch your dog in the act or notice the toy is much smaller than it initially was, throw it out.

Cleaning Toys

– Plastic and rubber toys can be cleaned by hand with soap and water or go in your dishwasher for cleaning. If you are using a dishwasher you can simply run them through the hot cycle with no detergent; the heat and water pressure should kill germs and remove dirt and grime.

– Rope toys can be a breeding ground for bacteria, so sanitizing them is best. You can wet the toy and microwave it for a full minute, just be careful when removing the item because it can be quite hot.

– For stuffed animals, you can throw them in the washing machine when they are dirty, but skip the dryer because most stuffed animals won’t make it through the drying process intact. (I say this from experience.)

6.) Kicking Up Dust!

When we think about messes, it’s usually about the messes on the floor, but our fur friends also increase the amount of dust in our homes. Dusting is one of my least favorite household chores, but I try to give everything a quick dusting once or twice a week.

7.) Take a Deep Breath and Relax!

Pets can be a lot of work and keeping the house clean isn’t always an easy task, but Bitsy makes life so fun that the pros always outweigh the cons. Even if your home is ultimately a little bit messier, make sure to appreciate all the ways your pet enhances your world.

I hope you found these tips helpful. Any of you dog lovers have other tips for keeping your pad clean when sharing it with our animals? Comment below!

Dog Decor Ideas for the Pet-Lover’s Home

Dog Decor Ideas for the Pet-Lover’s Home

When I first adopted Bitsy, I excitedly shopped for all of her dog gear. I bought a crate, dog bed, and copious amounts of toys. After awhile though, I noticed that the dog items stuck out like a sore thumb-or paw! (A little dog humor.) I began to noodle on ideas for making these items blend a bit more seamlessly into my home. Bitsy can still have all her needs met while my home does not scream DOG. 

Dog Crate Decor

Whether your home is modern chic or has a classic style, you can find dog crates that will work with your decor. Crates usually take up a considerable amount of space and typical ones don’t usually blend with the aesthetic of most rooms. I did a bit of research and found some functional and stylish looking creates.

Check out Wayfair for crates that provide proper ventilation and comfort for your pet but also double as furniture. There are some pretty col ones on Denhaus too. But some of those are going to cost you!

And of course, if money is no object, design your own fancy dog crate at Maricela Sanchez! Okay, I adore my dog, but this may even be too indulgent for me!

Cavalier King Charles in dog bed

Dog Bed-Your Pet’s Refuge

One of Bitsy’s favorite places to hang is her bed. (That is, when she is not on mine!) There are plenty of bed options that can fit with your home decor. Be sure to make sure that the cushions are washable!

Restoration Hardware offers a fantastic upscale bed collection for our canine friends. Some of them are on sale over the holidays (hint, hint!) LL Bean also has a great collection of comfy and casual-looking dog beds.

Food Storage

Rather than just store Bitsy’s dog food and treats in regular plastic containers (which are totally functional so if you are happy with those, go for it!) I think I will invest in some cool looking containers from Harry Barker. (Barker, heh heh, get it!)

Un-leashed

When I first adopted Bitsy and was still negotiating my new schedule now that I had a pet, I would often be walking her at the last minute before I left the house. As a result I would often misplace her leash because I did not have a specific place to put it every time we returned from our walks. Once I decided to store Bitsy’s leash on a hook right beside the front door, it made my life a lot easier. It’s a simple and probably obvious solution, but I know it has saved me time and stress!

Dog Gates

I found several dog gates on www.dynamicaccents.com that are reasonably priced, functional, and blend into home decor. They have a variety of options so it’s easy to find one that fits with the feel of your home. Plus you can specify the size which is pretty cool.

Toys, Toys, and More Toys

If you’re anything like me, I spoil Bitsy a bit too much. Not only do I buy her toys, but she receives them as gifts so there is a large amount of these items in our home. The Container Store has lots of storage containers – go figure! For some pretty neat ideas, check out this Bark Post. You will like these! 

I would love to hear feedback about how you made your home more pet-friendly. Any other suggestions you can think of?

