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They say you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but if appearances didn’t matter, people like my husband (a graphic designer) would be out of a job, and Christian Louboutin couldn’t justify $1000 for a pair of shoes. I super love the cover of Happy Dog, Happy You (by pet expert Arden Moore), but this book is more than just a pretty face. Moore’s handy, illustrated volume contains hundreds of ideas for quick, easy, and fun things you can do to entertain and bond with your dog, and it even includes tips on training, travel, health, and grooming.

Since my dogs and I don’t always seem to be interested in the same hobbies (though they’ve definitely shown an interest in digging gardening), maybe it’s worth checking out.

You can fetch it from Buy Olympia or autographed from Arden Moore’s site.

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One of our most-used nicknames for Dottie is Dizzy. (Dottie > Dottie Dizzle > Dizzle > Dizzy) It’s apropos, I think, as her brain seems sort of permanently scattered.

Nina Ottosson‘s newest interactive toy is the Dog Dizzy, and it seeks to give your pup a physical and mental workout by rolling, spinning, and, as your pup bats it around, periodically ejecting treats held inside. The Dog Dizzy has a weighted bottom, so it always lands upright (kind of like a Weeble), and unlike, say, a Kong, the Dizzy has an interior plastic shelf, causing your pup to have to work a little harder to free the captive treats.

There’s no way Dottie will be able to figure it out.

Fetch Dog Dizzy at Amazon or PupLife.

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Recently a representative for The Company of Dogs, which distributes Nina Ottosson toys, sent Mingus and Dottie the Tornado and asked if we’d like to give it a try. You’ve probably seen Nina Ottosson’s toys before: They’re really well-designed brain games for dogs that exercise dogs’ critical thinking and investigative skills.

The Tornado is comprised of four stacked bone-shaped wheels with treat compartments that rotate on a central axis. The idea is to hide treats in the layered bones and have your dog figure out how to spin the bones to find the treats. Ottosson gives the Tornado a skill level of “hard,” and I assume that if you’re a dog, it probably is.

One thing I really like about the Tornado is it gives you several options for exploratory play with your dog: the game includes removable plastic bones to increase the difficulty level for your especially brainy pooch. It’s made of sturdy, durable plastic – which is good, because soon enough Mingus would be batting it around the floor with his paws.

The Tornado comes with a instructional DVD that provides directions for use and ideas for interactive games — but I’m really one to jump right into things rather than waste time on instructions. So I grabbed some treats and dove right in.

I decided to give Dottie the first shot at the Tornado. While many pet parents are quick to laud the intelligence of their dogs, I will freely admit that when it comes to brains, Dottie is decidedly average. Once she picked up on the basic idea of the game, though, she caught on pretty quickly to the idea of turning the wheels to uncover the treats. I have to say I was pretty proud.

Mingus got the second go at the Tornado. While Dottie has to rely a lot on her looks to get by, Mingus is smart enough to build bombs. Your boy is scary smart. And while Dottie relied on that giant schnoz of hers to root out the treats, Mingus got into it with both snout and paws.

While he didn’t seem overly challenged by the Tornado, Mingus definitely enjoyed it. Here’s a video of his second go at it. (Don’t listen to my voice. It’s stupid.)

Next time we play, I’m going to try the removable bone treat-hiders out on Mingus. I think he’s ready.

Watching the pups enjoy the Tornado definitely makes me eager to try more of Nina Ottosson’s toys. The Tornado is also dishwasher-safe, which is great, ’cause that thing is totally covered with slobber.

You can fetch a Tornado (or other Ottosson toys) all over the interwebs.

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Well, much to my surprise, even though the World Cup is over, there are other sports happenings going on in the world… there’s Lebron’s big decision, of course, and the British Open, and then that big bike race through France. (I’ll tell you, if I’m making a trip to the French Alps, you probably won’t find me sweating on a bike — I’ll be in a cafe with a glass of wine and some fondue or something.)

If you’re a biker, though, and you’d like to bike with your pup, maybe you should spring for a Springer. The Springer, developed in Norway in the late ’80s, is available in the US through Springer America. The Springer’s patented design keeps you and your dog safe on a joint bike ride, allowing you to stay balanced and keeping a leash from getting dangerously tangled. Norwegian brilliance, y’all.

Anyone used one? Whatcha think? Does it make riding a bike with a pup as easy as…. riding a bike?

Fetch one at Springer America. They offer a 30-day money-back guarantee!

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Well, it’s Monday. And it’s not just any old raggedy Monday… it’s the first of, like, 200 Mondays before the World Cup comes back again. Sad Katherine. But there’s a lot of summer left to be enjoyed, including lots of walks and hikes with my sled team Mingus and Dottie. I’ve said it before: I have to have a good, quality leather leash for a walk. Nothing else will do.

I love the handmade, classy yet utilitarian leashes from Bold Lead Designs. I can almost smell and feel that leather in my hands. (True story: I have some friends whose dog is afraid of new leather shoes. Dogs are weird.)

In addition to multifunctional leashes, service dog aids, and training tools like traffic leads, Bold Lead also offers a selection of beautiful leather collars and cool People Training Scarves.

Fetch them in Bold Lead’s Etsy shop (currently offering free shipping in the US).

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I just returned from an awesome vacation involving corned beef, Chris Rock, architecture, and Van Gogh, and while it’s pretty hard to top all that, I thought, Hey, how’s about we give away some stuff on ye olde blog?

This week’s giveaway is brought to you by the folks at Laughing My Tail Off, makers of the revolutionary Laughing Leash. The Laughing Leash, designed something like a long hair scrunchie, gently extends and retracts from 2 to 6 feet and back, effectively eliminating dragging, tangling, and potentially dangerous jerking. It’s made of soft fabric and sports a comfortable cushioned handle, and since the Laughing Leash only extends to 6 feet, it allows your pooch some leeway while still allowing you complete control of your dog (unlike the annoying unwieldy trainwreckish traditional flexi lead, which potentially puts every man, woman, child, and beast in a plus-or-minus-25-foot radius in danger).

Here’s Dottie somberly modeling the leash. The pups have been in “playcare” for the past few days, so she’s a little draggy. Tyra would not be impressed.

Simple in its appearance, the Laughing Leash’s design has already been lauded by dog behaviorists and trainers and was named the Best New Training Tool of 2010 by Animal Training Examiner.

The Laughing Leash comes in two sizes (for dogs under 70 pounds) and a variety of colors and patterns (even fuzzy styles!). And since the leash was originally inspired by a rescue dog named Bennett, Laughing My Tail Off donates a portion of all proceeds to animal shelters and rescues nationwide. That’s awesome.

And now! We’ll have three winners for this giveaway – 2 small/medium leashes (for dogs 20-70 pounds) and 1 extra small leash (for dogs up to 20 pounds).

To enter:

1. Comment on this post with the size of leash (XS or S/M) your dog would use. The XS leash being given away is the stars pattern, while the S/M leashes are red and camo. I’ll choose the winners’ patterns randomly, as it’s my blog and I get to make the rules.

2. In your comment, tell us your dog’s favorite place to walk.

The giveaway is open until Sunday, May 23 at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time. We’ll choose 2 S/M winners and 1 XS winner by random drawing and announce them Monday morning!

Only one entry per person, please, and U.S. and Canada shipping addresses only.

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Breaking news!! Historic achievement!! Sweeping revolution!!! American health care reform? No. The virtuosos over at Kong have introduced a new toy-slash-training tool called the Wobbler.

In fact, the Wobbler is apparently new enough that I was unable to find a decent image of it online. What I did find, though, is this rockin’ demo video, which, aside from inspiring some raging air guitar, shows exactly how the Wobbler works.

It looks like the Wobbler isn’t widely available yet — I only found it one or two places online — but I’m sure it’ll be on shelves everywhere real soon.

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Illustrator Lili Chin sketched this awesome little graphic tutorial in interpreting the meaning of our dogs’ body language. That “cute harmless puppy” face? Dottie could teach a class in that.

View it bigger (and download it!) at Lili’s flickr.

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I got a friendly email from Alisha over at Wiggles Wags & Whiskers recently asking if we’d like to give their patented no-pull harness a try. Sure, I said.

Now, here’s the thing: I have two husky mixes, which means I basically have, like, a sixth of an Iditarod team. Basically — and, trainers, you might want to skip this next line — pulling, to some degree, is basically a fact of life for us. By themselves, Mingus and Dottie generally walk fine. But when we walk them together, it’s like they’ve both got their sights set on Nome and we’re 35 miles behind Lance Mackey.

So it was with a modicum of skepticism that I first outfitted Mingus and Dottie with the Freedom No-Pull Harness (which was easy to do, by the way — just slip it over the head, then snap the clasps on the sides).

freedomharness_1

We’ve taken the harnesses for a few spins around the neighborhood, and guess what? The harness really works. It’s designed (and patented, at that) as a training tool, rather than a miracle drug, and between the mechanism of the harness, a few gentle corrections, and some well-deserved praise, Ming’s pulling has totally eased up. My husband has been test-driving Dottie’s Freedom harness — Dottie, who literally pulls sideways – and here she is almost at — what?? — a heel.

I’m sold. It’s easily the best no-pull harness I’ve ever tried. (And believe me, I’ve tried a few.)

Part of what makes the harness work so well is its Martingale-type “action loop” at the shoulders and, if needed, a front loop for attaching a special (optional) training leash for additional control (expertly modeled by Dottie, below). You can read all about how it works (and it really works!) here.

freedomharness_2

Other things we like about the Freedom No-Pull Harness:

1. It comes in lots of pretty colors, and has soft velvet lining on the chest straps.

2. Putting it on and taking it off is a cinch — not, as with many training harnesses, akin to a game of Twister with your dog.

3. It’s well-constructed from durable materials, and even comes with a Chewing Warranty.

4. Dottie’s something of an escape artist, and so far this harness has held her fast.

5. It’s made right here in North Carolina, the 12th state to ratify the Constitution. (The Constitution has nothing to do with the harness. I just thought you’d like that bit of trivia, just like I like supporting local independent businesses.)

Find out where to buy the Freedom No-Pull Harness (only $29!) here.

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Here’s a classic from Will Ferrell.

Disclaimer: phetched.com does not endorse Mr. Sturdevant’s methods.

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