29 November 2016

Who am I? Dog DNA Testing with Embark Veterinary

What better birthday gift could there be than the gift of knowing who you are? Not that I think Mr. N spends much (or any) of his time pondering his identity but the humans always want to know. Mr. N knows he is a terrier and would like some tasty rodents to chase please for his eighth birthday today.

A company new to the market, Embark Veterinary sent us a dog DNA test to try out. At the time of his adoption, we were told that Mr. N was a Yorkie/Maltese mix. And from his mannerisms and looks that seemed plausible although I always thought that his Yorkie side is predominant.

The test itself is pretty simple. You swab your dog's cheek with the provided swab and send it off in a pre-paid mailer and register online. Then you wait 6-8 weeks and voila!

The results came back as: 50 percent Yorkshire Terrier, 17 percent Pomeranian, 17 percent Shih Tzu, 11 percent Maltese and 5 percent Supermutt. No big surprises except for the Pomeranian part. I definitely don't see any Pom in him. His paternal side is all Yorkie. All the breed mixing happens on the maternal side. Embark makes the results shareable and you can view Mr. N's results here.

His weight prediction came in at 17 pounds which seemed a little high. They advise you to email if you feel like the weight results are off which I did. We'll see what they say.

They also test for 160+ genetic diseases including Multidrug Sensitivity (MDR1), Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), exercise-induced collapse (DNM1) and more. Mr. N's results came back as negative for everything thankfully.

The test can also look for coyote, wolf or village dog ancestry. Not that Mr. N has any of those. He is a very domesticated wee beastie with test results to prove it (his wolfiness score came back as 0).

Embark partners with Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine and tests over 200,000 genetic markers to build your dog's breed profile. You can opt in to have your dog's DNA results included in studies in canine health and science (which I did).

The test does take longer than its competitors (6-8 weeks compared to 2-3 weeks) so if you're in a rush, this is not the test for you. The big stickler is the price ($199). Embark is the most expensive test out there on the market. It's also the most comprehensive test on the market providing the most data (you also have access to the raw data if you're curious) and health testing and free updates (new info is added to your panel when new research is done).

I found their customer service to be helpful and responsive. I accidentally touched the swab while putting it in the tube and they reassured me that they could most likely sort out the human DNA from the dog DNA and if not, they would send me a new kit.

It's worth the splurge to try it if you are curious about your dog's health or breed identity. Also Christmas is coming up and this would make a nice addition to a wishlist.

Embark has also generously offered to give one of our readers a dog DNA test. Enter below!

23 November 2016

In the Lap of Luxury

Mr. N thinks the best bed is on top of a pile of 65 inch Smart TVs. Little dog knows luxury when he sees it.

16 November 2016

I Am Art

Our photographer friend included this photo of Mr. N in her art display at Northwest Neighborhood Veterinary Hospital in Portland. Photo by Kolu Photography. 

11 November 2016

Indoor Activities and Games for Dogs

When the weather outside is frightful and you (or your dog) don't want to venture outdoors but they're still looking at you expectantly, what do you do? It's going to be a long winter if you leave them to their own devices. And shorter days mean fewer good walking hours. Luckily, there's plenty of ways to stimulate their brains and bodies indoors.
  • Nosework games. You can scatter food around the house for your dog to find or work on finding various odors. There are nosework kits for sale online or you could work with scents you have at home like essential oils (preferably ones you don't use often as to not confuse the dog). 
  • Impulse control. Work on a good leave it around food. Train your dog to run to a mat or their crate when guests come over. Have them do a sit stay and wait for a release before throwing a toy.
  • Tricks. Tricks are a great way to exercise your dog's brain. If you want to get fancy, you could work on behavior chains where your dog learns how to string together a series of cues into one big trick (cleaning up toys for example). 
  • Refine old tricks. Work on duration, distance or distractions. Can your dog perform roll over while bacon is frying? 
  • Indoor fetch. This works best if you have small or gentle dogs who won't go running into furniture and knocking things over. I recommend using soft toys or balls for this purpose.
  • Help with the chores. They can turn on/off light switches, close doors, put laundry in the machine or throw trash away in the trash can. And if your dog is brave in the face of temptation, you can have them fetch you a beer after your house is sparkling clean.
  • Work on a behavioral issue. Practice loose leash walking in the house or staying out of the kitchen or staying calm while you leave (for dogs with separation anxiety). 
  • Puzzle Games. There are now a score of different puzzle games on the market. Or you can make simple puzzles at home using a plastic bottle and putting food in it or using a muffin tin and tennis balls. 
  • Compete for a title. These days, you can earn a virtual title in almost every dog sport (rally, obedience, parkour, agility, freestyle, disc etc). 
  • Relax and Settle. Games are all good and fun but at the end of the day, your dog has to know how to settle. You can't play with them 24/7! Dr. Karen Overall has a good protocol for teaching relaxation to dogs
Which indoor games and activities do you enjoy with your dog?

08 November 2016

Brother from Another Mother

02 November 2016

Ballet Dreams

26 October 2016

Ritual Sacrifice

Mr. N wanders into the wrong part of the beach...

19 October 2016

The Bunny and The Lion

The lure operator said it was like watching a bunny chase a bunny!

Mr. N doing his best skulking lion impression.
Photos by Polis Photography.

12 October 2016

How Could You?

Mr. N still can't believe I went to the cat cafe and didn't take him. He may not speak to me for a week!

07 October 2016

Small Dog Outdoor Adventures with the Wrapsit Crate

If you're anything like me, it takes more time and effort to pack for the dog than for yourself. And he always has more stuff than I do. Anything to reduce the amount of things I have to lug around is super welcome.

We went to a lure coursing trial over the weekend. I packed a book, snacks and water for me. Mr. N's packing list was more extensive (treats, toys, towels, rain coat, fleeces, water etc) and filled two bags. I normally bring a soft carrier for him as well but on this trip, I brought the Wrapsit instead which meant I had one less (bulky) thing to carry.

This post was sponsored by Wrapsit. They are not responsible for the contents of this article. All opinions expressed are our own. 
The Wrapsit is a 5 cubic foot soft slipcover that goes on a folding quad chair and acts as a fully enclosed crate and/or storage area. The four sides are mesh allowing for ventilation and the pet to look out. And there's a shoulder strap that serves as a lead. Installation is quick and easy, you put a few velcro straps together and attach some clips.

Lure coursing is a high arousal sport and many of the dogs were screaming and lunging towards the lure like maniacs while waiting for their turn. Mr. N does not approve of this behavior. He will shake from excitement but generally he's quietly intense while waiting for his turn. And while he's running.

Photo by Polis Photography.
In the absence of a plastic bag to chase, a couple of the dogs were eyeing Mr. N in a "you look like a fluffy bunny and I want to eat you" way. He decided to pop into the Wrapsit of his own volition a couple of times to get away. 

His favorite feature is probably the waterproof base as it rains here the majority of the year and rain is always a risk at outdoor trials. The rest of us might get wet but he'll stay dry. If your dog is a texture snob like Mr. N, I would bring a towel or something else to put on the floor of the crate as it is not padded.

As for me, I like the pockets (storage space) and that you can just fold it up with the chair and it becomes the carrying case complete with padded handle. No repacking. 

Several people at the trial asked me about the crate and lamented the fact that their dogs were too big to go under the seat.  Wrapsit recommends it for dogs under 16 inches. Mr. N is small but leggy (11.5 inches) and he had no trouble popping in and popping out.

 The chair that I used is on the smaller side. Mr. N found it roomy enough but bigger dogs may want more space. Wrapsit adjusts to fit most popular size chairs up to 22 inches in length and 18 inches in height and the company suggests chairs close to the limit for maximum space and full functionality. 

Keep in mind this is a soft crate with velcro fasteners and it will not prevent a determined dog from getting out. I would not use this unsupervised or with dogs that are bad with crating. Mr. N is OK with soft crates as long as I am right there with him. 

If you have a small dog who goes with you on outdoor adventures, I highly recommend the Wrapsit. Your dog will have a safe space wherever you go. It's lightweight and convenient and one less thing to carry!

Wrapsit has generously provided a Wrapsit for one of our readers. Enter below!

05 October 2016

Halloween Dog Trick: Hold

Going to grandmother's house. 
I freely admit it. I taught Mr. N a "hold" purely for photo purposes. Now he's quite good at holding things in his mouth for photos although he still doesn't like metal objects. 

I had a bit of trouble getting him to do it originally as he kept trying to retrieve the item instead of holding it in his mouth. What helped was having him do it in a down as then he couldn't move to retrieve the item. I think I taught it backwards and most people start with the hold so this is probably not a common problem. 

Basically, I rewarded him for any interaction with the object and then mouthing. Once he started holding it his mouth, we built up duration slowly. And Mr. N is super non-mouthy so if he can do it, any dog can! I had to teach him how to fetch using a bully stick. 

Originally, I was going to have him hold a toy saw but I have no idea where we stowed it in the basement and I couldn't find it. So we improvised and did a Red Riding Hood-themed hold instead. Other objects that could work: bones, zombies (the stuffed kind), pumpkins, and treat baskets.

Do you have a favorite Halloween-themed trick?

Welcome to First Monday's Positive Pet Training Blog Hop hosted by Tenacious Little Terrier and Rubicon Days. Please share your responsible pet owner positive pet training tips by linking a blog post or leaving a comment below.  Our theme for this month is Halloween-themed tricks but any positive reinforcement training posts or comments are also always welcome. The Positive Pet Training Blog Hop goes all week long. Our next hop will begin November 7th and continues for a week. November's theme is indoor activities and games and December's is training gifts (a training gift you have given your dog, such as working slowly through something scary like nail trimming, or conversely, a training gift your dog has given YOU!) 

29 September 2016

What To Look for In a Dog Food with #PetcoWholehearted

Before we adopted Mr. N, I went to a pet store to ask about food and blindly bought a bag that the salesperson recommended. I didn't have the first clue about dog food. I didn't know to ask about where the food was made, what ingredients are good or bad, if the food was grain-free, or even what size bag to buy, really (do not buy dry food in bulk for tiny dogs despite the savings).

I did end up buying a good brand of food but that was sheer luck. Now I know a lot better and I know what questions to ask before buying dog food. The sheer variety that is available today can be overwhelming, especially for people new to the dog world.

This blog post is part of a paid Megan Media and Petco’s Wholehearted blogging program. The opinions and ideas expressed here are my own.
Mr. N has recently been trying out Petco's new grain-free line, Wholehearted. He is super finicky and often refuses to eat kibble, so I have been giving him Wholehearted  consistently so he's been eating their canned food. He's pretty tiny and has never had any trouble with bigger-sized kibble when he was sort of kind of eating it but some small dogs struggle especially if they have dental issues. Wholehearted offers both small breed and large breed options as well as food for puppies and adult dogs.

I like to give Mr. N different choices, both so he gets variety and so he doesn't get bored. He would not be happy eating the same thing every day. Even with treats, I have to make sure I rotate or he loses interest. And I wouldn't either. I love sushi but if that's all I had to eat, I imagine I'd get tired of it pretty quickly.

The lamb flavor with Mr. N's nettle root supplement sprinkled over it.
Petco’s Wholehearted dry food is available in: salmon & pea, chicken & pea, and beef & pea flavors. The canned food comes in: chicken, beef, turkey, chicken & fish and lamb. For the allergic pups out there, the lamb wet food is the only one without chicken or beef, out of the canned varieties.

Wholehearted is affordable, especially for a grain-free dog food (it contains no: corn, wheat, soy, or other grains). It provides vitamins & minerals for balanced nutrition and Omega-3 Fatty Acids which help improve your dog's skin and coat. The antioxidant  formula guarantees levels of Vitamin E, Selenium, and Zinc.

Mr. N prefers the canned food slightly warmed and especially likes it as an after-walk meal on rainy days (i.e. nine months out of the year in Portland) when he comes home dripping wet and needs something warm and nourishing in his belly.

How did you pick your first dog food?

Dinner time!
Readers have two chances to win a $50 Petco gift card, once for commenting on this post and once for sharing the post. And one very lucky dog will win the grand prize of an one-year supply of Petco Wholehearted dog food! 

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

28 September 2016

This Does Not Compute

Mr. N loves meeting new people and getting attention. He tried so hard to make friends with a visitor and pulled out all the stops. Bringing a toy over, flopping over for a belly rub, looking at her pleadingly with puppy eyes and tongue sticking out. Nothing worked and she gingerly petted him once or twice (she is not afraid of dogs, just not an animal person). Mr. N was dumbfounded that there was someone who didn't want to pet him. Everyone wants to pet him! 

20 September 2016

Catching Bulbasaur (or Ivysaur?)

14 September 2016

Group Photos are Hard