Best Dogs on Instagram

Best Dogs on Instagram

They say a dog is man’s best friend and I couldn’t agree more. As an avid dog lover, I follow several Instagram accounts to get my canine fix. I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorites to share with all of you.

marniethedog instagramMarnie The Dog | Handle: marniethedog
Marnie is a 15 year old Shih Tzu adopted from a shelter 4 years ago. She is bicoastal and spends her time between New York and LA. (This little dog is more well traveled than I am.) Marnie is totally quirky and looks like she would be a blast to hang with at the dog park. One of my favorite photos is of Marnie staring at the camera with her head cocked to the side and tongue hanging out of her mouth, looking like she’s ready to down the bottle of hot sauce next to her.

itsdougthepug instagramDoug the Pug | Handle: itsdougthepug
The self proclaimed “King of Pop Culture.” This account is hilarious. Apparently Doug really likes to eat because there are photos of him with pies, French fries, chicken nuggets, and even champagne. (I think the champagne is just for show but you can never be too sure.) Doug even has his own store where you can purchase Doug merchandise. This dog is winning at life.

tunameltsmyheart instagramTuna | Handle: tunameltsmyheart
Tuna is a chiweenie with a heart of gold and a talent for melting the hearts of others. He’s also quite the well traveled pup and his owner documents all of his adventures. There is a particularly charming photo of Tuna in a suit looking dapper yet skeptical.

toastmeetsworld instagramToast | Handle: toastmeetsworld
Toast is a King Charles puppy mill rescue. (Big thumbs up for adopting rescues!) Toast has no teeth and her owner describes her as a “cute hobo”. She is indeed cute as is her pretty owner who is quite easy on the eyes. (Why don’t these two go to my dog park?) One of my recent favorite photos of Toast is of her relaxing on a blanket in the sun, tongue out, clutching a copy of Amy Schumer’s new book.

lacorgi instagramGeordi La Corgi | Handle: lacorgi
Geordi is an athlete, model, and food enthusiast. This dog is the epitome of charm and class and looks about 10 times better in a bow tie than I do. He also can rock a button up shirt and pair of glasses. As if this didn’t make him cool enough, past Halloween costumes include characters from Dr. Who and Star Trek. I really want to hang out with the dog. (Don’t get jealous Bitsy; there’s plenty of love to go around.)

chloetheminifrenchie instagramChloe the Mini Frenchie | Handle: chloetheminifrenchie
Chloe is a mini French bulldog who lives in New York City. She likes travel, fashion, and charity.  Chloe is certainly what some call “a fashionista” (going out on a limb here…) A recent photo of Chloe shows her wearing a leather jacket and a necklace on her head. She’s also apparently a pup who can really get into the holiday spirit! There’s a great photo of Chloe wearing a lion costume from a previous Halloween and she recently had her first visit to Santa of the season. Chloe is a canine who certainly knows how to live life to the fullest.


cartercanines instagram

Carter Family Dogs | Handle:
This account features a whole family of dogs! There is Oscar, the 9 year old golden retriever, Charlie a black lab who is also 9, Paddy, a one year old chocolate lab, and the baby dog of the family, Finn, a 6 month old black lab. This family clearly has their hands full but the dogs seem to love each other. The brood hails from Yorkshire and enjoys spending time outdoors.

dogsofinstagram instagramDogs of Instagram | Handle: dogsofinstagram
This account has 3.6 million followers and brings together various dogs of Instagram! Some are famous and others are lesser known but they are all special and awesome. This is one of my favorites because it brings a lot of favorites together in one place! They even have have a book available. (That’ll be a great stocking stuffer for my dog loving friends!)

Did you guys have a favorite account out of that ones I recommended? Any suggestions for ones that I should check out?

Introducing a Second Dog to Your Home

Introducing a Second Dog to Your Home

 

I’m a proud dog dad to Bitsy and lately I’ve been considering adding second pooch to our little family. Prior to adopting Bitsy I did a lot of research about training dogs and adopting rescues; making informed decisions is important to me. This decision is particularly important because it affects Bitsy as much as it affects me. I reached out to friends and read up on the subject and I thought it would be helpful if I discussed it with my readers.

Bitsy the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Is Your Pet Ready for a New Dog Friend?

