Sunday, August 25, 2013

August 2013 BarkBox review: Dog toys and dog treats at your doorstep

Sinead the Boston terrier with her toy
Sinead plays with her whale toy.
Like most crazed dog owners, I tend to buy my dogs a lot of treats and toys each month, and sometimes, the choices around here are slim. I can often replace the toys my dogs have, and I can sometimes find treats they've never had before, but really finding something novel is difficult in a town like mine.

So when I found out about BarkBox, I was pretty excited. These guys pull together a set of treats and toys and send them to subscribers on a monthly basis. I signed my dogs up last month, and we got our first delivery on Friday. I got paid nothing for this review, but I'm honestly just so excited about this idea that I felt compelled to write about it. So here goes.

This month's toy is from the Quaker Pet Group, and it's the whale Sinead is chewing on in the photo above. Since I opened the box, the whale hasn't really left her mouth, so it's a big hit over here. My husband loves this toy as well, because it doesn't have a squeaker that humans can hear. It makes a sort of whooshing noise when it's pressed, but it doesn't chirp or squeak.

The rest of the box is stuffed with treats, and the favorite item in that category is made by Barkworthies. These all-meat treats are flavored with hickory, and they're both stinky and chewy. Sinead's little teeth can cut through these without any trouble at all, and even the gobbler pug finds these treats worth savoring with a few chews. We'll definitely be buying more of these.

Barkworthies also makes a powder for picky eaters, made up of ground-up bull parts. It's a gross concept, but seriously, the dogs really dig this stuff. I sprinkle a teaspoon of these little flakes on their meals and they wolf them right down. Even picky cat Eamon will eat his lunch when it has a little sprinkle of this product on top.

PrimalPet's contribution to the BarkBox is a freeze-dried liver product. Honestly, my dogs weren't too excited about this product. They'll eat the treat, of course, but they don't seem to consider the food so great and so important that they'll hold a sit or a down in order to get the treat. They'll just walk away and look for more Barkworthies treats. So, I tried the liver on the outdoor cats, and there I had a huge amount of success. These cats loved the idea of an organ treat, and they happily grabbed the treat right out of my fingertips.

One other item in our box hasn't been put to use quite yet, so I'll hold off on reviewing it for another entry. But so far, I'm quite pleased with our BarkBox. For about $20, we got a lot of really great product that both dogs and all of the cats could enjoy. I'm looking forward to next month's shipment!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Using the "stand" command in a dog

Sinead in a stand position
Sinead performs a perfect stand.
In obedience class last week, we introduced our dogs to the concept of "stand." This is the command that's most commonly associated with show dogs, as this is the pose they hold while judges check their height and their conformance to the breed standard.

First off, I'll admit that I hate this command. I don't have show dogs, so there's no real reason for me to make my dogs stand up when I tell them to do so. Instead, I usually use the "wait" command, mainly because they're often already on their feet and running off to do something, instead of standing and listening to me. That being said, I am an obedient person in a class I paid for, so I wanted to try to teach little Sinead this trick.

It's harder than it seems.

In obedience classes, dogs are often taught that sitting down is the default position. In my class, a "down" command comes after a sit, and all heeling sessions begin and end with a sit. Also, when I ask Sinead to "come," she sits in front of my feet. If she's not sure what I want her to do, she'll sit right down and wait, as it's pretty likely that I'm about to tell her to do so. It's a pretty good guess, and in most cases, she's right.

As a result, the stand command seems foreign, and most dogs respond by standing up and then sitting right back down again. Sinead did these popcorn stands over and over again, and she wasn't quite sure why she was wrong when she sat back down and I gave her another command. I knew I had a rough week ahead.

Over the past week, whenever she's stood up after lying down, I've been shouting out, "Good stand!" I've also been working with treats and following up the command to stand with the "stay" command. This pairs an action with a still motion, which seems to prevent popcorn stands. She's slowly learning to stand up and freeze, until I tell her it's safe to move again.

Tomorrow night is class night, and we'll see how well she holds a stand in a room full of dog distractions. I can say, however, that we have done our homework.

If you'd like to see a video demonstration involving this command, click here.