Gear | Gear Gear en-us Thu, 12 Mar 2015 08:00:00 -0700 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 08:00:00 -0700 Orion <![CDATA[Monkey the Saint Bernard and His Friend Try Out the Puller ]]> It's no secret that I chose a Saint Bernard as my best friend because the breed is notoriously lazy. Just like me. Still, even the laziest of dogs needs exercise, so I was curious to try out the Puller, a dog-training device claiming that 20 minutes of its three simple exercises is comparable to 5km of intensive running. Now, Monkey has never run that far in his entire life, so I was super-stoked to try this out. After all, he sleeps for three hours after 30 minutes of play at the dog park; if I could get him to actually do the exercises, the Puller would likely tucker him out for the entire day. And let's be real: As much as we love our dogs, we REALLY love them when they're sleepy.

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The Puller, which consists of two rings, also promises to develop all muscle groups, provide physical development for puppies, and keep their attention on one thing rather than every single -- ooooh! Pine cone!

Unfortunately, when I received the Puller and watched some of the amazing training videos of dogs using the system effectively, I realized there was no way Monkey was going to be able to do those things. Yeah, my dog is amazing, but jumping through the air and off of walls just isn't really his jam.

The people behind the Puller recommend three exercises:

1. Running

You basically roll one Puller, and your dog fetches it and brings it back to you, at which point you immediately switch and throw the second one. The problem for Monkey? He doesn't fetch. Or bring things back. 

2. Jumping

Same idea, but you let your dog catch the Puller in the air while jumping, and then you make him jump for the second one while you're still holding onto the first one. The problem for Monkey? He's not allowed to jump. Also, he can't really jump. But that's fine because I promise no one wants a 140-pound Saint Bernard leaping through the air. 

3. Pulling

This is basically a game of tug, but you want your dog to bite with his back teeth. Tug? Monkey can totally do that. And he did. And we had fun.

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Still, I didn't feel like it was fair to fully test the Puller out on Monkey when clearly it wasn't really his thing from the start. So I called in reinforcements in the form of Monkey's good friend, Cassius, a German Wirehaired Pointer-black Lab. Unlike Monkey, Cassius loves to fetch AND has endless amounts of energy.

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When it came to the running exercise, Cassius was definitely down to chase the rolling Puller. Getting him to bring it back presented a slight problem, but he got plenty of exercise in the form of keeping the Puller away from Monkey, who will never chase a toy, but will always chase another dog chasing a toy.

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Cash was also great with the jumping, as there is possibly nothing more in life that the little guy likes to do than jump. It would take some training, but I think eventually he would really like the way quickly switching between the two Pullers would keep him engaged.

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It also makes a great necklace for dogs who enjoy accessorizing on the fly.

As far as pulling goes ... I mean, what dog doesn't like to pull? Unfortunately, I didn't really get to try out switching between the two Pullers for this exercise because Cash and Monkey were much more entertained trying to yank just the one Puller out of each other's mouths. Note: This is NOT how the Puller is supposed to be used. Like, the website specifically says not to do this. Oops?

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Frankly, the Puller isn't for me and Monkey, but I would say a lot of that is because Monkey just isn't interested in running and fetching, but more of that is because I don't have dedication it would require to actually work with Monkey five days a week so that he would get the most out of the training device. And hey, that's on me. Luckily, between our walks and the fact that I bring him pretty much everywhere I go, he sleeps just fine at night. And in the morning. And most of the afternoon.

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Dogster scorecard for the Puller

  • Quality: The Puller is made of high-purity polymer, which is very light, so even kids can easily throw it. It didn't lose its shape or have too many teeth marks in it after a ton of play.
  • Style: Well, you're supposed to hide it when it's not in use so that your dog gets excited to train with it, but if it did happen to be laying around my house, I would be fine with that. I do wish it came in other colors besides purple though.
  • Function: The Puller floats and is odorless, so it doesn't leave an odor on your hands, which is apparently important when it comes to training. It's also specially developed not to hurt your dog's teeth
  • Creativity: This concept is totally unique, and if you have a super active dog who loves to run and fetch, he would love this training device 100 percent.
  • Value: The Standard Puller (pictured) comes with two rings and sells for $25 on Amazon. There are also mini and maxi Pullers, so there's one for dogs of all sizes.

Bottom line

If you have an energetic dog, plenty of space (I'm lucky I spend time in Tahoe because I don't know where I would have tried this out in San Francisco), and are the type of person who is willing to commit to really teaching your dog how to use the Puller, then this is a super affordable option you and your pup will appreciate.

Read more Dogster Reviews:

About the author: Daisy Barringer grew up in San Francisco and didn't let the fact that she's a city girl keep her from getting her dream dog: a Saint Bernard. She and Monkey love to romp in the snow in Tahoe, visit dog-friendly bars, watch 49ers football, and drool. Yup, both of 'em.

Thu, 12 Mar 2015 08:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/puller-dog-training-toy-review-saint-bernard
<![CDATA[12 of the Hottest New Dog Products From the Global Pet Trade Expo]]> I love my dogs, Justice and Tampa, and I admit they have a small closet and two toy boxes filled with dog products just for them. So it wasn’t a hardship for me to attend the 2015 Global Pet Trade Expo, which covered about 13 football fields with more than 900 pet product exhibitors, with the majority selling dog products.

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Me with my beloved Justice and Tampa.

One of the big trends was, “If it’s good enough for me, it’s good enough for my dog.” I picked 12 very human, very new dog products for you to peruse -- so new that most of these aren’t even available in stores yet.

1. Buster Activity Map

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Kruuse’s Buster Activity Map keeps dogs engaged in a whole new way.

We probably all played with some type of activity center as a young child. This is one just for our dogs. It features a simple mat and has various tasks attached to it. Each task has a different degree of difficulty. Just put a treat inside each envelope or pocket, and let your dog do the rest. It’s perfect for keeping your dog engaged at home or on the go. Buster Activity Map starter kit costs $69.99, and more tasks are $10 to $15;

2. Doggy Don Ear Muffs

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Doggy Don Ear Muffs let you keep your dog’s ears warm just like you do yours.

We don’t have to keep our dogs’ ears out in the cold, because now they’ve got earmuffs, too! The Doggy Don Ear Muffs have an adjustable chinstrap, fit dogs 10 pounds and up, and keeps dogs’ ears warm with faux fur. They cost $17.99 at

3. Sensa Snoozer 

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The Sensa Snoozer dog bed by TrustyPup conforms to your dog’s body with its memory foam cushion.

Our dogs no longer have to sleep in our beds to enjoy the comfort cushioning of memory foam. TrustyPup’s new dog bed is made of memory foam cushion from shredded foam remnants left over from human products. The memory foam conforms to our dogs’ body contours, and high-loft fiber fills the dog bed’s thick, supportive sides. Good for us -- the Sensa Snoozer is machine washable;

4. Tea for Spot 

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Check out the new brew in town — Tea for Spot teas and teacups for dogs.

If you are like me and love tea, you’re going to love having tea parties with your dogs with these new teas. Oh yes, there’s a new brew in town. There are five dog teas to choose from: Daily Brew provides essential daily nutrients; No Worries, Mutt promotes relaxation and anxiety relief; Kissably Canine controls dog breath by tackling odor-causing bacteria; Leaps & Bounds supports joint health; and Tea Party contains five bags each of the previous teas. Each tea tin has 20 individually wrapped tea bags. And that’s not all -- we also get three stylish teacups for dogs: plaid, zebra, and paw print. These eight-ounce porcelain cups are fused to the saucer to avoid spills and have a skid-resistant silicone rubber base. A tin costs $9.95 and a dog teacup $19.99 at

5. Skipping Stones

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Playing fetch for you and your dog around the pool, pond, or lake will never be the same with Kurgo’s play-and-chew Skipping Stones.

Remember those idyllic days when you hung out at the lake and skipped stones? Now your dog can make those memories, too. Just toss the new play-and-chew skipping stone into the pool, pond, or lake, and your dog can bring it back. So long, soggy dog balls! Skipping Stones come in three shapes: Fat Bob, Easy Rider, and Tiny. The stones cost $13 at

6. Dental Chew Bristle Brushes

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Nylabone combines dog tooth brushing and playtime with its new Dental Chew Bristle Brushes.

One thing we all want: Dogs who brush their own teeth! Well, we’re getting closer. This chew toy looks like a toothbrush and chew toy in one. It has cleaning bristles, action nubs, and ridges to help keep dogs’ teeth clean. They cost 11.99 to $18.99 at

7. My Dog Nose It

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My Dog Nose It’s dog-safe sunscreen is a natural, safe and water resistant sun protector.

Unfortunately, skin cancer isn’t only for humans -- our dogs are at risk, too. Dog lover Jill Stephens developed basal cell carcinoma on her nose and later noticed her dog, Cody Joe, was showing effects of the sun on his nose, too. After her veterinarian recommended using sunscreen, Jill decided to hire a chemist and create a dog-safe sunscreen specifically for the dog nose, but which can be used on ears and other unprotected areas, too. I love Jill’s story and how she went above and beyond to protect not only her dog, but our dogs as well. The sunscreen costs $12.99, but Jill wants to share a 25-percent off discount code with the Dogster community. Just use discount code PET25 at

8. Healthy Water Enhancers

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Get your dog to drink more by adding some flavor — along with Vitamin C and antioxidants — to his water with FouFou Brand’s Vegalicious Healthy Water Enhancers.

We humans love our water enhancers, and now our dogs can, too. Want your dog to drink more water? Just squeeze in some Vegalicious Super Berry Blast, Mango Coconut Chiller, or Fresh Breath Vanilla Mint into your dog’s water bowl. Not only are they flavoricious, but they’ve also got Vitamin C and antioxidants. The dog water enhancers contain 24 servings and cost $4.99 at

9. Can Toy

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SodaPup’s fun-and-brains Can Toy for dogs comes in Orange Squeeze, Lemon Line, and Orange Crush.

I say “soda” and my husband says “pop,” but no matter how we say it, soda pop is downright American. And now dogs can enjoy it, too, but in a much healthier and fun way. Meet the Can Toy. It’s a dog toy puzzle made of natural rubber, tooth tested, and certified to meet Europe’s rigorous standards for children’s toys. The Can Toy has openings at each end for you to put in treats. It comes in medium, large, and extra large, and in three styles: Orange Squeeze, Lemon Lime, and Orange Crush. The toys cost $19.99. 

10. Puffsters

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Puffsters is an all-natural, air-puffed snack chip for dogs that comes in four yummy flavors.

There’s nothing like opening a fresh bag of Cheetos and then seeing your dog giving you that pleading, oh-please-share look. No more! My dogs can finally have their own puffy goodness with Puffsters. Dogs will see these all-natural, air-puffed snack chips and think they’ve gone to human treat heaven. Puffsters come in four flavors: Apple and Chicken, Banana and Chicken, Sweet Potato and Chicken, and Cranberry and Chicken. Retails from $4.99 to $5.99 at

11. Woof Poof

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Wash your dog with ease using Absorbine’s Woof Poof, great for bath time on the go or in the home.

Admit it, we’ve all got a bath pouf somewhere. Let’s not leave our dogs out of this bath-time cleansing ritual -- get them their own bath poufs! Check out the ShowSheen Deodorizing Bath Pouf and the Ultrashield Green Flea & Tick Bath Pouf. These soft pouf scrubs are filled with ShowSheen soap buttons, which last more than 15 washes. The Ultrashield Woof Pouf’s eco-friendly formula repels flies, fleas, and ticks. The ShowSheen Woof Pouf is great for on-the-go shampooing and helps with skunk smell. They cost from $7.99 to $9.99 at

12. Bark B-Q

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Dog bored with his food? Put some Bark B-Q pork flavored condiment on his kibble and watch him gobble it up.

First there was Petchup, Muttstard, and Mutt-n-aise, and now there’s a Bark B-Q pork-flavored condiment. Created for picky pets, these flavored condiments mimic human’s love of condiments to make food taste better. They’re made of natural food-grade nutritional ingredients. A two-pack costs for $17.90 at

All photos by Melissa L. Kauffman. 

Read more about dog accessories:

About the author: Melissa L. Kauffman often goes by Mel to friends and canines alike. She lives in North Carolina with her two forever puppies, Tampa Bay and Justice; two feisty parrots, Deacon and Carlisle; a betta fish named Edgar Allan; and her husband, Scott. Mel is the senior editorial director for Catster and Dogster print magazines.

Thu, 12 Mar 2015 06:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/new-dog-products-toys-treats-beds-global-pet-trade-expo
<![CDATA[Does Your Dog Sleep in the Human Bed? Win a Therapedic Waterproof Mattress Pad]]> My dogs sleep in the human bed. While I would love to tell you that they never snore and always stay on their side, I can't. Spot and Dolly are snorty bed hogs.

They are also the reason why I now sleep under a machine-washable quilt instead of one filled with dry-clean-only down. On more than one occasion, Dolly has tossed her cookies on the bedding -- literally, as she gets 10 p.m. treats in a not-always-successful attempt to manage her acid reflux.

So why am I oversharing this information about my dogs? Because if you can relate to such a mishap, you will want to win this Friday Freebie: a Therapedic Waterproof Mattress Pad.

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Spot Thought Bubble: Why am I posing on this pad? Are you talking about how stinky we are again? No wonder Dolly refused to take part in this photo shoot.

In addition to the waterproofing, Therapedic points out three other ways its pad protects a mattress from canine co-sleepers: AlwaysFresh Odor Eliminators, Puresleep Advanced Technology, and an antimicrobial fill, all of which the company says work together to break down, release, and even repel pet odors and stains. The 100-percent cotton, 250-thread-count pad also is hypoallergenic.

I've had this pad on the human bed for more than a month now and can report that not only is it comfy, I also haven't felt the need to wash it along with the rest of the bedding each week, as I have done with previous pads. Thankfully, the waterproofing hasn't been tested yet.

If you want to try the Therapedic Waterproof Mattress Pad, it costs $39.99 to $79.99, depending the size, at Bed Bath & Beyond, or you can enter to win one of four we have to give away by following the directions below.

How to Enter

  1. Create a Disqus account, if you haven't already, and include a valid email. It takes just a minute and allows you to better participate in Dogster's community of people who are passionate about dogs. If you already have a Disqus account, check it to ensure the account includes a valid email.
  2. Comment below using your Disqus account, telling us why you need this mattress pad and what size you want. Our favorite comment wins. You must be a resident of the U.S. to score this prize.
  3. Check your email for a "You've Won!" message from us after noon PST on Thursday, March 4. We'll give the winner two days to respond before moving on to our next favorite.

Good luck!

Read more about dog products with Dogster:

Fri, 27 Feb 2015 06:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/therapedic-waterproof-mattress-pad-freebies-giveaways
<![CDATA[Monkey the Saint Bernard Tries Out the RuffGrip Dog Leash]]> It's no secret that my 140-pound, 18-month-old Saint Bernard is a huge fan of pulling on the leash. Obviously this is a behavior we're working to fix, but in the meantime, my hands literally have peeling callouses that no amount of hand lotion can fix. Which is why when I was given the opportunity to try the RuffGrip leash that promises "no more rope burns," I was waving my tired hands in the air yelling, "Yes, please."

The folks at RuffGrip were kind enough to also send a matching, rolled 1-inch leather collar, which at $18.95 is an amazing deal for the classic, sophisticated look. Monkey was previously sporting a nylon collar that tended to slip and stretch when he pulled, so this was a welcome treat. Plus, a rolled leather collar doesn't mat his hair hair down like a flat collar does. Sure, you can't even really see it thanks to how furry Monkey is, but whatever, I know he's sporting a stylish collar, and that's all that matters.

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But back to the leash ...

The RuffGrip Leash combines rubber, nylon, and leather and promises to be practically indestructible. The woven design and leather "stops" every six inches prevent slipping so you have more control; the leather bands give your fingers something to grab onto when you need to shorten the leash. This means you never have to wrap the leash around your hand, which, thanks to Monkey's insane strength, would be a really stupid and dangerous thing for me to do, at least if I wanted to keep my fingers. To put the leash to a true test, I used it to walk Monkey around the Village at Squaw Valley, a Tahoe ski resort, but also doggy paradise.

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Squaw has every single thing that would make a dog want to pull: tons of outdoor food, throngs of people, snow that's just begging to be peed on, but mostly lots and lots of dogs, many off-leash. Did Monkey pull on our adventure? Sure. But was it much easier to control him since the leash wasn't burning my hands and fingers? Absolutely, thanks to the fact that it was easy to keep a firm grip without any of the slipping that happens with most leashes. Plus, now that I've used a leash with a padded leather handle, it would be impossible to go back to nylon. Does that make me sound a little spoiled? Sure. Do my hands deserve to be a little spoiled after a year and a half of being torn up by "regular" leashes? They definitely think so. 

The other good thing about the leash, especially considering Monkey is a part-time Tahoe dog, is that the grip works in any kind of weather. Sadly, we're in a major drought in California so I haven't been able to test the leash in the rain or snow yet, but RuffGrip promises that wet or dry, hot or cold, the leash won't slip. So far we've only tested it out in mild weather, but it's obvious that this leash is more durable than any others we've used, so I feel confident that it's going to last long enough for us to test it during snowy blizzards and sticky summer days. I mean, if South African security teams in Iraq use the leash in 135 degree F heat and if Alaskan rescue teams use it in freezing cold temps (both according to the makers), I have a feeling it's going to be perfect for me and Monkey and our California lifestyle.

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Dogster scorecard for the RuffGripp Leash

  • Quality: A++. Supple leather, rust-resistant brass hardware, reinforced stitching, and a rubber-ized woven nylon design that prevents leash burn and slippage make this leash the best one Monkey and I have tried yet.
  • Style: Simple and classic, this leash doesn't sacrifice any style for function.
  • Function: While this leash has been praised by the Arthritis Foundation for helping people with gripping or dexterity problems due to arthritis in their hand joints, it also works for anyone who has a dog who pulls or chews on leashes.
  • Creativity: It looks like a simple leash, but it's a lot more than that.
  • Value: I'm actually shocked at how affordable the leash and collar are. Monkey is obviously enormous, so he got the Premium 4-foot leash with a padded leather handle, which still only cost $35.49. 

Bottom line

The RuffGrip leash keeps my hands from hurting when Monkey pulls AND promises not to get tacky in hot weather or crack in cold weather. It's 100 percent my go-to leash from now on, and if you're my friend and you own a dog, you should probably expect to get one the next time I give you a gift. Which, I think, says it all. 

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Update: While the RuffGrip proved to be sturdy enough for Monkey, unfortunately this weekend, my friend's dog chewed through the leash in under 30 seconds. To be fair, this particular pup LOVES to chew leashes and I can only imagine that the leather felt just as satisfying as a chew toy as he made his way through it. Still, I felt like it was only fair to add in an update for anyone out there with a dog with a propensity for chewing on leashes. Good news though, if that's the case, RuffGrip does have a ChewGuard Leash Protector available for $10.95.

Read more dog product reviews by Daisy Barringer and Monkey:

About the author: Daisy Barringer grew up in San Francisco and didn't let the fact that she's a city girl keep her from getting her dream dog: a Saint Bernard. She and Monkey love to romp in the snow in Tahoe, visit dog-friendly bars, watch 49ers football, and drool. Yup, both of 'em.  

Thu, 26 Feb 2015 02:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/dog-product-reviews-ruffgrip-leather-leash-saint-bernard
<![CDATA[Dogster Reviews the Latch'NVent]]> A couple of months ago, a friend of mine sent me a link to a host of cool pet products. Scanning them, I stopped cold when I saw the Latch'NVent. Excitement building, I went directly to the company's website to check it out further. It was the product I had been in search of for the past decade!

I liked what I read about Latch'NVent online. It is made from high-impact plastic and appeared sturdy. The product comes with three different extensions (2 inches, 3 inches, and 4 inches), which I realized would solve many common problems in homes with pets.

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Maggie eyeing the litterbox. (All photos by Marci Kladnik)

The door to any cat's powder room needs to be secured so dogs cannot use the litter box as a snack bar. (Yes, my dog eats poop!) I thought, a 4-inch extension would work there.

Then the bedroom door must be locked into a semi-open position at night so the cats can come and go, but so my Scottish Terrier would be blocked from leaving the room. Another 4-inch extension.

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My improvised solution.

I would use a 2-inch extension on my closet door in order to let the small room breathe but keep the fur kids at bay. Although I wear pet fur proudly, I prefer to gather it in person while interacting with my dog and cats.

Over the years, I've improvised temporary fixes while searching hardware stores for a solution. Most recently, I'd been using a rubber bumper at the top and a cute Scottie doorstop at the bottom, requiring me to bend over each time I wanted to enter the rooms and again upon exiting. While this helped add some much needed exercise to my day, it was an absolute bother. Now perhaps the answer was finally at hand.

Sad to say, the item was out of stock! Either it was immensely popular or just the opposite and off the market. I fired off an email to the company immediately asking when it would be available and received a response within a couple of hours.

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"One to two months," was the answer, but they could spare one now if I was interested. I jumped at the offer and sent them my mailing address.

Six days after my initial email, the package arrived!

The contents and directions looked easy enough, so I ran for my tools and got started. Here's how the install went.

12:15 p.m.: Read directions.

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12:20 p.m.: Removed the existing striker plate with a Philips screwdriver.

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12:22 p.m.: Trimmed the tabs on the new Latch'NVent striker plate to fit and screwed it into position using existing holes.

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12:27 p.m.: Drilled hole to secure outer section to doorframe and screwed into place.

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12:29 p.m.: Installed 2-inch extension by simply sliding it into the channel until it snapped into place.

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12:30 p.m.: Shut door. It latched in place just as advertised and is exactly what I wanted!

Whooohooo, and it only took 15 minutes to install (plus another five for photos)!

With a simple push of a button, I can easily switch extensions to adjust the opening size or to remove it to shut and latch the door normally. I did find that I needed to tighten the screws in the striker plate a bit more so the door would shut completely and not hang up. (The instructions cautioned, "Do not over tighten," so I didn’t.) I will probably never shut the closet door all the way, but it's nice to have that option.

I'd happily been using the closet Latch'NVent for about a month before I was able to get my hands on another one.

This one I installed on the bedroom door jam using the 4-inch extension.

I pop the extension out during the day and back in each night so as not to snap it off accidentally when walking by. (One of my nicknames in college was Klutz, so you get the picture.) It takes but a second and is much easier than dealing with the similar temporary wedge-and-doorstop I'd been using.

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Maggie can't get out of the room, but Barney comes and goes easily.

Kerry Swink, inventor and company owner, shared a story with me. A satisfied customer wrote to him about her senior cat who wasn't getting her blood pressure and liver meds because the dog kept eating the dosed food. Latch'NVent solved the problem and likely saved both the cat and the dog.

I'm already wondering what other doors in my house need one of these. I love the room ventilation aspect of the product. Even though I live in California, I do not have air conditioning. When it gets hot for an extended period of time, I try to capture as much cool night air as possible, after the sun goes down and before retiring for bed. Simply propping an outside door open is not an option as my Scottie is a runner given the chance, and my cats are indoor-only. A Latch'NVent on my kitchen/garage door in the summer would create a nice draft, which would really help with evening airflow yet keep my fur kids inside.

I just love sharing cool products with the pet world when they work for me. Oh! And the Latch'NVent price is an affordable $19.99. I hope you find your own uses for this award-winning gadget.

Could you use a Latch'NVent in your home? We have three to give away! Follow the directions below for a chance to win.

How to Enter

  1. Create a Disqus account, if you haven't already, and include a valid email. It takes just a minute and allows you to better participate in Dogster's community of people who are passionate about dogs. If you already have a Disqus account, check it to ensure the account includes a valid email.
  2. Comment below using your Disqus account, telling us how this product would help in your home. Our favorite comment wins. You must be a resident of the U.S. to score this prize.
  3. Check your email for a "You've Won!" message from us after noon PST on Thursday, Feb. 19. We'll give the winner two days to respond before moving on to our next favorite.

Good luck!

Read more Dogster Reviews:

About the author: Marci Kladnik, her four rescue cats, and one Scottish Terrier live in a small town with no stoplights or mail delivery. A retired graphic designer and technical writer, she designed and wrote for two publishers and two medical device manufacturers. She was also on the masthead of the monthly National Model Railroad Association Bulletin. Her award-winning, bi-weekly cat column ran for seven years in three newspapers, and she is a contributing writer for, an award-winning photographer, and president of the Cat Writers’ Association. Involved in TNR and feral rescue, she sat on the board of directors of Catalyst for Cats from 2007 to 2013 and in her spare time, trapped and fostered local feral cats and kittens. Past columns appear on and her dog blogs at

Fri, 13 Feb 2015 06:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/latchnvent-dog-cat-product-review-door-prop-lock-latch
<![CDATA[How Safe Are Some of Today's Car Harnesses for Dogs?]]> Last year, I was in a car accident. Hit and run. My car was totaled. I was VERY lucky to have walked away with nothing more than a concussion. I'm a dog sitter and transport pups, including my own, in a vehicle every day. Post-crash, while I was on the shoulder waiting for the police, all I could think was, "Thank goodness the dogs weren't with me."

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Peanut, Face, and me (with Nugget, Riggins, and Shadow in the background). We were parked when I took this picture, but that's no excuse for the lack of restraints! (Photo by Wendy Newell)

I have always been an advocate for doggie car restraints, but even I was getting a bit lax about using them. I was piling pups on top of pups into my car and just assuming that all would be okay. It would have been a much different outcome had the dogs been with me when my car (going about 70 mph) was rear-ended (by a car going about 90 mph) and put into a spin on the freeway. I could have been hurt very badly, even killed, by the force of a flying pup, and the pups could have suffered substantial or even fatal injuries.

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My dog, Riggins, in his Sleepypod Clickit Sport car restraint. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

The scary facts

  • An unrestrained 10-pound dog in a crash at 50 mph will exert roughly 500 pounds of force.*
  • An unrestrained 80-pound dog in a crash at only 30 mph will exert approximately 2,400 pounds of force.*
  • The front airbag system in a vehicle can be deadly during a crash to a dog sitting in the front seat, even if restrained, just as it can be to children.
  • An unrestrained dog can easily jump out of a vehicle. After an accident, when everything is chaotic and the driver is agitated or hurt, a normally well-behaved dog could panic and run.
  • An unrestrained dog can make it harder for first responders to do their job, which may include helping you and your dog.
  • Although it may not be illegal to drive with an unrestrained dog where you live, a pet in your lap or one taking away your focus can result in a citation for "driving distracted."

Safe ride for our babies

Cars were not built to offer a safe ride for dogs. They weren't even built as a safe ride for babies and young children, which is why we strap them into car seats, which limits their mobility, has been extensively tested per government standards, and is required before you drive away from the hospital with a newborn. Our furry babies, on the other hand, often roam around our vehicles or sit, unrestrained, sometimes with their head out the window. We don't put our children's life at risk while in a vehicle. Why do we do it to our other babies, our dogs?

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My nephew and Riggins both buckled up in 2009. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

In 2013, Subaru of America partnered with the Center for Pet Safety (CPS), a nonprofit research and advocacy organization dedicated to companion animal and consumer safety, to test the crashworthiness of current dog car restraints available to consumers. Their results should be shocking to people like me who had been buckling up their dog for years. The tests uncovered serious flaws in most marketed pet restraint systems at the time. Only one restraint, Sleepypod's Clikit Utility, earned the title of a Top Performing Harness because it:

  • Prevented the launch of the dog off of the seat for all three harness sizes tested
  • Substantially reduced rotation of the test dog during testing
  • Offers a three-point connection, improving the overall functional behavior of the harness

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A moment captured from the 2013 dog car restraint testing done by the CPS and Subaru. (Photo courtesy of CPS)

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The CPS and Subaru's 2013 crash testing of dog car restraints available on the market. (Photo courtesy of CPS)

Be an educated and responsible consumer

"It's all about money,"  Lindsey Wolko, founder of CPS, explains when discussing the current state of the dog car-restraint industry. "We see on every level, whether it's a well-known brand or whether it's a private label, we see manufacturers lying to consumers, misrepresenting the safety of the product."

Wolko is very passionate about this topic due to a personal experience. A short stop with her pup, Maggie, "buckled in" using what was called a "dog-restrained harness," left Maggie with very serious and costly injuries. "I don't know why pet owners aren't screaming. It's frustrating to me and other advocates that are out there, who are working very hard to make pet owners aware."

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A failed dynamic test from the CPS 2013 testing and an example of why the group suggests against the car restraints that have an extension tether used as the only point where the harness is "buckled" in. (Photo courtesy of CPS)

A few companies have taken notice and aim to provide a new generation of car restraints. To build the Clickit Utility, Michael Leung, owner of Sleepypod, and his team did extensive research. About taking that first step to bring a safe car restraint for dogs to the market, Leung explains, "It is a big challenge to design something that will protect your dog. It is an unknown expense. You can be working for years and years, and you might not have anything. That's the risk we took."

During testing, it became clear to the people at Sleepypod that a dog required a three-point restraint system to stay seated with his bottom in the chair and his upper body restrained, all while using metal clasps strong enough to stand the stress and pressure of a crash. With traditional restraints, the dog would become unseated or even completely torn from the attachment to the seat. The traditional restraint may keep the dog from becoming a deadly projectile and help prevent driver distraction, but there is a very good chance the dog would be injured. 

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Sleepypod's Michael Leung observing a crash test of the Clickit car restraint. (Photo courtesy of Sleepypod)

For Clickit Utility to have a three-point restraint, the Sleepypod team designed a harness that didn't just utilize the car's seat belt but also used the child seat LATCH anchors to hold the dog in place from each side. Although effective in testing, the harness requires the dog's owner to latch in those three places each time the dog gets in the car.

Leung and his team wanted the next generation of their Clickit harness to be easier for the consumer to use. The team went back to the drawing board and worked hard to find a way to keep a three-point restraint system but to allow for the seatbelt to be the only connection to the car and not put any stress on the metal/plastic clasps and rings. Relaying on an innovative webbing design which they named the Infinity Loop, the Clickit Sport was born!

Sleepypod gave my dog, Riggins, a Clickit Sport to try. Riggins now wears it every time he gets into the car. I appreciate its ease of use and that it has Center for Pet Safety certification. 

After the 2013 testing with Subaru, the center rolled out a voluntary certification program for dog car restraint manufacturers. Currently the only product that has been tested and achieved certification is the Clickit Sport. Since the company's Utility model had already passed the 2013 crash testing, the company did not have it certified.

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Solvit's Deluxe Car Safety Harness. (Photo courtesy of Solvit Products)

Sleepypod isn't the only company that has recently redesigned its product, though. After seeing how its dog harnesses performed in the 2013 crash testing, Solvit Products started extensive testing to strengthen its restraint.

Patrick Hoffman, owner and president of Solvit Products, explains, "There is quite a bit of engineering that goes into it [designing a harness]. We might have spent $50,000 on testing. We went through many many iterations of redesign on this product to get the strength higher."

Hoffman points out that the safest way for your dog to travel in the vehicle is in a travel crate tethered to the floorboard. If that isn't possible, then the harness-style restraint is the next best thing. Solvit's Deluxe Car Seat Harness allows for different levels of safety based on an owner's overall goal. If the consumer wants to go beyond restraining for driver distraction, they can add a three point attachment accessory for a safer ride for their pup. A crash test video of a 75-pound dummy dog using the Deluxe Car Seat Harness with the LATCH attachments, which are sold separately, on each side of the dog can be found on the company's website. 

No more excuses

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Riggins in his Clickit Sport proving you don't have to sit up to enjoy car safety. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

Both Solvit and Sleepypod have stories of customers who have called to tell them about an accident they have been in and to thank them for their products keeping their dogs safe. Leung tells a story of a client who was in a collision, resulting in the driver spending weeks in the hospital recovering from her injuries. The dog in the car, wearing a Clickit Utility, had no injuries from the crash and got an all clear from the vet after the incident.

When asked why the adoption of pet car restraints isn't more widespread, Hoffman suggests that consumers can be slow in adapting safety measures in the car. He equates it to the restraining of children while driving. "It took quite a long time for that [child restraint] mentality to change. Now I wouldn't get out of the driveway without the kids buckled in."

He continues, "It's just a mentality that has changed with people and their children in the last generation. The whole concept of pets as people is a growing trend and that [car safety] aspect of it has just lagged for some reason, but it [a change in consumer thought] is coming." 

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Riggins wearing a car restraint in 2010. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

Wolko of CPS points out that the cost of a harness is far less than that of a hurt dog's vet bill. "When you evaluate the cost of injury, if your dog is even in a short stop -- I mean, I just slammed on the breaks to avoid an accident, and I saw what I paid for Maggie's bills. It far exceeded the cost of a Sleepypod harness."

She continues, "You are talking hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars if your dog is injured. Your dog could be killed. Someone in your family can be hurt."

When looking for the best product for the safety of your pet, remember to do your research. Check out resources like the Center for Pet Safety's website and follow manufacturer's guidelines on what type of restraint (harness or carrier) will work best based on your dog's size and weight.

 * AAA and Krugo's 2011 survey

Read more by Wendy Newell:

About the author: Wendy Newell is a former VP of Sales turned Grade A Dog Sitter. After years of stress, she decided to leave the world of "always be closing" to one of tail wags and licks. Wendy's new career keeps her busy hiking, being a dog chauffeur, picking up poop, sacrificing her bed, and with other furry filled activities. Wendy and her dog, Riggins, take their always-changing pack of pups on adventures throughout the Los Angeles area, where they live together in a cozy, happy home. You can learn more about Wendy, Riggins, and their adventures on Facebook and Instagram.

Thu, 12 Feb 2015 04:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/dog-seatbelts-car-restraints-safety-harness-sleepypod-solvit
<![CDATA[10 Valentine's Day Gifts for Dogs and Dog Lovers]]> February 14th is a day to celebrate love, and if you have a dog in your life you'll never be short of it. That's why we’ve rounded up 10 great gifts for the dogs and dog lovers close to you.

1. Hip Doggie Heart Dog Leash

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A heart-themed leash for the beloved dog in your life.

Who doesn't need a festive heart-themed leash? Plenty of petite pups would bark with joy to unwrap this stylish accessory on the big day. It also usually ships in one to two days, so you can enjoy a pink promenade with your pooch as soon as possible.

$35.99 at PetSmart 

2. Rosie's Hearts N' Homes Dog Treats

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They're like little bites of love!

Order up some lovely snacks for your pup and make Valentine's Day delicious. These treats from Rosie's Barkery, which we profiled as a Dogster Hero recently, are good for your furry bestie, and 10 percent of the proceeds go to helping rescue dogs find forever homes. It's a win-win for everyone (especially your treat-loving pooch).

$8.95 and up at Rosie's Barkery

3. Hearts and Paw Bandana

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The perfect accessory for a perfect pet!

What’s better than a handmade bandana for the beloved pup in your life? A bandana that's on sale right now, that's what. This beauty ships in one to two days from PawsClawsCorner in Niagara Falls, Ontario. It's reversible and comes in a variety of sizes, from Chihuahua to Husky.

$4 at Etsy

4. Clay Sculpture Valentine

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The cutest little keepsake.

Another awesome Etsy find that ships within three business days of purchase, this one of a kind Wheaten Terrier sculpture might be the perfect personalized find for the dog lover in your life. Don’t fret if Wheatens aren't your thing -- this seller's got plenty of breeds statues to convey your love.

$25 at Etsy

5. Will You Be My Valentine Doggy Tank

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For the pup who has your heart.

Dress your dog up for the big day in this soft cotton tank that was made with love in the U.S.A. Shipping from this online retailer usually takes about seven to 10 business days, so ordering for this year might be a little risky -- but at this price, why not roll the dice? Even if it's late, you'll be ready for next year.

$15 from Bloomingtales

6. Pink Paw Print Blanket

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Cute, festive, and inexpensive.

This adorable pink number is perfect for all the small doggies in your life, and one-day shipping is an option, so a beloved pooch could be snuggling on this soft fleecy number very soon. The seller notes that it's for smaller breeds, which makes sense at 27 inches by 26 inches, and it's also got a very small price tag. Amazon can even gift wrap the cozy blanket for you!

$5.58 on Amazon

7. Don't Shop, Adopt T-Shirt

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Let them wear their rescue pride.

Give the dog-adoption advocates in your life a way to wear their love on Valentine's Day with this T-shirt from The site lets you know the ordering deadline to have your gift by Valentine’s Day, and if you don't like this design there are a ton of others to choose available. You can even make your own design, or you can just pick a different color. 

$24.95 at Zazzle

8. Heart Print Bowl

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A beautiful bowl for a beautiful best friend.

Let your dog lap up some love on V-day with this adorable ceramic bowl. The tasteful neutral tones will fit into most kitchen decor styles while still incorporating a playful element. It cleans up quickly, won't harbor bacteria like some plastic bowls, and usually ships the next business day.

$6.99 at Petco

9. A loving donation to an animal rescue

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Send a Valentine showing off this adoptable dog! (Image via Fayetteville Animal Protection Society)

If chocolates and roses don't seem like the right gift for the dog lover you're romancing, why not make a donation in your beloved's honor this Valentine's Day? START Rescue in California will send a Valentine’s Day card for you when you donate in someone's honor, as will the Fayetteville Animal Protection Society, which used its own adoptable pets as Valentine card models (order by February 10). Check if your local rescues have a similar program, and if they don't you can always donate anyway and make your own Valentine.

10. A night of dog sitting

This Valentine's Day, why not give the gift of time? If you know a couple who've recently brought home a puppy, then you know a couple who probably won't be going out for a romantic dinner (unless they want to come home to pee on the floor). Give the gift of love on February 14 and let someone you know take a break from puppy parenting. It won't cost you a thing, and you get to play with an adorable pup -- it's a win-win for everyone. 

Read related stories on Dogster:

About the Author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but the addition of a second cat, Specter, and the dog duo of GhostBuster and Marshmallow make her fur family complete. Sixteen paws is definitely enough. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook, and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google+.

Mon, 09 Feb 2015 04:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/valentines-day-gifts-products-dogs-dog-lovers
<![CDATA[9 Things to Pack for a Road Trip With Your Dog]]> Does the low price of gas these days have you planning a road trip with your dogs? Just last month, I drove from northern Virginia to Asheville, North Carolina, with my two pups, Autumn and Rocket. It was our first road trip together, and I was both excited and scared. To prevent any problems along the way, I put together a packing to-do list with help from AAA director of public relations and fellow pet parent, Heather Hunter. Use it for your next trip!

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My travel companions, Autumn and Rocket.

1. Identification

Before you leave, consider getting your dogs microchipped. I recently had my two long-haired Chihuahuas chipped, and it was an affordable $45 per pet, at least at my vet's office, and done during a single visit. I then registered the chips. If your pups are chipped but you have since moved or changed your contact information, be sure to update it with both the microchip registration service and your vet. Update their tags, too, and make sure the collar fits well and has no tears or other damage.

2. Crate

"Even if you're on the most pet-friendly vacation, there may be times when you have to leave your pet in the hotel room," Hunter says.

To prevent your dogs from dashing out if a maid or other member of the hotel staff opens the door, place them in a crate when you leave the room. Some hotels even have policies that require you to do so. Be sure to check with your hotel about this before you go. If you need help finding a pet-friendly hotel, check out:,, or AAA's mobile app also lists hotels where pets are welcome. Also, check out Dogster's lists of pet-friendly hotels, including hotel chains

3. Harness or car seat

According to a AAA survey, about 52 percent of drivers admit to being distracted by petting their dogs, and the risk of an accident increases when you take your eyes off the road for two seconds or more. Ask your vet about which pet carriers would be best for your furry friends, suggests Hunter. 

The options are plentiful, but essentially can be boiled down to a harness, secured crate, or car seat. Which you choose will depend on your personal and safety preferences. Hunter uses harnesses for her larger dogs because she likes that they are strapped in when she opens the car door. Be sure to look for harnesses that have been crash-tested, such as Sleepypod and Solvit, and to carefully examine test results to ensure they are appropriate for your dog's size.

Solvit sent me two booster seats to review, and I was very happy with them. The company's seats are sized based on weight, which gave each of my fur babies plenty of room to move around. I loved how they could lay down, a nice perk during long hours in the car. 

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Autumn and Rocket, ready to road trip!

I also liked the soft, fleecy cover and how the seat includes an interior strap I can attach to my dogs' harnesses. One of the booster seat's straps hangs around the headrest, and another is secured around the seat for extra security.

Bonus tip: Hunter also suggests dogs new to road trips take a few test runs. "Make sure your pet is acclimated to car travel," she says, recommending a few quick trips around town to see how your pet does. When driving Autumn and Rocket in short bursts before our trip, I was pleasantly surprised how they did. They both initially shook, but eventually quieted down. Rocket seemed to even sleep during our last jaunt. Autumn started to whine a little, but she remained calm overall. This gave me an excellent preview as to what they would be like on our longer trip.

4. Vaccination records and extra meds

Book a pre-trip appointment with the vet if your dogs are due for any vaccinations. Be sure to stock up on medications, too. You'll want to ask for extras just in case you lose their meds or run out. Fortunately, my pets don't take any medication, and I had just taken them to get chipped and examined to make sure they were in good health. My vet's office emailed me my pets' shot records to keep handy.

5. A first-aid kit

For minor cuts and scrapes, consider putting together a first aid kit. Pack it with essentials such as scissors, bandages, a thermometer, and hydrogen peroxide. For a more detailed look at this, check out How to Make a DIY First Aid Kit for Dog Travel. I have a small first aid kit that has bandages and other basics for my fur babies that I brought along.

6. Extra food

You don't want to run out of food when you're on the road. "Have plenty of what they're used to. Bring more than what you're used to,” says Hunter. 

To avoid carsickness, don't feed your furry friend right before you leave, suggests Hunter. Instead, give your dog plenty of time to digest a meal before you take off. If your dog is prone to carsickness, you'll probably want to feed him when you arrive at your destination and not during travel breaks. Medicines and natural products also may be able to help. Talk to your vet about what might be best for your pet. Thankfully, my pets don't get sick in the car. They just get a little nervous.

7. Toys

"Favorite toys are always great [to pack], too," says Hunter. Little comforts of home can make your pet feel more comfortable. I brought my dogs' favorite blanket.

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I brought their favorite blanket on the road.

8. Bowls

Hunter uses a collapsible bowl for her trips, but feel free to bring your regular bowls if that's more convenient. Since my dogs have small metal bowls and were in sensory overload during our trip, I stuck with their own to keep it consistent.

9. List of animal hospitals along your route 

If you're not sure exactly where you'll be stopping each day, research animal hospitals along the way. "Planning is key," says Hunter.

Are you planning your first road trip with your dog? Tell us where you're off to! If you're an experienced road traveler with your pups, share tips in the comments, please. 

Read more tips about traveling with dogs:

About the author: Teresa Tobat is a writer, editor, and pet parent. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter and check out her dogs on Instagram. She's hopelessly devoted to her long-haired Chihuahuas and always daydreaming about her next destination.

Fri, 30 Jan 2015 06:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/road-trip-checklist-traveling-with-dogs-by-car
<![CDATA[Can the Scorpion Scooper Handle Saint Bernard Poop? Monkey's Person Finds Out!]]> First things first. There's simply no way to review a product that picks up dog poop without first discussing, well, my dog's poop. To be specific, my 140-pound Saint Bernard's poop. There's no cute way to say it; the truth is: Monkey's poop is a real situation.

No, it does not require me to carry around a shovel, as stranger after stranger loves to suggest, but picking it up does require my tiny hand to use a stacking technique (which I've perfected unless he starts pulling and then ... oh goodness), and I do use a bag that's slightly thicker than your average poop bag. AND OKAY, FINE. SOMETIMES I HAVE TO USE TWO BAGS. I don't really want to talk about those times, though. Some things in life are best dealt with in therapy, don't you agree?

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The other truth about Monkey's enormous poop is that I don't mind picking it up. Don't get me wrong, I don't look forward to the four million times it seems to happen every day. And I get really annoyed when he pulls his signature move of watching me only bring one poop bag and then spreading his poop out into three sessions. But for the most part, bending over, stacking his poop up so that it fits in the bag, and then tying the bag into a knot, is not the worst part of my day.

Could I do without the stares I get from passersby as I navigate his poop? Sure. Do I wish I didn't have to hear little girls scream, "EWWWWWWWWWWW!" as they stare at the poop drop from his butt onto the small patch of dirt he's found next to a San Francisco sidewalk tree? Absolutely. And does it bug the crap (pun intended, sorry) out of me when someone comes over to say hi right as he's about to go? Yes, yes it does. Seriously, people. Stop doing that.

Still, when I was offered the chance to try out the Scorpion Scooper (whose tagline, "Picking Up Is Just a Simple Squeeze Away," is rather unfortunate), I obviously had to say yes. Mostly because I was convinced that there was no way all of Monkey's poop would fit into a pooper scooper, but also because hey, why not? There may come a day when I can't bend over (she says, remembering the time she fractured her spine snowboarding), and also it promised "multiple pickups per bag," which seemed like an attractive option for when Monkey and I spend time in Tahoe and I (don't judge) let him go in the yard and I don't always pick it up immediately. Oh, like you've never done that ...

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Probably if Monkey and I didn't spend a lot of time in Tahoe, I would never have agreed to even give the Scorpion Scooper a chance. I mean, I have very little shame, but I just couldn't picture me walking around my San Francisco neighborhood with a pooper scooper. Monkey already attracts enough attention; we can do without any more. Still, it seemed like it could be good for people who live in the suburbs or have yards, so I felt like it was my doodie, I mean duty, to try it out. (I CANNOT HELP THE PUNS. I'm sorry.)

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Here's what the Scorpion Scooper promised:

  • Easy to carry and use
  • No bending over
  • No touching of the poop 
  • Multiple pickups per bag 
  • No smell 
  • Single-handed operation
  • Scooper stays clean

And here's how that went for me:

Easy to carry and use

I fancy myself an intelligent girl who can follow directions pretty well. Case in point: I have built more IKEA furniture by myself in this lifetime than I care to admit. But for some reason, I found the Scorpion Scooper kind of hard to figure out. Basically, you have to find the holes on the bag (it uses special bags) and then stick those onto the scooper. And then you pull the bag through and voila -- ish. I thought I did it properly, but my first (and fine, second) attempts to actually pick up poop did not go well. I mean, I even watched the YouTube video, and it STILL didn't help.

And while I don't really want to talk about or admit this, the "no touching of the poop" promise was broken. Which never happens when I just use a good old-fashioned bag and my handy-dandy stacking technique. Also, I feel the need to point out that the poop pictured below is old poop and has therefore shriveled a bit, and it was also one of Monkey's smaller poops. I didn't want to totally terrify the entire world out of ever owning a Saint Bernard. You're welcome.

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No bending over

I suppose I did not bend over. And frankly, to me, this is the biggest benefit of the Scorpion Scooper. I think elderly people or people with back problems would really benefit from this tool (if they're smarter than I am and can figure out how to use it).

No touching of the poop

I already said I didn't want to talk about this. Sheesh!

Multiple pickups per bag

Okay, so I have NO clue how this would work, but I tried several techniques, one of which included me trying to sort of flip the first pile of poop deeper into the bag and then carrying it held high in the air, and let's just say it's a really good thing I was testing this product while alone in the woods. So, no: It did NOT pick up multiple Monkey poops. Not even close.

No smell

This promise makes no sense to me. Poop smells. Especially when it weighs close to a pound and comes out of an adorable Saint Bernard puppy. Even if I am standing five feet and seven inches above it.

Single-handed operation

I used two hands to set the whole thing up. One hand to carry it around and try to pick up the poop. And then two hands to get the bag off, so ... kinda?

Scooper stays clean

Cleaner than my hands, that's for sure! (No, in all seriousness, it does stay clean because it uses a bag, which seems like a good thing.) There wasn't an easy way to tie the bag when I was finished, though, which seems like a problem. Do people just dump untied poop bags into their garbage? #yucky

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I don't like to, ahem, dump on products; frankly, I'd rather just not review them. However, in this particular case, I suspect the Scorpion Scooper just isn't something that Monkey and I really need in our lives, so the fact that I also found it a little difficult to use (I'm sure it gets way easier the more you do it) and that it didn't pick up multiple poops (again, likely because Monkey's poops are huge), means it just wasn't a good fit for us. However, that doesn't mean it wouldn't be good for other people. Let me break it down:

Dogster scorecard for the Scorpion Scooper

  • Quality: It's made of a stainless steel wire, an aluminum allow shaft, and fiber-reinforced nylon parts. And it's super light at just eight ounces. I feel like it would last a long time.
  • Style: It's a pooper scooper, so let's not get carried away here. It's about function, not style.
  • Function: I found it harder to use than I thought I would, but now seems like a great time to mention that it has a FLASHLIGHT attached to it so you can pick up poop at night. I think that was my favorite part. Also, I am sure it would get easier to use with time.
  • Creativity: 100 points for creativity.
  • Value: Based on which length you choose, the Scorpion Scooper ranges from $19.95 to $24.95 and comes with 16 rolls of poop bags. If you were going to really use the Scorpion Scooper, I think it's an excellent value.

Bottom line

The Scorpion Scooper isn't for me, but I have a dog who poops BIG and am able to bend over and easily pick it up using my (patent-pending) stacking technique and a poop bag. I think for most people, this is an unnecessary tool, BUT if you can't bend over easily to pick up your dog's poop or if you just really hate picking up poop, then it could be a great option for you. No crap.

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Read more dog product reviews by Daisy Barringer and Monkey:

About the author: Daisy Barringer grew up in San Francisco and didn't let the fact that she's a city girl keep her from getting her dream dog: a Saint Bernard. She and Monkey love to romp in the snow in Tahoe, visit dog-friendly bars, watch 49ers football, and drool. Yup, both of 'em. 

Thu, 29 Jan 2015 04:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/scorpion-poop-scooper-review-saint-bernard
<![CDATA[Liberty Wristband Claims Hands-Free Walks -- Monkey Puts It to the Test]]> Some days I just want to take my 140-pound Saint Bernard on a leisurely walk that's focused purely on his happiness. But, um, let's be real. Those days are few and far between because I'm a busy city girl who juggles a bazillion things and never ever doesn't have some type of errand that needs to be run. Which means that more often than not, Monkey's walks happen around whatever it is I need to accomplish, whether it's picking up the dry cleaning, grabbing a coffee, or sending a text message.

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The only problem with this plan is that, uh, Monkey weighs ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY POUNDS. And, fine, maybe sometimes likes to pull a little bit depending on if he sees a squirrel. Or a dog. Or a person. Or a tree. Or, fine, a tree branch. Which makes walking him while holding piping hot coffee slightly precarious to say the least. And don't even get me started on how he always needs to poop right AFTER I get the coffee, which means I'm usually resting it on the top of some stranger's car (thanks, strangers!), and then, my favorite part: walking with the leash in one hand (and the Saint Bernard at the end of it) and a coffee and a ginormous bag of poop in the other.

Basically, I should join a circus.

All of this is a long way of saying that when I was told about the Liberty Wristband, a device that would allow me to walk Monkey hands-free, I was like, "Um, there's no way this will ever work, but let me pretty please try it anyway, because ohmygod, what if it did?"

A girl can dream, can't she?

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The Liberty Wristband is made of soft neoprene and has a super-strong fastening device (and a manual quick-release just in case) that attaches to any size leash for hands-free dog walking. In theory, it also helps relieve a stressed hand or wrist (from gripping a leash) and transitions that shock absorption to your stronger, bendable arm. Cost? $29.99.

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Unfortunately, it wasn't a great fit for Monkey and me for several reasons:

  1. Though we work on it every day, Monkey still pulls. This was the biggest issue, as having his leash attached to my wrist didn't allow me to use my entire body to stop the pulling.
  2. When Monkey was walking nicely next to me (which he does a lot of the time -- good boy!), the leash dragged on the ground.
  3. I didn't feel like I could control where Monkey was going, which is a problem in the city, where I often need to move him out of the way of passing pedestrians. It felt like the Liberty Wristband put the control in Monkey's paws, although I do think perhaps that could be corrected with practice. (It doesn't feel natural to use one's wrist instead of just grabbing the leash.)

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That's my wrist getting pulled pretty hard. Luckily, the neoprene is very soft.

That being said, I'm definitely not saying that the Liberty Wristband wouldn't be an awesome buy for someone with a smaller dog who doesn't pull, because I think it could be. In that case, though, I would suggest using a shorter leash to keep your dog close to your side (as I personally believe he should be) on walks. 

I can also see using the Liberty Wristband when I take Monkey to the beach or the park and there's nowhere to tether him. It seems like a much better option than the weird "I'll loop his leash around my ankle and try not to let my foot come off the ground" technique I'm still trying to perfect.

Ultimately, even though the Liberty Wristband is made for dogs of all sizes, I do think Monkey is just too big (and too young -- he's only 16 months, so we've still got some puppy pulling/training time ahead of us) for me to feel comfortable walking him without having my hands firmly on his leash. Looks like these callouses I'm building up aren't going anywhere anytime soon.

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Monkey says, "Meh..."

Dogster scorecard for the Liberty Wristband

  • Quality: It's sturdy with waterproof neoprene and water-resistant nylon materials. It also has waterproof-grade aluminum with all stainless steel springs and components. Clearly very well made. Keeping all of that in mind, $29.99 seems like a very fair price.
  • Style: I mean, it's a neoprene wristband, so let's not get crazy here. Still, considering that, it's pretty subtle. More so than I thought. Let's put it this way: I didn't feel like a huge dork wearing it outside. Which is the only place you'd be wearing it, so ... that's a plus.
  • Function: The wristband adjusts with Velcro to fit any size wrist. I have bizarrely tiny wrists, and it was snug and comfy. The fastening device was very secure. I didn't worry about Monkey "escaping" even for a second. That being said, it was just a little too hard to walk a big, strong dog with a tendency to pull. 
  • Creativity: Love the idea. It's definitely a product I think every dog owner has dreamed about on many a walk.

Bottom line

I would definitely give this as a gift to a friend with a smaller dog who's good on a leash. Sadly, it was not a great fit for my 140-pound Saint Bernard.

Read more reviews:

About the Author: Daisy Barringer grew up in San Francisco and didn't let the fact that she's a city girl keep her from getting her dream dog: a Saint Bernard. She and Monkey love to romp in the snow in Tahoe, visit dog-friendly bars, watch 49ers football, and drool. Yup, both of 'em.

Thu, 08 Jan 2015 06:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/liberty-wristband-hands-free-dog-walking-device-review
<![CDATA[Holiday Gifts That Work Well Into the New Year]]> The greatest trick Martha Stewart ever pulled was convincing us to buy tacky Christmas sweaters for our pets.

Though I understand on a rational level that neither my dogs nor my cat need holiday-appropriate gear, I cannot resist adorable, pet-sized Christmas scarves. No matter how many times I tell myself that it just doesn't make sense to buy a dog bed in the shape of Rudolph's head -- my dogs sleep on my bed anyway -- every year, I break down and buy Christmas-y items such as that for one or all of my pets.

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Angie with one of her non-holiday-themed Christmas presents, a stuffed Direwolf.

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, says Kira.

This year wasn't so different, but at least I took a more savvy approach.

In an effort to keep from accumulating a bunch of December-specific dog items, I decided not to deprive my pups of holiday cheer but to only purchase items that could be used well into the new year. There were more options than I had anticipated. Of course, I didn't get them all (my husband is a Grinch), but here are my top finds if you would like to do the same in the clearance aisle.

Going green

Nothing screams "Christmas!" like the classic red-and-green combo, but separate the hues from each other, and they're just colors. Kelly green is especially cheerful, no matter what the season.

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From left to right: Martha Stewart Holiday Doughnut Bed, Hello Kitty Plush Dog Bone Toy, and Nylabone Dinosaur Holiday Dog Toy.

This Hello Kitty toy barely looks related to Christmas. Sure, put it next to a couple of red balls, and you have a festive canine gift set, but alone it's just green (and very cute). The Martha Stewart dog bed might radiate holiday cheer with a few red accent pillows, but by itself it looks positively mod. And though nothing brings tidings of comfort and joy quite like dinosaurs, I'm pretty sure you could pass these off as non-holiday toys after the tree comes down.

Choosing Less tacky Christmas Sweaters

Tacky Christmas sweater parties are fun and all, but I doubt your dog attended one this year. Instead of dressing Fido up as a tree, these more understated options are stylish until spring (this applies to socks as well).

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From left to right: Martha Stewart Pets Cable Sweater, Petco Holiday Socks for Dogs, and Martha Stewart Pets Houndstooth Barn Sweater.

Both sweaters by Martha are chic and subtle enough for your pet to wear all winter long. The cable sweater looks super cozy, and who can resist a hound in houndstooth? (No one, that's who.) Socks on a dog may seem ridiculous, but moving to a colder climate (from Florida to Oregon) has taught me that my pups need to bundle up almost as much as I do. The socks may be a little on the Christmas-y side, but they're plaid; plaid knows no season in Oregon.

Embracing teal

It seems like Disney's Frozen is everywhere and resistance is futile. I'm not suggesting you dress up your pup as Olaf, but I am suggesting you lean into the less-than-traditional teal color family. Somehow, teal manages to look appropriate in both winter and spring.

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From upper-left, clockwise: Martha Stewart Pets Fur Cape, Harry Barker Penguin Dog Toy, Harry Barker Retro Sock Canvas Dog Toy, and Harry Barker Canvas Log Fetch Toy.

First of all, can we talk about this cape? Somewhere between Elsa and Anna Karenina, this dramatic yet cozy piece is almost enough to make your dog exclaim "The cold never bothered me anyway!" (I say "almost" because even a fabulous cape can't grant your dog the power of speech.)

The yule log, vintage socks, and penguins are all from Harry Barker, and somehow manage to walk the fine line between "charmingly refined" and "too precious for a dog's mouth." I almost want those penglings for myself.

Trying a different holiday

Kira, who is technically my husband's dog, was raised in a Jewish home, and thus prefers a menorah to a Christmas tree. If you have a pooch in you life like Kira, you can avoid red and green entirely and go straight for the blue stuff.

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Left to right: Petco Holiday Hanukkah Kosher Bone Dog Toy, Multipet Look Who's Talking Gefilte Fish -- Oy Vey!

I love both of these toys so much. Their bold blue colors look properly celebratory, but they aren't technically seasonal. Neither gefilte fish nor keeping kosher are Hanukkah-specific.

If you love a pun (and I do) may I also suggest these?

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"Chewish" Hanukkah Dog Toys.

"Chewish," guys. "Chewish."

So these are my finds. None of these items need to be chucked out with the tree or stored with the wreath.

What did your pup get for Christmas? Did you dress him or her in a tacky sweaters? Post photos in the comments!

Hitting the post-holiday sales? Use these as your guide:

Wed, 31 Dec 2014 10:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/holiday-gifts-christmas-hanukkah-dog-toys-beds-sweaters
<![CDATA[Interior Designer Kari Whitman Makes Custom Dog Beds to Fund Her Rescue ]]> When it come to humans, Los Angeles-based interior designer Kari Whitman's client list can certainly be described as A-list. She's created spaces for Jessica Alba, Kristen Bell, Emilio Estevez, and other stars, but the dogs she's creating new futures for are far from famous. As the founder of Ace of Hearts Dog Rescue, Whitman saves unwanted pups from death row.
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"I just pulled four dogs today, a Pointer and her puppy, and a couple little Terriers," she explains during an interview she managed to squeeze into an already jam-packed schedule. "They were all going to die today."

Those dogs now join the thousands who have been saved through Ace of Hearts over the years. Whitman's rescue has given many animals the gift of a future, and her skills as a designer are helping to fund the rescue of even more pets thorough her eco-friendly dog bed line, Greener Pup.

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This lucky pup is Maddie, one of the Terriers saved by Whitman's organization.

Whitman says using dogs beds to fund dog rescue was an idea that evolved from a request she received frequently during her interior design work.

"A lot of my clients were asking me to make custom beds for their house that match the rooms," she says.

After realizing the appetite for quality dog beds amongst her clients, Whitman launched the non-profit Greener Pup five years ago while working with a similarly eco-minded celebrity.

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The custom bed Whitman designed for Jessica Alba's adorable dogs. (Photo courtesy of Kari Whitman Interiors)

"I started Greener Pup when I was doing Jessica Alba's house," she explains. "I wanted to make her some really cool dog beds."

After incorporating the eco-friendly bed design into the star's home, Whitman quickly expanded on the project, sourcing recycled materials to make her Greener Pup beds as green as possible.

"The inside of the bed is filled with recycled plastic bottles," says the designer, who uses a technique similar to a cotton candy machine to turn the plastic into fluffy bedding. "We use anywhere from 100 to 150 plastic bottles that would have been dumped in the landfills."

Using plastic as a stuffing material is not only good for the environment, it's also good for the dogs. The plastic is hypoallergenic, so dogs don't get itchy. Whitman says dust mites and fleas can't live on it either.

While the inside of the beds are stuffed with plastic, the outside of the beds feature high-end fabric seconds, which also would have otherwise ended up in a landfill.

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A beautiful Bulldog relaxes on a Greener Pup bed finished in the signature earth fabric. (Photo courtesy of Greener Pup's Facebook Page)

"The earth fabric is our signature fabric, and all the other fabrics are unique fabrics donated by fabric companies. You can choose your own cover," says Whitman. "We just get whatever we get, and it sells out."

The production of the beds extends the life of the the recyclable materials, while the purchase of them extends the life of shelter dogs. Every cent of Greener Pup's profits funds Ace of Hearts. The rescue organization -- created in the memory of Whitman's own rescue dog, Ace -- focuses on rescuing shelter dogs scheduled for euthanasia.

"L.A. has the highest kill rate in the country: 500 dogs a day," says Whitman.

The profits from the Greener Pup dog beds are helping Ace of Hearts save dogs slated for euthanasia by moving them out of shelters and into loving foster homes until their forever homes are found.

"When you purchase a bed, you get a letter saying where the money goes," Whitman explains. "Usually it's about one particular dog."

The organization typically has about 70 dogs in foster care. Some of the dogs need a lot of care, including special medical needs.

Whitman's own dog, Hank the Tank, is one of the ones with special needs. The 165-pound Mastiff moves with the help of a cart. He requires a great deal of care and attention, which is why he is her only dog.

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Hank relaxes while surrounded by an artfully designed interior. (Photo courtesy of Kari Whitman Interiors)

Hank is certainly a big boy, but Whitman and the rest of the team at Ace of Hearts are used to dealing with larger-breed dogs. "We specialize in American Bulldogs because Ace was American Bulldog-Staffordshire mix," she explains.

Whitman obviously has a soft spot in her heart for larger bully breeds, but her beds are giving breeds of all sizes a soft place to rest. According to the Greener Pup website, her company wants all dogs to get a good night sleep, regardless of their family’s financial status. That's why Greener Pup offers a 20-percent discount to dog owners receiving government assistance. Greener Pup's website also offers 25 percent off to dog owners purchasing a bed for a rescue dog.

Through Greener Pup, Whitman is helping plenty of dogs get the best sleep of their lives, and through Ace of Hearts, she's helping rescue dogs find new lives. Her stylish efforts to save the environment while saving dogs make Whitman a hero to people and pups alike.

Meet more Dogster Heroes:

About the Author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but the addition of a second cat, Specter, and the dog duo of GhostBuster and Marshmallow make her fur family complete. Sixteen paws is definitely enough. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook, and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google+.

Wed, 31 Dec 2014 04:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/kari-whitman-greener-pup-dog-rescue-eco-friendly-dog-beds
<![CDATA[Check Out Lilikoi and Rella, Doggy Supermodels ]]> Lilikoi and Rella are two fluff-ball Pomeranians who like to bill themselves as "doggy supermodels." It's a lofty claim, but one quick glance through their online lookbook confirms their assertion, as these Hawaiian-born pups dress up in some of the most vivid and fantastical outfits around.

Here's a radiant run-through of Lilikoi and Rella's most eye-catching pics.

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(All photos courtesy of Lilikoi and Rella's Facebook page)

Sometimes the Facebook photo caption says it all: "What can we get you to drink? Pomtinis and Mutt-Tais are our favorite drink! Pomalicious!"

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When the mood strikes, Lilikoi and Rella like to dress up as world famous Spameranians. They even have an acronym for the foodstuff that breaks down as Super, Pomtastic, Amazing, and Musubis!

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The weather outside might be frightful, but these pups are sure delightful.

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Christmas in Hawaii involves sand Santas!

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Two Poms in a bag that also features pictures of another six Pom pups is truly pomtastic, as Lilikoi and Rella would say.

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All blinged and bedazzled up but with nowhere to go!

Check out more pix we love:

About Phillip Mlynar: The self-appointed world's foremost expert on rappers' cats. When not penning posts on rap music, he can be found building DIY cat towers for his adopted domestic shorthair, Mimosa, and collecting Le Creuset cookware (in red). He has also invented cat sushi, but it's not quite what you think it is.

Wed, 24 Dec 2014 06:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/pomeraniams-lilikoi-rella-cute-dog-pictures
<![CDATA[With Slobber Dog Toys, Teen Entrepreneur Gives Back to Homeless Pets]]> While most eight-year-old boys might spend their free time playing video games, hanging out with friends, riding bikes, or playing sports, animal lover Cole Amyx decided to start his own dog toy company. Like most entrepreneurs, the idea for his business came from seeing a need and trying to fill it -- in this case, finding inexpensive and long-lasting toys for his beloved dogs, Jack and Dixie.

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"I wanted to buy some toys for my dogs, but they were expensive and didn't last," says Cole, now 16. "My mom worked part-time at a tennis club, so she would bring home tennis balls, and our dogs really liked playing with them. We thought we could make a better toy than the ones at the store, so we decided to makes our own by running fabric through holes punched in the tennis balls. We used fleece because we found out it’s good for dogs' teeth and helps keep them clean."

Like any strategic businessperson, Cole made sure to test his products on prospective customers -- in this case, Jack and Dixie, who went crazy chewing and playing tug of war with the toys. In fact, Jack loved the toys so much he'd slobber profusely whenever he played with them. And thus, Slobber Dog Toys was born.

Many good businesses start out small, so Cole decided to first sell his toys at the local dog park in his hometown of Houston, testing out the waters and seeing how much interest he'd generate. It wasn't until he saw a TV program about homeless animals that Cole was inspired to take his venture to another, more meaningful level.

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Cole at age 9 with his late dog Jack, the inspiration for Slobber Dog toys. (All photos courtesy of Cole Amyx)

"Not long after I started selling the toys, I was watching a show on Animal Planet where these starving dogs were eating leaves and twigs to survive," says Cole. "It really unsettled me, because I don't think any living thing should be hungry and thirsty. So I thought I should donate part of my proceeds to help animals with food and shelter, and hopefully I would make a difference."

Determined to help any way he could, Cole promptly reached out to the Houston SPCA, Citizens for Animal Protection, and BARC Animal Shelter & Adoptions, and he offered to donate one dollar from the sale of every toy to help the animals in their care.

"I thought it would be a good option to help organizations in my local community because Houston is my home and I want to make it a better place," says Cole. "[The organizations] have been very grateful and happy for all the help. Sometimes I donate the money to help a particular dog that needs heartworm treatments or surgery, so they can get healthy and get adopted."

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Jack enjoyed his role as product tester for Slobber Dog Toys.

Eight years later, he says he's sold about 4,000 toys, with $4,000 funneled into Houston's animal welfare community.

So what do his friends and family think about Cole's business and philanthropic efforts? Soft-spoken and humble, Cole says he doesn't like to tell his friends about Slobber Dog because he doesn't want to appear as if he's bragging. But according to Kathleen Amyx, her son's good works haven't gone unnoticed with his family or at his school.

"Cole's aunt and godmother teaches accounting at his high school, and she often uses him as an example in her class," says Kathleen. "She'll pull up his website for her students to look at and say, 'this eight-year-old created this dog toy business, and [now] he goes to school here.' That way, the students can make a connection [with what they're learning] and see that it's real."

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Cole, now 16, and his dog Eddie.

But when the local news media got wind of Cole's charitable activities and featured him in a news story that aired nationally, that's when Slobber Dog orders began really taking off.

"Our orders were crazy after that, and it was a lot of work," says Cole. "We even got some orders from Canada!"

While sales have since tapered down as Cole's attention has turned to the demands of schoolwork and college applications, he hopes to continue running Slobber Dog and helping homeless animals well into the foreseeable future. But whatever may come of his toy venture, Cole says that the learning experience has been invaluable to him at such a young age.

"Aside from learning how to help the community and being generous, I've learned a lot about how business works, about handling money and managing stuff," he says. "Right now, I can't really say for sure where Slobber Dog is going to go in the future, but I'd like to keep it around as long as I can."

You can help him do that, as well as help homeless dogs in Houston, by shopping at Slobber Dog Toys. The small toy costs just $4, and the large $5.

Meet more Dogster Heroes:

Thu, 18 Dec 2014 10:45:00 -0800 /lifestyle/slobber-dog-toys-cole-amyx-dog-rescue-adoption
<![CDATA[10 Eco-Friendly Holiday Gifts for Dog Lovers and Their Dogs]]> If you're looking for eco-friendly holiday gift ideas for the dog lovers and dogs in your life, check out these 10 recommendations.

1. Quencher Travel Bowl from Ruffwear

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For a dog on the go, the Quencher collapsible travel bowl is the perfect eco-friendly companion. Made with recycled polyester, it's also convenient and practical. The travel bowl is waterproof, lightweight, and machine washable, and it folds into a compact size that fits easily into a pocket or a pack. Available in three different sizes, it's the ideal gift for a dog who hikes with his human.

$14.95 at Ruffwear

2. Orbee-Tuff Lil' Bulb with Treat Spot
 from Planet Dog

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Any pup's eyes would light up like a holiday tree upon unwrapping these Orbee-Tuff Lil' Bulbs. Although they look like vintage Christmas lights, these non-toxic, eco-friendly, and recyclable toys are tough and durable. Slip a special holiday snack into the treat spot, and this gift keep a pup busy during the holiday dinner.

$9.95 at Planet Dog

3. Bungee Bone from the Good Dog Company

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Engage the recipient in a friendly game of tug-of-war with the Bungee Bone. This durable dog toy is made with hemp and organic cotton fabric, and filled with 100-percent naturally grown, unprocessed hemp fiber. It's also machine washable, so simply toss it in the wash when it gets dirty.

$18.99 at the Good Dog Company

4. Hemp Star Dog Lead from Muttropolis

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Move over VY Canis Majoris because there's a new star in the sky. While it might not be a red hypergiant star, the Hemp Star Dog Lead will boldly go wherever its wearer wants to walk. The eco-friendly leash features triple-layer, 100-percent hemp-canvas construction with contoured, quick-release hardware. Available in two lengths (four feet and six feet) and three color combinations, you're sure to find the right fit to give.

$29 to $35 at Muttropolis

5. Big Sky Reindeer from West Paw Design

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The Big Sky Reindeer is handcrafted in the USA from excess fabric. This dog toy is soft and fuzzy on the outside, and it features a sewn-in squeaker and recycled-fiber fill on the inside. It's the perfect stocking stuffer for a furry best friend, but this cheery red reindeer is only available while supplies last as it's part of West Paw Design's seasonal collection, so get it ASAP.

$19.95 from West Paw Design

6. Safari Rectangle Dog Bed from Harry Barker

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A dog would feel like a pampered pooch on Harry Barker's Safari Rectangle Hemp Dog Bed. With its decadent print and expansive surface, this dog bed is like a king-size human bed at a four-star hotel. The stylish luxury also doesn't sacrifice practicality or eco-friendliness. The bed's stuffing is made from recycled plastic bottles, and the hemp cover is preshrunk and machine washable.

$150 and up at Harry Barker

7. Winter Wonderland Organic Gift Box from Paw Street Bakery

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The holidays are always filled with tasty treats, and there's no reason why Fido should miss out on the fun. Paw Street Bakery offers a delightful Winter Wonderland sampler gift box filled with organic, carob-dipped dog treats, such as Peanut Butter Pup Cups, Star Shaped Big Dippers, and Peanut Butter Pup Cup Barkscotti. Each treat is baked using human grade ingredients and sprinkled with love.

$11.99 and up from Paw Street Bakery

8. ecoFLEX Rustic Lodge at Home Depot

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This outdoor dog house will shelter a furry pal from both hot and cold weather. The ThermoCore Super Insulated Dog House is made with ecoFLEX, a composite blend of post-consumer recycled polymers and wood fibers. It's resistant to pests, rot, weather, and moisture. 

$169 and up at Home Depot

9. Quinzee Insulated Dog Jacket from Ruffwear

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The sleek and stylish Quinzee insulated dog jacket is the doggy version of the puffy coat. It has a 40-percent recycled-polyester shell along with 50-percent recycled-synthetic insulation to provide extra protection from cold weather. The jacket also features side-release buckles for easy on and off as well as reflective trim for staying safe on nighttime walks. Tuck one of these under the holiday tree and the dog who gets it will be extra excited to head outside.

$84.85 at Ruffwear

10. Recycled rubber "Fetch" placemat at Ore Originals

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Made in the USA from recycled rubber, this placemat is a whimsical yet practical gift for the dog lover in your life. It comes in two sizes for both small and big dogs alike, and its non-slip surface holds bowls in place while protecting your floor from spills.

$19 at Ore Originals

Share your gift suggestions! 

Found any great gifts for dogs and their owners? Share the bounty in the comments!

Read more holiday gift guides on Dogster:

About Holly Tse: Holly Tse is a green cat expert and lifelong environmentalist. Practicing Taoist and Dragon Spirit Guide who has experienced more than nine past lives and can bend reality at will.  Totally into alternative healing, but her Achilles' heel is reality TV cooking shows. As a Canadian expat, she uses an American spell checker for her Catster articles.

Wed, 17 Dec 2014 04:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/eco-friendly-holiday-gifts-dog-lovers-dogs-christmas-hanukkah
<![CDATA[11 Games and Gadget Gifts for Techie Dog Lovers ]]> The holiday season is in full swing, and these days that means there are new tech toys and games for you and your favorite pups to check out. Whether dog-themed downloadable apps for fun and research or new electronic devices to help improve the quality of play sessions, here are 11 digital diversions -- both long-loved favorites and new-to-the-market items -- to give as gifts or keep for yourself.

1. Dog TV

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Do you dream of a cable TV station created especially for canine viewers? Well, Dog TV is just that, offering what is billed as "thought-provoking content" for the modern dog. This would make an excellent gift for yourself and the pups in your home.

$6.99 and up at; the channel also airs on DIRECTV

2. PAW Patrol Rescue Run

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Run and jump along with the Paw Patrol team of super pups in this cartoonish game based on the Nickelodeon franchise.

$3.99 at iTunes and Google Play

3. Kinectimals Unleashed

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Take control of one of 85 four-legged furries and explore the canine isle of Villeria in this expansive sandbox game.

Free (with in-app purchases) at iTunes and Windows

4. PetCube Camera

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The PetCube Camera box offers a fresh twist on the world of Wi-Fi-enabled dog cameras by allowing you to engage in exercise sessions with your pet. Wondering how it works? Simple, you download the app on your phone and control a laser pointer that your dog can chase! 

$199 at PetCube

5. Pet Vet Doctor - DOGS Rescue

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Fulfill your secret desire to become a master of the veterinarian sciences in this canine-centric medical simulation game.

Free (with in-app purchases) at the App Store and Google Play

6. PetziConnect Treat Cam

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Thanks to the wonders of Wi-Fi, the PetziConnect Treat Cam lets you stay in touch with your beloved dog even while you're away at work. Through the built-in HD camera, you can take a peek at your pooch, record video, and even facilitate a quick treat session!

$169.99 and up at PetziConnect's IdieGogo page

7. Sunburn!

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This tricky new game co-stars a space cadet pup!

$2.99 at iTunes

8. Foobler

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The Foobler smart toy uses a mechanical alarm to time play sessions and treat at reward intervals.

$39.99 at Cynjo 

9. Weather Puppy

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Add Weather Puppy to your morning tech routine and enjoy daily weather dispatches presented by puppies.

Free (with in-app purchases) at the iTunes

10. iFetch

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Let iFetch help out when it comes to playtime with your dog, as this electronic toy flings out small balls for your pup to chase all day long. We tested it at Dogster!

$99.95 at iFetch

11. Bread Puppies

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A spin-off of the popular Bread Kittens game, Bread Puppies is a beguilingly bizarre collect-'em-all title set in the off-kilter world of Woofshire.

Free (with in-app purchases) at iTunes

Share your gift suggestions!

Found any great gifts for dogs and their owners? Share the bounty in the comments!

Read more holiday gift guides on Dogster:

About Phillip Mlynar: The self-appointed world's foremost expert on rappers' cats. When not penning posts on rap music, he can be found building DIY cat towers for his adopted domestic shorthair, Mimosa, and collecting Le Creuset cookware (in red). He has also invented cat sushi, but it's not quite what you think it is.

Tue, 16 Dec 2014 02:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/dog-games-gadgets-holiday-gifts-christmas-hanukkah
<![CDATA[10 Holiday Gifts for Dogs and Owners Who Love the Outdoors]]> Is there an active dog on your holiday shopping list? Or an outdoors-loving dog owner? We've found 10 must-haves for adventurous pups and their people.

1. Activity-specific vest from Ruffwear

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A dog enjoying an adventure in one of Ruffwear's cold-weather coats. (Photo courtesy of Ruffwear.)

Depending on a pup's favorite activity, he needs the right vest to keep him safe.

  • Cooling vest -- My dog is black, we live in a hot climate, and we hike often. A cooling vest is a big help. There are a number of different kinds available, but the one we like the most is the Swamp Cooler from Ruffwear Performance Dog Gear. Ruffwear is a great brand for active pups.
  • High-visibility vest -- When I used to run with my pup, I would put him in a high-visibility vest. It would help drivers see both of us on dark streets. These vests are also good to have for hiking, especially if the dog is off-leash. 
  • Life vest  -- Just like humans, dogs who enjoy water sports should wear a well-fitting life vest.
  • Cold weather coat -- Depending on a pup's breed and the climate he lives in, a coat may be necessary to keep him comfortable while out on adventures. 

$40 to $80 at Ruffwear

2. Canteen and travel dog bowl from Kurgo

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Two pups enjoy a water break. (Photo courtesy of Kurgo.)

Kurgo is another great brand for active dogs, and it has a number of travel dog bowl options. My favorite is the Zippy Bowl. It's easy to collapse and tuck into a pup or human backpack. Add a carabiner to the zipper pull, and it can be attached to the back of a pack for easy and quick access. Pair a bowl with a canteen or stainless steel water bottle, and you have a great gift for an active pup!

$10 to $20 for travel bowls and $20 to $35 for canteens and water bottles at Kurgo

3. Dog car restraint from Sleepypod

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Sleepypod travel products. (Photo courtesy of Sleepypod.)

If a pup is going to be traveling in a car, a dog car restraint is a must. Sleepypod is a wonderful brand that does extensive stress and crash testing on its products. The Clickit Sport is the only dog car-restraint harness certified by the Center for Pet Safety. For smaller pups, the Sleepypod Air is a carrier that can be used both in the car and on airplanes, as it fits under the seat.

$65 for Clickit Sport and $160 for Sleepypod Air at Sleepypod

4. Outward Hound dog backpack from Kyjen

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Everyone carries their own! (Photo courtesy of Outward Hound.)

Why should the human do all the carrying? Let the pup be responsible for his supply of water, food, poop bags, and gear. Outward Hound packs can be found in many pet stores as well as online.