In the excitement of adding to your pack, this simple question is sometimes forgotten. Some dogs just don’t socialize much with other dogs or just prefer the company of humans. If you don’t frequently take your dog to the dog park or know how your animal interacts with other dogs, it’s time to find out! Find a friend with a very dog-friendly dog and introduce your animal in a safely fenced neutral territory. If the introduction goes well, you can move on to step 2!

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Pick the Right Pooch!

If your current dog is an aggressive alpha dog, it’s best to look for an animal that will defer to the “top dog.” Conversely, if your dog is more submissive, adding a dominant dog could be an ideal choice.

Also think about other common dog traits. Do you have an older dog or one that likes to lounge around? Adopting a high-energy playful puppy could be quite annoying to your current dog. Find an animal whose temperament matches your dog’s personality better.

Does your dog prefer playing with males or females? If you know your dog has a preference, considering adopting from that gender. Oftentimes, dogs will enjoy playing with the opposite sex.

Another consideration is the size of the dogs. Even if your big dog is really friendly, she could accidentally harm a much smaller dog. It is possible to have canines of two different sizes, but it takes extra management and awareness on the owner’s part.

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Making the Introduction!

Once you’ve determined that your dog is ready for a new friend and picked an animal that seems like an ideal fit, it’s time to make the introduction! It’s best to introduce the two animals before you make a firm commitment to adopt dog two in case things don’t go exactly as planned.

Enlist the help of a friend and bring both dogs into the space on leashes. Each of you should have treats and calmly enter the space with your respective dogs. Once the dogs notice each other, calmly begin feeding them and make sure they keep the focus on you. Once they start to notice each other, start feeding them more slowly until they are focused both on you and the other animal. Watch carefully for body language. The dogs may be anxious or hesitant, playful, excited, fearful, or aggressive. If either animal gets overly worked up, such as lunging, frenzied barking, or snapping, stop the interaction immediately.

If the dogs seem relaxed and happy, drop the leashes while still at a distance and allow them to greet each other. To be safe, leave the leashes on for a few minutes in case they get aggressive and you need to pull them apart. Once it’s clear that they are getting along, call them back so you can remove the leashes and allow them to interact without getting tangled.

Once you’ve observed them playing together safely, bring them both into your home. You must carefully observe their interactions over the next 24 hours so that you can stop unwanted behavior before it escalates into fighting.

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Set Yourself Up for Success!

You have done much to prep for the arrival of this second dog in your home so you are probably breathing a sigh of relief! It’s great to celebrate the success thus far but make sure you set yourself up for success in the future. Remain vigilant throughout the entire “getting to know each other” process.

Equip your home with baby gates or find a way to separate the dogs when you’re not home to supervise. Also make sure to feed them separately so there are no territorial issues over food.

Remember that your new dog needs more attention than an established dog, but it’s also important to spend quality time with each pooch individually and together.

At this point, I am not sure whether I will be adding another dog to our pack, but after doing the research I feel confident that I will be able to handle it if I decide to get Bitsy a playmate. What do you all think? Do you have experience with multi-dog households or other suggestions on how to make it work? Please share your stories of triumph or disaster. I would love to read your comments below!

Is Your Pooch Prepared for Winter?

The northeast got a surge in warmer temperatures this fall, but I’m not fooled. I know frozen puddles are just around the corner and I’m already pulling out Bitsy’s winter sweaters for our morning walks.

It made me wonder what other steps dog owners take to keep their furry friends warm throughout winter.

sherpa dog bed
Bitsy rests on her favorite sherpa dog bed.

Warm Bedding
Bitsy sleeps with me at night so she stays plenty warm, but during the day she is on the floor. I’ve tried different dog beds and she currently likes her fleece mat. Lately I’ve been looking at heated beds and stumbled across this self-heating product from The Lakeside Collection. The reviews are mostly positive and at less than $20 I will happily give it a try. I’ve seen others online that cost much more so I will test this one first.

Heated Dog House
As an indoor dog, Bitsy only scurries outside to join me. In fact she is kind of pathetic if left on the back deck alone. She peers through the door with eyes pleading for me to let her in.

