Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Stay safe for Thanksgiving!

Stay safe for Thanksgiving, and ensure that your pet is safe as well. That big Thanksgiving dinner that makes humans sleepy is not good for dogs and cats, but hat doesn't mean they can't get treats. It's okay to share a small piece of turkey or some unsalted, unbuttered vegetables. Stay away from - and ask your guests not to feed the pets - turkey skin, gravy, turkey bones, and chocolate.

According to Petplan who insures over 100,000 dogs and cats, the Thanksgiving weekend gives a 91% increase in pet gastroenteritis, 82% increase in poisonings, and 28% increase in pancreatitis. Luckily, these disasters are easy to avoid.

Most doggies will love a pumpkin smoothie. It's easy to make and a delightful and healthy treat. Mix up equal parts canned pumpkin puree and plain nonfat yogurt. Can be served as liquid, or frozen.

If you want to do something more elaborate, I borrowed this recipe for doggie turkey meatballs from Petplan:

6 ounces lean ground turkey
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup quinoa or oatmeal
Pinch of kelp powder

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place turkey and carrots in a food processor and blend until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. Roll into 1-inch balls and place on a nonstick cooking sheet.

Bake 15 minutes.

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday for meeting family and friends. Stay safe, whether you're traveling or at home. 


Image from petfinder.com
~ Maria Sadowski ~

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Wearing your dog?

On chilly days it's pleasant to curl up next to a dog. They're like furry hot water bottles! Some have more hair than others, of course, and at times when I brush my dogs I think, "It would be cool to use all this fluff for something." It's possible. 

Brushed out hair from dogs and cats can be washed and spun into yarn, that in turn can become sweaters, mittens, and hats. Some people who work with spinning yarn from dog hair even work with clipped hair from breeds like poodles, provided it's long enough.
Image from hundegarn.com.
Socks made by wool from
an Old English Sheepdog.
The yarn can be used with the color it has, or be colored.

Before I tell you more, I want to point out that we are in no way affiliated with the websites mentioned below. I don't know anything about their products or services, but I want to mention my sources and give credit for photos and creativity.  

I read a Norwegian website called hundegarn.com, and they advice not to wash the brushed out hair. They say it should be stored dry and well ventilated in a paper bag, not plastic.

The website customdoghairspinning.com says the hair should be at least 2" long. They handspin the wool on a spinning wheel and the end product is yarn suitable for knitting, crocheting, and weaving. They also point out that the finished product will not smell like dog if it gets wet.

Some spinners offer to work with wool shorter than 2", but in that case it might have to be mixed with another type of wool. 

It's possible to make the yarn on one's own as well. I have never attempted spinning and wouldn't know where to start, but Wikihow has an article on the subject.

Image from customdoghairspinning.com

The yarn on this photo comes from a Golden Retriever.

Yarn from a Golden Retriever.
Image from hundegarn.com

Yarn from a Border Collie.
Image from hundegarn.com

I haven't knitted for over a decade, but the idea of making something from my fur kids is appealing. I know how to knit, I just don't usually do it. Might be time to start saving all the stuff I brush out.

What do you think? Would you wear a sweater with yarn from your dog?

~ Maria Sadowski ~


Monday, November 25, 2013

Rare Breed Monday: Czechoslovakian Vlcak

Image from Wikipedia
The Czechoslovakian Vlcak, or Wolfdog, is a fairly young breed. In 1955, German Shepherds were crossed with Carpathian Wolves. The plan was to combine usable qualities of the wolf, for example strength, physical build, and stamina, with the temperament and trainability of the dog.

The experiment was successful and created dogs that are loyal, lively, active, and courageous. They are intelligent and can work well both independently and in a pack.

Originally, the breed was used for border patrol. The Vlcak also excels in search and rescue, tracking, obedience, agility, and herding.

These dogs form an exceptionally strong relationship with their family, and live well together with other domestic animals that belong to the family. Some of the wolf's passion for hunting remains, and they must be well socialized as puppies in order to do well with strange animals. They are an excellent choice for active owners who spend outdoors time with their dog.

When it comes to training, they learn easily but also get bored easily, and they need to be motivated. Repeating the same exercise over and over will likely lead to failure.

At the end of 2012 there were 91 Czechoslovakian Vlcaks in the US. The breed is recognized by the UKC and they are able to compete in AKC companion events.

Females should weigh at least 44 lbs, and males at least 57 lbs. The average life span is somewhere between 13 and 16 years.

Fun fact about the Vlcak: they rarely bark.

~ Maria Sadowski ~

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Guest blog by Bonnie: being a working dog

I'm on quality control duty. Mom failed: these sliding
tracks are silver and the door is white. And people
think dogs are color blind... Good thing she has me!
Bonnie here, doing a day of work at PlexiDor pet doors! I prefer to be called "Princess Bonnie," but I understand that not all people want to use my full title. 

My mom asked me to come to work with her today, and to write a blog post. Silly human, doesn't she know how hard it is to type when you have paws? She doesn't listen to that. She says, "You're part Border Collie. That's a working breed. Go to work." To be honest, I would just nap all day if I wasn't here, so it's okay. (Dad has tattled on me. He told mom I sleep on her pillows all day when she's not there, so she decided I need more activity.)

I have important tasks to do here. They clearly can't get by without me. Look at the door on the picture. Someone put silver sliding tracks on a white door, how silly!

Anyway, I love people, so I greet anyone coming close to mom's office with happy tail and wiggly butt. She says I'm too big to jump on people, but when she doesn't look I jump anyway. Mom worries that I'll tip someone over. Who is she kidding? All these people are much taller than I.

Mom has no sense of order.
I must help her sort these files.
Since I'm part Border Collie I have a great sense of keeping things in order. I help mom sort her files. If she had it her way payroll papers would be in a folder marked Narnia. You wouldn't believe the weird stuff she does.

Another important task is keeping the trucks away. Both UPS and FedEx come with big trucks, and they remove stuff from the buildings!

They're clearly fire-breathing monsters that must be kept in check, so they don't drive away with all the doors. And even worse, with all the treats!

Mom tries to make sure I don't see the trucks, but if I do, I bark all I can to scare them away. That's the only time she doesn't tell me I'm a good girl, but it doesn't matter. I still know I'm a good girl.

See my pretty pink harness? Mom says I'm an expert at wiggling out of my collar, so she makes me wear this when we're in public. Pfft!

Open them up already! You know I
don't have thumbs.
My favorite products are the Deidre's K9 stuff. The chews are good! Mom won't let me go to the factory, but I know it's close. Sometimes she makes me try shampoo. I like trying chews much better!

Product testing is an important part of my job. I especially like it when it's about treats.

Mom tried to make me go through a doggie door in the office. I know how to use a door, but doing it like this is just silly. It's much easier to go to the side, and I know I'll still get the treat!

Downtime is important too. When mom goes to the coffee maker, I relax with my chewie. Soon I'll take mom for a walk. She sits too much, and going for a lunch-stroll will do her good.

Woofs and wags!
~ Bonnie ~

Downtime is important. Chillin' with the bone.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Can I put a dog door through the wall?

PlexiDor with aluminum wall tunnel.
In some cases it might not be feasible to place the pet door in a regular door. While making a hole in a wall might be intimidating, it is both possible and common to put a PlexiDor through a wall.

The PlexiDor wall kit can be used for stud, brick, block, or cement walls. The wall kit comes with an aluminum tunnel that connects the interior and exterior frames.

The bottom tunnel section is sloped to prevent water from entering.

The tunnel won't rust, it has no sharp edges, and it is easy to keep clean.

Remember, the part with the lock and such goes on the inside of the house. (It's easy to look at it and assume it's the outside.)

See those extra holes in the frame below? They're for the steel security plate - either for fastening the plate directly into the frame, or for attaching the sliding track system that allows the security plate to glide smoothly into position.

The PlexiDor as it will look on the
inside of a door or a wall.

There are wall kits available for all size PlexiDors, from the smallest to the electronic. The doors presented on this page all have the silver frame, but they are also available in a durable, baked-on white or bronze finish.

Wall mounted PlexiDor seen from
the outside of the house.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Where did the dogs come from?

Alaskan Malamute
Dogs have walked side by side with humans for a long time. There is a 12,000 year old burial site in Israel that contains the body of a woman and her puppy. 

Some scientists think the association between dogs/wolves and people might go back as far as 100,000 years. That statement is so bold I have to give a reference: it comes from "Multiple and ancient origins of the domestic dogs" by C Vila. I don't know if the theory is feasible or not, but it's certainly interesting.

Another intriguing question is: where did the dogs come from?

The oldest known doglike fossil comes from Europe. DNA studies have implicated that dogs would come from east Asia and the Middle East, but new DNA studies point towards Europe. This latest research indicates that dogs might have indeed have originated in Europe, and this would have happened some 32,000 years ago.

The study gathered DNA from fossils of 18 ancient wolflike and doglike creatures that lived up to 36,000 years ago in Argentina, Belgium, Germany, Russia, Switzerland, and the United States. They compared this genetic material with samples from wolves from North America, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East along with 77 different dog breeds and four coyotes.

The DNA of modern dogs showed similarities to the DNA from ancient European specimens as well as modern day European wolves.

This doesn't mean that Europe is the only place where dogs developed. The continent played a major part in the domestication process of dogs as we know them today, but a parallel development might have taken place in other parts of the world.

~ Maria Sadowski ~

Monday, November 18, 2013

Rare Breed Monday: Cirneco dell'Etna

Image from akc.org
The Cirneco dell'Etna is a Sicilian breed that has been present in Italy for over 2,500 years. Its image has been found on coins dating back to the Greek colonization of Sicily, around 500 BC.

This is a hunter of small mammals and fowl, and bred to work under adverse conditions. The word Etna in the breed name refers to the volcano Etna - the largest active volcano in Europe. These dogs work on rugged terrain formed by volcanic lava, withstanding heat for hours with no food or water.

Traditionally, the Circneco would be used to hunt together with a ferret. The dog would find rabbits, and the ferrets would flush the rabbits out. They have an extremely good sense of smell.

According to legend, the slopes of Mount Etna held a temple devoted to Adranos, a fire deity worshipped by the people of Sicily. He was believed to live under the mountain, and one thousand Cirnecos guarded his temple. The dogs had a divine ability to recognize thieves and disbelievers.

Since the breed stems from an island the dogs have developed with little manipulation from man, and they are extremely hardy. They usually weigh between 18 and 27 pounds, and their expected life span is 12-14 years.

The Cirneco dell'Etna is strong and independent, but friendly and affectionate with people. They require exercise and mental stimulation; like all intelligent dogs they grow bored easily. They are also excellent jumpers and diggers, and can find a way out of most yards.

~ Maria Sadowski ~






Friday, November 15, 2013

Oldest cat fossil found in Tibet

Scientists have found an ancient ancestor to the
Snow Leopard. Image from ibtimes.com.
Big cats have roamed the Earth for significantly longer than we once thought. Up until now, the oldest big cat fossil was recovered in Tanzania and dated to approximately 3.7 million years ago. The new find is from Tibet, and about 4.4 million years old.

4.4 million years is a relatively short period of time for the planet, but mind boggling to imagine. At that point in time Mammoths roamed the Earth.

The fossil appears to be closely related to the snow leopard, and it's believed to have evolved in Asia and spread over the world from there.

The snow leopard is one of the world's most endangered animals, and there is only around 4,500 left in the world.

~ Maria Sadowski ~

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The world's smallest dog

Image from guinnessworldrecords.com
The world's smallest dog according to Guinness World Records is a 2-year old Chihuahua from Puerto Rico. Milly stands 3.8 inches tall when measured from backbone to paw, and weighs around 1 pound. She is shorter than a soup can.

When she was born, Milly weighed less than an ounce and fit in a teaspoon. She was too small to nurse from her mother, and the family gave her milk every two hours through an eyedropper. Today, she eats twice a day, and prefers salmon and chicken.

The smallest dog in terms of length is also a Chihuahua. Brandy lives in Florida, weighs two pounds, and measures 6 inches from her nose to the tip of the tail.

~ Maria Sadowski ~

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Stay safe in the dark.

Princess Bonnie modeling
the PupLight.
Dogs see much better in darkness than we do. I have stumbled around on many dog walks, relying on my dog's eyes, because she can see even if I can't. In retrospect that wasn't smart. 

As a pedestrian it's easy to rely on people in cars being able to spot you. Truthfully, when driving, it's difficult to see people - and dogs - walking along the road. I know this when I'm in a car, and forget it the second I'm on foot.

In February this year, I wrote about the PupLight - a flashlight constructed for dogs. Princess Bonnie and I have used this every evening since, and it's a robust and reliable product. I've had to change batteries a couple of times, but that's it.

The light hangs down a bit from an adjustable collar, so it's easily seen. It can also be put on the dog's regular collar.

I like it because it's easy for me and others to see where she is. If it's dark outside I like to put it on even if we just mosey around in the yard. I can't see the black dog in all the darkness, but I can sure see the little light bouncing around.

I've gotten so used to the PupLight I don't really think about it anymore. It's become a part of our evening routine; Bonnie goes to the door and sits down, waiting for me to put on her reflective harness. After the harness, the PupLight comes on, and off we go.

The other day, a car pulled over next to us. The driver rolled down the window and said, "That's a really cool flashlight for your dog. It's so dark here, and I can actually see you." Mission accomplished!

Good investments for staying safe in the dark: doggie flashlight, reflective harness or leash, and a flashlight for yourself.

Have you tried this product, or a light-up harness, leash, or collar? I'd love to hear your comments and thoughts!

~ Maria Sadowski ~


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Canine Good Citizen Degree

Image from akc.org
Since 1989, the AKC offers a Canine Good Citizen test, and over 600,000 dogs have passed it. The idea is to offer a fun and satisfying way for dogs and owners to work together towards the goal of a well-trained and well-socialized dog.

The CGC is now an official title. Dogs who successfully completed the 10-step test can have the title "CGC" affixed to their name. 

To make things even better, there's now an advanced degree as well: AKC Community Canine, or CGCA. In order to earn this title, the dog must have a CGC award or title, and have an AKC number. (All dogs can get an AKC number, it doesn't matter if it's a purebred or mixed.)

Both tests focus on a dog's social skills. Evaluators stage a series of ten common situations a dog and owner might encounter, and to pass, the dog must react in a calm and well-mannered way. For the CGC, the tests are simulations of real world skills, but the CGCA performs the test in a natural setting. 

To pass the test, the dog must:
  1. Stand, sit, or lie down and wait while the owner is busy doing something else.
  2. Walk on a loose leash in a real-life situation.
  3. Walk on a loose leash, without pulling, through a crowd.
  4. Walk, without pulling, past distraction dogs.
  5. Sit and stay in a group of three other dogs and owners.
  6. Allow an approach and petting from a person carrying a backpack or other object.
  7. "Leave it" - be able to ignore food on command.
  8. Down or sit-stay from a distance.
  9. Recall in an environment with distractions.
  10. Sit or stand-stay while owner enters/exists a doorway or a narrow passage.
To read more about these degrees, visit akc.org!

~ Maria Sadowski ~

Monday, November 11, 2013

Rare Breed Monday: Kooikerhondje

Image from akc.org, by Ine Dekker.
The Kooikerhondje is a Dutch breed, also known as Dutch Decoy Dog. They stem back to the 1500s, and were traditionally used to drive ducks into a trap where the hunter could easily get them. The hunter was called a Kooiker, the dogs were called the Kooiker's hondjes - Kookier's dogs - and this became the name of the breed.

These dogs are good family dogs, known for being cheerful, friendly, well-behaved, and eager to please their owner. They adapt quickly, changing behavior from quiet to lively as the situation calls for it. They're normally not shy, but they can be selective about who they like and don't like.

Since they are a hunting breed, they love outdoor life and need exercise to stay healthy and happy. They need a daily long walk or jog. Even though they can be happy in an apartment, they prefer a fenced in back-yard. Just like all working dogs, the Kooikerhondje gets bored easily, and they require stimulation. It's much better to give them a task than allow them to make up some form of "work" of their own.

They usually reach a height of 14-16 inches, and can weigh up to 40 lbs. The average life span is 12-14 years.

Today, they're often used as service dogs, and for search and rescue. They also excel at agility and obedience. Kooikers are believed to be ancestors to the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever.

~ Maria Sadowski ~

Friday, November 8, 2013

What size PlexiDor should I get?

I post about pet door sizes from time to time, because this is one of the most common questions that come my way. People will look at the pet door and say, "That's so small. No way my dog/cat can get through."

The PlexiDor shouldn't be mounted
flush with the floor.
The door does not need to be as tall as the pet. It has to be wide enough to let the pet through, of course, but it doesn't have to be as tall as the pet. 

Check out the image to the right of a Collie standing in a door. The door isn't flush with the floor. It could be, but you want a small hole to help keep weather outside.

Theoretically, a dog door could be as tall as the dog. Imagine a Great Dane. That would be a large hole in the door or wall! A door that size would also become heavy for the pet to open.

Generally, the pets duck their heads a little while going through the door, and they lift their feet to step over the threshold. Thus, if you measure your pet and think, "Oh no, there's no door tall enough for my dog" it will probably still work.

If you have larger and smaller pets together, the panels on the PlexiDor swing so easily smaller dogs and cats can usually open even large doors without problems.

To make sizing easier, we have put together a convenient sizing chart, see below. Some breeds have great variations in size, of course, so see the breed examples as general guidelines.

Visit the Plexidor website for more information on the different doors and sizes. The website also holds a convenient dealer locator



Thursday, November 7, 2013

Human dog?

I think it's safe to say everyone at PlexiDor pet doors and everyone who visits this blog love dogs. I often wonder what dogs think and feel, and what their world is like.

Boomer has taken this one step further. His human name is Gary Matthews, but according to ABC news, he prefers his dog name. He has made a dog suit from shredded paper, and allegedly wanders around Pittsburgh streets barking at cars and digging holes in the back yard. He also enjoys going to local festivals, because kids like the costume.

Some days he stays in a dog house, wears a dog collar, eats canned dog food from a bowl, and munches on milk bones and dog cookies. Just like most dogs, he also likes pizza.

Wanting to be a dog isn't new to Boomer; when he was a kid he'd bark or get into a big box and peek out with his paws over the side, like a dog would.

When I started to read the articles about Boomer I had a mindset of, "That's nuts." I read more, and suddenly it didn't seem all that crazy. I mean, I bark with my dog friends on Twitter. I impersonate my dogs on their Facebook accounts. I hold conversations with them all the time, imagining that they answer back not just in body language, but with words.

What do you think? Would it be fun to try to be a dog?

If you want to read more about Boomer, check out these articles at national geographic and ABC news.

Image from national geographic.com
~ Maria Sadowski ~

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Do big cats like catnip?

House cats are hunters, definitely related to their larger relatives. Just how similar are they? Do big cats like catnip? To get the answer, check out this video made by a big cat sanctuary. 


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A pet door can be secure.

This weekend I ended up in the midst of a fascinating online discussion. There seems to be a misconception about pet doors and security; several people said if they installed a pet door they would have no way to lock, and there would be a permanent opening for bad people to get through.

A pet door is an opening in your house. That doesn't necessarily mean it's an invitation to robbers and bad people.
The security plate attaches
to the dog door's inner frame

For starters, a PlexiDor comes with lock and key.

If the door is locked, it's extremely difficult to get through it. Honestly, it's easier to break a window.

All models except for the small PlexiDor - which is too small for a person to get through - are delivered with a steel security plate.

The security plate attaches to the inner frame. It's either screwed to the frame, or attached through a sliding track system with flip lock feature. Getting through it would require extensive time and tools.

What about the electronic door?

The point of having an electronic pet door is that it won't open for pets without a key. If the pet door is closed, you can hit it with a baseball bat and the panel will not break: the object striking it will bounce off, and odds are the person hitting it will hurt themselves.

~ Maria Sadowski ~

Monday, November 4, 2013

Rare Breed Monday: Tornjak

Image from dogbreedinfo.com
The Tornjak is a very old breed stemming from the area around Boznia, Herzegovina, and Croatia. The breed is first mentioned in an old manuscript from the year 1067. Tornjaks were nearly extinct in the 1970s, and a group of enthusiasts set out to save the breed. 

These dogs are large and powerful, and generally calm and peaceful. They like order and harmony. If the occasion calls for it, they turn into vigilant and alert watchdogs. They are considered one of the best breeds to protect livestock, especially in areas with wolves and other predators.

Image from akc.org
Like most working dogs, the Tornjak is intelligent and independent. They tend to estimate a situation and make decisions of their own. They learn commands easily, but often don't see the point in obeying them.

They don't require large amounts of exercise, but they love playing outdoors with other dogs.

They need space, and are happiest in a large yard. The males weigh between 77 and 110 pounds, and females between 61 and 88 pounds.


Friday, November 1, 2013

Dog of the month: Canadian Eskimo Dog

The Canadian Eskimo Dog is one of North America's oldest indigenous purebred dogs with roots dating back over 4,000 years. It is bred less for speed than for hard work, and these dogs are loyal, tough, brave, intelligent, and alert.

This is a working dog known for developing a deep bond with its owner, but they can also be challenging. They have a lot of energy and need a job to do. Canadian Eskimos have an extremely thick coat and love cold weather.

These dogs love sledding and backpacking activities, but make poor watchdogs and guard dogs. They are hardy with an average lifespan of 12-15 years.