$35 to $55 at Kyjen

5. Walking harness or halter from Sporn

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Buddy the Beagle loves wearing his Sporn halter on the beach in Massachusetts! (Photo courtesy of Sporn.)

Not all trails allow dogs to be off-leash. For when you and your dog are out on an adventure and your pup needs to stay under leash control, a walking harness is extremely helpful. Sporn's Mesh Non-Pull Harness and Halter are lightweight, easy to put on, and help control pulling from overeager pups.

$10 to $25 at Sporn

6. Dog hiking guides from Mountaineers Books

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Young woman traveling with her dog by Shutterstock.

Hiking with your dog is a blast, but finding trail options where dogs are allowed sometimes limits your options. Dog hiking guides highlight hikes both in your area and in areas you may be visiting. Mountaineers Books has an entire series to check out. 

$10 to $17 at Mountaineers Books

7. Clean dog kit

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Dirty Spaniel wallowing in a mud hole by Shutterstock.

As someone who just took a pack of dogs out hiking in the rain, I can tell you that an active dog is a dirty dog! You can put together a "clean dog kit" to give as a gift -- include grooming wipes, shampoo, conditioner, spray deodorizer, and towels.

Cost depends on brands included and where you shop

8. Wearable safety lights from Keep Doggie Safe

If dogs are out and about at night, a safety light attached to the collar will make them easier to spot. When camping with my black dog, sometimes all you can see of him is a red light through the darkness. There are many different light options out there. Keep Doggie Safe is a great place to start your search. They have a number of lights available depending on the dog's size. 

$5 to $25 at Keep Doggie Safe

9. Traffic and training leads 

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German Shephered by Shutterstock.

While out on a walk or hike, it helps to have leashes that match the occasion. Traffic leashes are short, often just a loop that allows you to easily keep your dog close while in crowded places or on busy streets. Recall training leads are the exact opposite! They are long 10- to 50-foot leashes that can be used to help train a dog in recall or to help transition to off-leash walks.

$5 to $25 at Amazon 

10. First aid kit

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Puppy with first aid kit by Shutterstock.

If a dog is going to be out and about on adventures, then a first aid kit is a great gift to give the owner. You can create your own or purchase a pre-made one. The Humane Society has a complete list of what should be in a pet first aid kit.

$20 to $100 for pre-made kits on Amazon 

Happy gifting! 

Share your gift suggestions!

Found any great gifts for active, outdoors-loving dogs and their owners that you want to tell others about? Share the bounty in the comments! 

Read more gift guides on Dogster:

About the author: Wendy Newell is a former VP of Sales turned Grade A Dog Sitter. After years of stress, she decided to leave the world of "always be closing" to one of tail wags and licks. Wendy's new career keeps her busy hiking, being a dog chauffeur, picking up poo, sacrificing her bed, and other fur-filled activities. Wendy and her dog, Riggins, take their always-changing pack of pups on adventures throughout the Los Angeles area, where they live together in a cozy, happy home. You can learn more about Wendy, Riggins, and their adventures on Facebook and Instagram.

Wed, 10 Dec 2014 02:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/holiday-gifts-active-outdoors-dog-owners-christmas-hanukkah-shopping
<![CDATA[Win an Ugly Holiday Sweater From New York Dog]]> Who doesn't love an ugly holiday sweater, whether worn with genuine pride or as an ironic fashion statement? Three lucky Dogster pups will join in on the festive fun with this week's Friday Freebie: ugly holiday sweaters from New York DogWe have three to give away!

The collection features five designs, including my favorite of a dog relieving himself on a snowman (because my punky pup would do exactly that if we were ever to get snow down here in Texas).

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Sweaters come in sizes extra-small (for dogs 9 to 11 inches in length), small (12 to 13 inches), medium (14 to 15 inches), large (16 to 18 inches), and extra-large (18 to 20 inches). They retail for $14.99 each, but you get a chance to win one for free! Just follow the directions below.

How to Enter

  1. Create a Disqus account, if you haven't already, and include a valid email. It takes just a minute and allows you to better participate in Dogster's community of people who are passionate about dogs. If you already have a Disqus account, check it to ensure the account includes a valid email.
  2. Comment below using your Disqus account, telling us about how you spend the holidays with your dogs. Photos and following directions (don't forget to tell us which design and size you want!) will earn your entry bonus points. Our favorite comments win. You must be a resident of the U.S. to score this prize.
  3. Check your email for a "You've Won!" message from us after noon PST on Thursday, Dec. 11. We'll give each winner two days to respond before moving on to our next favorite.

Good luck!

Read more about dog products with Dogster:

Fri, 05 Dec 2014 06:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/ugly-christmas-sweaters-dogs-new-york-dog-freebies-giveaways
<![CDATA[Win a Kathy Ireland “Loved Ones” Dog Prize Pack]]> Editor's note: This is a sponsored post from Kathy Ireland.

The Kathy Ireland “Loved Ones” pet product collection is designed to complement and fulfill all of your dog’s needs from naptime to playtime. These stylish products not only make your home look modern and stylish, they also play a part in your dog’s everyday life. Check out the full Kathy Ireland “Loved Ones” product line, and don’t forget to “like” the Kathy Ireland “Loved Ones” Facebook page for product announcements and special offers. Two readers will win a Dog Prize Pack to treat their dogs.

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Each of the Kathy Ireland “Loved Ones” Dog Prize Packs includes:

  • Hide & Seek Dog Toys
  • Durable Whale Dog Toy with Treat Pocket
  • Fashion Dog Collar with coordinating Fashion Dog Lead
  • Reversible Pet Travel Mat

How To Enter

Fill out the form below for the chance to win one of two Kathy Ireland Dog Prize Packs from Kathy Ireland Loved Ones. Entries close at 11:59 p.m. PDT on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015. One entry per household. We'll choose one winner at the end of December and another at the end of January. 

Rules and Guidelines 

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Open to legal residents of the United States and D.C. 18 years and older. Begins: 12 a.m. PDT on Friday, Dec. 5, 2014. Ends: 11:59 p.m. PDT on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015. Void where prohibited. One entry per household. Two winners will be chosen randomly using to receive a Kathy Ireland Dog Prize Pack. Winners will be notified via email.

Employees of Dogster, I-5 Publishing and Kathy Ireland Loved Ones (Sponsor) are not eligible to enter. Entries become the property of I-5 Publishing, which reserves the right, without further consideration, to use all materials in any publication, media and related promotions. The company cannot confirm receipt or return entries. Entry into this contest requires that you supply contact information, including your name and email address. We will never publish your street address or email address.

Your name — and possibly city, state and/or country — along with text or photos submitted as part of your entry, may be posted on Dogster’s website or other websites and social media pages owned or managed by I-5 Publishing in conjunction with the contest and its results, marketing purposes, and on sponsor websites and social media as well. Information you provide may be shared with the contest sponsor, which may use the information for marketing purposes, as well as to facilitate prize delivery. Dogster and I-5 Publishing are not responsible for removing your name from sponsor mailing lists should it end up on one. Such requests must be made directly to the sponsor. Winner will be contacted through an email from I-5 Publishing notifying them. Sponsor will contact winner by email to facilitate prize delivery. A non-response from a winner after repeated attempts by sponsor to contact him/her may be grounds for forfeiture of that winner’s prize. Prizes will be shipped directly from Kathy Ireland Loved Ones. Dogster and I-5 Publishing have the right to modify the rules and the contest at any time.

Thu, 04 Dec 2014 16:07:00 -0800 /lifestyle/win-kathy-ireland-loved-ones-dog-toys-treats-collars-prize-pack-freebies-giveaway
<![CDATA[Monkey the Saint Bernard Tests the Crypton Throver ]]> I understood a lot of things intellectually when I got Monkey -- namely that there would be a lot of shedding with a rough-coat Saint Bernard. But the thing with understanding something intellectually is ... until you're actually watching the tumbleweeds of dog hair roll across your floor, you just don't actually get it.

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I don't mind living in a world filled with Monkey hair, especially since I can always vacuum my apartment. (And oh, do I vacuum my apartment.) But my car is a whole other story. Before Monkey, I was the kind of girl whose car was always super clean and smelled really good. Now I'm the girl who rolls the windows down the second a friend sits in the front seat, but still gets the inevitable, "Wow, it ... really smells like dog in here."

Don't even get me started on the valet last week who was like, "Either you have a really interesting life or you have a really big dog." And that was just based on the slobber splatters on the exterior. He hadn't even gotten in the driver's seat yet.

The thing is: I'm not going to ever pick my car over Monkey. Duh. But I'm not going to lie: It would be kind of nice if it weren't quite so disgusting in there. And while there's nothing I can do about the slobber, I figured there at least had to be something I could do about the hair.

Enter the Crypton Throver. What is it? It's a dog throw, a tarp, a blanket; it's the solution to keeping my car at least a little cleaner, I hope.

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I don't totally understand how Crypton fabrics work (science!), but basically it's a magical fabric that is super strong and durable, stain resistant, and also really hard to get dirty or smelly. But how hard to get dirty and smelly is the question. Like, it's stain resistant, but is it Monkey resistant? I put it to the test.

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First of all, this was immediately AFTER a car wash, if that gives you any idea of how much hair was in there before, but they did the best they could and I wanted to start with a "clean" interior that smelled like new car (my car scent of choice).

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The Throver is 48 inches by 54 inches, which is the perfect size for my car when the seats are down. (The seats are always down.) I love the Mod Block design, but there are many others available. You can also tell when you touch the fabric how durable it is. Monkey would have a very hard time destroying this.

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The real test, though, was whether Monkey would immediately bunch it up into a ball, rendering it useless like he would a blanket or towel? Good news: The Throver is heavy enough that it stayed put for many car trips. And Monkey had no desire to chew on it, eat it, or do anything really except lie down on it.

We've only had the Throver in my car for a few weeks now, but so far it's made a huge difference. Especially on a recent trip to the beach. Monkey gets ... sandy. Sorry, let me try that again. Monkey gets SANDY. Like, soooooo much sand. And while the Throver doesn't help with the fact that Monkey has to go straight from the beach to the groomer, it did help in that I could just carefully take it out of my car, shake it out, and then throw it in the washing machine. Maybe now Monkey will get more trips to the beach.

Dogster scorecard for the Crypton Throver

  • Quality: A++. The Throver is made with Crypton fabric, which makes it stain, moisture, and odor resistant, and easy to clean.
  • Style: Super cute. There are tons of designs to choose from, so you're likely to find one that fits your personality. Plus, it's reversible.
  • Function: While I will likely just use my Throver as a blanket for Monkey in my car, it absolutely would make an awesome beach or picnic blanket. Or even a great blanket to throw over (throver!) furniture in your house.
  • Creativity: It's a blanket, so let's not get too carried away, but the idea and multi-purpose functionality make it a winner.
  • Value: Throvers range from $70 to $104, so they're not cheap. But the time and energy it's already saved me in cleaning my car makes it worth the price. And again, the fact that it has multiple uses makes it a good buy.

Bottom line

The Throver is incredibly durable and will make a great addition to any house that has kids or pets. Especially if those kids or pets are really, really furry.

Read more Dogster reviews:

About the Author: Daisy Barringer grew up in San Francisco and didn't let the fact that she's a city girl keep her from getting her dream dog: a Saint Bernard. She and Monkey love to romp in the snow in Tahoe, visit dog-friendly bars, watch 49ers football, and drool. Yup, both of 'em.

Thu, 04 Dec 2014 02:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/saint-bernard-crypton-throver-review-dog-car-seat-covers