I know some dogs like to hang outside for longer periods to sniff the air, listen to the sounds of the neighborhood, and protect their territory from squirrels and chipmunks. In that case, an insulated dog house may be a worthwhile investment. I cannot recommend any brand, though I think Wal-Mart has a pretty decent selection.

 

Dog Booties
I have friends who trained their dog to wear boots during winter walks. It took several sessions at home, a few minutes at a time and gradually increasing, to get him used to the feeling it created on his paws. He eventually warmed to the idea and I imagine was grateful when traversing icy sidewalks!

Bitsy’s little paws are pretty furry and we keep our walks shorter on those icy bitter days. I avoid walking her on salted driveways and sidewalks. If we come upon one, I just scoop her up and carry her to a safe spot. I found this small company called Hound & Tail that has a great entrepreneurial spirit I’ve considered buying from. However, there are plenty of companies that sell doggie boots with positive reviews.

dog holiday sweater
Bitsy poses in her new holiday sweater.

Sweaters for Warmth and They Look Good Too
My favorite way to keep Bitsy warm once winter kicks in is to put her in a sweater. She has several and is a good sport about wearing them. I think she secretly likes the positive attention everyone gives her whenever she gets dressed for a walk! Some folks say their dogs act embarrassed when wearing clothes, but it’s not like I dress her up in a tutu. And if you know anything about the spirited (and vain) Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, they love positive attention. Mine is a total camera ham.

What products do you use to keep your dog warm once temperatures plummet? Please add a comment below!

Do You Pass the Smell Test as a Dog Owner?

Do You Pass the Smell Test as a Dog Owner?

I’m a bit of an NPR addict. When not listening to WMPH 91.7 in my car I am on the app. I have a few favorite broadcasts, one of which is Terry Gross of Fresh Air. Imagine my delight last week when her guest was author Alexandra Horowitz to discuss her latest book, “Being a Dog.”

Being a Dog book cover

I have yet to read “Being a Dog,” but it is next on my list. Her interview was highly interesting and gave me a lot to think about as an indulgent dog owner myself! You can read the interview, or better yet, listen to it yourself.

The interview game me a lot to think about as a dog owner. Horowitz emphasized that dogs know their world first and foremost through smell, not sight. Since most humans are sight-dominant, we tend to force our pet dogs into a seeing world and suppress their active noses. It gave me pause. Am I guilty as charged?

Rushing Through Our Daily Walks
I think of our twice daily walks as an opportunity to get exercise and burn off energy. I had never really considered I am suppressing Bitsy’s instinct to smell every blade of grass or that I am unknowingly reprogramming her innate sense. Since my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is already so close to the ground, her desire to stop and sniff rather than walk is strong! While I let her tary here and there, I have certainly never allowed her nose to guide our walks.

Harowitz recommends taking “smell walks” to allow your dog to explore and nurture that part of her nature.

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Taking Our Sweet “Smell” Time
I tried it over the weekend and discovered how interesting our normal route became to us both. Bitsy was very happy to find I was not tugging her along every time she caught an intriguing scent. As I observed her actions, I found myself absorbed in musing why she would stop and pee on some scents, but not on others?!?! We made far less progress distance-wise, but I noticed she was just as tired when we got home as when we walk the full distance. Certainly her nose must have been exhausted from her sensory exploration.

Dog Sniffing Not Rude
Horowitz opened my eyes to another notion. My dog knows me first by smell and secondary by sight and sound. It is also how she knows the other living beings in our lives. If I discourage her from smelling my house guests or other dogs she encounters then I am stifling her ability to connect with the world around her.

From now on I will make a better attempt to forewarn visitors that my dog will be giving them a onceover. If they are not dog people and are uncomfortable around my little friend, then I will crate her. When we encounter other dogs I will no longer tug her away from butt sniffing unless I notice it makes the other dog uncomfortable. Bitsy usually just sits herself down when she no longer wants to participate in the ritual!

I look forward to reading the book to unearth any other tidbits which would improve Bitsy’s happiness. Our pets lavish such love on us, I am happy to nurture her nature!

Do you already go for smell walks? I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic!